This note was originally published at 8am on January 27, 2012. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.
“This book is chiefly addressed to my fellow economists.”
-John Maynard Keynes
This morning’s Early Look is chiefly addressed to anyone looking for an alternative to the Keynesian Economic Dogma that’s failing us. The aforementioned quote is the opening sentence of Keynes’ “General Theory” on economic Storytelling of 1936.
After blowing up his personal accounts by levering himself up on the long side of commodities (rubber, corn, etc.) in the late 1920s, Keynes lost the confidence of not only The People, but of the politicians. The latter constituency is not easy to lose!
The “General Theory” ended up being an alternative for academic economists to opine on versus Marxism. It wasn’t a Global Macro market practitioner’s framework or anything that resembled real-world (or what we call Prices Rule) economics.
That’s why it’s so critical for Ben Bernanke to fear-monger politicians today with threats of the “alternative” scenario. That’s also why he, like Keynes, is losing The People. We can only watch people getting paid at The Great Davos Depression for so long until we figure out we’re the ones paying for the champagne.
Speaking of popping out of bed feeling a little bubbly, this morning I am going to formally start calling Ben Bernanke’s Japanese 2.0 policy The Bernank Tax.
Why am I calling it a tax? Because that’s exactly what it is – whether it’s a tax on the hard earned savings accounts (interest income) of Americans and/or a food/gas tax that a family in India is going to have to incur as a result of debauching the world’s reserve currency – it’s a tax on Global Consumption. Period.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
The Bernank Tax was also a tax on YTD stock market returns yesterday. As the US Dollar fell, the Old Wall did exactly what Bernanke is daring them to do – bid up Inflation Expectations (Gold, Oil, TIPs, etc.). Stocks opened strong in the morning, then went red by the afternoon as Growth Expectations started to fall.
Get the slope of Growth and Inflation Expectations right, and you’ll get a lot of other things right.
What’s going to make this really interesting is that The Bernank Tax is going to become a hot potato for President Obama now in the General Election. Provided that Romney figures out the marketing message, what is Obama going to say if/when the US stock market starts going down on US Dollar down days?
That’s not part of the Keynesian playbook, fyi. But it’s measurable – in real-time. And maybe that’s why Obama is making the best decision I have ever seen him make from an economic leadership perspective – getting rid of his fiscal Dollar Debaucherer in Chief, Timmy Geithner.
Now I know that you know that my Storytelling on this matter is getting pretty tasty. This is my counterpunch to one of my investment mentors, Warren Buffett, and his “my poor Secretary should pay lower Taxes” thing. Where’s the fair-share in him only paying her $60k, by the way?
As is the case with all non-fiction Storytelling, here are the inverse correlations, across durations, between what the US Stock Market (SP500) has done versus the US Dollar Index (USD) in the last 3 years:
- 3-year = -0.68%
- 1-year = -0.22%
- 4-month = +0.44%
That sneaky little Mucker got them didn’t he!
Huh? What the math is telling you here (and yes we get these are correlations, but we also get that the longer-term causality of cheap money only amplifies my point) is that for the last 3 years, the Fed’s go-to move of debasing the US Dollar worked (dollar down = stocks up).
But a funny little thing started happening on the way to the Hedgeye forum in the last 4 months… Since the thralls of September 2011, as the US Dollar started to stabilize/strengthen (from a 40-year low), so did the US Employment, Confidence, and Consumption picture (also from 40 year-lows).
If you haven’t heard this story from a Paul Samuelson and/or any of the Keynesians who are still brave enough to parade their charlatan textbooks around an Ivy League campus yet, I can give you 50 million copies (textbook revenues) of reasons why.
Never mind the rest of the debate – this point about The Bernank Tax on the citizenry is very simple to understand. If you want to tighten your duration inside of the last 4 months on this, have at it. Here are more inverse correlations between SP500 and USD:
- 30-day = +0.04
- 60-day = +0.31
- 90-day = +0.23
Yep. Instead of US stocks going up on dollar down days, they’re starting to go up on dollar up days. Makes sense. While, in the long-run, we may all be dead - in between now and then, we all have to pay for things with real dollars to live.
The Bernank Tax doesn’t yet cap what Charles Ketterring called the one thing no one has ever been able to tax, “thinking.”
My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), EUR/USD, US Dollar Index, and the SP500 are now $1677-1727, $110.57-112.41, $1.29-1.32, $78.91-80.26, and 1310-1333, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer