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This note was originally published at 8am on February 20, 2014 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“Government policy is the primary cause of the financial crisis.”

-John Allison

That’s “fundamental theme” #1 in one of the most important post 2008 market crisis books – Chairman (and former longstanding CEO of BB&T Bank), John Allison’s The Financial Crisis and The Free Market Cure.

As I was taking a few pseudo vaca days with my kids (if you own a small business in America, there are no bailouts – no real vacations either – and real capitalists like that), I was struck by the simplicity of what hasn’t changed in this country – government price fixing.

Price-Fixing Crisis - go2

Yep, that’s what Allison and anyone who has studied economic #history calls it too (plenty of big time capitalists like Charles Koch agree). That’s what “forward rate guidance” by the Fed really is; it’s also what Presidential executive orders on minimum wage hikes and Policies to Inflate via currency devaluation are. Inflation is an un-elected tax that politicians aren’t accountable to. That’s why they cheer it on.

Back to the Global Macro Grind

Who needs to cheer for Latvia’s hockey team when you can wake up in America watching the Treasury Secretary (Jack Lew) whine about taxes (consumer price inflation) on European consumers being “too low.” Heck, the descendent of Geithner and Wesley Mouch is egging on the Japanese to burn its currency at the stake too.

Not to be outdone, the Congressional Budget Office is now analyzing what Obama thinks is his only way out of the tax he and Bush had the Bernanke impose on America’s poor (Down Dollar, Food/Energy Inflation) – wage inflation. My brother runs a McDonald’s franchise – ask him how many new stores he’ll be interested in opening if food costs rip and his “poor” employees cost him 10-20% more…

In other central planning news, Venezuela is “expelling” US diplomats this morning for “undermining the government.” Evidently some of these Americans aren’t yet socialist enough. Argentina and Venezuela are realizing the other side of currency devaluation, debt-rising, and #InflationAccelerating this morning – it’s called social unrest.

#InflationAccelerating? Who the heck does this Canadian think he is making that call without the government’s approval?

  1. US Dollar is down again this morning = down for 3 consecutive weeks, and now negative for 2014 YTD
  2. CRB Commodities Index (19 commodities) was up another +1.1% yesterday to a fresh 52-wk high of 302 (+7.9% YTD)
  3. Natural Gas is up (again!) this morning to $6.20 = +46.7% YTD (they don’t have heat or air conditioning in Washington)

I know, I know. It’s all the weather. Wages, Rents, Schooling – Facebook paying $16B for “WhatsApp”, Candy Crush going public – all of it!

But, but, the US stock market (SP500) is only down -1.1% YTD. And:

  1. Slow-growth Gold is +9.3% YTD
  2. Slow-growth-yield-chasing Utilities (XLU) are +5.9% YTD
  3. Lever-yourself-up-long Real Estate (REITS) are +7.5% YTD

Yep. As #InflationAccelerates, 71% of the US economy (consumption) gets A) taxed and B) slows:

  1. US Consumer Discretionary Stocks (XLY) are -3.2% YTD
  2. Consumer Staples Stocks (XLP) are -3.4% YTD
  3. Financials (XLF) are -2.2% YTD

But, don’t worry about it – when the weather improves, it’s all coming back – all of it.

Wait a minute. Will the spring in the Northeast change US monetary and fiscal policy? Or, as the economy slows, will Lew and Yellen quintuple down on the Down Dollar, Down Rates, House Flipping American Dream?

How’s that working out for Barney Frank and Ben Bernanke btw? US Mortgage Purchase Applications were down another -6% last week (after being down -5% in the week prior), testing post 2008 crisis lows. Imagine that, as the purchasing power of Americans falls alongside interest and savings rates, there are less lemmings this time who are going to join Than Merrill’s “Flip This House!”

John Allison’s book is a Top-10 on my shelf because he explains the basics of economics that we attempt to articulate each and every risk management morning. Two more of his “Fundamental Themes” are:

  1. “Government policy created a bubble in residential real estate”
  2. “Almost every government action taken since the crisis started (even those that may help in the short-term) will reduce the standard of living in the long-term”

#Agreed

And sometimes the short-term morphs into the long-term a lot faster than consensus government policy apologists think…

Our immediate-term Macro Risk Ranges are now:

SPX 1809-1848

Nikkei 14083-14992

VIX 12.76-16.99

USD 79.82-80.51

Natural Gas 5.34-6.22

Gold 1291-1336

Best of luck out there today,

KM

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

Price-Fixing Crisis - Chart of the Day

Price-Fixing Crisis - Virtual Portfolio