Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Clear your mind for a second and forget that there are these things called bonds, that there is a European economic zone called the EU, and that a small little island country called Greece owes a boat load of money to just about everyone.  Don't you feel calm and relaxed?  I thought you might.  Now that you've erased from your consciousness any troubling aspects related the global economic reality, we can focus on good thoughts and ponder just how great things are getting in the USA.  Are you ready?  Let's hit it!

The Employment Index is a metric I like to follow because it gives us a pretty good look at what is doing when it comes to on-line job listings.  January is usually a down month, so we can't get too worried about a decline following the year-end holiday.  Despite the drop, we have see a pretty consistent improvement in year-over-year terms where listings have been on a steady 8.5% to 9% increase over the previous year.

It is critical that we don't see a continued slowdown in the trend here through February as it usually marks the turning point for online job listings for the year and typically we see a peak in the late summer and early fall months.

The Maestro, Alan Greenspan, watched the prices on scrap metal as an indicator of financial expansion.  Who are we to argue with the greatest money printer and bubble blower of all time?  Scrap prices were in a serious decline until December when almost every asset on the planet caught a bid.  The move up may indicate that global inflationary forces are at once at work within our economic system.

I wanted to include this information without further comment.  If you missed the recent post on this data, please go to the link at - WHAT'S UP WITH THE PO' FOLK

The Bloomberg Financial Conditions Index is still below the 0.00 level which highlights in some improbable way that the economy and markets are still in contraction mode.  How is this possible when market indices are nearing October 2007 levels?  Who knows, but the Financial Conditions Index simply reveals that we are still in a recessionary mode, although we are very close to breaking out into the clear again.  Interestingly, each time we have approached a level that was positive or near 1.00, our markets have corrected significantly.

The USD's travels to the lower right corner of my chart below puts the US situation in a pretty clear light as we can really evaluate the longer term trend of our currency.  Don't ever question whether out-going Treasury Secretary Geithner wants a strong currency....(cue Chinese student and Goatmug laughter!!).  Another interesting point is that the USD is near the level we saw in October 1, 2007 at $77.81 right as things US markets attempted for a retest of equity highs achieved in July of 2007.  (On 1/31/12 we ended at $77.86)

Here is a 1 year view of the USD Index.  The fall of the USD in the last two months has been the fuel for much of the stock market rally.  What happens if the fall doesn't continue?

I'm about to throw the Baltic Dry Goods Index in the pile of "Who Knows What is Happening Here" as we continue to see a monster decline in spot shipping rates for global dry goods transport.  We have heard all of the reasons for the decline, that there is an over-supply of ships coming into the market, depressing the spot price.  We've heard that China is no longer importing commodities at the rate they did previously.  The one serious take away one can make is that shippers are enduring quite a collapse in prices as this index just a few years ago was over $100,000.  It is hard to imagine any company being able to withstand an implosion of 95% of their pricing.  Did I mention these firms are more debt than Greece?  Can't be a good recipe.

Below is a picture of a 25 year history of 6 month Libor rates.  At .75% we can see the affect that this prolonged period of stress has had on lending rates.  In an effort to provide extreme liquidity in the face of bank distrust, central banks have driven inter-bank lending to historic lows.

Euribor also gives us a tip that something coordinated is going on with the banking environment.  Notice in November rates began going down.  As central banks goosed the system we've seen lending rates decline and equity markets rise.  Coincidence?  Probably not, recall that equity market have simply risen without a red day for the last 2 straight months.

Building on the theme from the Euribor chart above we examine the Ted Spread which is another stress or fear indicator.  According to the Ted Spread, everything is just getting finer!

The year has progressed right along the path that I anticipated it would and as I laid out in my 2012 Predictions post titled CONFIDENCE LOST; 13 For 2012.  What I mean by, "it's progressed like I laid out", I mean that we are moving much higher in the indices and we are making a strong run into the late April or May top we'll see.  Does this mean that there won't be a few down days?  Can it be possible to have a 5% drop here and still keep this thesis in tact?  Of course, in fact, I am looking for a  drop here as even the $SPX is up 8% year-to-date.  If anything, we'd really have to question what would propel the market higher in such a short time wouldn't we? (Tongue and cheek of course!)

I looked back at a few of the items that I was really centered on in the predictions post and I highlighted a few that have easily hit their targets.  WNR and UGA have already hit $17 and $54 respectively.  Each of these have posted pretty respectable gains since I put those on.  I mentioned that VLO could go to $27 and I still believe that is easily in the cards, but it has clearly lagged WNR, (which was and is my favorite).  Here is the deal though, with almost a 50% gain in WNR and a health 20% profit in UGA, is there any reason to press my luck?  No!  In fact, a drop here would be a perfect set up to leg in and rebuy my positions for a move higher into late April and May.  Profit is profit!

I am still very bullish on gasoline and am staying with that slant through the next few months.  I still think there is a possibility that we move as much as 8% to 10% lower in the next couple of weeks.  

I am trying to keep an open mind about several positions that look very suspect.  I've played around with very small positions on XHB trying to find a successful entry on a short position, but have managed to take a few flesh wounds in the process and have been glad to have stops all the way up as XHB defied gravity last week.  The open mind here comes in play in that this housing etf could very well scream higher to $23 which is the September 2008 level.  XHB bulls are saying that new housing looks to be improving, that the mortgage settlement will clear the path for more new homes, and housing financing rates are low.  A bear might just hear that and say that lots more housing supply is coming online and no one can get financing anyway.

From a chartist perspective I see that XHB has pushed above resistance at the $19.90 level, but has dropped back through it over the last two days AND was trading previously at a level 2 standard deviations above the 50 day SMA on this 3 Yr Weekly Chart.  I like to think that stocks that trade that high above the overall trend will fade back down to at least the overall trend line, so this has been the basis for my short attempts.  

Finally, I don't have the courage to short this one, but if there is a chart that shows something WAY above it's trend and trading well above 2 standard deviations, it would be this little company.  Everything in me says to short it, the last 3 years of history keep me from doing it.

Domestic economic stuff looks pretty good right now and perhaps the US economy is getting on track.  In early January I anticipated a continued improvement in economic metrics in the first half of this year.  I was a bit worried when two of my favorite writers disagreed fully with my analysis and made projections that the first half of the year would be flat and the back half of the year would be strong.  I think both writers felt that the election cycle would come into play and markets would rally.  I feel almost vindicated as Chris Puplava has intimated that he actually sees a reversal setting up in his outlook where the first half is good and the back half is....not so good, which aligns with my stated market direction.  My other favorite writer also has altered his forecast so there I'm not surrounded by folks that agree with my way of thinking.  (Perhaps it is time to change my view?)

For me, the key is that if we have continued Federal Reserve action we will see gasoline surge higher. As gasoline exceeds $4.00 in early April and May, we will see an immediate drop in US domestic economic activity and all these happy thoughts we've been training ourselves to have won't mean much as our growth grinds to a halt.  I've have more on this topic this weekend.

Be Careful!


Goatmug is an investor that cares about you and your family. Goatmug's Blog - Financial Perspectives From The Mountain Top is a collection of thoughts on our economy and how it impacts the lives of investors and average people. While several specific investments are named in many of his posts, these articles are simply invitations for you to do your own research and reference to these securities does not constitute financial advice. Your situation is complex and unique and you should seek professional assistance with your trading and investing. Please visit Goatmug and share your comments at