“I feel quite bucked up!”
-George F. Kennan
I’m half way through reading John Lewis Gaddis’ biography of this great American strategist’s life. The aforementioned quote came from Kennan in 1947 (Gaddis, pg 242). He was 43 years old at the time and was just coming off one of the biggest wins of his career – shifting US foreign policy towards Russia in what is well known by historians now as “The Long Telegram.”
Kennan’s character resonates with me because he was quite a moody fellow. He was authentic. He thought for himself and didn’t particularly care about what people thought about him. While he didn’t make as many mistakes as I have at his age, he was still very introspective about his research process. He never stopped questioning himself or his premise.
Whether you are a strategist, athlete, or professional in any other field where performance is measurable in real-time, you get it. Performance is fleeting. As a result, conventional wisdom suggests you should always err on the side of caution when things are going well. I disagree with that. Confidence is contagious. Seize it when you have it. Make as much progress as you can.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
As the SP500 was holding all-time highs into yesterday’s close, I was feeling rather bucked up myself. It is, after all, all about #StrongDollar. When the US Dollar Index was basing in mid-November (at $79-80), that was our signal. We’ve seen higher (all-time) lows in the Dollar and lower-highs in Commodity prices ever since.
There’s measurable entropy in something that’s rising off a 40yr low (USD hit an all-time low in 2011 when Commodities (CRB Index) hit an all-time high). It’s critical to contextualize the asymmetry associated with that entropy. Remember, long-term bottoms are processes, not points. By the time everyone and their brother is bucked up on #StrongDollar, we’ll be getting out of the way.
The good news (if you are Long Dollars, Short Commodities, and Long US Consumption stocks) is that we are still in the early innings of what could be a long telegram of Early Look notes anchoring on this fundamental point. So, please – I beg you to be patient with both our thesis and the American recovery in confidence, birth rates, and household formation. It’s all born out of the same thing.
What’s up since the US Dollar gave us the green light (quant signal) in November 2012?
- SP500 is +20% now (vs 1353 on November 15th, 2012)
- Weimar Nikkei is +65% (vs 8661 on November 15th, 2012)
Yep, Bernanke spent the 1st half-decade of his reign as USA’s Central Planner In Chief (2007-2012) Burning The Buck. Ever since his epic “print to infinity and beyond” moment (SEP 2012 FOMC meeting), the Japanese dudes have taken the torch.
Everything in currency markets is relative. On the margin, former BOJ Chief (Shirakawa) was actually the most hawkish of the Big 3 Central Currency Commanders going back to 2006. That’s what most guys who got squeezed being short Yens to 40yr highs in 2011-2012 had wrong. To get the timing right in big currency moves, you need to get the relative policy shifts right.
Again, this is just how we roll. So if our GIP (Growth, Inflation, Policy) framework sounds a little foreign to some, that’s cool too. Don’t forget that we did the unthinkable here and thought for ourselves in building our models and macro strategies this way.
Back to 1-month CTRL+SQUEEZE move in everything Global Equities this morning…
Here are 3 big things jumping out of my notebook:
1. CHINA – just as it looked like Chinese stocks were going to hell in a hand basket again, China joins the party printing a +14.7% Export print for April; it’s not just the US data that has accelerated sequentially m/m – most of the Asian and European data stopped slowing in March too; Shanghai Comp +4 days in a row, back above 2206 TREND support to 2246
2. COMMODITIES – SP500 +0.5% yesterday w/ the CRB Index deflating -0.4% (-2.4% YTD); #CommodityDeflation remains the outlier call of 2013; it is bullish for inflation adjusted consumption growth (particularly US #GrowthAccelerating). Will Oil start to look like Gold does next? Prices at the pump falling Q2 vs Q1 for the first time in 4 years
3. SP500 – 1 is not where you want to be chasing US stocks; you have -1.4% of immediate-term downside to my 1st line of support (1599); that said, higher-lows and higher all-time highs in my model are what you want to be net long of, unless you have a bearish catalyst
As I have been asking my sparring partners Doug Kass and Dennis Gartman since January, what is your bearish catalyst? Will it be a reversal of last week’s raging bull catalyst (US Jobless Claims dropping to 324,000, a 5 year low)? Since we’ve ripped for 4 consecutive up days since that data point, I wouldn’t be surprised if we sold off on it being less great this week (Thursday).
Who knows? And, if it’s legal, what is it they know? All I know is that the more I read about history and repeatable market strategies, the less I know altogether. The only thing I am 100% certain about is that I will be getting something very wrong soon. That’s just the game. In the meantime, I’ll play it confidently. That’s the only way to win.
Our immediate-term Risk Ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, USD/YEN, UST 10yr Yield, VIX, Shanghai Composite, and the SP500 are now $1, $99.36-106.11, $81.87-92.98, 98.25-99.98, 1.71-1.82%, 12.36-14.51, 2169-2265, and 1, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer