Saturday, May 14, 2011

Without Vision the People Perish; and the S&P 1361 Reversal

Nobody can see the future, except of course for a real prophet. I’m not one. Real prophets come along to show us the way very rarely. One of the signs of a true prophet is often that they are run out of town on rails, long before the world realizes that they actually had a glimpse of the future and its too late to heed their warning.

To be clear, a real prophet is focused on more important issues than advances and reversals in the S&P 500. If a financial market analyst tells you they actually know exactly what will occur in the future in any given market, they are selling you a bill of goods. The point of technical analysis and the study of stock market cycles are to develop valid methods that increase your odds of anticipating important future turns in the market. The ulitmate objective of technical and market cycle analysis is to increase your odds of being on the right side of the market in your investing and trading. Obviously, being on the wrong side of a market cycle greatly increases your risks and can put a dent in your trading and investment performance.

This brings us to the technical tool of Fibonacci ratios and the 1361 target. Fibonacci ratios in market price moves give you a heads up regarding a rapidly rising probability that a turn in a market cycle could be ahead. The Fibonacci target might not trigger a turn, but investing and trading is a game of odds. As an investor or trader, you want to put the odds on your side. This makes Fibonacci ratios a form of leading indicator, meaning they tell you something in advance as opposed to being lagging indicators, which inform you of a new trend after the change in trend has occurred.

Applying Fibonacci ratios correctly is one of the most rewarding endeavors in technical analysis of global financial markets. The chart below demonstrates the Level 1 grid in the S&P 500, which is the 1982 low and the 2007 high. The Level 1 grid is the most important long-term move in a market. The grid includes not just the Fibonacci ratios of 61.8%, 38.2%, 23.6%, 15.4%, etc. but it also draws the compliment ratios over 61.8% on the way to 100% of the entire move. This means that 76.4%, 85.4%, etc. are also Fibonacci ratios in the grid.

Those who don’t think Fibonacci ratios can be used to anticipate a move in the market, need to study the chart below. This chart was created with Long Wave Dynamics, LLC. Market Cycle Dynamics (MCD) software, which is slated for release later this month. It is important to notice where the global financial crisis and the market’s descent into the abyss in March 2009 made its infamous turn, which was right smack on the 38.2% inverse golden ratio. The golden ratio of the Level 1 grid at 1013 stopped the decline last summer, after 1228, the 76.4% L1 target stopped the rally last spring. Clearly, you should always pay attention to Level 1 Fibonacci targets in any market or security you invest in or trade. The business cycles (aka Kitchin cycles) since 1982 are also included on this monthly chart and identified using the 21 period fast stochastics.
Level 1
The Level 1 Fibonacci grid in the S&P 500 is important currently because a reversal just occurred at a Level 1 target price. Mr. Market is now back under the latest Level 1 target in this grid, the 84.5% 1361.06 target. A Level 1 target in any market index, individual security, bond or commodity, greatly increases the odds for an important market turn. A turn is not guaranteed, but the odds of a turn rise sharply at Level 1 price targets.

The Fibonacci Level 2 grids can be generated in two different ways. The first way is you create a Level 2 grid between two adjacent Fibonacci ratios in the Level 1 grid, using the adjacent Level 1 targets as 0% and 100% in the new grid. The market turns on the targets in Level 2 grids will change your views of investing and trading forever.

Another way to create a Level 2 range is to take one of the Dynamic Web Ranges in the Level 1 grid and create a Level 2 grid out of the high and low in that range. Dynamic Web Ranges in a Fibonacci Grid are as follows; Solitary Range 0-38.2%, Normal Range 38.2-61.8%, Frenzy Range 61.8-100%. In the S&P 500 Level 1 chart above the Frenzy range runs from the golden ratio at 1013 up to the 2007 high at 1576. When you create a Level 2 Dynamic Web Range of the Level 1 Frenzy Range, you find that the 1361 target becomes the golden ratio target in this Level 2 range. Investors and traders ignore golden ratios in markets at your peril.
Level 2
You have to look at the Level 1 and Level 2 Fibonacci grid along with other indicators. Stochastics are a leading indicator. The time cycles are also a technical indicator. The regular business cycle has been regularly flowing from boom to bust for hundreds if not thousands of years, and the one that began in March 2009 has reached its mid-point. There are indications the current business cycle is rolling over and could begin its descent earlier than cycles in recent years. Then there are the smaller cycles. The Wall cycle that just began on March 16, 2011 has had a nice 10% run. It is showing signs of being in the topping phase. There are nine Wall cycles in every business cycle.

