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[CRISIS] The Second Winter of Discontent

2029.
The Second Winter of Discontent.
Suffering - how divine it is, how misunderstood! We owe to it all that is good in us, all that gives value to life; we owe to it pity, we owe to it courage, we owe to it all the virtues.
— Anatole France, 1894
The waning winter months of 2029 will go down in history. Nearly ten years on from the protests against racism, inequality, and economic injustice that shook the world, the globe, like clockwork, has yet again built up to a boiling point waiting to erupt. It has been a long time coming— the various nations of the world, and the governments that lead them, have increasingly neglected the opinions of their citizens, regressed into militarism, pushed their agenda and ignored the ramifications and consequences of their actions and inactions on a domestic and international level. And these aforementioned citizens, many of whom hold their beliefs, causes and right to be heard near and dear to their hearts, are angry; angry at injustices real and perceived, angry at their governments for ignoring their beliefs and opinions, angry at the world for ignoring the environment and dragging civilization back to the brink of war more than once. An atmosphere of global tension, paranoia, anger and fear on a scale not seen since 2016 or 2020 has hung over the world, and now, finally, it has met its limit.
Welcome to the Second Winter of Discontent, as it is popularly known, (having stolen the name from a period of unrest in the UK during the 1970s): a period of global civil unrest, mass protests, riots, and insurrection in a world on the edge.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A NATION DIVIDED
The United States, debatable global hegemon and titan of international affairs, has always been a dysfunctional nation. From the Civil War to the civil rights movement, to the race riots of the 1970s and 1980s, to the war on terror and drugs, to the mass protests, shootings and riots of the 2010s, it is clear to any observer that the nation, strongly tied to cultural values of individual freedom and rights for all, is no stranger to internal turmoil on both sides of the political spectrum. And so it continues into the 2030s: following repeated victories by Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Joe Kennedy, the sidelining of the GOP, and the institution of numerous Democratic policies (such as a vast increase in immigration quotas, the addition of Puerto Rico and “New Columbia” as primarily Democrat states without right-wing counterbalance, an implementation of “Communist” or “Socialist” principles and workers rights into the economy, and many, many other primarily left-leaning or neoliberal Democratic policies), the pendulum of public outrage has shifted back into the right-wing’s sphere, and they are not pleased.
Across the American south, in die-hard conservative regions like Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and rural Texas, mass protests by Republicans, Libertarians, alt-right supporters, and other groups in a broad coalition of right-leaning groups and individuals have taken to the streets to voice their discontent with the Government and its policies, with bleed-over anger formulating out of anti-immigrant and anti-progressive or anti-socialist sentiment (not to mention smaller but very vocal anger related to other forms of bigotry, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc). This, combined with the high levels of firearm ownership, institutionalized corruption, and die-hard, unwavering support for conservative, right-wing ideals across most levels of southern and midwestern society (particularly in rural areas) has made violent clashes with counter-protestors common and local police forces relatively unwilling to intervene outside of the larger cities.
A lack of response from local government forces, owed in large part to their subtle support for the protestors and other forms of institutionalized corruption, has buoyed the morale of protestors, and sparked several violent incidents— in Louisiana, the protestors have occupied the government offices of the unpopular Democratic city council in Shreveport, with windows being smashed, buildings being spray painted or draped with American, Confederate, Gadsden, or Blue Lives Matter flags, and government officials being barred entry to the facilities. In Georgia, a clash between heavily armed protestors and left-leaning counter protestors from groups like Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others saw 53 individuals injured and 200 arrested by Atlanta PD. Other examples are numerous, and widespread across the south and midwest. Right wing protests total nearly 2 million in size.
In contrast, a smaller but vocal group of left-leaning protestors have also taken to the streets- both in counter-protest to the movement in the South and Midwest, and in response to the Government’s heavy-handed and continual push for free trade agreements across the world. This push to many socialists, communists, and progressives, represents a crushing betrayal of progressivism in favour of neoliberal policies, serving only to fuel their anger. This movement has also drawn support from semi-organized movements like Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and environmental activists, but has been, in a stark contrast to the protests of the right, targeted far more by local police forces. In a similar case to earlier protests, cases of police brutality have become omnipresent in what many believe to be a severe case of corruption and unequal treatment. These protests have wracked the more liberal, left-wing areas of the United States, particularly those troubled by economic decline- with New York, New England, the Urban Midatlantic and the Pacific States all being plagued by the unrest. Some analysts expect this smaller, quieter movement to quickly blossom if courses are not reversed or altered soon. Left wing protests total 1.2 million in size.
The United States Government, supported by the states, must now choose it’s path and respond to these protests— lest they quickly spiral out of control...
THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA: A NATION TORN BY WAR, NOW HUNGRY FOR PEACE
The Republic of Korea, more commonly known as South Korea, is a nation utterly defined by war. Forged in the fires of the 1950’s Korean War, which saw Capitalist and Communist carve up the Korean peninsula into their respective spheres of influence, the state of South Korea has remained locked in a perpetual state of semi-militarization against its northern neighbour, the DPRK, for over 70 years. Since those early days, however, the peninsula has been almost entirely conflict free despite the sabre rattling and retaliatory threats hurled over the DMZ that divided the two sides. As such, South Korea’s citizens, particularly the younger generations born into a modern age of global diplomacy, have no fondness for conflict, no appetite for destruction— a view made all the more relevant by the confounding militarism of the South Korean government of the 2020s and 2030s. Following the rapid and massive military buildup of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (with thousands of new tanks, colossal new ships like the Taejo-class battlecruisers, and no less than three full-sized aircraft carriers, among many others, all be procured or developed in recent years), the announcement of a “permanent escalation” in the conflict with North Korea and the clashes with Canada, China and Japan over the Arctic and Eastern China Sea, and years of neglect in the issues young Koreans care about most (the environment, housing, employment, and living costs), the Korean citizenry has finally given up pretenses of civility and set out to celebrate the Korean tradition of protesting.
