Golden Crisis

This note was originally published at 8am on April 15, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“The difficulty is that no one is ever prepared to move except in a crisis.”

-Paul Volcker

 

That’s what Paul Volcker had to say about where central planners found themselves post Nixon’s re-election. It was 1973 and the US had just devalued the Dollar for the 2nd time in two years. One of Gold’s great policy driven inflations was on the move.

 

George Shultz (Treasury Secretary at the time in 1973) “said that the increase in the official gold price from $38.00 and ounce to $42.22 an ounce was a technical change.” (Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence, pg 117)

 

“Technical”, yep. Technically, both the Nixon/Carter and Bush/Obama central planning teams (back to back Republican/Democrat Administrations) spent their time looking for ways to devalue the currency of the American people. These were the two worst post WWII decades in US Consumer Confidence. When someone takes away your purchasing power, that’s how it feels.

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

We’ve affectionately referred to the most recent decade-long inflation in the Gold price as Bernanke’s Bubble. Since both Greenspan and Congress deserve some credit, it’s not entirely fair to blame it all on Ben. But I like to pick on him. So call me a bully.

 

The fact remains that a 40yr low in the US Dollar (2011) coincided with a 40yr top in Gold and Commodity prices (2011). This all happened on Bernanke’s watch. Historical prices can be annoying; especially if they don’t fit the narrative a professor is trying to paint.

 

This morning’s move in Gold futures is gnarly. On my scorecard, on our immediate-term TRADE duration, this is almost a 5 standard deviation move to the downside. Gold prices are now officially crashing from their all-time high (-26%).

 

This shouldn’t surprise any readers of my rants – since cutting our Hedgeye Asset Allocation to Commodities to 0% in September of 2012, then labeling 1 of our Top 3 Global Macro Themes in Q412 “Bubble #3 (Commodities)”, we’ve been crystal clear on this.

 

It hasn’t been clear to the Gold and Commodity Bulls. One way I like to show their disbelief (that commodity prices can indeed go a lot lower) is the weekly net long positions in futures and options contracts (CFTC data) – on that score, here’s what happened last week:

  1. Gold’s net long position was up +19% wk-over-wk to +56,084
  2. Oil’s net long position finally started to break-down, -4.4% on the week to +196,330
  3. Farm Goods net long position continues to crash, down another -45% last wk to +56,404

In other words:

  1. Gold bulls who thought last week’s -5% decline in price was the bottom will see a new bottom this morning
  2. Oil (which has been in a Bearish Formation in our model for 2 months) will finally start to deflate, faster
  3. Food Prices will remain under pressure providing for a Consumption Tax Cut, globally

Consensus didn’t think this could happen (commodities down, US stocks up) 1, 2, and 3 months ago – but it’s happening. Last week we obviously registered an all-time closing high in the SP500 again (1593) with Commodity prices (CRB Index) down again on the week.

 

If you look at the complexion of the SP500’s Sector returns for April to-date, it’s the same story (Consumption vs Commodities):

  1. US Healthcare Stocks (XLV) = +4.18% for APR to date
  2. US Consumer Discretionary (XLY) = +2.66% for APR to date
  3. Basic Materials (XLB) and Energy (XLE) = -1.65% and -1.12% for APR to date, respectively

Like I said last week – it’s not that complicated.

 

What is complicated is explaining to people who are in the business of marketing gold and/or fear that this Golden Crisis is a tremendous opportunity for US politicians to force their conflicted and compromised central planners into getting out of the way on the most ultra dovish US Dollar policy since Nixon/Carter.

 

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. This is the way monetary policy in this country really works. In late 1971 (Nixon’s re-election campaign), “the president wanted more. The day before Christmas, he told his budget director, George Shultz, “If I have to talk to him (Burns) again, I’ll do it. Next time I’ll just bring him in.” (Volcker, pg 105)

 

Burns, as in Arthur Burns, was the closest thing to Ben Bernanke that the United States of America ever had (he monetized the US Debt, and De-valued US Dollar). Shortly after Burns left (1978), the speculative bid to the price of Gold left. I still think Bernanke will be gone by the end of his term this year. And the $1700-1900 all-time highs for the price of Gold will be long gone too.

 

Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, USD/YEN, EUR/USD, VIX, Russell2000 and the SP500 are now $1410-1523, $100.28-105.61, $82.03-82.76, 97.35-102.18, $1.27-1.31, 11.56-13.15, 935-955, and 1571-1601, respectively.

 

Congratulations to Yale Hockey on winning the NCAA National Championship! Best of luck out there this week,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Golden Crisis - Chart of the Day

 

Golden Crisis - Virtual Portfolio


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