Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Season's Greetings


Announcements, announcements, announcements!

What a terrible way to die,
A terrible way to die,
A terrible way to be talked to death,
A terrible way to die.

Announcements, announcements, announcements,
Ohhh…

On the doorstep of yet another much-heralded Fed announcement and in the wake of the BOJ's tinkering last night, the US dollar sits fittingly at a crossroads: spring back to its stoic uptrend nearly 19 months dormant – or fall back through intermediate support just a few percent below. As circumstance would have it, today is also the last official day of summer, to which we say  get on with it. Bring on the Fed, bring on fall and bring on the fall in the US dollar.

While there’s certainly no shortage of bubble soothsayers these days, one that’s arguably on the precipice of deflating and which has followed the structure of exuberance – is the US dollar. And although we’ve written extensively of why, historically speaking, we believe the dollar is as extended as it became and remains (see Here, Here, Here, Here), it has largely been motivated by the Fed, or more precisely – the markets expectations with future policy. 

Framing the dollar as a proxy of confidence in the golden age of central banks, where it discretely took flight as the Fed led policy makers in the wake of the financial crisis and soared to icarus heights on misplaced expectations with more contemporary tightening cycles  we'd argue the apparent indecisiveness in the dollar's technical structure today aptly represents the unresolved tensions in the market that we believe will ultimately become unwound, as challenging economic conditions largely limit the reach of the Fed going forward.


- Click to enlarge images - 
Granted, we've found the circumstantial evidence  from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective, in favor of a weaker dollar for some time. The move was as extreme as the cycle high in 1985, as well as the dollar squeeze during the financial crisis. Both performance extremes served to cap the blow off move, as we expect a similar outcome today as the Fed's influence on the dollar continues to wane. From a bearish technical perspective, the next shoe to drop would be a weekly break below ~93 on the US dollar index, which would usher in the next phase (i.e. fear) of the retracement move lower, as expectations of a continuation of the dormant uptrend are largely abandoned. 

As we've described in previous notes, the dollar's influence on various markets is significant, with the abstract result that precious metals and commodities should benefit disproportionately, as real yields continue to move lower as inflation firms – but the reach of the Fed is increasingly limited by the economy. 
Overall, this market thesis remains on course, as our leading indicators in the silver:gold ratio and the Japanese yen appear to be taking the next step higher, which bodes bullish that the retracement decline in gold is over and the next leg down in the dollar approaches in Q4.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Connecting the Dots - 9/9/16

After the beach grills cool and get covered for the season, a quiet reality sets in that summer is unofficially over and the first days of school are upon us. Our house remains filled with a thick bittersweet nostalgia from a perfect summer now passed, which joyfully took us from the shores of Alaska to Lake Placid and a few other memorable byways in between. Certainly blessed to experience just a snapshot of what this country composes, the enduring anthem of America the Beautiful still resonates as a fitting testament to the best of which she offers. And while the contrast today with the political and social backdrop is a poignant reminder of the complex environment that resides above, the reflection with nature reminds us that life – like the landscape behind it, rarely follows a straight line or that progress is often felt in the present through the repetitive peaks and valleys of a lifetime.
Smooth shapes are very rare in the wild but extremely important in the ivory tower and the factory. – Benoit Mandelbrot
Speaking of which, and perhaps drifting somewhere between progress and a lifetime… the recent batch of lackluster US economic data over the past week lends greater probability that the Fed chooses to pass on raising rates this September. Moreover, taking a look back and weighing the respective trends of these volatile series, the high water marks for each were set more than a year before, with a growing probability that they’re leveling off at best and trending down at worst. 

Although a painfully fluid transparency has provided lip service to both sides of the debate (most recently Here), one could argue the collegial window of academic deliberation within the Fed is narrowing each quarter, as the economy buts up against an expansion already long in the tooth in its 87th month. And while we don't foresee an imminent recession or one commensurate with the previous, a contraction is ultimately as inevitable as yesterday’s sunset. The almost fetish focus on rates by the media misses the mark, or more precisely – appears ignorant to cause and effect. Secularly speaking, rates would only be capable of leaving the trough on a lasting basis when growth materially picks up, which by most measures as well as historical precedence within the long-term yield and growth cycle – is likely years away.

To this point and picking up on our thoughts in recent notes, despite equities drift higher this year, financials have largely underperformed the broader indexes, which is rarely a healthy condition to sustain. From our perspective, the underperformance by the banks goes part in parcel with the upside limitations of the current cycle, which remains capped by the Fed’s capacity to materially raise rates, hence limiting bank profits and contributing to the contentious business environment they already operate within. Simply put, the weakened investment climate in the financials runs counter to what you historically see in a more lasting equity breakout, where the foundation of the broader market is built on the sector’s sturdy fundamental underpinnings, as investors commit capital with expectations of future growth.

That said, this hasn’t curtailed recent animal spirits in the sector, which as the comparative alluded to could see the banks sharply rebound on hopes that the operating environment within the financials will finally improve. And although the market called the bluff last December after the initial rate hike, it pays to never underestimate the capacity for denial by participants still under the influence of the former trend (appropriate example Here).
In recent notes we contrasted and compared the nearly mirrored action with the gold miners in 2012, who’s failed breakout was primarily driven by faulty causal assumptions with monetary policy and inflation that largely went unfounded through QE3. Today, we suspect a similar reversal could materialize in the financials and across the broader equity space, as the economic expansion matures and growth continues to underwhelm expectations; limiting the Fed’s capacity to materially raise rates – despite an upturn in inflation. 

From our perspective, inflation today is less tied to growth than the direction of the US dollar, which significantly strengthened as the US led the world out of the financial crisis and has weakened as the expansion matures and rate hike expectations diverge from more contemporary tightening cycles. Until the growth cues of stabilizing and rising yields materialize for a considerable period, the notion of a more secular continuation of a stronger US dollar is as misplaced as the dot-plot projections have been towards rate hikes over the past two years. As such, we expect the move in the dollar that strengthened to a relative performance extreme last year to largely retrace  leaving ample upside motivation for precious metals and commodities that exhibit a strong inverse correlation with the world’s most dominant reserve currency.
Although we've carried an opportunistic and bullish lean towards the broader equity rally over the last several months, we suspect it has limited upside from here and would prefer to be sellers than buyers as the September Fed meeting approaches. While the miners made their highs a week after the September meeting in 2012, we continue to like the prospects today in precious metals and commodities such as oil through Q4. 

Overall, we remain vigilant of the US dollar as a guide towards our outlook in precious metals and oil, with the dollar index approximately sitting between its lows from May and highs in July. While we suspect the index to soon break through weekly downside support ~ 93, should the dollar rally above the July highs, we would reassess our bullish expectations through the end of the year. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Good Cop - Bad Shakespeare

As if greater transparency could cloud their collective vision any more, a dissonant stream of consciousness has once again begun to seep, from regional Fed bank presidents far and wide. Granted, when we say dissonant, we could also be referring to the same Fed bank president, who perhaps Monday suggested we entirely rethink conventional monetary wisdom and set higher inflation targets  to his concerns Thursday, that "If we wait until we see the whites of inflation's eyes, we don't just risk having to slam on the monetary policy brakes, we risk having to throw the economy into reverse to undo the damage of overshooting the mark"? Suffice to say, there’s little clarity or rest for weary Fed beat reporters, as the markets look towards the main even next week in Jackson Hole.

To be honest, we’re not sure at this point which ultimately will be more painful to watch: falling down the well eight years back or posturing Shakespeare every month or so - to hike or to not hike us out. Perhaps, ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer… than take arms against a sea of troubles? Suffer we have, although the truth has always been that the markets return from the trough would likely be a painfully long process, despite conventional wisdom that looked towards more contemporary tightening cycles for example. In this regard, score one for Monday's "Good Cop Williams", who appears to approach the situation in better context and with more realistic expectations. Lower for longer indeed, even if Thursday's "Bad Cop Williams" bucket slowly rises – if only to take the slack out of the line as the water level gradually climbs.