Some 2.6 million South Koreans, representing the largest protests in the history of the nation, have taken to the streets of cities like Seoul, Busan, Gwangju, Daegu and others to condemn the South Korean conservative government’s rampant militarism. Over a million of the protestors now plague the streets of Seoul specifically, having on-and-off waves and surges of support, particularly around the downtown core and government offices like the Korea National Assembly Proceeding Hall. Protestors have deemed the movement the “Umbrella Revolution”, so called due to the ubiquitous umbrellas seen around the protest sites and the nature of umbrellas as a shield against “unwanted elements”. The movement, which is far more organized than similar protests in Hong Kong during the early 2020s and the recent movements in America, calls for an end to foreign military adventurism, written legislation pledging to never develop nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, and a reprioritization of domestic issues in Korea- demands which form the cornerstone of the movement as a whole. So far, the movement has remained relatively peaceful in nature— as one might expect, given the pacifistic end goal— but should the ruling United Future Party choose to react harshly to the discontent, it and it’s police forces may find themselves at the business end of the firearms it legalized.
THE UNION STATE OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS: "SOYUZI"
Despite professions of indivisible unity and brotherhood between the former Russian Federation and Belarus, it is clear to any outside observer that within the Union State of Russia and Belarus, more simply known as just the Union State, there lies a stark disconnect between the Belarusian people and their government. Not for everyone, and not everywhere, but the die-hard nationalist groups of Belarusians who feverishly continue to resist integration into the Union State prove that all is not well in the lands of the Rus. Indeed, since the onset of tensions following the crash of an AN-124 cargo jet at Machulishchy Air Base several years prior, said integration has continued to be slower than those in the Kremlin may have liked— largely spurred on by minor insurrectionist elements, passive resistance (the waving of the old red and white flag utilized by the Belarusian opposition, while officially banned, is still relatively common when away from the prying eyes of the KGB, the Police of the Union, or government officials), growing anger over the lack of a referendum or democracy in Belarus, and a relative lack of investment and development of the Belarusian economy when compared to the far larger and stronger Russian one. Indeed, while Belarusian nationalism has been cracked down on within the armed forces of the Union State and tighter regulations have been put in place to ensure weapon theft and nationalistic activies are prevented on military facilities, in the civilian world Belarusian nationalism has only continued to grow in spite the normal barrage of pro-Union propaganda from state media, the presence of Union troops, intensified scrutiny, and the revelation and capture of the terrorists responsible for the bombings at Machulishchy, which was achieved just six months after the event.
And now this growth in Belarusian civilian nationalism over the past five years has, after agonizingly long periods of simmering tensions, apparently boiled over— during a parade of Union forces through the streets of Minsk for the 7th of November Day of Military Honour, the crowd that had assembled was both smaller than usual and populated by several hundred apparent nationalists, who proceeded to boo and chant “Жыве Беларусь”, or “Long Live Belarus!” at the passing soldiers. As the crowd grew, drawn by the chanting and general commotion in the heart of the Belarusian capital, it became clear that the agitation would not stand— though the soldiers continued to march, Union Police, equipped with riot gear, batons, tear gas and firearms were called in to disperse the watching crowds and arrest the loudest troublemakers. This would prove to be a fatal mistake: the Militsiya cracked down on the crowds, including non-nationalist viewers of the parade, forcing them back into separate streets and making extensive use of their equipment to force them to disperse. Soon, however, it became clear that the crowds, spurred on by the nationalist fermentors and the harsh actions of the police, was not going to disperse; rather, they chose to resist.
Though they were relatively unprepared for this ad hoc protest, the nationalists and others involved swiftly began pushing back against the Union Police, gathering loose stones, bricks, bottles and other improvised weaponry to throw back at the shields and heavily armoured men in order to either force their hand or retreat. Videos and images of the incident in Minsk quickly circulated around the internet, being picked up by both foreign news sources and local internet users in Belarus; though the state internet providers would lock down the situation quickly, the crowds in Minsk swelled despite the cold weather, and similar groups began to come out of the woodwork and form across other major Belarusian cities in new waves of unrest. Additionally, though many weapons seized from Union army bases were recaptured by Union State officials following the initial incident at Machulishchy Air Base, it quickly became apparent that some had slipped through the cracks: armed elements, typically ex-servicemembers, youth, and other die-hard nationalists quickly joined the protests, brandishing their AKs, handguns, and on rare occasions machine guns and explosives in defiance of the police. Armed elements quickly proved their worth, as they buoyed morale and lended real teeth to the so-far unarmed protestors. Counter-protest forces were also surprisingly ineffective— though they were relatively easily able to quell one area of a city, crush one protest, another would swiftly arise somewhere else almost immediately after, forcing police and other forces to constantly detain individuals, shift priorities, and provide damage control to the best of their abilities.
