“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
I’m guessing most of you know who Yogi Berra is, but for those of you who do not, he is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time – if not, then certainly at his position, catcher.
While Berra’s career statistics and accolades are impressive – including being a 15-time All-Star, a 3-time MVP and a Hall of Fame inductee – what impresses the [washed up] former athlete in me most about Berra is his propensity to flat-out win. As a player, coach or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series winning 13 titles.
Whether you’re employed on the buy-side or sell-side, it’s hard to consistently “win” in financial markets. While some periods are easier to get lucky in than others, we can all agree that the best way to consistently set oneself up for victory is via implementing some form of the following trifecta:
- Repeatable research process
- Thorough risk management systems
- Doing your own work
It’s worth noting that while applying all three doesn’t guarantee consistent success in profiting from financial markets, it does at least guarantee an investor the consistent opportunity to fail, learn and evolve – which is all we can really ask for.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
Yesterday we live-streamed our 3Q15 Macro Themes presentation (CLICK HERE to watch the video replay); the summary of each theme is as follows:
- #ConsumerCycle: We think the peak rate of change in consumption growth for this economic expansion is poised to slow due to a confluence of cyclical (e.g. accelerating inflation) and structural (e.g. demographics) factors.
- #SecularStagnation: Our multi-factor analysis suggests both growth and inflation will remain at structurally depressed levels for the foreseeable future, ultimately negating any perceived need to tighten monetary policy in the U.S.
- #EuropeSlowing: Our predictive tracking algorithm is projecting a broad-based slowdown in economic growth throughout the Eurozone in 2H15, which would likely require more easing out of the ECB. This reaction should weigh on the EUR/USD cross and perpetuate a continuation of cross-asset volatility via correlation-based spillover risks.
It would seem that themes #1 and #3 are somewhat at odds with each other. Specifically, having a bearish bias on the EUR would support a bullish bias on the USD, which, in turn should support having a bearish bias on commodity reflation and, ultimately, a bullish bias (at least on the margin) on the U.S. consumer.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) holds inverse correlations of -0.74, -0.59, -0.97 and -0.95 to the CRB Commodity Index on a trailing 3M, 6M, 1Y and 3Y basis. Supply and demand analysis reigns supreme when picking winners and losers in the natural resources space, but in terms of getting the general direction of inflation expectations right, the math continues to suggest forecasting the direction of the USD remains paramount.
As one might guess, given our bearish bias on the EUR (57.6% of the DXY basket), we are also bearish on reflation. In this context, the opening quote from Mr. Berra is especially appropriate because it reminds us of the Global Macro setup this time last year:
- If you’ll recall, we were then forecasting a trending delta into #Quad3 (Hedgeye speak for YoY real GDP growth slowing while YoY CPI accelerates) for 2H14 – much like our GIP Model is signaling today.
- Yet less than a month later (early August to be exact), we ditched the #InflationAccelerating component of the aforementioned thesis in transitioning to a #Quad4 outlook; recall that #Quad4 is an economic state whereby the YoY rate of change is decelerating for both real GDP growth and CPI.
- In #Quad4 both top-down and bottom-up expectations for nominal growth broadly decline and, as one might imagine, it’s a scenario in which not a lot of factor exposures tend to work.
So are we headed into #Quad3 or are we careening towards another [painful] 2H #Quad4 setup? That was the essence of what I thought was the most thoughtful subscriber question posed to Keith during yesterday’s quarterly macro themes presentation:
“Your consumer slowing theme seems to be heavily focused on consumers getting squeezed by inflation. Yet it also seems like you’re gearing up to make the Quad 4 call based on your expectations for European policy and its impact on the exchange rate. Which thesis do you have more conviction in today, given that shorting the consumer and shorting reflation likely can’t work simultaneously?”
We love fielding difficult questions from our thoughtful base of existing and prospective subscribers. On that note, Keith will be on a panel at the 6th Annual Inside Alternatives Conference July 13-14, 2015 in Denver CO. Click here to learn more…
From a modeling perspective, it’s almost impossible for the U.S. economy to avoid transitioning into #Quad3 for the upcoming two quarters; the base effects alone would perpetuate two-thirds to three-fourths of that delta.
Moreover, you’d likely need to see some confluence of the following for CPI to arrest its basing pattern just based on the statistical relationship between these factors and the trend in reported inflation: a crash (from here) in crude oil, a concomitant crash in food prices and/or rental inflation arresting its ascent – the latter of which is unlikely given the bullish supply/demand/price dynamics in the residential real estate market (which our housing team has, quite frankly, nailed in the YTD).
From a market perspective, this is where things get interesting. The probability of the aforementioned crashes occurring is rising due to both fundamental and quantitative reasons. The former is well covered in Q3 Macro Themes presentation (i.e. #EuropeSlowing), so we won’t beat a dead horse here. The latter factor warrants our attention, however.
Our Tactical Asset Class Rotation Model (TACRM) is one of the core quantitative tools we use to guide our fundamental expectations for both the domestic and global economy. TACRM is helpful to investors in many ways, but one of the things it is most effective at is prospectively signaling sustained breakdowns and breakouts at the primary asset class level.
Recall that in the aforementioned August ‘14 #Quad4 presentation, TACRM signaled the breakdown in European growth and inflation expectations across a variety of factor exposures in 2H14, effectively front-running the deflationary #StrongDollar risks associated with the ECB’s eventual implementation of QE.
What is TACRM signaling now from a quantitative perspective? An eerily similar risk management setup to that of this time last year to be exact:
- Specifically, within the last three weeks, EM Equities, Commodities and Foreign Exchange have all registered bullish-to-bearish reversals at the primary asset class level, in that order (slide 6).
- At the factor exposure level, the multi-duration negative VWAP momentum exhibited by German (EWG), French (EWQ) and Eurozone (EMU) equities lends credence to our #EuropeSlowing theme (slide 18).
- Similar weakness exhibited by base metals (slide 22) and commodity currencies (slide 21) lends credence to our existing view that global growth is slowing and will remain unsupportive of consensus reflation expectations.
But you needn’t require a sophisticated multi-factor, multi-duration quant model to tell you that global growth is slowing. Just pull up a chart of global industrial, financial, basic materials and/or energy stocks – all of which are down for the YTD at the sector and/or subsector level (e.g. XLI, IYT, XLF, XLB and XLE).
As it relates to #Quad4 deflation risk, I believe Yogi Berra said it best: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Keep your head on a swivel and trade accordingly. Risk managing the push-pull between #Quad3 (i.e. policy-based reflation and yield-chasing) and #Quad4 (i.e. deflation and defense) will not be easy.
Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:
UST 10yr Yield 2.21-2.39% (bearish)
SPX 2042-2087 (bearish)
USD 95.68-97.32 (bullish)
EUR/USD 1.09-1.12 (bearish)
Oil (WTI) 51.56-55.36 (bearish)
Gold 1162-1185 (neutral)