Getting back to the subject of real prophets and figuring out the future. I was working on this article with a fresh cup of hot coffee, had already started with the awkward prophet theme combined with Fibonacci ratios, and was thinking about scraping it. It was then that out of the blue a friend emailed me a Biblical reference, suggesting it has implications for the pricing mechanism of markets that I should ponder. Maybe it was a sign that I should pass it along for you to ponder as well dear reader. 

The reference was Amos 8: 5-8. All of you Biblical scholars know, Amos was a real prophet. He wrote, “When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales by deceit, that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, even sell bad wheat? The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob; ‘Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall the land not tremble for this, and everyone mourn who dwells in it? All of it shall swell like the river Nile, heave and subside, like the river of Egypt.’” 

Amos’ prophecy as we read it from 2500 years in the future gives one pause. Rising wheat prices have sowed the seeds of revolution around the world, in part due to quantitative easing, modern day fancy words for weighted scales and under-sized measures. Crashing silver prices from reductions in allowable margin debt are in the news as speculators get their positions called, and some loose their shirts, and maybe their shoes. The bankers are privatizing their profits and socializing their losses as fast as they can. Currency wars, where nations are debasing their currencies to increase their exports are accepted monetary policy. The mighty Mississippi is rising.

It is not a prophecy, just technical analysis, but the increased odds that the S&P 500 reversal at the Fibonacci 1361.06 target portends a global shift from risk on to risk off is a matter all investors and traders in global markets should consider. It is possible the 1361 target is exceeded, and the post 2009 rally heads higher to the next Level 1 target at 1443. The objective of Fibonacci grid and market cycle technical analysis is to identify the high probability entry, exit and stop-loss targets that protect your profits and limit your losses. Prophets and profits are two different subjects, but both have implications for your future, so keep an open mind, and a sharp eye on S&P 500 1361.

See the original article >>

Cotton Prices Headed to New Annual Highs Despite Bumper Global Crop

Cotton futures have dropped dramatically, about 25%, since their highs of near $2.10/bale hit earlier this year. But strong demand for cotton will push the new-crop annual average price to a new record high despite anticipated record-high global cotton production. 

USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates released May 11 show that both U.S. and word ending stocks are on the rise. U.S. 2011-12 ending stocks are projected at 2.5 million bales, 43% above the 2010-11 carryout. Despite that sharp increase, projected ending stocks are the second lowest since 1990-91. USDA pegs the average cotton price for the upcoming crop at a record 95 cents to $1.15/lb.
USDA left U.S. cotton production at 18.1 million bales, unchanged from earlier reports, but says abandonment will be high. Nearly the entire state of Texas, which accounts for more than 40% of the U.S. crop, is battling extremely dry conditions. “Cotton acres are still questionable. Even in the Coastal Bend region, the cotton is not growing well,” says Carl Anderson, extension economist at Texas A&M University.
The area of the state from just south of Lubbock through the rolling plains to Wichita Falls, where about 3 million acres of dry land cotton is grown, is too dry to germinate seed. “We still need a couple of inches of rain before they can plant,” Anderson says. USDA projects growers will harvest 10.8 million acres out of an anticipated 12.6 million planted acres, with most of the abandoned acres likely to come from Texas.
“There’s a huge amount of uncertainty with new-crop cotton,” says Brad Chapman, cottonseed merchandiser with APEX, Eldridge, Iowa. “There are floods in the Delta and dryness out West.” New-crop cottonseed prices moved higher following the May WASDE report. Of the two areas, Texas is of the greatest concern.
“We hear it’s tough to prep the ground and there are water restrictions,” Chapman says.

Global outlook

World cotton production is expected to rise to 124.7 million bales, the largest world crop ever, according to USDA. India, China, and Pakistan will account for 70% of the 10.1-million-bale increase in global cotton production. Despite a bumper crop, USDA expects easing supplies along with anticipated global economic growth to boost world demand by 3 million bales. Overall world demand, however, will remain below its peak levels of 2006-07 and 2007-08, USDA notes.
USDA also estimates world trade in cotton will hit 40 million bales, as Chinese demand rises. World ending stocks are projected to increase to nearly 48 million bales, a 13% increase from the previous year, but the stocks-to-consumption ratio of 40% will remain relatively tight, according to the report.
“Old-crop cotton is tight,” says Anderson, and that pushed prices to unsustainable levels earlier this year. “China started to panic and ran cotton up to more than $2 per pound, then other countries began to bid for what cotton the United States had. The market was probably 20% overvalued.” Current December futures near $1.20 look much more reasonable, Anderson says.