As the news of the protests in Belarus spread around the world, it hit particularly hard to the Russian majority just to their east. Almost immediately, Russian nationalists decrying the separatist movement and "Belarusian entitlement" flared up around the ex-Russian Federation, who demanded the government put down the upstart "rebels" and fully reintegrate Belarus once again into the Union and to Mother Russia. These counter-protests have also targeted ethnic Belarusians living inside Russia, with reports of hate crimes and ethnic attacks stemming from the protests being widespread despite best efforts to stop them. Members of the Russian and Soyuzi governments have condemned the Belarusian protests; in particular, fervent nationalists of the Liberal Democratic Party such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky publically supported the Russian counter-protests, and called upon the ruling United Soyuz to swiftly and mercilessly crush the "rebellion in White Russia".
Thus, Belarus enters the new year and new decade in a state of tumult. Though authorities have contained civilian protesters (now estimated to number over 500,000) to Belarus, support for the movement remains relatively high across the nation, and new protests continue to crop up following recurring, reinforcing waves of support. Additionally, the so-far success of the Belarusian unrest threatens to bleed into the rest of the Union State, on both sides of the spectrum, should it go unquelled by Soyuzi authorities. The Kremlin must now choose; and it’s choice may determine the fate of the Union as a whole…
JAPAN: A LEGACY OF MILITARISM MEETS THE MODERN AGE
Japan has a long history of militarism and glorification of the armed forces. From the earliest days of the Japanese nation, a thousand+ years ago, to the closing days of the Second World War, Japanese culture has been moulded by and intertwined with the idea of militarism, military service, and production of military equipment. However, since the collapse of the Japanese Empire and the loss of World War II, this aspect of Japanese culture has largely been dormant, hidden beneath the veneer of a new “Self Defence Force” and seemingly tamed by a new global age of diplomacy and peaceful resolution. Indeed, the modern Japanese nation and the generations born and raised in the modern world seem to have lost an appetite for conflict and the military in general. Like their former colonial subjects in Korea, however, the Japanese government has apparently rediscovered it’s love for all things war; procurement of hundreds of new ships, including several new “helicopter destroyers” of the Izumo and Hyuga variety, hundreds of modern fighter jets, and thousands of vehicles has sharply increased compared to just ten years ago, and new plans to commit hundreds of billions of dollars to the purchase of of new equipment and modernization of old equipment over a decade draws increased scrutiny from a nation still grappling with rising living costs and a declining population— issues seemingly put on the backburner by the Japanese government of 2029 despite progress being made earlier in the decade. With this sharp increase of militarism, not helped by clashes over some rocks in the East China Sea in which Japan sank an entire coast guard fleet and a relative lack of attention for domestic policies on the homefront, Japanese citizens have begun taking to the streets in mass protest.
The protestors, angered by a Japan seemingly reprioritizing warmaking, now call upon the Japanese Government to reinvest in solutions for Japan’s domestic issues, making lives better for the average citizen and withdrawing funding from the “Armed Forces” (notably not described as “Self Defence Forces”). Already, major movements have occurred across the home islands, in cities as diverse as Tokyo, Sapporo, and Kochi, with a notably fervent example of support coming from the distant Okinawa, where the influence of militarism has been a persistent and much reviled fact of life for decades. Additionally, popular support for the controversial Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which limits Japan to self-defence forces and limited military technology only, has never been higher, peaking at 79% in Okinawa Prefecture but averaging an exceptionally high 67% across the nation as a result of the protests. That being said, nothing could be simple: in contrast to the anti-Military protests, a significant counter-protest movement has formed. Given the long history of Japanese militarism, it was only natural that pro-military activists would rise up in opposition. These pro-military and often pro-empire nationalist groups advocate for the immediate abolishment of Article 9 and an increase in defence spending and foreign overseas involvement, particularly given the aftermath of the Senkaku incident with China. The most radical of activists even advocate for the pursuit of domestic Japanese nuclear weapons and the removal of foreign military forces, primarily American, from Japanese soil, though these demands are miniscule compared to the far broader nationalist, pro-military sentiment wrapped up across the activist groups. Though slightly smaller than the anti-military protests, these nationalist groups have proven to be both incredibly vocal and far more violent— on several occasions, local police forces have been forced to intervene in clashes between pro and anti-military activists, utilizing riot gear and water cannons to forcibly disperse crowds while arresting the worst troublemakers.
It is clear that the status quo cannot stand in Japan. The nation hungers for change, be it through a drawback in military expenditure and the reinforcement of peaceful principles or an expansion of Japanese sovereignty and a sharp uptick in military spending. The Japanese government must choose one side, the other, or none, and it must do it soon, lest it be swept away by the anger of a populace believed to have been left behind.
OTHER:
  • In Canada, an uptick in military spending and procurement and the increasingly confrontational attitude displayed toward a former Canadian partner, South Korea, combined with, as seen in so many other places around the globe, a decline in care for domestic issues has resulted in mass protests rocking the country. These have hit cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton hard, and the total number of activists is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.
  • Across Eastern Europe, the unsurprising victory of Romania in the European Court of Justice has seen a sharp uptick in Eurosceptic sentiment. Germany’s loss has, ironically, resulted in the same effect but for different reasons— why should GERMANY, the most powerful nation in the Union, be beholden to the poor nations that rely on it to sustain their economies?
  • Africa in general is vibing, and by vibing I mean continuing to be poor and unstable, though Nigeria is doing well.
  • The UK, surprisingly, is doing pretty fine. Minor civil unrest related to the protests in America have been reported and quelled by local police forces.
  • South America is also vibing
  • In Australia and New Zealand, climate protests, spurred on by a lack of action to reduce carbon emissions and recent record high temperatures in the summer, have taken to the streets. These will probably fade in time, but should probably be addressed before that happens. Estimates put Australian protests to be at 100,000 and NZ protests at 75,000.
submitted by bowsniper to GlobalPowers