With Yellen’s speech on deck next Friday and with the September Fed meeting just a few weeks thereafter, markets are headed towards a rather charged environment when it comes to policy expectations – one that could easily disappoint or further confuse. Speaking of which, we’re reminded of the dog days of 2012, when then Chairman Bernanke in his Jackson Hole speech described the fledgling state of the US labor market and the apparent lack of efficacy of current monetary policy in addressing said concerns.
"The stagnation of the labor market in particular is a grave concern not only because of the enormous suffering and waste of human talent it entails, but also because persistently high levels of unemployment will wreak structural damage on our economy that could last for many years."Monetary Policy since the Onset of the Crisis 8/31/12
In hindsight, Bernanke’s speech built out the case for further easing that September and what eventually became a massive open-ended QE3 program later that year. Following Jackson Hole, precious metals and commodities enjoyed the greatest bid in the markets through September, as participants continued to see a causal relationship between stimulus and inflation. By their calculus, you only needed to look back at the hint of QE2 in Bernanke’s Jackson Hole speech in 2010 and the subsequent performance of assets closely tied to inflation to see the connection.

Back then, although we had anticipated the rally in precious metals would materialize that summer (see Here), we approached the performance parallels with previous QE with significant skepticism (see Hereto even an intermediate-term outlook. From our point of view, the markets were simply in a different part of the cycle where the impetus of stimulus was significantly less benevolent towards commodities and assets sensitive to inflation.
- The commodity markets, that have rallied so fervently this summer in anticipation of another bolus by the Fed, the ECB and the PBOC - will need to overcome the notion of "pushing on a string", that was not nearly as applicable in 2010 - as it is today. It is my belief, based on my comparative work with the US dollar, the Australian dollar and the CRB, that the commodity rally ignited this summer will fail - and fail as prominently as the equity markets faired to the aggressive monetary policy regimes enacted by the Fed at the end of 2007. Back then, market psychology quickly pivoted from - "Don't fight the fed!" to "the Fed is pushing on a string!" - almost overnight. – A Lucid Confusion 9/17/12
What we find particularly interesting today when it comes to cycles and the intersection of policy, expectations and the markets – is the inverse symmetry of where we currently reside relative to that period and with respect to inflation. This perspective is also framed by the chart of the banks and the gold miners we’ve followed this year, that depicts a mirrored performance pattern primarily driven by trends in the dollar, inflation and hence – the direction of real yields (see recently Here).


Long story short, we believe real yields will have further to fall, which consequently should support the performance trends of precious metals and commodities and continue to pressure assets such as the financials. When all’s said and done, the reality is the potential reach of inflation today is likely greater than what the Fed or the market is ultimately willing to stomach in raising rates. In the end, we expect "Good Cop Williams" and his San Francisco Fed's approach towards policy to win out, even if the bucket rises by another 25 basis points this year and the drift towards consensus continues to be more reactionary and forced by the markets – as it has been over the past two years.    

How Yellen’s speech is received by the markets over the short-term is anyone’s guess. But following the behavioral cues from the miners in 2012 that has closely mimicked the seasonal performance structure of the financials today  the banks and equity markets may have a bit further room to run into September before the rally exhausts. Notice the trend line break in the miners going into that fall and the subsequent failure into Q4. The KBW Bank Index currently sits above a similar trend line break. Extrapolating the intermarket tea leaves a bit further, this would likely coincide with an extension of the nascent rally in yields as well as a minor retracement rally in the dollar. Moreover, these conditions could present another short-term high for precious metals over the next week or so followed by what we suspect would be the final major retracement decline for precious metals this year.

