If March Is Now Live: Then So Is A Preemptive Yuan Devaluation

Remember when any member of the Federal Reserve, regardless of the action be it a speech, interview, what they had for breakfast et cetera, was met with panting breaths by the financial media? You know, like it was back in the old days, say around 90 days ago more or less. My how time both flies and changes.

Today? Like it or not (and I presume they disdain it) the President as opposed to a Fed. president, has reclaimed all the oxygen, print, airwaves, bandwidth, and more from not only the general news, but the business/financial news as well. I have a feeling that’s not sitting well within the confines of the Eccles Building. Remember: Elites don’t like sharing stages, especially with those they deem as “outsiders.”

So what does the above have anything to do with March and the Yuan you may be asking? It’s this:

You or I may be enjoying a respite from the media where the Fed. (or central bankers in general) aren’t dominating every topic of business/financial discussion. Yet, the one audience I’ll contend that’s still hanging on every syllable for meaning and intent is China. And China is the, and I mean just that – the – only audience that matters. The reasoning is simple:

China, overnight, can bring the entire global markets crashing to its knees via one wrong move, exponentially faster than any Fed. misstep, intentional, or otherwise. Period.

In other words, the Fed. more often than not will signal first (yet they can surprise) and the move would cause turmoil, but the move (and resulting chaos) itself would be more reaction to surprise than substance, where knee-jerk-selling is met with horns-over-hooves buying from Bulls just itching to buy the next dip. (i.e., 1/4% unannounced or unanticipated hike or something else in kind.)

China on the other hand could intentionally devalue the Yuan in whole number, even double-digit percentages, unannounced overnight, and the chaos could quickly transform into unstoppable monetary bedlam. And there’s recent precedent for clues. e.g., August of 2015.

So with the above for context the question that should be first and foremost in everyone’s mind is this:

If China believes there’s a rate hike in March, regardless of what the rest of the world (and academia) might think. Will it force  China into delivering a monetary strike first, and deal with its aftermath later, rather, than simply waiting around to then deal with any potential monetary aftermath or chaos unleashed by the Fed. later?

I believe not only will they move first – the move borders on inevitable.

I base this on no other reasoning than watching the Fed. continuing to throw ever-the-more fuel onto this “monetary powder keg” that brings that response on quicker, rather than later. For the more they pile on, the more this “monetary powder keg” moves from in-need-of-a-match, into self-igniting.

I am of the opinion China’s ever-growing capital flight problems, and more can not withstand another rate hike, let alone one so close after December. And the tell-tale signs for this to be more plausible than not have been occurring in plain sight with far more telling frequency (and I’ll imply: intent) than previously. And the ones who seem to not be reading the “tea leaves” is none other than the Fed. itself.

Here’s some of my reasoning from the article, “Feb’s FOMC Meeting: A Powder keg In Search Of A Match” To wit:

“If China feels that it is in a no-win situation (and it’s easily conceivable using the Fed’s latest words, speeches, shift in policy signaling and a whole lot more) They might decide after coming back from their New Year holiday and – act first – question later.”

Guess what the politburo did when they returned? Hint: Everything and anything but (and it’s a very big but) the one thing they always did in unison – defend the Yuan.

Everything in China went ballistic. Bonds, stocks, commodities, all up. The Yuan? Tumbled to one-month lows.

I’ll contend this is an overt signaling action which screams warning signs everywhere. For why did China, this time, throw so much money everywhere else except for the one place it basically threw the “kitchen sink” at only a month or so prior? (e.g., The Yuan as to strengthen it away from the much dreaded psychological USD/CNH 7.00 cross.)

Was this a test to see what reaction (both market and political) would take place doing something other than something solely Yuan centric? Or, was this a move of desperation as to subside further capital flight? After all: This is precisely the exact opposite of what one should/would do if the plan was to strengthen, rather than weaken one’s currency, correct?

Again: Why would you throw enormous sums of money into actions which not only have a negative effect, but a canceling effect on what you just threw (again) enormous sums of money only a month prior? Does the old joke “Drilling holes in the bottom of the boat to let the water coming in out.” come to mind here? Which is why I’m siding on the side of desperation – first, as opposed to  a test. And here’s why, as stated by economist, and China watcher Andy Xie (one of the few economists I admire) to wit:

“China’s domestic woes and international challenges are largely due to its inefficient system. The government is obsessed with concentrating economic resources in its own hands, and asset markets are like casinos, sucking people in and making them lose money. The government uses its vast resources inefficiently. Hence, China’s currency has a tendency to depreciate.”

Using the above for a prism it’s easy to see how the politburo can do two things at the same time which seem diametrically opposed to what was professed (or signaled) only weeks prior. Why? Because when elites panic – they’ll throw money everywhere and anywhere first, because that’s all they know. And I believe this demonstrates China is beginning to panic.

The real question (and problem) now is: How far, and how fast, from the “beginning” to “end game” they decide to proceed going forward from here? I believe all we have to do is look to our own Fed. for clues, for they appear utterly clueless to what is taking place right before their own eyes.

So what kind of signaling (hence exacerbating China nervousness) is forthcoming from the Fed you ask? Fair question, to wit:

From Reuters™ “Dollar Index Rises As Yellen Signals More Rate Hikes”

“Waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise,” Yellen said in prepared remarks before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, the first of her two-day testimony before Congress.

That was just a few days ago from Fed. chair Janet Yellen’s televised two-day testimony before Congress.

But what went along with the above was what went nearly unreported (as I implied when stating “the old days”) when none other than the Fed’s Dennis Lockhart (another Fed. president retiring at the end of the month) stated in an interview with Bloomberg™ “March meeting is live.”

That’s a lot of confirmation that March is to be considered live, is it not?

As I’ve iterated before, I believe the rest of the world (or “markets”) are still of the idea that the Fed. is once again “crying wolf” as they did all throughout 2016. For China? I think they’re back to an August 2015 frenzy caught between what to do next, never-mind, what not to do. And it’s getting more complicated for them by the day.

Think I’m over exaggerating? Fair point, so here’s just a few “other” headlines China returned from holiday to read and think about, let alone, needing a response to:

“…Trump Backs Japan Over Disputed East China Sea Islands”

Or how about this from the WSJ™ implying further retaliation, “U.S. Eyes New Tactic To Press China”

So where are we now? As I stated in my previous article, I believe it’s all about the Fed. minutes, to wit:

During that time I believe China will wait for the minutes to be released, and if it is made apparent that there was indeed further discussion as to bolster the inferences that the Fed. may be actively considering a path as to embark on a march towards higher rates, along with the thinning of its balance sheet, which would inevitably send the $Dollar rocketing skywards?

They’ll act first and ask (or maybe not) questions later. Sending everything that is now taken for granted in the “markets” (e.g., “It’s good to be long!) into total chaos. All before March 15th’s next meeting. Again, which just so happens to be the exact date originating the “Ides of March” warning.”

If the actions by China after returning from their holiday break are any clue? Than the possibility for a “monetary first strike” is all the more plausible, if not probable, than these “markets” are signaling, let alone contemplating.

China has thrown buckets of capital at not only the Yuan, but its credit markets in unison – and capital flight is accelerating still on all fronts. All while the $Dollar strengthens, and Yuan weakens seemingly against the will of both monetary bodies.

So again, with all the above for context, as I said in the title…

If March Is indeed “live?”  Then so too is the mother of all monetary shocks.

We shall see our first clues for the minutes of the latest FOMC meeting are to be released this week. And if they are indeed “hawkish?” I believe it will force China’s hand before the next meeting. Whether anyone is prepared for it, or not.

