Weak economic data signal Fed may delay rate rise till 2016
Strength in gold market is going to stay for a while: Sumitomo
Gold is starting to shed its reputation as a dead asset, and bulls can thank signs the U.S. economy is starting to sputter for the boost.
The metal was little changed at $1,184.18 an ounce by 10:28 a.m. in London after climbing above its 200-day moving average on Wednesday for the first time in about five months. Prices touched the highest since June 22 yesterday and investors bought the most through gold-backed funds since August.
A gauge of U.S. inflation fell by the most since January and retail sales missed forecasts, increasing traders’ bets the Federal Reserve will delay raising rates until next year. That’s good news for gold, which loses out when borrowing costs rise because the metal doesn’t pay yields, unlike competing assets.
A lot of investors breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday after the Fed decided to hold interest rates steady. While it will happen eventually, a number of financial experts say an increase in rates could derail global markets.
With our world more intertwined than ever before, what happens in America could impact the rest of the world. Conversely, a further slowdown in China or political upheaval in Europe could impact the U.S. and other international markets.
While the global economy is still projected to expand by about 3.3 percent this year, according to the IMF, there are several risks that could impact the global economy and its stock markets.
If anyone’s been paying attention to the news lately, they’ll know that Chinahas been in a heap of trouble. Its stock market is wobbly, people aren’t sure whether its growth projections are accurate, corporations are carrying loads of debt, and the list of issues goes on.
To Eric Lascelles, chief economist at RBC Global Asset Management, what’s happening in China presents the biggest risk to world markets and, more specifically, its debt issues.
This year the country’s corporate debt levels hit 160 percent of GDP, which is twice as high as America’s corporate debt levels, while Standard & Poor’s estimates that China’s corporate debt will climb by 77 percent, to $28.8 trillion, over the next five years.
Much of that debt has been concentrated in the country’s booming housing market, said Lascelles, and while the government is helping out local governments and companies, non-performing loans on Chinese banks have grown by 57 percent over the last year, he said.
It’s still a low base—only 1.5 percent of loans aren’t being paid, he said—but those growth rates are rising. If this does become a larger problem, then economic growth could slow even further, which, with China being the second-largest economy in the world representing about 16 percent of global GDP, would have an impact on all of us, Lascelles explained.
While most people expect the Federal Reserveto raise rates before the end of the year, a move in the overnight rate could still create volatility on a global stage, said Lisa Emsbo-Mattingly, Fidelity’s director of research for global asset allocation.
A lot of people think that the base rate will simply be increased by about 25 basis points and that everything will look like it does now. However, bond rates bounce around and aren’t as stable as people may think, and that could cause uncertainty.
As well, the U.S. government balance sheet is “extremely large,” she said, and any rise in rates will impact the bonds it holds.
“The technicalities of this may be more complex than what we’ve seen in the past,” she said. “We’ll see how the market reacts to a little more uncertainty in the Fed funds rate and short-term rates.”
One of the consequences of a rising Fed rate could be an illiquid global bond market. Why? Because when rates rise, bond prices fall, and who wants to buy a security that’s falling in price?
That’s one of Jeff Mortimer’s concerns. The director of investment strategy for BNY Mellon Wealth Management is worried that when people try to sell their bonds into a rising rate environment, there won’t be any takers.
Regulation, he said, has already pushed traders out of the bond market, so there aren’t as many people buying and selling fixed-income instruments as it is.
“We know that there are less people taking the other sides of trades, so how will the bond market handle selling pressure?” he questioned.
An illiquid market could impact global markets in two ways. First, bond prices will fall even farther than they should. And second, if people can’t sell their bonds, they may start selling other assets.
“If you can’t sell bonds, then what are you going to sell?” he asked. “You’ll sell equity—that’s a lot of what transpired in 2008.”
Over the last year, the greenback’s value has steadily climbed. It’s up 20 percent against the Canadian dollar, 14 percent against the euro, 10 percent against the yen and so on.
There are multiple sides to the U.S. dollarstory, said Lascelles. Some countries, like Canada, Europe and Japan, like having a weaker currency as it helps exports, but emerging markets countries do not.
