Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Trading ETF'S for Profit, Protection and Peace of Mind ....our next FREE webinar

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We’re Ready to Profit in the Coming Correction....Are You?

By Laurynas Vegys, Research Analyst

Sometimes I see an important economic or geopolitical event in screaming headlines and think: “That’s bullish for gold.” Or: “That’s bad news for copper.” But then metals prices move in the opposite direction from the one I was expecting. Doug Casey always tells us not to worry about the short term fluctuations, but it’s still frustrating, and I find myself wondering why the price moved the way it did.


As investors we’re all affected by surges and sell offs in the investments that we own, so I want to understand. Take gold, for example. Oftentimes we find that it seems to tease us with a nice run up, only to give a big chunk of the gains back the next week. And so it goes, up and down…..

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The truth is, and it really is this simple, but so obvious that people forget, that there are always rallies and corrections. The timing is rarely predictable, but big market swings within the longer term megatrends we’re speculating on are normal in our sector.

Since 2001, the gold price had 20 surges of 12% or greater, including the one that kick-started 2014. Even with last year’s seemingly endless “devil’s decline,” we got one surge. If we were to lower the threshold to 8%, there’d be a dozen more and an average of three per year, including two this year.


Here at Casey Research, we actually look forward to corrections. Why? We know we’ll pay less for our purchases—they’re great for new subscribers who missed the ground floor opportunities years ago.

This confidence, of course, is the product of decades of cumulative experience and due diligence. We’re as certain as any investor can ever be that today’s data and the facts of history back our speculations on the likely outcomes of government actions, including the future direction of the gold price.

When you keep your eye firmly on the ball of the major trends that guide us, you can see rallies and corrections for what they are: roller-coaster rides that give us opportunities to buy and take profits. This volatility is the engine of “buy low, sell high.” Understanding this empowers the contrarian psychology necessary to buy when prices on valuable assets tank, and to sell when they soar.

There have been plenty of opportunities to buy during the corrections in the current secular gold bull market. The following chart shows every correction of 6% or more since 2001.


As you can see, there have been 28 such corrections over the past 13 years—two per year, on average. Note that the corrections only outnumber surges because we used a lower threshold (6%). At the 12% threshold we used for surges, there wouldn’t be enough to show the somewhat periodic pattern we can see above. It’s also worth noting that our recent corrections fall well short of the sharp sell off in the crash of 2008.

Of course, there are periods when the gold price is flat, but the point is that these kinds of surges and corrections are common.

Now the question becomes: what exactly drives these fluctuations (and the price of gold in general)?
In tackling this, we need to recognize the fact that not all “drivers” are created equal. Some transient events, such as military conflicts, political crises, quarterly GDP reports, etc., trigger short-lived upswings or downturns (like some of those illustrated in the charts above). Others relate to the underlying trends that determine the direction of prices long term. Hint: the latter are much more predictable and reliable. Major financial, economic, and political trends don’t occur in a vacuum, so when they seem to become apparent overnight, it’s the people watching the fundamentals who tend to be least surprised.

Here are some of the essential trends we are tracking…...

The Demise of the US Dollar

Gold is priced around the world in United States dollars, so a stronger US dollar tends to push gold lower and a weaker US dollar usually drives gold higher. With the Fed’s money-printing machine (“quantitative easing”) having been left on full throttle for years, a weaker dollar ahead is a virtual certainty.

At the same time, the U.S. dollar’s status as reserve currency of the world is being pushed ever closer to the brink by the likes of Russia and China. Both have been making moves that threaten to dethrone the already precarious USD. In fact, a yuan-ruble swap facility that excludes the greenback as well as a joint ratings agency have already been set up between China and Russia.

The end of the USD’s reign as reserve currency of the world won’t end overnight, but the process has been set in motion. Its days are all but numbered.

The consequences are not favorable for the US and those living there, but they can be mitigated, or even turned into opportunities to profit, for those who see what’s coming. Specifically, this big league trend is extremely bullish for real, tangible assets, especially gold.

Out-of-Control Government Debt and Deficits

Readers who’ve been with us for a while know that another major trend destined for some sort of cataclysmic endgame can be seen in government fiscal policy: profligate spending, debt crises, currency crises, and ultimately currency regime change. This covers more than the demise of the USD as reserve currency of the world (as mentioned above); it also covers a loss of viability of the euro, and hyperinflationary outcomes for smaller currencies around the world as well.

It’s worth noting that government debt was practically nonexistent, by modern standards, halfway through the 20th century. It has seen a dramatic increase with the expansion of government spending, worldwide. The U.S. government has never been as deep in debt as it is today, with the exception of the periods of World War II and its immediate aftermath, having recently surpassed a 100% debt to GDP ratio.

Such an unmanageable debt load has made deficits even worse. Interest payments on debt compound, so in time, interest rates will come to dominate government spending. Neither the dollar nor the economy can survive such a massive imbalance so something is bound to break long before the government gets to the point where interest gobbles up 80%+ of the budget.

Gold Flowing from West to East

The most powerful trend specifically in gold during the past few years has been the tidal shift in the flow of gold from West to East. China and India are the names of the game with the former having officially overtaken the latter as the world’s largest buyer of gold in 2013. Last year alone, China imported over 1,000 tonnes of gold through Hong Kong and mined some 430 tonnes more.

