The Old Smoke Wall

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

“You might as well hit a brick wall as hit that man on the head.”

-Yankee Sullivan

Yep. They used to settle things in this country the old fashioned way. More commonly called “Old Smoke” by NYC’s finest mid-19th century gang members, John Morrissey (Member of Congress), could deflate #MoBro Twitter muscles, fast.

In 1864, a crowd of con men from Manhattan (three-card-monte artists) stepped off the train at Saratoga. Morrissey sauntered up to them with his white flannel suit and quietly told them to leave town. They did.” (The First Tycoon, pg 399)

150 years later, the US stock market’s volume feels like that. After indicting some of our hedgies for insider trading and then going after the machines, central planners are quietly telling people to not trust a game they perpetuated. Evolution, baby.

Back to the Global Macro Grind

It was Victoria Day in my homeland yesterday, so I guess half of America decided to take another Monday off. Who needs to work full-time in an industry where losers who lie and cheat only have to pay a fine with other people’s money anyway?

Total US Equity Volume was down -21% and -41% versus its 1 and 3 month averages, respectively, yesterday. We’ve been hitting you with this DOWN-volume-UP-day thing square in the head this year. Contrary to popular “there’s been no volume for 5 years” thing, the complexion of 2014’s US stock market volume is signaling serious liquidity risk.

To review how we think about liquidity (volume) risk:

  1. Like most things we analyze, rate of change is what matters most
  2. When DOWN-day (down price) volume is accelerating and…
  3. UP-day (up price) volume is decelerating across multiple durations (1 month, 3 month, etc.)

That is not good.

There is a subtlety to analyzing a body of non-linear interconnected risk this way – it’s called hard work. You have to mundanely write down and/or register every day’s PRICE/VOLUME data, then overlay it with implied volatility assumptions across multiple durations.

I know. If you do math, it’s not as complicated as having a strategist tell you “but the market is up.” But we Street fighters on 2.0 weren’t born into just knowing what markets are going to do next, so we have to #grind for each and every data point. #process

“So” what if this PRICE/VOLUME signal is doing this and the market isn’t “up”?

  1. The Russell 2000 bounced on no-volume to yet another lower-high of 1114 yesterday
  2. At -4.3% YTD, the Russell2000 is still bearish on both our immediate-term TRADE and intermediate-term TREND durations

That’s really not good.

And if you dare saunter on over to the three-card-monte-perma-bulls and tell them that the Russell 2000 breaking down is a bearish growth signal, prepare for them to:

  1. Get a little uncomfortable as they rattle off lagging economic indicators
  2. Make a few snide remarks about what the market has done since they missed calling the last 10-20% decline
  3. Then leave the room before you show them a chart of bond yields

*hint (the charts of the Russell growth index and growth-slowing 10yr bond yields are the same)

Once we get rid of those guys, the real debate starts (the one between real-time market price, volume, and data). What is causal to driving slow-growth in both the Russell and bond yields? What’s causal and correlating? What is neither?

Almost 6 months into 2014, what is clearly causal to slowing US consumption growth is #InflationAccelerating. But if you live in the real-world, you already know that. What’s less obvious are the 6 month correlations between currency and commodities:

  1. CRB Commodity Index (19 commodities) inverse correlation to US Dollar Index is -0.77
  2. Soybeans have a 6 month inverse correlation to the USD of -0.75
  3. Corn and Wheat have 6 month inverse correlations to USD of -0.74 and -0.70, respectively
  4. WTI Crude Oil has a 6 month inverse correlation to USD of -0.66
  5. Gold has a 6 month inverse correlation to USD of -0.64

In other words, if you get the purchasing power of The People (USD) right, you’re probably going to get the rate of change in inflation/deflation right. And if you get the slope of inflation right, you’re probably going to get the rate of change in real-growth right.

As to why traditionally trained Keyensian economists who have missed calling every US consumption slowdown since Q1 of 2000 don’t get these very basic points right, no worries. You may as well bang your head against the Old Wall.

Our immediate-term risk ranges are now as follows (we have 12 of Global Macro ranges with a TREND signal overlay in our Daily Trading Ranges product):

UST 10yr Yield 2.47-2.58%

SPX 1865-1897

RUT 1089-1125

USD 79.31-80.21

Brent 108.60-110.45

Gold 1281-1305

Best of luck out there today,

KM

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

The Old Smoke Wall - Chart of the Day