I Read A Lot So You Dont Have To --- #3

The Week of 1/23/17 Reading Summaries: Up-to-Date as of 1/26/17 2:00AM EST

TL;DR of the TL;DR of the TL;DR: (For those of you who can barely read)

  • Trump Rally:
    • If Trump do good, market go up.
    • If Trump do bad, market go down.
  • Europe will hate 2017
    • Elections in many countries
    • Nationalism rising
  • Philadelphia Manufacturing Index shows growth
    • index explained below.
  • Gold: Depends on the USD and Yen.
    • Short-term bearish.
  • US Fed gonna start selling bonds.
    • No more propping up the market.
  • Oil: Too many factors.
    • OPEC cuts seem to be effective.
    • Short-term bullish (CoT).
  • US labor force is fucked
    • Boomers retiring
  • Trump’s proposed tax holiday for foreign corps
    • maybe not produce econ. growth.
  • Airlines gonna go up.
    • PRASM
  • Obama’s legacy in numbers.
  • No research paper this week

FAQ

Q: Are you the original author?
A: For 85% of the material, no. Remaining 15%, yes.
Q: Why do you do this?
A: Because its enjoyable and helps keep me informed.
Q: Is this a newsletter or paid service?
A: No.
Q: What information sources do you use?
A: Reuters, WSJ, Barron's, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, S&P Capital IQ, Credit Suisse & Vickers.
Q: Where are the links to the original sources?
A: In most of the bold-faced titles there are links. I don’t read this material on the computer so many times I am hunting down a link after printing an article 2 days prior; that’s why some links are missing.

TL;DR of the TL;DR: (Verbose version)

  • Moving into 2017 the market is driven by TRUMP; specifically, will he succeed or fail?
    • The market currently says he will succeed, though I include writers who take both sides for your own interpretation, as well as projections of market movements in different scenarios.
  • DOW/S&P Indices: Some historical patterns show similarities to previous bull-markets that met catastrophe (1999 & 2007).
    • Other data shows improving strength.
  • VIX options with February expiration and 21-22 strikes are in high demand, show sentiment of a market selloff.
    • (But as we see with some users on this sub, people can always be wrong!)
  • Europe: becomes a bigger shit-show in 2017.
    • Brexit leaves massive hole in EU funding.
    • Elections this year with Populist/Nationalist parties advancing in polls.
  • UK: Inflation hit highest level since July 2014
  • Philadelphia Manufacturing Index Shows More Growth.
    • I breakdown the components of the index below.
  • Gold: I include writers who take both bullish and bearish sides.
    • Depending on what data you use to judge, gold could go either way though near-term bias seems bearish.
  • Fed’s Harker: Expect to begin shrinking the Fed’s bond holdings soon.
  • Copper: CoT data shows the trade is overcrowded with commercials holding a net short position.
  • Oil: Current uptrend looks strong.
    • Futures show the market tightening in current price range.
  • Atlanta Fed data suggests Trump’s proposed tax holiday for foreign subsidiaries of US companies may not provide a boost to US economic growth.
  • Shifting Demographics in the US: Could be the “Trump Rally’s” Achilles heal.
    • US productivity back to 1980’s levels.
    • Labor force participation also near lows not seen since 1978.
  • Consumer Discretionary subsectors stand to lose with Trump protectionism.
  • Airlines likely to see medium-term positive equity movement based on expectations of PRASM metric.
    • PRASM = Passenger Revenue per Available Seat Mile
  • Obama’s Legacy seen through the Markets
    • S&P500 hit all-time records 127 times during his two terms.
  • No “Research Paper Of The Week” this week, writing took too long.
 

