Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mark to Model GDP

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

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The 3rd quarter U.S. GDP figures were out this morning and they came in slightly above expectations. GDP was supposedly up 3.5%. Almost half of this, 1.7%, was accounted for by increases in auto production. This in turn can be traced to the Cash for Clunkers program and government spending. Overall spending on durable goods was up 22.3%. Housing investment was up even more at 23.4%, also thanks to government tax breaks and FHA mortgage insurance backing loans that a subprime lender wouldn't have touched at the height of the housing bubble. Federal government spending was up 7.9%. On the flip side, business investment fell, net exports fell and inventories fell. In other words, any part of the economy not manipulated by government spending is still declining. Even though they went down, inventories still added 0.9% to GDP growth, because they didn't go down as much as they did previously (no that doesn't make any sense to anyone except a government statistician).

An economy that is only robust because of government spending is essentially dead in the water. This is the same picture as Japan in the 1990s and first decade of the 2000s. The headlines this morning trumpeted that the U.S. is out of recession. Those headlines were common in Japan during the last two decades as well. The U.S. can only avoid this fate by coming up with one Cash for Clunkheads program after another. After all why have only a trillion dollar yearly budget deficit when you can have a two trillion dollar yearly budget deficit? Just as a reference, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 2753 the day the Nikkei peaked at just under 40,000 at the end of 1989. Both averages are around 10,000 at the moment.

How long the stock market continues to buy the current U.S. econo-fantasy remains to be seen. There is serious technical damage in the stock charts. The Russell 2000 (small cap stocks) has made a confirmed double top as of yesterday. The usual sell off scenario is small caps go down first, the Nasdaq next and the big cap Dow the last. This pattern was writ large in yesterdays action. The Russell 2000 dropped 3.5%, the Nasdaq 2.7%, the S&P 500 2.0% and the Dow 1.2%. Of the indices, only the Dow has held above its 50-day average. We have seen this picture before in July by the way. The market was significantly technically damaged, but managed to rise from the ashes and rally for the following few months. Things may not be so rosy this time. If there is a rally on low volume that fails to get the indices to a new high, the current rally is likely over and a good shorting opportunity is presenting itself.

There are two assets that have experienced no change in their technical pictures - the U.S. dollar and gold. The dollar is just as bearish as it has been for months and gold is just as bullish. Even with its recent small rally the dollar didn't even go up enough to reach its 50-day moving average. It's 50-day moving average is trading well below its 200-day moving average in an extremely bearish pattern. The gold chart is almost the mirror image of the dollar's chart. It is trading above its 50-day moving average, which in turn is well above its 200-day moving average in a very bullish pattern. Spot gold bounced off its breakout point of $1025 yesterday (a normal action which takes place about 50% of the time) and has traded as high as $1040.40 this morning. Spot silver has also tested its breakout level at $16 and has stayed in its $16 to $18 trading range. So far, so good.

NEXT: The Long and the Short of It

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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