This Week in Barrons – 2-26-2017:
“Where were you when SNAP ripped off America?” … Editor of iBankCoin
Snapchat became a public company this week, and is currently holding a $30+B valuation. They are scheduled to take in about $400m in revenues this year, and accumulate over $500m in loses. To quote SNAP executives: “We have incurred operating losses in the past, expect to incur operating losses in the future, and may never achieve or maintain profitability.” It sounds like 1999 all over again, and according to 720 Global’s Michael Lebowitz: “The upcoming crash could be worse than during the dot com heyday. Even though current valuations are not as extreme as they were in 1999, our current economic underpinnings are not as robust as they were then either.” The following chart compares the dot com era (1995 – 1999) to what we’ve seen since 2012. Notice: (a) productivity was almost double in the dot com era, (b) debt levels were almost one-third of what they are today, (c) interest rates were a ‘normal’ 5 to 6%, and (d) earnings growth was in the high single digits vs today’s negative.
Jeffrey Saut (Chief Investment Strategist at Raymond James) says that he's never seen anything like what's happening now, and is heading for the sidelines. In a note to his clients on Thursday he said: "I have been observing markets for 54 years, and I have never experienced anything like what is currently happening. We modeled this post-election rally perfectly, but also expected a downside window of vulnerability in February that never materialized. As a result, this week we sold 15 short-term tactical positions and are sitting things out until further notice. In the short term, we do not understand what is going on. And consequently, when we do not understand the current market environment, we tend not to play."
We have a debt ceiling coming into play on March 15th. If there's no deal agreed upon prior to March 15th, then the U.S. must work with "the money on hand" which runs out in late June. At that time, Government agencies could be shut down, and it would be up to President Trump to decide which services remain open, and which ones are closed for good. Rumor has it that they can't just mangle together a new debt ceiling because this one was cast as a ‘hard stop’ and written into the law. David Stockman (the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under Ronald Reagan) thinks that when the ‘debt ceiling holiday’ expires – there will be a market shakeup, gridlock, and the Government may even shut down. He paints a pretty scary story, including suggesting we'll see at least a 20% market correction, with the good chance of a major crash. Here's the link to his 25-minute interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xgNncFHAng&feature=em-share_video_user
As SF and I discussed, the 2016 Gross Domestic Product (the measure of our economy’s growth) came in at a total of 1.6% growth for 2016, and 1.9% for Q4.
I whine constantly about our markets making all of these new, all-time highs – because we don’t deserve to be up at these levels. Our GDP was 3.6% in 1992, 4% in ‘94, and 4.8% in ’99 – with the DOW standing at 10,006 in March of 1999. Meanwhile, in 2015 our GDP was 2.6%, and in 2016 it was 1.6% - and we’re flirting with 21,000. I’m whining because in the strongest years of our economy, the DOW was over 10,000 points lower than it is today.
Many will claim that Donald Trump’s pro-growth agenda will invigorate the economy and corporate earnings. But we know that virtually all of Trump’s ideas face numerous headwinds along the path to implementation. The numbers themselves scream ‘stagflation’, and there is little justification for paying such steep premiums for feeble earnings growth. Meanwhile, Snapchat’s surging market capitalization just surpassed that of American Airlines and CBS.
Bank of America came out this week and told us that our markets are in one of those periods where you can throw convention to the wind because nothing is going to matter right now. They said that we are in the "later stages of a bull market, during which fundamentals typically take a back seat to sentiment and technicals." After all, just this week:
- Ms. Janet Yellen said that they will hike rates very soon,
- Same store retail sales declined across the board,
- The Debt Ceiling is coming due on March 15th,
- The IMF talked about the need to remove the U.S. Dollar as the sole global reserve currency,
- Goldman Sachs and the Atlanta FED lowered their Q1 GDP estimates to 1.8%, J.P. Morgan now predicts 1.5%, and Bank of America cut their estimate to a meager 1.3%.
I can remember 1999 when all cares went out the window, and more and more people started believing that stocks could only go up. Marc Faber (editor of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report) thinks that this rally's disruption won't be caused by any single catalyst. "Very simply, this market will start to go down, and as it goes down, it will trigger selling, and then it will be like an avalanche." So Cashin, Rogers, Stockman, Faber, and a host of well-known others are incredibly worried about this market action. Yet this market continues to (as the song suggests): Defy Gravity.
