Commodities: Time For A Strategy Shift

Lior Alkalay - Contributor

Commodity prices are facing a shift. As inflation heats up and growth stabilizes, the commodity arena is gradually tilting in favor of growth-oriented commodities such as Oil and Copper Meanwhile, commodities associated with inflation protection, e.g., Gold and Silver, are not only losing their allure but face growing sell pressure.

The thought of selling precious metals just as inflation is showing signs of coming back may sound counter-intuitive. After all, precious metals are one of the more well-known methods of hedging against inflation. So, why are precious metals tanking just as inflation is coming back?

Because the capacity of precious metals as an inflation protection method emerges when investors believe that inflation is understated in the official numbers. When inflation becomes fact, we begin to see the classic, "buy on rumor, sell on fact" response; i.e., investors start selling precious metals. Since Gold and Silver do not pay interest, their investment appeal decreases when rates rise. But, when inflation is under-reported, effective rates are lower and the value of the currency, in our case the Dollar, is eroded. And, in this case, precious metals gain appeal for preserving value and as an alternative investment. That would explain Gold’s price surge from July $1,210 an ounce in July to $1,350 in September, when US headline inflation numbers caught the market off guard with a fall to from 2.7% in February to 1.6% in June, meaning inflation was understated.

This dynamic also explains the fire sale that hit precious metals in the aftermath of the Fed's September rate decision. The Fed signaled a rate hike as soon as December and another three in 2018. Gold responded by shedding 3.6% in two weeks.

Chart courtesy of

All the while, the rest of the commodities space was holding rather well in the face of higher rates. In fact, in aggregate, excluding precious metals, commodities prices were gaining. One good example is the iShares S&P GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust ETF (GSG), which embodies exposure to the broad commodities market from energy and agriculture to precious metals and gained 0.54% during Gold's selloff. Continue reading "Commodities: Time For A Strategy Shift"

What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

The battle lines are being drawn for the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting this week. The prevailing market consensus right now is that no resolution of the debate – which mainly concerns inflation – will happen at the meeting, meaning there will be no change in interest rates, and may not be before the end of this year.

One side of the issue, which seems to be the prevailing view at the central bank, was recently promulgated by Fed governor Lael Brainard at a meeting of the Economic Club of New York. “My own view is that we should be cautious about tightening policy further until we are confident inflation is on track to achieve our target,” she said. “We have been falling short of our inflation objective not just in the past year, but over a longer period as well. What is troubling is five straight years in which inflation fell short of our target despite a sharp improvement in resource utilization.”

The other side, which appears to be the minority opinion, is represented by William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, who isn’t overly concerned about the current level of inflation. “Even though inflation is currently somewhat below our longer-run objective, I judge that it is still appropriate” to raise interest rates soon, he said recently. “I expect that we will continue to gradually remove monetary policy accommodation.” Continue reading "What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?"

We Need To Keep The CFPB

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

President Trump’s first federal budget proposal got a lot of grief over the past week from both Republicans – some of whom say it’s “dead on arrival” – and Democrats – some of whom claim it’s actually going to kill people. But one small part of the plan got relatively little notice, maybe because it was on the next-to-last page of the document. That was the huge cuts proposed for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), essentially abolishing it in a few years.

The Trump proposal would cut the agency’s budget by $145 million in 2018, a one-year reduction of more than 20%, with the cuts increasing to more than $700 million by 2021, when it would essentially be defunded.

I think that would be a terrible mistake. For those of you who disagree, I have two words for you: Wells Fargo (WFC). Continue reading "We Need To Keep The CFPB"

The Fed Giveth and the Bullion Banks Taketh Away…

Precious metal expert Michael Ballanger breaks down the gold price roller coaster surrounding the Fed's decision not to raise interest rates.

Ballanger chart cover

Janet Yellen just blew all remaining semblances of credibility believed to be still present at the U.S. Federal Reserve Board.

We have all heard for the past month or so that the Fed was going to hike the Fed Funds rate at today's meeting, the anticipation of which caused a rally in the U.S. Dollar (USD) and a surge in stocks - all while the bond market was rallying in response to weakness in the macroeconomic environment.

Well, they didn't raise as predicted back in March because of "China weakness," so today they didn't hike because of "soft exports" and "vulnerabilities in the global economy" and "Brexit worries" and a host of other totally clueless hypothecations. But the bottom line is that they didn't hike because the ensuing dollar rally would impair the collateral that underpins the massive debts owed by governments and homeowners to the banks that hold that debt. Stocks reversed lower when it became clear that the Fed has absolutely zero control over the U.S. economy, and is now truly caught in the headlights because banks are getting killed with the yield curve this "flat," and since the Fed's shareholders ARE "the banks," it takes on an aura of the surreal. Continue reading "The Fed Giveth and the Bullion Banks Taketh Away…"

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Continued Weak Jobs Numbers Allow the Fed to Sit Tight

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

Was Friday's April jobs number good enough to get the Federal Reserve to start normalizing interest rates soon?

Based on the reaction of both the stock and bond markets, the answer is no. The increase was likely way too small to convince the data-paralyzed Fed that the economy has recovered enough to let it stand on its own feet. The sharp downward revision in the already lousy March figure only added to the case.

The jobs report – nonfarm payrolls rose 223,000 in April – was a lot better than March's report – which isn't saying a whole lot – but certainly not strong enough to worry investors that the Fed might see a reason to raise interest rates sooner than most now expect, which is either late this year or early 2016. Continue reading "Continued Weak Jobs Numbers Allow the Fed to Sit Tight"