“There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.”
-John Maynard Keynes
The inspiration that the world’s economic leaders derived from Timmy Geithner at this weekend’s G-20 meetings in Scotland must have been profound. The US Dollar continues to crash this morning.
Trading down a full percent in a day, for any currency (never mind the world’s said reserve currency), is a really bad day. This morning marks the largest one-day drop in the US Dollar since July 31st. The Buck is Burning…
Why? Take your pick:
1. Bernanke - pandering to the political wind last week, keeping rates at an “emergency rate” of ZERO percent
2. G20 – no one trusts Geithner or his suggestion that countries “take a chance again on the American economy”
3. US Employment – that was a nasty report on Friday
I’ve belabored the Credibility Crisis that our perceived economic savants are suffering from, both domestically and internationally, for the better part of 2009. I wake-up trying my best to not go off on this, but the severity of the US government’s negligence just keeps heightening.
I re-shorted the US Dollar a few weeks back because I didn’t think consensus was Bearish Enough. Let’s go through that and focus on the aforementioned point #3 - US Employment. Suffice to say, Friday’s report of 10.2% unemployment for the month of October was awful.
So is the US stock market up (the SP500 is up for 5 days in a row, and futures are indicated up again this morning)? That’s easy an easy answer: The US Dollar. The US Dollar was down for the fourth week out of the last five. It has lost -16% of its value since March.
What’s negative for the US economy is negative for the US Dollar. What’s negative for the US Dollar is positive for most things priced in dollars. If you didn’t know about this perverse relationship between the price of the US Dollars and everything else, now you know.
Put another way, since the US Federal Reserve’s Pander Program hinges on lagging “data”:
- Bad economic data = Fed stays at ZERO
- Good economic data = Fed signals their 1st hike
That’s why I am so focused on this dynamic relationship between the Fed, the Dollar, and the US Financial System’s Credibility. The politicization of the Fed perpetuates US Dollar weakness. So does the mother of all Global Diversification trades away from Burning Bucks into everything else (Gold, Euros, etc…). This is not new, but it has yet to be faced by the willfully blind in Washington.
I think your average American with common sense understands that Geithner’s smug approach is not to be trusted. Now, if we pile on some massive payouts to Wall Street, this could actually get quite ugly. The citizenry against the bankers? Not good President Obama, not good…
This morning Michael Moore (the Bloomberg reporter) walks through the scheduled bonus payouts for the top 3 government sponsored US investment banks: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley. His math has those 3 banks (comprising of 119,000 Americans) paying out $29.7B in bonuses in 2009. Never mind that being up 60% year-over-year, according to Moore that’s UP versus the prior peak (2007) of $26.8B!
Creating an “US vs. THEM” society in this country is not cool. “There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.” China gets this. They have seen this movie all over the world before. Being Too Big Not To Pay isn’t going to end well for 99% of America.
With Bernanke and Geithner politicizing the short end of America’s yield curve last week, the Piggy Banker spread (or Yield Spread, which is 10-yr UST yields minus 2-yr UST yields) has shot up to +266 basis points wide this morning. That’s only 10 basis points shy of the widest spread EVER. Ah, if we commoners could only have a sip of that government sponsored elixir. Free moneys from the heavens, for a select few…
Whether it be via the Yield Spread, M&A, or the latest dog from the land of Private Equity coming to an IPO near you, this is what we have labeled as one of our top 3 Macro Themes here in Q4 – The Banker Bonanza. Americans get this, and they definitely don’t like the smell of it.
Never mind that smell of Burning Bucks. Don’t fight it, or get upset about it. “Take a chance” and take Timmy’s word for it.
The immediate term risk/reward scenario I see starting to build in the US equity market has turned decidedly negative in the last 2 days of this low volume rally. I see -3.5% downside in the SP500 to 1030, versus less than +1% upside to 1077. I’ll be selling strength again today.
Best of luck out there this week,
EWT – iShares Taiwan — With the introduction of “Panda Diplomacy” Taiwan has found itself growing closer to mainland China. Although the politics remain awkward, the business opportunities are massive and the private sector, now almost fully emerged from state dominance, has rushed to both service “the client” and to make capital investments there. With an export industry base heavily weighted towards technology and communications equipment, Taiwanese companies are in the right place at the right time to catch the wave of increased consumer spending spurred by Beijing’s massive stimulus package.
XLU – SPDR Utilities — We bought low beta Utilities on discount on 10/20. TRADE bearish and TREND bullish.
EWG – iShares Germany — Chancellor Angela Merkel won reelection with her pro-business coalition partners the Free Democrats. We expect to see continued leadership from her team with a focus on economic growth, including tax cuts. We believe that Germany’s powerful manufacturing capacity remains a primary structural advantage; with fundamentals improving in a low CPI/interest rate environment, we expect slow but steady economic improvement from Europe’s largest economy.
GLD – SPDR Gold — We bought back our long standing bullish position on gold on a down day on 9/14 with the threat of US centric stagflation heightening.
CYB – WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan — The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.
TIP – iShares TIPS — The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are currently mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis, especially in the context of our re-flation thesis.
EWY – iShares South Korea — South Korea has joined Japan in the ominous position of broken TREND and TRADE. This is not China or Taiwan. This is an early cycle economy that we want to be short against China/Taiwan.
XLI – SPDR Industrials — Industrials shot up +1.1% on 11/3 because of a monster Berkshire bid. That’s now in the price of XLI. We’ll short expectations for V-shaped recovery. TRADE bullish, TREND bullish.
EWU – iShares UK — Despite areas of improvement, broader fundamentals remain shaky in the UK: government debt continues to expand, leadership in critical positions lacks, and the country’s leverage to the banking sector remains glaringly negative. Q3 saw its GDP contract by -0.4%. Further bank stimulus and the BOE’s increase in its bond purchasing program suggest that this will not end well.
XLY – SPDR Consumer Discretionary — We shorted Howard Penney’s view on Consumer Discretionary stocks on 10/30. TRADE and TREND bullish.
EWJ – iShares Japan — While a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.
UUP – PowerShares US Dollar — We re-shorted the US Dollar on strength on 10/20. There continues to be no government plan to support it.
FXB – CurrencyShares British Pound Sterling — The Pound is the only major currency that looks remotely as precarious as the US Dollar. We shorted the Pound into strength on 10/16.
SHY – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds — If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.