“I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.”
You know when a French policy maker is more hawkish than you about inflation, that you’re a pretty dovish and left-leaning central banker. Despite all of the fiat Pig Paper flying around Europe these days, The Ber-nank’s Burning Buck continues to lose credibility versus the Euro by the day.
Ahead of the Almighty Central Planning meetings this weekend in Paris, France’s Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, said this morning that, “we clearly need to keep inflation at bay”… and that “too much inflation is not going to be conducive to growth.” On the margin, European policy rhetoric continues to be more hawkish than America’s – and that’s saying something.
After hearing President Obama on his fiscal plans to amplify America’s Disaster Deficit and listening to Ben Bernanke profess to the world that he sees no inflation, we re-shorted the US Dollar this week. It’s already down a full 1% from where we shorted it. It remains broken across all 3 of our core risk management durations (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL). And, unnervingly, it has no long-term support to its post 1971 closing lows.
If you study the history of the US Dollar pre and post President Nixon abandoning the gold standard (1971), you’ll see that it’s become fashionable for US Presidents and their politicized heads of the US Federal Reserve to act in unison (both from a fiscal and monetary policy perspective) to attempt to debauch and devalue their way to political prosperity.
In trying to get re-elected in 1972, “Nixon wanted a large dollar depreciation to goose the US economy, but Pompidou feared that this step would saddle Europe with a larger loss of competitiveness.” (“Exorbitant Privilege” by Barry Eichengreen, page 76). And when Pompidou was the one criticizing Nixon on not being hawkish enough, the US definitely earned its currency credibility problem.
Preceded by Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou was the President of the French Republic from 1969 until he died in 1974. If Nixon wanted a tutorial on how to run a deficit and devaluation strategy, these French gentlemen had as much experience as any of the world’s post WWII central planners.
In 1972, Nixon had his modern day Ber-nank (Arthur Burns) cut interest rates and this caused the US Dollar to do exactly what it’s doing now – weaken. Sadly, Burns was then politically wedged into attempting to monetize the US Federal Debt thereafter (i.e. buying Treasuries) and The 1970s Inflation that was born out of these short-term political decisions was obviously President Jimmy Carter’s to deal with by the time the horses left the barn.
Now I’m not suggesting that the Obama/Bernanke team is as dovish and left leaning on the central planning front as the Carter/Burns combo was, but I am saying that if the US Dollar continues to be debauched that it’s going to be a tight race.
Yes, I think Bush/Bernanke had many of the central planning tendencies that Nixon/Burns did. And, yes, there’s been good reason why no Federal Reserve chief has tried to monetize the US debt since. Most of the Keynesians were evaporated by Paul Volcker. Now they’re back.
In Dollar Debauchery do Americans trust? Does the Rest of the World have any reason to trust America as the fiduciary of the world’s reserve currency? Is global trust an entitlement, or is it earned out there in this interconnected global economy every day?
These are important questions that Keynesian ideologues don’t need to help us with – because the answers are marked-to-market on your screens every minute of every trading day.
To be crystal clear on my Global Macro positioning here, I am hawkish and long of The Inflation.
As a Long/Short Global Macro Risk Manager who isn’t pigeon holed into being long-only French or American stocks, there are many ways to capitalize on these Hawkish Winds:
Sure, US-centric, long-only, perma-bull strategists like Bob Froehlich and Don Luskin who I debated on Kudlow last night can belly up to the blow horn and howl “Dow 14,000” whenever they have a live wire on TV. But if you are Froehlich and you said “Dow 14,000” in January of 2008 and again in February 2011, have you really taken any lessons from the most recent crash and evolved your investment process? I think Americans have.
The British, the French, and the Japanese have learned this lesson of abusing entitlements the hard way. It’s taken many years and many charlatan politicians telling stories about Big Government Deficit Spending and Currency Devaluation being the way of the future. It’s taken many a Hawkish Wind to stand up to the tyranny of centrally planned economies and markets too.
