Winter Was Coming

“They were born on the wrong side of the wall – it doesn’t make them monsters.”

-Jon Snow


If you live on the Eastern sea-board of the United States of America, unfortunately there was no central plan to smooth out this weekend’s storm. Winter was coming and how non-linear going from 0 to 2-3 feet of the white walker’s fury that was!


Pardon the pun, but in Stark contrast to the White Walkers (evil dudes) in Game of Thrones, the Wildlings (gnarly dudes) are called the “free folk.” John Snow was the great leader who empathized with their plight for freedom. They weren’t the movie’s real monsters.


To some, maybe this Thunder Bay Bear was born on the wrong side of the Old Wall. Who I am and what I stand for certainly makes for some “us vs. them” drama. After “taking a knee” on last week’s lows, I am back on the field of battle this morning. Grrr!


Winter Was Coming - smiling bear


Back to the Global Macro Grind


Scary growl, eh. Yeah, I can be a real scary dude; especially when I don’t have my makeup on (or when I try to find reasons to be bullish). Bullish on “reflation” or the prospects for US growth magically re-accelerating to its cycle peak of 2015, that is.


The real monsters that have been hammering Consensus Macro in 2016 are as follows:


  1. #Deflation (China, Oil, EM, etc.)
  2. US #GrowthSlowing from its Super #LateCycle peak
  3. Illiquidity & Leverage


Unfortunately, Illiquidity (institutional investors can’t get out of small/mid cap equity and junk bond exposures) and Leverage (hedge funds running 150-250% “gross long”, growth slowing companies like IBM levering up to buy back stock, the largest $ amount of corporate credit outstanding in human history, etc.), wasn’t objectively discussed @Davos.


I think that’s mainly because of real-world economic ignorance, willful blindness (compensation), and some form of fictional peddling. Since few (if any) called for this great US Dollar Denominated Liquidity Trap to manifest as the US Dollar Index broke out from 40-year-centrally-planned lows (Bernanke’s QE3 in 2011), what would there be for an academic paid to advise a banker to discuss?


Since it’s easy to argue that all that was core to the ideology of using “monetary policy tools, innovations, and communications” was one of the causal factors in perpetuating one mother of a #Bubble in inflation expectations, over-supply, and bad investor behavior (chasing Kinder’s lure of a levered yield), the Old Wall Folk would have to bear some responsibility in the discussion.


Back to what really happened last week (hint: one more of the many counter-TREND bounces):


  1. US Equities rallied off oversold lows (SP500 +1.4% on the week to -6.7% YTD)
  2. Total US Equity Market Volume had its slowest day (down -9% vs. its 1-month avg) on a +2% Friday (SP500)
  3. Oil (WTI) led the counter-TREND bounce with a +5.9% ramp to -15.7% YTD
  4. Copper had 2x the bounce of the SP500, closing +3.0% to -6.2% YTD
  5. MLP stocks “beat the Dow” at +1.1% vs. +0.7% on the week, but are still in crash mode -17.7% YTD


I’m pretty sure that’s not how the Old Wall’s media recapped the week. In other reality-check news:


  1. Our favorite US Equity Sector Style (Utilities, XLU) closed up another +0.9% to +1.2% YTD
  2. Our least favorite Equity Sector (Financials, XLF) closed down another -0.7% to -10.7% YTD

Yeah, that’s a bummer – when the “market is up” and the sector the “rate hike” bulls like the most was down (again). But that’s to be expected by those of us longer-term investors who understand Lower-For-Longer (US 10yr Yield -23 basis points YTD at 2.04%).


The only thing other than maybe Ukrainian and Italian stocks (down -7.9% and -0.9% on the week, respectively, in a globally “up” tape), that I can find worse than being long the Financials (on a week where Jaime Dimon called everything fine) was:


  1. High Beta Stocks down another -1.6% week-over-week to -13.7% YTD
  2. Low Beta Stocks up +0.1% week-over-week to -2.1% YTD

*Mean Performance of Top Quintile vs. Bottom Quintile (SP500 Companies)


In other words, if all you’ve done in 2016 was express the Illiquidity & Leverage trade in High vs. Low Beta portfolio positioning, never mind charging 2 & 20 for that – you could probably come back as Steve Cohen and charge 5 & 50!


Not to be completely out-done by the weather-trade (ex-the-pending-slow-volume-storm-prep-day, the SP500 is down closer to -8.5% YTD!) one of our Top 3 Macro Long Ideas right now (the US Dollar) had another solid week, +0.6% at +1.0% YTD.


I know. Being long Greenbacks, Utes, and the Long-Bond is boring. But sometimes, in the #GameOfSlowing (Q4 2015 Hedgeye Macro Theme) playing the low-beta, low-leverage strategy works. Finally, since I’m up off my knee, I’ll remind you of Cersei Lannister’s advice:


“When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.”


Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:


UST 10yr Yield 1.96-2.09%


VIX 20.43-28.91
YEN 116.51-118.99
Oil (WTI) 28.21-32.68


Best of luck out there this week,



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Winter Was Coming - 01.25.16 chart

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