Gold breaks trendline

Treasury yields remain weak, with the 10-year yield testing support at 2.0 percent. Declining interest rates improve demand for gold but a subdued inflation outlook has the opposite effect.

10-Year Treasury Yields

The Fed has stopped QE, with total assets leveling off around $4.5 Trillion. Expansion of excess bank reserves on deposit with the Fed, which softened the inflationary impact of QE, halted a little earlier.

Fed Total Assets compared to Excess Reserves

The latter is contracting at a slightly faster pace, so the net effect (change in Total Assets minus Excess Reserves) remains stimulatory. Reversal below zero on the chart below would warn of a contraction.

Fed Total Assets minus Excess Reserves

The Dollar is weakening in line with interest rates, with the Dollar Index headed for a test of support at 93. 13-Week Twiggs Momentum crossed below zero, warning of a primary down-trend. Breach of primary support at 93 would confirm.

Dollar Index

A weaker Dollar would drive up gold. Spot gold broke its long-term descending trendline and is headed for a test of resistance at $1200/ounce. Recovery of 13-week Twiggs Momentum above zero would suggest a primary up-trend, but it would be prudent to wait for confirmation from a trough above zero and breakout above $1200.

Spot Gold

* Target calculation: 1200 – ( 1400 – 1200 ) = 1000

Gold is rising despite a strong Dollar

Gold is strengthening despite falling oil prices and the rising Dollar.

The Dollar Index is advancing toward a long-term target of 100 after breaking resistance at 90 in December.
Dollar Index

* Target calculation: 90 + ( 90 – 80 ) = 100

Spot gold is testing resistance at $1300/ounce after breaking through $1250. Expect a rally to test resistance at $1400, but a change in the primary trend is unlikely. Reversal below $1200 would warn of a decline to $1000*.
Gold

* Target calculation: 1200 – ( 1400 – 1200 ) = 1000

The most likely explanation for gold strength is the prospect of significant quantitative easing by the European Central Bank. Mario Draghi has called on the ECB to purchase € 50 billion of securities per month until December 2016 according to Bloomberg. With Japan and China already following the path of monetary expansion, concerns over the potential for a “currency war” are growing.

Will falling commodity prices cause deflation?

Some readers expressed concern about falling commodity prices, especially crude oil, and whether this will cause global deflation. This confuses the cause with the symptom.

Crude

Falling prices are largely benign except where caused by a contraction of the money supply. Commodity prices may fall when there is an excess of supply over demand, but this is soon absorbed by changes in consumer behavior. Discretionary spending will rise in response to the savings, so that aggregate demand is unaffected.

A contraction in the money supply, however, is far more serious. Slow growth in the monetary base (below growth of real GDP) results in less money chasing the same goods, driving down prices. Supply and demand in this case are unchanged, but prices fall because of a contraction in the money supply. Wages, however, are sticky and do not fall in line with prices, leading to falling profits, cuts in production and job layoffs. Falling income from lower profits and fewer jobs leads to a contraction in aggregate demand, causing further cuts to production and income.

Contraction of the money supply also places pressure on banks to reduce lending. This danger was highlighted by Irving Fisher in the 1930s. Contracting credit reduces not only new investment but forces existing borrowers to liquidate some of their assets, mainly stocks and property. The surge of selling, and limited availability of credit, drives down asset prices. A feedback loop results, with falling asset prices prompting banks to further contract lending — in turn causing more price falls. That is the central bankers’ equivalent of a perfect storm. The graph below shows how close we came in 2009 to a deflationary spiral.

Working Monetary Base

Slow growth in the monetary base caused a sharp contraction in bank lending (below zero) in 2009. Only prompt action by the Fed averted a 1930’s-style collapse of the financial system.

The Fed indicated in October that it will curtail QE and no longer expand its balance sheet to support money supply growth. Should we expect another contraction of the money supply as in 2008?

The answer is: NO. When we look at the graph of the Fed balance sheet below, we can see that total asset growth [red] is slowing. But bank deposits at the Fed — excess reserves that earn interest at 0.25% p.a. — are slowing at an even faster rate. That means that the actual amount of money flowing into the banking system is not contracting, but increasing.

Fed Total Assets and Excess Reserves

The following graph shows a net growth rate (of Total Assets minus Excess Reserves on Deposit) of more than 20 percent. Expect growth to slow over time, but the Fed can adjust the interest rate payable on excess reserves to ensure that it remains positive.

Fed Total Assets minus Excess Reserves

Deflation is a far bigger problem for the Euro. After a “whatever it takes” surge in 2012, the ECB attempted to contract its balance sheet far too soon — withdrawing treatment before the patient had fully recovered. They also do not have excess reserves on deposit, like the Fed, which could soften the impact.

ECB Total Assets

The result has been faltering economic growth and price levels falling dangerously close to deflation.

ECB Total Assets

The ECB appears to have recognized its error, indicating that it will expand its balance sheet if necessary to avert a monetary contraction. If they learn from their past mistakes, the ECB should be able to avoid any threat of deflation.

Will the stock market collapse when QE is withdrawn?

This chart in Westpac’s Northern Exposure chart summary implies that US stocks rely on Fed balance sheet expansion (QE) for support.

Fed Securities Held Outright v. S&P 500

The curve shows an almost perfect fit. There are just two things wrong with it. First, the scales on the left and right sides of the chart are not proportionate: the scale on the left compares a 9 times increase to a 3 times increase on the right. Second, while the Fed has expanded its balance sheet to more than $4 Trillion, a large percentage of that money has washed straight back to the Fed — deposited by banks as excess reserves.

Fed Total Assets and Excess Reserves

The impact on the working monetary base (monetary base adjusted for excess reserves) is far smaller: a rise of 66% (or $544 billion) over the past 7 years.

Fed Total Assets minus Excess Reserves compared to Working Monetary Base

A chart since 1985 shows nominal GDP (GDP before adjustment for inflation) normally expanded between 5% and 7.5% a year outside of recessions. But NGDP has not recovered above 5% after 2008. This may be partly attributable to lower inflation, but the Fed would clearly want to see NGDP above 5% — roughly 3% real growth and 2% inflation.

Working Monetary Base Growth compared to NGDP

We can also see that growth of below 5% in the working monetary base is often precursor to a recession, 1995/1996 being one exception. The second is when the Fed took their foot off the gas pedal too early, after QE1 in 2010, but were able to resume in time to head off a major contraction. They have been far more circumspect the second time and are likely to maintain monetary base growth North of 5%. Too sharp a slow-down would be cause for concern.

When we calculate the ratio of total US stock market capitalisation to the working monetary base [blue line] it is apparent that market response to the increase in monetary base is far more cautious than it was in 1998/1999.

Working Monetary Base Growth compared to NGDP

With Forward Price to Earnings Ratios for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq close to their long-term average (Westpac Northern Exposure, Page 118), I consider the likelihood of the QE taper precipitating a major market collapse to be remote.

Why does QE taper spook the market if it will have no real impact?

Question received from CG about the impact of QE and Fed taper:

I’m not arguing against the data presented on the graph, but if true that most of the QE bond purchases are being parked by banks in interest-bearing, excess reserve deposits at the Fed, why do the markets get spooked every time there are whispers that the Fed is going to reduce QE?

The comment CG is referring to:

Currently, there is evidence of expansive monetary policy from the Fed, but the overall impact on the financial markets is muted. Most of the QE bond purchases are being parked by banks in interest-bearing, excess reserve deposits at the Fed. The chart below compares Fed balance sheet expansion (QE) to the increase in excess reserve deposits at the Fed.

US Household Debt

A classic placebo effect, the Fed is well aware that the major benefit of their quantitative easing program is psychological: there is little monetary impact on the markets.

My answer:
The markets have no real reason to fear a QE taper. I think this is more psychological than physical. The current mind-set is:

If the Fed begins to taper, that marks the end of the bull market in bonds. Rising bond yields and higher long-term interest rates may slow industry investment and recovery of the housing market and this would be bad for the economy.

In other words, they still have a bearish outlook. At some point they will shift to the counter-argument:

QE taper and rising interest rates indicate Fed faith in the recovery and are a bullish sign for stocks. It also means the economy is reverting to a sustainable path.

The bottom-line is that markets are driven as much by emotion as by logic.

S&P 500 Momentum and Economic Outlook

This an example of the monthly updates from the new Research & Investment joint venture between Incredible Charts and Porter Capital.

S&P 500 Momentum – October 2013

Latest Performance

S&P 500 Momentum is based on Porter Capital’s successful ASX200 Prime Momentum strategy which returned +38.43% for the 12 months ended 31st October 2013. Actual historical performance for the S&P 500 is not yet available.

Sectors

The portfolio includes the usual technology, Internet retail and biotechnology sectors but also insurance, airlines, and oil & gas exploration.

Stock Performance

Star performer Netflix (NFLX) climbed from $80 to above $350 over the last year, breaking its 2011 high of $300. Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero indicate strong buying pressure.

GILD

Stock Selections

Hold

We continue to hold the following stocks:

  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • NFLX
  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • Symbol only available to subscribers

New Additions

There are four new additions this month:

  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • GILD
  • Symbol only available to subscribers
  • Symbol only available to subscribers

Biotech newcomer Gilead Sciences (GILD) climbed from $20 to above $70 over the last three years. Short corrections indicate buying pressure and respect of support at $64 would signal a fresh advance. Twiggs Money Flow troughs high above zero also suggest strong buying pressure.

GILD

Disposals

Stocks replaced are:

  • REGN (SELL)
  • BSX (SELL)
  • GT (SELL)
  • CELG (SELL)

Regneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) rose from $30 to $300 over the last three years, but encountered strong resistance at $300/$320 and has fallen outside our top ten ranking. Breach of support at $270 and the rising trendline would warn that the primary trend is weakening. Recovery above $320, however, would most likely see it regain its position in the portfolio.

TRIP

Market Outlook

Market Filters

Our market filters indicate low to moderate risk and we maintain full exposure to equities.

General Outlook

As global growth recovers we expect equity markets to be buoyed by improvements in both earnings and dividends, with strong momentum over the quarter. There is much discussion in the media as to whether various markets are in a “bubble”. Little attention is devoted to the fact that bubbles can last for several years, and sometimes even decades. The main driver of both stock market bubbles and real estate bubbles is debt. Anna Schwartz, co-author with Milton Friedman of A Monetary History of the United States (1963) described the relationship to the Wall Street Journal:

If you investigate individually the manias that the market has so dubbed over the years, in every case, it was expansive monetary policy that generated the boom in an asset. The particular asset varied from one boom to another. But the basic underlying propagator was too-easy monetary policy and too-low interest rates …..

Currently, there is evidence of expansive monetary policy from the Fed, but the overall impact on the financial markets is muted. Most of the QE bond purchases are being parked by banks in interest-bearing, excess reserve deposits at the Fed. The chart below compares Fed balance sheet expansion (QE) to the increase in excess reserve deposits at the Fed.

US Household Debt

A classic placebo effect, the Fed is well aware that the major benefit of their quantitative easing program is psychological: there is little monetary impact on the markets.

Corporate debt (green line below) is expanding rapidly as corporations take advantage of the opportunity to issue new debt at low interest rates, but household debt (red) is still shrinking.

US Household Debt

There are pockets of concern, like the rapid recovery in NYSE margin debt, but risk of a Dotcom-style stock market bubble or a 2002/2007 housing bubble is low while household debt contracts.

Regards,

Colin Twiggs

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

~ Aristotle

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Is the market in a bubble?

As global growth recovers we expect equity markets to be buoyed by improvements in both earnings and dividends, with strong momentum over the quarter. There is much discussion in the media as to whether various markets are in a “bubble”. Little attention is devoted to the fact that bubbles can last for several years, and sometimes even decades. The main driver of both stock market bubbles and real estate bubbles is debt. Anna Schwartz, co-author with Milton Friedman of A Monetary History of the United States (1963) described the relationship to the Wall Street Journal:

If you investigate individually the manias that the market has so dubbed over the years, in every case, it was expansive monetary policy that generated the boom in an asset. The particular asset varied from one boom to another. But the basic underlying propagator was too-easy monetary policy and too-low interest rates …..

Currently, there is evidence of expansive monetary policy from the Fed, but the overall impact on the financial markets is muted. Most of the QE bond purchases are being parked by banks in interest-bearing, excess reserve deposits at the Fed. The chart below compares Fed balance sheet expansion (QE) to the increase in excess reserve deposits at the Fed.

US Household Debt

A classic placebo effect, the Fed is well aware that the major benefit of their quantitative easing program is psychological: there is little monetary impact on the markets.

Corporate debt (green line below) is expanding rapidly as corporations take advantage of the opportunity to issue new debt at low interest rates, but household debt (red) is still shrinking.

US Household Debt

There are pockets of concern, like the rapid recovery in NYSE margin debt, but risk of a Dotcom-style stock market bubble or a 2002/2007 housing bubble is low while household debt contracts.

Australia

Australian personal debt (included with household debt in the US chart) and corporate debt growth are both close to zero. Household debt, while also low, appears to have bottomed. Resurgence above 10% would be cause for concern.

RBA Household Debt

Phoney recovery?

First signs of recovery after a recession are normally rising earnings, initially from corporate cost-cutting but followed up with rising revenues.

With massive central bank pump priming — referred to by Mark Mobius here — this time may be different. Flows of new money from central bank balance sheet expansion are likely to find their way into the stock market — and even the housing market — driving up prices. But consumption is lagging with slow growth in employment and average wages. With lackluster sales growth, earnings are likely to remain sluggish. Which means inflated stock market valuations and high price-earnings ratios as stocks are driven into over-bought territory. Not a solid foundation for a sustained recovery but another rung up the ladder of risk.

The impact of QE3

Expect stocks and commodities to rally – especially gold.

The S&P 500 followed through above 1440, confirming the primary advance to 1560*.

Index

* Target calculation: 1420 + ( 1420 – 1280 ) = 1560

Spot gold broke through short-term resistance at 175, headed for a test of $1800/ounce*.

Index

* Target calculation: 1650 + ( 1650 – 1500 ) = 1800

Fed to Buy More Bonds in Bid to Spur Economy – WSJ.com

By KRISTINA PETERSON, JON HILSENRATH and MICHAEL S. DERBY:

After months of careful signaling, the Fed’s policy-making committee said it would buy $40 billion each month of agency mortgage-backed securities on an open-ended basis and said it could extend those purchases and buy additional assets if the job market doesn’t improve.

“If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement issued at the end of its two-day meeting.

via Fed to Buy More Bonds in Bid to Spur Economy – WSJ.com.

I guess I was wrong about the Fed holding off until after the election.

Bernanke Speech Makes Detailed Case for Fed Action – NYTimes.com

The Fed Chairman hinted at further measures to stimulate employment but is still playing his cards close to his chest as to when and how much:

“It is important to achieve further progress, particularly in the labor market,” Mr. Bernanke said. “Taking due account of the uncertainties and limits of its policy tools, the Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.”

via Bernanke Speech Makes Detailed Case for Fed Action – NYTimes.com.

Christian Noyer: Monetizing public debt

Christian Noyer, Governor of the Bank of France and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the BIS: Some central banks have developed large-scale public debt acquisition programmes. They have done so for reasons relating to immediate macroeconomic stabilisation… to go beyond the zero-interest rate limit. The Eurosystem as well intervened on a much smaller scale when malfunctioning debt markets prevented the effective transmission of monetary policy impulses. There is not a single central bank that is seriously considering the monetisation of deficits with the more or less declared intention of reducing the weight of debt via inflation. In my view, this notion is nothing more than a financial analyst’s fantasy.

via Christian Noyer: Public and private debt – imbalances of global savings.
Comment:~ No central bank has declared an intention to monetize public debt (or deficits) — reducing public debt via inflation — but without a viable alternative how many will end up there? Gary Shilling points out that “competitive quantitative easing by central banks is now the order of the day.” The Bank of Japan last year “expanded its balance sheet by 11 percent, while the Federal Reserve’s increased 19 percent, the European Central Bank’s rose 36 percent and the Swiss National Bank’s grew 33 percent.” Japan, after 20 years of stagnation and with net public debt at 113% of GDP, illustrates the predicament facing many developed countries. If there was a plan B they would have tried it by now.