Many of them use American dollars to fund day-to-day operations, and if buying those dollars gets pricier, then they could find themselves strapped for cash.
As well, a too-strong dollar is bad for the U.S. It reduces its global competitiveness, and that ultimately limits economic expansion.
It’s also bad for multinationals who make money in other countries and have to convert those dollars back to American bucks.
“There’s no debating that a stronger dollar is negative for growth,” said Lascelles.
Politics is always a risk, but Lascelles has been seeing greater shift to far right and far left politics than he has in the past.
Some of it may be just rhetoric, such as Rand Paul’s “audit the Fed” bill, but with Greece’s rebuff of the IMF and more right- and left-leaning parties getting into power, people have to wonder if the right economic policies will ultimately be put in place.
While he can understand why more populous ideas are being bandied about—rising unemployment and continued economic challenges is causing citizens and governments to think differently—rejecting sound economic policies will slow growth and make it difficult to ultimately reform, he said.
“A healthy does of skepticism is appropriate,” he added, “but in the end these are mostly unwelcome and can jeopardize an economy.”
Today the narrow-minded canyons of Wall Street are littered almost entirely of trend-following bulls and cheerleaders who don’t realize how little there is to actually cheer about. Stock values are far less attractive than they were on that day back in 2009 and this selloff has a lot longer to run. There are hordes of perma-bulls calling for a V-shaped recovery in stocks, even after multiple years of nary a downtick.
Here are six reasons why I believe the bear market in the major averages has only just begun:
1) Stocks are overvalued by almost every metric.One of my favorite metrics is the price-to-sales ratio, which shows stock prices in relation to the company’s revenue per share and omits the financial engineering associated with borrowing money to buy back shares for the purpose of boosting EPS growth. For the S&P 500 (INDEX: .SPX), this ratio is currently 1.7, which is far above the mean value of 1.4. The benchmark index is also near record high valuations when measured as a percentage of GDP and in relation to the replacement costs of its companies.
2) There is currently a lack of revenue and earnings growth for S&P 500 companies. Second-quarter earnings shrank 0.7 percent, while revenues declined by 3.4 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet. The Q2 revenue contraction marks the first time the benchmark index’s revenue shrank two quarters in a row since 2009.
Virtually the entire global economy is either in, or teetering on, a recession. In 2009, China stepped further into a huge stimulus cycle that would eventually lead to the largest misallocation of capital in the history of the modern world. Empty cities don’t build themselves: They require enormous spurious demand of natural resources, which, in turn, leads to excess capacity from resource-producing countries such as Brazil, Australia, Russia, Canada, et al. Now those economies are in recession because China has become debt disabled and is painfully working down that misallocation of capital. And now Japan and the entire European Union appear poised to follow the same fate.
This is causing the rate of inflation to fall according to the Core PCE index. And the CRB Index, which is at the panic lows of early 2009, is corroborating the decreasing rate of inflation.
But the bulls on Wall Street would have you believe the cratering price of oil is a good thing because the “gas tax cut” will drive consumer spending – never mind the fact that energy prices are crashing due to crumbling global demand. Nevertheless, there will be no such boost to consumer spending from lower oil prices because consumers are being hurt by a lack of real income growth, huge health-care spending increases and soaring shelter costs.
4) U.S. manufacturing and GDP is headed south. The Dallas Fed’s manufacturing report showed its general activity index fell to -15.8 in August, from an already weak -4.6 reading in July. The oil-fracking industry had been one of the sole bright spots for the US economy since the Great Recession and has been the lead impetus of job creation. However, many Wall Street charlatans contend the United States is immune from deflation and a global slowdown and remain blindly optimistic about a strong second half.
Unfortunately, we are already two-thirds of the way into the third quarter and the Atlanta Fed is predicting GDP will grow at an unimpressive rate of 1.3 percent. Furthermore, the August ISM manufacturing index fell to 51.1, from 52.7, its weakest read in over two years. And while gross domestic product in the second quarter came in at a 3.7 percent annual rate, due in large part to a huge inventory build, gross domestic income increased at an annual rate of only 0.6 percent.