And if any clues are to be extrapolated by current “market” action? The answer is self-evident: nobody thinks such a thing is possible anymore, let alone – positioned for it, making things more problematic than they already are. If that’s even possible.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

Did The Fed Just Experience A “Margin Call” Moment?

For those not familiar, the reference is attributed to a scene from the movie “Margin Call” (2011, Lionsgate™) where John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) makes the sanguinary argument for dumping its portfolio of toxic holdings immediately against contradictory arguments that it’ll be seen as panicking by others with the line, “It’s not panicking if you’re first.”

That one line in fiction contains volumes as to the reality about how Wall Street, bankers, and more view the world. Which is precisely why when I read the news that Federal Reserve member, and “Regulatory Point Man” Daniel Tarullo resigned unexpectedly I just sat back in my chair thinking, “Of course he did” as that afore-mentioned scene came to mind.

The reason why this sudden departure (remembering his term expires in 2022 some 5 years away) inspired thoughts as the above  that will surely be met with retorts such as “tinfoil wearing, conspiracy type” nonsense was not just the timing. But his resignation letter. To wit:

“After more than eight years as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, I intend to resign my position on or around April 5, 2017. It has been a great privilege to work with former Chairman Bernanke and Chair Yellen during such a challenging period for the nation’s economy and financial system.”

Yep, that’s it. No alluding “health reasons.” No “need more time with family” qualifiers. Nor, anything else. Just a corporate styled, “Thanks, see Ya!” as to vacate 5 years early one of the most prestigious jobs in banking (Board of Governors) with quite possibly one, if not “the” most powerful agencies in the world, bar none. e.g., The Federal Reserve. Right, “Nothing to see here people, just move along, thanks for stopping by.”

If this doesn’t ring alarm-bells, than I guess Barron’s™ is right and “Next Stop Dow 30,000” here we come! Or, was that cover-story what signaled Mr. Tarullo to heed what it may portend (i.e., marking market tops) and thought, “Getting outta Dodge” before this thing falls apart first was the next prudent banking and career move? All one can do is speculate.

That said: It’s a fun thought experiment on one hand. But on the other? All I’ll say is this:

If you’re into market signals? These aren’t what you want to see emanating from the Fed. if you’re one of those still buying every dip horns-over-hooves. Because the next “dip” just may be a cliff. That is, unless you’re a vaunted investment “guru” on CNBC™ and your mail arrives 2 days late crushing your prior invest advice to then flip, then flip again only 6 days later back to what you argued was wrong to begin with. But I digress.

So again: Why would a member of the Fed suddenly resign?

Unless?

And that one word, much like the one line from the movie speaks volumes. The difference this time? It’s not in a fictional setting – it’s reality. And what it portends doesn’t have anything close to the intention of any movie. e.g., entertainment.

No, these signals are troubling at their root cause. i.e., The realization that the entire monetary system may in fact be teetering on the verge of chaos. And the finger-pointing has already begun directed squarely at central bankers, and in particular The Fed.

The abdication, its timing, along with its terse reasoning reinforces the argument that things are not as “great”, or “under-control” as the powers that be (e.g., central bankers) would have one believe. Especially from an institution that is supposedly hell-bent on making sure “signaling” or “policy” interpretations are delivered in a manner as to not be misconstrued.

From the outside looking in, it would appear either someone didn’t get that memo, or didn’t care.

The only thing more concerning is, if they did – and still didn’t care.

Again, there seems to be far more to this resignation by the very manner in which it was brought forth. And that’s not an “interpretation problem” for others to overcome. No: That’s a problem of interpreting at face value anything now emanating from the Fed. Period.

Why? I’ll propose it’s occurring at precisely the exact wrong time where “believe” and or “trust” that the Fed. knows or understands the implications of its decisions are needed.

And what is the current Fed. “smoke signals?” Utter shambles for anything resembling coherent, concise messaging.

Think I’m exaggerating or being hyperbolic? Fair point. Here’s just a few of the prevailing “arguments” one needs to try to decipher when attempting to understand current monetary policy and what it may, or may not, portend for the future.

One down, (e.g., Mr. Turullo) how many will follow? e.g., Is Fed. Governor Lael Brainard next? After all, Ms, Brainard was not only an ardent supporter of Mrs. Clinton, but she also appears misaligned with current policy messaging. i.e., Not to keen about hiking rates.

Or how about other arguments, along with statements such as this from Vice Chair Stanley Fischer: “There is quite significant uncertainty about what’s actually going to happen, I don’t think anyone quite knows.” when responding to a question about future fiscal policy which may, or may not, be forth coming in the U.S.

To me, the real trouble was what followed when he said: “At the moment we are going strictly according to what we see as our responsibility according to law.”

So, maybe it’s just me. But I’m quite sure that his boss, Chair Yellen, quite confidently alluded to at the last FOMC presser exactly what was needed and forthcoming, regardless of what came out of the current administration. i.e., Three rate hikes (via the Dot Plot) and possibly even more should they (The Fed.) see fit in reaction to anything “fiscal.” Has that changed? Again? And if it hasn’t? Is that still not an even bigger problem for the “markets?”

If the above referenced conference and articles are any clue? The messaging, and signaling are bordering on incoherent. Again!

Think there’s no reason to “panic” if you’re on the inside, let alone trying to gain insights from the outside looking in?

Remember when the scariest notion viewed by Wall Street was the possibility that the Fed. would even consider, let alone float the idea of winding down its balance sheet first, before exhausting all other “tools” or options? How many “think tank” aficionados along with the gaggle of Ivy Leagued Ph.D economists touted such a thing as “crazy talk” when the notion was ever brought up?

This even caused the former Chair to take to the keyboard on Jan. 26th 2017 and ask (or plead) that it wasn’t so.

Can you say “Oh, Oh?”

From St. Louis Fed. President Bullard’s discussion on 2/9/2017 for 2017 Monetary Policy. To wit:

“Now that the policy rate has been increased, the FOMC may be in a better position to allow reinvestment to end or to otherwise reduce the size of the balance sheet,”

So, are we to infer that if we are to get only one or two rate hikes, what we might actually see concurrent with that is the only other thing deemed even scarier in the eyes of Wall Street? e.g., Selling by the Fed. rather than buying?

Again, can you say, “Oh, Oh?” Or is this all “conspiracy”, “tin-foiled” cap wearing crazy talk?

Could be. Or, it could be fiction transforming into reality straight out of a scene in “Margin Call.” After all, as of November 15, 2016 Mr. Tarullo’s position was to carefully watch market reaction to Trump administration. And his conclusion?

Hint: Re-read the first paragraph while remembering: When it comes to “bag holders?” That’s not in their job description, that’s yours.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…get this!)

Over the years I’ve opined and spoken about the topic of social-media and all it entails, whether it was the argument for their valuations, usefulness, metrics, and more. I’ll also state right here that on this topic (i.e., calling a spade, a spade) it seemed I was doing nothing more than shouting into the wilderness. And if anyone heard me? Say, like some next-in-rotation-fund-manager, or TV “analyst”, or “expert”, or “Silicon Valley aficionado?” I was either mocked, scorned, and sometimes a combination of the two. That was – until what I was arguing began appearing. Then? (insert crickets here)

Case in point: Here are just two articles with a few brief excerpts I penned back in September of 2015, to wit:

“The Next Looming “Commodity” Failure: Social Media”

“Any company that can show they can deliver 10 paying customers vs 200 trillion eyeballs free will hold the keys to this sectors vault. Regardless of what is said via the financial media as well as the main stream media; social’s not getting it done. And as the economy turns stagnant if not lower – getting it done (as in generating net profits via 1+1=2 elementary math) will be as precious, if not more so: than gold.”

