The Road to a Free Europe Goes Through Moscow | POLITICO

From James Kirchick, author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age:

….The West wants peace and Russia wants victory. These desires are incompatible. Those who cherish liberal democracy and wish to see it endure must accept the fact that a Russian regime is once against trying to debilitate and subvert the free world. While Russia today may not be as conventionally strong an adversary as it was during the Cold War, the threat it poses is more diffuse. Russia is as much an enemy as it was a generation ago, and we need to adopt a more hardheaded, adversarial footing and mentality to defeat it. In a globalized world where the cancerous influences of Russian money and disinformation can more easily corrupt us than when an Iron Curtain divided Europe, and where the ideological terrain is more confusing than the Cold War’s rigid bipolarity, containing Russia presents different challenges than it did a generation ago, not the least of which is maintaining Western unity against a more ambiguous adversary skilled at fighting asymmetrically. We must steel ourselves once again for a generational, ideological struggle in defense of liberal values and open societies and avoid self-inflicted wounds. Never during the Cold War, for instance, was there such a traumatic break within the Western political alliance as Britain’s departure from the European Union—nor, for that matter, did an overtly pro-Russian leader ever capture the presidency of the United States.

Source: The Road to a Free Europe Goes Through Moscow – POLITICO Magazine

Charlie Munger: The Psychology of Human Misjudgement

From Warren Buffett’s partner and vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway:

A huge hole in Trump’s promise to bring back US manufacturing jobs | Business Insider

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa:

US manufacturing employment has been declining since a 1970 peak, a drop that accelerated after China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation but, tellingly, not after the US entered the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1994.

….SoftWear’s business, along with so many others across the US, should remind Trump of a factor he has yet to acknowledge: the role of automation in reducing the number of manufacturing jobs available…..

That fits a nationwide pattern of manufacturing output hitting record highs in recent years, even as manufacturing employment continues its steady decline.

….Mark Muro, a senior fellow and the director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, wrote in MIT’s Technology Review. “No one should be under the illusion that millions of manufacturing jobs are coming back to America.”

Source: There is a huge hole in Trump’s promise to bring back US manufacturing jobs | Business Insider

ASX 200 bullish

The ASX 200 is testing resistance at 5800 after a weak retracement. Rising Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero signal strong buying pressure. Breakout above 5800 is highly likely and would signal a test of 6000*.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5800 + ( 5800 – 5600 ) = 6000

Dow bullish

Dow Jones Industrial Average is consolidating in a narrow band below resistance at 21000, a bullish sign. Strong buying pressure is also signaled by rising Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero. Breakout would offer a short-term target of 22000.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Gold rallies as Dollar falls

The Dollar Index rally is falling despite rising interest rates. Chinese sell-off of foreign reserves to support the Yuan may be a factor.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold rallied off support at $1200/ounce. Recovery above $1250 would confirm an up-trend, with the next target at $1300.

Spot Gold

Robert Shiller: Is he right that stocks are overpriced?

I frequently come across stocks such as Netflix [NFLX], trading on a forward PE of 137 (Morningstar), or even Coca Cola [KO] and Procter & Gamble [PG] that leave me muttering about unrealistic valuations.

Nobel laureate Robert Shiller this week commented that he was no longer buying stocks as he believed they were overvalued. His justification is the CAPE index which compares current stock prices to the 10-year average of inflation-adjusted earnings.

Shiller CAPE Index

The index is below its Dotcom high but is approaching the same level that it peaked at in 1929. Is the CAPE index flawed or does this portend disaster?

Bear in mind that Shiller is not selling all his existing stocks — he has merely stopped buying — and is the first to point out that the CAPE index is a poor tool for timing market tops and bottoms.

Before we make any rash decisions let us compare Shiller’s index to a few other handy measures of market valuation.

Warren Buffett’s favorite

Warren Buffett’s favorite measure of market value is to compare total stock market capitalization to GDP. The higher the ratio, the more the stock market is overvalued.

US Market Cap to GDP

This looks even worse than the CAPE index, with market cap to GDP well above its 2007 high and well on its way to Dotcom levels.

Adapting the ratio to include offshore earnings of multinational companies makes very little difference to the results. Here I compare market cap to GNP as well as GDP. GNP, or gross national product, includes offshore earnings of domestioc companies rather than just domestic earnings as with GDP. The end result is much the same.

US Market Cap to GNP

Market Cap to Corporate Profits

When we compare market capitalization to current profits after tax, however, valuations are still high but nowhere near the irrational exuberance of the Dotcom era.

US Market Cap to Profits after Tax

The current peak resembles earlier peaks in the 1980s and 1960s.

What this tells us is that corporate profits are rising faster than GDP. And that a 10-year average may be a poor reflection of future sustainable earnings.

Sustainable Earnings

Are current earnings sustainable? There is no clear answer to this. But there are some key criteria if earnings are to remain at current levels of GDP.

First, wage rate growth remains low. The graph below illustrates how profits fall when employee compensation rises (per unit of value added).

Wage Rates

Second, that interest rates stay low. The Fed is doing its best to normalize interest rates but monetary tightening would spoil the party. That is, deliberate tightening by the Fed to subdue rising inflationary pressures.

A third element is corporate taxes but there seems little risk of rising taxes in the current climate.

The key variable for both #1 and #2 is wage rates. At present these are subdued, so no cause for alarm.

Wage Rates


Wish You Were Here – Jaffa Street, Jerusalem

The ability of music to bridge cultures. Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” cover by Aryeh and Gil Gat, Jaffa Street, Jerusalem

Confidence in housing falls to lowest level in 40 years

From Eryk Bagshaw & Peter Martin at SMH:

Confidence in the housing market has collapsed, with the number of Australians describing property as the wisest place to put their savings falling to its lowest level in more than 40 years.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has been asking about the wisest place to store savings since it began its consumer confidence survey in 1974. Real estate has been one of the most popular answers, often eclipsing bank deposits and paying down debt as the wisest place for savings.

Australian Housing Confidence

Westpac’s Bill Evans: “There is no doubt nervousness about the sustainability of prices.”

Lack of confidence is a vulnerability rather than sign of an imminent collapse. It may also reflect consumer nervousness about record low interest rates (lowest in more than 40 years) and the impact on affordability, and house prices, when rates eventually rise.

Source: Confidence in housing collapses to lowest level in 40 years: survey

Fed raises but Dollar falls

From The Age:

The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark lending rate a quarter point and continued to project two more rate increases this year, signalling more vigilance as inflation approaches its target.

“In view of realised and expected labour market conditions and inflation, the committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in its statement on Wednesday. “Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.”

Dollar Index

Surprisingly, the Dollar Index fell sharply on news of the announcement. But selling was mainly traders who had anticipated a more hawkish stance on future rate increases.

Investors had anticipated the tightening. In fact, Treasury yields had climbed with the dollar on speculation the central bank might signal a faster pace of rate rises. But those trades unwound quickly after the announcement.

Source: Fed raises benchmark rate as inflation approaches target

Why Robert Shiller Is Worried About the Trump Rally – Bloomberg

According to Bloomberg, Nobel Prize-winning economist, Robert Shiller, says he is not buying stocks at present:

….One factor that makes him cautious on American shares is the S&P 500’s cyclically-adjusted price-earnings ratio: While the metric is still about 30 percent below its high in 2000, it shows stocks are almost as expensive now as they were on the eve of the 1929 crash.

“The market is way over-priced,’’ he says. “It’s not as intellectual as people would think, or as economists would have you believe.’’

Robert Shiller’s CAPE compares current prices to a 10-year moving average of inflation-adjusted earnings. That is likely to be distorted by losses incurred in 2009 which are more of a (hopefully) once-in-a-generation event.

Source: Why Robert Shiller Is Worried About the Trump Rally – Bloomberg

Australia: Don’t expect a repeat of the last boom

Gerard Minack, courtesy of Macrobusiness, explains why the recent rise in commodity prices will not result in a repeat of the last boom.

There are two main ways the last commodity boom boosted domestic activity. Neither seems likely to be repeated now. The first is that the mining sector lifted its investment spending as commodity prices increased (Exhibit 5). Now, however, mining investment is likely to continue to fall (although most of the declines have been seen).

The second way the mining boom filtered through to domestic activity was via fiscal policy. The boom provided a windfall for governments. For the Federal Government the windfall was several percent of GDP….Almost all the revenue windfall was used to fund a discretionary loosening of fiscal policy….. With the budget now in deficit I expect the Federal Government to trouser the latest windfall. (Yes, there will be political pressure on a behind-in-the-polls-government to spend more, but the countervailing political fear is that to spend the windfall now would lead to a politically damaging downgrade to Australia’s sovereign rating.)

The unforeseen consequence of this government profligacy was a spectacular rise in the Aussie Dollar and subsequent decimation of the manufacturing sector.

Source: Minack Special Report: Forget rate hikes – MacroBusiness

Australian miners and the PBOC

I mentioned on Friday that the ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index is falling, with declining Twiggs Money Flow warning of long-term selling pressure.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The reason is not hard to find. China’s PBOC is tightening monetary policy to force a slow-down in real estate and construction. Money supply (M1) growth contracted over the last 6 months, with a sharp drop in January 2017.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Bulk commodity prices are expected to ease.

Equities Could See a Setback, But This Bull Market Isn’t Over | Bob Doll

Sensible view from Bob Doll at Nuveen:

….Given evidence of stronger economic growth, we could see the Fed become slightly more aggressive about its rate policies, but probably not to the point that it would derail the equity bull market.

On balance, we think the risks are skewed to the upside for stocks. While we could see higher volatility and a near-term correction, we expect equities to move higher over the coming year.

Source: Weekly Investment Commentary from Bob Doll | Nuveen

Government, CBA in landmark $230m solar deal

Mathew Dunckley from The Age reports on a new $230 million solar project:

The backers of three large solar farms have locked in the final piece of their funding puzzle after securing debt financing from a group including the federal government and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Local developer Edify Energy and its German investor, Wirsol, will now look to begin work on the farms in Queensland and Victoria and have the first power flowing by early next year.

….The combined project will add 165MW of renewable energy capacity to the national electricity grid by the start of next year and generate enough electricity to power an estimated 87,000 households.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will provide $77 million, taking its total large-scale solar commitments to $281 million across seven projects.

….The lending consortium brings together the CEFC, Commonwealth Bank and Germany’s NORD/LB.

CBA’s managing director and global head of infrastructure, Michael Thorpe, said the bank was proud to support the “landmark” transaction.

“The strong risk profile and expertise of both Edify Energy and Wirsol contribute to excellent project fundamentals of the Whitsunday, Hamilton and Gannawarra solar farms,” he said.

This infrastructure project ticks all the right boxes:

  • private-public partnership
  • leading international expertise
  • renewable energy
  • short delivery time

The big question is whether electricity delivery will be at competitive prices.

Source: Government, CBA in landmark $230m solar deal

Crude falls below $50

June Light Crude fell sharply last week, ending below $50/barrel in response to rising US inventories.

June Light Crude

Respect of the lower trend channel would suggest that this is a secondary movement and the primary up-trend is intact. Breach of the lower channel would warn that the primary trend is weakening.

Harry Nilsson – Everybody’s Talkin’

A bit of nostalgia. From Midnight Cowboy, with John Voigt and Dustin Hoffman.

The harmonica theme at the end is played by Jean Toots Thielemans.

India: Sensex resistance continues

India’s Sensex continues to meet resistance at 29000. Twiggs Money Flow now displays a mild bearish divergence. Breakout above 29000 would find resistance at the 2015 high of 30000 which may prove stubborn. Reversal below 28000 is less likely but would warn of another test of primary support at 26000.

Sensex Index