When it comes to the dollar and oil, oil followed the dollar’s pivot (see Here) higher from July as it has over the past year and is now working on the shoulder of the broad reversal we suspect will eventually resolve with fresh 52-week highs later this year. 
As for the dollar itself, although it remains bracketed by the range of previous major tightening regimes, ultimately, we believe it will continue along a weaker performance pattern, such as the profiles from 1994/1995 and 1986/1987. While into September we expect another minor retracement rally to develop, conditions needed to sustain the move should prove ephemeral and we continue to look for another leg down into Q4.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Connecting the Dots - 8/3/16

  • The prospects for precious metals remain attractive, as we believe the initial move lower in the dollar this year sets up a much larger breakdown headed into Q4 and 2017.
  • Historically, the dollar still appears significantly stretched, which trended to a performance extreme last year as the Fed moved off ZIRP and as rate hike projections peaked.
  • For the US dollar index, a break below 93 would begin the next phase of a large retracement move, which should coincide with lower real yields and higher precious metals prices.
For those patient and willing (there weren’t many), gold investors have done quite well this year, despite consensus expectations at the end of 2015 that a round trip drop beneath $1000 an ounce was inevitable.


Yet even with a gain of nearly 30% this year, we suspect the current rally in gold will eventually break its cycle high (more than 40% away) of $1924 an ounce, achieved in September 2011. For silver bulls, the gains have been even more exceptional, tacking on more than 49% from last year’s close. With a cycle high of nearly $50 an ounce in the spring of 2011, the prospects for silver are proportionally much larger – albeit with greater volatility and risks.

Generally speaking, the precious metals sector has performed as we had hoped this year, with gold leading the initial move in Q1 and with silver confirming the trend reversal and taking the performance pole position over gold in Q2. This bullish dynamic was presaged at the end of last year (see Here) by the rare positive momentum cross in the long-term silver:gold ratio, that strengthens when risk appetites build and broaden within the sector and that also typically leads a rising inflation trend.

The bottom line is despite healthy gains in precious metals this year, we believe significant returns lie ahead as a weaker US dollar and declining real yields target their respective lows from 2011. Over the past decade, the dollar and US real yields have trended closely together, as the dollar strongly influences inflation and as the reach of nominal yields has largely remained under pressure.
As we were looking for coming into the year, a buy the rumor/sell the news reaction in the dollar manifested after the Fed moved modestly off ZIRP – and as expectations of further rate hikes peaked and have gradually drifted lower. And while the Fed’s dot-plots have consistently trended down over the course of this year, they still have a ways to go in aligning expectations with historic precedence within the long-term yield cycle (see here); a multi-generational force – that as the Fed and participants have learned, is influenced less by policy and perhaps more by proportion.

From our perspective, the prolonged nature of the Fed’s expectation phase in the face of multiple large easing initiatives around the world, allowed participants an abnormally large and fertile window to build positions and faulty assumptions in the dollar – regardless that the Fed would likely never achieve the same reach as they had in more recent tightenings and that were postured to the market in the Fed's dot-plot projections. The net effect was a high achieved in the dollar last year – arguably as stretched as the performance extreme in 1985, that we suspect will be further retraced as policy expectations continue to diverge from more contemporary tightenings and as markets and economies make their way across the transitional divide to the next secular growth cycle; a condition that eventually will be capable of carrying and sustaining the weight of a stronger US dollar and higher nominal and real yields. Until the growth cues of stabilizing and strengthening nominal yields materialize for a considerable period, the notion of a more secular continuation of a stronger US dollar is as irrational as the dot-plot projections have been towards rate expectations.

Currently, the lower rail support of the broad top carved over the past two years in the US dollar index sits just ~ 2 percent lower around 93. From our point of view, it’s more likely that the retracement rally that began in May has exhausted and that the index will break down below this key support in the coming weeks – ushering in the next phase of the move and supporting assets like precious metals and commodities that benefit from a weaker dollar.