But when the wind of a bond, currency, or stock market turns southerly, I think most of the people who have empowered these said fiduciaries with our hard earned moneys “know a hawk from a handsaw.”
My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1328 and 1342, respectively.
Enjoy your weekend and best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
This note was originally published at 8am on February 15, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“That most delicious of all privileges – spending other people’s money.”
After reviewing this Disaster Deficit proposal put forth and watching the political theatre associated with delivering it from an American classroom yesterday, I re-shorted the US Dollar and sold out entirely of the 3% in US Treasury denominated Fixed Income I had left.
Since professional politicians from George Bush to Barack Obama clearly don’t have it in them to stop spending other people’s money, the only way to Govern the Government from here on in is going to have to be the old fashioned way - voting with our wallets.
The aforementioned quote came from a Congressman in Virginia (who served between 1825-1827) most commonly remembered as John Randolph of Roanoke. I am calling out his thoughts because they pertained to the constitutionality of the US government’s concentration of power. Standing up against the tyranny of central planning is not a new idea in America this morning. I’m just reminding you where we came from.
In the coming weeks I am going to focus on the history of both US monetary and fiscal policy. I’ll be drawing most specifically on a recently published book that I’m two-thirds of the way done by Barry Eichengreen titled “Exorbitant Privilege” which focuses on the history of the US Dollar, other modern day fiat currencies, and the politicization that supports them.
The idea of Delicious or “Exorbitant Privilege” shouldn’t be foreign to any human being. Depending on which part of this world that you live, you may actually call into question the US Dollar having the privilege of being the world’s most recent reserve currency. As Eichengreen reminds us,
“This has long been a sore spot for foreigners, who see themselves as supporting American living standards and subsidizing American multinationals through the operation of this asymmetric financial system.”
Why have I been so intensely focused on how modern day fiscal and monetary policies affect the US Dollar for the past 3 years? That’s simple. Staying ahead of the big draw downs in the US Dollar’s price over the course of the last 3 years has protected my clients and firm from being long massive bubbles in US Equities (2008) and US Treasuries (2010).
Until the huge correlation risk to what the US Dollar Index does every day burns off (and, God willing, it eventually will), I won’t stop weighing the US Dollar as the #1 factor in my 27-factor global macro risk management model.
Unlike whatever models Greenspan and Bernanke have been using for the last 10 years, mine has had some credibility in calling out big Global Macro risks before they become consensus. We introduced the Hedgeye Macro Theme of Global Inflation Accelerating in October of 2010 – today the #1 headline at one of the world’s key lagging economic indicators, The New York Times, is “Companies Raise Prices As Commodity Costs Jump.”
Having authored the inflation theme 5 months ago, I think we have as good a shot as the next Thunder Bay Bear to call a rollover in inflation – or to appease The Ber-nank fans, maybe we’ll call it The Deflation of The Inflation…
Just because inflation concerns are now a global consensus doesn’t mean that they can’t remain. I think the #1 factor in determining where inflation goes from here is where the US Dollar Index goes from here.
So, to keep this globally interconnected game of Chaos Theory very simple:
As a reminder, the way we Chaos Theorists measure risks in macro markets is on the slope. Many Big Government Interventionists don’t even know what that means. Being historians and socials scientists can indeed provide impediments to understanding mathematical thoughts.
Another way to talk about slopes, sequential rates of change, and the risk management signals embedded therein is to simplify it – so Barney Frank and John Boehner please repeat after me – what happens in macro happens on the margin… what happens in macro happens on the margin…
Good. With that trivial math lesson in hand, all we need to give America’s professional politicians are some lines and charts for the US Dollar Index:
Now, on the topic of the US Debt Ceiling Debate, going all the way back to that prickly little critter that American folks like John Randolph were so focused on – the US Constitution – I’d be remiss not to remind the current Treasury Secretary of the United States of America that it wasn’t until 1917 that Congress gave the US Treasury discretion to issue debt…
That’s right – from 1787 to 1917 is a fairly long time. And we’re pretty sure that the decision in 1917 didn’t have anything to do with Presidents Bush and Obama giving prime time PR speeches from our children’s classrooms to justify deficit spending. The idea behind the issuance of US Treasury debt was grounded in protecting the American people during a time of war, not in protecting government from the people.
