Archive for February, 2007

Is the real reason behind the Shanghai rout due to something else?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Last night, the Shanghai casino (stock market) fell in a stampede of panic, triggering a worldwide sell-off. For us, we are not the least surprised to see that. In fact, as we advised back in January this year in Discerning a stock market bubble, that was the time to exit the Chinese stock market. Coincidentally, within less than a week after our warning, it corrected. Yesterday was the second major correction within a month.

Now that the dust had settled, we are wondering why did a Chinese sell-off create such a ripple effect to the rest of the world?s stock market. The previous correction of 4.92% at the end of January was hardly news at all. Surely, the magnitude of yesterday?s correction, though greater than the previous one, should not be the reason for such a contagion?

The ?official? reason for this market correction was that a rumour of the Chinese government?s intention to crackdown on speculation triggered the sell-off in Shanghai. While this reason may be true in the general sense, we guess nobody knows the real underlying reason. Here, we offer our speculative hunch (which require more investigation to confirm)?this may have something to do with the yen carry trade. Back in January, in Liquidity?Global Markets Face `Severe Correction,? Faber Says, we mentioned about Marc Faber?s prediction about a coming severe correction in all assets class in the coming months. Though he did not fully explain the underlying reason behind this prediction, he did mention about the idea of liquidity (see Liquidity?Global Markets Face `Severe Correction,? Faber Says on the concept of liquidity). Thus, we believe that when he made that prediction, he saw a coming liquidity crunch in the days ahead. Back in Liquidity?Global Markets Face `Severe Correction,? Faber Says, we did ask this thought provoking question: Are we now ripe for a contraction in liquidity?

A week ago, in Another source of potential financial crisis?reversal of yen carry trade, we did mention about the ramifications of a potential disorderly reversal of the yen carry trade. Much of the world?s liquidity can find its source in Japan through its near zero interest rate policy. However, it is obvious that the Japanese will normalise their interest rates sooner or later, which means the yen carry trade will have to end one day. The question is, whether this end comes through an orderly or a disorderly process. A disorderly process means that non-Japanese assets will have to be quickly liquidated and yen re-purchased to pay back the yen-denominated credit. This will result in a rapidly falling non-Japanese asset prices and a swiftly appreciating yen. Recently, Japan had raised its interest rates to 0.5%. Also, Japanese inflation is picking up and their stock market is trending up. The indications point towards the Japanese tightening up their liquidity. Perhaps someone reversing their yen carry trade on frothy Chinese stocks started the Shanghai rout?

Anyway, this is just our hunch?we are prepared to be proven wrong on this. But if our hunch is right, this means that there will be more corrections to come. That may explain the severe reaction of the global stock market.

Revealed: Stock market dirty tricks?manipulated sell

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

The stock market is a wild place where fools are often parted from their money. It is also a place where fortunes are accumulated by the wise. Besides the fool and the wise, the stock market is also a place where gamblers, speculators and punters play with their luck. It is also an ideal place for the sly to practice their bag of dirty tricks. Today, we will look at one of their dirty tricks.

Back in Crowding at the exits, we mentioned that:

One popular idea among technical analysis is the concept of a ?support level,? whereby stock prices are expected to ?rest? on and rebound from. Traders often place their ?stop-losses? on the support level, which is the price level that they will sell their stocks in order to cut their losses. As the stock price rests on some traders? stop-loss levels, it triggered their stop-loss sales of their stocks. Such sales put downward pressure on the stock price, which may result in other stop-loss levels to be breached, which in turn triggered even more stop-loss sales. The outcome is a very steep and rapid fall in stocks prices.

Such widespread use of technical analysis can present an opportunity for the well-resourced foxes. Stock prices often fluctuate within a range. The lower bound of the range is called the ?support? level and the upper bound is called the ?resistance? level. Traders using technical analysis may see any breakthrough out of these two levels as significant because such an event signals a change from the status quo. Thus, they may place their stop-loss price (the predefined price in which existing holdings of the stock will be liquidated if the stock price fall to it) below the support level.

What would these foxes do when the stock price approach the support level? As you may have guessed by now, they would sell the stock (either from their existing holdings or borrowed) in order to push down its price to below the support level. This in turn will instigate a wave of selling. The outcome is a very rapid drop in stock price that the foxes can then exploit for their benefit.

Bloomberg: Fed’s Inflation Analysis Ranks With Zimbabwe’s

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

We applaud Caroline Baum?s article in Bloomberg, Fed’s Inflation Analysis Ranks With Zimbabwe’s:

But excess money creation is the cause of inflation, and it would be better if the Fed could make the public understand that the rise in the price level is not a result of higher commodity prices, aggressive labor union demands for wage increases or greedy businessmen trying to milk the public.

