Entries by Phil

Non-Farm Friday – Is America Working?

Unemployment is LOW! 

As noted in the Fed's Beige Book (which we discussed in Wednesday's Live Trading Webinar), low unemployment is restraining growth due to a lack of qualified applicants.  Low immigration isn't helping either – to the point of crops rotting in the fields due to lack of laborers.  The Fed is becoming very concerned about rising wage pressure, which can quickly eat into Corporate Profit Margins – especially when they are still having trouble pushing price increases through to the consumers.  

The ever-weakening Dollar means the workers have less buying power with the Dollar falling 6% since Trump took office (making America eh again) – effectively cutting the buying power of 160M workers by 6%, which is like losing 9.6M jobs yet today Trump will celebrate and take credit for 1M new jobs created under his regime – at the same 200,000/month pace we've been on for 5 years (thanks Obama).  

What we really have is a net loss of 8.6M jobs worth of buying power and it's been great for Corporate Profits as companies get paid in weak Dollars (very good for S&P companies, who get half their revenues overseas) and pay their workers in weak Dollars, which greatly inflates their Net Income – for now.  Restaurants are one of the first industries feeling the pinch of diminishing buying power as traffic is down 2% overall, most notably on 433M less lunches taken.

Restaurants are doing what every industry will have to do in a tight labor market, they are raising prices and HOPING not to lose too many customers as a trade-off.  Unfortunately for restaurants, food at home is getting cheaper at the same time – making the trade-up to a meal out a more and more expensive decision for consumers. 

The pain is spreading to suppliers. Meat giant Tyson Foods Inc. recently said a 29% drop in quarterly earnings was due partly to the decline in restaurant traffic.  “Consumers are buying fresh foods, from supermarkets, and eating them at home as a replacement for eating out,” Tyson Chief Executive Tom Hayes said.

The average price of a restaurant lunch has risen 19.5% to $7.59 since the recession, as…
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Thursday Thoughts – Fed Blowing Housing Bubble 2.0?

Here we go again.

As you can see from Naked Capitalism's Case-Shiller Chart, those who forget the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them and we just passed the last "out of control" housing peak.  As the Fed's Neel Kashkari said about housing prices:

“It is really hard to spot bubbles with any confidence before they burst.  Everyone can recognize a bubble after it bursts, and then many people convince themselves that they saw it on the way up.”

As noted by Scofield, it's really not hard at all to see when you are in a bubble, the hard part is predicting when they will finally burst.  Housing prices jumped 7.7% from last year, far outpacing the growth in household incomes, thus making homes more and more unaffordable for the average buyer.  However, the people buying homes are above average – generally in the Top 10% of Income Earnings which, in Donald Trump's America, makes them better people than the other 90% of you and more deserving of a good home.

After all, what else matters in life but how much money you make, right?  Of course right – you voted for it!  

Some regions are more bubbly than others, mostly in Texas and out west (Seattle, Denver, San Francisco) with massive gains since the last bubble burst.   Yesterday's read on the Beige Book shows an economy that does not support this kind of housing recovery and just last night, San Francisco Fed President John Williams said the Fed is still on path for 2 more hikes in 2017 with a goal of 3% by 2019.

That's up 2.5% from where we are now and do you know what happens to mortgage payments when they go from the current 3.5% average to 6%?  Again, we only have to remember what happened in 2007/8 but, for example, a person buying a $250,000 house with a $200,000 mortgage pays $898/month at 3.5% but will pay $1,199/month at 6%.  That's $300/month more, which is 33% and people don't buy houses, they buy mortgages so it's going to be up to the homeowners to bring the price of the home down low enough…
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Which Way Wednesday – Beige Book Edition

Image result for the new phone books are hereThe new Beige Book is here! 

Today we get the "anecdotal" information on the current economic conditions from each of the twelve Federal Districts, we find these reports useful as they give us some insight into what the Fed is seeing on the ground level and we'll go over it live, during our Live Trading Webinar at 1pm, EST today.