And the other in October of that same year 2015. Again, to wit:

“Crying Towels”: Silicon Valley’s Next Big Investment Op”

“Disrupting is what it’s been all about over these last few years. However, there’s another disruption on the technological horizon heading right towards Silicon Valley itself, and that brewing storm is – disruption of the disrupt-ers.

The once emblematic IPO cash-out that lured many is beginning to morph into the loss of IPO dreams that resemble wash-out with every passing earnings cycle. For a glimpse into the event horizon that is the future. All one needs to do is look no further than what myself and a few others have dubbed the “canary in a coal mine” of all that’s Silicon Valley: Twitter™.

Nothing against Twitter per sé. What I take issue with is its valuation vs its ability to produce net profits. And that goes not just for Twitter, but everything “social” in general.”

What was the response to such calls of heresy? Here’s a little reminder of just one of the supposed “informed” twit-storms:

Photo credit: Screenshot publicly viewed Twitter™ Feed.

Photo credit: Screenshot publicly viewed Twitter™ Feed.

One also has to remember the context of the time when I was making such statements, and receiving such mocking (and the above was, shall I say, the polite stuff).

As I wrote and made those arguments (and there are far many more earlier, as well as later, all in the archives) The Federal Reserve residual effects of pumping in QE to the tune of around $85 BILLION dollars per month was still apparent. And because of it, as the year dragged on, many a “talking head” was still arguing the same tune. e.g., “It’s different this time.”

You know what else ended shortly after that? All the chutzpah for mocking. Why? As I articulated would occur all during that period: The resulting IPO desert-for-deals, and the pummeling of stock valuations of those that did. And it’s never recovered.

It seems quite fascinating how all that previous laughter doesn’t quite appear as funny as it did back then, no? Especially if you’re one of those dreamers whose salaries are based squarely on IPO cash out riches. (Remember when reports of living in a shipping container, or under a stairwell were reported as something just “fantastic!” Until I said – it becomes obvious that the “shipping container” may in fact turn out to be home for their entire future.)

However, with that said – what is now surely no laughing matter is the latest front page headline across the Drudge Report™. To wit:

Screenshot Feb. 8, 2017

Screenshot Feb.7, 2017

(Source)

From the linked article via the DailyMail™:

“The shift was a new strategy for corporations to bring more traffic to their websites, rather than just gaining popularity on social media…”

The Big, Big, BIG! issue? It appears by all accounts to have a been stunning success. (insert “Valley” screams of horror here)

Now who could have thought (let alone argued) such a thing was about to take place? Give me a minute, let me think here, I’m sure someone will come to mind, just hold on. Here we go, here’s one from just earlier this year. To wit:

“The Next Big Thing: The Old Model becomes The New”

“If you’re a business, and you’ve watched with a careful eye what these platforms are doing for (if not too) businesses? I would implore you to rethink your “web presence” and how it currently interacts, if not unknowingly depends, on the “everything social” model for interactions with your customers or brand. For not only is it self-evident you are no longer in control of your message – you might just find your “messaging” in streams or data feeds you never dreamed possible.”

Arguments as the above have, were, and still are considered heresy to all that is social media, and/or “The Valley.” Yet today?

Think about the impact of the above headline as it’s seen by the Drudge Report audience of some 1.5 BILLION. Along with it to read – It appears to have worked with far better than expected results. But here’s the kicker – during the most ad centric, and costly events of the year. e.g., “The Big game.” Can you say “Oh, Oh?”

Think there might be a few advertising execs or budget managers within that crowd? Let alone, what the impact to a great many others such as “investors” might think about that headline?

Gives a new meaning to “it’s different this time”, doesn’t it? But then again, what do I know.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

 

Footnote: These “FTWSIJDGIGT” articles came into being when many of the topics I had opined on over the years were being openly criticized for “having no clue”. Yet, over the years these insights came back around showing maybe I knew a little bit more than some were giving me credit for. It was my way of tongue-in-cheek as to not use the old “I told you so” analogy. I’m saying this purely for the benefit of those who may be new or reading here for the first time (and there are a great many of you and thank you too all). I never wanted or want to seem like I’m doing the “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah” type of response to my detractors. I’d rather let the chips fall – good or bad – and let readers decide the credibility of either side. Occasionally however, there are, and have been times they do need to be pointed out which is why these now have taken on a life of their own. (i.e., something of significance per se that may have a direct impact on one’s business etc., etc.) And readers, colleagues, and others have requested their continuance.

And The Ratings Were?

As some of you know right before The “Big Game” I made a case based on my own observations and anecdotes that if I were to bet on anything, I would bet on the over/under of the TV ratings of the event. My prediction? ” Total ratings disaster.” The actual?

Via Reuters™: “Super Bowl LI Draws Lower TV Ratings Despite Overtime Finish”

“Fox Television’s broadcast of Super Bowl LI on Sunday night drew 111.3 million viewers, according to Nielsen data released by the network on Monday, the smallest audience for the National Football League’s title game in four years.”

“Disaster?” Depends on how one wants to interpret it. From a business perspective (which is how I view things) I’m going to stick with yes. Why? Two reasons. First:

Every year the cost to advertisers increases, and you have to justify those increases with hard data results. The hard data now shows – they paid up – for 2012/2013 metrics.

Four years of ever-increasing viewership along with pricing as to be exposed to that audience, and not only couldn’t the same audience of last year be held, but (and it’s a very big but) they didn’t even hold the audience of 3 prior. That’s a problem, and a very BIG problem if you’re in the ads business. And the NFL™ is.

Second: You had a scenario which should have drawn viewers in. Say what you want: but the story, narrative, and rivalry about one team against the odds (remember Brady didn’t play the first 4 games) and the NFL brass in particular, along with the possibility of Brady winning a never before in history 5th championship. An event that is a once in a lifetime, must see event for most fans. And even then couldn’t hold, let alone attract, the same audience as even the year prior?

That’s another very, very, very (did I say very?) BIG problem. Never-mind any increasing. Why?

Think of it this way: Had the ratings, at the least, came in on par with last years? The NFL along with most other sports shows could possibly (and I use that term loosely) have breathed a sigh-of-relief, and pointed to when it comes to “the sport” or “the brand”, that maybe there hadn’t been as much damage done as what the viewership numbers over the season had portended. Never forgetting this past year ratings across the entire season have been just that – a disaster.

For if the “Big Game” held its audience, or better yet, increased, maybe all that would be needed or addressed over the off-season would be some tinkering around the edges for toning down a lot of the political rhetoric now emanating at a near unstoppable, as well as overwhelming pace, which has nothing to do with the game, let alone sports.

This results adds the dot-of-the-i, or the crossing-of-t’s not only for the NFL, but for sports broadcasting in general that: It’s turning off its audience. And they are doing the same – literally.

I have a feeling the 2017/2018 ad-season for the entire sports media complex is going to meet its own version of “deflate-gate.”

And just a note for those of you thinking I’m trying to be coy with using “The Big Game” as opposed to its real title. It’s because unless you have explicit consent via the NFL – you can’t use it. (Reuters does) And if you do? They’ll come after you with legal action. And as you know I respect trademarks to a fault. (e.g., which is why you see ™ throughout my writings.)

