About Me

Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Bitcoin Goes Parabolic

Bitcoin is the most prominent of the growing list of crypto-currencies. When I first encountered
it in 2008, its foundations were shrouded in mystery, but I think it was intended as an alternative
to fiat currency which had features that suggested that, unlike fiat currency, it was designed as
an inflation hedge which could maintain its value. As such, it should hold its value over
time when adjusted for the inflation rate. With inflation low and relatively stable in recent years,
the original concept suggested that Bitcoin's price should appreciate rather modestly. However,
it has become a plaything for wealthy individual traders and investors. Now that it has become
a high flyer, Wall Street has taken an interest and and a futures market is about to be rolled out.

It may well be, that over the long term, crypto-currency may occupy a spot along with PMs
such as gold in the inflation hedge play category. At the moment, however, it is in a parabolic
price formation and that kind of price curve rarely works out for those who come in long as
the move completes. It is tough to measure parabolic price action with accuracy, but the
Bitcoin curve looks like it may be in a terminal phase, at least for the short run.  CBTC Weekly

Friday, December 01, 2017

SPX In Longer Term Perspective

Looking back nearly 25 years, it has been an impressive period for the SPX. Net per share has
compounded at 6.6% annually which is a bit above the very long term average. However, the
SPX itself has grown at 7.8% as the p/e ratio has tilted higher in recent years, reflecting not
only low interest rates and inflation, but high confidence the longer run future will bring more
attractive performance.

The market is trading above the upper band of longer term ranges starting in the early 1930s,
again reflecting rising earnings and elevated p/e ratios. Noteworthy also is that earnings are
not yet enough extended to signify a top in cyclical economic performance.

The accompanying SPX chart makes clear the dramatic recent power of the market. SPX Monthly
Measures of longer term price momentum are running as strong as they have in over a quarter of
a century and the near term reveals no indications of decay as of yet.

When the market topped the previous historic highs during 2013, it signaled the onset of a new
bull market and not just a quantum cyclical bounce off the 2009 cyclical low. However, from
a practical technical point of view, the evidence would suggest the SPX should not do much
better than at present in the near term without some degree of negative price adjustment. The
'now' should be interesting because the boyz are hoping for a nice Santa Claus rally to wrap up
the year.                                                                                                                                                                     

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Continuing Bet Against Inflation

My longer term inflation pressure gauge strongly suggests some acceleration of inflation
pressure over 2018 - 19. However, the shorter term inflation pressure measure, although
hitting a low this year, has advanced only meekly despite a nearly global advance in economic
momentum. The broad CRB commodities index is up but slightly over levels seen in mid-2016.
Even the industrial commodities composites have leveled off after advancing earlier this year.
I think it is true that despite faster economic growth, there is still significant excess plant capacity
in the world, but there are a couple of other factors worth remembering. One major one has been
the very substantial over-investment in inventories in evidence for at least the past five years. I
believe excess stocks are being worked off and that as near term supply comes into better
balance with demand, commodity prices should rise a bit faster. The other big change we have
seen since the early part of this new century has been the 'financialization' of materials markets
through rapid growth of futures trading and the development of products that both traders and
investors can access without having to deal with the actual physical volumes themselves.After
the major global economic downturn of 2007- 09, materials markets have have lost favor to
the financials reflecting the continuing imbalance between materials supply / demand.

However as the slack comes out of the materials markets and inventory overhangs are cleared,
there may well be a shift in trader preferences from financials back toward materials, one which
could be much stronger than the actual improvement of materials demand vs. supply.

With prospects for faster inflation still rather humble short term, the financial markets still
hold sway. Consider the exceptional tightening of the yield curve: 30y Treas% - 2y%

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Stock Market -- Long Term

I am projecting the SPX to reach the 3550 level by 2025. This projection is for doggy growth of
about 4.2% per annum and includes a substantial price retreat and subsequent recovery around
2019 - 2020. What's worse is that I have ginned up the SPX ' earnings growth rate slightly to
account for faster foreign sales and profits growth and also for improved inventory management
by US companies.Despite the availability of highly sophisticated supply management  tools, the management of inventories by business has been too speculative over the last seven odd years.
I am also looking for modest appreciation of business pricing power as the world slowly works
off still sizable production capacity. The growth of monetary liquidity will continue to taper
down as central banks work to regain reasonable balance between the still excessive supply  of
liquidity and genuine economic demand. This will mean somewhat higher interest rates over the long run and considerably more market volatility as the days of spoon feeding the global economy with
dollops of liquidity wane. In sum, I envision a more subdued continuation of the bull market but
one with an expanded 'normal' price range.