GDP tracks all expenditures on final goods and services produced in the United States and GDI tracks all income received by those who produced that output. These two metrics should be equal because every dollar spent on a good or service flows as income to a household, a firm, or the government. The two numbers will, at times, differ in practice due to measurement errors. However this is a fairly large measurement error and it leads one to wonder if that 0.6 percent GDI number should get a bit more attention.
5) Global trade is currently in freefall. Reuters reported that exports from South Korea dropped nearly 15 percent in August from a year earlier, with shipments to China, the United States and Europe all weaker. U.S. exports of goods and general merchandise are at the lowest level since September of 2011. The latest measurement of $370 billion is down from $408 billion, or -9.46 percent from Q4 2014. And CNBC reported this week that the volume of exports from the Port of Long Beach to China dropped by 10 percent YOY. The metastasizing global slowdown will only continue to exacerbate the plummeting value of U.S. trade.
6) The Fed is promising to no longer support the stock market. Back in 2009, our central bank was willing to provide all the wind for the market’s sail. And despite a lackluster 2 percent average annual GDP print since 2010, the stock market doubled in value on the back of zero interest rates and the Federal Reserve‘s $3.7 trillion money-printing spree. Thus, for the past several years, there has been a huge disparity building between economic fundamentals and the value of stocks.
But now, the end of all monetary accommodations may soon occur, while markets have become massively over-leveraged and overvalued. The end of quantitative easingand a zero interest-rate policy will also coincide with slowing U.S. and global GDP, falling inflation and negative earnings growth. And the Fed will be raising rates and putting more upward pressure on the U.S. dollar while the manufacturing and export sectors are already rolling over.
I am glad Ms. Yellen and Co. appear to have finally assented to removing the safety net from underneath the stock market. Nevertheless, Wall Street may soon learn the baneful lesson that the artificial supports of QE and ZIRP were the only things preventing the unfolding of the greatest bear market in history.
While the analysts expect gold will probably end up around $1,050, they do say an interest rate hike in the U.S., another correction in China’s stock market, and further selling of reserves by central banks could result in that worst-case scenario of $800 (and some very grumpy gold bugs).
Why the end of the era? Here’s what the analysts say:
But price stability in Precious Metals has ended. Indeed, gold and silver prices have been in trend decline since May. Why? The passing of deflation risk, anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s first interest rate hike, another debt resolution for Greece, and the collapse in China’s equity markets (prompting loss-covering asset sales) – have all hit these prices over 8-10 weeks. So the PBoC’s announcement last week, about China’s surprisingly low official gold holdings, was really just the latest in a string of bearish events. It’s possible that the next short-term driver in metal markets will be declining oil prices (WTI & Brent down 10-16% in 4 weeks).
from Royal Bank of Canada
July 21, 2015 Precious Metals & Minerals NA Gold & Silver Equities: Stress Testing the Balance Sheets (3) Equity value erodes below $1,100/oz. With gold having dipped below $1,100/oz and silver below $15.00/oz, we have once again run a balance sheet sensitivity analysis for the North American listed precious metal producers in our coverage universe over the H2/2015 to 2018 period. As highlighted in previous research, the difference for the equities in the current gold price sell-off, versus prior price declines, is that the precious metals producers now have significantly greater levels of debt (Exhibit 2).
In conclusion, the companies best positioned to operate in a $1,000/oz price environment are the royalty-streaming companies Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold, Silver Wheaton, and Osisko Gold Royalties.
The gold producers that are best positioned to withstand a sub-$1,100/oz gold price are Acacia, Alamos, Centamin, Fresnillo, Goldcorp, Goldfields, Klondex, Newmont, Randgold, SEMAFO, and Tahoe (Exhibit 1).
While a number of companies have already cut or eliminated their dividends, we believe Barrick, Centerra, Goldcorp, Goldfields, Pan American, and Yamana could reduce their dividends. Stress testing at lower gold prices after growth capital is frozen. Our base case is $1,100/oz gold & $14.50/oz silver with scenarios at $1,000/oz & $13.25/oz and $1,200/oz & $15.75/oz.