See the original article >>

Wheat prices realign after Ensus confirms shutdown


Europe's biggest wheat ethanol plant has confirmed's report that it is to mothball its operations, in a move viewed as depressing London wheat prices on a positive day for prices on other markets.
Ensus said on Friday that it would "temporarily" close its UK plant, designed to turn 1.2m tonnes of wheat a year into ethanol, to "ensure the long-term health of the business for both our customers and our employees".
The company blamed the shutdown on "depressed market conditions" caused by double whammy of slower-than-expected uptake of bioethanol, reflecting delays in the implementation of European Union consumption targets, and strong competition from exported US supplies of the biofuel.
"At the moment the margins are just not sufficient for us to continue running," Peter Sopp, the Ensus chief executive, said.
"We are confident in the future of the business in another two-to-four months, but we have to come off for a short period."
Price impact
On London's futures market, the shutdown of a plant which - with the Vivergo site being developed by Associated British Foods, BP and DuPont - had sufficient capacity to swallow up the UK's exportable wheat surplus, depressed prices of wheat for near-term delivery.
The July lot closed down 1.1% at £187.00 a tonne, the lowest for the contract for nearly two months.
However, contracts for delivery further ahead improved, in line with a rebound in wheat prices on global markets.
London's November contract gained 1.6% to £175.25 a tonne.
The Ensus shutdown "has definitely had an effect", a UK grain trader told, questioning whether some investors might have acted before news of the closure became widely available.
Another said: "The July contract has been banjaxed. In one swoop, an extra 200,000 tonnes of wheat which now won't be used has been landed on the market."
Over the last week, the July contract has fallen by 4%, while the November lot has gained more than 2%. The discount of the November lot to the July contract has more than halved.

Dilemma for Brazil mills as sugar moves to surplus


Czarnikow has added its voice to those forecasting a return by the sugar market to surplus in 2011-12, potentially pressuring prices – and handing a dilemma to mills in Brazil, the top producer.
The sugar merchant said that world sugar production would, after three successive seasons of deficit, return to exceeding consumption, a forecast which echoes similar assessments from many other analysts.
The forecast came shortly before the International Sugar Organisation estimated the 2011-12 surplus at "more than" 3m tonnes.
Kingsman, the Swiss-based consultancy, on Thursday hiked its forecast for the world sugar surplus in the marketing year, which it runs from April to March, from 5.607m tonnes to 10.575m tonnes, after a deficit last season it pegged at about 100,000 tonnes.
Czarnikow said that the return to surplus would be driven by a "surge" of 10m tonnes in world production – driven this time by other countries as well as Brazil, which accounted for nearly half growth in output last season.
Brazil's output growth will slow to 1.5m tonnes, although this will be enough to ensure that its exports this season are "the largest on record", including 25m tonnes from the important Centre South district.
Total Centre South production is estimated at 35m tonnes, from cane harvest up 3.3% at 575m tonnes.
To cut, or not to cut
However, the potential jump in output presents a dilemma to Brazilian mill, over whether to stick with plans that many had to build up their cane harvest later, when a more mature crop will offer greater sugar yields, or to cut now, while prices remain high.
The yield penalty from early harvest of cane - which, with its average age raised to 4.2 years by low replanting, is considered past maximum potential - was evident in data from industry group Unica on Thursday showing sugar content so far this season down 11.3% to less than 100kg per tonne of cane.
Later-harvested cane tends to provide a higher sugar concentration.
But prices are offering mills "every incentive to capture high early-season returns", with domestic sugars trading at the equivalent of more than $0.30 a pound "and strong spot physical premiums for prompt exports", Czarnikow said.
If global plans to raise sugar output succeed, "the chance of prices staying high seems quite remote".
Financial squeeze
As an extra complication, Brazilian mills face political pressure for production of ethanol, rather than sugar, from cane, following a domestic shortage which has driven many motorists to favour gasoline, and the country to import the biofuel.
Furthermore, many mills are, despite high prices, still recovering from the global financial crisis.
A squeeze on investment is behind a reluctance to replant cane on cane plantings, and a fall to five in the number of mills that Unica expects to open this season.
"With much at stake, it will be interesting to see how the industry evolves and adjusts," Czarnikow said.

