This Week in Barrons – 2-14-2016:
“It’s the end of the world – as we know it.” … R.E.M.
The "End of the World" just doesn't happen overnight. People have been predicting it for eons. To name a few: in 1524, a group of astrologers predicted that the world would end by the turn of the century as the result of a flood starting in London. Martin Luther (a man of God) predicted that the end would come no later than 1600. And Christopher Columbus (an explorer) claimed that the world would end in 1658. But right now, I'm most anxious about this particular world’s condition.
- Global financial indices are crashing in concert.
- Trade (as measured by the Baltic Dry index) has collapsed.
- Sweden, Japan, Denmark, Europe and others are implementing negative interest rates.
- Spain is PAYING interest to borrowers for buying homes.
- Oil and commodities are at multi decade lows.
- China is sitting on idled plants, bad loans, and desperate for demand.
- Europe has been besieged with millions of refugees looking to transform those European countries into Muslim nations rather than assimilate.
- Political candidates Trump and Sanders (who most considered to be sideshows) are sweeping the nation shouting: “Vote the bums out.”
- Physical gold is once again yielding better returns than cash in the bank, and I don’t have to pay anyone to hold it for me.
The other day the question was asked: How would you invest $5,000 safely?
My short answer was:
- Buy a $1,200 (one ounce) gold coin.
- Buy $800 worth of silver eagle coins.
- Buy a $1,000 U.S. Treasury bond.
- Buy $500 worth of an agricultural stock, (we can live without iPhones but not without food).
- Buy a nice gun for $500 (protection and appreciation).
- And keep $1,000 in cash – at home – in a safe.
In virtually every other decade of my life, the answer to that question would have been amazingly simple, and a lot different. I would have stressed the magic of compound interest. Assuming a 6% interest rate, I would have talked about putting that $5,000 in a bank, after 10 years turning it into $8,954, and after 30 years turning it into $28,717. Then I would have asked the person if they could possibly add an additional $5,000 a year to that amount – each and every year? After 40 years you would then have a grand total of $871,667 – of which you have only contributed $200k. That’s how fortunes used to be made. And people then lived out their years collecting 6% on the final amount – leaving the principle to their children.
But those days are gone. In what can only be described as a perverted situation, interest rates are now 1% - not 6%. So investing $5,000 where it won't disappear in a bank ‘Bail-In’ – is a good question. The above mix should get your money back. The gold and silver coins should appreciate nicely. The agriculture stock might fade, but if it's a major player like a Mosaic (paying a 4% dividend) – it will be ok. The enemy of the Treasury bond is inflation. The gun is for personal safety, and for value appreciation. And finally, cash affords the safety of having actual money on hand in the case of a ‘Bank Holiday’ where all of the ATM’s are closed for a week. Remember, ‘protecting’ what we have is just as important as ‘creating’ more of it.
If you have ever toyed with the idea of buying physical gold and silver, I'd use any dip in this price to do just that. The same statement can be made about the miners. It’s time to revisit both of these categories. The window of ‘cheap’ is about to close.
I’m reminded of 3 statisticians that are out duck hunting. When they spot their first duck, the 1st first statistician takes a quick shot and misses the duck 6 inches high. As he’s reloading, the 2nd statistician takes aim and fires; he misses the duck 6 inches low. The 3rd statistician drops his gun, leaps in the air and yells: “Boys, we got it now!” This joke (although not laugh-out-loud funny) is designed to illustrate a common problem with relying on averages. Namely, that if you’re using averages to make specific decisions or determine particular actions, you’re likely to completely miss the mark.
Well on Thursday we were ‘right there’, ‘on the mark’, at the ‘edge of the cliff’. The DOW was down over 400 points and for the first time in years the S&P was under the ‘all important’ 1812 level. Then it happened. Like clockwork a headline hit saying that OPEC had agreed to cooperate on an oil production cut. Instantly the S&P gained 20 points, and the DOW gained 200. It was both comical and criminal at the same time. This headline (in particular) was so unbelievable that even floor traders on the exchange were joking about it. The funny part is that EVERYONE knows that: (a) even if the UAE minister really said it, (b) even if OPEC really agreed to it, that (c) NOTHING would happen. No country is going to cut one drop of production. Iran is just beginning to come back on line. Iraq is ramping up. No country is going to sacrifice their own sales today, in order to make the ‘pot’ a little bigger for someone else tomorrow.