As noted yesterday, our trade ideas from the last Live Trading Webinar were good for thousands of Dollars worth of quick gains into the weekend and this morning oil (/CL) was kind enough to dip back to our $48.50 buy lone and gasoline (/RB) is back below the $1.60 line at $1.59 and we love it long over the $1.60 line with tight stops below.  See last week's Reports for options trade ideas we had for the Oil (USO) and Gasoline (UGA) ETFs at these levels as well as UVXY, which is still playable.  And the Dollar (/DX) is back at the 97 line, where we like that long as well.

I was over at the Nasdaq yesterday and we discussed 3 different ways to hedge your bubblicious Nasdaq positions like Amazon (AMZN) $1,000 or Tesla (TSLA) $335 or Netflix (NFLX) $165 – all of which are a good 33% over even the most generous interpretations of a fair value and, in a downturn, could drop 20% as fast as Bitcoins – which also seemed like they would never go down.  

I set up a link you can follow right here from our Live Member Chat room which lays out our 3 hedging ideas.  

I was just the 8:30 guest on Benzinga's Pre-Market Prep (35 mins in) and we discussed our oil and gasoline longs as well as the overall economic situation so no need to go over it again here.  At risk of having yet another post censored for political content, I will mention that Trump just pulled the US out
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Trump Error, Day 130 – The President Returns from Disastrous World Tour

Down the memory hole: Establishing "1984" for today's Trump-filled worldHe's back!  

After a relatively calm couple of weeks while the President was in Europe, we're back to the National nightmare of dealing with an Administration in turmoil (Trump now has a "war room" dedicated to staving off negative reports about his ties to Russia – at your expense, of course) with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now under direct investigation and there are rumors of a major staff shake-up as suspected leakers are being fired now that the boss is back in town.

There are as yet unsubstantiated claims that Trump is now under indictment for his ties to Russian mobsters (but a sitting President has immunity so the case is "on hold").  Last week, the Trump campaign released an email to supporters entitled "SABOTAGE," in which the campaign said, "There are people within our own unelected bureaucracy that want to sabotage President Trump and our entire America First movement."

The White House has yet to announce any terminations or staff realignment. Instead, overnight Trump took another swipe at reports that his Twitter privileges may be removed, saying that "the Fake News Media works hard at disparaging & demeaning my use of social media because they don't want America to hear the real story!"

This kind of stuff is not really good for investor confidence.  Not only is Trump's domestic agenda in turmoil but he has single-handedly taken the mantle of World Leadership away from the US for the first time since World War II with Germany's Angela Merkel warning the G6 (who were all aligned with science against Trump on climate change this weekend) that reliable relations with her country’s closest post-World War II ally may be a thing of the past.

“The last few days have also shown me that the times when we could completely rely on others are to some extent over,” Merkel said in a speech at a climate conference in Berlin on Monday, echoing her language of the day before. “We are and remain close partners,” she said of the U.S. and Germany, “but we also know that we Europeans really must take our destiny into our own


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TGIF – Gold Flies Higher as Kushner Goes “Under Scrutiny” in Russia Probe

Image result for trump russia tiesThis is gettting interesting, isn't it?  

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, is now a "person of interest" in the FBI investigation into the Trump Administration's Russia ties.  That doesn't mean he's guilty but it does mean the investigation has moved closer to the President – to the guy married to his daughter, in fact.   The records of records of both Manafort and Flynn have been demanded by grand jury subpoenas, NBC News has reported.  

Kushner has already admited to meeting with Sergey Gorkov, who is the Chairman of VneshEconomBank, a Russian government-owned institution that has been under U.S. sanctions since July 2014.  Gorkov studied at the training school for the FSB, one of Russia's intelligence services.  To be fair to Kushner, you can't be part of Trump's Team and NOT have met with Russians – they are EVERYWHERE!  

Meanwhile, why are you here?  It's the Friday before a 3-day weekend, we didn't become investors so we could work every day, did we?  Go have some fun – I'm already on vacation, writing from my hotel room like a sensible fellow.  

Yesterday's big story was the collapse of oil after the OPEC meeting.  Despite extending the existing production cuts for 9 more month, the cartel failed to increase them and, since the current cuts have barely been effective and since the US production is already filling the gap and putting us back in a glut – a lot of oil longs finally gave up hope and bailed out, leading to a whopping 5% Rule™ correction on the day.