Sugar maket to return to surplus - and stay there


The sugar market is unlikely to return for at least the next two seasons to the kind of deficits which sent prices to multi-decade highs, the International Sugar Organisation said, as it joined a rash of observers on market forecasts.
Sugar production will exceed consumption "more than 3m tonnes" in 2011-12, the influential intergovernmental group said in its first forecast for the season.
And the ISO forecast a further "modest" surplus, of 1m-1.5m tonnes, for 2012-13, despite expecting a slowdown in growth in Brazil, the top producer, where cane yields are suffering "due to a further ageing of the cane [and an] increase in harvest mechanization".
The prospects of continued world surpluses meant that "at present, the possibility of the return of the large scale deficit seen by the world sugar market at the end of the previous decade looks rather remote".
On ISO estimates, which are based strictly on an October-to-September crop year, the world sugar production deficit totalled 15m tonnes over 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Data torrent
The ISO's forecast comes amid a rash of sugar data, with Kingsman, the Swiss-based analysis group, on Thursday near-doubling its forecast for the 2011-12 surplus, pegging it at 10.575m tonnes. Kingsman uses an April-to-March crop year, which avoids cutting through the Brazilian sugar season.
London-based sugar merchant Czarnikow forecast a "return to surplus" without naming a figure.
Also on Friday, the Indian Sugar Mills Association cut its estimate for 2010-11 output in India, the second-ranked producer, by 800,000 tonnes to 24.2m tonnes.
Late on Thursday Brazilian industry association Unica revealed a 69% slump to 795,000 tonnes in Brazil's production so far this season, a decline reflecting a weaker sugar content in cane, besides the lack of crop left uncut from the previous harvest, as there was a year ago.
The ISO estimated world consumption in 2011-12 growing by 3.7m tonnes to 169.8m tonnes, but production rising by 3.4m tonnes in Brazil, and by "not less than" 1.5m tonnes overall in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.


By Charles Rotblut

The recent plunge in silver prices provides lessons for all investors, regardless of whether you invest in commodities or not.

As I started writing this on Thursday morning, iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV) was down by 5.7%. Though significant by itself, the decline was just the latest in what has been a very bad month for SLV shareholders. Since the start of May, the ETF has fallen from $46.88 to this morning’s $32.42, a drop of nearly 31%. The drop is even worse when you consider that SLV hit an intraday high of $48.35 on April 28.
Notice the volume bars at the bottom of the chart. Interest in the ETF has surged over the past six weeks. Any time a security jumps in price on high volume without a fundamental basis for doing so, trading becomes nothing more than a game of hot potato. Anyone who is simply trying to get in on the price action is banking on the greater fool theory–the hope that someone will pay an even higher price for the asset. Historical records going back to at least the 17th century Dutch tulip bulb bubble show the fallacy of such a strategy.

To be fair, the rally in silver was started in large part by the combination of the weaker U.S. dollar and fears about future inflation. As these concerns pushed gold prices higher, silver prices rose too. The theory is that a comparable valuation exists between gold and silver. The problem with this line of thinking is that over time the ratio of gold to silver prices has varied. The variance in comparative values between the two metals makes it difficult to pinpoint a magic ratio that suggests one metal is cheap or expensive relative to the other. Furthermore, when people have economic fears, they reach for gold; when people fear werewolves, they reach for silver.

Silver does have more industrial uses than gold, which mostly just sits there and glitters. The rise in silver prices was in no way justified by increased demand, however; a simple look at the economic data shows that. Rather higher gold prices and speculation accounted for the overwhelming majority of the gains in silver.

This brings me to an important point: If determining a valuation is difficult and price movement can’t be tied to changes in demand, then figuring out when to buy and sell becomes nothing more than a guess. The reason I don’t own SLV, or SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), is that I have problems valuing something with no cash flow associated with it. It’s always safer not to invest in something you can’t value, rather than guessing when to get in and out.

Precious metals do have a role as a hedge against currency devaluation. They have stored worth and tend to be uncorrelated with stocks over long periods of time. A broad basket of commodities may actually work even better for diversification purposes (I personally hold a small position in a commodity exchange-traded note (ETN)), though I cannot emphasis enough the importance of having a thorough understanding of what you are investing in.

Finally, if you do use price momentum to gauge when to buy into and sell out of a security, consider the fact that many other people are looking at the same charts as you are. So take the extra step and carefully evaluate the fundamentals. A security with a fundamental reason to appreciate (valuation, rising earnings, strong financials, etc.) is less risky than one that lacks a fundamental reason to rise.


By Carl Swenlin

Recently I found something interesting regarding our volume indicators. First, we have been observing that the Advance-Decline Volume Line has not confirmed the new price highs for many months (see chart below), and this condition has been reflected in all indicators that use A-D Volume numbers. This indicator is calculated daily by subtracting the volume of declining stocks and adding the volume volume of advancing stocks to a cumulative total. The problem with this indicator is that low-priced, high-volume stocks can have undue influence on the volume trend.
This week I realized that our Dollar-Weighted Volume (DWV) index was a better indicator for comparing price to volume, and confirming new price highs. It is calculated similarly to A-D Volume, but, additionally, volume for each stock is multiplied by the stock price, and that result is used for the cumulative total. The result is that we can see if net dollars are going into advancing or declining stocks. As you can see this version of volume analysis confirms the rising price trend of the bull market that began in 2009, as well as the series of new highs from the 2010 low to the present.
Another prominent feature on this chart is the obvious positive divergence that occurred at the bear market low in March 2010. At the time it would have been a strong sign that the bear market was over.

