"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Thursday, October 24, 2013

So much for China concerns

Yesterday the focus was on concerns about a potential slowing of Chinese growth as officials there let it be known that they were attempting to throttle back a housing market that is showing serious signs of price inflation. That led to widespread selling of growth related commodities across the board as evidenced by the sharp selloff in crude oil ( a good deal of this was related to the increase in crude oil stocks as well) and in copper, a particularly growth sensitive metal. It also tripped up gold.

Talk about a change in sentiment in one day! Today the tone was set by more abysmal economic data coming out of the US. Factory activity showed the slowest gains in a year. If that was not bad enough, a larger than expected number of people applied for first time jobless benefits. Both served as a gloomy reminder of how poor the labor market is here in the US. Throw in comments by Fed governor Evans, that the sky is basically the limit when it comes to Quantitative Easing and the size of the Fed's balance sheet, and the Dollar struggled all day while gold shot higher with traders there now firmly convinced that there will be no let up in the Fed bond and MBS buying program anytime soon.

What seemed to be happening was a near reversal of yesterday's trade in which macro funds were throwing away commodities. Today even crude oil managed to bounce well off its intraday lows and trades tied to the weaker Dollar surfaced.

In all honesty, I am having a great deal of difficulty reading many of these markets as their price movements are becoming increasingly unpredictable and disconnected from underlying fundamental realities. In this I am not alone. Many traders are worn out from the herky-jerky price swings, most without rhyme or reason and are scaling way back in position size or sitting out altogether. Both make a lot of sense right now. If you cannot understand why a market is doing what it is doing, be careful. That is not the time to try being a hero.

What we are witnessing is this larger macro trade distorting many individual commodity markets. Let me explain - there are certain funds that are long-only funds which offer their clients exposure to the long side of the commodity sector in general. They have not been doing all that well of late truth be told. But, and this is a big "but", their theme mainly consists of keying off any weakness in the US Dollar and then buying across the board in the commodity sector as they benchmark to one of the various commodity indices out there. That means they buy BLINDLY, with no regard whatsoever to the individual fundamentals of supply/demand in those markets.

The idea behind their buying is that weakness in the US Dollar is going to eventually result in inflation and thus they push the "buy tangible assets" theme. So into the commodity markets they come crashing, with their various buy orders shoving prices higher. Then, in those particular markets where the fundamentals are bearish, sellers come in to meet that buying. When these index funds take a break from buying, the price then falls off during the session only to come right back up as they buy once again. The result is a series of maddening price swings which confuses floor traders and others alike who are attempting to get a handle on the market.

The problem this is creating is that no one really understands when this sort of buying will fade and when it will come in because it is tied to the vagaries of the currency markets. Right now the Dollar is having trouble moving higher because traders are convinced that the Fed is going to remain on the dovish side until at least March of next year. But just like yesterday, when we get some sort of hint that China might be tightening monetary policy or trying to slow price pressures across their economy, the hedge funds come in and press it from the short side. If there is any Dollar weakness, the index funds come in a buy and back and forth it goes.

I honestly do not have any idea when this is going to end. I wish it would but it is the spawn of those monetary elites that sit on the FOMC. When you have an entire economy's well being or lack thereof completely addicted to an endless ocean of funny money, it is going to result in all manner of malinvestment and price distortion.

That is why I am hesistant to read too much into any one day's price action. Who the hell knows what we are going to get the next day anymore?

I will make one rather easy prediction however - by the end of the year, we are going to read of a lot more hedge funds going bust. These whipsawing markets are murdering most of them.