Broad Market & My Opinion

Right now, the market is playing a sort of “tug-of-war” with the opposing forces of “risk-on” and “risk-off”.
  • Trump succeeds in passing plethora of legislation = “risk on”
  • Trump fails to be effective and the government gridlock continues = “risk off” During this week we’ve seen the swing between those two points. The week started with skepticism about Trump’s ability to accomplish many campaign promises, though those doubts were soon erased through both Twitter messages and rapid fire executive orders. As long as things look rosy for Trump’s efficacy, I think we can expect the following things:
  • Market rally continues with equities hitting new highs
  • Bonds continue to fall as the selloff resumes after the mid-December reversal
  • U.S. Inflation is projected to accelerate
  • This would likely mean that the Fed would become more hawkish and raise rates more frequently in 2017. However, we run the risk of creating stagflation if rates are hiked without proof of accelerated economic growth.
  • Historical data isn’t totally on Trump’s side, but its also not calling for the sky to fall For all bull markets since 1945:
  • S&P500 experiecned a “pullback” (-5% to -9.9%) once per year
  • S&P500 experienced a “correction” (-10% to -19%) once every 2.8 years
  • S&P500 experienced a “bear market” (-20% or more) once every 4.7 years
  • 70% of all YTD market declines happen in the first quarter of the year
    • 1/3 of them occur in January
  • The Dow moved from 19,000 to 20,000 without seeing a 5% decline
    • Only happened twice before; 1999 and 2007.
All that being said, many people believe that a sell-off would represent a necessary action before a new leg up.
Looking specifically at ETF inflows during 2016, we can see a tremendous spike in December in the post-election frenzy.
  • Blackrock’s iShares ETF’s tracking the S&P Dow Jones brought in $36 billion during the year, including $2.1 billion in December.
  • State Street Global Advisors saw a similar increase in demand during December of 2016. ETF’s that replicate S&P Dow Jones Indices brought in $40 billion, with $14 billion of that coming in December.
Then we have the drastic shift in consumer sentiment readings, showing some of the highest consumer confidence levels in over a decade. Broadly speaking, I expect the “trump rally” to continue as long as the administration can remain ahead of the market’s perceptions.
I mostly trade gold miners and so am bearish on gold for the time being. Bond yields are rising again, on Wednesday or Thursday the 10-yr returned to its early December level, which to me means that the mid-December reversal we saw has played out and is done with.
Trump’s latest announcements about the wall only hurt the peso and give the dollar a further edge. With tomorrow’s GDP numbers, I don’t expect the current market narrative to change.
 

[USD, the Market & Trump]

  • The movement of the US Dollar will be a significant force behind all other asset-classes’ performance in 2017
    • DXY dollar index is up 7% to nearly 1987 levels, however this index isn’t ideal for tracking the dollar’s relative strength
  • Opposing forces on the dollar: Trump has talked about an over-valued USD for months, but many of his proposed policies would serve to strengthen it.
  • Planned fiscal stimulus would prompt Fed to raise interest rates more aggressively in response, and to avoid getting “behind the curve”.
  • This would result in a stronger US Dollar relative to global currencies Big question: Can Trump policies increase the return on investment in the US?
  • No: Dollar down, US equities down
  • Yes: Pick 1 or 2 1) Increased ROI is at the expense of foreign ROI due to American protectionism:
    • Potential global depression, USA stops giving liquidity when necessary 2) Increased ROI is accomplished through tax cuts and deregulation:
    • Real interest rates up, global econ. growth accelerates,
To note: the DXY index overstates the strength of major currencies by assuming the United States does 11% trade with UK, 13% with Japan and 58% with Eurozone. The Fed’s MTP (Major Trading Partners) index calculates US trade with UK at 3%, 7% Japan and 17% Eurozone.