MARC FABER: Beware The Unintended Consequences Of Money Printing

Marc Faber: I do not believe that the central banks around the world will ever, and I repeat ever, reduce their balance sheets. They’ve gone the path of money printing and once you choose that path you’re in it, and you have to print more money.

If you start to print, it has the biggest impact. Then you print more – it has a lesser impact unless you increase the rate of money printing very significantly. And, the third money printing has even less impact. And the problem is like the Fed: they printed money because they wanted to lift the housing market, but the housing market is the only asset that didn’t go up substantially.

In general, I think that the purchasing power of money has diminished very significantly over the last ten, twenty, thirty years, and will continue to do so.

via MARC FABER: Beware The Unintended Consequences Of Money Printing.

QE3 – Wall Street’s biggest fantasy? | WSJ.com

WSJ.com – Mean Street

Steven Russolillo discusses the prospects of another round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve based on recent comments by Dallas Fed Chief Richard Fisher.

Living In A QE World | Jim Bianco

Central banks are ruling markets to a degree this generation has not seen. Collectively they are printing money to a degree never seen in human history.

So how does this process get reversed? How do central banks pull back trillions of dollars of money printing without throwing markets into a tailspin? Frankly, no one knows, least of all central banks as they continue to make new money printing records.

…..When/If these central banks go too far, as was eventually the case with home prices, expanding balance sheets will no longer be looked upon in a positive light. Instead they will be viewed in the same light as CDOs backed by sub-prime mortgages were when home prices were falling. The heads of these central banks will no longer be put on a pedestal but looked upon as eight Alan Greenspans that caused a financial crisis.

via Living In A QE World | The Big Picture.

King Says BOE Ready to Act – WSJ.com

[BOE Governor Mervyn King] kept the door open for more stimulus in his speech Tuesday. “With inflation falling back and wage growth subdued, there is scope for interest rates to remain low and, if necessary, for further asset purchases, to prevent inflation falling below the 2% target,” he said. The annual rate of inflation in the U.K. dipped to 4.2% in December from 4.8% a month earlier, and is expected to slow sharply this year.

via King Says BOE Ready to Act – WSJ.com.

ECB Expected to Unleash QE Money Printing after Launching of Euro-Bonds :: The Market Oracle

In return for surrendering fiscal policy to Brussels, – Berlin and Paris, the key paymasters of the Euro-zone, would agree to the creation of a common Eurobond that would pool the credit ratings and collateral of all participating Euro-zone countries into a single fixed income instrument. Chancellor Merkel says that German borrowing costs will jump higher because of the creation of a Eurobond, though she is prepared to consider Eurobonds, if the legal framework is in place to ensure all countries in the zone observe the rules.

…..Once fiscal integration is agreed upon, Berlin is expected to agree to the creation of Eurobonds issued by member states that could be purchased in massive quantities (monetized) by the ECB. Countries would be liable for each others’ debts, but the ECB could make much of their debt disappear with its electronic printing press. Eurobonds would either be financed with higher taxes on the working class, through austerity measures, or through the inflationary effects of the ECB’s money printing machine. With French banks alone holding more of their debts than the entire €440-billion European Financial Stabilization Fund, a default by these countries would likely bankrupt the French financial system. Thus, Paris has been pushing hard for the ECB to monetize debt on a massive scale.

via ECB Expected to Unleash QE Money Printing after Launching of Euro-Bonds :: The Market Oracle :: Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting Free Website.

Germany’s economic and political generals are fighting the wrong war – Saul Eslake

The role which the European Central Bank needs to be allowed to play in resolving the European sovereign debt crisis needn’t amount to sustained financing of government deficits. It is perhaps better conceived of as being akin to central bank intervention in the currency markets.

When, in moments of one-sided speculation, or panic, foreign exchange markets push a currency to what by any reasonable yardstick appears to be extremely over- or under-valued levels, it’s not unusual for central banks to sell or buy that currency in sufficient volume to push it back in the opposite direction. If the central bank concerned is perceived as ‘credible’, the volume of purchases or sales required to achieve its objective will often be quite small. And if its judgement as to what constitutes ‘reasonable’ is correct, it will usually end up making a profit.

via Germany’s economic and political generals are fighting the wrong war – On Line Opinion – 24/11/2011.