Lie To Us

This note was originally published at 8am on July 10, 2012. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“The average person lies 3 times for every 10 minutes of conversation.”

-Dr. Cal Lightman

 

Most recently, I have thrown a little spice into my life – staying up past 10PM, watching some Netflix. Since I generally don’t watch TV, the whole experience of viewing something that’s not on mute has been exhilarating.

 

This past week while on vacation, I stumbled upon a crime mini-series called “Lie To Me.” Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is the star of the show. He runs a firm called The Lightman Group where, through the study of micro-expressions, body language, etc., his team’s job is to figure out when people are lying.

 

I loved the premise of the show because it’s all about something our head of Healthcare Research, Tom Tobin, and I have been studying since at least 2003 – liars. Formally, it’s called Kinesics. And, if you take some time to embrace its principles, it won’t take you long to figure out when a central planner or banker is probably lying.

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

Fiction or non? This morning’s Global Macro news-flow had 2 different lines of storytelling:

  1. Pre-4AM US Futures down 6 handles on a bad start to US earnings season, Patriot Coal (PCX) filing for bankruptcy, and Chinese import growth continuing to slow.
  2. Post 5AM US Futures up 5 handles on Spain getting a re-do (almost as popular as getting a sticker for trying hard) on the timing of its bank bailout and Barclays execs lying on TV.

Ok, maybe these guys aren’t lying. Maybe they are just fibbing. Or, maybe, they aren’t lying to themselves as they (internally) attempt to define the difference between what Barclays Chairman, Marcus Agius, called the “difference between culpability and responsibility.”

 

You see, when deciding what ex-Barclays CEO, Bob Diamond, should be paid on the way out ($100M or $3M? What’s a few million, amongst friends?), you wouldn’t want things like the Sherman Act or a US criminal investigation to get in way of who has already greased whom in British politics.

 

Downward and upward we go.

 

Whether we are lying to ourselves or not that the bull case at this point isn’t bailouts, we have ourselves a classic Bull/Bear debate brewing that boils down to 1 very simple risk management question:

 

Is Global #GrowthSlowing fully priced into corporate earnings, or not?

 

From a long-term investor’s perspective, Kinesics (and a little probability based math) will help us start to answer this question. In trying to deduce the probability of whether or not the “earnings are great” bulls are lying to themselves, a picture will be more effective than prose.

 

In today’s Chart of The Day, our jedi Hedgeye mean reversion analyst from the Yale Shiller School of long-term cycles shows you all you need to know about where US corporate profit margins are in the context of long-term history.

 

In other words (sorry, had to use some words), if Global #GrowthSlowing continues, the longest of long-term corporate profit margin cycle peak is probably in.

 

And…

 

If you are buying stocks based on the premise that they are “cheap” (based on the wrong sales, margins, and earnings expectations), you are lying to yourself. Cheap, when using the right numbers, gets a lot cheaper.

 

To be clear, I’m not calling everyone a liar. To the contrary, if Dr. Lightman is right (and if you read this far in 10 minutes), you could accuse me of lying at least 3 times already.

 

But just because most politicians get paid to Lie To Us, that doesn’t mean I’ve been lying to you about #GrowthSlowing too. My team has been storytelling about that, since March.

 

My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, Spain’s IBEX, and the SP500 are now $1551-1599, $96.76-103.07, $82.49-83.47, $1.22-1.24, 6675-7361, and 1330-1359, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

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Lie To Us - Virtual Portfolio


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