China hasn’t updated its government holdings of gold since it announced it had 1,054 tonnes in 2009, but it’s plain to see that by now there is far more gold than that, whether in central bank vaults or private hands. Just adding together the known sources, China should have over 4,000 tonnes of monetary gold, and that’s a very conservative estimate. That would put China in second place in the world rankings of official gold holdings, trailing only the United States. The Chinese government supports this accumulation of gold, so this can be seen as a step toward making the Chinese renminbi a world currency, which would have a lot more behind it than U.S. T-bills.

India presents just as strong a bullish case, if only slightly tainted with Indian government’s relentless crusade to rein in the country’s current account deficit by maintaining the outrageously high (i.e., 10%) import duty on gold and silver. Of course, this just means more gold smuggling, which casts official Indian stats into question, as more and more of the industry moves into the black and grey markets. World Gold Council research estimates that 75% of Indian households would either continue or increase their gold buying in 2014. Even without gold-friendly policies in place, this figure is extremely bullish for gold and in line with the big picture we’re betting on.

So What?

Nobody can predict when the next rally will occur nor the depth of the next sell-off. I can promise you this: as an investor you’ll be much happier about those surges if you stick to buying during the corrections. But it has to be for the right reasons, i.e., buying when prices drop below reasonable (if not objective) valuation, and selling when they rise above it. Focusing on the above fundamental trends and not worrying about short-term triggers can help.

Profiting from these trends is what we dedicate ourselves to here. Under current market conditions, that means speculating on the best mining stocks that offer leverage to the price of gold.

Here’s what I suggest: test drive the International Speculator for 3 months with a full money back guarantee, and if it’s not everything you expected, just cancel for a prompt, courteous refund of every penny you paid. Click Here to get Started Now.



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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Free Webinar....How to Trade Options Like a Professional with John Carter

It's ON.....John Carters next free webinar is this Thursday, July 31st at 8:00 p.m. est

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In this free webinar John will share:

  *   What I’ve discovered about professional options traders that they don’t want you to know

  *   The idea of “options stacking” to structure your trade in a way that gives you the best possible odds of success

  *   How to plan your trading position around a setup instead of the other way around

  *   Why structuring your trades as a campaign around a setup will yield the maximum return while reducing your risk

  *   How to be proactive in your trading instead of reactive and much more

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We'll see you Thursday!

Ray's Stock World

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

When All You Have Left Is the Cost of Breakfast at McDonald’s

By Dennis Miller

When I was 20 years old, I sat through my first day of a business law course at Northwestern University. The professor began by writing two words on the blackboard (in the prehistoric days of blackboards and chalk): Caveat emptor. He raised his voice and said, “Let the buyer beware!” I’m here to echo his warning, but this time it’s about annuities.


Annuities are at the top of the list of complicated products that often profit insurance companies without adequately compensating the buyer in return. Put plainly, sometimes you don’t get what you thought you paid for.

And, while annuities are often described as a “transfer of risk,” which is basically correct, owning an annuity will not transfer the risk of one of the greatest hazard’s to a retiree’s financial security: inflation. Inflation isn’t the only risk to worry about—lack of liquidity and insurance company default should also top your list of concerns—but it can be the most treacherous for someone with an annuity heavy portfolio.

Will an annuity protect your lifestyle? In the short term, it might. If you believe the Federal Reserve when it says it will keep inflation at 2% or less, perhaps it will for a period of time. Even then, inflation will eat away at the buying power of your annuity payout fairly quickly. You are contractually guaranteed income; however, that does not guarantee your lifestyle.

To see the effect, my analysts and I charted the purchasing power of a single premium immediate lifetime annuity with installment refund, which pays $583.33 per month. We’ve compared several inflation scenarios: the currently tame 2% inflation rate; the long run average of about 3%; and the possibility of things getting considerably worse at 7% inflation. We’re not even talking about hyperinflation—just reasonable estimates.


Even at the low 2% inflation rate, your $583.33 benefit would only have the purchasing power of $392.56 after 20 years. In the 7% inflation scenario, the purchasing power would be down to $150.74. Let’s put this into context.

The average U.S. electricity bill is around $103.67. The average cellphone bill is $111. According to the USDA, an elderly household of two that’s being extremely thrifty could get its monthly grocery bill down to as low as $357.30 per month. In total, that’s $571.97 – leaving just enough for a McDonald’s breakfast.

Right off the bat, that isn’t so bad. The annuity takes care of the cellphones, the electricity, the groceries, and leaves a little extra. However, after 20 years at 2% inflation and a purchasing power of $392.56, the benefit would only be enough to pay for the thrifty grocery budget, leaving only $35.26 left over. Though your annuity benefits are the same, prices have risen, so now you have less purchasing power.

After 20 years of 3% inflation, it gets even worse. With $219.85 in purchasing power, you’ll have to weigh either purchasing 2/3 of your usual groceries against paying the electricity and phones. You won’t be able to do it all. By the third year, you will need to add funds to your annuity payment to cover those expenses.

And under the 7% scenario, you’ll only be able to pay for the electricity bill with less than $50 in purchasing power left over. That’s hardly the lifetime income most annuity buyers had in mind.

Furthermore, consider that our assumptions are a little optimistic. In all likelihood, your electricity and grocery bills will probably rise faster than the rate of inflation. If that’s the case, then you’d be in real trouble.
So, while annuities promise guaranteed income, they certainly do not guarantee what that income will afford you in the future.

Annuity policies can be structured with inflation protection, but those options are expensive in terms of the lower initial payments. With benefits starting so much lower, you would have to live an exceptionally long time to make them work out.

