Debt Is Good?

“I do not expect any major nations to default on their debt.”

- Robert Rubin, Former Secretary of the Treasury, March 2009, Yale Law School

 

This is a quote we have highlighted a few times in the last year. We have it in our slide deck for the conference call that we will be hosting at 11AM: “Where Does The Sovereign Debt Cycle End?” (If you are interested in listening, email ). We use this quote to remind investors that the almighty ones at Groupthink Inc. have a serious problem in forecasting global macro risk.

 

Whether it is Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Hank Paulson or now Timmy Geithner, it’s critical to understand that these gentlemen all come from the same place - Goldman and/or the Government. In sharp contrast to proactively preparing America for future risks, their claims to fame often surround solving crises that they helped create.

 

We realize that Summers didn’t work at Goldman. We also acknowledge that if he did, and he put GS into the derivative positions he put the Harvard Endowment into, he probably wouldn’t have worked there for long. As for Timmy, well… he’s not a P&L guy, so we aren’t certain he will be hired by Goldman when this is all said and done, but he should definitely apply to their derivative sales group if he wants a legitimate shot.

 

What all of these gentlemen have in common is an ideology that Debt Is Good. Now, politically speaking, it’s not palatable for them to admit this, but we will show you in a tight slide presentation that you should watch what they have done to America’s balance sheet, as opposed to what they’ve been telling you they were doing.

 

Away from the shell game of issuing more US Treasury debt than maybe even God himself could, the latest bailout game that Geithner is playing with America’s future is through what politicians are affectionately referring to as “Build America Bonds”, or BABs.

 

Now Geithner and Schumer are more focused on calling the Chinese manipulators than focusing your attention on this, but that doesn’t mean that State Treasuries aren’t levering this country right up like the Greeks did (Greek stocks are down -4.8% this week, fyi).

 

When asked about debt-laden California’s plan to issue BAB’s, Tom Dresslar (a spokesman for the CA Treasurer Bill Lockyer), told Bloomberg, “we plan to go full speed ahead with our BABs.” Nice. Lever this pig right up boys!

 

Now CA can call them BAB’s and Geithner can call these something about “Building America”, we call these Domestic Pigs. We’ll go through the numbers and the historical context of US State and Sovereign Debt on our conference call, but the reality is that California has already issued $8.1B of these Piggy Banker Bonds, and have every intention on issuing as much as the US government will let them.

 

The US Treasury is so busy fear-mongering you into believing that they are “saving you from the unknown”, that they often fail to mention the knowns. The US Treasury subsidizes municipal debt! New York City just issued $644M yesterday. This puts the US Municipal Debt market over the $2.8 TRILLION DOLLAR mark! They are feeding the pig and it’s growing. Building America? Yeah… one more debt at a time.

 

Again, from a politician’s perspective, Debt Is Good (we are working on a makeover for a Geithner Gekko). Think about why this is so - it’s not that complicated. Debt is a future obligation. Most of these cats don’t plan on sticking around Washington for your future.

 

The Federal Reserve’s Vice Chairman, Donald Kohn, has recently announced that he is resigning from the Fed. This week, the Fed’s balance sheet grew by another $26 Billion (week-over-week), taking it to a new record high of $2.31 TRILLION Dollars. If you didn’t know he wasn’t planning on seeing his Building America’s Liabilities through, now you know… Kohn has sat on the Fed’s Board since, you guessed it, 2002.

 

While it’s getting hard to keep track of all this American Debt (Bernanke was asked by the House Financial Services Committee this week if $5 TRILLION in GSE Debt was US Sovereign Debt. His answer: “I don’t know”), the team at Hedgeye Risk Management can tell you this: it will not end well. Across 8 centuries of economic realities, it never has. And never, is a long time.

 

My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1151 and 1170, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

LONG ETFS

 

VXX – iPath S&P 500 VIX — With the VIX down -38% since the SP500 bottomed -10.2% lower on February 8th, now (3/17/10) is a good time to buy some volatility for the immediate term TRADE as it is oversold.

 

USO – United States Oil — Despite a sharp correction in oil prices on 3/15/10, the price of WTIC oil remains in a bullish intermediate term position with TREND line support at $77.39/barrel. Buying on red.

 

UUP – PowerShares US Dollar Index Fund — We bought the USD Fund on 1/4/10 as an explicit way to represent our Q1 2010 Macro Theme that we have labeled Buck Breakout (we were bearish on the USD in ’09).

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 mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis.
 

SHORT ETFS

 

HYG – iShares High Yield Corporate BondSuffice to say, we aren't yield chasers with High Yield priced up here. There is a big difference between high-grade and high-yield; some hopefully learned this lesson back in 2007. We shorted HYG on 3/17/10.

 

XLP – SPDR Consumer StaplesConsumer Staples was the best performing sector on 3/15/10 in our S&P Sector Model and was immediate term overbought.

 

SPY – SPDR S&P500We moved to neutral (from bearish) on the S&P500 on the week of February 22. At 1139, for the immediate term TRADE, we’ll go back to bearish. This market is finally overbought. We shorted SPY on 3/5/10 and 3/17.

 

EWP – iShares SpainThe etf bounced on 3/3/10 in part from a strong day from Banco Santander, the fund’s largest holding in the Financials-heavy (43.8%) etf. We added to our short position for a TRADE on 3/5 and 3/17 as every sovereign debt risk has a time and price to be short of. We have a bearish bias on the country; massive unemployment, public and private debt leverage, and a failed housing market remain fundamental concerns.

 

IWM – iShares Russell 2000With the Russell 2000 finally overbought from an immediate term TRADE perspective on 3/1/10, we shorted IWM and added to the position on 3/2 and 3/17.

 

GLD – SPDR Gold We re-shorted Gold on this dead cat bounce on 2/11/10. We remain bullish on a Buck Breakout and bearish on Gold for Q1 of 2010, as a result.

    

IEF – iShares 7-10 Year TreasuryOne of our Macro Themes for Q1 of 2010 is "Rate Run-up". Our bearish view on US Treasuries is implied.