That said, if I were asked to advise both the NFL, along with the entire sports complex, unlike most other “consultants” or “business gurus” that would require; a team of people; stacks of presentation folders; 5 hour slide show presentations; and heaven knows what else. I would probably just walk in, and make only one statement. And it would be this…

“If this past season is to be any guide? Better focus more, as to the exclusion of all else, on the sport aspects of the game – rather than anything remotely political. Otherwise? You may find you’ll have more eyes looking for trademark infringements – than there are actual viewers watching your trademarked content.”

And for those of you silently wondering the answer is: yes. My fee would still remain about the same as the above consulting scenario. With one difference…

It would be actionable, too the point, and show a return on investment with near immediacy, if correct. And that’s what serious people should be paying for: results over theater.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

The Big Snapchat IPO Question: Will Investment Dollars Also Go Poof?

If your head is still spinning made possible by last weeks news cycle? Congratulations – you’re normal. Trying to keep up with any news, even just one element (e.g., business) has been a near task in futility. Politics (understandably) in one form or another is currently dominating everything, even business. So with that said, it could be argued why the most anticipated, hailed, saving grace for all that is “The Valley”, IPO to save the IPO world Snap™ (aka Snapchat™) filed its former “confidential” papers on Thursday. And the reaction? (insert crickets here)

Sure there has been the usual high-fiving chorus throughout the tech world, and in particular “The Valley” world. That’s to be expected. However, with that said, I want to offer up the following headline as possibly the reasoning behind so little fanfare. It comes from none other than Vanity Fair™ and ask if you have the same reaction as I did. Ready?

“Silicon Valley, Rejoice: Snapchat Files For Huge $3 Billion I.P.O.”

My initial thoughts?: Silicon Valley dreams of working for “stock options” and IPO riches meets its WTF moment into reality.

Why you ask? Hint: “rejoice”, “huge”, “$3 Billion.” equals “It’s different this time.” And not in a good way.

Let me phrase it this way: All this waiting, all the hype, all those “dreams” placed squarely on the shoulders of this forthcoming IPO – and all they get is a lousy $3 Billion and the CEO gets to keep (and wears) the “lousy T-shirt.” Yep: “rejoice” just seems a little out-of-place after that, doesn’t it?

Now $3 Billion is nothing to sneeze at. Especially if it’s “your” money that’s going to be the content for the counting. But this is Snapchat! You know, the supposed next Facebook™ (FB) if not FB killer.

Comparisons to other tech companies (e.g., Twitter™) brings a swift response from roadshow messaging, “We’re the next Facebook, Not The Next Twitter.” All I’ll say is investors better hope, pray, and give burnt offerings to help that insinuation along before the possibility the “burnt offerings” is their money up-in-smoke after the fact, just saying.

Again, here we have “the” most anticipated IPO to come down the pike in quite some time. Their shopping for this IPO has been done in near secrecy where “confidentiality” was the term used as to describe the process. Many thought since they waited till the “markets” once again were tractor-beamed into never-before-seen-in-history-highs that this IPO would be priced at the whisper number of $5 Billion reminiscent of FB’s. Especially given all that seems to be riding on this “unicorn’s” back.

Sorry, to be the bummer, but $3 Billion is closer both in math, and reality, to Twitter’s $1.8 IPO offer range, than it is to FB’s $5 Billion. And what may be even worse? Their filings seem to make that case even further.

In my opinion: This isn’t a good sign if you’re the supposed “David” in “The Valley’s” version of “Goliath” killers. Especially if you’re simultaneously held to be the IPO savior of tech. And there’s only one thing worse than “expectations” not being met, even if it is hopes, or dreamlike infused wishes.

What’s that you ask? Hint: When you state publicly that your business, a business that is looking to garner other people’s money who will someday be looking for a return on that investment read – they may never find that scenario ever possible.

Think I’m kidding? From their S-1 filing, page 19, in bold, italicized text. To wit:

“We have incurred operating losses in the past, expect to incur operating losses in the future, and may never achieve or maintain profitability.”

So, I’m going to ask you a question from a business standpoint: Why in the world would you include such a statement?

Some will argue this was just some boilerplate legal mumbo-jumbo that is constructed and stated in more differing ways than there are ants on the planet, and needs to be included somewhere within the fine print, where all this form of legalese gets inserted to be glossed over. And that would be a fair argument. However, if that’s the reasoning: Why in the world would you make this statement front, center, and unable to miss?

Unless?

(I’ll just pause here, and let you fill in that thought you just had on your own. Remember, “investors” at these levels are supposed to be “sophisticated”, as in, they inherently understand potential losses. So why the need to make it so uncharacteristically prominent? Think that line over a few times, and try to square-that-circle on your own.)

From my perspective this not only appears troubling at first-blush, it get’s even further problematic as the cloud of “confidentiality” gets lifted further into the light of true business fundamentals. Why do I say such a thing? Again, from their own filings, page 36, and, once again, in bold and italicized, to wit:

“To our knowledge, no other company has completed an initial public offering of non-voting stock on a U.S. stock exchange.”

Translation? If you don’t like what we’re doing with your investment dollars and assumed because you gave us your money we needed to listen to you? Screw you – it was right there in the S-1. Cha-ching!

The more I perused this S-1, the more I found myself thinking this seems to be nothing more than a legalesed filled document to do nothing more than solidify a founders cash-out with no chance of recourse. Or said differently: Screw what ever befalls the company and investors later. i.e., The “I’ve got mine – who cares about yours.” type of mentality that seems to plague much of what is commonly known as “tech” or “The Valley” stylized entity.

As always: Don’t take my word, or conclusions for it. Read the document for yourself, and come to your own conclusions. Especially if you are one of those just “chomping at the bit” as to be the first to ride this long-awaited unicorn. For there are warning signs throughout this document that anyone with a modem of business acumen will find troubling.

I’m sorry, did I hear you say, “It can’t be any worse than what the above portends?” Fair enough, so here’s another detail contained within page 4, once again, to wit:

Revenue increased to $404.5 million compared to $58.7 the year before.

Sounds great, right? Yep, until you also read they incurred a net loss of $514.6 million up from $372.9 million in the same period. Translation? More users – more losses. See above statements for what that may translate to “your” returns on investment hopes. And try not to think about the old “We sell dollar bills at 98 cents – but we make it up on volume!” joke as you try to evaluate what this business model should be worth, or better yet, how anyone could ever value it at $25 Billion or more. Only in “The Valley” is all I’ll say.

I’ll just end with this one statement, or observation:

Remember when making profits was seen as “just not getting tech” and you were relegated to “doesn’t have a clue” status if you dared to ask questions such as “profitability”, “net profits”, “return on investment”, and more? You know, when The Fed. was pumping in all that QE money? What’s happened since then?

Hint: A dried up IPO market, IPO’s that are still “in transition” that may never see light of day, IPO’s that were supposedly “the” new markets for their relative products are now seen as investment disasters. i.e., Look to TWTR, FIT, GPRO, TWLO, P,  and others for clues, always remembering how they too were “cutting edge” when it came to messaging, cameras, wearables, and more. Because today? Hint: look to any stock chart.

And yet, here we are (again) today with another “app” that takes pictures so that people can augment their pictures or message – then goes “poof.” Just like it’s cash-burn status. And we’re told – “it’s different this time” (again) when evaluating its business model and metrics.

Sure it is.

You know what truly is different this time? The inclusion of the term “poop” on a S-1 filing.

Oh yes – that’s not a misprint. It’s right there on page 110 as to give credence to the “ads for eyeballs” fallacy. You just can’t make up stuff like that. No one would believe it.