We provide a onepage summary for 35 gold producers (Page 5) that includes: (1) annual operating forecasts, liquidity estimates and key credit ratios; and (2) a discussion of our scenario analysis for each company. We assume that the companies do not draw down on their existing short-term credit facilities, as many banks are likely reviewing the credit risk of these facilities. We model similar levels of sustaining capital and assume that new mine development capital is suspended, with the exception of development capital that is more than 50% complete, such as Goldcorp’s Cochenour project and Eldorado’s Olympias and Skouries projects. Stress test highlights $1,100/oz as a critical level •
At $1,100/oz gold and $14.50/oz silver, the North American gold sector remains ex-growth. In addition to the cost-cutting measures that have occurred to date, producers will need to place their highercost mines in harvest and accelerated closure mode or on care and maintenance. We would expect to see a reduction in management and board compensation and the use of private aircraft travel curtained. And below $1,100/oz, we believe some companies could see their lines of credit reduced or withdrawn, and companies with elevated levels of debt may be forced to hedge revenues, sell streams on mining assets, and/or raise distressed equity.
At $1,100/oz, companies that would need to continue making cuts to discretionary and fixed costs to improve their balance sheets include AngloGold, Barrick Gold, Hochschild, IAMGOLD, Kinross, Pan American, Primero, Teranga, and Timmins. • At $1,000/oz gold and $13.25/oz silver, we would expect mine production to begin to contract as mines are placed on care and maintenance or moved into accelerated closure. In addition to the cost-cutting measures mentioned above, we believe a number of the gold producers would need to consider mergers to capture operating synergies or other financial benefits. At $1,000/oz, all of the gold/silver producers in our coverage universe would continue to make cuts to operating and discretionary costs and the most leveraged companies would seek alternative sources of equity. • At $1,200/oz gold and $15.75/oz silver, we believe most of the sector can sustain their current operating mines, but mines with AISC above $1,100/oz would likely go into “harvest mode” with significant development capital spending deferred. In addition, at $1,200/oz the producers can still implement cash-saving measures, with further cuts to G&A, exploration, and sustaining capital. Priced as of prior trading day’s
$1,100 gold is a critical level for North American precious metals companies
At $1,100/oz gold, most of the companies in our coverage universe are expected to continue to cut G&A, exploration, and sustaining capital spending. We could also see producers begin an accelerated closure process for their higher-cost, shorter-life mines by spending on reclamation rather than sustaining capital and mining out residual reserves over a 2- to 3- year period. Another alternative would be to place mines on care & maintenance, which would still require ongoing security/maintenance costs, although this would avoid burning cash for longer reserve life mines during a period of high sustaining capital spending associated with major waste stripping or underground development.
However, at or near $1,000/oz gold, we would expect companies to announce that their high-cost mines are being placed on accelerated closure, even mines that previously had long reserve lives given the potential for significant cash burn. We believe that most of the gold and silver producers in our coverage universe would struggle in a $1,000 gold environment if they do not defer discretionary costs, cut capital, and close cash-burning mines.
The companies that currently have the highest AISC costs include AngloGold, Centerra Gold, Detour Gold, IAMGOLD, Kinross, Newmont, Perseus, Pan American, Silver Standard, Teranga, and Timmins Gold. High-quality producers and royalty-streaming companies We believe the current gold price pullback presents an opportunity to buy gold mining equities with strong balance sheets that offer an attractive risk-reward.
In our view, in a sub- $1,100 gold price environment, the most resilient North American listed gold producers with solid yet flexible business plans and strong balance sheets would be Acacia, Alamos, Centamin, Fresnillo, Goldcorp, Goldfields, Klondex, Newmont, Randgold, SEMAFO, and Tahoe (Exhibit 1). These companies have low net debt, a low capital spending to cash flow ratio, and low-cost mines. The gold companies with the most robust business models and in a sharply lower gold price environment are the royalty and streaming companies, including Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold, Silver Wheaton, and Osisko, which have little or no debt and minimal operating and capital exposure. Exhibit 1: NA Precious Metal Producers leverage versus AISC margins clearly show
Gold added to overnight losses to hover near $1,180 an ounce on Wednesday as investors waited for a Federal Reserve statement for clues on the timing of a U.S. interest rate hike.
