This Week in Barrons – 1-19-2014
What’s wrong with this picture?
As I look over the past month, I’m still struggling with reality versus fantasy. Here are a couple examples from this week’s data:
1. Despite a small December rebound, the 2013 U.S. export container volumes were below those in every month for the past 3 years.
a. In a world where everyone tells us that the U.S. economy is recovering, this is very bad. Countries create wealth by exporting goods. When export volumes fall, wealth is being drained from that country.
2. Wells Fargo expects Q1 2014 mortgage originations to decline substantially from Q4 levels. Bank of America’s mortgage originations decreased in Q4 by 49% from Q3 levels. Citigroup says that the U.S. mortgage business will continue to drag down corporate results in the first half of 2014.
a. But Jim Cramer is telling me that the economy is moving ahead, and that the housing market is driving this recovery. Are falling mortgages a signal of a strong housing market?
3. November’s retail sales results were revised lower.
a. The ‘talking heads’ told me that the issue with December’s number was the weather – it got too cold in December. But with November’s numbers being revised lower – does that mean our economy is in trouble?
4. 24% of U.S. corporate bond issues in 2013 were rated: ‘Junk’. This is up from 8% in 2008.
a. If I understand this correctly: Corporations borrow money at virtually zero percent interest, and then sell this debt (that is rated ‘junk’) to the people in the bond market. These same corporations then take the proceeds from the sale – buy back their stock – which increases their earnings per share and correspondingly – their salaries. Swell. Who’s protecting the ‘suckers’ in the bond market who bought this ‘junk’ debt?
5. Gallup announced Wednesday that 42% more Americans say they are financially ‘worse off’ now than they were a year ago.
a. This is the same week that President Obama told me that he has created 8 million jobs, the recovery is strong, and the future is bright. How then could almost half of all Americans say that they are financially worse off? Someone is lying to me – yes?
6. The NSA is collecting over 200 Million text messages per day.
a. But wasn’t I just told that the NSA doesn’t spy on me? And that all of this was just them collecting ‘meta data’ – little squiggles that don’t really mean anything. Now I find that it’s entire texts and phone messages. I need to assume that ‘Big Brother’ is always watching, but why?
7. The CEO of the Marriott Corporation says that Marriott needs the immigration bill so that he can staff his resorts.
a. There’s nothing more that I can add to this comment.
I'm sure that this phenomena it not unique to me. But, wouldn't it be a real breath of fresh air to hear the truth now and then? The bottom line is: No matter what you hear on CNBC, from your politicians, or on your local TV station about the economy – you are only hearing what they want you to hear. Cheerleading the market and the economy has evolved into a ‘full-time’ job. Don't take anything at face value. And never stop doing your homework.
Thanks to Bob Lefsetz for reminding me of Jay Leno’s manger (Helen Kushnick’s) quote to Jay: I've been serving you steak dinners for the last eighteen years. I just haven't bothered showing you how I slaughtered the cow." Unfortunately – in this day and age, all of us need to continue to look under the covers.
The movie ‘American Hustle’ told it best. From Amy Adam’s outfits, to Bradley Cooper’s perm, including an unannounced cameo by Robert DeNiro – the ‘hustlers’ constantly adjusted their winning formula. Not once did they consult a ‘playbook’ written by some ‘professor’ who had never ‘walked the walk.’ They were writing the playbook as they went along. They were experiencing the thrills, the distrust, and the ambiguity mixed with lies. It was an era in the 1970’s when you won by not getting caught, and very few won big. I sure hope that history isn’t repeating itself – 40 years later!
This was a ‘Wild, Wild West’ week for sure.
- Monday we dropped 177 points.
- Tuesday we gained some of that back.
- Wednesday we ‘lit it up’ and closed almost 30 points above Monday's open.
- Thursday we couldn't hold the gains, and fell 60 points.
- And Friday, the markets did their best to put on a good show, but couldn't recover Thursday’s entire drop.
After all of this week’s ups and downs, the DOW ended 24 points higher than where it started. The problem (however) is that the DOW is only 30 stocks. The S&P (a larger market indicator) was slightly negative for the week. A couple other indicators, the DOW transports and the XLF (the financial institution ETF) also fell on Friday.
