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 !!!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Oil Price And The Real Economy

I accepted the end of the end of the decline in the oil price in early 2016. The steady bull run in oil
has been obvious for all to see since then. However, I did not think that oil would approach $70 bl.
until some time over the second half of 2019. So, by my lights, the price is well ahead of schedule.
Sharp, extended run ups in the price of oil are rarely good for the real economy or the stock market.
Net oil consuming countries such as the US experience net income and wealth transfers to net
producers during such periods with a sharply rising oil price acting as an inflationary tax on
consumption. Too, fast oil price appreciation can lead the Fed to punish the economy with
tighter liquidity and higher short term interest rates.

These developments can punish both business earnings and p/e ratios and flatten the yield curve.

I would not hazard a guess as what the negative tipping point for the US will be if the oil price
continues to march substantially higher. Moreover, the US is now in a position to export higher
levels of hydrocarbons which will be a positive offset to its continuing dependency on imported
crude. Suffice it to say, that at some point before too long, the rising price of crude will begin
to cast a shadow on the economy and Fed monetary policy as well.

WTIC Weekly

Monday, April 23, 2018

Oil Price

The oil price is entering its third year of recovery following the big bust. The bull case has argued
that a faster growing global economy coupled with production cuts from OPEC / Russia would
allow a massive build up of crude inventories to work off steadily, thus allowing the industry to
eventually return to a reasonable balance between supply and demand. the hope has turned into
reality as stocks have dwindled from huge down much close to normal based on a five year average.
For the most part, the price has advanced in an orderly fashion. In late 2016, most industry buffs
were projecting the price of crude to stay in a range of $40 - 60 bl. well past 2017. Amazingly,
given how hard it is to forecast the price of oil, crude has remained in that range until recently.
With promises of further production-side discipline and the reduction of stocks still underway, a
new consensus has emerged in the industry with oil now seen as rising to $80 bl. in the months
ahead.  WTIC Daily

With the WTIC having just topped $68, the market is a hefty 22% above the 200 day m/a. It is
not overbought on many other technical measures, but you need to know that this is a very crowded
trade, with speculative long futures continuing at record levels. Moreover, with the big petrol build
now nearly completed for the year, the market is about to enter a very choppy period on a seasonal
basis and it may be tricky if you want to chase the recent burst.

Production reductions over the next six months or so could have a disproportionatley large
positive impact on prices. But note as well that since the industry is now firmly in the black on
the production side, there is a little extra incentive to cheat.

More on oil later in the week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stock Market Update

The bull case is as follows: Top line business sales growth momentum may slow some this year,
but the outlook for earnings continues excellent reflecting large corporate tax cuts now on the
book. Interest rates may rise further, but since inflation pressure remains quiescent, the Fed will
remain on a gradual course of tightening monetary policy. There is no excess liquidity in the US
system, but there may be some further rotation out of a weaker bond market into stocks. Moreover,
share buybacks could surge over the next fifteen months as companies tap larger cash flows. And,
there may be additional foreign interest in US stocks. There are exogenous factors to keep a close
eye upon, including a possible heavy duty bi-lateral trade war with China, fallout if the talks with
North Korea fail, a Syrian conflict that could go beyond its borders and a crisis if Trump blows
up the DOJ and the Mueller inquiry.These clouds could clear up rather quickly, giving investors
a clean shot at the prior top over 2800 SPX, or they could linger and force market players to make
further adjustments.

The SPX chart reflects a cloudy crystal ball. There is a bearish falling wedge pattern forming, and
the SPX is struggling to hold the uptrend in place since early 2016. But the market is holding
above its 200 day m/a and a 2600 support level.  SPX Daily

Thursday, March 29, 2018

SPX -- Monthly

The bull market continues, but with a tough first quarter of 2018, the market is barely holding its
uptrend. Moreover, for the first time since late 2014, the longer term momentum indicator (MACD)
has turned down. This indicator can whipsaw in the months ahead, but the downturn is bearish
for now. Note as well that there has been no negative cross in the MACD yet, so that there is no
confirmation of a downtrend ahead.  SPX Monthly

