This Week in Barrons – 2-9-2014
Daddy…Please make it stop!
For parents and young adults alike, at some point in your life you've either uttered or heard those words. Maybe over a bruised knee, a bullying event, or something in your life (either financially or job-wise) that just doesn’t make sense. I find myself uttering these words almost daily. For example:
1. This week the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) released their research concerning the effects of Obama-Care on the economy and on the job market. They told us that Obama-Care will cost us over $1 Trillion, and over 2.3 Million people will exit the workforce because of it. Given this was sold to us as creating 4+ Million jobs, lowering healthcare costs, and adding to the economy – this is leaving Democrats with some ‘egg on their face.’ But instead of being honest with us (and admitting that no one really knows) – the spin the Dems are putting on it ranges from:
a. “The effect of having 2 million more people out of work could be a good thing on the work-life balance.”
b. To: “This is actually good news because people will finally have a choice. If they didn't want to pay for their healthcare they could ‘choose’ to work less hours, and then have their benefits provided for them.”
c. Please make it stop! Honestly, most people don’t work because they want to – they work because they have to – in order to provide for their families. So giving me a choice to NOT WORK in order to get free medical doesn’t make much sense to me.
d. But leave it to Nancy Pelosi to trump everyone. You remember Ms. Pelosi – she’s the one (when asked about the Obama-Care legislation) who said: “We have to pass it – to see what’s in it.” (Someone should tell Ms. Pelosi that’s what we do with ‘stool samples’ not groundbreaking legislation.) Ms. Pelosi said: “The CBO report is telling us that Obama-Care will allow people to follow their aspirations and become writers, be self-employed, and start their own businesses. Obama-Care is entrepreneurial. It won’t cost jobs, but rather shift how people make a living and allow them to reach their aspirations."
e. Please make it stop! Ms. Pelosi, in what universe are LESS jobs better than MORE jobs? And given that over 50% of the country lives paycheck to paycheck, how does John Q. Public survive while he’s writing that Great American Novel?
2. But it gets better. This week, the Global Markets Committee (the group who sets the rules for futures trading) has invited JP Morgan’s Commodity Division head – Ms. Blythe Masters – to sit in and help craft regulations and legislation.
a. Now this is the same JP Morgan that was just fined $17 Billion for manipulating markets and basically screwing investors.
b. This is the very same department within JP Morgan that – while being guided by Ms. Masters – was found guilty of manipulating energy prices throughout California.
c. Please make it stop! So, this group (in their ultimate wisdom, clarity and good judgment) has decided that Ms. Master is the perfect person to bring in and help craft the legal framework surrounding trading futures and swaps. Do the words: ‘Fox in the Henhouse’ resonate with anyone on that committee?
3. Finally, on Friday we received the Jobs Report, and of course it was every bit as lousy as the one we received in December. It’s getting to the point now that even the cheerleading, ‘talking heads’ on TV don’t believe that this economy is firing on all cylinders. But this time was different. They blamed - ‘The Weather’. Yes, somehow the weather is the reason that companies (across the U.S.) are not hiring workers.
a. But adding insult to injury, on Monday, we received the ISM (suppliers and manufacturers) Report. I don’t think it could have been any worse.
i. The overall survey ‘outlook’ fell 8.6% from 55.8 to 51.
ii. New orders fell 20% from 64 to 51 (the biggest drop since 1980).
iii. The ‘Prices Paid’ portion of the index jumped 13% from 53.5 to 60.5.
iv. So we have LESS activity that people see coming down the pike, there are LESS current orders, and we’re paying A LOT MORE for the stuff that we’re ordering. All of this doesn’t add up to a well-run economy.
b. Please make it stop! I get the fact that: our economy is on the ropes, the Fed is tapering, our regulating bodies are hiring crooks to form policy, the jobs data is horrible, our trade data is lousy, the Baltic Dry index continues to crash, our cities are bankrupt, the amount of people not in the workforce is almost 1/3 of the population, food stamps – welfare – unemployment and the other government-backed systems are overwhelmed; BUT do we now need to resort to blaming this all on: ‘The Weather’.
I'm not in the panic business. I'm not in the shock-n-awe business. I'm in the reality business. I see long stretches of sub-par economic activity that are going to lead to additional stress on both people and governments. While I refuse to allow the entire “Mad-Max’ scenario to play out in my mind, I'm not against the idea of serious, recession-era scenarios playing out.
