This Week in Barrons – 8-18-2013
Fracking, Natural Gas – Somebody Err’d Big Time…
This week – without a fanfare and without the NY Times or the WSJ carrying the news blurb – the US Government came out with a landmark study. The US Government found that in shale oil drilling areas, fracking fluid does NOT disrupt the water table. This is a major defeat to the EPA that has fought tooth-n-nail to stop fracking operations because they claimed that it contaminated the water supply with natural gas. With the Obama administration being so completely on board with the environmental hard-liners this was an important finding. Why? There is an abundance of pressure on the Obama administration to slow down all of the fracking operations going on around the country. The incredible amounts of natural gas that we’ve discovered, and are now exporting – means that (for the first time) the U.S. is providing energy to others (around the globe) for profit.
America was built on cheap energy. The ONLY reason we built our vast rolling urban developments far away from cities was because land and gasoline were cheap – and people didn't mind driving. That's what put millions of carpenters and craftsmen to work at the end of WWII – on housing, malls, and highways. Cheap energy allowed that to happen.
I think the ONLY way we can truly save the American economy is if they cut all the red tape, do away with the over zealous environmental regulations, and allow us to produce enough oil and gas that we get back to $1.50 a gallon gasoline. If they did that, it is my guess that the building/manufacturing boom would be so big it would surprise even me. So, is this the start of it? Honestly – probably not.
I personally would love to see us go ‘full speed ahead’ with drilling, refining and gas capture. But there are just so many regulations to get through now a days. For example – here’s a true story that someone sent to me:
- Last month a Missouri man who makes a living as a magician had quite the story to tell. Because he has a pet rabbit he "pulls from the hat", the USDA contacted him about obtaining a USDA rabbit license because he uses the rabbit in the business.
- In his correspondence he wrote: “I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29, I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly. I am not kidding-before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.
- This ended up being a 41-page document outlining the entire contingency plan that he would follow if a disaster struck. This is the type of garbage our Government considers "normal" activity, and is making it more difficult for this gentleman to earn a living.
My fear is that the ‘insane’ is the new normal. Everywhere I look the push is for more rules, more regulations, and more Government intrusions. I'm just hopeful that their latest look into fracking and finding it not nearly as dangerous as was originally thought – could provide a light at the end of a tunnel.
On a related note – I am a firm believer in some sort of renewable energy. I love solar energy but the storage of that energy is a real issue. Batteries don't work that well, and other storage mechanisms also have issues. Therefore, solar really isn’t a viable option until they solve the storage issue. But recently some scientists in Colorado have come up with a solution that solves the problem differently. Instead of batteries and panels, they considered a different ‘attack’. They focus mirrors onto a tall cylinder filled with water. This causes the water inside the cylinder to become extremely hot. A catalyst metal is then introduced that causes the hydrogen (in water) to split from the oxygen. They then bottle the hydrogen and store it in a ‘tank.’ There are no nasty by-products, and it’s completely ‘clean’ energy. They are using solar power to split hydrogen from water – and then using the hydrogen to power our electricity generation facilities.
My point to all of this is that we live in a country full of natural resources and a lot of smart people. As much as we talk ‘doom and gloom’ of our economic system, the fact is that even if it fails completely (which is likely), something WILL rise from the ashes. Cheap, abundant energy is one element that puts a lot of people back to work in a hurry. A solution on how to harness the sun’s power – sets us up for generations to come. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
This week we entered the land of ‘chop’. With some form of S&P support at the 1650 area, we have worked our way down there and bounced around. And when I say bounced around, an average day would have the market opening green, dipping red, going green, falling 140 points, and then reversing itself to close up 30. That's one heck of a round trip.
So why the chop? The taper talk is paramount, but there's also those 6 Hindenburg Omens that the market has flashed. Then there are the ‘less than stellar’ economic reports that we keep getting. Put this all together, and there are a lot of serious headwinds to contend with.
But everyday I have to listen to CNBC tell how great companies are doing, how great the consumer is, and how manufacturing is doing so well. Yet this week:
- Both Macy’s and Wal-Mart missed their earnings and guided lower saying the consumer is tight.
- Cree (the largest maker of LED lighting) missed their earnings number, and said that sales are really slumping.
- And mortgage applications have fallen 13 out of 15 weeks. This week plunging 4.75%.
How can the Fed taper off the gas pedal when it's obvious that after 5 years of all this money printing, stimulus and bail outs – we’re just barely above stall speed. The market has every right to be a bit edgy. Some will say that we are just consolidating and ‘digesting’ the fact that tapering is coming. Really? I'm NOT in the camp that says the Fed can yank $15 Billion a month from their buying without causing harm. Logically, if the market is up at these levels because of $85 Billion a month in Fed purchasing, doesn't it make sense it will fall to the level that equates with $70 Billion if they taper?
In any event, until the market either breaks out above 1709 or breaks below 1650 we are sitting tight. I think the best play is fast small trades, not "jumping in" with both feet. On another note, gold and silver have both done very well in the past few days and (of course) TV isn't talking about that. But let's face it, gold has outperformed the market since June, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I’ve been a ‘gold bug’ for 12 years now and I feel that there's more to come. The reasons we pounded the table for gold in 2001 have not changed. I have stated that gold has a date with $2,400 – and silver a date with $70, and I'm standing on that.
In stock land, I'm a bit hesitant on doing much until S&P 1650 and 1709 either hold up or break down. Over 1709 it would look like we should buy more, under 1650 we could be in for more pain. On the precious metals front, I think we could see one small shake down, but all in all, the overall direction is up and buying the metals makes sense. Likewise the miners who have been beaten to a pulp have really done well recently. Back at the end of June I mentioned that picking up a basket of the highest ranked miners made a lot of sense – and congrats to whoever made that trade.
This week I was stopped out flat on CAT and CCK. But look at the movement in the metals – silver and gold. There are rumors that there were ‘failed deliveries’ of some of the physical metals this week, and deliveries that used to come in 3 weeks are now stretching over 8 and 9 weeks. Remember 6 weeks ago when silver was selling for $18+? It’s now over $23 an ounce. Congrats to the buyers out there! Also – the miners are beginning to get a lot of interest. This sector (in particular) has been beaten beyond belief – so it won’t take much to have some tremendous moves in a hurry. You may want to buy into the junior miner ETF – just for good measure!
Also – I’m seeing SSYS (a 3D printing company) offering a fairly good opportunity to make 5% in a month. The stock is selling for $99 / share, and you can sell the ‘covered call’ against it – Sept 21 - $100’s for around $5.10. Now SSYS has been on a tear as of late – so you have a high probability of getting ‘stopped out’ – but you’re still making over 5% in one month, and you’re in a very fast-growing space.
My current short-term holds are:
- FB – in at 25.61 (currently 37) - stop at 36.00,
- FCX – in at 28.47 (currently 31.52) – stop at 30.50,
- SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 15.82) – no stop
- GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 132.88) – no stop ($1,371.70 per physical ounce), AND
- SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 22.44) – no stop ($23.31 per physical ounce).
To follow me on Twitter and get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.
Please be safe out there! a
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