This is the point we are repeatedly trying to hammer into people?s mind (see Cause of inflation: Shanghai bubble case study).

Is Venezuela going the way of Zimbabwe?

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Today, we saw this news article: Venezuelan Bolivar Falls as Chavez Bolsters Spending (Update1). Sad to say, it looks to us that Chavez is leading his country along the same path as Zimbabwe.

Does monetary inflation increase the rich-poor divide?

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Much of the latest economic boom that we see in Australia, United States and Britain are based on asset-driven growth (see Myth of asset-driven growth), which comes about through monetary inflation (aka ?printing? of money). Back in December last year, in How to secretly rob the people with monetary inflation?, we explained that whenever government ?print? money, there will be an unfair redistribution of wealth. As such, usually the common people on fixed salaries and who do not own any ?assets? will have to bear the brunt of price inflation.

As such, we are hardly surprised to see this article in the mainstream press.

Have we escaped from the dangers of inflation?

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Today, the global spigot of liquidity (see Liquidity?Global Markets Face `Severe Correction,? Faber Says on the concept of ?liquidity?) is wide open, spewing out huge amounts of money and money substitutes into the financial system. The growth of money supply of major economies is estimated around or above 10% per annum, with China having the dubious ?honour? of being near the top at 18% (see Why is China printing so much money?). The top ?honour? goes to Russia, with their M2 money supply rising a whopping 48.8% from the beginning of 2006 to beginning of 2007 (see the figures at the Russia Central Bank web site here).

With all these flood of fiat money inundating the global financial system, we look at all these skyrocketing financial asset prices with a yawn. Price bubbles of all sorts are found everywhere in the world?from Chinese stocks, junk bonds to private equity booms. Back here in Australia, it looks to us that nowadays, everyone is ?playing? the stock market, many using leverages like CFDs and margin lending. We hear stories of novices ?investors? opening a trading account to ?learn? how to trade. The logic is simple: central banks around the world are hard at work ?printing? money. These monies first go to the financial system, creating price bubbles. The bubbles then attract speculators, gamblers and punters into the asset markets the way bees get attracted to honey. Soon, word get round to the masses and they want a slice of the action too.

Let us tell you a ?secret:? do you know that Zimbabwe?s stock market is now booming too? Do you know why? The reason is not because Zimbabwe is getting richer, but because its currency is becoming worthless with hyperinflation (see Zimbabwe: Living with hyperinflation). As we said back in October last year in Divergent sentiment, ?you can make the Dow Jones climb as high as you want as long as you print enough money.? That is what is happening in Zimbabwe.

As we said before in Example of inevitable effect of monetary inflation, we are very sure that as all these liquidity work its way to the rest of the real economy, it will only be a matter of time before price inflation will show its ugly head. Yet we are simply amazed with Wall Street?s obliviousness to this danger and Ben Bernanke?s incredibly sugar-coated words in his recent economic report to Congress. Can we rely on the Chinese to forever keep the price of importable things down to save us from inflation? We very much doubt so?they have their own inflation problem to handle (see Cause of inflation: Shanghai bubble case study).

The root of the hell of price inflation is fiat currency. Make no mistake about this: in all of human history since the beginning of time, there has never been a time when fiat currencies did not become worthless eventually. For example, the ancient Chinese, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), had tried it before, even using self-expiring fiat money in an attempt to prevent inflation. The Mongols? use of fiat money to fund their occupation of China was eventually ended by the subsequent Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Today?s current fiat money experiment only began in 1971 (see A brief history of money and its breakdown- Part 2). How much longer can it last? We do not know but we hazard a guess that it is very much possible for us to see that day in our lifetime.

One final word: fiat money is only as stable as the government that enforce it, and only as safe as the stringency and integrity of the central banks who create it. Gold, on the other hand, yield to neither control nor will of any government.

Stock tip-sheets?influential or manipulative?

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

How useful and helpful are some of the stock tip sheets? No doubt, some of them are very influential. However, we cannot but feel that their influences border on manipulation. Today, we will give you a couple of examples and let you be the judge.

Today, Eureka Report sent an email to their free subscribers (subscribers who chose not to enrol on their paid subscription) saying,

We don’t want to carp…but you missed it! On Wednesday [21 February 2007] Eureka Report subscribers were alerted to Oncard Ltd, a terrific Chinese loyalty card company backed by Australia’s richest investors. On Thursday the stock rose by 45%. We don’t highlight small stocks too often but when we do, we mean business. Our On Card story is this week’s Eureka Express feature.

In that email, they include a link to their ?free? report which was published on the 21 February 2007: Investment aces back Oncard. In that report, Alan Kohler said,

I plan to buy Oncard shares for my family?s super fund, but not ahead of you. In line with Eureka Report?s policy of always putting subscribers first, I?ll be waiting at least 24 hours. The shares last sold at 21.5¢.