No wonder this was all done originally under the cloak of “confidentiality.” Now that it’s hit the light-of-day? “Poop” may indeed have been a good term to include, because from my perspective…

This whole thing stinks to high-business heaven. Where many an “investors” bank account may also find itself. i.e., “Money Heaven.”

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

A “Big Game” Prediction For Observation And A Bit More

In September of 2015 I made the argument that the “cord cutting” (i.e., people no longer wanting or willing to pay for “bundling”) for ESPN™and others losing subscribers was probably far more due to the adding and bundling of “politics” into these broadcasts, rather than just the wanting of everything “a la carte” defense given by many.

Since then that argument (my argument) has proven out to be more in line for recent drops in viewership than the simple “cord cutting” one. An observation I’ll add that was deemed as “not having a clue” when I first made it.

It would seem today via recent events, as well as even ESPN itself feeling the need to address it this past December, I may have had more of a clue than even I first thought. For the ratings of all these types of programs continues to fall – and fall hard. Why?

They aren’t backing off of the “politics.” Matter of fact – they seem to be doubling down. So much so if you only enter three words into your search engine of choice e.g., “espn ratings politics” the returning headlines for just the past month look more like one was still reading about the match up of Trump vs Clinton, rather than anything resembling a sporting event. Here’s a screenshot on the morning of this writing for your own interpretations. To wit:

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-9-44-26-am

Page 1 Screenshot Google™

(Source)

As to make, and enforce, my argument that this wasn’t just some form of “correlation vs causation” interpretation. (i.e., That the politic narrative becoming more present was just coincidence as to the drop in viewership vs the actual cause for it as many “analysts” and next-in-rotation-fund-managers across the media were making at that time in 2015) I bolstered (or “doubled down” as many like to say) that argument this past October when I wrote another piece titled: “How To Kill A Brand: Just Add The Political Football”

This was at the very beginning of the season before anyone else was even commentating on, let alone contemplating what is now seen as probably the most politically infused season ever. And the ratings? Hint: Disaster.

Which brings us to “The Big Game!”

I’m going out on a limb and making a prediction. No, I’m not picking a team. (Although I am rooting for Brady as to stuff it down the throats of all those who imply the only reason why he’s won is because of “cheating.” But I digress.) My prediction is far different. Mine is to see just how far, as well as calamitous, the infusion of “all that is political” into what has until recently been one of the most watched sporting events in history, for both the game, as well as halftime celebrations and more. And it is this:

A total ratings disaster.

Whether or not it happens, much like the game, is anyones guess until after the fact. However, if I were betting on the game, I would wager my money on the over-under of the ratings as the score to watch, rather than “the game.” Why?

Well, using myself and a few others I know – this is the first time in recent memory I have absolutely no desire to watch the game. None. I just don’t want even the remote chance that I’m going to hear stuff that’s going to make me get up – and turn the thing off. And I’m not alone, for a few friends said “They might tune in during the game at some point.” I’ve never heard anything even remotely resembling “might” from these people before. Watching, making special preparations (i.e., party) and more has always been a given. Now “maybe?”

I just left it at that because I felt I knew why, but didn’t need to open or delve into any “can of worms” between friends. Again, I have no clue what will entail, but if that’s indicative of more people this year than not? Let’s just say the NFL™ and sports shows in general have another “big” on their hands. And it’s not a game. It’s called a “PR nightmare” where the damage inflicted (as in ratings) may already be done, but what’s worse – irreversible. People move on to other things, I know I have.

However, with all that said I’d like to add one more point to this discussion for your consideration. Or, as they say on TV: “But wait – there’s more!”

One of the reasons I began thinking about all this was borne from a discussion I had with my wife just the other day.

My wife, for years, has made “party” food for the game. This year when she asked me what I wanted and I replied, “Don’t bother I’m probably not even going to watch it” she was taken back and responded, “Really? Well that’s a first, but OK.” And that was that.

I reference the above only for context because about a week later (which was about a day or two ago) I asked my wife if she was doing her usual and making plans as to watch the Oscars™. My wife has watched the Oscars (which is her equivalent of “the big game”) without fail every year that I can remember. And we’re going on 30 years.

She is the most non-political person I know. Usually, no matter what is going on with entertainers and their political views, or speeches (regardless of who, or what side) they roll off her like water-off-a-duck’s-back. She could care less – she’s just there to be entertained.

She loves the glitz and glamor that only Hollywood can provide with the Oscars in-particular being the culmination of just that. That is – until this year.

For the first time ever since I’ve known my wife (remember going on 30 years) she’s not going to watch the Oscars.

I was nearly floored. Her reason?

“I know the political speeches and posturing is going to be insufferable. I watched the SAG™ (Screen Actors Guild) awards and ended up turning it off. It was over the top as I’ve never seen, and if that’s the prelude to the Oscars? I’m just tired of all this political crap in these shows. Maybe next year, who knows.”

I can only equate her statement with that of a die-hard sports fan suddenly stating, “Yeah, I can’t watch the game – I’ve got to clean my garage.” You would be left standing there saying” Wait…what?” Trust me – I did.

Back in December I penned the article: “The Political Celebrity: Another Jump The Shark Moment” I now feel, much like my earlier observations, that I may be far more correct than even I first thought. For if my wife is any indication? The Oscars are about to find out that “backlash” isn’t some movie title. And their ratings this year may give it a trophy it never thought possible. i.e., A participation trophy for worst ratings ever, beating out what many of the so-called “stars” deem as “low brow sports” as opposed to “the arts.”

I further believe the latter “game” may be far more interesting than the former. After all, who can swear more?

A defensive lineman for a bad call? Or Madonna?

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

In Response To My Stance On Social Media

I was queried on whether or not when it comes to social media in general, and Facebook™ in particular, especially in the light of another “fantastic!” earnings report coinciding with a pop into (once again) a record high stock value, if I thought about (implying, maybe I should) reconsidering my prior assertions. My answer?

No.

(For those not familiar with my stance you can read a little more here, and here.)

Here’s three reasons I gave as to why I still stand by my stance in the face of what everyone across the financial media is touting as “should put the naysayers to rest” earnings report via Facebook (FB).

First: As I stated and implied in the above referenced articles: What good is user growth if those “users” have no money, or completely disregard the inserted ads, making the paying for those ads to provide all the “free” too costly to the advertisers themselves?

Second: As I’ve also ruminated on why FB’s stock was rising of late, as opposed to, its falling during the “markets” latest run into never-before-seen-in-human-history-highs: “It’s probably much more to do with “buying” as to get “earnings exposure.” Much like it did this past Nov. when it (once again) hit an all time high, had a “hitting it out of the ball park” earnings report, then did nothing but slide as the “markets” lurched higher. For where is FB currently trading after such (once again) “blowout earnings?” Hint: Look back to last November – once again. So far even the overnight “pop” hasn’t held. That may be a clue, but only time (and money) will tell.

Third: This latest earnings covers one of the most interactive presidential campaigns in history – and it’s now over. Holiday “ad-spree-buys” are now done. So far the results (for retailers that is)? See any retailers latest earnings report for a “canary in a coal mine” type of analysis. e.g., Now even Macy™ is reported to be “shopping itself out.” As I’ve implied many times before: FB will (or now was) probably be the beneficiary this past holiday shopping season as advertisers do one last “throwing everything they’ve got before they go-out.” ad buy. I’ll use Macy’s as just one (and there are more) example to back up that argument.