As we noted earlier in the year (see here, here, here), gold traded out of its post rate hike low, akin to the taper low in December 2014. And unlike gold’s Q1 2014 rally that coincided as the US dollar was basing, but failed in Q2 as the dollar broke out  gold moved out of the low in Q1 as the dollar exhausted from its relative performance extreme and hasn’t looked back as the dollar now flirts with a potential breakdown from its range over the past two years. 
Considering that gold already trades close to $1400 an ounce while the dollar remains historically stretched, the prospects for precious metals continue to appear attractive to us as the markets catalytic converter for lower real yields has much further room to fall. Moreover, from a historic cyclical perspective, the broad top potential in the dollar now aligns structurally with the explosive and final retracement declines in real yields around 1978 and 1946, respectively. Should history repeat, we would expect new highs for both gold and silver as real yields plum the cycle low.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Get "Real" on Gold Fever - Revisited

Throughout the year I’ve referenced the chart below, which now reflects a large performance differential between the banks and the gold miners, as yields – both nominal and real - have fallen. Although the banks have had a difficult time performing in this environment, gold mining stocks have done exceptionally well, as gold has benefited robustly from both safe-haven demand and from the retracement in real yields, which has made it attractive again from a real return perspective.


Not surprisingly, banks have strongly underperformed even the equity market indexes, as exceptionally low yields reflect the contentious business environment for the banks, and more importantly – their customers. Bank profits are inherently hurt in the current market environment through the compression in net interest margins and more broadly through weaker demand for banking services and products – as demonstrated by investors willingness to accept certain exceptionally low and even negative returns, rather than the prospect of potentially much larger and uncertain losses. The later also reflects greater deflationary expectations by investors, as exceptionally low and negative bond yields can still produce positive real returns – if, inflation remains below said bond yields.

Essentially, even though the S&P 500 made an all-time high yesterday, the performance in the banking sector and the bond market do not reflect long-term confidence or investment in growth  even as the economic data in the US remains firm, inflation appears to be on an uptrend and the prospects for a recession are low. Moreover, these dynamics have created a feedback loop in the fixed income market that could/has sustained market inertias longer than even we had suspected. And while we were open to the possibility going into this summer that the Treasury market could break down, that window appears to have closed with the Brexit vote – moderating policy expectations that once again have buttressed bonds. That said, from our point of view, there’s still a much greater probability that real yields will fall further over the next year, as inflation continues to rise – which ultimately is a loosing proposition for those fixed income investors seeking a positive real return from these more “safe-haven” positions.

One of our long-standing suspicions has been that the 2011 cycle lows for real yields would eventually be broken on the next leg down. This belief has largely maintained our interest in the precious metals sector that exhibits a strong inverse correlation to real yields. From our perspective, the probability that inflation would eventually outstrip the reach of nominal yields – was more likely, than a continuation of the atypical market dynamics engendered by the Fed during the taper-tantrum, where real yields spiked on greatly overblown fears of higher rates – and inflation wilted on the vine. In a more typical and “organic” market environment where monetary policy was not enacted at ZIRP or after extended periods of large-scale quantitative easings, real rates begin to rise when benchmarks and expectations of improving growth is followed by tighter policy and a decline in inflation expectations. At secular cycle lows, real rates surge as the inflation cycle crests and retreats – and after nominal yields remain supported.

Our outlook for new lows in real yields has also been guided by our historic studies of the long-term yield cycle (see Here), that shares similarities with the last time yields fell and formed the protracted trough of the cycle through the 1940’s. As frequently mentioned in previous notes, this time period also shares a certain likeness with the last time the Fed and Treasury extended extraordinary support to the markets between 1942 and 1946, with large-scale asset purchases aimed to prop up the financial system, as markets and participants recovered from the long tail of the Great Depression and the colossal price tag of World War II.