Depending on your circumstances, an annuity might play a useful role in your long-term financial plans. There is much to be said for transferring some risk to a quality insurance company. However, transfering one risk without planning for another could be catastrophic. Even something like a 5% inflation rider might not protect you if higher inflation rates become a reality. If a considerable portion of your portfolio is in annuities, then another portion needs to be balanced to fight inflation, with holdings such as precious metals.

While it’s impossible to make the risk of inflation go away, there are a few simple things you can do to minimize it:
  • Never hold a very large portion of your portfolio in annuities. If high inflation picks up you could be entirely cleaned out.
  • If you’re holding annuities, make sure that another part of your portfolio is geared to hedge against inflation.
Now, I’m not shouting caveat emptor just for the heck of it. As a retirement advocate and senior editor at Miller’s Money Forever my mandate is transparent financial education for seniors, conservative investors and anyone serious about building a rich retirement. That’s why my team of analysts and I have put together a free, comprehensive special report called Annuities De-Mystified—Three Simple Tools for Choosing the Right Annuity.

Get the full truth on annuities by downloading your complimentary copy of Annuities De-Mystified today.


Another must read from Adam J. Crawford....The Rise of Africa… and How To Play It
 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beware of Flashy Stock Repurchases When The Market Is on The Rise

By Andrey Dashkov

Retail giant Bed Bath & Beyond just announced plans to buy back another $2 billion in shares, which the company will start doing after it completes its current share repurchase program. You’ve seen it before: Press releases emphasize that buybacks return value to shareholders, analysts sometimes rely on repurchases to spot a stock to write up next, and management likes to tout their focus on shareholder returns. But what’s the real story? Why would a company buy its own shares?


There are but a few situations when returning cash to shareholders instead of paying dividends or investing in new projects is prudent:
  • The company has largely exhausted investment opportunities that would generate a positive net present value (NPV).
  • The stock is trading below its intrinsic value; or
  • The tax on dividends is so high compared to the capital gains tax that it makes sense to boost the share price and let shareholders enjoy the extra return instead of receiving heavily taxed dividends.
When these situations happen we support repurchases. In the reality, however, managers often have their own reasons to buy back shares; let’s look at the more popular ones.

First, management’s compensation is often based on share price performance or earnings based metrics like earnings per share (EPS), which buybacks are designed to boost.

Second, higher share price increases the value of a company’s options. Managers are often shareholders, too, but unlike you and me, they have direct access to the Treasury. When managers own a lot of their own company’s stock, they may have too much skin in the game. This may skew their preferences toward increasing the share price at the expense of long term business growth.

Third, share buybacks became a standard (and often abused) signal to the market that: a) the company’s stock is undervalued, and b) that management takes care of the shareholders. Both of these statements may be correct in isolation, based on the company’s fundamentals and management practices. Nonetheless, a buyback should not convince you that either is true.

One additional reason is often overlooked. Many a CEO has been fired for an acquisition that did not work out. When the decision is made to dump the acquisition, it is accompanied by a write off against earnings, sometimes worth billions of dollars. Wall Street armchair quarterbacks are quick to point out how much better off shareholders would have been if they had just paid out what they lost in dividends. Buying back company shares, with all the accompanied hoopla, is less likely to be a career threatening move.

Linking the two subjects together makes for nice copy; however, keep it in perspective. For example, a technology company that realizes their product line is becoming obsolete will often make acquisitions to increase their product line market share, or move them into a new business with long term potential. Buying back company stock, then having to go into the market and borrow at high interest rates, might be the exact wrong move. The key is making the right acquisitions for the company to continue to grow and pay dividends for the next generation.

In fact, managers have proven to be pretty bad stock pickers even when they have only one stock to pick. As my colleague Chris Wood showed in A Look at Stock Buybacks, managements have bought shares of their own companies at pretty bad times in the past. Moreover, the expectations of higher valuation based on higher EPS did not always materialize. Even though a lot of investors use P/E as their main gauge of value (which they shouldn’t), there is no convincing evidence that buybacks can support high valuation multiples in the long term.

Your Bottom Line

 

History has shown that the only value-creating buybacks were the ones carried out when stocks were deeply undervalued. In those instances, the repurchases helped companies outperform the market. But overall the optimism and confidence inducing press releases that accompany buybacks should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

As a rule of thumb, beware of increased buybacks when the market is on the rise (everybody is an investment guru when everything is going up) or when management compensation is closely tied to the share price performance or earnings based metrics. Companies with better corporate governance may fare better when it comes to managing conflicts of interest, but there is a significant vested interest there that investors should be aware of. Don’t mistake noise for a sign is all.

When it comes to returning value to shareholders, we appreciate companies that invest in long term projects—or pay dividends. Despite the potential tax implications, the yield strapped investors may be better served with a special dividend these days than with a promise of a better price in the future.

Learn more ways to cut through press rhetoric by signing up for our free weekly e-letter, Miller’s Money Weekly, where my colleagues and I share timely financial insight tailored for seniors and conservative investors alike.

Sign up here, and we’ll send a complimentary copy straight to your inbox every Thursday



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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hoisington Investment Management: Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2014

By John Mauldin

This week’s Outside the Box is from an old friend to regular readers. It’s time for our Quarterly Review & Outlook from Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management, who leads off this month with a helpful explanation of the relationship between the U.S. GDP growth rate and 30 year treasury yields. That’s an important relationship, because long term interest rates above nominal GDP growth (as they are now) tend to retard economic activity and vice versa.