This means that the market is struggling. It means that the animal spirits are still alive and ‘want’ to push things higher, but unless you're a criminal bankster – the earnings just aren’t there to support such a move. The retailers are hurting, housing is weak, and even casual dining is on a gradual decline. Nobody wants to admit that the only reason the market is up is because of Fed money.
But how many times have we seen the market set-up for a correction, only to see it blast higher and set new highs? Why would this time be any different? The louder I hear people screaming about it ‘not being a bubble’ – the more of a bubble that we’re in. For example: symptoms of a strong economy do NOT include:
- 1/3 of the population being out of the work force.
- 42% of Americans saying that they are financially ‘worse off’ than a year ago,
- The Fed pumping $80+ Trillion a month into an economy,
- And having retailers shut stores by the hundreds, and lay off people by the thousands.
The investing philosophy that has worked best for the past 18 months has been to smugly say: "The trend is my friend, and the trend is to buy the dips". It has been proven to be correct, and it could very well be correct this time. The issue is that if ‘reality’ had any bearing on the market – we would have had a true 10% correction many times over. Unfortunately reality isn't part of the current equation. So, just like everyone else, we need to assume that the ‘trend is our friend’, and the Fed will be coming in to jam the market back up to the highs set on the last day of 2013.
We are overdue for a monster correction. To a person, the talking heads predict that the market will continue to do a little shake-n-bake – where it dips 1 or 2% and you simply ‘buy the dip’. However, right now the market appears vulnerable to some selling. The transports are weak, the financials didn't follow through, and earnings have not been stellar. I’m fearful of years like: ’73, ’78, ’82, ’88, 2000 and 2008 – when the air did come out of the market. Or maybe this is the ‘new normal’, and we’re never going to see a down year again. In which case, I’m potentially better off sending Goldman Sachs a check with all of my money right now – because they’ll get it eventually.
Enjoy your Holiday and be careful!
I was stopped out of DDD and SSYS this week at +$11 and +$5.50 profits respectively. We’ll dive back into them this week – now that they’ve had their mini-correction.
There is a war brewing – involving some major asset classes:
- The S&P’s (SPY): It continues to churn – not getting all that far away from 183.70. The question is: are we consolidating here to head higher, or is it time for a pullback?
- The Yen (JY): The correlation between the Yen and the U.S. stock market is very clear. When the Yen goes lower – stocks move higher, and when the Yen goes higher – stocks move lower. Currently the Yen is moving higher, and has reached an inflection point where it needs to make a decision over the next several days. If the Yen breaks above 0.9616 our markets could be in big trouble; however, if the Yen breaks below it’s previous low of 0.9531, then our markets could be off to the races.
- The Bond market: We’re still asking the question will bonds go higher? Part of the reason that the stock market has been consolidating is that the Bond market has been fairly strong as of late. Again – it will show it’s true colors this week.
- The Dollar Index: The dollar index is looking ready to rally – and if so – this could very well turn into a ‘risk off’ type of move where stocks will be negatively impacted.
Therefore, I’m not comfortable blindly buying the stock indexs at these levels. But (at the same time) I’m scared of shorting this market.
- One of the asset classes that I like right here is Gold (GLD) and Silver (SLV). If Gold (GLD) can move above 1,260 – it should get to 1,300 fairly quickly.
- Another group that I like are the Bio-Techs, and names like: GILD, INCY, CELG, REGN, and BIIB are worth an investment.
My current short-term holds are:
- EMC – in at 24.74 (currently 26.33) – stop at 25.85,
- PFE – in at 31.11 (currently 31.15) – stop at 31.00,
- MOS – in at 48.06 (currently 48.50) – stop at 48.60,
- MDLZ – in at 35.50 (currently 35.70) – stop at entry,
- USO – April 2014 $37 Calls – in USO at $34.51 (currently $33.65)
- FXY – March 2014 $97 Puts – in FXY at $96.47 (currently $93.98)
- SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 12.29) – no stop,
- GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 120.99) – no stop ($1,252 per physical ounce), AND
- SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 19.50) – no stop ($20.30 per physical ounce).
To follow me on Twitter and get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.
Please be safe out there!
I'd like to recommend a website - http://www.simpleroptions.com It's an excellent resource and 'honestly' - I've been following them for over 6 months and they're more right than they are wrong with their predictions, and that's a rarity in this climate. Please check them out on my recommendation.
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Until next week – be safe.