My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1318 and 1337, respectively. As the implied default risks associated with US deficit spending and debt issuance continue to be reflected in higher US Treasury Yields, we now have a ZERO percent asset allocation to UST bonds.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
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Even with a new round of casino planning, Taiwan's casino future is unknown.
New markets in Asia remain a huge long term growth opportunity for WYNN and LVS but Taiwan, while still likely at some point in the future, may have to wait.
Recently, two casino development bills stalled in Taiwan's government. The legislative session ended (Chinese New Year) without approval of the bills—1) Casino management law under the supervision of the Roads, Highways, & Railways Department and 2) Tourism project with gaming features led by the Taiwan Tourist Bureau (TTB). But that hasn't stopped the TTB from continuing its push for casinos on Taiwan's offshore islands (IRs on Taiwan's mainland is out of the question).
The TTB has authorized a Macau-based consultant company, Ocean Tech Group, to conduct a feasibility survey to 40 potential operators from Las Vegas, Macau, and other regions regarding location, land size, investment amount, casino size, length of license, and other logistics for an IR on one of Taiwan's 6 offshore islands: Hsiau Liouchiou, Kinmen, Lanyu, Lyudao, Matsu, and Penghu. Ocean Tech Group will design the IR concept to include a theme park, hotel, expo, shopping mall and casino for the government. The survey will not have any effect on the license bidding process. Sources say TTB may receive all the surveys by the end of this week.
Kinmen has been mentioned as a front-runner given the Taiwanese government’s plan to introduce FIT travel for Chinese visitors to Kinmen in April 2011. But that's assuming Mainland China goes through with this immigration change, which is never a certainty. Reports also indicate that on Kinmen, a petition for a referendum has been submitted to the Executive Yuan, a process that is anticipated to take at least six months.
Meanwhile, Penghu may have a second chance as it hopes to submit another casino proposal by mid-2011. However, Chang Jui-Tung, director-general of the Penghu County government's Civil Affairs Bureau, had said that the failed 2009 referendum means the Taiwanese government will have to wait for three years to conduct another related referendum on the island. Recall that the citizens on the island of Penghu voted to block the construction of Taiwan's 1st casino in 2009. A tender was held by the Tourism Agency and two foreign companies submitted bids but both were rejected because they didn't provide all the required documents.
The Ministry of Transport and Communication (MOTC) has indicated that any IR proposals should be based on a opening by the end of 2013. But before any bill is submitted to the Legislature Yuan, it must pass through numerous public hearings and consultations, which can last many months. The purpose of these forums is to gain the support of the local communities. This is not an easy task.
The MOTC and TTB may be hoping for an IR. But hope is not an investment process. Frankly, Taiwan and its offshore islands are not in any hurry to open up an IR. They don't need the business right now as Taiwan GDP grew 10.8% and visitation soared to a record 5.6MM in 2010. Maybe the offshore islands will follow the example set by Hainan, China's only tropical island, which earlier last year passed on becoming a gambling hub to focus on natural scenery in its quest to become a top tourist destination.
TODAY’S S&P 500 SET-UP - February 18, 2011
Equity futures are trading flat to fair value following Thursday's low key session which saw indices close modestly higher having reversed early weakness. With no major data scheduled and with Monday a holiday, trading is expected to be range bound. As we look at today’s set up for the S&P 500, the range is 14 points or -0.93% downside to 1328 and 0.12% upside to 1342.
MACRO DATA POINTS:
EARNINGS/WHAT TO WATCH:
We have 8 of 9 sectors positive on TRADE and 9 of 9 sectors positive on TREND.
CREDIT/ECONOMIC MARKET LOOK:
Treasuries were higher today despite the move in stocks and some of the adverse headlines surrounding inflation (though this seemed to help the 30-year TIPS auction).
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