Please make it stop! Don't be afraid to enjoy your life, but don't go broke either. Get yourself some gold and silver – because it’s how you come out the other side that’s really important.
By mid-week, it became clear that we were overdue for a market bounce. Even in these most desperate of times, the market cannot go straight down. So, on Twitter I started to suggest that whether the jobs report was good or not, I'd probably see the start of a market bounce.
The excuses for both the poor jobs report and the two-day market bounce were really something special to listen to.
a. We learned from economist Mark Zandi that "This low jobs number would eventually be revised higher, and that in the long run it shows increased job growth". Interestingly, Mr. Zandi said the same thing when the December job’s report hit. The December job’s report was revised higher (by 1,000 jobs) from 74,000 to 75,000 jobs. Given Mr. Zandi forecast job growth of 175,000 jobs (not 74,000) – I don’t think that this was the revision that Mr. Zandi was fantasizing about.
b. Again, we learned from a dozen of the ‘talking heads’ that ‘The Weather’ was the reason for poor hiring, and the two-day market romp was due to earnings and economic data still ‘suggestive of a sustained recovery.’
c. Please make it stop! I have a much simpler explanation. Companies didn’t hire because they didn’t need anyone. And the market bounced because it was ‘short-term’ oversold, and everyone is hoping that the data is so bad that the Fed will stop it’s tapering.
Five years after the start of this so-called recovery, I’m still seeing some pretty incredible things:
- From food stamps to people living paycheck to paycheck,
- From unemployed over a year to leaving the workforce completely,
- From wages stagnating for over 10 years to inflation eating thru everyone’s buying power, and
- From over 1 in 4 young adults now living at home to 1 in 5 getting ‘something’ from Uncle Sam.
The stock market went from 6,600 to 16,000 on the DOW for one reason – the Fed printing over $1 Trillion per year!
Ms. Janet Yellen (our new Fed head) is scheduled to address Congress on Tuesday. Everyone there will be pressing to see if she's going to: (a) continue tapering, (b) stop tapering, or (c) stop tapering and replace the ‘taper’ with another program. The way this ‘should’ play out is:
- Monday we should hold the gains of Thursday and Friday.
- Tuesday, if Ms. Yellen holds the solid line and doesn't hint at all about stopping the taper, we will roll right back over.
- Tuesday, if Ms. Yellen purchased Alan Greenspan's “How to speak to Congress” manual, and leaves them with the impression that she could possibly end the taper – the market could gain some more.
- Tuesday, if Ms. Yellen makes a rookie mistake and mentions that she'd be willing to reverse the taper if things don't improve – then we'll be back to the all-time highs in short order.
From here on out, it's all about the Fed. Continuing to taper with no hint of stopping and we'll see new lows. Stopping the taper and we levitate. Reversing the taper, and we see DOW 18,000.
I’m in a wait and see position until the S&P’s get above 1,825.
- I still like the metals here as a hedge = Gold (GLD) and Silver (SLV).
- I like any group of stocks that can remain positive in a down market – and that group includes the Bio-Techs: GILD, INCY, CELG, REGN, and BIIB.
- I like 4 stocks in particular: NFLX, FEYE, QIHU and TSLA. NetFlix is a communications company; FireEye (FEYE) and QIHU are both in the cyber-security space, while Tesla (TSLA) is the electric carmaker that wants to continue moving higher. Now be careful – because FEYE has earnings on February 11th. Tesla has earnings on February 19th (and could provide a nice earnings run up until that date).
My current short-term holds are:
- FEYE – March ’14 $50 Calls – in @ $11.50 (currently $19.40)
- TSLA – Feb ’14 $165 Calls – in @ $12.47 (currently $21.42)
- QIHU – March ’14 $110 Calls – in @ $5.93 (currently $4.69)
- USO – April ’14 $37 Calls – in @ at $34.51 (currently $35.70)
- FXY – March ‘14 $97 Puts – in @ at $96.47 (currently $95.43)
- SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 12.78) – no stop,
- GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 122.16) – no stop ($1,267 per physical ounce), AND
- SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 19.29) – no stop ($20.00 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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