Saturday, 12 August 2017

Weekend Update 12/08/17 Was That The Top?

“If you're not gonna pull the trigger, don't point the gun.”

 James Baker

We open with the bizarre news that President Trump is open to considering a military option against Venezuela. Quite on what grounds wasn’t explained. Venezuela hasn’t attacked or invaded any other country, isn’t a military threat to its neighbours or the USA, and isn’t about to be occupied by a European power triggering the Monroe Doctrine. The UN hasn’t any issue with Venezuela nor does one seem likely to arise within the foreseeable future. For once I have to agree with Caracas description as “craziness.”

August 11, 2017 / 11:38 PM

Trump threatens Venezuela with unspecified 'military option'

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday threatened military intervention in Venezuela, a surprise escalation of Washington's response to Venezuela's political crisis that Caracas disparaged as "craziness."

Venezuela has appeared to slide toward a more volatile stage of unrest in recent days, with anti-government forces looting weapons from a military base after a new legislative body usurped the authority of the opposition-controlled congress.

"The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary," Trump told reporters in an impromptu question and answer session.

The comments appeared to shock Caracas, with Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino calling the threat "an act of craziness."

The White House said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro requested a phone call with Trump on Friday, which the White House appeared to spurn, saying in a statement that Trump would gladly speak to Venezuela's leader when democracy was restored in that country.

Venezuelan authorities have long said U.S. officials were planning an invasion. A former military general told Reuters earlier this year that some anti-aircraft missiles had been placed along the country's coast for precisely that eventuality.

In Washington, the Pentagon said the U.S. military was ready to support efforts to protect U.S. citizens and America's national interests, but that insinuations by Caracas of a planned U.S. invasion were "baseless."

Now back to was that the market top? There’s plenty of reasons to think that the markets good news is all fully priced in. That the line of least resistance is downwards from here. Any real war with North Korea would probably just turn a 5 percent correction into something more like a 10 percent plus old-fashioned stock market crash. Of course, if there was a nuclear exchange hitting Seoul, Tokyo, Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii, etc., global stock markets would probably get hit with an earthquake, causing many to close, at least temporarily.

Thankfully for now stock market expectations are still for the war of words to remain just, a war of words. President Trump can huff and puff up a storm of words in America, but China has clearly told him, that if he strikes first, China will come to the aid of North Korea, invoking the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. President Trump, plus South Korea, Australia, and probably Japan, would then find themselves at war with China. Good luck with that.

Below, the state of our nervous, now not so complacent markets, as President Trump contemplates his next move. At least invading hapless Venezuela, doesn’t involve starting a war with China. Maybe not so crazy after all.

North Korea may not be the biggest worry for this ailing stock market

Published: Aug 11, 2017 5:39 p.m. ET
6 reasons why this selloff is just getting started
Did Thursday's little jolt of volatility wake you up after months of unusual stock market calm? Better get used to it.

You might be tempted to think that the conflict between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was the main cause of the selling. If so, you probably have faith that as soon as this calms down we can get back to the races. Given that Trump has lots of supporters who are invested in stocks, there’s extra motivation for him to behave in a way that calms the markets. Right?

The problem with this theory is that Thursday's weakness in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.07%  , the S&P 500 SPX, +0.13%   and the Nasdaq COMP, +0.64%  , actually may not have a lot to do with U.S.-North Korea saber-rattling.

Instead, what's really going on is that the conditions were there to make the market extra vulnerable to a catalyst like the North Korea nuke squabble. And those conditions have not gone away. So there's more to come. "I think this is a correction that's not over," says Doug Ramsey, the chief investment officer of the Leuthold Group. Here are six reasons why Ramsey may be right.

1. August is the cruelest month, but September and October aren't great either
We're in what's normally the worst time of the year for the stock market. August is historically the most volatile month. It's starting to live up to its reputation. The deepest market selloffs often happen in September and October. No one knows exactly why this is, but it probably has to do with a psychological need ingrained in us by evolution to harvest, hunker down, and get more cautious as the weather cools. Studies show that this pattern happens in both hemispheres — where the seasons are flipped.

Read more: These stock market tremors could trigger a big quake

2. Hello, is Marge in?
People who run margin departments at brokerages have to be among the cruelest people in the world. When times are good, they relax standards and dangle lots of available margin in front of you. When everyone around you is bullish and stocks go nowhere but up, it's tempting to use it. So maybe you do.
But then the moment volatility picks up, the margin sadomasochists increase margin requirements on stocks, thereby cutting back on available margin. If you are on margin, what you thought was a reasonably comfortable level of safety can turn into a margin call pretty quick.

That's happening now. With margin debt at near record levels, this problem could snowball. Investors selling stocks to meet margin calls could push stocks down more, triggering more margin calls and therefore more margin-related selling.

-----6. A wonky transport indicator flashes red
According to Dow Theory, which is a branch of technical analysis, when upward moves in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are not confirmed by the Dow Jones Transportation Average DJT, +0.87%  , it's a red flag for the market. That's not the case now. True, the Dow Jones Transportation Average has been weak. But it hasn't been weak enough long enough to trigger the classic Dow transports signal.

However, a little-known Transports-related indicator is flashing red, Ramsey notes. On August 1, the relative strength of the Dow Jones Transportation Average hit a one-year low. But the Dow Industrials closed at a one-year high. This combo is pretty uncommon. But when it happens, it's not good for bulls. This signal flashed on the eve of the bear markets of 1973-74, 1987, 1990, 2000-02, and 2007-09, and just before the 2015-2016 correction. This signal has also misfired several times. But it's still worth nothing that "a mild setback in the transports has rendered a signal that’s often spelled trouble," Ramsey says.