Spot gold had eased 0.2 percent to $1,179.01 an ounce by 0655 GMT after dipping 0.4 percent in the previous session. Platinum fell to a six-year low of $1,068.75, while palladium dropped to its lowest since March 31.
All eyes will be on the Fed’s statement due at 1800 GMT after the Federal Open Market Committee’s two-day policy meeting. Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s news conference will also be monitored for pointers to the timing of the coming rate rise.
Also out after the meeting will be the committee members’ latest forecasts for economic growth and interest rates, both of which might be nudged lower.
Bullion has not made much headway in recent months because of uncertainty over the timing of the rate rise, which would reduce demand for non-interest-paying assets.
“Gold may find support at $1,165 if Yellen proves to be unambiguously hawkish tonight,” said Howie Lee, an analyst at Phillip Futures.
“The dollar is likely to be the beneficiary tonight,” he added.
A stronger greenback would hurt the dollar-denominated metal, making it more expensive for holders of other currencies while also curbing safe-haven demand.
The continuing Greek debt crisis is not spurring much safe-haven demand.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Greece’s creditors on Tuesday of trying to “humiliate” Greeks with more cuts as he defied a growing drumbeat of warnings that Europe was preparing for his country to leave the euro. [ID:nL5N0Z21I7]
The unrepentant address to lawmakers after the collapse of talks with European and IMF lenders at the weekend was the clearest sign yet that the leftist leader has no intention of making a last-minute U-turn and accepting austerity cuts needed to unlock frozen aid and avoid a debt default within two weeks.
Gold is typically seen as a good bet at times of financial and economic uncertainty, but bids have failed to emerge in a robust way as expectations of a U.S. interest rate rise this year are weighing on the market.
The metal’s technical picture was also bearish, ScotiaMocatta analysts said.
Gold appears increasingly vulnerable to a break towards a recent low near $1,160 reached last month, they said.
If you sold every share of every company in the U.S. and used the money to buy up all the factories, machines and inventory, you’d have some cash left over. That, in a nutshell, is the math behind a bear case on equities that says prices have outrun reality.
The concept is embodied in a measure known as the Q ratio developed by James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at Yale University who died in 2002. According to Tobin’s Q, equities in the U.S. are valued about 10 percent above the cost of replacing their underlying assets — higher than any time other than the Internet bubble and the 1929 peak.
Valuation tools are being dusted off around Wall Street as investors assess the staying power of the bull market that is now the second longest in 60 years. To Andrew Smithers, the 77-year-old former head of SG Warburg’s investment arm, the Q ratio is an indicator whose time has come because it illuminates distortions caused by quantitative easing.
“QE is a very dangerous policy, in my view, because it has pushed asset prices up and high asset prices, we know from history, are very dangerous,” Smithers, founder of Smithers & Co. in London, said in a phone interview. “It is very strongly indicated by reliable measures that we’re looking at a stock market which is something like 80 percent over-priced.”
Acceptance of Tobin’s theory is at best uneven, with investors such as Laszlo Birinyi saying the ratio is useless as a signal because it would have kept you out of a bull market that has added $17 trillion to share values. Others see its meaning debased in an economy whose reliance on manufacturing is nothing like it used to be.
Futures on the S&P 500 expiring next month slipped 0.1 percent at 9:36 a.m. in London.
To Smithers, the ratio’s doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth, he said.
Standard & Poor’s 500 Index members last year spent about 95 percent of their profits on buybacks and dividends, with stock repurchases exceeding $2 trillion since 2009, data compiled by S&P Dow Jones Indices show.
In the first four months of this year, almost $400 billion of buybacks were announced, with February, March and April ranking as three of the four busiest months ever, according to data compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc.
Spending by companies on plants and equipment is lagging behind. While capital investment also rose to a record in 2014, its growth was 11 percent over the last two years, versus 45 percent in buybacks, data compiled by Barclays Plc show.
