Inflation Is a Lie

This note was originally published at 8am on May 22, 2014 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”

-Milton Friedman

 

It’s a good thing for Janet Yellen that Milton Friedman isn’t around to call her out. Ben Bernanke can get paid another $400,000 to spew to a bunch of head-nodders that there’s no inflation at $110/barrel oil and the all-time high in US rents too, I guess.

 

Friedman also said that a “government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.” #Agreed. But the Federal Reserve is becoming a much larger problem than that. These people aren’t even elected.

 

“So”, after Soybeans, Oil, and Orange Juice prices inflated another +2.4%, +1.7%, and +1.3%, respectively, yesterday, Mr. Macro Market took the Fed’s commentary (Federal Reserve Minutes were released intraday) that there is no #InflationAccelerating risk as a sign to buy more inflation. 

Inflation Is a Lie - Inflation 04.29.2014

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

On US rents (34% of Americans have to rent, and like it) and cost of living hitting all-time highs this week, this is what one of the most uninformed members of the US Federal Reserve, Bill Dudley, had to say:

 

“prices look likely to firm, somewhat”

 

Thanks for coming out Bill. And yes, I’m calling you out. When our kids look back on this period of US economic history, they’ll call you a lot worse than that. They might even call guys like you Jimmy Carter.

 

While it’s part of winning a hockey game, name-calling is no way to win a debate. Alongside #RentRipping, here’s more YTD #InflationAcclerating data:

 

  1. CRB Foodstuffs Index +21.9% YTD
  2. CRB Commodities Index +10% YTD
  3. Coffee +57.6% YTD
  4. Nickel +42.1% YTD
  5. Lean Hogs +28.3% YTD
  6. Soybeans +19.2% YTD
  7. Cattle +15.4% YTD
  8. Palladium +15.4% YTD
  9. Orange Juice +10.9% YTD
  10. Oil +7.9% YTD

 

Oh, right. Oil is only +8% YTD vs. US growth stocks (Russell 2000) and US Consumer Discretionary (XLY) down -5.7% and -3.9% YTD, respectively. No worries. Ben Bernanke said there was no inflation with Oil at $150 in Q2 of 2008 either.

 

It’s one thing for me to rant about this using real-time prices paid. It’s going to be an entirely different thing when the 80% of people in this country getting jammed by the Fed’s Policy To Inflate revolt.

 

As the late Robert Heinlein astutely observed, “there is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.” But he’s dead now too. So Janet doesn’t have to deal with him either.

 

Inflation Is a Lie - Chart of the Day

 

In other real-time (price, volume, volatility) news:

 

  1. PRICE – SP500, Nasdaq, and Russell all bounced to lower-highs (down -0.6%, -5.2%, and -8.7% from their bubble highs) yesterday
  2. VOLUME – total US Equity market volume was DOWN again on the UP-day (-9% and -31% versus its 1 and 3 months averages)
  3. VOLATILITY – front month VIX got smashed to a fresh YTD closing low of 11.91

 

And you buy stocks when volatility is at its oversold lows, right? Only if you are doing it with other people’s money! Must #chase daily #performance. Must short low and cover high. Must bang head against Old Wall.

 

No thanks.

 

If you bought US stocks at this level in the VIX in August of 2013, you were down -3.5% (in the SP500) in less than 2 weeks after that. The most recent time-spanking you’d have had buying US growth stocks (Russell 2000) with a “low VIX” in Jan-Mar 2014 is more like -7-9%.

 

But, if you play this game with real-ammo, you already know that.

 

Other than front-month-frustration for growth bears trying to express their fears in VIX (which has not been a recommendation in the Hedgeye Macro Theme playbook in 2014 due to 6,000 hedge funds trying to do the same, at the same time), where is US stock market sentiment at?

 

  1. II’s Bull Bear Survey just flashed a fresh new Q2 high in consensus bullishness
  2. After another no-volume bounce, Bulls have chased back up to 57.2% (from low 50%s at the YTD lows)
  3. The Bull/Bear Spread has widened +30% to the Bullish side since mid-April to +3890 basis points wide

 

In other words, the point here isn’t that 65-70% of people are bullish. It’s that only 17-19% will admit they are bearish! Do not underestimate the #behavioral risk to this US stock market that is called career risk management.

 

Not only has the Fed implicitly imposed a short-term performance chasing hyperactivity on equity fund managers being forced to chase yield, bubbles, etc., they’ve made a large % of the hedge fund business a levered long beta strategy.

 

But I digress. Having someone at the Fed explain what that means to Maxine Waters will be as difficult as these people trying to convince you that cost of living isn’t at all-time highs. While lies about inflation in Washington can most definitely live, they can’t live forever.

 

Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:

 

RUT 1085-1121

VIX 11.84-14.02

USD 79.61-80.23

Brent Oil 109.05-110.99

Gold 1285-1315

Copper 3.08-3.19

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


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