Here’s a “bonus” for you to also consider: What will be the fallout as I implied before if all the content providers who are insulted (or won’t post because of fear of censorship) leave FB? If one “content creator” decides to leave, what does that do to their 10,000 followers? If 100 leave does traffic slow by 1-million? And what if those “1mm” are the ones buying advertisers messages, literally? Again, only time will tell.

But as I like to make the point that all too few fail to remember: AOL™ was still “crushing it” as late as 2001 when it was obvious to anyone willing to see that the “tech bubble” was indeed bursting. Anyone that is except for the financial press along with “The Valley.”

Today, much like then, when questioning anything about social media and/or FB the first response is “It’s different this time.” To reiterate: Much like it was when questioning AOL’s “ads for eyeballs” model back then. For if I remember correctly, “AOL had really figured out advertising on the web.” Much like FB today is shielded with the blanket response of “They really figured out advertising on mobile.”

Sound familiar?

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

From: You Can’t Make This Stuff Up – Into – Maybe They Actually Do

If one has ever perused most “business” or “investing” centered programs (cough,CNBC™,cough) and wondered why their bulls–t meter keeps going from zero to 11? This is your moment for clarity, provided by none other than one of the leading “investment” commentators paraded across the financial media of television, radio, and print: Dennis Gartman.

Personally, I have no qualms to pick with Mr. Gartman. The only thing I take issue with is: both he, and his insights are trotted out on these programs and given the aura of “thoughtful, actionable, expertise.”

Over the years it has shown to many an observer with a modicum of business acumen, as well as financial insight (heaven forbid your account balances) that “zip, zero, nada” should accompany those three prior descriptors. It’s now become so obvious (and laughable) he’s even had to publicly defend himself against his own record.

Now I am fully aware, as well as sympathetic to making calls, or going out-on-a-limb to voice, or give credence, to thoughts which turn out to be not just wrong, but dead wrong. Trust me, I’ve made enough of them myself.

However, with that said, what I will do different from most others is tell you my reasoning for it, then let the chips fall where they may. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Nobody is right all the time in business, let alone investing. (And just to be clear, I am in no way, shape, manner, or form, an investment advisor.) It comes with the territory and there are times you just have to “man-up” and say so. Period, end of story, move on.

People are smart enough to know what’s “what.” And one should never think they aren’t. Which is precisely why I wanted to share my thoughts on this because, by all appearances, Mr. Gartman thinks people are the latter, rather than the former. i.e., Must assume people are morons.

In another stunning reversal of “investment” advice Mr. Gartman went from, “Our propensity is to find modest long exposure today” on Monday morning into “No longer bullish after seeing…” Monday evening. You know, after people who might have taken his lead and thought they were “buying in” just like the “pros.” Only to see the largest decline of 2017 happen simultaneously and we’re left in a pool of tears, once again.

So, what did he see? Were they some form of proprietary technical indicators, charting patterns, insider trading report, or some form of other proprietary insight? Hint: Nope.

It appears (by his own words) he saw only too late what every person in the world with a computer, and a desire to find information on their own saw days before (because it was already viral on the web all weekend). e.g., The now infamous “omen of financial doom” cover story when none other than Barron’s™ (once again) insinuatingly proclaims “away we go once again!” with their cover page headline “Next Stop Dow 30,000”

The reason Mr. Gartman gave? He didn’t get the magazine delivered until Monday, when everyone else received it on Saturday.

Imagine that, who could have ever assumed one “edge” to competing with today’s multi-$Billion, HFT, light-speed data-flow world of connectivity was – a faster postman! (never forgetting it was accessible via the web Saturday, and Sunday)

And that my friends is why “investment gurus” like the aforementioned Mr. Gartman make the big bucks (selling this trite in newsletters) and are called on television shows, radio, and more to give their prognostications.

I guess, after all, an excuse like the one given is: daring, bold, and far more clever than “The dog ate my homework” excuse any poor, (presumably much poorer) ignorant 401K holder could ever hope to come up with. You just can’t make this stuff up. Unless you’re them I suppose, then, not only do you make it up – you charge mightily for it!

Is it any wonder why these networks are losing viewers as quickly as the people following the advice from many of these so-called “experts?”

Other than that, I have no strong feelings, or opinions on the matter.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

February’s FOMC Meeting: A Powder Keg In Search Of A Match

On February 1st the Federal Reserve will conclude its scheduled two-day meeting. No one expects any change in policy to be announced, especially since the Fed. has since hiked rates at the preceding meeting. And with there being no press conference scheduled, that’s been a pretty reliable indicator for all to assume it’s steady-as-she-goes.

Although I agree, what I also believe is there’s a wildcard in this one that could send everything into a tizzy. That “wildcard” is: The minutes.

The minutes (e.g., transcripts of the meeting) are released three weeks after the date of the policy decision. More often than not these are looked upon by the “markets” as “already known, knowns.” In other words, a non-market moving event.

However, I believe this meeting followed by its minutes may set up the “markets” as well as the economy for an “Ides of March” we may all soon not want to remember, let alone – never forget.

So why is it I imply these minutes might have more onerous implications than prior? Two words: China, Yuan.

Let’s lay out a few other “known, knowns”, as well as a possible “what if” and what they might portend after this upcoming Fed. meeting shall we?

As we sit here today it’s hard to overstate what is now coined the “Trumpflation” trade happening across the U.S. “markets.” All the major indexes are trading at never-before-seen-in-human-history-highs.

Even the President himself took to social media to put his stamp (or brand) of approval on Dow 20K. And with that action implied credit for it. Something prior presidents usually kept at arm’s length, accepting credit via osmosis. So to say, think, or believe this president isn’t going to insert himself into the dialogue of the “markets” in the future, for whatever the reason, is naive at best, willfully blind as worst. Because now – you have precedent. This is an important point to remember.

Now on the other hand we have China, and the Yuan. And I believe it’s here where things begin to go awry in very short order.

I will argue both the “markets,” and currencies are about to be caught off guard and left flat-footed in much the same fashion as politicians everywhere have been with the U.S. president. i.e., Completely shocked and stupefied as to the reality of what he’s doing – as compared with what they thought (or believed) he’d do. And he’s only been in office a week.

It is a known fact that China is currently throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) trying to stem capital flight from not only within its borders, but also, a depreciating Yuan exacerbated by a rising $Dollar. And it’s not getting better.

The real problem? It may go from worsening condition to catastrophic at any moment. No hyperbole intended.

China’s latest efforts to halt an ever falling Yuan seems to be waning, along with the ever watched USD/CNH cross rate once again inching back toward prior intervention attempts. Or to say it differently: Without constant, unrelenting, massive intervention – the path is down, and maybe, waaay down.

China’s dilemma is not merely worsened by the ramifications of a “hawkish toned” Fed. That’s an understatement. What I want to make clear from my perspective is this:

In its (China’s) current position, I’m of the opinion they’re one rate hike (U.S. hike to be specific) away from the Yuan becoming completely unglued from any sought level by the politburo, regardless of further intervention – and- goes into an uncontrolled free-fall, exacerbated by capital flight which only may be halted or quelled by some form of monetary martial law.

I’m also of the opinion – it’ll be too little, too late, and the global “markets” will go into a near instantaneous heaving with gyrations possibly worse, if not on par, with the beginning chaos seen in early 2008. And that can all happen (“can” because nobody knows) in the coming weeks. Here’s why:

A lot has changed over the last few weeks. First and foremost: president-elect is now Mr. President. And with that has come sweeping changes to the global stage as to how once thought sacrosanct “trade deals” or “trading partners” have been relegated to “it’s different this time” status. Make that – much, much different.

