“By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.”
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Japanese Equities closed down -1.6% overnight and have been making a series of lower-highs from their leverage-cycle peak for more than 2 decades. Japanese housewives are not happy.
In an especially interesting survey from the Sompo Japan Life Insurance Company this week, it appears that Japanese housewives are getting plugged by global inflation. Their secret savings (or what the Japanese called hesokuri) fell -18% in 2010 to their lowest levels since late 2007. Not ironically, that’s also when US Consumption rolled into the red for the 1st time after 64 consecutive quarters (or 13 years) of being positive.
As Ludwig von Mises said, inflation is a deliberate policy that government people choose without openly stating it to the public. Whether or not a humble looking man with a beard calls it that or not from his perch upon-high at the US Federal Reserve is of no concern to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the large majority of the world’s population doesn’t consider US owner’s equivalent rent (42% of US CPI) inflation.
Whether they be Japanese housewives or folks in India and Indonesia (the 2nd and 4th largest country populations in the world, respectively), energy and food prices matter – big time.
In the Japanese survey, vegetable prices, energy bills, and higher tobacco taxes ranked #1, #2, and #3 as top concerns. In Japan, don’t forget that it’s the women who make most of the budgeting decisions in Japanese households (Darius Dale and I scoured the survey looking for all of the offsetting goodies Japanese women found associated with Japanese style Quantitative Guessing (QG), but couldn’t find any).
Quantitative Guessing (QG) in Japan has obviously failed. That should be no surprise however as it’s been empirically proven at this point (Reinhart & Rogoff) that when a country crosses the proverbial Rubicon of debt/GDP thresholds (over 90% debt/GDP), long-term economic growth is structurally impaired.
The Keynesian/Princeton-connection of Paul Krugman (who told the Japanese to “PRINT LOTS OF MONEY” in 1997) and Ben Bernanke really don’t like it when Global Macro Risk Managers call out these simple concepts like real-world inflation and structurally impaired growth. That’s because their charlatan storytelling is largely focused on fear-mongering about depressions and deflation.
Whether you want to do your own channel checking on this and call the 57,000 Japanese housewives in the survey or the 44 MILLION Americans that are currently on food stamps (all-time high; nice job Ben), I think that calling anyone who lives on a budget will render the same answer.
If you’ve been positioned long-dong silver anything Emerging Markets in the last 3 months (stocks or bonds), you see the same inflation readings that housewives and I are talking about. It’s on your screen.
There’s really 1 thing that can crush both Bond and Emerging Market investors alike – inflation. When the “reflation” trade becomes the inflation, it can start to hurt equity market returns too.
For the YTD, here’s what’s going on in Global Equities outside of where Apple is trading:
Chinese growth slowing is perpetuated by inflation accelerating. When the Government of Thailand cut its GDP forecast in HALF this week (versus 2010’s +8% growth) to 4-5% for 2011 they weren’t thinking about how many cashmere sweater-sets Macy’s is selling on snow days. They pointed to one issue - Chinese growth slowing.
Yes, at a point, Chinese demand slowing should take the edge off The Ber-nank’s inflation trades. The inflation is sticky, but it can come off its highs. In fact, in the last 24 hours, we’ve seen the following 3 immediate-term TRADE lines break in our Global Macro risk management model:
And yes, part of these rollovers in inflation readings have to do with sober governments in Emerging Markets either raising interest rates or signaling that they will (Brazil raised +50bps yesterday and the Chinese signaled).
But the best way to fight Global Inflation Accelerating, is for the world to see a sustainably strong US Dollar. That’s where the real popular political juice is. That’s where American credibility in the global financial community can find her footing again. That’s what I and the hardest working global class we have, housewives, want to see.
My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1264 and 1295, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
This note was originally published at 8am on January 18, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“I must forever make the complex the simple.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ironically enough, one of my best friends gave me “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” for my birthday a few weeks back. Notwithstanding that he didn’t know I’d be on my back reading for the last week, the timing of this gift was impeccable. Dr. King’s passion has forever made the complex the simple.
