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Fed Speakers, Afghan Bombings, Quiet GDP Trigger Wall Street Selling Ahead of Powell's Jackson Hole Speech

Friday, August 27, 2021, 8:47 am ET

Markets got a little bit spooked by three separate, disparate events on Thursday, preeminent among them the pair of Fed officials talking tapering just prior to chairman Jay Powell's virtual keynote address to the Jackson Hole symposium attendees (also virtual). More on Powell's speech below.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, speaking from the Jackson Hole conference, suggested that the central bank "get going" on its tapering process and have it finished by the end of March 2022.

Only slightly more nuanced, Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan said in an interview aired on CNBC that he wanted the Fed to announce its intention to taper at its next meeting in late September and then to start to slow down the pace of purchases in October or November.

Kaplan told MarketWatch that one path might be to reduce the pace of Treasury purchases by $10 billion and MBS purchases by $5 billion each month.

To the connected class on Wall Street, "tapering" is tantamount to closing down fraternity rush week, taking all the beer and bongs away and telling the kids to focus on their studies. Stocks just can't go higher if the Fed isn't buying everything that's not nailed down (and even some that is). A loud thud was heard on the flood of the stock exchange when these two bombshells hit. It was the sound produced by a dozen fainting traders.

Speaking of bombs, news out of Kabul, Afghanistan just got worse and worse by the hour, as two separate explosions killed upwards of 95 people and 13 US enlisted men.

Prior to all that, the Commerce Department revealed its second estimate on second quarter 2021 GDP, which grew by 6.6%, up slightly from the 6.5% figure reported in July. The number was below expectations, which were looking for something closer to seven percent.

Thus, taper talk, an unfolding disaster half a world away and disappointment over GDP growth sent stocks spiraling downward, though not to any severe extent. The pullback could be viewed in a positive light, since the NASDAQ and S&P both closed at record highs on Wednesday. All the major indices were treated with equanimity, falling between 0.54% and 0.70%.

The major event for Friday is scheduled for 10:00 am ET, when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell delivers the keynote address to the Jackson Hole symposium. Markets will already be open, so everybody will be waiting and hedging until then, just to see if the Chairman talks about tapering, which, judging by the remarks from other Fed officials, seems likely. The next FOMC meeting is September 21-22, and the Fed could announce its plans for tapering its monthly treasury and mortgage-backed securities at that time.

Since June, 2020, the Fed has been buying $80 billion in treasuries and $40 billion in MBS. The most popular options being bandied about by analysts is cutting those purchases by $20 billion a month on the treasury side and $10 billion in MBS, beginning in November, 2021, so that by March, 2022, the purchases would cease.

Should Powell even hint that tapering is on the table, expect stocks to react negatively.

In order to end the week on the plus side of the ledger, stocks have to hold onto gains made Monday though Wednesday, less the Thursday losses. Prior to the opening bell, the Dow is up 93 points on the week, the NASDAQ has racked up a 231-point gain, the S&P is ahead by 28 points, and the NYSE Composite is up 177 points.

A strong signal from Powell might be enough to erase those gains, though the odds look good for US stocks to finish the week on the plus side.

At the Close, Thursday, August 26, 2021:
Dow: 35,213.12, -192.38 (-0.54%)
NASDAQ: 14,945.81, -96.05 (-0.64%)
S&P 500: 4,470.00, -26.19 (-0.58%)
NYSE: 16,694.32, -118.52 (-0.70%)

Will the Dow Rise or Roll Over?; How Many Boosters Needed? Run Away After Labor Day?

Thursday, August 26, 2021, 8:47 am ET

If markets were up to Dr. Fauci, he'd be recommending a booster shot for the Dow Jones Industrials.

After all, the S&P and NASDAQ have made record closing highs on consecutive days, but all the Dow can do is gain 39 points? That's weak. The Dow needs a financial booster shot. Dow stocks pay dividends, so they should be screaming higher, just like oil has done the past few days.

Maybe that's not a good example. Even counting huge boosts the past few days, WTI crude oil is still down 10% from its early July high ($75.23), but, the last two times oil took a dive, so did the Dow. Is the Dow following oil or vice versa.

Perhaps they're tied at the hip, which is the most likely condition. Where oil goes, so goes the US economy, which is a scary thought, if the Dow makes new highs, will oil's rebound continue?

Sorry for having more questions than answers on this topic, but it does appear that both oil and the Dow are in the process of rolling over even though the Dow is only 220 points from its own all-time high (35,625.40, August 16). The economy is not as strong as the one projected by mainstream media or the government. Rather, it's becoming segregated, pock-marked, the result of different states offering different virus mandates, or, in some cases, none at all.

If oil's days are numbered, as would be the case if liberals ruled the world - and they might - the price of crude oil would fall dramatically, as whole swaths of American public would rush out to buy electric vehicles, and the Dow would fall with it. Obviously, that's not about to happen, though the push is on. Currently, less than two percent of vehicles on the road are electric or hybrids.

Fuel efficiency also contributes to lowering the price of oil and its derivatives, essentially unleaded gasoline, used by 99% of the cars on the road today. If anything, the price of oil should have been steadily declining over the years, as the widely-circulated (by the oil companies) notion of "peak oil" has been completely debunked. There's no shortage of oil anywhere in the world, nor has there ever been. There may be a shortage of producers willing to pump it out of the ground at a given price, and that's what keeps the price elevated.

Oil has peaked for the time being. When economic reality catches up to the price-rigging in oil and the bloat in US stock markets, there will be a turn. Perhaps it's too early to call it, but Labor Day isn't far off and all the stimulus measures put in place over the past 18 months are slowly, but surely, going to erode the recovery meme and hurt stocks, including those dividend-carrying stocks on the Dow.

It will become apparent to many that a Goldman Sachs (GS) throwing off a dividend yield of just under two percent is going to be an even better deal when the share price is cut by a third. Apple's (AAPL) dividend is only yielding 0.59%. In order for it to throw a better yield percentage, the price of the stock has to fall. It's reverse logic in thinking that a stock is good if it yields a higher percentage via its dividend, because what good is a three percent dividend yield if the stock loses 10 percent?

Dow stocks are not for everybody, nor are electric vehicles. As the economy goes through changes in structure and the appetite for risk is eventually slowed, oil, the Dow, the NASDAQ, and the S&P will all tend to revert to the mean. And that process has begun.

It will become more apparent after Labor Day.

At the Close, Wednesday, August 25, 2021:
Dow: 35,405.50, +39.24 (+0.11%)
NASDAQ: 15,041.86, +22.06 (+0.15%)
S&P 500: 4,496.19, +9.96 (+0.22%)
NYSE: 16,812.84, +71.67 (+0.43%)

NASDAQ, S&P Set New Marks; Oil Rebounds; Bitcoin Struggles at $50K; Durables Flat

Wednesday, August 25, 2021, 9:07 am ET

Whether one's nest egg be great or small, everybody's addicted to money. It feeds us, fuels us, it keeps us warm.

What we all seek is a measuring guide, something that will tell us that our investments are safe, good, or in need of repair. The simplest of these guides are the stock market indices, which, if one has money in stocks, have been knocking it out of the park for the past 12 years. By those gauges - and they are the ones which the majority favors - everything is roses and puppy dogs and nothing can ever go wrong.

Holding an attitude of supreme confidence in stocks has been nothing short of miraculous since the financial crisis of 2007-09 ended abruptly on March 9, 2009 and never looked back, thanking the Federal Reserve for launching its various policy directives, quantitative easing and zero interest rate policy the two most obvious.

Therein lay the problems. Like everybody knowing that Trump won the 2020 presidential election, everybody realizes that without the Federal Reserve rescuing the banks and putting a floor on stock prices, stocks might have never recovered, or, at least, would not have recovered so quickly and with such long-lasting effect. In essence, everybody is waiting for the other shoe to drop, the one that led directly to bankruptcy court in the aftermath of the sub-prime crisis but was rerouted to the corner of Wealth St. and Prosperity Boulevard.

Much has been made of how the Fed - and now the Treasury - have saved America's bacon, and it's eggs, and China, and the rest of the world, but someday, eventually, there comes a reckoning. Many thought that the virus crisis was the end of capitalism. According to stock prices, that was a mere bump in the road.

That's all well and good, but what is the price people are willing to pay to keep up with the Joneses, or the Lombardis, or the Kellys, Schwartzes, Pings? More than any other group, the virus crisis made the ultra-rich ultra-richer. The middle class and poor people got stimulus checks, rent abeyances, loan deferrals, mortgage forbearance, and extended unemployment benefits. In other words, the rich got long term benefits while the rest of us got short term fixes, and, when the next crisis comes along, who's to say that it won't be more of the same? In the meantime, many Americans have given up essential freedoms for vaccination passes. Down under, in Australia and New Zealand, the general population is being fined, beaten, and abused into tyrannical slavery over what amounts to nothing more than the flu.

One can debate all one likes over the degree of deadliness of the virus or the efficacy of the vaccines, but one thing is certain: having to show "your papers" to enter a restaurant, or movie theater, or gym, doesn't exactly exude an air of "freedom." So, you're well off. Big deal. You're also owned. What's next? Will the authorities make people perform circus acts or spit nickels in order to show their loyalty to the cause of global dominion?

If the government tells you that you must cut off a finger to continue working, will you do it? Apparently, half the people in the world would consider it. In certain places, you now have to show that you've been properly vaccinated to be admitted inside. Once inside, you may be required to wear a mask. Stand on your head. Touch your nose. Scratch your belly. Do all manner of stupid things.

Well, at least you get to pay an absurd price for a crappy meal amongst other sheep with a debased currency. But your stocks, they're safe. Those not willing to take shots in the arm cannot enjoy such pleasures. Soon, those same people will not be able to work at various places, collect unemployment, receive food stamps, collect social security. The government, if allowed to do so, will make vaccination mandatory just to stay alive. All your rights and money will be proscribed according to your willingness to obey. Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, the NASDAQ and S&P 500 made new highs on Tuesday. Maybe they'll do it again today. Maybe next week. Maybe the Dow will do it sooner, or Bitcoin will stay above $50,000. Or not. Bitcoin is at a most interesting juncture here. There is an equal possibility that it will descend to $35,000 as there is the chance that it will top $65,000 in the next six weeks. It's a 30% move in either direction that will set up the trade into the end of the year.

What makes it so intriguing is that the downside would indicate a subsequent move higher, where a price above $65,000 would probably end up igniting a sell-off back to $55K. Either way, the world's leading crypto is looking like a rocket ship again.

What's been most interesting lately has been the price of crude oil. Over the past month, WTI crude has been beaten down more than 17% from its recent high and recovered the past few days to a point at which it's only down about 10%.

What the oil price is saying is that everything is fine, but, once the price of crude goes beyond the recent highs, it's probably time to look out below for stocks and just about everything else. Oil peaked just before the dotcom bust, the sub-prime shakeout and it is threatening to do the same for the current everything bubble. If oil goes to $80 per barrel, all bets are off, except, of course, if you own oil stocks.

What would be preferable is a price structure between $55 and $63 a barrel. It's at that level that both producers can profit and consumers won't gripe. Economies could grow. It's not likely to settle in there for long. The politicians and bankers would never allow it as there's much more money to be made from gaslighting another crisis.

Whatever gauge you choose by which to measure your wealth, bear in mind that they're just numbers which, under the current financial bizarro-world conditions, can change before you have a chance to react.

Just out, durable goods orders fell by 0.1% in July, so this is a lagging indicator. It can - and likely will - be blamed on Delta, and ignored. The durable goods data set has been an outright disaster for at least the last three years. There's been no sustained growth, the only indication being that there's less of a good thing going forward. People and businesses are not investing long-term, making capital improvements and major purchases (appliances, cars). It's just another sign that despite media and government's best effort to convince us that everything is just awesome, it's not.

Caveat Emptor. Sic Semper Tyrannis.

At the Close, Tuesday, August 24, 2021:
Dow: 35,366.26, +30.55 (+0.09%)
NASDAQ: 15,019.80, +77.15 (+0.52%)
S&P 500: 4,486.23, +6.70 (+0.15%)
NYSE: 16,741.16, +92.62 (+0.56%)

NASDAQ Reaches All-Time High; Pfizer Gets FDA Approval; Bitcoin Pushes Past $50K

Tuesday, August 24, 2021, 8:53 am ET

Wall Street applauded the efforts of the FDA, granting Pfizer full approval on their virus vaccine in record time (8 months vs. the usual 8 years), sending shares of the Big Pharma drug pusher up 1.21 points (+2.48%).

Since the start of the virus panic, Pfizer, Moderna and the other companies producing vaccines made sure that the government granted them immunity from proecution for side-effects and medical problems - including death - stemming from being vaccinated.

The legal burden may be shifting. FDA's approval may open individual companies up to liability for mandating their workforce be vaccinated. State and local governments may also be liable under the 14th amendment, specifically, application of the Bill of Rights to the states through the Due Process Clause.

It's complicated, but there are sure to be lawsuits, as companies demand workers recieve vaccination. Arguments for and against the efficacy and safety of the "warp speed" wonder drugs have spread far and wide, despite efforts by social media firms to suppress much of the relevant research.

For now, governments and corporations are exercising their options. New York City has mandated all teachers be vaccinated, along with other restrictive measures for he general population. The states of California, Connecticut, Washington and New Jersey are requiring public school teachers to be vaccinated. In New Jersey, all school employees must be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

It's a story that won't go away.

Meanwhile, financial policy makers and watchers are focused on Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the annual economic symposium, which will be held in cyberspace again this year, as was last year's. At 10:00 am ET Friday, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, is expected to give the keynote address. There is some expectation that he will offer some guidance in terms of the Fed's timing on tapering asset purchases, though most Fed watchers believe the topic will not be part of his speech, or, at least he won't be very specific about the Fed's plans.

It's all so unentertaining, investors had nothing better to do on Monday then buying the dip from last week, as Friday had returned the markets to their usual winning form.

Monday's rally left the Dow Jones Industrial Average 290 points from its all-time closing high, made just last Monday, at 35,625.40. The S&P left 18 cents on the table, short of its own ATH, also made last Monday, at 4,479.71.

The NASDAQ, which outperformed all other indices Monday, did make a new all time high at the close, surpassing its August 5th finish of 14,895.12.

Not to be outdone, Bitcoin popped over $50,000 for the first time since May 12. It backed off into the high $49,000 range, but has been steadily rising for the past month.

Ho-hum. Who knew making money could be so easy?

At the Close, Monday, August 23, 2021:
Dow: 35,335.71, +215.63 (+0.61%)
NASDAQ: 14,942.65, +227.99 (+1.55%)
S&P 500: 4,479.53, +37.86 (+0.85%)
NYSE: 16,648.55, +131.87 (+0.80%)

WEEKEND WRAP: Economic Crosscurrents Appear to Be Trending Towards Disinflation as Asset Prices Fade from Highs

Sunday, August 22, 2021, 9:44 am ET

As the numbers at the end of this article will attest, it was not a very good week for US stocks. Boosted by a Friday rally that - along with Thursday's trading - defied logic, the week should have been worse for the Dow, the S&P and company, the underlying causes for the financial historians to sort out at some future date.

Dominated by geo-political fallout from the still-unfolding events in Afghanistan, the major averages were jolted, but bounced back with the aplomb of a fallen figure skater. There's plenty to be said for resilience in the face of mounting troubles, though skepticism is growing on all sides. From day-traders to hedge fund managers, the wall of worry will have to overcome competing narratives. On the one hand, the Fed noted a need for tightening while on the other, interest rates continue to yield close to nothing.

Delta cases are rising, but deaths are declining.

Second quarter earnings results were solid, but third quarter comparisons will be more challenging.

There are plenty of jobs available, but unemployment remains high.

July's non-farm payroll data used seasonally-unadjusted numbers to turn a loss of 133,000 jobs into a headline gain of 943,000.

The economy is supposed to be recovering well, yet the government insists on extending unemployment benefits, student loan forgiveness, mortgage forbearances, and rent moratoriums.

Like any three-deep romantic will tell you, "it's complicated."

While US investors were wiping away tears from the rest of the world and buying the dip, stock indices in other parts of the planet were not faring quite so well. Japan's NIKKEI slumped into correction, losing more than 580 points (more than 2%) to close at its lowest level of 2021. The NIKKEI is now down for the year.

Hong Kong's main exchange slipped into bear grounds. At 24,849.72, it's down 20.01% from its February 17 high (31,084.94) and 8.75% on the year.

While stocks tried to avoid the downside argument, bonds took heed of the crosscurrents by continuing to rally at the long end of the curve. Yield on the 10-year note fell three basis points, from 1.29% to 1.26%. The 30-year yield printed at 1.87% on Friday, down from last week's close at 1.94%. Both yields are close to the low end of the six-month range. The highest yields were back on March 19, the 10-year at 1.74 and the 30 at 2.45.

The 10-year has bounced off a low yield of 1.19% three times recently: July 19, August 3, August 4. The 30 year yielded 1.81% on July 19, and has approached but not regressed below that number since.

With bonds exhibiting disinflationary tendencies, price deceleration was most obvious in the oil fields, where WTI crude continued its slide. After closing in New York a week ago (8/13) at $68.44, the price crashed in the most recent week, with $61.83 per barrel the official closing price on the NYMEX Friday afternoon.

Oil's price has been in significant decline since the double top of July 1 ($75.23) and July 13 ($75.25). The most recent price registers at a loss of 17.83% from those tops, close to bear market territory. Astute followers of markets need look no further than the price of crude oil for an indication of the direction of the general economy. The recovery narrative is a facade according to the oil traders. Crude has been and continues to be in backwardation, though not as severely as just a few weeks ago. One year out, WTI futures are bid at $58.86, a price that would offer equal amounts of satisfaction to both producers and end users.

Since the decline in oil has been so sudden, gas at the pump has yet to react in a meaningful way. The national average is still near the recent high. AAA has it at $3.18, where has it at $3.16. Most of the Southeast is seeing unleaded regular under $3.00 a gallon, while California and far west states remain high, over $3.15 a gallon. with the Golden State, in particular, the highest, with average prices still in the $4.00 range.

These prices are going to drop precipitously over the next couple of weeks if the oil price remains low as stations work off more expensive inventory. Adding to the time delay is consumer reluctance to fill up or buy large quantities unless necessary, in anticipation of lower prices.

The disinflation trend has also been prevalent in the precious metals, which have been under pressure for the past two weeks. Silver ended down again, closing in New York on Friday at $23.03. This comes off a prior week ending close of $23.74. The closing price is the lowest for silver since November, 2020.

Gold was without luster as well, closing out the week at $1780.70, less than a dollar better than the prior week's closing price of $1779.80. Notably, gold bounced off a low of $1729.00, August 8 and 9, but the advance still leaves the king of money down for the year, at its lowest level since April.

Here are the latest prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, shipping - often free - included):

Item: Low / High / Average / Median
1 oz silver coin: 36.65 / 50.00 / 42.15 / 41.98
1 oz silver bar: 30.72 / 57.15 / 41.66 / 38.39
1 oz gold coin: 1,879.10 / 1,929.85 / 1,901.11 / 1,900.80
1 oz gold bar: 1,825.00 / 1,877.81 / 1,861.53 / 1,863.91

Money Daily's weekly tracking survey of eBay selling prices reflects a continuing disunion between the listed LBMA spot and COMEX futures prices and those paid at retail. Premia remains extraordinarily high overall, most pronounced in one ounce purchases of silver coins. Gold continues to price in a premium of over $100 on coins, and around $60 on bars, the coin prices consistently higher than those for bars, though that gap has been shrinking of late. After all, an ounce of gold is an ounce of gold, whether it be in the form of a coin or a bar.

The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) settled at $41.05, an increase of $1.13 cents from last week's price of $39.92. This snaps a five-week period that the SOSMPB has dropped in price, from a high of $42.84 on July 11 to last week's (August 15) price of $39.92.

Cryptocurrencies continue to exist in a world of their own making, almost literally. Bitcoin has advanced steadily from the mid-July lows around $30,000 per coin, to $49,821, just Saturday afternoon. It continues to hold onto gains, and is approaching the all-time high above $64,000 with great speed. It would surprise half the people if the price of Bitcoin soared right through the proir high, those same people unsurprised if the crypto king got close to its former top, failed, and descended again, though the drop this time would likely not be as severe as the one earlier this year.

Expect governments and central bankers to spread negative rumors (FUD) about Bitcoin within days. If they do not, and Bitcoin advanced beyond its prior all-time high, that would indicate that the fix is in for a transition from coin and paper currency to crypto (FedCoin or CBDC), though such a move seems premature at this juncture.

Finally, it appears more than obvious that Wall Street has been semi-permanently disconnected from Main Street's economy. Stocks have advanced far further than GDP and wage growth since the GFC of 2007-09 and that's not without consequence. Money issued by the Fed, lately at the behest of the US Treasury, has enhanced the lives of billionaires while reducing or stagnating living standards for most of the bottom 90% of the population. Asset inflation has far exceeded consumer price inflation, though that metric has been tearing higher of late.

Runaway consumer price inflation is too much of a danger for those in power. An already irate populace might explode into chaos if food, fuel, and discretionary prices increase at alarming rates. The Fed has indicated a desire to slow their monthly asset purchases from their current $120 billion a month, and whispers of a higher federal funds rate have not been ignored. As far as those in power are concerned, it would be a far easier task to slow down stock market advances, even reverse them, than deal with soaring consumer inflation that may threaten their entire franchise. The wealthy can afford a trimming after years of nearly uninterrupted, risk-free gains.

At the Close, Friday, August 20, 2021:
Dow: 35,120.08, +225.96 (+0.65%)
NASDAQ: 14,714.66, +172.88 (+1.19%)
S&P 500: 4,441.67, +35.87 (+0.81%)
NYSE: 16,516.68, +87.54 (+0.53%)

For the Week:
Dow: -395.30 (-1.11%)
NASDAQ: -108.23 (-0.73%)
S&P 500: -26.33 (-0.59%)
NYSE: -351.43 (-2.08%)

Disclaimer: Information disseminated on this site should not be construed as investment advice. Downtown Magazine, Money Daily and it's owners, affiliates and/or employees are not investment advisors and do not offer specific investment advice. All investments have risk. You should consult a professional investment advisor or stock broker or use your individual judgement when making investment decisions. By viewing this site, you hold harmless Downtown Magazine, Money Daily, its owners, affiliates and employees against any and all liability.


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