The bottom line: None of this is a prediction that the market will necessarily sell off sharply over the next several days. But conditions have been ripe for more volatility — and still are. So that's what we can expect over the next few months.

The stock market is too complacent about risk of higher rates, says top forecaster

Published: Aug 10, 2017 3:27 p.m. ET
Strong job market will bring higher wages and stabilize inflation, Shepherdson says
Financial markets are too complacent about the risk of higher interest rates, said Ian Shepherdson, the founder and chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics and the winner of MarketWatch’s July Forecaster of the Month contest.

“The markets must get serious about next year,” Shepherdson said in an interview. “There’s going to be a collision” between investors’ rosy outlook and the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will need to raise short-term interest rates much more rapidly than is now priced in.

Right now, markets are betting that the Fed won’t raise rates again this year and will only raise once in the first half of 2018. The conventional wisdom seems to be that low core inflation will persist and that the unemployment rate won’t go much lower.

Wrong on both counts, Shepherdson thinks. His base-case scenario calls for strong hiring to push the unemployment rate down to a cyclical low of 4% by the end of the year, which will finally nudge up wages to the 3% growth rate the Fed has been looking for. And, finally, the so-called transitory and one-time factors that have been holding down core inflation — such as declining costs for cellphone services and doctor visits — will dissipate.

If things go the way Shepherdson predicts, the seven-time winner of this MarketWatch contest thinks the Fed will raise the federal-funds rate in December to a range of 1.25% to 1.50%.

He wouldn’t totally discount the possibility of a September rate hike, but it would take at least 0.3% increases in the July and August inflation reports and a continuation of 200,000-plus payroll growth in both months.

If higher interest rates do come, they would be a “threat to all U.S.-risk assets,” he said. “All are quite expensive.”

“A correction will happen at some point,” Shepherdson said.

Jim Rogers says the ‘biggest crisis in his life’ is less than a year away

Jim Rogers says,"it would be bizarre if we didn’t have a problem."
By: Sushruth Sunder | Updated: August 11, 2017 9:55 AM
Jim Rogers, the renowned co-founder of Quantum Fund believes that there’s an impending crisis, and it’s much sooner than you think. “We could see the worst crash in my entire life pretty soon,” said Jim Rogers in a recent conversation with Kitco news. Jim Rogers founded the Quantum Fund alongside George Soros, who is regarded as one of the most successful investors of all time. From 1970 to 1980, their portfolio returned 4200% while the S&P had posted paltry returns of about 47%.

Jim Rogers said, “We’ve had economic problems in the US, in North America, every four years since the beginning of the republic, to say that we’re going to have a problem is not unusual.” Going a step further, the veteran said that it would be ‘bizarre’ if we didn’t have a problem. Rogers observed that the 2008 financial crisis was caused due to a rise in debt, and since then the debt has gone through the roof. In fact, Alberto Gallo of Algebris Investments, in a recent blog, noted that global debt levels have almost quadrupled, rising 276% in the last decade to $217 trillion. Talking about the timeline, Jim Rogers predicts that the impending crisis could be as early as next year.

Jim Rogers, sometimes referred to as ‘Commodities Guru’, believes that gold prices are likely to skyrocket, in view of the impending meltdown. He observed that people have always turned to gold in the face of crisis and this time around it’s not going to be any different. In the same conversation he said, “Gold is going to be explosive in the next few years.” His belief in gold as a safe haven investment is shared by another renowned investor Marc Faber, who’s buying gold, to protect himself from the overheated equity markets in the United States.

Up next, what’s wrong with Nasdaq? Are Nasdaq officials alive and well, or dead or fast asleep at the switch?

For 8 minutes, this Hangzhou K-12 educator was six times Apple’s market value, at US$5 trillion

A fat-finger trading error probably gave Hailiang a US$5 trillion market capitalisation, at least for 8 minutes.
PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 2:55pm

Hailiang Education Group Inc., a Hangzhou company that provides syllabuses from kindergarten to high schools, was the world’s most valuable company for eight minutes overnight, after a fat-finger trading error caused its stock price to jump 20,000-fold.

Bids for the company’s stock were received at US$200,000 at 9:35 am New York time on Thursday on the Nasdaq market. A quote recap of the transactions showed 700 shares actually changing hands at that price, before trading was halted for eight minutes.

The transaction was later annulled, after which the stock’s price dropped to US$10.26, ending the day 4.5 per cent higher at US$10.34.

For eight minutes, the company’s market capitalisation was at US$5.14 trillion, six times the world’s most valuable company.

Shareholders of Apple Inc need not lose sleep, for the iPhone maker is still the world’s biggest company, with a market value of US$831.9 billion at the end of Thursday trading. Alphabet Inc, the holding company of Google, was second in place with US$645 billion while Microsoft Inc was third place at US$558.2 billion, according to Bloomberg’s data.

Hailiang is unaware of the reason for the sudden surge in its stock price and is looking into the issue, said the company’s investor relations officer Lyu Bo.

The company, founded 22 years ago in 1995, is China’s third-largest private provider of K-12 education service, with three schools and an enrolment of 18,743 students, according to GF Securities. Listed on Nasdaq in December 2015, Hailiang reported a 2016 revenue of 4.12 billion yuan (US$617.6 million).

Its shares have surged 41 per cent this year, lagging the gains in its competitor New Oriental Education & Technology Group. Still, trading in the company’s stock has been halted no fewer than 100 times since July 2015, due to the Nasdaq’s Limit-up and Limit-Down triggers, according to Bloomberg’s data.

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”


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