With equity prices surging and investment growth failing to keep pace, the Q ratio has risen to 58 percent above its average of 0.70 since 1900, according to data compiled by Birinyi and the Federal Reserve on market and asset values for non-financial companies. Readings above 1 are considered by some to be too high and the ratio has exceeded that threshold only 12 percent of the time, mostly between 1995 to 2001.
That’s nothing to be alarmed about because the American economy has become more oriented around services than manufacturing, according to George Pearkes, an analyst at Harrison, New York-based Bespoke Investment Group LLC. Nowadays, companies like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. dominate growth, while decades ago, it was railroads and steelmakers, which rely heavily on capital.
“Does that necessarily mean that the Q ratio should be as high as it is right now? I don’t know,” Pearkes said by phone. “With those sorts of long-term indicators, they can sometimes mean that the market is overvalued. But the reversion to the mean on them is usually going to take a lot longer than most people’s time frame.”
Any investors who based their investment decisions on the Q ratio would have missed most of the rally since 2009, according to Jeffrey Yale Rubin, director of research at Birinyi’s firm. The measure rose above its historic mean three months into this bull market and since then, the S&P 500 has climbed 131 percent.
“The issue we have with Tobin Q is that it does a very poor job at timing the market,” Rubin said from Westport, Connecticut. “The followers of Tobin Q never told us to buy in 2009, yet now we are warned that we should sell. Our response is sell what? We were never told to buy.”
Everyone from Janet Yellen to Warren Buffett has spoken cautiously on stock valuations in the past month. Both the Fed chair and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said prices are at risk of getting stretched should bond yields increase. The rate on 10-year Treasuries slipped last week to 2.14 percent while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent.
“It’s probably a sensible configuration for the stock market to be overvalued because competing investments are so poor,” Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York, said by phone. “As an investor, you’re not just looking at the value of the firm, but the value of the firm relative to other things you can do with your money.”
At 2,260 days, the bull market that began in March 2009 this month exceeded the 1974-1980 rally as the second longest since 1956. While measures such as price-to-earnings ratios are holding just above historical averages, the bull market’s duration is sowing anxiety among professionals who watched the previous two end in catastrophe.
“We’re still close enough to that prior experience and that hold-over effect is still there,” Chris Bouffard, chief investment officer who oversees more than $10 billion at Mutual Fund Store in Overland Park, Kansas, said by phone. “When you start to see prior cycle peaks on the chart like Tobin Q and any other valuation metrics that people are putting up there, it looks dramatic, stark and scary.”
The slump in oil prices hasn’t curtailed output, and there is a huge amount bottled up in the U.S., former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday.
Inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for U.S. benchmark futures, will keep rising, he said.
“We are probably at the point now, where at the current rate of fill, we are going to run out of room in Cushing by next month,” he said. “Until we find a way to get out of this dilemma, prices will continue to ease because there’s no place for that oil to go except into the markets.”
West Texas Intermediate futures dropped 1.9% to US$46.17 a barrel as of 9:31 a.m. Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are down almost 60% from their June peak.
U.S. crude stockpiles increased for nine weeks through March 6 to 448.9 million barrels, the highest in Energy Information Administration records dating back to August 1982. The nation pumped 9.37 million a day last week, the fastest pace in weekly estimates compiled by the Energy Department’s statistical arm since 1983.
Stockpiles at Cushing rose by 2.32 million barrels to 51.5 million last week, the highest level since January 2013. Cushing has a working capacity of 70.8 million barrels, according to the EIA.
The surplus may soon strain U.S. storage capacity, renewing a slump in prices and curbing its output, the International Energy Agency said in a monthly market report Friday. The IEA boosted estimates for U.S. oil production this year as cutbacks in drilling rigs have so far failed to slow output.
Drillers have idled 653 rigs since the start of December, data from Baker Hughes Inc. show. The number of active machines seeking oil was 922 as of March 6, the lowest since April 2011, the services company said.
“The rigs that have been closing down have not been affecting the capacity to produce crude,” Greenspan said. “You are getting the inefficient rigs shutting down, but the capacity to basically build oil expansion remains there.”
JACK A. BASS MANAGED ACCOUNTS – YEAR END UPDATE AND FORECAST November 2014 – 40 % cash position
Year End Review and Forecast
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