This week I am at a conference in Houston. I must confess that I don't attend many of the sessions at most conferences where I speak. But today, the guys at Streettalk Advisors have such a great lineup that I am there for every session. But it's Friday and I need to write. The solution? This week you get a "best of" letter. The best ideas I've heard and the best charts I've seen at this conference. Then we close with two short but very thoughtful essays from Charles Gave and Arthur Kroeber of GaveKal on "The Morality of Chinese Growth." Lots of charts and something to make you think. Should be a good letter.
5 posts tagged with “Energy”.
"The stock market is a voting machine in the short run and a weighing machine in the long run." - Benjamin Graham
The voting part of the equation is tempered by fear and greed. It is largely emotional, although investors like to think of themselves as rational players. That emotion is driven by views of the future. If you can be confident of large and growing returns, you are less likely to be swayed by the erratic movements of a stock. But as confidence wanes? Well, that is the stuff that bear markets are made of.
Because at the end of the day, what the market weighs is earnings and the ability of a company to reliably produce them. This week we look at what earnings are likely to be over the next year and see if we can discern what that suggests for the markets. We also take a look at the energy markets, the possibility of a further drop in the price of oil, and muse on what a sane energy policy for the world would look like. There is a lot to cover, but it should make for an interesting letter.
President Nixon instated price controls on the 15th of August, 1971. Inflation was a little over 4% at the time. Price controls manifestly did not work (resulting in shortages of all sorts and a deep recession) and were rescinded a few years later. President Ford went to Congress with programs to fight inflation that was running closer to 10% in October of 1974, with a speech entitled "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN). He famously urged Americans to wear "WIN" buttons. That policy too was less than effective, and the buttons, in a history replete with silly gestures by governments, should stand on anyone's top ten list of such silly gestures.
Cynics more thoughtfully wore the buttons upside down and said the inverted letters (which looked like NIM) stood for "No Immediate Miracles." They were right. There was no miracle, just eventual pain and lots of it. Ultimately, Paul Volker defeated inflation, but at the cost of two serious recessions and a lot of economic misery, with unemployment levels over 10% for nine months in 1983.
This week we were given the data that inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the last year was 4.2% and unemployment is now 5.5%. Some call for the Fed to raise rates so that we do not have to experience another lost decade like the '70s and then ultimately see some future Volker forced to raise rates and drive unemployment back to 10%. Others suggest that "core" inflation is what should be paid heed to, and urge caution.
This week we look at the cost of what could be a renewed effort to Whip Inflation Now, not just here but in countries worldwide. Will Trichet in Europe raise rates even as the European economy seems to be slowing down? If you think inflation is bad in the US and Europe, take a peek at Asia. And I ask, "What will Ben do?" It should make for an interesting letter.
Last week I wrote that we could see a drop in the price of oil as speculators seemed to be storing oil in very large tankers and "slow steaming" them to port in a bet that prices would rise. When everyone is on the same side of the trade, the time is right for a reversal. This is especially true when there is a large potential supply sitting on the sidelines.
This week we briefly look at this prediction, and perhaps even more ominous problems for commodities in general, at least in the short run. The new turn our attention to the euro. It will make for an interesting letter.
First off, oil dropped about 4% yesterday and is down almost $10 from its high only a week ago. Yet supplies of crude oil surprisingly dropped by 8.8 million barrels yesterday. Oil shot up on the news as both those who were short covered their bets and even more people piled into the long side of the trade.
Is the subprime mortgage market collapsing before our eyes, or did we avoid a disaster as Bear Stearns stepped up to the plate with $3.2 billion to help its ailing funds? As we will see from the data, the problems in the subprime world are not over. The Fat Lady has not sung. But will the problems in this market contaminate the rest of the liquidity-driven markets? Is the party over? Not according to the high-yield markets. In this week's letter, we look at what could be the real problem in the next half of the year.
But before we touch on the credit world, I want to briefly look at a development in the oil markets which I find intriguing. Dr. Woody Brock, in a recent paper on oil prices, wrote a rather interesting sentence, to wit, that Iran would not have net oil to export in 2014. I found that rather remarkable. Woody is very serious and sober-minded even for an economist, not given to rash analysis, but this was certainly a new idea to me. I knew they were importing most of their gasoline, as they do not have a great deal of refining capacity. As it turns out, there is much more to the story.
I have said for years that I expect Iran to be the new friend of the US sometime next decade, as the regime is not popular and the country is growing younger. (Think China, once an implacable enemy.) I thought that the impetus would be the lack of freedom and knowledge of how the world is better off coming from the internet, but it turns out that it may be a desire for more freedom combined with economic problems which help bring about regime change, much as in Russia last century.