The author adds that the average four quarter growth rate of real GDP during the present recovery is 1.8%, well below the 4.2% average in all of the previous post war expansions; and despite six years of federal deficits totaling $6.27 trillion and another $3.63 trillion in quantitative easing by the Fed, the growth rate of the economy continues to erode.

So what gives? We’re simply too indebted, says Lacy; and too much of the debt is nonproductive. (Total U.S. public and private debt rose to 349.3% of GDP in the first quarter, up from 343.7% in the third quarter of 2013.) And as Hyman Minsky and Charles Kindleberger showed us, higher levels of debt slow economic growth when the debt is unbalanced toward the type of borrowing that doesn’t create an income stream sufficient to repay principal and interest.

And it’s not just the US. Lacy notes that the world’s largest economies have a higher total debt to GDP ratio today than at the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, and foreign households are living farther above their means than they were six years ago.

Simply put, the developed (and much of the developing) world is fast approaching the end of a 60-year-long debt supercycle, as I (hope I) conclusively demonstrated in Endgame and reaffirmed in Code Red.
Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.Hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $5 billion under management and is the sub adviser of the Wasatch-Hoisington U.S. Treasury Fund (WHOSX).

Some readers may have noticed that there was no Thoughts from the Frontline in their inboxes this weekend. As has happened only once or twice in the last 14 years, I found myself in an intellectual cul-de-sac, and there was not enough time to back out. Knowing that I was going to be involved in a fascinating conference over the weekend, I had planned to do a rather simple analysis of a new book on how GDP is constructed. But as I got deeper into thinking about the topic and doing more research, I remembered something I read 20 years ago about the misleading nature of GDP, and I realized that a simple analysis just wouldn’t cut it.

Rather than write something that would’ve been inadequate and unsatisfying, I decided to just put it off till next week. Your time and attention are quite valuable, and I try not to waste them. But there will be no excuses this weekend.

The conference I attended was organized by Great Point Partners, a hedge fund and private equity firm focusing on medical and biotechnology. I really had not seen the program until I arrived and did not realize what a powerful lineup of industry leaders would be presenting on some of the latest technologies and research. The opportunity was too good to pass up, as it is so rare that any of us get to sit down with people who are responsible for the science we all read about.

I had breakfast with a small group of 11 readers/investors one morning and learned a lot by asking them what their favorite investing passion was. Although everyone had concerns, they all had areas in which they were quite bullish. I find that everywhere I go. It was interesting, in that they all expected me to be far more negative about things than I am. I guess when you write about macroeconomics as much as I do, and there’s as much wrong with it as there is, you kind of end up being labeled as a Gloomy Gus. I am actually quite optimistic about the long-term future of humanity, but I’ll admit there will be a few bumps along the way. Given how many bumps there have already been, just in my own lifetime, and given that we seem to have gotten through them, I can’t help but be optimistic that we’ll get through the next round.

It was a fascinating weekend, made all the more so by my very gracious hosts, Jeff Jay and David Kroin, Managing Directors of Great Point. They and their staff made sure I could enjoy my time on Nantucket Island. It was my first visit to the area, and I hope it won’t be the last.

Last night I had dinner with Art Cashin, Barry Ritholtz, Jack Rivkin, and Dan Greenhaus. It was a raucous, intellectually enlivening evening, and our conversation ranged from macroeconomics to our favorite new technologies. Jack Rivkin is involved with Idealab, and one of his favorites is that he sees the eventual end of Amazon as 3-D printing becomes more available. Given how Bezos has adapted over the years, I’m not so sure. Jack and Barry will join me in Maine in a few weeks, where we will again join the debate about bull and bear markets.

Now let’s go to Lacy and think about the intersection of velocity and money supply and what it says about future growth potential. I have two full days of meetings with my partners and others here in New York before I return to Dallas, and then I get to stay home for a few weeks. There are lots of new plans in the works. And lots of reading to do between meetings. Have a great week!

Your hoping to be able to stay optimistic analyst,
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box
subscribers@mauldineconomics.com



Hoisington Investment Management – Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2014

Treasury Bonds Undervalued

Thirty year treasury bonds appear to be undervalued based on the tepid growth rate of the U.S. economy. The past four quarters have recorded a nominal “top line” GDP expansion of only 2.9%, while the bond yield remains close to 3.4%. Knut Wicksell (1851-1926) noted that the natural rate of interest, a level that does not tend to slow or accelerate economic activity, should approximate the growth rate of nominal GDP. Interest rates higher than the top line growth rate of the economy, which is the case today, would mean that resources from the income stream of the economy would be required to pay for the higher rate of interest, thus slowing the economy. Wicksell preferred to use, not a risk free rate of interest such as thirty year treasury bonds, but a business rate of interest such as BAA corporates.



As chart one attests, interest rates below nominal GDP growth helps to accelerate economic activity and vice versa. Currently the higher interest rates are retarding economic growth, suggesting the next move in interest rates is lower.

To put the 2.9% change in nominal GDP over the past four quarters in perspective, it is below the entry point of any post-war recession. Even adjusting for inflation the average four-quarter growth rate in real GDP for this recovery is 1.8%, well below the 4.2% average in all of the previous post war expansions.

Fisher's Equation of Exchange

 

Slow nominal growth is not surprising to those who recall the American economist Irving Fisher’s (1867-1947) equation of exchange that was formulated in 1911. Fisher stated that nominal GDP is equal to money (M) times its turnover or velocity (V), i.e., GDP=M*V. Twelve months ago money (M) was expanding about 7%, and velocity (V) was declining at about a 4% annual rate. If you assume that those trends would remain in place then nominal GDP should have expanded at about 3% over the ensuing twelve months, which is exactly what occurred. Projecting further into 2014, the evidence of a continual lackluster expansion is clear. At the end of June money was expanding at slightly above a 6% annual rate, while velocity has been declining around 3%. Thus, Fisher’s formula suggests that another twelve months of a 3% nominal growth rate is more likely than not. With inflation widely expected to rise in the 1.5% to 2.0% range, arithmetic suggests that real GDP in 2014 will expand between 1.0% and 1.5% versus the average output level of 2013. This rate of expansion will translate into a year over year growth rate of around 1% by the fourth quarter of 2014. This is akin to pre-recessionary conditions.

An Alternative View of Debt

 

The perplexing fact is that the growth rate of the economy continues to erode despite six years of cumulative deficits totaling $6.27 trillion and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy which added net $3.63 trillion of treasury and agency securities to their portfolio. Many would assume that such stimulus would be associated with a booming economic environment, not a slowing one.

Readers of our letters are familiar with our long-standing assessment that the cause of slower growth is the overly indebted economy with too much non productive debt. Rather than repairing its balance sheet by reducing debt, the U.S. economy is starting to increase its leverage. Total debt rose to 349.3% of GDP in the first quarter, up from 343.7% in the third quarter of 2013.

It is possible to cast an increase in debt in positive terms since it suggests that banks and other financial intermediaries are now confident and are lowering credit standards for automobiles, home equity, credit cards and other types of loans. Indeed, the economy gets a temporary boost when participants become more indebted. This conclusion was the essence of the pioneering work by Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914) and Irving Fisher which stated that debt is an increase in current spending (economic expansion) followed by a decline in future spending (economic contraction).

In concert with this view, but pinpointing the negative aspect of debt, contemporary economic research has corroborated the views of Hyman Minsky (1919-1996) and Charles Kindleberger (1910-2003) that debt slows economic growth at higher levels when it is skewed toward the type of borrowing that will not create an income stream sufficient to repay principal and interest.

Scholarly studies using very sophisticated analytical procedures conducted in the U.S. and abroad document the deleterious effects of high debt ratios. However, the use of a balance sheet measure can be criticized in two ways. First, income plays a secondary role, and second, debt ratios are not an integral part of Keynesian economic theory.

We address these two objections by connecting the personal saving rate (PSR) which is at the core of Keynesian economic analysis, and the private debt to GDP ratio that emerges from non-Keynesian approaches. Our research indicates that both the “Non Keynesian” private debt to GDP ratios, as well as the “Keynesian” PSR, yield equivalent analytical conclusions.

The Personal Saving Rate (PSR) and the Private Debt Linkage

 

The PSR and the private debt to GDP ratio should be negatively correlated over time. When the PSR rises, consumer income exceeds outlays and taxes. This means that the consumer has the funds to either acquire assets or pay down debt, thus closely linking the balance sheet and income statement. When the PSR (income statement measure) rises, savings (balance sheet measure) increases unless debt (also a balance sheet measure) declines, thus the gap between the Keynesian income statement focus and the non-Keynesian debt ratio focus is bridged.



The PSR and private debt to GDP ratio are, indeed, negatively correlated (Chart 2). The correlation should not, however, be perfect since the corporate sector is included in the private debt to GDP ratio while the PSR measures just the household sector. We used the total private sector debt ratio because the household data was not available in the years leading up to the Great Depression.

The most important conceptual point concerning the divergence of these two series relates to the matter of the forgiveness of debt by the financial sector, which will lower the private debt to GDP ratio but will not raise the PSR. The private debt to GDP ratio fell sharply from the end of the recession in mid-2009 until the fourth quarter of 2013, temporarily converging with a decline in the saving rate. As such, much of the perceived improvement in the consumer sector’s financial condition occurred from the efforts of others. The private debt to GDP ratio in the first quarter of 2014 stood at 275.4%, a drop of 52.5 percentage points below the peak during the recession. The PSR in the latest month was only 1.7 percentage points higher than in the worst month of the recession. Importantly, both measures now point in the direction of higher leverage, with the PSR showing a more significant deterioration. From the recession high of 8.1%, the PSR dropped to 4.8% in April 2014.

Historical Record

 

The most recently available PSR is at low levels relative to the past 114 years and well below the long-term historical average of 8.5% (Chart 3). The PSR averaged 9.4% during the first year of all 22 recessions from 1900 to the present. However this latest reading of 4.8% is about the same as in the first year of the Great Depression and slightly below the 5% reading in the first year of the Great Recession.



In Dr. Martha Olney’s (University of California, Berkeley and author of Buy Now, Pay Later) terminology, when the PSR falls households are buying now but will need to pay later. Contrarily, if the PSR rises households are improving their future purchasing power. A review of the historical record leads to two additional empirical conclusions. First, the trend in the PSR matters. A decline in the PSR when it has been falling for a prolonged period of time is more significant than a decline after it has risen. Second, the significance of any quarterly or annual PSR should be judged in terms of its long term average.

For example, multi-year declines occurred as the economy approached both the Great Recession of 2008 and the Great Depression of 1929. In 1925 the PSR was 9.2%, but by 1929 it had declined by almost half to 4.7%. The PSR offered an equal, and possibly even better, signal as to the excesses of the 1920s than did the private debt to GDP ratio. Both the level of PSR and the trend of its direction are significant meaningful inputs.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) correctly argued that the severity of the Great Depression was due to under-consumption or over saving. What Keynes failed to note was that the under consumption of the 1930s was due to over spending in the second half of the 1920s. In other words, once circumstances have allowed the under saving event to occur, the net result will be a long period of economic under performance.
Keynes, along with his most famous American supporter, Alvin Hansen (1887-1975), argued that the U.S. economy would face something he termed “an under-employment equilibrium.” They believed the U.S. economy would return to the Great Depression after World War II ended unless the federal government ran large budget deficits to offset weakness in consumer spending. The PSR averaged 23% from 1942 through 1946, and the excessive indebtedness of the 1920s was reversed. Consumers had accumulated savings and were in a position to fuel the post WWII boom. The economy enjoyed great prosperity even though the budget deficit was virtually eliminated. The concerns about the under employment equilibrium were entirely wrong. In Keynes’ defense, the PSR statistics cited above were not known at the time but have been painstakingly created by archival scholars since then.

Implications for 2014-2015

 

In previous letters we have shown that the largest economies in the world have a higher total debt to GDP today than at the time of the Great Recession in 2008. PSRs also indicate that foreign households are living further above their means than six years ago. According to the OECD, Japan’s PSR for 2014 will be 0.6%, virtually unchanged from 2008. The OECD figure is likely to turn out to be very optimistic as the full effects of the April 2014 VAT increase takes effect, and a negative PSR for the year should not be ruled out. In addition, Japan’s PSR is considerably below that of the U.S. The Eurozone PSR as a whole is estimated at 7.9%, down 1.5 percentage points from 2008. Thus, in aggregate, the U.S., Japan and Europe are all trying to solve an under-saving problem by creating more under-saving. History indicates this is not a viable path to recovery. [reference: Atif Mian and Amir Sufi,. House of Debt, University of Chicago Press 2014]
Japan confirms the experience in the United States because their PSR has declined from over 20% in the financial meltdown year of 1989 to today’s near zero level. Japan, unlike the U.S. in the 1940s, has moved further away from financial stability. Despite numerous monetary and fiscal policy maneuvers that were described as extremely powerful, the end result was that they have not been successful.

U.S. Yields Versus Global Bond Yields

 

Table one compares ten-year and thirty year government bond yields in the U.S. and ten major foreign economies. Higher U.S. government bond yields reflect that domestic economic growth has been considerably better than in Europe and Japan, which in turn, mirrors that the U.S. is less indebted. However, the U.S. is now taking on more leverage, indicating that our growth prospects are likely to follow the path of Europe and Japan.



With U.S. rates higher than those of major foreign markets, investors are provided with an additional reason to look favorably on increased investments in the long end of the U.S. treasury market. Additionally, with nominal growth slowing in response to low saving and higher debt we expect that over the next several years U.S. thirty year bond yields could decline into the range of 1.7% to 2.3%, which is where the thirty year yields in the Japanese and German economies, respectively, currently stand.

Van R. Hoisington
Lacy H. Hunt, Ph.D.
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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Using Supply and Demand to Beat the Market: An Interview with Fund Manager Charles Biderman

By Dan Steinhart, Managing Editor, The Casey Report

It’s an investing strategy so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it. Like any other market, the stock market obeys the laws of supply and demand. Reduce supply, and prices should rise. Therefore, companies that reduce their outstanding shares by buying back their own stock should outperform the market.

That’s the basic theory that Charles Biderman, who was recently featured in Forbes and is chairman and founder of TrimTabs Investment Research, follows to manage his ETF, TrimTabs Float Shrink (TTFS).
And it works. Since its inception in October 2011, TTFS has beaten the S&P 500 by 15 percentage points. That’s no small feat, especially during a bull market. Most hedge fund managers would sacrifice their firstborns for such stellar performance.

There are, of course, nuances to the strategy, which Charles explains in an interview with Casey Research’s managing editor Dan Steinhart below. For example, companies must use their own money to buy back shares. Borrowing for buybacks is a no no.

It’s also worth mentioning, you can meet and learn all about Charles’ strategy in person. He’ll be available at  Casey Research’s Summit: Thriving in a Crisis Economy in San Antonio, TX from September 19-21 where he’ll be working with attendees to teach them how to beat the market using supply and demand analysis.

And Charles is just one of many all stars on the faculty for this summit—click here to browse the others, which include Alex Jones, Jim Rickards, and, of course, Doug Casey.

Also, you can still sign up for this Summit and meet some of the world’s brightest financial minds and receive a special early bird discount. You’ll save $400 if you sign up by July 15th. Click here to register now.
Now for the complete Charles Biderman interview. Enjoy!


Using Supply and Demand to Beat the Market: An Interview with Fund Manager Charles Biderman

Dan: Thanks for joining us today, Charles. Could you start by telling us a little bit about your unique approach to stock market research?

Charles: Sure. I’ve been following the markets for 40 years. Everybody talks about earnings and interest rates and growth rates and what the government is doing. But here’s the thing: the stock market is made up of shares of stock. That’s it. There is nothing else in the stock market.

So my firm tracks the supply and demand of the stock market. The number of shares outstanding is the supply. Money is the demand. We discovered when more money chases fewer shares, the market goes up. Isn’t that shocking?

Dan: [Laughs] Not very, when you put it that way.

Charles: Whenever I talk with individual investors, I tell them that there’s only one reason for them to listen to me: that they think I can help them beat the market. I’ve spent 40 some years looking at markets in a different way than other people. I’ve found that the market is like a casino: it has a house and players. You know the house has an edge, because if it didn’t, the stock market wouldn’t exist.

Who is the house in the stock market? Not brokers, or even high frequency traders. Companies are the house. As investors, we’re playing with their shares, and the companies know more about them than we do.
I’ve discovered that companies buy back their own shares because they think the price is heading higher. So when a company buys back its own shares using its own money, you should buy that stock too. But only if the company uses its own money. Borrowing money to buy shares is a no-no.

Conversely, when companies are growing their shares outstanding by selling stock to raise money, they don’t like where their stock price is headed. If they don’t want to own their own stock, you shouldn’t either.
My basic philosophy is to follow supply and demand of stocks and money, and you can’t go wrong.

Dan: Your theory has worked very well in practice. Your TrimTabs Float Shrink ETF (TTFS) beat the S&P 500 by an impressive 12 percentage points in 2013. And that’s really saying something, considering how well the S&P 500 performed.

Charles: Yes, and we’ve outperformed the S&P 500 over the past year as well.

Dan: What specific investment strategies did you use to generate that return?

Charles: Our fund invests in 100 companies that are growing free cash flow—which is the money left over after taxes, R & D, capital expenditures, and dividends—and using it to buy back their own shares.
We modify our holdings every month because we’ve discovered that the positive effects of buybacks only last for a short time. So when a company stops shrinking its float, we kick it out. Our turnover is about 20 stocks per month.

Dan: The supply side of the equation seems pretty straightforward. What do you use to approximate demand? Money supply numbers?

Charles: Sort of. Institutions own around 80% of the shares of the Russell 1000, so we track the money that flows through them into and out of the stock market.

We also track wage and salary growth. We’re not interested in income generated by government actions, but rather by the wages of the 137 million Americans who have jobs subject to withholding. Money for investment comes from income. People can only invest the money they have left over after they cover expenses.

Income in the U.S. is currently around $7.5 trillion per year. That’s an increase of around $300 million over last year, or a little under 3% after inflation. That’s not sufficient to generate money for investment.

However, the Fed’s zero interest rate policy has showered companies with plenty of cash to improve their operations. As a result, many industries have record high profit margins. But at the same time, most management teams are still afraid to reinvest their profits into expanding their businesses because they don’t see final consumption demand growing. So these companies have been buying back their shares instead. The total number of shares in the market has declined pretty much consistently since 2010.

An investment institution typically targets a specific percentage of cash to hold, say 5%. So when a company buys back its own stock from these institutions, the institutions now have more money and fewer shares. To meet their cash allocation target, they have to go out and buy more shares. So the end result is more money chasing fewer shares.

This is why we’ve been experiencing a “melt-up” in the market. It has nothing to do with the economy—it’s solely due to supply and demand. And as buybacks continue, stock prices will continue to rise.

The caveat is that unless the economy recovers in earnest, the gap between stock prices and the real-world economy will continue to grow. At some point, it will get too wide, and we’ll get a bang moment similar to the housing crisis, when everyone realized that housing prices were too far above their underlying value in 2007.

Dan: Do you monitor macroeconomic issues as well?

Charles: Yes, but as I like to say, all macro issues manifest as supply and demand eventually. Supply and demand is what’s happening right now. All of those other inputs get us to “now.”

Dan: I understand. So you’re more concerned with the effects of supply and demand than the causes.

Charles: Right. Price is a function of the world as it exists right now. If you don’t have cash, it doesn’t matter how fantastic stock market fundamentals look. Without cash, you can’t buy, no matter how compelling the value.

Dan: Could you share a preview of what you’ll be talking about at the Casey Research Summit in San Antonio?

Charles: I’ll be giving specific advice to individual investors on how to beat the market. Outperforming the overall market is very difficult to do, and earnings analysis and graphic analysis has never been proven to do it over a long period. Supply and demand analysis has. So I will work with attendees and show them how to apply those strategies to beat the market going forward.

Dan: Great; I look forward to that. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Charles: The phrase “disruptive technology” is popular today. I think investing on the basis of supply and demand is a disruptive technology compared with other investing strategies, most of which have never really worked. Cheap, broad-based index funds are so popular because very few investing strategies offer any real edge. I believe supply and demand investing gives me an edge.

Dan: Thanks very much for sharing your insights today. I’m excited to hear what else you’ll have to say at our Thriving in a Crisis Economy Summit in San Antonio.

Charles: I’m looking forward to the Summit as well. I hope the aura of the San Antonio Spurs’ victory will rub off on all of us.

Dan: Me too. Thanks again.




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Monday, July 7, 2014

Gold Option Trade – Will Gold Continue to Consolidate?

Until recently, the world has forgotten about gold and gold futures prices it would seem. A few years ago, all we heard about was gold and silver futures making new highs on the back of the Federal Reserve’s constant money printing schemes.

However, after a dramatic sell off the world of precious metals it became very quiet.


Gold prices have been in a giant basing or consolidation pattern for more than one year. As can clearly be seen below, gold futures prices have traded in a range between roughly 1,175 and 1,430 since June of 2013.


Chart1


The past few weeks we have heard more about gold prices as we have seen a five week rally since late May. I would also draw your attention to the fact that gold futures also made a slightly higher low which is typically a bullish signal.


At this point in time, it appears quite likely that a possible test of the upper end of the channel is possible in the next few weeks / months. If price can push above 1,430 on the spot gold futures price a breakout could transpire that could see $150 or more added to the spot gold price.


Clearly there are a variety of ways that a trader could consider higher prices in gold futures. However, a basic option strategy can pay handsome rewards that will profit from a continued consolidation. The trade strategy is profitable as long as price stays within a range for a specified period of time. Ultimately this type of trade strategy involves the use of options and capitalizes on the passage of time.


The strategy is called an Iron Condor Strategy, however in order to make this trade worth while we would consider widening out the strikes to increase our profitability while simultaneously increasing our overall risk per spread. Consider the chart of GLD below which has highlighted the price range that would be profitable to the August monthly option expiration on August 15th.


Chart2


As long as price stays in the range shown above, the GLD August Iron Condor Spread would be profitable. Clearly this strategy involves patience and the expectation that gold prices will continue to consolidate. This trade has the profit potential of $37 per spread, or a total potential return based on maximum possible risk of 13.62%. The probability based on today's implied volatility in GLD options for this spread to be profitable at expiration (August 15) is roughly 80%.


Our new option service specializes in identifying these types of consolidation setups and helps investors capitalize on consolidating chart patterns, volatility collapse, and profiting from the passage of time. And if you Advanced options trades are not your thing, we also provide Simple options where we buy either a call or put option based on the SP500 and VIX. The nice thing about buying calls and puts is that you can trade with an account as little as $2,500.


If You Want Daily Options Trades, Join the Technical Traders Options Alerts

See you in the markets!

Chris Vermeulen

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Low VIX and What It Means to Your Trading....Our Next Free Webinar

You are invited to attend our next free webinar, presented by former CBOE floor trader Dan Passarelli on Tuesday July 15th at 4:30 EDT. Dan's focus for this webinar will be "Low VIX and What It Means to Your Trading".

Many traders are having a tough time making money in this market. Why? Low VIX. Professional traders use the VIX as a guide to gauge potential option profits. Attend this webinar with Dan and learn what the VIX is telling us about your trading this summer.

Don't miss this special webinar.

Just click here to reserve your seat now

See you Tuesday July 15th!

Ray's Stock World

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

5 Simple Rules to Evolve Past the Hot Stock List

By Andrey Dashkov

If you’re a typical small time investor, chances are you prefer to let a team of analysts fuss about such irksome things as correlation and beta. Maybe you’ve bought a stock because your brother in law gave you a hot tip, maybe you heard something about it on a financial news show, or maybe you just loved the company’s product.


Friends often ask me for “hot stock tips”—which is like walking up to someone at the craps table and asking what number to bet on. An accomplished craps player will have position limits, stop losses, income targets, and an overall strategy that does not hinge on one roll of the dice. You need an overall strategy long before you put money down.

So, what do I tell those friends asking for hot stock tips? Well, that they can retire rich with a 50-20-30 portfolio:
  • Stocks. 50% in solid, diversified stocks providing healthy dividends and appreciation.
  • High Yield. 20% in high yield, dividend paying investments coupled with appropriate safety measures. These holdings are bought for yield; any appreciation is a nice bonus.
  • Stable Income. 30% in conservative, stable income vehicles.
Unless you’re starting entirely from scratch, you should review your current portfolio allocations, identify where you’re over or underallocated, and then look for investments to fill those holes. In our portfolio here at Miller's Money Forever, we separate our recommendations into StocksHigh Yield, and Stable Income to help you do just that.

The Art of the Pick

 

By the time an investment lands in our portfolio, we’ve already run it through our Five Point Balancing Test. When your boasting brother in law tempts you with a “can’t-miss opportunity” or some pundit touts a hot tech company on television, you can come back to these five points, again and again.
  1. Is it a solid company or investment vehicle? Investing your retirement money safely is a must. How do you know if a company is solid? Take the time to validate essential company information, particularly when the recommendation comes from a source with questionable motivation.
  2. Does it provide good income? A good stock combines a robust dividend and appreciation potential.
  3. Is there a good chance for appreciation? There are two types of appreciating stocks: those that rise because of general market conditions and those that rise further because of the way management runs the business. We want both.
  4. Does it protect against inflation? High inflation is one of the biggest enemies of a retirement portfolio.
  5. Is it easily reversible? Ask yourself, “Can I quickly and easily reverse this investment if something unexpected occurs?” The ability to liquidate inexpensively is critical to correcting errors.

Marking the Bull’s Eye So You Can Hit It

 

It’s worthwhile to write down your goal—including an income target and the price at which you’ll sell if things head south—with every investment. After all, if you can’t see the bull’s eye, how will you know if you’ve hit it? Buying any investment because a trusted adviser, newsletter, or pundit recommended it is not a good enough reason. Buying because your portfolio has a hole, you understand the company, the investment vehicle, the risks, and the potential is.

Remember, retiring rich means having enough money to enjoy your lifestyle without money worries. Do your homework on every investment and you’ll make that pleasant thought your life’s reality. Every week, the Miller’s Money team provides no nonsense, practical advice about the best ways to invest for your retirement in  Miller’s Money Weekly Sign up here to receive it every Thursday.

The article 5 Simple Rules to Evolve Past the Hot-Stock List was originally published at Millers Money


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