On Friday, this so-called news was everywhere. Every station was talking about OPEC production cuts. Job accomplished, as we gained 313 DOW points and 35 on the S&P. So, that's it – some oil minister says OPEC is going to meet and up we go? It didn't matter that they floated that same rumor a few weeks ago. What was interesting is that the other half of what the UAE minister said was completely omitted from most broadcasts – which was: "The people who have spent money and have this investment, it's natural that they won't make cuts." So his quote actually didn’t refer to existing production quotas at all – but rather future endeavors. Imagine that.
Anyway, do I think that we have found the bottom? No. I do think that it could be a short-term bottom, IF nothing blows up when China opens on Monday. (China has been closed for a week in observance of their Lunar Holiday.) But no, I do not think that this is a significant bottom. I think that we have a date with considerably lower levels. If we don't get any bad news on Sunday or Monday night, we should open okay on Tuesday, and possibly move higher.
I don’t see this move higher lasting too long. After we get – ‘whatever we’re going to get’ – then going short should be the plan. There is NO WAY that OPEC will get their member nations to cut production. After all, the Saudi's need to sell every drop they can produce in order to keep their welfare state alive. I think that when markets allow themselves to admit to this reality, we'll see the market roll over once again. After all, we were on the edge of a cliff – and this time a small, murky mention of oil production cuts saved us. I think when those cuts do NOT materialize; we are right back to the brink again. Only this time, someone will push us over.
At their March meeting our FED has 3 options:
- 1. The private sector becomes robust and the economy roars back, giving room for the Fed to raise rates and unwind their trillions in bonds and mortgage backed securities. This is what the Fed is wishing for. Unfortunately, the economy has been limping along for years, and the expansion we see is based on debt. So this is somewhat of a fantasy.
- 2. The more responsible and accountable option is also the most unpopular one. The FED raises rates, begins to unwind their balance sheet, allows the yield curve to steepen, risks deflation and slows growth. Companies would fail, unemployment would rise, and stagnation or even a recession would ensue. This is the responsible thing to do, and it is NOT going to happen.
- 3. They can keep doing what they’re doing. This is the most popular and most likely option. The FED will NOT raise rates, NIRP (Negative Interest Rate Policy) will become a possibility, and the FED comes-up with another stimulus effort. In which case the bond bubble will get larger, the market will rally – and in the end this whole thing will implode. This is the most likely option.
The good news is that the total implosion will NOT happen in the next 6 months. After all, the FED needs time to ramp-up, and that will spike both the equity and bond markets.
- Long various mining stocks: AG, AUY, EGO, GFI, IAG, and FFMGF,
- Long an oil supplier: REN @ $0.56,
- Long CSX, using a Covered Call to generate income,
- Long STI, using a Covered Call to generate income,
- Sold COST – Feb – Put Credit Spread – 144 / 142,
- Sold WYNN – Feb – Put Credit Spread – 68 / 66,
- Sold SPX – Mar – Call Credit Spread – 2025 / 2030,
- Sold FXY – Mar – Call Credit Spread – 87 / 86,
- Bought FIT – Feb 20 / Mar 21 – Diagonal for 30 cents,
- Bought HD – Feb 130 / Mar 135 – Diagonal for 9 cents,
- Bought NKE – Feb 65 / Mar 67.5 – Diagonal for 42 cents,
- Bought CRM – Feb 77.5 / Mar 82.5 – Diagonal for 22 cents,
- Bought LMT – Feb 215 / Mar 220 – Diagonal for 99 cents.
Presumably what I will do with the ‘Diagonals’ is allow their February components to expire (giving me a perfectly free trade), and then sell another March dated contract against it.
To follow me on Twitter.com and on StockTwits.com to get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.
Please be safe out there!
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Until next week – be safe.