 

What is the “Taper Tantrum”?
-This is a lesson in cross-asset correlations
  • How much A moves when B moves and vice versa
    • Specifically, how strong is the connection between stocks and bonds; when will stocks rise if bonds fall?
    • POSITIVE correlation: “yields down, stocks down. Yields up, stocks up”
    • Negative correlation: “yields down, stocks up. Yields up, stocks down”
    • This relationship can be measured as a "correlation index". This index between bond yields and equities has bounced back and forth between a strong-negative and weaker-negative over time.
    • Almost never does the index go completely positive; however, post-2008 the correlation has become more volatile (bounces more frequently and drastically).
    • 2013 was called the “taper tantrum”, where the correlation index went completely positive.
    • Currently the “rates-equity” correlation index are about to go positive, only ever seen during 2013 and 06-07.
    • If inflation rises, the Fed hikes, bond yields will have a quick spike.
  • If this spike in bond yields is above 3%, taper tantrum shows that the “rates-equity” correlation index becomes positive.
  • If it becomes positive, that means as bond yields go up, stocks go down and the typical 60/40 split portfolio gets fucked.
 
The Philadelphia Manufacturing Index and its Components
  • It is one of many different surveys performed by the US Federal Reserve to gauge business conditions
There are several components to the index:
  • “Current Activities” rose 3.9 points in January, which is one of the highest readings since 2010
  • “Shipping” declined 1.2 points in January, however this was after a tremendous December reading so a pullback isn’t too surprising as it would be hard to maintain the Dec levels.
  • “New Orders” rose to the highest point since 2001
  • “Capital Expenditure” declined 10.4 points, however much like shipping, this reading is still at a point that indicates strong growth.
  • “Employment” rose substantially from 3.6 to 12.8
All taken together, this is considered a bullish report that suggests solid economic growth in the Philadelphia Fed district.

 

[Data from the Federal Reserve in Atlanta on Trump’s Proposed Tax Holiday]
  • Trump has proposed a tax holiday to induce US companies with capital held overseas into repatriating the funds without receiving a penalty.
    • The idea is that these funds will then go to work in US investment.
  • Atlanta Fed data shows that when looking at the foreign subsidiaries of US companies, there isn’t a pile of unused cash sitting idle
  • Claim is that much of the money is already invested and at work in the U.S. through the subsidiary
  • Net result of the tax holiday would therefore be allowing these subsidiaries to return capital to the mothership without a tax-penalty and without significant benefit to American economic growth.

 

Using CoT Data to Read Commodity Sentiment
  • The Commitment of Traders Report shows the positions of big investors in the futures market.
  • With a simple calculation you can turn this into the CoT Index:
    • COT index = 100 x (current Net – Minimum Net) / (maximum Net – Minimum Net)
    • This index then gives you a percentage that shows where current market positioning ranks compared to its recent history.
    • A high reading usually means “overbought” and due for a decline, and vice versa for a low reading. Or if you’re like me you can find an article online that already has the index calculated and explained. This data is lagging, meaning by the time you get it the professionals may have changed positions (though that is unlikely).
  • Currently the latest CoT data suggests a possible bullish sign for gold.
    • Post-election in the gold selloff, the CoT spread narrowed massively; it is finally beginning to widen again, though this could simply be a pause before another downtrend.
 
European Geopolitics Likely To Be Highly Volatile in 2017 (A.K.A. “why I think Europe is fucked”)

Brexit will cost the EU a 10 Billion euro hole in their budget

  • Other countries will have to pick up the slack (these are all estimations)
  • These countries cant afford to pick up the slack -Social unrest is already rampant, spending further government money on something other than benefits for citizens will likely be highly unpopular.
Germany
  • likely facing an increased cost of 3.5b euros/year as it is the strongest economy in the EU.
  • German budget is balanced**
    • Only reason Germany’s budget is balanced is due to unnaturally low interest rates
    • If rates were to rise then a sizeable deficit would suddenly appear Germany holds elections on September 24th
  • Merkel’s party may retain power, the nationalist AfD party is in 3rd place. However, continued stress from the migrant crisis and terror attacks may drive public sentiment a different direction.
**Note: The original article is described above. Below are nfp_count 's points pertaining to Germany in rebuttal:
Even if there is a rate hike up to 1.5% for the 10 year bond, that wouldn't make much of a difference in the budget. The budget has been balanced since 2014, sustaining much higher rates than the current ones. In addition most of the German debt is in 10 year and 30 year Bonds, so there are still a lot of bonds with high rates to be serviced in the budget. Last but not least the there is a strict deficit limit in the constitution and unlike the USA our politicians can't change this limit at will. So overall I would say the 2017 Budget is going to be +-5 Billion EUR, unless there is a major crash (like 2008). Talking about the election it's probably going to be a Merkel led CDU/SPD coalition again, but if anything else is going to happen, then it will be a leftwing coalition of SPD/LINKE/GRÜNE.
France
  • likely facing 1.5b euros/year increased cost
  • France has struggled with debt for years, the EU continues to extend its grace-period
  • 2017 France should be under the debt threshold, only to return over it in 2018 France holds elections on March 23rd
  • Nationalist Marine Le Pen holds lead with 26% of the vote, center-right republicans have near 25%
  • Polls say she won’t win and that its impossible for her party to take control, though we have seen how inaccurate polls can be.
Italy
Italy is really the next Greece in terms of a zombie economy and crippling debt. - Likely need 1b more euros/year - Debt/GDP ratio over 130%. 3rd largest borrower in the world, 8th largest economy. - Only propped up by the negative rates of the ECB - If Italian bonds went back to paying interest at the level seen in 2012, it would cost 5% of Italian GDP
Netherlands
  • Vote March 15th
  • Seeing rise in nationalism/populism as the “Party for Freedom” currently has 29% of the vote
Spain
  • Likely need to pay 700M more euros/year to help cover Brexit shortfall
  • 2nd highest unemployment in EU at over 19%
  • Doubtful that additional spending of this magnitude will go over well with the populace.
Sweden
  • Likely needs to pay 550M more euros/year, that’s the most on a per capita basis
  • Also gained the most migrants per capita in the EU
  • Have to wait and see how this turns out
Greece
  • The posterchild for poor financial management will need to pay around 100M more euros/year
  • Since 2008 the economy has shrunk 25%
  • Unemployment is at nearly 23%
  • Multiple prior bailouts
Romania
  • Similar relationship to Europe as Mexico to US.
  • Likely needs to pay 100M more euros/year
  • Second poorest EU member
  • A massive portion of the citizenry are living abroad and sending money back home to Romania
    • 200k in UK alone
    • Around 500M euros/year of Romanian economy coming from foreign remittances
  • If Brexit negotiations turn ugly, UK can easily terminate these remittances, thus sending Romania into a devastated state
  • We can extend this out to the other former communist nations, meaning the UK has control over likely billions in financial remittances that are keeping eastern Europe afloat.

