Thursday, August 20, 2009

Oil Up; Retail, Economy and Deficit Down

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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Oil had a huge rally yesterday, going up more than 4% on a bullish storage report. It is still over $72 this morning. The oil/natural gas ratio is over 20 and is at the same high that it was in 1990 when it last peaked. There is about a 20 year cycle to this ratio and it should be falling for the next 10 years or so. We shall see. In the shorter term the natural gas storage report is out at 10:30 this morning (New York time). Natural gas can be bought either with the ETF UNG (which is being harassed by the regulatory authorities) or with the ETN GAZ. Natural gas futures are in extreme contango.

The stock market is trying to maintain its rally, which is supposedly dependent on the coming economic recovery. Sears Holdings, which released its Q2 earnings this morning, is going to be a drag on the rally today. The company lost 17 cents last quarter. Analysts expected a gain of 35 cents. Revenue fell 10.3% and was also below expectations. The company's credit rating, which was already in junk territory, was lowered further today by Moody's. Although the financial picture of this major retailer is nothing short of disastrous, the stock has risen 80% this year as of yesterday. At least it is down this morning. This company typifies the market rally - a huge rise in the midst of really bad fundamentals. Who would buy under such circumstances and why?

Weekly job claims also rose this morning to 576,000. This is still deep in recession territory. The rule of thumb for years has been weekly claims at or above 400,000 indicates the U.S. economy is in recession. A healthy economy has weekly claims around 300,000. The market had a good rally a couple of weeks ago when claims fell to 550,000. The "better numbers" were heralded in the press and claimed to be an indication of the waning recession. The press should have waited until claims fall and stay below 400,000 before publishing that story (but that would be responsible reporting, so of course that didn't happen). The press also never mentions that a large percentage of the U.S. workforce isn't eligible to collect unemployment, so when these people become unemployed they don't show up in the weekly claims figures.

The "good news" out this morning is that the Obama administration is predicting the federal budget deficit will be only $1.58 trillion this year. This is still almost 4 times bigger than the previous record budget deficit. Some contingency bailout funds for the big banks won't have to be spent (at least by September 30th of this year). Before you trust any numbers from the White House, consider that their argument for the current stimulus package was it would keep the unemployment rate at 8% or lower. Without it they claimed that unemployment could rise as high as 9%! So the stimulus package was passed early this year and so far unemployment has gotten as high as 9.5% - and that is with a lot of manipulation of the numbers to make them look better. You should assume that all the other numbers coming from the administration are just as reliable.

NEXT: Natural Gas Deconstructed

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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