One of the most stunning developments I personally took notice of was the president’s very public cancelling of a scheduled meeting with Mexico’s president. What I found absolutely comical was the reporting of it by the media through the political lens. Every word I continue to hear, or read, is either in the form of unhinged apoplectic, or utterly confused.

I’m here to tell you the way the president treated that circumstance is absolute “Business 101.” To think this president isn’t more concerned with “business optics first” as opposed to “political optics” is journalistic, as well as political malfeasance.

Any person who is, or has, been in business viewed his response (e.g., Mr. Trump’s) as a textbook business negotiation tactic. i.e., “If we can’t agree that it has to be good for the both of us? Fair enough, thanks for letting us know, all the best: ‘click.'” I personally have used that exact negotiating start point countless times throughout my own career.

I’m going to make this point for it is the key to understanding what truly took place. Not from the political, but rather, from the business perspective:

“Click” means just that: Click, the conversation is over.

If you aren’t already prepared, or at the least cognizant of the consequences – whatever they may be – you don’t use it. It’s not something, or a tactic, to be used flippantly. That’s why it can be one of the most forceful negotiating start-points in business for it implies nothing, rather – it states clearly: “If my phone doesn’t ring, I know it’s you – and don’t care.”

This is for those who aren’t interested in “talking” about a deal. It’s only used by those interested in doing a deal. If not? They’re moving on to someone else who either might or does.

It’s not for the faint-of-heart politician, and that’s why most are already seeking oxygen masks. But serious business people? It’s the only way. Period.

China’s politburo has to now assume that this president is far more serious and willing to accept consequences as to renegotiate prior deals or hash out new ones going forward. Calls of “currency manipulator” or for “tariffs” and more are now squarely on the table going forward. China must now look at any and all possibilities through the lens of having actual follow-through. Why?

By all appearances Mr. Trump is showing when it comes to business – he’s deadly serious. But what may be more important is this: He appears personally prepared and willing to accept or deal with any fallout.  And, once again – that’s Business 101.

It is there dear reader, where the rubber-hits-the-road far differently than ever before when it comes to China. For it might be that the next person Mr. Trump decides to “cancel a meeting” or “tell them I’ll get back to them” is none other than China. A position the China of today has never been in.

This must be causing quite the stir, as well as consternation for China’s leaders behind the scenes as they’re enjoying (or at least trying) their New Year. Why? Because you now have provable actions as to compare or postulate by. i.e., The current “Mexican standoff” must be taken as entirely plausible to happen to them. Regardless of how many (enter your “think” tank of choice here) might argue it as “crazy talk.”

And speaking of “crazy talk.” Let’s get to the Fed. and its upcoming meeting shall we?

As convoluted as the current narrative is to follow of whether or not the Fed. will in-fact begin raising rates in earnest this year. One thing is clear: The Fed. appears to now be by openly hostile to the current administration. Why do I make such a claim? Just look to their own public words for clues.

At the last meeting I made the observation for opinion that if you watched, and listened to the retorts given by Ms Yellen. One couldn’t come away with any other conclusion than what appeared to my eye. i.e., A complete reversal for upcoming policy based purely on the current administration. Data be damned. Not only an I still standing by that claim, I feel more confident in it than ever. Here’s why:

As I stated then: About 60 days prior to that meeting and subsequent rate hike Ms. Yellen gave a speech on how the residual effects from the financial crisis of ’08 had yet to be vanquished and were still present adding to much of the malaise still apparent in the economy. Here thoughts on what to do about it? Maybe a “high-pressure” policy stance would be suitable. What’s that in layman’s terms you ask? Basically it’s this: Keep rates low even while the economy shows improvement and inflation rises, even if it’s above any once “mandated” benchmark.

That was when Mrs. Clinton appeared to be the presumptive winner. When it was president-elect Trump? Raise rates, and vociferously imply not only is an increase of rate hike gone from a well-assumed 2 to 3 in 2017. But what was far more instructive was Ms. Yellen’s responses as to imply more are on the table should they see fit. Don’t take my word for it as I like to point out. Watch the press conference for yourself and come to your own conclusions with what you know now. Including the timing for her purple attire. But I digress.

So here we are today a little more than 30 hence that meeting, and what has now been added into the discussion? Hint: The unwinding of The Fed’s balance sheet.

What’s even more incredible about this story is what the main-stream media and financial media missed, or conveniently glossed over, take your pick. e.g., The inferred revelation that Fed. members are thinking of soon. As in real soon. To wit:

Fed. president Mr. Harker (paraphrasing): “When rates are at 1%, we need to look at unwinding the balance sheet.”

Fed. president Mr. Bullard (paraphrasing): “Balance sheet roll off may be better than aggressive hiking.”

Some will say I’m trying to make an argument that really doesn’t exist, because it’ll be implied as “it’s not like they mean it.” This will be the go-to argument or rationalization by most policy wonk talking heads. However, I use as evidence to back up my assertion with none other than “Mr. Courage To Print, and Print more” former Fed. chairman Ben Bernanke’s own “Wait…what?” response with his own near immediate rebuttal, to wit:

“Has the Fed’s approach to balance sheet normalization actually changed? At least until I hear otherwise from the FOMC’s leadership or the Committee as a whole, my guess (and hope) is that it hasn’t.”

If we’ve learned aything over the last few years “hope” is not a strategy. Especially when it comes to serious matters. So let’s take this all at their word, for that’s why they tell us their “communication strategy for forward guidance” is there for, no? Even if the former chairman is as confused to their intent as the rest of us.

First: “When rates are at 1%, we need to look at unwinding the balance sheet.”

Rates are currently at .5% which implies we are either 1 rate (or Fed. meeting where the old norm of raising .5 or 1/2% begins in earnest once again) away from possibly beginning the once unmentionable (let alone inconceivable) unwinding of the balance sheet. If they decide to do 1/4 points (e.g. .25) raises as has been the norm, then we’re possibly just two meetings away. That’s March 15th aka the Ides of March. (Gotta love the coincidence of history, yes?)

Some will say. “That’s crazy talk.” I’ll contend, as well as argue: The open discussion calling for even a hinting of unwinding the “balance sheet” by the Fed. was also once considered crazy. And yet? There it is.

Second: “Balance sheet roll off may be better than aggressive hiking.”

So let’s put this into perspective: If one rate hike a year has been seen as “the norm.” And if we add to that even 1 has been seen as foreboding dependent on the timing. Is it not fair to conclude the possibility of 3 in a year, added with the Fed. Chair herself arguing maybe even more might be forthcoming should the FOMC decide as – “aggressively hiking?” Notwithstanding being in concert this argument began with someone who made financial heads scratch everywhere when he himself aggressively switched just last year from a “hawkish” perspective to near “uber-dove?”

Again, taken at face value the only prudent consideration is for one to position (or at least calculate in earnest) for the possibility that the Fed. may in fact decide to push much, much faster, and in ways once considered unimaginable, not in years to come – but starting as early as February.

Think that through once again, for if that’s not implying “it’s different this time?” Nothing is.

So with the above for context here’s the real issue:

China has to be looking at all the above from behind closed doors – and be absolutely freaking out!

And yes, I mean that precisely, consider it a new “technical term” in response to the current state of affairs and messaging which they can only try to understand, let alone formulate contingency plans for. Remember, they are truly a command and control economy and government. e.g., Communist regime. They don’t have the business savvy for nuance and theatre as we have here.