We're long here ($48.50) on the Oil Futures (/CL) as well as the Oil ETF (USO) at $10 as we are only just starting summer driving season and the July 4th holiday gives us another opportunity to see some gains in the coming month.  We may fall another $1 first, to $47.50 because Brent Crude (/BZ) is still at $51 and $50 is better support for them and $47.50 is better support for us but I would hate to miss the rally, so I'd rather get started now.  Gasoline (/RB) is also a good buy at $1.60.

In


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Federally Fueled Thursday – WTF?

The Futures went flying this morning.

Apparently, after having a strong day in the US yesterday and despite the Fed minutes that indicated imminent tightening, China decided to stick it in Moody's eye by strengthening the Yuan to boost their own markets.  The move drove the Shanghai Composite 1.4% higher for the day while the Hang Seng gained 0.77% and the subsequent plunge in the Dollar, to 96.80, goosed our own stock Futures to even higher highs

We're long on the Dollar (/DX) down here and we also have Dollar ETF (UUP) June $25 calls, now 0.24 with UUP at $25.08 as we think there are still strong odds the Fed tightens at their June 14th meeting.  We went over the minutes of the last meeting in yesterday's Live Trading Webinar and noted that the Fed was waiting for evidence that an "economic slowdown is transitory" since May 2nd and, since then, we've had generally bullish data that indicates the Fed will go ahead with the next phase of tightening sooner rather than later. 

Federal funds rate history and recessions.png

Goldman Sachs (GS) agrees with us and pegs the likelihood of a June hike at 80% with another rate hike in September, followed by the announcement of balance sheet normalization at the December meeting and possibly another hike there though I think they'll be more likely to hike on Nov 1st if the markets take the Sept hike well.  Citibank agrees with me there, saying:  "The fact that operational details are closer to being specified shows that the FOMC could be ready to announce tapering of its balance sheet earlier than previously expected. This increases the risk of a September announcement relative to our current view for an announcement in December."

The chart above is not complicated, Fed tightening ALWAYS leads to recession (grey lines) and recessions are rarely more than 10 years apart.  The markets are very likely enjoying their last harrah at the top but my advice is to SELL IN MAY (get back to CASH!!!) and go away until we have a proper correction.  Our Member Portfolios are roughly 80% CASH!!! (have I mentioned how much I like CASH!!! lately?) and we are very,…
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Will We Hold It Wednesday – Fed Minutes Edition

And here we are, yet again.

2,399.50 was the top for the S&P Futures (/ES) yesterday at noon so it's game on for our shorts as well as Russell (/TF) 1,380 and both are still hanging around those levels this morning.  As I said yesterday (and the 4 Tuesdays before that), we'll keep shorting at the top until it stops working.  Seems like a sensible plan, right?  

We're even more excited about our China Ultra-Shorts (FXP), which we've been tracking since April 3rd and currently, in our Options Opportunity Portfolio, we have 10 June $24 calls we paid $2 ($2,000) for on 5/15 after netting a $650 loss on our original spread so we're in for net $2,650 but FINALLY someone besides me has noticed how out of control China's debt situation is becoming as Moody's hits the Middle Kingdom with its first credit rating cut since 1989, saying that the outlook for the country’s financial strength will worsen, with debt rising and economic growth slowing.

"The downgrade reflects Moody's expectation that China's financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows. While ongoing progress on reforms is likely to transform the economy and financial system over time, it is not likely to prevent a further material rise in economy-wide debt, and the consequent increase in contingent liabilities for the government.

"More broadly, we forecast that economy-wide debt of the government, households and non-financial corporates will continue to rise, from 256% of GDP at the end of last year according to the Institute of International Finance. This is consistent with the gradual approach to deleveraging being taken by the Chinese authorities and will happen because economic activity is largely financed by debt in the absence of a sizeable equity market and sufficiently large surpluses in the corporate and government sectors. While such debt levels are not uncommon in highly-rated countries, they tend to be seen in countries which have much higher per capita incomes, deeper financial markets and stronger institutions than China's, features which enhance debt-servicing capacity and reduce the risk of contagion in the event of a negative shock."

Isn't that exactly what I've been…
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