Stock Market Investing: Technical/Fundamental Battle, Investment Strategy: Ride the Gravy Train, FOMC Policy, Consumer Credit, Busi. Bankruptcy

Stock Market Investing: A battle between investment disciplines has developed over the last 3 weeks. As discussed in the Oct. 28th post, numerous warning signs of a technical nature are flashing. However, last week’s news headlines were replete with US$ bearish/equity market bullish fundamental data. Which discipline will ultimately prevail, technical or fundamental? The answer is unclear, for now we remain bullish with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Investment Strategy: Never fight the trend. If the equity markets want to advance we will gladly participate and enjoy the ride. Stay focused on the areas of the market that have the strongest fundamentals for moving higher; namely the commodity space as this rally is pure and simple a vote against the US$. Remain over-weighted in the precious metals. The relative out-performance of this group was significant during the last market sell off which was, I will humbly remind you, anticipated by RCM.

Now, I would like to take you on a journey through some of the key events of last week. My intention is to reduce the noise generated from traditional news outlets and focus your attention on the important issues driving the markets. You will see how these issues have led to the resumption of the US$ breakdown and the mirror image breakout of the equity markets.

We will begin with some excerpts from the FOMC meeting on Nov. 4th. There was an expectation that the Fed may change wording to appear more US$ supportive. In the prior two weeks, the simple possibility of a discussion about an exit strategy for the current liquidity glut was used as an excuse by traders to bolster the US$. However, as you will read below, the Fed has no intention of changing the policy at this time…

ECONX Summary of FOMC policy statement; maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent
…Household spending appears to be expanding but remains constrained by ongoing job losses, sluggish income growth, lower housing wealth, and tight credit. Businesses are still cutting back on fixed investment and staffing, though at a slower pace; they continue to make progress in bringing inventory stocks into better alignment with sales.

Although economic activity is likely to remain weak for a time, the Committee anticipates that policy actions to stabilize financial markets and institutions, fiscal and monetary stimulus, and market forces will support a strengthening of economic growth and a gradual return to higher levels of resource utilization in a context of price stability. With substantial resource slack likely to continue to dampen cost pressures and with longer-term inflation expectations stable, the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time. (Is this a boldfaced lie? Surely the Fed knows inflation is a currency event, so why pretend there is no inflation when the US$ is collapsing in value? Simple: the scenario is called “between a rock and a hard place.” If the Fed admits inflation is a problem then easy liquidity policies are more difficult to maintain.)

In these circumstances, the Federal Reserve will continue to employ a wide range of tools to promote economic recovery and to preserve price stability. The Committee will maintain the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and continues to anticipate that economic conditions, including low rates of resource utilization, subdued inflation trends, and stable inflation expectations, are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate for an extended period.

To provide support to mortgage lending and housing markets and to improve overall conditions in private credit markets, the Federal Reserve will purchase a total of $1.25 trln of agency mortgage-backed securities and about $175 bln of agency debt…(Logic suggests rates must remain low while the Fed is buying said debt.) In order to promote a smooth transition in markets, the Committee will gradually slow the pace of its purchases of both agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities and anticipates that these transactions will be executed by the end of the first quarter of 2010….

…And so the US$ began to lose its bid the minute this story broke on Wednesday last week. In response, the price of Gold rallied and the precious metals mining companies ended the week at new highs on major volume. Interestingly, this group has seen a lot of volume accumulation during a time when the rest of the equity markets are seeing volume selling and/or low volume rallies. This is one sure reason for the strong relative price out-performance the group has enjoyed.

Why does the Fed have no intention of changing policy? Because the economy is in trouble, plain and simple…

September Consumer Credit -$14.8 bln vs -$10.0 bln consensus, prior revised to -$9.9 bln from -$12.0 bln

As expected, consumer credit fell for the eighth consecutive month. Credit declined $14.8 billion in September, far worse than the consensus forecast of -$10.0 billion. The consumer credit decline for August was revised up to -$9.9 billion from -$12.0 billion. The reason for the decline in consumer credit has not changed. Consumers continue to believe they too highly leveraged and are working to repay their debts.

At the same time, banks are worried about possible loan defaults, and in return, they have tightened lending conditions and pulled available credit from even the most credit worthy borrowers.

…Without the consumer there will not be a sustained economic recovery. Furthermore, the state of small business in America would suggest consumer credit is not likely to see a recovery any time soon…

Business bankruptcy filings increased 7% in October – WSJ reports business bankruptcy filings jumped in October, reversing two consecutive months of declining commercial filings and indicating that bankruptcies could continue to rise as the economy struggles to stabilize.
…Add to business bankruptcy problems the number of banks going bankrupt themselves and you get a morbid U.S. economic picture demanding Fed leniency

Nine U.S. banks seized in largest one-day haul
– reports U.S. authorities seized nine failed banks, the most in a single day since the financial crisis began and the latest stark sign that substantial parts of the nation’s banking industry are being crippled by bad loans.

Last month, 7,771 businesses filed for bankruptcy protection, compared to 7,271 that sought shelter from creditors in September, according to new data from Automated Access to Court Electronic Records, or AACER. After two months of decline, the 7% rise in commercial filings shows that businesses are still struggling to access financing and are facing weak demand for their products..

Five more banks fail – 120 for the year – CNN CNN reports five banks failed late Friday, bringing the 2009 tally to 120. The biggest to fall was United Commercial Bank of San Francisco, which had 63 U.S. branches as well as operations in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The bank held deposits totaling $7.5 billion.

A couple of weeks ago, we warned the “equity markets are trading at these lofty levels because of liquidity not reality and if the Fed-controlled gravy train of easy credit stops, then trouble will ensue.” Well, when you combine recent Fed comments with terrible economic data the result is a gravy train of liquidity that continues to roll and keep equity markets buoyant.

Meanwhile, in this Greek tragedy we are watching unfold, the reciprocal of stronger equity markets is a weak currency. The US$ declines as economic numbers worsen and to add insult to very serious injury, the carry traders are having a field day. I warned “The U.S. $ carry trade will gain steam if European economic recovery/inflation outpaces the U.S. and leads to rate increases”. It seems with every passing week this prophecy gains momentum and the US$ value declines…

Australia raises rates for second straight month – NY Times reports Australia’s central bank on Tuesday raised its benchmark interest rate for the second month in a row, as widely expected, and suggested a gradual withdrawal of stimulus measures amid mounting evidence that the Australian economy is rapidly picking up speed. The increase in its key cash rate, by a quarter-percentage point to 3.5%, makes Australia the only country in the world to have ventured two successive rate increases this year.

Inflationary pressure returns as UK PPI rises – DJ reports U.K. input producer prices rose unexpectedly in October, suggesting that inflationary pressures could be building after remaining muted over the past year, official data released Friday showed. Prices paid by factories for raw materials rose to a 16-month high of 2.6% on the month in October compared with a 0.2% fall in September. On the year input prices rose 0.1%, that was the first annual increase since February, and compares with a steep 6.2% year-on-year decline in September, the Office for National Statistics said. The gains came as a surprise. Economists, on average, were expecting a 0.5% fall on the month and a 6.5% year-on-year drop.

About Bret Rosenthal

Interpreting the news that moves markets. Principal of RCM, LLC, and founding partner of the Fortune's Favor Family of Funds
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