We have been collecting data for this indicator for years, but I have found it to be extremely boring because it usually tracks price movement so closely. As it turns out, that is a good thing, because it is a reliable confirming indicator. On the rare occasions when it doesn’t confirm price movement, it is even more valuable.

While DWV appears to be a useful tool in the short- and medium-term, in the longer-term the chart below shows that it has an upward bias and is of no use in that time frame. This upward bias is caused by the fact that prices during declines, obviously, keep getting lower and lower, so the price multiplier generates a smaller result, unless volume increases proportionately, which apparently it doesn’t. If I recall correctly, in general bear market volume tends to be lower than bull market volume.
The Nasdaq 100 chart of DWV profoundly emphasizes the long-term upward bias of DWV.
Bottom Line: The Dollar-Weighted Volume indicator is a valuable tool for confirming price performance in the short- and medium-term, and it is clearly superior to the traditional Advance-Decline Volume Line. It’s long-term upward bias makes it of no value in that time frame.
As far as I know, this indicator is exclusive to


By Keith Jurow

I’ve asserted in previous writings that buyers paying all-cash for properties have been keeping some of the worst bubble markets from collapsing. Inside Mortgage Finance, which surveys roughly 3,000 brokers each month and issues a monthly report, revealed at the end of March that a record 33.7% of property purchases nationwide were all-cash.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) conducts an Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey annually. The latest survey covering 2010 found that a record 59% of investors paid all-cash for their property. That figure was only 32% in 2006 and a mere 17% in 2004 according to previous NAR surveys.
For Broward County on the Florida east coast, the Southeast Florida MLS reported that a record 69% of all February property sales were all-cash purchases. revealed at the end of February that 54% of all sales in the three south Florida counties of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach were purchased with cash in the fourth quarter of 2010. In California, 30% of all 2010 sales were cash purchases. According to the highly-regarded California blog,, the average in that state over the last 10 years was a mere 12.9%.

Take a look at this amazing chart showing cash sales in Phoenix.
Notice that while cash purchases have been a substantial portion of Phoenix sales since early 2009, it reached a record 50% in January of this year.

Who are these all-cash buyers? Leif Swanson, the creator of this chart and an active Phoenix broker, explained to me that many were over 50 with plenty of liquid assets who could not stand the interest rates they were getting. This was also told to me by Jim McClelland, Sr., a major property “redeveloper” in Chicago who resold many of his foreclosure purchases to all-cash investors. Most were cash buyers who were 50+ years old and were tired of earning interest rates of 1% or less.

Can you blame these 50+ savers, especially those nearing retirement? Take at look at what has happened to their interest income because of the Fed’s policies.
A substantial number of these savers are what I consider to be reluctant real estate investors. They are being pulled into this arena by the plunge in their interest return. I strongly suspect that many have little sense of how much risk they are taking with their capital.

Consider this example from a March 1 article in the online Palm Beach Post about all-cash investors. One retired couple decided to buy a three-bedroom home for $149,000 in cash because they believed a home would bring a better return on their money than a CD or other investment. The wife said that “any kind of interest income is so low right now, we might as well put it into a house.” She went on to predict that “If prices go down any more, they’re not likely to go down appreciably.” Had she read the second issue of my Housing Market Report and its focus on Miami-Dade County, they might have reconsidered their decision to buy.

Or take this example from an early February article in the Wall Street Journal. A 62-year-old piano teacher saw a three-bedroom bungalow that was listed as a short sale last summer in Georgia. The desperate sellers had dropped the original asking price of $159,000 to $129,000 and then to $79,900. Sensing that the market was awful, she offered $50,000. The sellers accepted $52,000 in cash.

While these purchases may make good sense, they aren’t necessarily smart investments. On April 25, I spoke again to noted real estate writer, San Diego State University lecturer and investor Leonard Baron about purchasing investment properties with cash. He reiterated that these investors must do a careful due diligence analysis to see if the property makes financial sense. Link to his terrific 7-page due diligence checklist on his website for the tool to enable you to do this – On the right side of his homepage, you will see the table of contents for his book. Link to Chapter One and it will take you to the checklist. Just scroll down a little until you see it. You can print it out and then use it for your analysis. You’ll be glad you did.