My weekly cyclical fundamental indicator has been in an uptrend since early 2016. It has turned
sloppy during Q1, but is not headed down fast enough to cause much concern. The US economy
may be peaking in terms of growth momentum and this suggests we may see some slowing of
top line sales growth ahead as well as some pressure on pretax profit margins. On the plus
side, the business sector will benefit from a lower tax rate and earnings should continue growing.
The Fed has turned more restrictive in policy. It is shrinking its balance sheet and the monetary
base has flattened out as well. Bank asset growth is modest relative to economic momentum so
that, in all, there is insufficient liquidity growth in the system to support rising stock prices. This
leaves the market dependent on share buybacks by companies and foreign inflows from offshore
investors. With short rates rising, there is a challenge ahead for the SPX p/e multiple. On the
plus side a cyclical advance underway in  inflation has been strikingly humble. You can also
watch to see if equities might benefit from rotation out of bonds if inflation perks up a little more.
In all, thin porridge for the bulls.

Monday, March 26, 2018

SPX -- Quickie

News that the US and China were exploring a trade agreement behind the scene triggered off a
relief rally today, with the SPX rallying off the 200 day m/a trend support. Traders also liked the
double bottom on closing lows.   SPX Daily

We will just have to see whether the two parties can up with a suitable compromise. In the mean-
time you can watch to see if the SPX can rally enough to reverse downtrends in the 25 day ma, and
the RSI, MACD and trend indicators. You need to take care here because the first attempt to 'buy
the dip' in early Feb. did not work, with this indicating a loss of the level of high confidence we
saw throughout last year and into Jan. of '18.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

SPX -- Weekly

Back in late Jan. '18, I argued that the SPX had carried up to such a large premium to its 40 wk. m/a
that history showed there was but in a 1 in 4 chance it would trend significantly higher over the
next six odd months or so. Since then, it has gone into corrective mode and, based on the RSI and
stochastic measures, it has fallen from heavy overbought down to neutral. The market is again
testing its 40 wk. m/a, and all of the premium has gone out of it. Momentum, based on the MACD
reading, is still elevated but is now negative as it trends down. The SPX is now sitting right at
longer term trend support and a further sharp downward break would signal a termination of the
advance at least until a new base at lower levels could be established.  SPX Weekly

That the market did not break down last week but exited as a cliffhanger instead suggests the bulls
are trying to buy time to see if investors now think rising short rates and a protectionist trade action
between the major economic powers -- the US and China -- cloud the outlook sufficiently to
warrant further price erosion. Restrictive trade action so far is mild enough that the market should
not worry, but we do not know if further actions could come along to create more substantial and
palpable risk. I know what should happen between the US and China on this subject, but what is
likely to happen is the obvious critical thing. It will be very interesting to see if traders are
confident next week to rally the market based on the current prospect of only modest economic


Sunday, March 18, 2018

March Overview

The best guess here is that the US economy is experiencing an interim momentum peak with a
mild and short lived slowdown to follow. This peaking process will be the third one since the
economy began to recover from its deeply recessed base back in 2009. My indicators and
observations of inventory levels now suggest the slowdown will not be as long or as steep as they
were following interim peaks in 2011 and 2014. Business profits and real disposable incomes are
benefiting from the large tax cuts recently enacted and slowdowns here will likely be far less
pronounced. With the quantitative tightening of monetary liquidity (QT) having displaced QE,
the stock market will likely remain focused on economic momentum going forward so any
negative reaction in the stock market to a slowdown should be mild.

Trump's first round of protectionism  -- duties on imported steel and aluminum -- looks like it
may resolve into an old fashioned extortion program. the second wave may target China's large
export balance in the US and could be tougher and involve some nasty blow back from China.
This potential trade spat could shake stock market confidence more significantly.

The indicators still show no very substantial inflation potential ahead for the US. My longer
range indicators suggest a much stronger ramp up of inflation pressure, but this is yet to show

I am expecting the Fed to continue to raise short rates in a temperate manner, but I think the
Fed could turn more aggressive later in the year if economic growth picks up again as I expect.

It will be instructive to see if the economic slowdown out ahead in the short run triggers a further
downswing in longer term Treasury yields.

As of now there seems to be little potential for the development of the kind of cyclical credit
squeeze  that normally pre-dates a recession. Liquidity growth is slowing, but short term credit
demand remains exceedingly mild still with worthy borrowers preferring the long end of the

Bobby Three Sticks (Robert Mueller 111) continues to close in on Trump and as he does, there
may be further push back from The Donald. This could prove disconcerting to the markets if
some sort of judicial crisis emerges.