How To Fight Inflation With ETFs

Many market participants, including the Federal Reserve Board members, believe that inflation is coming. The questions at this point we would love to have answers to are, how bad will it be, will the Fed be able to control it, and how long will we experience a period of high inflation.

For years, the Federal Reserve has told us they wanted to see 2% or higher inflation, and for years we were below their benchmark goal. The Covid-19 Pandemic stimulus packages, combined with very low-interest rates and the low supply of material and goods due to Covid-19 shutdowns and the belief that demand would be weak following the shutdowns, we see prices from homes to cars to toys to obviously wood and other commodities sky-rocket.

So, it's easy to see that inflation is finally here, after years of the Fed trying to get it to move higher. But, now that it is here and it's clear the Fed had very little to do with it moving higher does anyone really have control of it? If no one does, then it could go much higher than most economists would like it to go, and it could stay that way for longer than most people would want it to? Continue reading "How To Fight Inflation With ETFs"

Are You Ready For Some Inflation?

The latest indicators of inflation are in, and they’re starting to look a little warm – bad news if you’re a bond investor. For March, the consumer and producer price indexes showed prices rising at their highest levels in years and well above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target.

The headline consumer price index jumped 2.6% on a year-on-year basis, the most since August 2018, and 0.6% since February, the biggest one-month jump since 2012. A good part of that rise was due to the steep rise in gasoline prices, so the so-called core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, showed a more modest 1.6% YOY rise.

The producer price index, however, showed inflation running even hotter. Headline PPI jumped 4.2% YOY in March – its biggest spike in nearly 10 years – and a full 1.0% compared to the prior month. Excluding food and energy, the YOY increase was 3.1%, 0.6% on a monthly basis. Producer price increases often – but not always – turn into higher consumer prices, depending on whether or not manufacturers choose to, or are able to, pass along their higher costs to customers.

Whether these are momentary spikes or not, of course, remains to be seen. For his part, Fed chair Jerome Powell professes not to worry. Continue reading "Are You Ready For Some Inflation?"

Stock Market: What Happens When Rates Rise?

The broader indices have been in a blistering bull market for a year straight, only accelerating from November 2020 into April 2021. The rally has been largely uninterrupted, with minor blips in September and October of 2020 before reaching new all-time highs after new all-time highs by mid-April. The initial rally was narrowly focused on technology and the stay-at-home economy stocks. With the improving vaccine prospects, November saw a sea change with broad market participation with value stocks breaking out with huge moves to the upside. To boot, Washington's massive stimulus is being priced into the markets via fiscal and monetary stimulus. All three major indices (S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones) are at all-time highs and continue to break into uncharted territory in what seems like a daily basis.

Stocks are overbought and at extreme valuations, as measured by any historical metric (P/E ratio, Shiller P/E ratio, Buffet Indicator, Put/Call Ratio, and percentage of stocks above their 200-day moving average) or technical metric (Bollinger Bands and Relative Strength Index - RSI). Valuations are stretched across the board, with the major averages at all-time highs and far above pre-pandemic levels. A rise in rates due to inflation could be lurking in the shadows of this frothy market.

If/When Inflation Hits

If the Consumer Price Index (CPI) continues to push higher, The Federal Reserve may be compelled to entertain the idea of raising rates finally. Although interest rate risk disproportionally impacts fixed-income investments such as bonds and annuities, stocks will undoubtedly be impacted as well. This is especially true for highly leveraged companies such as tech and super-charged growth companies. Even the prospect of higher rates hit the Nasdaq in March for a sharp decline, albeit that decline was quickly erased. This is a case in point of how quickly the markets can turn negative with the hint of rising rates which may be exacerbated in an already frothy market. Continue reading "Stock Market: What Happens When Rates Rise?"

Gold: What A Long And Not So Strange Trip

The Gold Miner correction was well earned, but it was not a bubble.

Even today there is some pablum out there talking about how if inflation is good for gold it is especially good for gold miners. I will simply repeat once again that if gold usually does not benefit fundamentally by cyclical inflation (i.e. inflation promoted for and currently working toward economic goals) the gold miners never do, unless they rise against their preferred fundamentals as they did during two separate phases in the last bull market, which were justly resolved with crashes.

Here are a couple charts we used in NFTRH 648 in a segment written to set the record straight. We have also used these charts – especially the first one – since the caution flags went up last summer, visually by the first chart and anecdotally by the usual suspects aggressively pumping the unwitting masses. Buffett buys a gold stock!… okay, well so much for that. Sentiment became off the charts over-bullish and now, as we prepare for the final act of the correction, it’s the opposite. That’s perfect.

HUI had far exceeded the Gold/SPX ratio and so it was very vulnerable from a macro fundamental perspective. Why on earth would players want to focus on miners digging a rock out of the ground that was starting to fail in a price ratio to the stock market? They wouldn’t, and since last summer they didn’t.

Gold

But from a sector fundamental perspective the Gold/Oil ratio (Oil/Energy is a primary driver of mining costs) and HUI show that the 2020 rally was nothing like the two bubbles of yesteryear, when not only did HUI hit danger signals (!) noted above by a macro fundamental indicator, it also made two separate bubbles vs. this sector fundamental. This time? Nope, no bubble here. Continue reading "Gold: What A Long And Not So Strange Trip"

Which Way Will The Fed Blow?

Let’s see if I have this straight. For the past dozen years or so, dating back to the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve and other major central banks have been trying to raise inflation and thereby generate economic growth. (I’ve never quite understood that thinking; I always thought economic growth generated inflation, not the other way around. But that’s just me.)

So now it finally appears that inflation is about to rear its head, or so the bond market thinks, on the prospects of a nascent economic boom fueled by pent-up demand, fiscal stimulus, a decline in Covid-19 cases, and a vast rollout of vaccines. And what is the market’s reaction? Total panic. Sell bonds and tech stocks that have soared during the pandemic. And beg Jerome Powell and the Fed to save them from losses once again.

Let’s see which Powell responds—the one who has told us over and over again that the Fed will be “patient” and be pleased to let inflation run hotter and longer if it means boosting the employment market; or the one who repeatedly rides to the rescue whenever investors start to lose money and beg for relief.

On the surface, it should be the first one. Over the past month or so, bond yields have risen sharply on fears of rising inflation. Rather than a cause for worry, this should please Powell and the rest of the Fed. After all, they’ve been preaching for months that this is what they want, so this should come as no surprise to anyone. Plus, it’s a good thing – rising rates signal economic growth. Yet, the market’s reaction is shock and dismay. Continue reading "Which Way Will The Fed Blow?"