Would most of these older, all-cash buyers be searching for investment properties now if interest rates had not been pushed down so dramatically by the Fed? Think about it. If you were either close to retirement or actually retired, would you be plunking down anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million or more in cash on a house or condo if the interest rates on your Treasury securities, CDs, bonds, or money market funds were at historical norms?

The vast majority of these cash buyers (excluding perhaps some foreign investors) are not speculators. If they can land a decent tenant, the investment might make good sense. Yet do they really have a good idea about the state of the housing market where they are investing their hard-earned savings? If I thought they did, I would not have launched my Housing Market Report.

On the basis of my in-depth research, it’s quite clear to me that the “normal” housing market in most major metropolitan areas is shrinking. The percentage of sales in these markets which are distressed properties – either foreclosures or short sales – is climbing steadily. Conversely, the percentage of homeowners wanting to sell who still have equity left in their property is declining. My goal is to inform readers why this will not turn around anytime soon.

What Would Really Bring about a Dollar Dive?

One of the things about reading the op-eds and various articles in the blogosphere is the tendency to hype the possibility of the collapse in this, or the collapse in that. The most recent “bubble” in this type of writing involved hyper-inflation, commodities (silver, anyone?) and the dollar. Now I read things like QEIII would bring about a collapse in the dollar [1] (as if anybody really thought QEIII was politically likely, even if it were advisable on economic grounds); or easy monetary policy would be the culprit. Here’s a choice quote from Jim Rogers:

“I would expect to see some serious problems in the foreseeable future…. By 2011, 2012, 2013, 2013, I don’t know when, we’re going to have an economic slowdown again,” he said. “This time it’s going to be a real disaster because the US cannot quadruple its debt again. Dr Bernanke cannot print staggering amounts of money again.”

“How much more can they print without a serious collapse of the US dollar?” he said.
I can’t figure out where that cited “quadruple” comes from. Debt held by the public (in current dollars) has not even tripled since G.W. Bush came into office, and has not even doubled since Obama came into office (see FREDII if you don’t believe me). As a share of GDP, it rose from 0.49 to 0.63 from 2009Q1 to 2010Q4. Oh, well. Time to drop the hyperbole, and look at some data.

Some Facts

To begin with, I think it useful to ask whether we’ve actually printed a lot of money, where money is defined as currency plus checking deposits, or currency plus savings deposits (what we who teach macroeconomics, or teach money and banking, call M1 and M2).
dollar1 economy
Figure 1: Log ratio of M1 to real GDP (blue) and M2 to real GDP. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: Federal Reserve Board via FREDII, and BEA, 2011Q1 advance release, NBER, and author’s calculations.

As I’ve noted before, the Fed has more than doubled the money base, but this is not the same as doubling the money stock. That could happen if the banks lend out the excess reserves, but that hasn’t happened as of yet. For a discussion of the correlation of money base growth and inflation, see this post.

Thinking about Stimulus, Monetary Policy, the Dollar, and Timing

I’ve read a lot about how deficits threaten the dollar. And certainly they can, but I think one has to have a more nuanced view than “reduce the deficit immediately, or the dollar crashes today”. To think about this in an organized fashion, it’s useful to consider the dollar’s value in the context of several models. First, think about the dollar in a portfolio balance model [2] [3]. In a static model version of the model, the current stock of US government debt relative to that of other countries’ stocks of government debt drives the risk premium on dollar assets. A stable relationship obtains if (1) preferences for government debt are constant, and (2) the correlation of relative returns are constant. But the story of the 2000′s, and in some sense the “saving glut”, is that the preference for US government debt has not been constant (e.g., [Caballero et al.]). Rather central banks have exhibited an upward demand shock for US government debt.

It is entirely possible that there will be a negative demand shock for US government debt, going forward. But the story of the last three years has been a series of shocks that have impelled flight to, not away from, US government debt. So, while it is conceivable that there will be no further sovereign debt shocks in the rest of the world (in which case the increase in US debt might very well induce a weakening of the currency), right now, with 2011 US net debt at 72.4% of GDP (IMF WEO April 2011), it is unclear why we should have a dllar crisis when the Euro area has a 66.9% ratio, UK at 75.1% and Japan at 127.8%.

This is not to deny that the debt trajectory is worrisome, with net debt approaching 85.7% in 2016. But that means one needs to do serious entitlement spending restraint and tax revenue increases that will take effect in the future, not nickel and dime-ing the one-fifth of total current budget accounted for by discretionary non-defense spending today.

That leads to the second point, that spending restraint and the early withdrawal of monetary stimulus now would exert a drag on growth, which would also weaken the dollar. A relapse in growth would also worsen the depression in tax revenues which accounts for a large part of the accumulation of debt during the Great Recession; hence, even in a portfolio balance model, too-early fiscal contraction could actually instigate a dollar dive.