Now, let us take a look at Oncard Ltd?s price-volume history here. As you can see, on and before 21 February 2007 (the day the report by Alan Kohler was released), Oncard?s has been trading up to $0.21 with average trading volume (the number of stocks turned over) of around a couple of hundred thousands per day. On 22 February 2007, its trading volume skyrocketed to 9.5 million and its stock price surged to a closing price of $0.37. Today (23 February), its stock price rose to $0.41 with a trading volume of 5.8 million. There were no price-sensitive announcements by Oncard leading up to 21 February?the only announcement on that day was the release of a corporate presentation that was made before sometime in February.

Let us give you another example. Take a look at Bolnisi?s stock price history here. From 1 February 2007 till yesterday, Bolnisi?s share price had been stuck in a range between $2.80 and $3.00. At the beginning of today?s trading, it looked as if Bolnisi?s price will remain within that range. Then at some time today, its share price suddenly surged to a high of $3.16 and closed at a price that is 6.8% higher than yesterday?s closing price. Its trading volume surged to an above average high of 3.9 million. Interestingly, there were no price-sensitive company announcements to explain this curious behaviour.

Guess what happened? Today, a stock tip sheet sent a note to their subscribers, telling them that Bolnisi?s share price had breached a technical resistance level, which is a buy signal for technical traders.

We try not to be cynical, but from these two examples, we cannot help but smell a rat. We suspect those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Another sign of the business cycle top

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

In our previous article, Where are we in the business cycle?, we explained why we believe that Australia is probably at the peak of the business cycle. We also believe that the United States is also at the peak too. At the top of the business cycle, we will often be bombarded with reports about companies making record profits, even beyond analyst expectations. Consequently, share prices may rise as a result.

Do not be deceived.

In a business cycle peak, company profits as a whole are as good as it can get. If you expect the profit trend to continue and pay a premium price for stocks in anticipation for higher earnings next year, chances are, you will be disappointed.  It is now time to hunker down in your bunker in preparation for the economic downdraft. If you must stay invested in stocks, avoid outright cyclical stocks (see What to avoid at the peak of the business cycle?). Instead, choose companies whose earnings are more robust in the face of an economic slowdown and can survive through the tough times?even then, in such a pessimistic economic environment, even their stock prices will be depressed. Above all, avoid companies who are heavily laden with debt.

Already, we see another big warning sign: More US firms fail to meet Wall St’s earnings forecasts.

Example of inevitable effect of monetary inflation

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Back in Cause of inflation: Shanghai bubble case study, we said that:

The mainstream economists do not see monetary inflation as an evil?as long as price inflation is not a problem, they do not see the need to care about monetary inflation. But Austrian School economists see that the inevitable consequence of monetary inflation is price inflation because the former is the root cause of the problem and the latter is the effect.

Today, we look at an example of how monetary inflation leads to price inflation. As explained in this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, the current rental crisis in Sydney is an ?inevitable consequence of the housing boom and bust we’re experiencing.? The housing ?boom,? (as we had explained in The Bubble Economy) is the effect of monetary inflation.

As of right now, global liquidity is still expanding. So far, price inflation, as claimed by the US Federal Reserve, is ?under control.? Rest assured, it will only be a matter of time before price inflation creeps in again. Humanity has yet to find a way to repeal the fundamental laws of supply and demand.

Oil prices?the big picture

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

In November last year, we wrote Is oil going to be more expensive?. A few months had since gone by and oil prices are still going nowhere. Last month, it even went under US$50. We guess by now, short-term traders are no longer enthusiastic on oil anymore.

As long-term investors, we must always keep our focus on the big picture. There is a growing consensus that sources from conventional oil fields are declining and that more unconventional sources of oil will have to be found and developed. This article, Future oil much harder to extract, from the mainstream newspaper, echo that view. Though the theory of Peak Oil is not mentioned in that article, it is clear that this theory forms the underlying assumption. However, not everyone believes in Peak Oil. Also, there are optimists who believe that technology will one day come to the rescue by making the extraction of oil from unconventional sources (i.e. oil sands) commercially viable. We believe that such optimism is currently premature?serious constraints still exists (see Curing oil sands fever). Then there is this idea of ?exploration paradox? where exploration is declining despite high oil prices (see Oil takeover time). Finally, there is always this wild card?Middle-East conflict.

If you are a pessimist who believes in (1) theory of Peak Oil, (2) ?exploration paradox,? (3) impracticality of oil extraction from oil sands, (4) inevitable Middle-East conflict, (5) continuous monetary inflation and (6) forthcoming ferocious oil appetite of China and India, then you will have to be bullish in the long-run price of oil and bearish on future human civilisation.

As for us, our advice is always the same: be prepared.