Finally, a small news release (after the close of business on Friday) came out saying that the CME and Thompson Reuters have decided to pull out of the LBMA. The LBMA is the ONLY physical silver market. The COMEX is the silver’s fake paper market, but the LBMA is the place that the big boys go to actually buy large quantities of physical silver. Lately they’ve been having a hard time locating large amounts of the physical metal to make good on deliveries. So, just two years into a 5-year contract the CME and Thompson Reuters are bailing out of the exchange. I think it had something to do with what occurred this past Thursday – when seconds after the European markets closed ‘someone’ decided to dump $2B worth of silver onto the market. Someone (a government like the U.S. for example) didn't like the fact that silver was starting to get a lot of attention, and used the paper silver market to dissuade others from buying it. It makes sense to me that the CME and Thompson Reuters could no longer mimic the illegal behavior on the COMEX and decided to throw up their hands and walk away. They know the charade can't go on much longer, and they want out before the whole darn mess blows up. We talked previously on how the oil producing nations are selling oil for Chinese Yuan's and then selling those Yuan's on the Shanghai gold exchange for physical gold. Maybe I'm fantasizing but it seems to me we're getting closer to the day when the physical markets finally put the paper markets out of business.
This week we saw a 300-point up day on Wednesday, and a pullback on Thursday and Friday. Now, the question becomes: “Is this run-up tired, over, or just taking a pause?” In the old days, I’d go by the 3-day rule. If an index made a big surge, I'd give it 3 days to pull back, regroup, and retake the highs. I think we see things move higher on Monday. If we sag lower on Monday, it could be the start of some concern – especially in front of Friday’s Non-Farm Payroll’s Report. I'm not sure this run is over, even IF we get a convincing pullback. Simply understand that everything you buy right now – you could be buying at the very top of the market. It's been over 100 days since the market had a 1% drop. In more normal times, 5 -7% drops were common. A trader I know (who rubs shoulders with the uber-rich) said: "I'd buy long dated puts, go long the TZA and SKF, and everyone gets wealthy".
Recently I’ve been considering some longer-term, downside plays. If the market were to put in a 3,500-point plunge, I’d like to be in on the receiving end of that gift. For example, a rate hike AND a ‘hard stop’ on the debt ceiling could be difficult for the markets get past. There are many ways to make money during a retracement: (a) buy put options, (b) scale into inverse ETF's, and (c) short stocks. The question becomes, what will give you the best bang for your buck? I vote for buying put options, then buying 3X inverse ETF’s, and lastly shorting stocks. As the weeks progress, I’ll be glad to review some ideas on put options chains to buy, but in terms of inverse ETF’s:
- The inverse of the DOW is the DOG (meaning as the DOW would FALL – an investment in the DOG will RISE an equal amount).
- The inverse of the S&P is the SH.
- If you want a little more risk, you can move into the 2X and 3X ETFs, meaning a 2X ETF will move 2 times higher than the index falls, and a 3X ETF will move 3 times higher.
- 2X of the DOW = DXD, and 3X = SDOW.
- 2X of the S&P is SDS, and 3X = SPXU.
- The Russell 2000 inverse ETF is the RWM, the 2X = TWM, and the 3X = SRTY.
- The 2X on the financial sector is the SKF, and the 3X = FAZ.
At some point, I could see myself holding a bunch of TZA, FAZ, and some put options.
This coming week I’m watching:
- Precious Metals = They are moving higher on: uncertainty, fear, European mayhem, and inflation. They are moving lower due to interest rate hikes, the strong dollar, and technical price action. My recommendation is to (a) buy dips, (b) take profits on rallies, and (c) maintain a core long position.
- GOLD = I’m looking for gold to rally back above $1,250.8. If gold could break above that, then look for another rally up to $1,270.0 – which is currently the 200-day moving average.
- SILVER = Inflation concerns have far exceeded consensus. Changes to Dodd Frank would enable banks to become more flexible in their lending, increase consumer credit, and create more inflation. After the 38% Fibonacci retracement, the next key level for silver will be $18.50.
- BLUE – Bluebird Bio is in the high-shorted biotech sector. BLUE recently broke out of its range, pulled back, and with the entire sector being strong – watch it in the next two weeks.
- SMTC – Semtech Corp. is in the semi-conductor sector. It’s showed strong revenue and profit growth, and has recently pulled back to the 50-EMA. Watch for a bounce, but be careful – earnings are later in the week.
- NFLX – NetFlix is in the leisure and movie sector. It has strong institutional support and has pulled back into its 50-EMA. Watch for a bounce, and be ready to buy AFTER the bounce.
- SPX / RUT – Look at buying at-the-money, short-term, butterflies that expire in 9 to 12 days. These take advantage of the current low market volatility, low delta (< 10), and high theta (> $80 per contract per day).
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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