"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gold breaks support but recovers

Gold was all over the place today but it really took it on the chin during the Bernanke press conference. It actually broke down below the bottom of its trading range but managed to recover somewhat and claw its way back into the range.

If it breaks below today's low, look out... it will test round number and psychological support at $1200. Right now, it looks tentative to me.

I repeat what I wrote earlier - based on my interpretation of Chairman Bernanke's comments, the Fed is hoping to strike a balance between deflation and inflation in the sense that they want to see inflation but they want to see it tame. What they DO NOT WANT, is a resurgence of deflation. A sinking gold price (below what level I am unclear) that stays down is a deflationary signal. Thus, I suspect the Fed would not welcome a gold price that is significantly lower than current levels, especially if that gold price were accompanied by a collapse in certain key commodity prices.

If that were to occur, in conjunction with a labor market that shows no signs of strong improvement, I could easily see the Fed INCREASE bond buying. At this point, we are going to remain heavily dependent on subsequent economic data releases for a clue as to whether or not inflationary pressures are increasing or not. I believe that the payrolls numbers are going to be even more significant than they have been moving forward.

I noticed that once again silver could not maintain its footing above the $20 mark for long. If growth both globally and domestically is indeed picking up, one would expect silver to move higher alongside of copper. The jury is still out.

Ten Year Treasury Yield Closing in on Yearly Highs

It will be interesting to see the response from the various FOMC governors should this critical indicator push ever closer to 3%. Their response or lack thereof will give us a good clue into the thinking of the broad committee.

You might recall that this summer, the rate spike elicited extreme nervousness and concern among the Fed governors who immediately began sounding a dovish tone on the economy overall and the bond buying program in regards to any tapering.

Remember, the Fed today left the door open to additional monetary stimulus should the economic data warrant such.

Market Confidence Soars on FOMC

As those of you who regularly read this blog know by now, my favorite indicator for measuring investor confidence/complacency is the Volatility Index or the VIX.

Notice how the index initially soared higher when the news that the Fed was tapering to the tune of $10 billion. A large number of investors panicked. However, the reaction following that was one of increasing confidence due to both the wording of the FOMC statement, and, Chairman Bernanke's comments during his last press conference.

I maintain that gold needs something to impact CONFIDENCE before it mount a SUSTAINED RALLY HIGHER. With the VIX falling, and the stock market soaring into new all time highs, gold is looking for some friends right now as there is nothing on the radar screen of investors AT THIS MOMENT, to give them a strong reason to chase gold prices higher.

Now the key for gold is whether or not it can hold chart support near $1220. If it loses that level, it is going to test round number psychological support at $1200.

I will get a chart of gold up a bit later today. As you no doubt realize, it has been a very busy day for traders.

FOMC - Taper Arrives - Finally!

We finally got the big "T" word today. The announcement by the Fed of a $10 billion cut in the bond buying program was greeted by the markets with the usually volatility as the HFT crowd had a field day picking pockets but once the dust settled down a bit and some saner heads prevailed, traders were able to actually think about what the Fed statement means.

It looks to me like the Fed basically gave the market a near perfect bowl of punch. Cut back on the bond buying program and dispel some of the criticism it has been receiving from some quarters about keeping the program at full size for too long while simultaneously sounding an EXTREMELY DOVISH TONE on the interest rate front. In short, they managed to convey that they are still concerned about DEFLATIONARY forces reasserting themselves but are comfortable scaling back some bond buying as they monitor that situation.

The reaction in the gold market was fascinating to watch as traders tried to figure out exactly what to think about this new state of affairs. The initial kneejerk reaction was to sell on the announcement of a taper; however, I believe the dovish attitude towards interest rates eclipsed any fears of a slowdown in the liquidity injection mechanism. That allowed gold to catch a bid and keep above that now incredibly significant chart support level at $1220.

Basically the Fed left the door open for a period of ultra low interest rates for an extended period of time. One thing I noticed was that they seemed to play with the unemployment number threshold a bit ( "well past 6.5%"). That was something new to me.

What really matters to traders however is not the news so much as the reaction to the news. The equity markets are looking at the announcement of a $10 billion/month taper as evidence that the US economy is actually recovering enough for the Fed to slightly scale back the QE. Also, the Fed's benign view on inflation, means that equities remain the "GO-TO" sector for gains.

Given that view, and the fact that there is still going to be $75 billion/month of bond buying, it was a go on all cylinders for the US stock markets. From what I can see, the Fed under Ben Bernanke has managed to pull off nothing short of a financial miracle. They conjured into existence nearly $4 trillion of new money without completely debasing the Dollar or generating widespread inflationary outbreaks. In the process, they generated an historic rally in the equity markets, a rally which I might add, now looks as if it will continue.

With the decision to taper finally out of the way, with the uncertainty surrounding that decision clarified, investors are now breathing a sigh of relief and going back to what they have been doing for all of this year, buying equities. And why not? - the Fed has given them the green light by restating the "Bernanke Put" is still in effect should economic data justify additional monetary action. Stock investors have never had it better. It is rather remarkable.

That brings us back to gold - in my view gold's progress from this point forward will be completely dependent (as it has been in my view) on whether or not the market believes that inflationary pressures are now more of a danger than deflationary pressures. The Fed reiterated that inflation is consistently running BELOW its 2% benchmark. What they want is the Goldlilocks scenario - inflation not too hot, and not too cold, but just right.

I mentioned last week or the week before that in a post, that the Fed might actually WELCOME a HIGHER GOLD PRICE. Why? Because as long as it does not soar out of control, but manages to stay firmer perhaps within a broad range, it would signify that inflation is not a problem nor is deflation. I believe the Fed would be concerned if gold prices were to experience a sharp, PROTRACTED move lower just as much as they would be if it experienced a sharp, PROTRACTED move higher.

If this is the case, we might have finally found a lasting bottom in gold. That does not mean it is going to enter a strong uptrend in price ( see my thoughts above) but rather that the forces of deflation and inflation might now be balanced, at least in the view of the FOMC. I still believe that gold will underperform the broader equity markets unless we see some sort of black swan event.

It was interesting listening to the outgoing Chairman's comments during his presser. He mentioned as a deflationary force falling crude oil prices but also expressed concerns about the potential for rising health care costs and the possibility of rising wages. I came away with the idea that the Fed is going to remain heavily dependent on the financial/economic data. They are very concerned about the deflation issue, that is beyond dispute.

Let's see how things look when the dust settles for the day and then make some assumptions from that point.