Unconscious Anchoring

This note was originally published at 8am on September 19, 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 anchoring-and-adjustment heuristic, as it is called, is unconscious.”

-Dan Gardner

I sold into the end of Friday’s 3-day rally, taking the Hedgeye Portfolio to 11 LONGS and 8 SHORTS. Last Tuesday, I held my longest net long (longs minus shorts) position of Q3 2011. Short Covering Opportunities are fun when you get them right.

Do not confuse a Short Covering Opportunity with a change in the intermediate-to-long-term fundamental reality that Global Growth Slowing is here to stay as long as the market keeps begging for Keynesian policy to bail us out. Remember, Big Government Intervention does two things to your markets and your lives: 1. Shortens Economic Cycles and 2. Amplifies Market Volatility.

Put another way (in Hedgeye speak), do not confuse a TRADE (immediate-term) with a TREND (intermediate-term) or TAIL (long-term). Since there is neither responsibility in Old Wall Street recommendations or an ability to be what we call Duration Agnostic when considering risk, you need to capitalize on the Sell-Side’s propensity to anchor on intermediate-term TRENDs, after they have occurred.

In “Future BabbleWhy Expert Predictions Fail and Why We Believe Them Anyway” (2010), Dan Gardner does a nice job simplifying this behavioral economics  concept of “anchoring” by citing The Wheel of Fortune Experiment by Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky. 

“Kahneman and Tversky showed that when people try to come up with a number, they simply do not look at the facts available and rationally calculate the number. Instead, they grab onto the nearest available number – dubbed “the anchor” – and they adjust in whichever direction seems reasonable. Thus, a high anchor skews the final estimate high; a low anchor skews it low.” (Future Babble, pg 100)

That’s Old Wall Street.

Using the #1 risk factor that we’ve been hammering on for all of 2011 (Growth Slowing), here’s how this looks from a Wall Street/Washington Strategist or “Economist” perspective: 

  1. Nearest Available Numbers: Q1 2010 US GDP = 3.94% and Q2 2010 US GDP = 3.79%
  2. Old Wall Street’s Adjusted 2011 US GDP Estimates (in Q1 of 2011) = up +3-4% GDP Growth for 2011-2012
  3. Actual Q1 and Q2 2011 US GDP numbers (subject to 30-81% downside revisions) = 0.36% and 0.98%, respectively 

And, kaboom.

But, but, but… this year’s -18% peak-to-trough drawdown in US Equities from the April 2011 peak was all about a tsunami in Japan and Europigs not getting their fiscal houses in order, right?

Right. Right.

So now Old Wall Street is cutting both their Global and US GDP Growth forecasts to the NEAREST AVAILABLE NUMBERS and we’re, as our friends in the media like to say, “off the lows”, with a nice +5.4% Short Covering Opportunity in the SP500 last week.

Nice. Really nice.

What else happened week-over-week that caught my craws attention: 

  1. US Dollar TRADE and TREND breakout holds support (this is new)
  2. CRB Commodity Inflation continues to break down (at the beginning of Q2 we called this Deflating The Inflation)
  3. As US Treasury Yields finally make higher-lows, Gold continues to make lower-highs (they are inversely correlated) 

So what did I do with that? 

  1. I made the US Dollar Index a 6% position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model (UUP)
  2. I sold my long Silver position and remain very cautious on all commodity long positions other than Corn (CORN)
  3. I traded a proactively predictable range in the SP500 as its bullish on one duration (TRADE) and bearish on the other (TREND) 

If I have said this 10x in the last week in meetings and on the phones with clients, I have said it a 1000x in the last 3 years. The best path forward for American prosperity is via a strong US Dollar.

Strong Dollar Deflates The Inflation. Period. That’s why the US Consumer stocks act a lot better than the Financials and Industrial stocks. Some stocks might, but this country is not going to recover on “cheap exports.” The 71% of the economy that matters = US Consumption. Strengthen the US Dollar and rates of “risk-free” returns on savings accounts and we solidify American income and consumption.

If you’re holed up in some Old Wall Street Sell-Side office on Park Avenue and don’t get that trade, take a walk outside and ask an American retiree how he or she feels about The Mucker Plan – a strong US Dollar in the hand is better than a snaky Geithner and a Keynesian Europig in the bush. Anchor on that.

My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil, Germany’s DAX, and the SP500 are now $$1781-1819, $86.26-90.11, 4891-5652, and 1183-1224, respectively.

Best of luck out there today,

KM

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

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