 

Protectionism From Trump Could Backfire into Stagflation
Author posits that protectionist policies (specifically the Smoot-Hawley Tariff) were pivotal in causing The Great Depression.
  • If we accept this, then it stands to reason that Trump’s proposed protectionist policies could do the same.
  • Smoot-Hawley was meant to protect American interests abroad, until all other countries began implementing their own tariffs
    • Within 4 years import and export trade in the US was down 50%
  • If Trump enacts a tariff like Smoot-Hawley then:
    • Marginal demand for USD declines
    • Value of USD declines
    • Commodities priced in dollars such as gold and oil rise
    • U.S. Treasury securities decline as foreign countries sell their holdings
    • If the Fed raised rates while these events unfolded, we would have rising interest rates without strong economic growth, leading to stagflation.

 

[Under Trump Protectionist Tariffs, Consumer Discretionary Sector Suffers](S&P Capital IQ)

Within the Consumer Discretionary Sector: Leisure products, Home Furnishings, Auto Manufacturers and Footwear would all take a hit as they rely heavily on imports.
  • These subsectors within Consumer Discretionary were already lagging behind the broad market in 2016. Despite record holiday sales, brick and mortar retailers missed most of the rush as consumers went online.
HASBRO $HAS at high risk
  • 49% of all revenues in 2015 were international
    • Nearly all products are produced by 3rd parties in China
MATTEL $MAT
  • Similar to Hasbro
    • 41% of 2015 revenues were international
PIER 1 IMPORTS $PIR
  • The largest specialty retailer for imported home furnishings
    • 58% of 2016 sales came from product from China
[Inflation is picking up, Industrials get Attention](Argus Market Watch)
  • Measures of inflation are continuing upward since early 2015
    • Average hourly earnings for non-farm work rose 2.9% in ’16, from 2.6% in ‘15
  • Non-supervisory workers wages up 2.5%
    • Core CPI up 2.1% in the last year (Higher than Fed’s 2% inflation target)
  • Argus expects the Fed to continue to normalize rates this year.
As economic output and manufacturing activity are expected to increase worldwide, industrial gases may be a sector to invest in.
  • Surveys show global industrial production continuing to rise 2.8% into 2020
  • U.S. Industrial expansion likely to rebound under Trump admin; China industrial growth is improving.
    • Argus recommends “Air Products and Chemicals Inc. $APD” with expectations of EPS +10% in ’17.

 

[Airlines likely to see new period of equity performance based on PRASM metric]( S&P Capital IQ Trends & Ideas)

  • PRASM = metric of airline pricing, passenger yields, down for 21 months in a row
    • But the rate of decline is slowing
  • Airline management shifting focus could point to “positive PRASM” by next year which would be considered an inflection point for these stocks.
    • “PRASM” = Passenger Revenue Per Available Seat Mile
    • Data comes from “Airlines for America”, industry lobbyists
  • In Q3/Q4 reports, some airlines reported their moves to cut capacity growth with a goal of obtaining positive PRASM
    • Historical data shows with PRASM was up year over year, the airline stocks soon followed
  • This entire idea could be scrapped by a deceleration in the U.S. economy, hurting demand for flights, or energy prices remaining low (which encourages airlines into excess capacity growth). American Airlines
    • despite high relative debt levels it has better PRASM numbers
Delta Airlines
  • leads industry in unit revenues
  • attracts more business traffic
    • Delta claims Q1 PRASM looks like it will be positive
Southwest Airlines
  • largest domestic carrier but little international presence
  • not a big concern as international markets are weaker than domestic anyway.
  • Based on PRASM it ought to be near the top of the pack.
United Continental Holdings
  • its 2010 merger was bad which makes its shares trade at a discount to the others listed here.