If I was a younger guy with a couple of extra bucks, I would be looking at investment in reasonably
valued smaller capitalization companies in both the US and foreign markets. I would only trade
the US market overall after periods of substantial price weakness and, most of all, I would be
looking to invest money privately here at home.

The following chart shows the current very elevated SPX with a horizontal line at 2200 which
is the level that would provide closer to a 10% annual total return out to the projected level of
3550 in 2025. SPX Weekly

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Longer Term -- Monetary Policy

It is gospel among central bankers that provision of excessive money growth over time will
eventually lead to price inflation which will tend to accelerate to levels that are unacceptable to
the execution of sound monetary policy. The period of major quantitative easing of policy in the
wake of the Great Depression and lasting until the end of WW2 swelled the monetary base hugely
and was never corrected. There were a number of factors that contributed the dramatic inflation
of the 1968 - 82 period and it can be argued that the swelling of the monetary base in years prior
probably contributed to it. Looking out longer term, today's central bankers are concerned that the
major QE programs of recent years, if not corrected in some form could provide the raw material
for a new round of major inflation at some point down the road. The thinking here is that even if
there is no immediate risk, inflation could well up again even if it is ten years out or longer.

The mammoth excess reserves that now  sit in the world's major banking systems are of major
long term concern to the central banks. Programs to reduce the size of central bank balance sheets
directly or hold them in check by paying competitive interest rates on these reserves are two
methods under review. Suffice it to say that plans can be expected to be developed which will
provide far less proportionate liquidity than investors and traders have become accustomed to
over most of the last decade. Since such tightening of policies have not been tried before on a
major scale, there are elements of sizable risk that may only become apparent as these programs

The Fed currently plans to experiment with reducing the size of its balance sheet in the months
ahead in combination with a program of continuing to gradually increase the level of short term
interest rates as the cycle of the economic expansion cycle plays out.

With the economic depression of 2008, the world entered a pro-deflationary environment because
the preceding global economic expansion and the initial bounce of economies after the 2008-2009
downturn resulted in the development of large excess global productive capacity. The issue
of low operating rates is next on this exploration of the long term.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Long Term -- Overview

This post begins a series of notes on the long term outlook for the capital markets and the
economy. It is based on a half century of analytic work, hopefully informed conjecture, and
of course, sprinkles of pure imagination.

I think that by 2025 - 2027, the stock market and the global economy will fall into serious
trouble. I foresee a credit crunch that bring the stock market and an overheated economy into
steep downturns. I am looking toward China to have large scale economic and financial blow-
outs that take the US and the rest of the world down with it. I also am projecting an end to a
longer term bull market in US stocks to come to a an end which will see highs that are not
surpassed for a good several years. As well I am, projecting the broad financial environment
to become increasingly volatile by 2020 if not a little sooner.

This view presumes that inflationary pressures will gradually increase going forward and bring
about a long, long overdue capital expansion cycle which will add to the world's production
capacity and thus set off central bank tightening of the credit reins.

Through this all, my deepest concern would be for China where the odds favor up and coming
technocrats who will decide to bring President Xi's expanding political power and reach to an
end. This is projected to be an introspective and deeply unsettling period.

Although I do foresee the US bull market in stocks coming to an end until 2025, I suspect an
overvalued market to have a serious decline over 2019 - 2020 as the economy shifts away from
nominal inflation and super low interest rates up toward more "normal" levels.
Note On The Near Term
The SPX is getting a touch pricey...Note as well that the intermediate term stochastic (bottom
panel) rarely goes through a calendar year without heading down toward the 20 level.
SPX Weekly

Friday, September 29, 2017

Broad Stock Market (Value Line Arithmetic)

Cyclical Bull market continues and rose to new high this week.

Spurs for new up leg since early 2016: Potential for faster economic growth as major business
inventory cycle unwound....Increase in business pricing power and higher profit margin...Promise
of large tax cut program encompassing both individuals and business via Trump...Continuation
of very low and negative short term interest rates.

Looking Ahead
Momentum of real economic growth is at or near peak with slower growth ahead...Pricing power
has been disappointing this year but may improve slightly....Tax cut program could boost corporate
profits by an extra 10% over 2018 / 2019....Passing of tax cut program in full hardly assured....Fed
plans another hike to short rates and to begin shrinking excess liquidity....Private sector funding of
economy is now merely adequate with no excess of liquidity in evidence.

Valuation shows a fully valued market with little scope to tolerate an unexpected surge of inflation
pressure or more sustained rise of short term interest rates.

Fundamental conclusion : bull market with moderate return / high risk profile because of
developing tightening of liquidity.

VLE Weekly Chart

Chart shows overbought market for intermediate term...Bottom panel shows that mid and smaller
cap. stocks are starting to outperform on expectation  that tax cut program will pass muster.