Quantitative Guessing

This note was originally published at 8am this morning, October 19, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“Time and persecution brings many wonderful things to pass.”

-George Washington

 

One of my thought partners here at Hedgeye is our head of everything compliance, Moshe Silver. In our final days of being paid by the establishment, we worked closely together at Carlyle. I’d manage daily P&L risk and he’d manage the risk surrounding how our hedge fund teams were driving that P&L.

 

Moshe writes a must-read Weekly Compliance Screed that we publish on Mondays to our exclusive network of clients. Yesterday’s was titled, “Qualitative Easing” and it was one of Moshe’s best. He provided the historical context for America’s present season of discontent by citing Ron Chernow’s new biography of George Washington.

 

This is as much a point about leadership than anything else. America’s markets are turning into the sort of soft and qualitative excuse making zones where losers find comfort and coddling. If you aren’t raising children you may not see this as clearly as the rest of us parents do, but this “no one loses” and “my little Johnny just wants to be happy” stuff is becoming pervasive in American culture.

 

What happens when little Johnny runs into a Chinese kid who crushes him like a bug? Should we call for a time-out and some quantitative easing? If Apple doesn’t beat on iPad sales, should we invoke the deflation Gods for QE3?

 

Moshe suggests that “today, the underlying issue is a total abdication of responsibility on the part of those invested with the Public Trust. The reason that it has become compelling as an ongoing policy matter to debauch the once-proud Dollar is that our society has established a pattern of behavior.”

 

“The rest of the world recognized US indebtedness as a nascent problem as far back as the early 1980s. Is it realistic for Washington (the DC kind) to push back on generations of excess? We search in vain for anyone in a position of Public Trust to take a stand against this madness.”

 

How about the Manic Media? Could its core competency in taking the sell-side’s word for missing virtually every crash until after it has occurred proactively protect Americans and their hard earned savings? Or does the financial media stand in awe of revisionist Big Broker analysts whose tongues lick the Greenspan grounds of taking academic dogma’s word for it?

 

This morning even one of the most admirable American media platforms fell into the trap of time and persecution. Bloomberg’s Ian Katz opened his review of Timmy Geithner’s currency remarks by suggesting that “a weak dollar may now be in the national interest.” Are you kidding me, man?

 

If you dig into the financial editorials this morning, Dartmouth’s David Blanchflower recaps his Groupthink Inc. sessions with the finger pointers of America. I couldn’t paraphrase this if I tried:

 

“I was at the Fed last week in Washington for one of its occasional meetings with academics. Half a dozen labor economists, including myself, met with Fed Board members to discuss the labor market. Of particular importance was a paper by John Haltiwanger, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland, who showed there has been a big decline in the job-creation rate over the past decade. The current obstacle is the lack of credit for small firms.”

 

Right, right guys. The “current obstacle”  couldn’t be staring you right in the mirror could it? It must be that banks aren’t lending. Right, right… back to debauching the currency then.

 

Who is going to stand against Quantitative Guessing during this political season? Who is going to stand up and lead? I think it might just be the Chinese. They are proactively RAISING interest rates this morning. Why? Take a wild and crazy guess. You got it Pontiac – QE2 is stoking the bonfires of global inflation.

 

Don’t ask Fed Chairman Bernanke to stand up for 43 MILLION Americans (the # of Americans on the Food Stamp program) have to put gas in their cars and, God forbid, eat. On Friday, Bernanke said that “we are still learning about the efficacy and appropriate management of non-standard policy tools that do not rely on interest rate deductions.”

 

In plain English, Americans need to know what that means. Like his predecessor at the Fed, Arthur Burns, who perpetuated Jobless Stagflation in the 1970’s by monetizing US Treasury Debt, Ben Bernanke has no idea how this is going to play out and he’s not allowed to say it could play out Japanese.

 

Ask a man you can trust – Moshe: “Bernanke is effectively saying we haven’t quite gotten the knack of handling your money, but we are making progress. Another few TRILLION and we should really have it down to a science.” Like journeymen stock brokers and money managers who learn this craft by losing large quantities of other people’s money, those charged with managing the economy have resorted to Quantitatively Guessing…

 

As George Washington observed, if people are persecuted long enough by their government, they will change their behavior. And change is not a “crisis” until someone gets fed up with it all and punches your little Johnny’s qualitative whining in the face.

 

My immediate term support and resistance levels for the SP500 are now 1170 and 1186, respectively. On September 19th the cash position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation model was 46%. A month later, on this fine day of defending ourselves (October 19th), we’ve raised that cash position to 64%.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Quantitative Guessing - QG


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