 

[Insurers Likely To See Growth in Auto Opportunities](S&P Capital IQ Trends & Ideas)

Disregard this entire section if there is a sharp rise in interest rates or sudden acceleration in the development and implementation of driverless cars (which would neuter the auto insurance business).
  • Personal auto insurance accounts for more than 38% of the insurance industry’s annual written premium volume.
    • Loss ratios are up due to more driving (improving economy) and more distracted driving (fucking millennials texting)
    • High loss ratios are bad. Lower loss ratios is good.
  • 10 US states likely to see growth in auto insurance demand due to population growth and shifting demographics
    • AZ, CO, DC, FL, ID, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA
    • These states are expected to see insurers increase policy base by around 13% in 2017
  • Cannot look only at market share of insurers, some of the lower market share players are more profitable with their underwriting in these 10 growth states.
“The Hartford Financial Services Group”
  • Focuses on covering groups like AARP
  • Hartford’s loss ratio in these 10 states = 68.2% versus industry average of 71.3%
  • Trades at a discount to peers, with this expected increase in insurance demand, that discount is not warranted
“MetLife Inc”
  • Largest life insurer in the US
  • Expect it to focus on property-casualty, employee benefits and institutional products businesses.
  • Loss ratio in 10 states = 66.4% versus industry average of 71.3%
“Travelers Companies”
  • Not a leader in underwriting personal auto insurance based on volume, but it has superior results based on profitability.
  • Best in industry loss ratio of 58.5%
 

[Review of Markets Under President Obama]

  • S&P500 had cumulative gains of 148% during Obama’s terms.
  • S&P500 hit all-time highs 127 times during Obama’s terms.
    • Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) under Obama = 12%, behind Clinton and Ford.
  • Since 2009:
    • S&P Composite 1500 rose 154%
    • SmallCap 600 rose 212%
    • MidCap 400 rise 208%
    • Large-cap 500 rose 148%
    • All sectors of the 1500 rose, Consumer Discretionary, Information Technology and Health Care rising the most.
    • Of the 1500’s sectors, Utilities, Energy and Telecom saw the smallest gains (all under 100% under Obama)
  • 136 sub-industries in the S&P1500: only 5 saw cumulative losses over Obama’s two terms: Aluminum, Gold, Oil & Gas Drilling, Education Services and Coal.
  • Every Republican president since 1900 has experienced a recession in their first term in office
  • Obama was in office during the 3rd longest economic expansion since 1900
  • Average 10-year yield was only 2.5% during his terms (Truman = 2.4%, Eisenhower = 3.3%, Reagan = 10.7%)
  • GDP CAGR was highest under Truman (5.6%) and lowest under Obama (1.7%)
  • 2011: S&P500 fell 19.4% and nearly started a new bear market
  • S&P500 has typically risen during the 3rd year of a president’s term due to “reelection-enhancing” stimulus
    • Obama didn’t enact such stimulus, S&P500 fell in 2011 and 2015 as a result.
  • The fall in 2015 was the first S&P500 decline since 1905 for a year ending in 5
For the sake of contrarian opinion, I include a piece that I don’t personally agree with, but that gives a view on a very stark “anti-trump” foundation.
2017 Outlook is Volatile at All Angles
The author presents his predictions for 2017; I see this as a way to gauge what the “Trump Fails” scenario looks like (since the current rally is showing what “Trump succeeds” looks like).
  • Tax cuts won’t cause meaningful growth in firms and infrastructure projects take too long to design and roll out.
  • Based on past trends out national debt should double in 8 more years; 40T by 2024.
  • The market was overvalued before the election, now we’re chasing hopes and dreams.
  • Stocks will be up near-term with bonds falling and US Dollar rising.
    • Reality will set in about Trump and his inability to govern leading to deflation and a slowing economy
    • Market will crash 40% into the fall
  • US Dollar rises to 120 by late 2017
  • Euro to 0.85
  • Deutche Bank fails
  • Gold falls to under $800/oz
  • Oil falls under $30/barrel
As I said above, I don’t necessarily agree with this view but its always worthwhile to take all information into account. I think that the author has fair reason to be skeptical about seeing substantial changes from the Trump administration; however, I also believe that Trump is willing to do things other politicians would never consider, in order to achieve his growth goals. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still up for debate, as is most of the material in this write-up.
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