Ultimately, there were latent effects from the historic accommodations extended, as participants and regulators struggled with normalizing policy, as strong pulses of inflation worked through the system, while investors remained concerned that another deflationary tide of the Great Depression was about to unfold. As such, investors didn't flee the bond market as if inflation would maintain its trajectory higher, but took shelter in the perceived safe-haven of the Treasury market, likely because of what they had lived through over the past two decades.
“Despite the extent to which the public and government officials were exercised about inflation, the public acted from 1946 to 1948 as if it expected deflation.” - Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1963
Sound familiar?

In essence, policy makers might have succeeded at supporting the markets through considerable attenuating circumstances in the economy, but broader market psychologies were still entrenched and impaired from what participants had been through in the Great Depression. The net effect was a collapse in real yields that eventually made a cycle low in 1947; a year after nominal long-term yields retested the lows from 1941 and began to stabilize through 1946. Although the upswing in inflation did not upset the Treasury market – as policy makers refrained from tightening, equities went nowhere between 1946 and 1950, until investor confidence returned and monetary conditions broadly normalized and reset with the Fed and Treasury Accord in 1951.

Overall, we remain steadfast bulls on precious metals and expect the performance gap over equities to continue to widen, as real rates target the 2011 lows next year. Over the short-term, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the global rally in equities resume into August. However, the performance in the financials over the past year does not support those expectations of a material breakout – that ultimately requires the banks leadership as testament of greater investment confidence in the economy. Similar to the last time yields scraped the trough of the long-term cycle in the mid 1940’s, market participants do not appear ready to invest in the next secular growth cycle – even if the economy could structurally support it. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other, or as the great philosopher Yogi famously framed – it’s ninety percent mental and the other half is physical. We’ll get there eventually, just not quite yet.
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For our earlier thoughts on real yields and precious metals, see Here.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Silver Linings

Last Thursday, as I was coaching my son’s little league team on their improbable quest to Williamsport… I glanced at the headlines rapidly breaking in Britain: the vote was swelling towards the Brexit. My first thought was to discount the panic tone of the initial reports, as it was still early in the tally with much of the vote outstanding. In retrospect, my instinct to qualify the hyperbole spoke to a larger fallacy at play. In truth, the writing had been on the walls for some time.

As investors, we’ve all been influenced by the range of emotions that can lead you to and from the trough, with greatly varying results. With experience, you typically become more pragmatic when it comes to sizing up the markets, as seeking returns influenced from more idealistic persuasions is often a costly trip down an uncharted rabid hole. Although there have been a few sizable global brush fires since the financial crisis peaked in 2009, central banks have largely succeeded at mitigating widespread collateral damages in the markets, primarily by enacting aggressive monetary policy where private industry and public markets had been heavily impacted. And while a dystopian haze has remained hanging on the horizon over the past seven years, by and large, central banks have overrode the worst-case forecasts by intervening in concerted and extraordinary ways.

The crux, however, is aggressive monetary policy has not addressed – and arguably even worsened the public’s perception of the widening chasm between the halves and the have nots. From this perspective, the free lunch went squarely to the wealthiest at the expense of the taxpayers. Here in the US, it was the Fed and Treasury’s Hobson’s choice – a pragmatic prescription aimed primarily to save the system during the throes of the crisis.

One of the few silver linings of the Great Depression was the enormous gap in income inequality leading up to the peak in 29’, was narrowed by the massive public works programs that infused earnings to what eventually became a broad and sturdy middle class. Moreover, those wealthy had their influence hobbled through lightened pocketbooks, because markets did not rebound nearly as spritely as they did this time around. That said, in Bernanke’s calculus – and as he articulated years before the crisis, central banks helped cause the Great Depression by not acting swiftly and magnanimously in easing monetary policy in the wake of the crash. From his perspective, you bail out the banks and you bail out everyone by saving the system. Without functioning markets, the health of the middle class is greatly endangered, and before long  you have the same global economic instabilities that contributed to the social upheaval that made nations turn inward, brought fascism to power in Europe and war to shores worldwide.  

