The Big Noise
Posted Jan 22, 2011
Many decades ago, commentators at important golf tournaments were stationed very close to the players and spoke in hushed terms. The ambiance was effective and these pages have long advocated that market news announcers should speak in hushed terms during the hard down days.
No concerns about that lately, as talking heads and headlines have been strident about "FOOD SHORTAGES!". From page 16 in the first part of 2009, the story has made front pages everywhere along with the blame too many people are causing global warming. One of the earliest such alarmists was Parson Malthus who in the late 1700s preached doom and gloom because there were too many people. In 1798 he published:
"The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man."
Moreover, he hinted that the world would be better off with fewer of the lower classes. Today's alarmists are less elitist in only wanting to sacrifice the middle classes.
This writer took a degree in geophysics long before "scientists" sought a living by preaching global warming to governments. One of the observations prior to that seduction was that under a cooling trend the jet stream would take bigger loops. This helps explain last summer's weirdness with Sahara-like conditions in Moscow. Muscovites did not have to visit Tunisia, the jet stream took its weather very much North.
Similarly, but in another mode, the jet stream took temperatures in England (has the best temperature history) down to levels unrecorded since the late 1600s, which was at the extreme of the Little Ice Age. Increasing solar activity has been the main cause of warming since.
Recent weather disturbances and associated gales of hysteria are largely in the market and we have been watching for excessive readings on the price action.
For this, Ross is monitoring COW, which trades on Toronto. This is an ETF of global agricultural stocks and it is registering an Upside Exhaustion the first one since the cyclical high in 2008. This is a leading signal and the ChartWorks will keep us up to date.
Often stocks lead trend changes in product prices. Its usually reliable with base metal mining stocks and metal prices. More recently, the signal on Silver Wheaton (SLW) led the correction zone for silver. Last week, on base metal prices, we noted that Teck Resources had registered an Upside Exhaustion.
Of course this is within our Momentum Peak Forecaster that soared with highly-animated spirits to 1.28. Anything above 1.21 has been in dangerous territory. As we have been noting this only goes straight up when the markets do and the action can fail within a month or two.
One example important to today was registered in late 1973 when the big action in agricultural prices drove the Forecaster to 1.23. That one was a combination of business cycle, easy money and wild weather.
On that one, Stalinist traders in the former Soviet Union got the better of traders in the Western World. A strong El Nino changed the currents off the Peruvian Coast and the anchovy fishery crashed creating a sudden shortage of fishmeal. As this was developing, Communist Russia bought an important amount of agricultural products from any number traders and then on their forward sales tightened the squeeze.
Prices soared to the point where the US Wholesale Price Index doubled. Eventually, this became troubling to the authorities. They did not want people going around saying that prices had doubled so they changed the name to the Producer Price Index and rebased it to 100.
Headlines were about food shortages. Newsweek wrote: "Ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically" leading to a "drastic decline in food production".
In another article, the same publication also did the alarmist thing and noted that climatologists were recommending covering the Arctic ice fields with carbon black, which would help end "Global Cooling".
Same old, same old the main difference is that the "cause" was global cooling rather than global warming. The former tout did not live long, not because that cooling ended, but because cooling could not be seen to be "caused" by modern industry and too many people.
On the late 1973 signal, commodities went up for a couple of months in 1974. The Economist All Items Index fell 21 percent from 59.8 to 47.2 over the next year.
On the huge speculation in precious metals to January 1980 the Forecaster registered 1.37 as gold and silver soared to 850 and 48. Commodities plunged 34 percent over the next two years.
Our advice then was that "No matter how much the Fed prints stocks will outperform commodities". The point being made was that as offside speculators in hard assets were suffering liquidity problems stimulation by the still ambitious Fed would flow into Wall Street and the new paradigm would be inflation in financial assets.
Eventually, speculation in tangible assets joined the party in financial assets. In 2007 the action replicated the sensational conclusion of all the previous great bubbles. The first one completed in 1720 and the fifth in 1929. Number six climaxed in 2007 and the global economy has been enjoying the first post-bubble business cycle since June 2009.
As outlined over the last couple of weeks, when our Forecaster registers with hot action in commodities a recession immediately follows. Examples include the November 1973 signal and that recession began in November 1973. The next was in December 1979 and the recession started that month.
This time around, the Forecaster registered 1.28 at the end of December and it will be interesting to see when the NBER makes the decision on the next recession and more importantly when it actually began. It is usually a year after the start. The table of Announcement Dates is attached.
(Continued on next post)