Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Analysis of Tuesday's Market Action

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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Stocks had a spectacular rally yesterday, with the Dow being up 5.8%, the S&P 500 6.4% and the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 7.1%. Many individual stocks did much better. Unfortunately the rally was lead by insolvent financials (Citi up 38% and Bank of America up 28%). Nothing has really changed to fix their problems and make them worth something. Many beaten down commodity stocks posted double digit gains as well and unlike financials these have real long term value. Inflation hedges, gold and silver declined while stocks went up and oil showed weakness in the afternoon. While the charts indicate a stock rally should be taking place right around this point, a test of the lows (with a lower low by no means out of the question) is likely again within about two weeks or so and after that a longer lasting rally is possible.

This rally will only be a Bear Market rally. Buy and hold for stocks is dead for the moment. This is not a bad thing however. It just requires a different investing mindset. Ignore the media pundits that continually point out that it's only a Bear Market rally as if somehow the money you make from it doesn't count. Bear Market rallies can provide you with the biggest profits in the shortest period of time - what more could an investor want? The biggest monthly rallies of all time in U.S. stocks were in fact in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The Dow was up 40% in April 1933 (it best month ever) and 35% in August 1932.

As we mentioned yesterday, a 'leaked' memo from Citigroup CEO Pandit set off the rally. This memo was reported to have said the Citi was 'profitable' for the first two months of the year. This seems to have been based on Citi having high revenue numbers (sales) in January and February - just as it did in every quarter where it had massive losses because of all the write downs it had to take. Just as changes in demand mean nothing unless you know changes in supply, revenues mean nothing unless you know expenses. It is amazing that traders fall for this blatant manipulation, but it works like a charm every time, which is why it continues.

The demand without supply argument has been the prevalent press coverage for the oil market for some time now. Oil dropped yesterday afternoon because the U.S. Energy Department cut its demand for global oil use by 1.4 million barrels a day for 2009 (rumors preceded the actual announcement). This has led to a lot more press today about falling demand for oil and how bearish this is. Traders sold oil down on this 'bad' news. Assuming that this agency has the slightest idea of what it is doing (I am not vouching for that), this was actually very bullish news. How can that be? Sometimes in the very same articles, which stated how negative the demand situation is, you could find that OPEC has cut production quotas by 4.2 million barrels a day (many discount this number to something lower). Let's see, demand is falling by 1.4 million barrels and supply is falling by a much larger 4.2 million barrels and the conclusion is that the price will go down. Did any of the financial reporters writing these articles pass Intro Economics? Doesn't look like it.

If you do have a longer term perspective, you will be better off buying commodity stocks. Since governments can't 'print' huge amounts of excess money without debasing their currency (another elementary idea from Intro Economics), lots of price inflation is inevitable and the value of tangible assets will be rising. Nice rallies took place in non-precious metal stocks yesterday, such as PCU, ZINC, AA and to a lesser extent FCX (as disclosure, I have held FCX for a couple of months now and bought some AA on Monday). Steel companies such as X also did spectacularly well. These are all strongly influenced by what is taking place in China and its desire to accumulate commodities for future use, so keep that in mind. The current economic situation is more than a bit iffy there, with bad trade numbers being released this morning.

While inflation hedges gold and silver weren't doing well yesterday, a report was released indicating confidence in U.S. sovereign debt has been deteriorating for the last year. Credit default swaps (CDSs are insurance for bonds) for U.S. treasuries are now being priced at seven times higher than they were twelve months ago. During the same period, CDSs for investment grade companies haven't even doubled. On the other hand, CDS rates for leading U.S. banks and brokers hit a record high this Monday. The big money players have little confidence in the U.S. financial system and are starting to question the viability of U.S. debt itself ... but don't worry, the U.S. government can always print more money to deal with the problem.

NEXT: How Media Manipulates Investors to do the Wrong Thing

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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