Tectonic Change And Henry Blodget

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By: Kent Engelke | Capitol Securities

Many times I have commented that geopolitical changes are tectonic. Globally, the policies and politics that have dominated since the conclusion of WWII are under attack as the commoner feels abandoned by the government. There is a general distrust of all governments, the result of regulatory fiat instituted by unelected bureaucrats.

In many dimensions, it is urban vs rural. Elitist versus commoner. A case can be made that four of the five largest democracies are in the beginning throes of a gunless revolution. England’s May. France’s Macron. Germany’s Merkel. America’s Trump.

In many regards, instability is the order of the day hoping that this instability does not lead to widespread violence.

What does the above have to do with the markets? Everything. The markets are dominated by multinational technology companies. The assumptions surrounding their business models have been shattered and the companies are fighting to maintain the status quo.

For example, Apple states that if Chinese tariffs rise to 25%, Apple would relocate its production facilities. As noted several times, over 90% of iPads and iPhones are manufactured in China. Wow! Talk about impacting profits, an impact perhaps magnified by slowing sales.

The above paragraph perhaps partially explains the volatility based upon trade comments; volatility amplified by the market dominance of these companies.

Radically changing topics, globally speaking, there is $7.76 trillion of negative real bond yields, up $2 trillion from October according to Barclays. In mid-2016 there was a record $12 trillion of negative real yields. Typically, negative real yields correspond with inflationary growth as funds gravitate to the real economy from financial assets.

Bloomberg writes after hedging out currency risk, the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to minus 0.4%, the lowest since the funding markets blew up during the 2008 financial crisis.

Some would argue the surge in the number of bonds with negative real yields is the result of trade fears that will slow global economic activity. Some would also argue the rapid selling of investment grade rated debt over the past month that has created the greatest surge in investment grade credit spreads since 2016 is also the result of fears of a slowing economy.

The issue at hand is the economy is not slowing. Quoting several Federal Reserve officials, the current economic environment is “robust’ and is expected to remain robust for the next several quarters.

Simplistically speaking, there is a disconnect. The other day I referenced JP Morgan research commenting about the proliferation of fake news and research reports that are greatly influencing trading… trading dominated by computers and six-word headlines.

Can I remotely suggest that such is occurring today in an attempt to sway public opinion about the dangers of changes in trade policy? Wow! This is conspiracy theory stuff.

If JP Morgan is correct about the massive proliferation of questionable news and research reports, the above does not sound outlandish. In my view, if any “credible” analyst writes comments that are found today in the blogosphere, comments that would make Henry Blodget blush, that analyst would be quickly cashiered.

Enough of the conspiracy rant, for the fourth straight day equity gains were cut in half by market close thus suggesting selling into any type of strength.

Just as an aside, late yesterday according to the LA Times, the California Public Utilities Commission will vote next month for a “texting tax” to provide funds for phone service to the poor. State regulators have proposed the tax would be retroactive going back five years.

Various business groups including Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the CA Chamber of Commerce is fighting the proposal, calling such as “dumb and unneeded.” Several consumer advocacy groups are also protesting stating it would unfairly impact those who are “less fortunate.”

Wow! If passed, would this be viewed in a similar manner as France’s fuel tax? Government data states over 80% of California have a cell or smartphone.

Last night the foreign markets were mixed. London was down 0.40%, Paris was down 0.37% and Frankfurt was down 0.12%. China was up 1.23%, Japan was up 0.99% and Hang Sang was up 1.29%.

The Dow should open nervously flat. The 10-year is up 2/32 to yield 2.91%.

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