This is a very dangerous point for the global economy and “markets, let alone for the Chinese politburo. Remember: For all intents and purposes they (the Chinese politburo) view everything via the lens of “a hammer in want of a nail.” And while looking at the above through that prism, they may feel the only thing for them to do is “pound, and pound now.” Remember the line I liked to quote from the movie Margin Call, “It’s not panicking if you’re first.”

Since July of 2016 things have not gotten better for China.

As of today the only thing that has worked as to stem the tide of the Yuan falling ever fast and further into oblivion is utilizing the proceeds via the aggressive selling of currently held U.S. debt. (So far the latest best guess has been well over $1TRILLION)

And here you have multiple Fed. members openly stating it may, in concert, with an aggressive (there’s that word again) raising of rates be looking to, or advising for, purging some of its balance sheet (and by how much is anyones guess although one has to assume it may be more than anyone thinks let alone believes).

All of which if it were to happen (and you have to assume, as well as position that it is a possibility) would be vying for the same buyers for debt as you (e.g., China), and would cause a flooding of the “markets” with purchasable debt into too few buyers with the resources to consume it all, exacerbating what would already be problematic to begin with.

If China feels that it is in a no-win situation (and it’s easily conceivable using the Fed’s latest words, speeches, shift in policy signaling and a whole lot more) They might decide after coming back from their New Year holiday and – act first – question later.

Once the February 1st FOMC meeting concludes – if – the chatter now apparent and public by Fed. members continues during the interlude before the releasing of the minutes, I feel another of the “first to act” will be Mr. Trump in a calling out of epic proportions for hypocrisy using, and pointing to, a very defendable position using the Fed’s own prior testimony, signaling, and more to publicly make his case. Especially if the “markets” begin roiling.

During that time I believe China will wait for the minutes to be released, and if it is made apparent that there was indeed further discussion as to bolster the inferences that the Fed. may be actively considering a path as to embark on a march towards higher rates, along with the thinning of its balance sheet, which would inevitably send the $Dollar rocketing skywards?

They’ll act first and ask (or maybe not) questions later. Sending everything that is now taken for granted in the “markets” (e.g., “It’s good to be long!) into total chaos. All before March 15th’s next meeting. Again, which just so happens to be the exact date originating the “Ides of March” warning.

As I implied in the headline: This “powder keg” may not wait until then. For “then” (March) may be a moment too late. (Just ask Caesar)

Circumstances are now showing this “powder keg” could in fact become – self-combusting. All courtesy of The Fed’s own words whether, stated, implied, written, or imagined.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

An Addendum To “Why The Media Is Perplexed”

It seemed like it wasn’t but for a few minutes after I posted “Why The Media Is Perplexed” when I received a call from a friend asking me (more like challenging my premise) if I forgot that the previous administration also did many a “press or photo-op” in the beginning announcing new plans or directives. It was a fair point, so I thought I’d share for it’s hard to cover every differing nuance or subtlety in one article. Here’s the “just” of how I answered…

“You’re right, and they’re fair points. But there are very distinct differences as I say that can be missed if it’s not your discipline. Let me make this overarching point first: There’s a distinct difference between a political call for action, and a business one.

In the political, what you’ll hear almost without fail are two distinct calls. One:) The action, most times, is purely restrictive in nature. i.e., It will be something business can no longer do. Two:) Or, the call is for others to go out, see what’s possible, draw up conclusions, then deliver proposed recommendations in some stated time frame. e.g., 30 days, 6 months, etc.

If you remember back during the initial stages of the last administration this was the playbook.

The then president would have a press conference and state “I have tasked, and have told _______ (fill in any of the many committees appointed here) to deliver recommendations as to fix _______ (repeat here with ordered task) in the next ______(fill in the many time frames given here).”

And here is the key difference – then either nothing happened, or nothing was said about it any further. The Simpson-Bowles of 2010 aka “The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform” being just one example. But it’s an important example, here’s why:

This was after, as in a follow-up to an already disastrous showing of understanding how business views the political world along with how business responds to anything further stated as to try to get them to “buy in.” As I said in the previous: If you lose the “benefit of the doubt” early? As far as the business community will be concerned? You’ll probably never get that opportunity again. And for proof I use the previous administrations calamitous PR debacle given during a presentation aka  “Jobs Council” aka The Presidents Council On Jobs And Competitiveness.

Remember: In January of 2009 then President Obama called for the passage of an $800 BILLION stimulus package as to fund and immediately begin a myriad of “Shovel ready jobs.” The problem? As you can see in the above linked video those hypothetical shovels never broke ground in reality. But here’s the real distinction with a difference:

All concerned laughed (on camera!) at the result. $800 Billion dollars, again $800,000,000,000.00  as in spent – gone – and basically nothing to show for it. And there’s laughter? I’ll contend it was in that moment – all future business “buy in” going forward was lost. And the numbers proved that out. (Numbers as in you need to sift through, like small business creation, cap-ex and such. Not the manipulated for headline purposed.)

I’ll contend the past administration never recovered  (and that was in early 2009) from that moment on in the eyes of business, and will stick by it.

Want a little more anecdotal evidence as to just how damaging that press conference was? And the reason why I was pointing this all out to begin with in the prior post? Think: Jeff Immelt.

At that time the CEO of GE™ Jeff Immelt was tasked with leading that initiative. After that subsequent press conference and poor showing of “shovel ready jobs” did anyone else notice just how fast and how far he seemed to separate himself from any future involvement with the administration? He was basically “joined at the hip” in the early stages. Yet, after that debacle? You could see the distancing taking place till at the end (the last few years) I contend he’s practicing the habits of “Where’s Waldo®.” Think I’m wrong? Try to remember the last time you seen him? Why?

I’ll contend because he understood just how inept (as some photo oped stoog) he appeared in the eyes of the business community. I believe (again, all my own opinion and conclusions) he realized in the eyes of business leaders everywhere – he tarnished business (giving credence to calls of cronyism) as well as the stature of his position and brand as a CEO of one of the worlds premier corporations, all for resume enhancement he didn’t need but for cocktail parties. And it wasn’t worth it.

Remember, as I stated in the prior post: Banks, customers, suppliers, trade partners et al want to see that you are commandingly in charge during a “turnaround” project. And the U.S. in the early stages of 2009 was in fact needing just that.

And here you had the President along with one of the top CEO’s in the country laughing about how they blew through $BILLIONS of precious resources appearing unconcerned as to the travesty of the results, let alone optics.

Any business leader worth their salt would never allow themselves to be seen in that light. I think in retrospect Mr. Immelt realized it, but only after the fact, for the damage had already, as they say, been done.

Contrast this with the current president acting as I believe any CEO would/should (and have done myself, and watched others do) and begin with cutting, slashing, jettisoning items or regulations first – and with immediacy that have significant bottom line impacts. And by big I mean just that BIG! e.g., Stop funding the U.N.? With near immediacy? I’m not asking whether one agrees with it. What I am pointing out is the $dollar size impact to the bottom line along with its “Pet Project” status everywhere.

Not a “come back to me in X# of days with a proposal.” Rather “It looks like we should do this today, begin drafting the legislation.” That’s a distinction with a difference.

And another distinction: The jobs he’s announced are from meetings with CEO’s, hammered out with him (and his team of course) and then announced “Done!” Again, these are cues the business community look to and say “Hmmm, maybe it finally is time I look at X Y Z and move in this or that direction.”

When the order to halt many of the impending rules, regulations, and cost effects that were going to hammer small business this year by the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare)? Again: that was halted with immediacy.

Stuff like this sends signals many in the political world or media only see as “outrageous!”

However, for the business community? It might just be what the doctor ordered. Only time will tell.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr