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“New Year's Day is every man's birthday.”

-Charles Lamb

For Wall Street, and many people around the world, the New Year is a big deal.  The New Year offers a chance to leave behind the past and focus on our goals going forward.  While every new day, technically, offers us the same opportunity, no other time of year inspires the same level of introspection and resolution as early January. 

After the excesses of the Holiday season, such a mood can seem particularly apropos.  Along those lines, in Christian tradition, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season is typically an indulgent time.  Whether this day is referred to as Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Pancake Tuesday in London, the idea is generally the same: enjoy this day before Lent begins – a time of soul searching and repentance.

While some may ridicule others for using New Year’s or Lent as catalysts for self-improvement, the fact is that every year occasions such as this offer valuable reminders for people not to live an unexamined life, a life that Socrates would say is not worth living.  Are you convinced that Wall Street follows a similar process of self-examination and reflection?  Have the Old Wall Street follies of times past been faced up to following hours of soul-searching?  Or is Old Wall Street simply unwilling or unable to learn new tricks?

One trick that these Old Dogs love to perform is year-end S&P 500 targets and targets for U.S. GDP growth.  We wake up every morning trying to embody our vision of what Wall Street 2.0 is all about.  Taking pot shots at numbers (made up in the case of GDP) a year out is not what we do because it is not helpful for our clients, which is our number one priority.  We focus on shorter durations based on scenarios, probabilities and ranges.  In doing this, we offer our clients more than just a “target”; over time they develop an understanding of our process and incorporate it into their own.  So, before anyone else asks: we don’t do full year targets – let the Old Dogs perform Old Tricks. 

One of the classic Old Dogs doing the same Old Trick is Byron Wien of the Blackstone group with his 10 surprises.  The inception of 10 surprises for the New Year came nearly three decades ago.  Right on time, Bloomberg reported the 2012 predictions despite a less-than-stellar showing from Wien in his 2011 predictions (S&P 1500, Real GDP growth of 5%).  While we did not make similar predictions, we were early in stating our view that U.S. growth would slow in 2011 – at a time when consensus was calling for accelerating growth.

One of his 10 surprises of 2012 might not have made it to January 4th; “Spain/Ireland will strengthen finances in 2012.” Well unfortunately today the new Spanish government has warned the 2011 deficit could top 8% of gross domestic product, versus a target of 6%. In addition, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s is considering applying for loans from the European Union’s rescue fund and the International Monetary Fund to finance the restructuring of the ailing banks. There are 361 more days to go, but that particular “surprise” is one that I think seems unlikely to win Wien any plaudits in a year’s time. 

What are the implications for GDP growth if Byron’s prediction that the “yield on the 10-year Treasury will go to 4%?”  Unfortunately, the Old Dogs of Washington continue performing their same old tricks coming into the New Year!  According to the U.S. Treasury, America ended 2011 with debt at an all time record $15.2T, with the implications being now the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is over 100%.  The USA cannot afford to pay a 4% yield; the implications to the debt and deficits are staggering not to mention it will stifle US GDP growth.  Furthermore, Wien’s prediction is based on China shifting investment from bonds into hard assets and raw materials.   Given that the country holds roughly $1.5 Trillion in American government debt, an investment so great that there is little else China can do but continue to support the value of Treasury bonds.

We like to say that Hedgeye is redefining how the investment community operates and we are defining Wall Street 2.0.  Thus, it is not surprising that we continue to get questions from clients asking us to conform to the old mentality of year end predictions.  Clearly, our goals are going to take time to achieve but we are heartened by the feedback we have received from our hard-won clients at this early stage.  In our view, any parties claiming to be able to accurately forecast, rather than guess, Real GDP growth a year out is not being entirely honest.  

Rather than waste people’s time with Old Tricks, we prefer to offer up themes quarterly that are relevant to the investing landscape that is in front of you.  Our 1Q12 MACRO Themes call will be held on January 13th, 2012.  We will be sending out details of the themes in due course, but avid readers of the Early Look will know our view on “King Dollar” and the implications for consumption in the USA.  Bernanke staying out of the way and allowing the Greenback to appreciate has boosted the U.S. Consumer and the Macro Team will be sharing its thoughts on this trend in 2012 a week from Friday.  Our immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (brent), EUR/USD, Shanghai Composite, France’s CAC40, and the SP500 are now $1, $111.26-112.13, $1.29-1.31, 2157-2219, 3149-3276, and 1, respectively.

Function in Disaster; Finish in style

Howard Penney
Managing Director

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