Complex Simplicities are what we chaos theorists wake up looking for each Global Macro market morning. One of my favorite risk management books of all time (“Deep Simplicity”, by John Gribbin) got me hooked on the basic principles of chaos and complexity theory back in 2006. Thank God for those teachings. They saved our clients and our firm a lot of money in 2008.
Investment opportunities in a globally interconnected ecosystem are omnipresent. While there may be Apple days in California and snow days in Connecticut, there is no such thing as “risk on” and “risk off” days in Global Macro markets. In fact, when I hear people say that, all I can do is smile. Accepting chaos theory in risk management means accepting uncertainty, every day.
Over the intermediate-term TREND, there is no such thing as market certainty. The only thing you can be certain of, after a +91.3% melt-up in US stocks since March of 2009, is that for the immediate-term groupthink session everyone on the Barron’s Roundtable is going to be bullish.
Being bullish or bearish on the amount of uncertainty you think there is going to be in a market price is an opinion. So is doing nothing. For now, from an asset allocation perspective, we’re doing more and more of nothing. As some market prices climb, we’re raising more cash.
This is what the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model looks like to start off this week:
Being in cash is a simple concept. While I do get some very complex questions about the nature of my cash position, most of the time the real complexity in the questions is born out of the problems associated with many institutions being mandated to be “fully invested.” I don’t have to be.
To be crystal clear on this, the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model represents what I am personally doing with my investable capital. I’d be nuts to put my name on any other advice than that which I abide by myself. Again, from a transparency and accountability perspective, this is very simple.
Complex Simplicities: Did I think people who were jamming into bond and gold funds in Q4 of 2010 were nuts? Yes. Do I think people who are fully invested chasing US Equity indices up here are nuts? Yes. Do people who I think are nuts make money in this business? Yes.
But, sometimes (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008), people who get nutso invested blow up. The goal here, if you’ve made money in each of the last 3 years, is to make it a fourth - not to implode.
Last week in Global Macro, other than in the $2.8 TRILLION US Municipal Bond Market, not a lot of things blew up. Here were the most important Global Macro market moves of the week:
There wasn’t enough pin action in credit spreads (US or Sovereign) for me to call it out and nominal US Treasury Yields didn’t do much on a week-over-week basis either (they remain in what we call a Bullish Formation – bullish on all 3 of our core investment durations: TRADE, TREND, and TAIL). That’s one of the main reasons why we love our cash so much. Global Inflation Accelerating is bad for de bonds, eh.
Complex Simplicities associated with our living in a higher-and-lower American society by the week aside, we’re looking forward to watching how this year’s Global Macro picture plays out post the beginning of the year “flows” thing. While in cash, waiting and watching for US stock-centric investors to react to something other than Apples and snow should be, at a bare minimum, worth the immediate-term absolute performance charge.
My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1277 and 1299, respectively.
Best of luck out there today – it’s good to be back in the game,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - January 21, 2011
Equity futures are trading marginally below fair value following Thursday's continuation of the recent downdraft following some disappointing corporate earnings and on rumors of further tightening moves by the Chinese. As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 31 points or -1.27% downside to 1264 and +1.15% upside to 1295.
MACRO DATA POINTS:
TODAY’S WHAT TO WATCH:
The XLB is still the only sector broken on the Hedgeye TRADE duration - 8 of 9 sectors positive on TRADE and 9 of 9 sectors positive on TREND.
CREDIT/ECONOMIC MARKET LOOK:
Treasuries were weaker with the better-than-expected economic data and supply overhang.
OTHER COMMODITY NEWS:
While IGT's quarter contained two surprises - international sales (bad) and margins (good) - there wasn't a big read through to WMS. We expect an in-line quarter next week.
WMS will report its FQ2 EPS on Tuesday after the close. Replacements should be sequentially better, margins on product sales should also improve, and the install base for gaming operations should see a small sequential uptick on the back of more new releases. For more details see below:
We expect WMS to report $202MM of revenues and EPS of $0.45.
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