This note was originally published at 8am on February 22, 2011. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”
I went into this President’s Day weekend writing an intraday note at 3PM EST on Friday titled “Exhaustion.” I wasn’t talking about my physical state. Ex-snow shoveling, I’ve been managing with my peg leg in an air cast just fine. I was writing about the US stock market’s risk management setup.
In the most immediate-term duration (today), US stock-centric investors are going to realize that there is indeed risk to a market that’s been rallying to higher-intermediate-term highs on low-volume and negative skew. From a long-term TAIL perspective, US stocks are simply making lower-highs.
Lower-highs can be lethal to returns, particularly if confirmed by fundamentals that perpetuate lower prices. While plenty a perma-dancing-bull can tell you that the US stock market is “cheap” (if they use the wrong margin and earnings assumptions in their SP500 estimates), this type of storytelling isn’t new to your average American.
After all that we’ve been through in the last 3-years my sense is that Americans get it. Americans get leadership. Americans get liberty. Americans get transparency, accountability, and trust.
Before I take a step back recapping last week’s most important weekly moves, allow me to remind you what risks Main Street Americans see to the US economy:
- A 2011 US Deficit of $1,650,000,000,000
- A 2011 US Debt Clock.org balance of $14,173,394,779,991
- A 2011 US Dollar Debauchery inspiring inflation
So when the S&P Futures are down 18 points like they are this morning, there are obviously more than a few relatively large risks that the “fundamentalist” might point toward.
There is also this other little risk management critter called The Rest of The World that central planning folks in Washington, DC seem to think are simply being affected by “supply and demand” as opposed to anything that’s right here in our own back yard.
Given that 85% of all foreign exchange transactions are in US Dollars, and the US Dollar continues to be debauched, we think the following week-over-week moves in Global Macro are critical correlated risks to manage around:
- US Dollar Index = DOWN a full -1% last week to $77.69 and down for the 6th out of the last 8 weeks.
- CRB Commodities Index = UP +1.2% last week to close at a new intermediate-term weekly closing high of 341.
- Volatility Index (VIX) = UP +4.7% last week, despite US stocks rallying to new YTD highs.
So how could US investors bid up volatility at the same time as the institutional performance chasing community bids up the price of US stocks? Maybe it wasn’t US only investors…
Maybe, just maybe, The Rest of the World remembers that deficit spending and dollar devaluation strategies don’t work out so well in the end. Maybe some Americans themselves remember what Presidents Nixon and Carter did to the US Dollar in the 1970s. Maybe history remembers The Inflation.
In terms of other important perspectives, this is what The Economist had to say this weekend in its commentary about US Leadership:
“Neither the President nor Republican leaders have had the courage to support them. In the absence of statesmanship, the chances are that only a crisis in the bond markets will provide the necessary impetus. Economic management by fiscal heart attack is not a very prudent remedy.”
This is what a massive international pension fund manager (Gerald Smith, Deputy Chief Investment Officer of Baillie Gifford, who oversees $117 Billion in assets) had to say about American monetary policy:
“If Bernanke wants inflation he’s going to get it.”
And, finally, for all of the professional politician fans who are still left out there in America, this is what Presidential candidate, Mitch Daniels, had to say about US deficit and debt spending:
“We face an enemy lethal to liberty and even more implacable than those America has defeated before.”
It’s all out there now. You don’t need this Canadian with an American family and firm to remind you of the risks. You get it too.
In the Hedgeye Asset Allocation model, last week I invested 6% of our large Cash position in a combination of Swedish stocks and soft agricultural commodities, taking the cash position down from 61% last Monday to 55% this morning.
The current exposures in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model are a follows:
- Cash = 55%
- International Currencies = 24% (Chinese Yuan and Canadian Dollars – CYB and FXC)
- Commodities = 9% (Oil and Grains – OIL and JJG)
- International Equities = 6% (Sweden – EWD)
- US Equities = 6% (US Healthcare – XLV)
- Fixed Income = 0%
As you can see in the Hedgeye Portfolio (see attached), I’m short both emerging markets (EEM, IFN, EWZ) and US Treasuries (SHY), so that’s one of the main reasons why I have such a large asset allocation to Cash – I don’t own any fixed income or emerging market exposure as I realize that inflation can and will continue to be lethal to these markets.
As to whether or not the Almighty Central Planners of America are infusing interconnected Global Macro market risks into our way of life … that will be an American history that writes itself on its own time… In the meantime, deficit and debt spending will remain lethal to our liberty.
My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1330 and 1346, respectively. If the SP500 breaks down and closes below 1330, I have no support to 1306.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer