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Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.
Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.
Friday, September 16, 2022, 7:50 am ET
Courtesy of an 8.3% CPI reading, Tuesday's huge drawdown and its aftermath have left US stock markets in a vulnerable position, heading into a quad witching options expiration as the third Friday of the last month of the quarter approaches.
So far this week, the Dow is down 1189.89 points (-3.70%), the NASDAQ off by 559.95 (-4.62%), the S&P 500, -166.01 (-4.08%). Those are some ugly, scary numbers, especially for people stuck in managed accounts like IRA, 401k, or other retirement investment vehicles which impose hefty penalties for early withdrawal and are taxed as ordinary income.
Designed to keep people heavily invested in the casino known as US equity markets, the legislation behind these types of investments are a gnawing reminder of just how badly the government manages to fleece its most productive citizens. Already facing losses between 15 and 40 percent, depending on allocations, opting for an early withdrawal could result in a 10% penalty and a tax bite of between 10 and 36 percent, contingent on the tax bracket. Treated as ordinary income, a significant withdrawal will push most people into a higher tax bracket.
Here's an example of how badly regular investors are faring this year. Bear in mind there are exemptions, like Rule of 55 or the SEPP exemption, which help avoid the penalty, but not the taxes.
Let's suppose our test case started the year with $100,000 invested. A 20% loss puts the fund at $80,000. Should the account be closed out, deduct another $8,000 and then probably a tax bite of 25%, which the IRS will withhold up front, assuring that you will pay your "fair share" come April 15.
So, 25% of $80,000 is $20,000, plus the penalty ($8,000), results in a net distribution of $52,000. Since everybody has to pay taxes on withdrawals or distributions, regardless of circumstances in most cases, this situation isn't really that bad, taking a 10% hit from the penalty.
If stocks are going to drop another 10% within the next three months, or figuring for next year, through December, 2023, taking the money out now might not be such a bad idea.
Another option is to take out a loan from your plan, but that has to be repaid and the future is very uncertain. People who lose their jobs can avoid the penalty in some cases as well. The laws and rules are inscrutable and confusing. Most people will want to contact either their fund's manager or a financial advisor.
These are the conditions many people are facing during these turbulent times. While it's normally not good advice to sell when stocks are down (the old, "buy low, sell high" dictate), the current situation may warrant drastic decisions.
Could stocks fall another 10%, 20%, 30% from here? Absolutely. Could they gain another 10%, 20%, 30%? It's not looking that way, at least over the next 18-24 months, so, preserving assets instead of seeking further gains may be a primary consideration. Another consideration is how much has been invested into one's particular retirement account. Many people had company matches and gains over the years, so, even if stocks are down now, many people still are far ahead of the game.
Whether people decide to ride out the storm, re-allocate, or had for safer pastures are individual choice which can be daunting and confounding. Hindsight being always 20:20, it's best to make a decision and live with it. Life will go on whether the Dow is 35,000 or 25,000. Cash in hand may be a valuable asset in months and years ahead.
Getting back to the actual stock market and what's driving it closer to the June lows, on Thursday, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow prediction tool looked at a slew of data and dropped their estimate for third quarter GDP to 0.5%, down from 1.3% on September 9. It's beginning to look like the "no recession" may tack on another quarter of contraction after the first and second quarters each registered in the negative.
Going over recent numbers, August retail sales ticked up 0.3%, but that number is not adjusted for inflation, so most, if not all, of the gain can be attributed to higher prices.
Industrial Production dipped 0.2% in August and Capacity Utilization dropped to 80.0% from 80.3% over the month.
It's pretty obvious the US economy is going in reverse and that's going to be reflected eventually in stock prices. There seems to be nothing very bright on the horizon and the Fed is very, very likely to hike the target federal funds rate another 75 to 100 basis points next Wednesday.
With option expiry today and stocks already down, most calls at today's strike date are likely under water or already closed out. Put buyers may be raking in more profits, as futures are down hard, Asian stocks got whacked overnight and European stocks are weak, the main indices all in the red.
People who haven't trimmed their exposure to stocks may want to make a decision to do so in short order.
This isn't investment advice. Just logic.
At the Close, Thursday, September 15, 2022:
Thursday, September 15, 2022, 9:03 am ET
The desperation in markets, government, at the Fed, and in the media is palpable.
Everybody is searching for a win, something to show the world that the USA is not failing, flailing about in very uncertain economic, social, and political conditions.
Underscoring this was Wednesday's late day tape-painting, nowhere more obvious than on the Dow Industrials in the final 29 minutes of trading, when the index moved dramatically from a 212-point loss to a 30-point gain at the close, a 242-point jump that was definitely not induced by short sellers covering their positions, the common cover story for recurring hijinks.
To any trained technical analyst, the move on the Dow and similar ramping on the NASDAQ (a 21-point loss turned into an 86-point gain) and the S&P (19-point loss to 13-point gain) was well-coordinated by big proxies like the Fed's trading desk, the PPT, or even the brokerages like Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan. This manner of boosting stocks into the close has been a regular feature for a long time, but has been even more pronounced and obvious in 2022, as stocks have been under pressure for the majority of the first nine months of the Earth's spin around the sun.
Designed to keep casual investors, retirees, and muppets ignorant of the real market forces at work and blissfully entertained with closing prices that indicate an "all clear" signal, the final minutes of trading sessions are owned by those in positions of money and power to shade reality as they please. The final half hour of many sessions in 2022 have witnessed similar spikes to the upside, as have intraday movements when markets appear on the brink of capitulation or heading to deeper losses. The signature V bottoms on intraday charts are tell-tale signs of the cabal at work. More V equates to more PPT, in essence.
Now, many people see nothing at all amiss or morally unacceptable in these various market-saving mechanics, but, anybody with a true sense of fair play and desirous of free, open markets understand the dangers of moral turpitude and corrupted markets in much the same way as virtuous folks abhor extortion and strong-arming in public life.
It is what we have today. Corruption has permeated all elements of human existence from the top down, as a kind of trickle-down morality that results in false pretense, false narratives, and a separation from evident truth into acceptable fiction. It cannot maintain indefinitely. There will be a reckoning. And one suspects that the reckoning will be harsh, not against the perpetrators initially, but the general public, the same rubes and peons routinely taken for granted by the elitists in "control" of their world and heir existence. The game has been ongoing for decades, and, while some have discerned the plot, many more are still stubbornly unaware of what has taken place and continues to shape daily events.
Stock market games are only one of the more evident manifestations of the crude tactical bent. The main players consider themselves condescendingly above the masses, self-anointed to shape destiny in their own imaginations. Meanwhile, the larger picture grows ever more grim and derisive. There's no mistaking the direction stocks have taken this year, just as there's no mistaking that the blunt instrument of changing definitions like recession or inflation mid-sentence is a main tool of coercion and control.
Stocks are pressured and will, unless the powers that be decide to spend every last conjured-out-of-thin-air fiat dollar to keep the indices like the Dow, NASDAQ, and S&P at inflated levels, continue to decline.
Stock and index prices are nothing more that relative numbers in an ever-changing value structure that has been irreparably harmed. When, not if, market forces once again emerge from their torture dungeons and true price discovery allowed a determinant role in the value system, there will occur an overshooting mean reversion bordering on cataclysm. Until then, markets, money, and people's lives are at the mercy of nefarious unseen forces.
Refrain from throwing caution to the wind. Seek alternatives to the captive system.
At the Close, Wednesday, September 14, 2022:
Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 8:50 am ET
Publisher's Note: Money Daily failed to publish Tuesday on its regular schedule due to a - largely self-imposed - internet outage that ran from Sunday evening through most of Tuesday. The issues have been rectified, the longer-term solution to keep publisher Fearless Rick away from the router control panel. Apologies to our readers.
27 straight months of inflation by CPI measurement.
Let that sink in for a moment. That's higher prices every month for two years and three months. That's more than enough to put people in a very, very bad mood. What's worse is that it's not even close to being over.
Ludwig von Mises, the most notable figure from the Austrian school of economics, advised on numerous occasions in speeches and in his published papers (many of which can be found at the Mises Institute) that there are primarily two ways to manage inflation, which, as is well known, is a monetary phenomenon (Milton Friedman) caused by an increase in the money supply.
The first way is to allow the market to function, as much of the excess money will flow into mal-investments, such as overpriced stocks and real estate (ringing any bells?) which will be marked down by the market in liquidation events, otherwise known as bear markets or crashes, similar to those which occurred on many occasions, but notably in 1929 and 2008.
The second way is to keep pumping more money (currency) into the economy (stimulus, QE, bailouts, etc.), keeping the economy going, but debasing the currency until there's hyperinflation and an eventual crack-up boom, where the currency collapses.
The Fed and federal government have been on Mises' second path since Ben Bernanke's proto-QE and eventual true QE programs began in 2006, even before the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008.
The Fed, under chairman Powell, was following the script laid down by Bernanke and subsequently by Janet Yellen by pumping more money into the economy, and egregiously so in 2000 and through 2001, along with the federal government's CARES Act, using Fed bailouts and asset purchases along with money borrowed by the federal government to stimulate an otherwise failing economy. Now that they've managed to produce runaway inflation - which was their goal in the first place - the Fed is taking Mises' first approach to heart, halting asset purchases and artificial stimulus, raising interest rates to slow "growth", though the government still seems to be on the wrong page, evidenced by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last month, a $750 billion boondoggle of spending and taxing, much of it ill-advised, all of it unnecessary.
Worse yet, Biden held an event praising the bill on Tuesday, just as markets were tanking over the red-hit CPI reading from August.
The Fed has chosen to sacrifice the economy over the currency, for now, though eventually, they'll kill both.
The Federal Reserve and the federal government, two distinctly different entities which together account for the bulk of monetary and fiscal policy in the United States, and, by proxy, much of Europe and the rest of the world, are at loggerheads. The Fed is tightening while the government continues to spend and tax. This disunited approach is not going to work and is more likely to lead to disaster.
Markets were visibly rattled by the news that August CPI registered an increase of 8.3% year-over-year and core CPI was up 6.3% YOY and 0.6% on the monthly basis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average suffered its worst loss since March 3, 2020. By themselves, the day's losses across the board on the major indices were in record territory on the point measure, but didn't even crack the Top 20 in terms of percentage losses.
The table below represents the top Dow losses of all time, all of them from 2020, except for yesterday's plunge.
Rank Date Close Net Change % Change
What's troubling about this data is that the larger losses from 2020 were all at levels well below the current Dow Industrial Average, indicating that when, not if, a larger crisis appears or investors capitulate, stocks will suffer even bigger losses, on a scale of more than 2,000 points and at percentages exceeding five percent.
2022, the year of raging inflation and falling stock prices, is likely to continue to worsen, with 2023 possibly worse yet for equity investors, people with retirement accounts, 401k plans, and other sizable nest eggs.
Just about everything was down on the day, from oil, to gold, to silver, to bitcoin, to short-term treasuries, which were savaged. While the yield on the 10-year note crept closer to the June 14 high of 3.49%, at 3.42%, 3-month and 6-month bill yields rose 11 and 19 basis points, to 3.28% and 3.75%, respectively. The one-year note took home the prize of the day, the yield rising 22 basis points, from 3.70% to 3.92%. The two-year note yielded 17 basis points higher, at 3.75%.
The take-away from Tuesday's trading - which saw European stocks fall in late-day sympathy and Asian stocks whacked overnight - is that conditions are not improving at all and may in fact be worsening. In the short, medium, and long term, the US economy and asset prices are both falling off a cliff as interest rates rise. The Fed is almost assuredly going to hike the federal funds rate target 75 basis points more when they meet next week (9/20-21), if not a full one percent. That will only add pressure to overstretched consumers, already suffering from the highest interest on credit cards in 26 years, 18.08% on average.
In his Jackson Hole speech three weeks ago, Fed Chairman Powell promised "some pain." The first batch has been delivered.
In the video below, Mike Maloney and Adam Taggert break down the forces at play and what it means for investors and consumers. At 42 minutes, the video is quite long, though the gist of it is well contained in the first 20 minutes.
At the Close, Tuesday, September 13, 2022:
Sunday, September 11, 2022, 8:54 am ET
The week was great for stocks, not so good for bond holders, who are being methodically wiped out by the Federal Reserve's anti-inflation policy, as the Fed appears more hell-bent than ever to raise interest rates on everybody, everything, everywhere. This is a policy anybody under the age of 30 has never witnessed, except possibly as a child.
The highest treasury rate this century (note to Boomers: this is the 21st century) was a whopping 6.93% on a 2-year note, March 18, 2000, under the Fed Chairmanship of Alan Greenspan, who served in that position from August 11, 1987 until January 31, 2006, a tenure of 18 years, 173 days.
Since ushering in the era of cheap, easy, free money, Greenspan has been followed by acolytes Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen (now serving as Secretary of the Treasury), and currently, Jerome Powell, each of whom suffered from various Keynesian delusions (who can forget Bernanke's "printing press" and "helicopter money" remarks?) about currency supply. With ample help from the fiscally-incompetent federal government, Powell jacked the currency into overdrive, increasing M1 from $4.61 trillion to nearly $20.7 trillion from March, 2020 to March 2022.
Eventually sensing the error of his ways, Powell went from calling inflation "transitory" around this time last year to saying that taming inflation will cause "some pain" a few weeks back during his keynote address at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium, cementing Fed policy as anti-inflationary for the present and immediate future, extending the regime of raising interest rates into 2023.
Some people get it, taking Powell at his word. Others continue to believe the "strong economy" narrative, and, like those enamored with housing prices in the run-up to the 2008 sub-prime crash, think stocks can never go down. So, far, those folks have been wrong all of 2022.
Over the course of the post-Labor Day shortened week, stocks continued their nose-diving act on Monday, but spent the rest of the week bouncing off a Fibonacci 61.8% retrace and surged higher for a three-day win streak to close out the first full trading week of September.
Bear in mind that the current three-day rally was preceded by seven consecutive sessions of declines on the NASDAQ and NYSE Composite, while the S&P and Dow were down six of the prior seven.
Buying the dip has proven an ill-fated strategy all year, but it seems some people haven't gotten the memo. Maybe this time they'll be right. Maybe not.
When it comes to credit markets, nobody is more frank than Doug Noland, via his Credit Bubble Bulletin
His weekly commentary includes this disturbing nugget:
The bottom line: despite pockets of weakness in securities finance, a historic system Credit inflation runs unabated. On a seasonally-adjusted and annualized basis (SAAR), Non-Financial Debt expanded at a $4.316 TN pace during Q2. This was more than double the $1.846 TN annual average for the decade 2010 to 2019, while almost 50% ahead of 2004's cycle peak $2.899 TN - that was not exceeded until 2020's insane $6.796 TN Credit splurge.
Reading through the voluminous numbers from the Fed's quiet September 9 release of Z.1 (Financial Accounts of the United States) the US is undergoing a massive inflation and is paying for it with borrowed money. This exacerbates the conundrum the Fed faces: how to slow down inflation without wrecking the economy, the problem being that human forces work against the flow.
As the Fed raises interest rates, people and businesses are inclined to borrow more to cover the excess. That reads out as vast swathes of the population using credit cards to buy food and fuel, mortgaging homes at higher prices with higher interest rates, and business propping themselves up by repaying prior loans with more borrowing at ever higher rates of interest. It's a vicious cycle to which the Fed has thus far applied only minimal pressure to little avail.
Lately, word has circulated that the Fed can only affect demand with interest rate hikes, which is plain to see. The problem, according to various economists, is one of supply, which was first crimped by the pandemic, now more conditioned by war, sanctions, and a near-global drought that will affect food production through winter and into spring of 2023. There's more than enough money, currency, and credit chasing a shrinking or flat-lined supply of goods, which is textbook inflation. Thus, the Fed's war on inflation is not going to be easily nor soon fixed.
For the third straight week, the entire treasury curve ratcheted higher, led by the 1-year note, up 20 basis points to a stunning 3.67% (it was 1.15% six months ago, and a mere 0.40% at the start of 2022). Yield on all maturities was up from 10 to 20 basis points, the low outlier being the 20-year bond, which gained 10 basis points to 3.71%.
The curve remains inverted from six months out to 10 years, with a hook on the end, the 20-year at 3.71% and the 30 at 3.47%.
While these rates may appear to be shocking, they may be a portent of what's coming down the line. The 2-year or 10-year at six or seven percent, the overnight federal funds target rate at five or six percent in 2023 or 2024 remain cautious outlooks with inflation running so hot and the Fed's predictive and preventive abilities seriously in question.
Today being September 11, the following tables show how rates (mis)behaved during the events of 21 years ago. While all markets failed to open on 9/11/2001, the stock market was shut down until the following Monday (9/17), though treasuries were traded as early as Thursday, 9/13. Note the liquidity creation with 30-day yields falling 67 basis points (0.67) and the two-year note dropping 54 (0.54).
WTI crude closed the week of August 26 at $92.97, and on September 2nd at $87.25. This week finished at $86.10, after rising past $90/barrel on Monday (9/5), then falling as low as $81.94 on Wednesday, September 7. The downtrend which began on June 8 continues, even as OPEC+ announced that its members (excluding Iran) would cut production by 100,000 barrels a day in October.
That piddling amount is unlikely to change pricing much, if at all, especially considering all the various smuggling and swap outs (Russian oil to China or Saudi Arabia marked up and sold to Europe) that have become the new black market emergent upon US sanctions.
There are simply too may divergent forcs at play presently for oil to stabilize at any price higher than $90/barrel in the US. Europe has its own issues, with Brent crude struggling to stay below $92/barrel, though the price difference has to be associated with a vastly different set of circumstances than in the US. Europeans, on average, drive less frequently than Americans, and, when they do, it's usually for shorter distances in cars that get better mileage. Recent price gains in other forms of energy - especially natural gas - used primarily in industry and for heating are another issue altogether for the EU. Many countries are nearing a breaking point, and it's still, by calendar accounting, summer.
After dropping below $19,000 on September 6 and 7, bitcoin rebounded to currently price at $21,647.40. As more Wall Street back room operations become engaged, the typical RobinHood type gamblers have probably been more interested in sports betting, now that college football and the NFL regular seasons have begun. Like penny stocks and highly-leveraged companies, bitcoin remains among the most speculative of (ahem) "investments."
Gold/Silver Ratio: 91.94
Gold price 08/12: $1,818.90
Silver price 08/12: $20.84
Gold was up exactly five bucks on the COMEX, while silver caught a serious bid over the course of the week, gaining nearly a buck, a rally of 4.68%, snapping a four-week losing streak. Both gold and silver remain at solid buying levels, though silver, due to the gold-silver ratio remaining above 90, seems the better investment, despite high premiums. Buyers are not being very selective when purchasing silver as rumors of a shortage are spreading.
Below are the most recent prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, free shipping included):
By the way, the Queen of England died this week and Britons don't care much for new King Charles II and especially not Camilla, the Consort.
Stock prices, food prices, energy prices are all going up and down with frenetic energy. Housing remains a bulwark due to a shortage of stock and lots of cash floating around. While a new depression may be in the making, the US economy continues to chug along, aided by ridiculous government salaries, various bailouts, the latest being the attempt by Joe Brandon to cancel student debt, and a generally overpaid workforce.
Jobs in most areas of the US remain plentiful, though filling many of them has become a problem the further up the skill set one goes. Boomers aren't retiring as rapidly as expected, many of them concerned about stock market drops and retirement funds stale or falling. Millennials complain about everything, but the newest generation, Z, seems willing to put up with any conditions.
Economic booms and busts occur over long stretches. The current credit cycle should be nearing a peak, but it also doesn't seem to be slowing down, exacerbated by inflation. There is much in flux as the third quarter and the federal fiscal year speeds toward an end.
Next week will be highlighted by the release of August CPI (Tuesday) and PPI (Wednesday).
At the Close, Friday, September 9, 2022:
For the Week:
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