There are other drivers for the dollar’s value. Figure 2 highlights the correlation between GDP and the dollar’s strength, over the last 28 years.
dollar2 economy
Figure 2: Log real value of USD against broad basket of currencies (blue) and log ratio of US real GDP against RoW (export weighted) real GDP, detrended with quadratic in time. Source: Federal Reserve Board via FREDII, and BEA, 2011Q1 advance release, and author’s calculations.

Clearly, the strength of the dollar is correlated with the strength of the US economy relative to the rest of the world. (A DOLS(2,4) regression of the real dollar on relative GDP with a quadratic on time yields an elasticity of 1.82; however, the series do not appear to be cointegrated except at about the 20% msl.) There are a variety of reasons this correlation arises. The first is from the monetary approach [5] — higher income induces a greater demand for money, and in the monetary approach to the exchange rate, that leads to a stronger currency (when prices are sticky, as in the Dornbusch-Frankel model). Contractionary monetary and fiscal policy implemented now which leads to a lower GDP in the future would mean ultimately a weaker currency.

Second, the higher income is typically associated with a higher real interest rate differential, partly due to Taylor rule fundamentals (see [6] [7] [8] [9]) and partly because higher income leads to greater investment in physical plant and equipment (that’s how government spending could “crowd in” investment [10]), and hence demand for credit. That draws in capital leading to an appreciated currency.

The foregoing analysis places into context the proposals for fiscal retrenchment and monetary tightening now. The latter might induce a short term boost in the dollar’s strength, but both would almost surely induce a medium-term weakening.

It must be remembered that the dollar in and of itself is not usually thought of as a target variable. The dollar is a relative price that is key to re-allocating aggregate demand, and at the same time allocating capital, across borders. Drastic moves in the dollar’s value could indeed destabilize the financial system. But policy should not single-mindedly focus on the dollar’s value. That’s key for remembering why we want to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio — it’s to establish a sustainable path for output per capita over time.

How to Engineer a Dollar Crash

For certain, what would be key to causing a crash in the dollar’s value would be a failure to raise the debt ceiling in a timely fashion. In almost any model I can think of, that would either cause a flight from US government debt, or — even if we only go to the brink — elevating the risk premium, and hence total interest payments, on US Treasury debt indefinitely. Thus, it’s the height of irresponsibility to make unrealistic demands for deficit reduction based solely on spending cuts, thereby risking a crisis. [E.Klein] [M.Thoma]

5 Reasons Oil Prices Will Likely Stay High

by Sean Brodrick

After tumbling last week, crude oil prices rebounded hard this week. So who can blame investors for being confused? Are oil prices going to march higher again, or slump back to more “reasonable” levels? And what is reasonable after crude oil’s 30% surge higher this year?

Let me give you my reasons why I think crude oil prices are likely to stay high and go higher — and how you can play it.

Reason #1: Iraq Cuts Future Production Target in HALF.

Over the weekend, Iraq announced that it will now pump between 6.5 million and 7 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2017 — way, way down from its original plan of 12 million bpd.

It’s not because of low oil prices — oil prices have doubled since the 12-million bpd target was set two years ago.

Currently, Iraq produces about 2.68 million barrels a day, barely higher than under Saddam Hussein.


Iraq was one of the great hopes of the oil cornucopians — those folks who think we’ll always find more oil. Apparently, we aren’t finding it in Iraq.

Reason #2: The Saudis Failed to Cover Libya’s Shortfall.

You’ll remember that when Libya — the world’s 17th largest oil producer, 3rd largest producer in Africa and that continent’s largest holder of crude oil reserves — fell into civil war in February, its 1.6 million bpd production was quickly cut in half. Saudi Arabia said it would make up the difference.

Saudi Arabia DID pump more oil in February — but that was the culmination of long-term projects. But more recently, Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi revealed that the country’s crude oil production for the month of March fell by 833,000 bpd from February’s production level.

The Saudis blame lower demand for their sour crude. And maybe that’s true. But if so, this doesn’t do much to reassure the oil market that the Saudis can make up the difference when producers of light sweet crude falls short.

Also, before the Libyan crisis, the Saudis claimed they could tap 4.2 million bpd of spare capacity at any time. During the Libyan crisis, the Saudis downsized their claimed spare capacity to 2.5 million to 3.5 million bpd. 

And some analysts believe the Saudis only have 1 million bpd in spare capacity. That’s really not a lot of wiggle room if something else goes wrong … and something always goes wrong.

Reason #3: The Mystery in the Desert.

The Saudis are always up to something. Recently, Saudi Arabia announced it was going to spend $100 billion on solar, nuclear and other renewable energy sources. That is a lot of money for a country that is supposedly floating on all the oil and natural gas it should ever need.

The Saudis say they are doing this to boost the amount of spare oil they have for export. And to be sure, the Saudis currently consume 2.7 million bpd (27% of total production) and that is expected to grow to 8 million bpd by 2025. In case you’re wondering, us fuelhog Americans consume 19.5 million bpd.

Still, if the Saudis have all that spare oil, why don’t they just sink a few more wells? Unless, maybe, they don’t have that spare capacity. Hmm …

Reason #4: The Global Economy Runs on Oil.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), expects global economic growth for 2011 to be 4.4%, according to a recent report. 

This will put more strain on a system that already saw global oil consumption grow by 2.6% in the first quarter of 2011, on top of 4.1% growth in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to the International Energy Agency.
What’s more, the second quarter typically sees an uptick in crude oil demand as refineries come out of maintenance. That should lead to higher oil prices.

Now the good news for U.S. consumers is that we are swimming in oil thanks to oil shale deposits that are coming into play — so much so that U.S. crude oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate trades at a $13-per-barrel discount to an international benchmark like Brent Crude. But that discount will come under pressure as more U.S. oil is shipped overseas to fast-growing economies.
Speaking of which …

Reason #5: Asia Puts the Pedal to the Medal.

While the IMF expects the world economy to grow at 4.4% pace, emerging market economies are growing much faster. The Asian Development Bank expects a growth in the region’s economy, of 7.8% and 7.7% for 2011 and 2012 respectively.

That’s bullish for oil prices because automobile ownership and gasoline and diesel usage is growing at a furious pace in those countries.

According to Financial Times, while European crude oil demand for February was largely flat, and U.S. oil demand might grow 2.9%, Asia as a whole is expected to see its oil demand rise 5.9% and China’s should rise 9.6%.

And it should keep rising. In China, a big driver has been growth in the domestic automobile market. Auto sales increased 2.6% in February, and March data released by the Chinese Auto Association shows sales grew 5.36% on a year-over-year basis.

There you have it — five reasons why oil prices should stay high. Of course, no one can foresee the future. There is a flip side …

Could Oil Prices Go Down? Yes, but You Wouldn’t Like It!

The one potential way that I see crude oil prices could really tumble is if we have a global recession. That would downshift those growing economies in a hurry and should send oil prices skidding lower.

But probably not for long. Why? Because existing oil fields are depleting — the average depletion rate is 5.1% per year, according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. So that cheap oil is being used up.

At the same time, the newer oil projects coming online require higher and higher break-even costs. Estimates of break-even costs for new oil projects range from $79 per barrel to $92 per barrel.

You can see the problem here: A “reasonable” price for crude oil gets higher all the time.

So, if oil prices dipped below those prices, the new projects would shut down. Soon, we’d have less supply coming on to the market. That, in turn, would force prices higher, whether the economy was in recovery or not.

How You Can Play the Next Surge in Oil

Oil explorers and producers are leveraged to the price of oil. One of the easiest ways to play what will likely be higher prices — and big fat profit margins for oil companies — is to buy the Energy Select SPDR (XLE). And the stocks that form the backbone of the XLE should also do well on an individual basis.

No one likes paying higher prices at the pump. But you can protect yourself and potentially profit with the right investments.
See the original article >>

German parliament backs euro fund: coalition member

by Andreas Rinke and Thorsten Severin

Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will secure a parliamentary majority in favor of the planned permanent bailout fund for the euro zone, a senior coalition politician said on Saturday.

Some German media have reported increasing numbers of parliamentarians oppose the new, permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) taking effect in 2013 and there is disquiet over Greece's requirement for additional aid after last year's 110 billion euro package.

"At the end, we will always have a clear majority," Rainer Bruederle, parliamentary floor leader of junior coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP), told a party congress in the city of Rostock.

FDP dissenter Frank Schaeffler said 40 to 50 members of the coalition -- Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the FDP -- were considering voting against the ESM.

That would wipe out the coalition's majority in a parliamentary vote planned for the autumn, but Merkel can count on votes from euro enthusiasts among the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.

Coalition leaders also say Schaeffler is exaggerating, that eurosceptics are isolated and the government would have majority support, as Merkel predicted this week.

The FDP congress is due to vote on two euro zone motions, one for and one against the ESM, later on Saturday.

The pro-Europe motion called for "strict parliamentary endorsement of every activation of the ESM" and backed Merkel's insistence on private investors sharing the burden of sovereign default risks in the euro zone in future.

See the original article >>

Follow Us