The rub today is that while the system was saved during the crisis and markets rebounded strongly, wealth and income inequality has greatly expanded – mostly at the expense of public trust. No public trust – no political capital to govern and enact responsible fiscal policy. No real fiscal policy and the health of the economy and public markets are left primarily to the broad and imperfect influence of the central bank. In this environment, where there’s widespread perception that the government has mostly failed its citizens and only served the wealthiest and most powerful parts of society, the natural tendency for the nation is to collectively turn inwards and towards those political ideologues pointing out the obvious flaws in the system, with at times incendiary solutions.

- Enter the likes of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen, Pedro Sanchez, Pablo Iglesias, Frauke Petry ... etc. 

Although they certainly don’t fall on the same side of the political continuum or share similar ambitions, what they all collectively tap into is the tangible rage in the middle class that has felt abandoned by their respective governments in the wake of the financial crisis. What happened last Thursday was the ideologues triumphed over the pragmatists. And while the counterfactual arguments of how the financial crisis was handled will go on in perpetuity – just as they have for generations since the Great Depression, the reality is last Thursday’s results will not be the last victory for the ideologues and is testament of the dangers that inevitably will impact markets with unknown consequences. Considering that Britain was a relative outlier to the broader economic travails within Europe, it also suggests that even if the vote had failed or comes to pass without them leaving the EU, participants (myself included) have underestimated the underlying political frictions that have been butting up against the limitations of central banks worldwide.
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Postscripts

From an intermediate-term perspective, the market reaction from the British referendum may provide a discerning catalyst for commodities and those markets tangentially correlated. As nominal yields likely remain suppressed at or near historic lows and the post-Brexit market environment gives greater cover from future rate hikes, real rates that began moving lower subsequent to the Fed’s initial rate hike in December – should continue to trend down.

Despite some renewed deflationary concerns from the Brexit punditry, the silver:gold ratio – that we follow as another reflationary barometer, has recouped the initial retracement decline from the Brexit vote and continues to trend higher. As we pointed out towards the end of last year, the rare positive momentum signal in the ratio bodes bullish towards the long-term prospects of precious metals and commodities, as well as those assets that benefit from rising inflation.
While the referendum did generate immediate disinflationary pressures that supported the dollar, we believe those forces will be greatly curtailed by the weakening appetite for further rate hikes by the Fed this year and the loosening of credit conditions that supports the positive domestic trend in inflation. All things considered, we expect the reflationary trend that began in gold last December and broadened throughout the commodity sector this year – to continue.
Should the dollar resurrect its dormant uptrend from last year, all bets are off with commodities; which might also suggest a more severe market dislocation is a foot. For now, we continue to closely watch the dollar and its relative performance to gold, for indications that our buy-the-rumor (taper) and sell-the-news (rate hike) suspicions towards the dollar is misplaced or adversely impacted by the recent events in Britain. 

What’s interesting to note, is in the chart that we constructed at the beginning of the year to frame our bullish gold/bearish dollar thesis, gold is now seasonally trading around the same level from 2014, despite the dollar (USDX) strengthening by nearly 20 percent. This isn’t that surprising to us, however, since major lows in gold have typically led pivots in the dollar, which we have speculated is on the back side of completing a cyclical high last year. While over the near-term it wouldn’t surprise us to see the shine come off precious metals and on to other commodities like oil (i.e. similar to March), underlying market conditions continue to support the trend higher.

Sizing up the move in gold relative to the US equity markets, you continue to see that gold has not only led the broader reflationary trend, but pivots in the equity markets as well. We’ve speculated, however, that a principal distinction in longer-term market structure is as commodities have put in a cyclical low with inflation, US equities are distributing across a now broad cyclical top.

That said, this week’s strong rally in equities continues to follow the leading footprints in gold, which may suggest that the SPX would again test the top of its broad two-year range.