Taxing Onions

This note was originally published at 8am on December 23, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”
-Milton Friedman
 
Ben Bernanke got what he ordered for Christmas - global inflation.
 
While economic news in the US is light this morning, the rest of the world is waking up to continued signals that Global Growth is Slowing as Global Inflation Accelerates.
 
With Chinese Equities closing down for the 6th out of the last 7 trading days in Shanghai (China is down -12.9% YTD), here are the 3 most important inflation headlines that continued to pressure Asian Equity markets overnight:
 
1.       India’s weekly wholesale food inflation accelerated to +12.13% versus +9.46% last week
2.       Singapore reported another sequential acceleration in consumer prices (CPI) to +3.8% in NOV vs +3.5% in OCT.
3.       CRB Commodities Index closed at another YTD high of 328 = +15% since OCT and +29% since JUL.
 
Unlike in the US where the government has changed the inflation calculation 9 times since 1996 and tells you to focus on the “core” (no gas in your car, heat in your home, or food in your belly), India’s food inflation index includes the things that people eat. Things like lentils, veggies, and rice are very popular items for consumption.
 
Onions are a sought after food item in most parts of the world as well. It’s hard to fire up your curry without onions and the Indian government takes this practical matter quite seriously. India is calling for “emergency measures” this morning to address the onion supply imbalances due to rainfall damaged crops. Global food and water supply shocks? Heli-Ben, what are those?
 
Not that the people making curry for the holidays notice this (they’re probably much more focused on Quantitative Guessing and how great that is for Americans who still have 401k’s that aren’t choking on bond allocations), but the price of onions is up +34% year-over-year.
 
We get the year-end storytelling about “cheap” American stocks and how the world is awash with fiat currency, but we also get that inflation is a policy. Governments either fight it or perpetuate it – and there’s an Eastern versus Western view of the world emerging on this front.
 
Inflation is the #1 fear of emerging market economies and global bond investors alike. That’s why China, India, and Brazil’s stock markets have been going down since November. These markets apparently don’t care so much for how many 600 thread count sheets Americans are buying at Bed Bath and Beyond.
 
As global inflation accelerates the US Dollar Index and US Treasury yields are also rising. Again, the bulls are saying what they said on this score back in 2007 (after 64 consecutive quarters of positive US consumer spending) – everything is benign in the land of riskless nod until year-end bonuses are paid out.
 
We remain bullish on US Dollars and bearish on US Stocks and Bonds. Either the rest of the world won’t matter in 2011 or it will. And while hope is not an investment process, we can only hope and pray that the 45 MILLION Americans who are on food stamps this Christmas are sheltered with one of the only things left in life that the government can’t infuse with price volatility – the love of their families in times of need.
 
My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1245 and 1259, respectively. I shorted the SP500 again yesterday.
 
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones,
KM
 
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Taxing Onions - onions


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