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Bernanke

March 28th, 2010 @ 3:45 pm by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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A cautious optimism is the best way to describe my feelings on where the S&P is headed while the dollar is most likely to see some measure of decline, at least in the early going this week.

S&P

The market suffered a late-day sell off on Friday after rumors of a South Korean naval vessel being sunk as a result of a conflict with North Korea spread. The won also dropped against the dollar. However, “given the investigations by government ministries so far, it is the government’s judgment that the incident was not caused by North Korea, although the reason for the accident has not been determined yet,” a senior government official was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency in South Korea.

Presidential Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye earlier said there had been no unusual movements by North Korea.

Purchases are expected to have increased by 0.3% and incomes likely rose 0.1% in Monday’s report from the Commerce Department. Sales have been increasing for the last 4 months while incomes are looking for a second monthly gain.

The Conference Board’s confidence index, scheduled for release on Tuesday, probably increased to 50 from 46 in February.

On Friday, economists are expecting to see a gain of 190,000 jobs in March, the biggest increase for 3 years.  Some of the boost is expected to come from the hiring of temporary government workers to conduct the 2010 Census and from better weather. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 9.7% for a third straight time. Unemployment peaked at 10.1% last October.

From a technical viewpoint, price has appeared to have found support near the former resistance at around 1150 and the longer it holds above this level, the more confidant investors will feel.

The Dollar

We’ve been down this road before, but it appears as if traders are satisfied with the latest developments regarding the Greek debt situation. A plan announced at the conclusion of meetings in Brussels on Friday which will involve the use of a joint IMF-EU backstop, should one become necessary, led the euro to a 124 pip gain on the day.

What has become evident is that the Federal Reserve now seems far more likely to make a move on interest rates ahead the ECB, although when exactly that might happen still appears to be a ways off. Bernanke reiterated that the employment situation is still “very weak” during congressional testimony last week and reports showed that inflation continued to remain tame.

In fact, dis-inflation seems to be the rule of the day. Core CPI rose just 1.3% in the year to February and the trend appears to be slowing as well; the core measure rose just 0.8% annualized in the 6 months to February, less than half the 1.9% increase seen in the prior 6 month period. In the last 3 months, core has risen at an annual rate of just 0.1%.

However, current monetary policy was implemented under emergency conditions and the facts are that the situation has changed. Credit spreads are low and corporations have easy access to capital markets. Profits are expected to increase by 30% this year and the economy could see 3% growth. Quantitative easing (aka the printing of dollars), will officially end this month although the Fed has left the door open to additional measures, should they become needed.

Bottom line-the dollar is most likely to continue its strengthening trend as the year progresses, especially against the euro. In my opinion, $1.20 to the euro, and even below, is well within the realm of possibility under the current economic outlook.

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July 30th, 2009 @ 1:33 pm by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while and while I can’t say that I’ve read through every trading strategy, what I have found through my years of experience is that in order to make real and lasting profits you need to attune yourself to the Major Fundamental Events (MFE’s) that set the trends-and then get in when price is most advantageous.

When I refer to Major Fundamental Events I’m not just referring to the monthly reports, although those can be used along the way. I’m talking about something that can cause a radical shift, which I’ll explain.

One thing before we start though-these MFE’s may only happen a couple times per year, if that. That’s OK though, because these trades are going to yield 1000’s of pips. One trade may last for weeks or months.

Also, we’re not at the start of an MFE now, at least in my opinion.

As you might have guessed, an MFE can be (and usually is) initiated by the Fed although certain earth-shaking events (the Lehman bankruptcy for example) can certainly do the job. Sometimes several MFE’s can occur simultaneously which is great because those tend to build on each other, strengthening the trend.

The 2 keys for profiting from this are as follows:

1. You have to recognize when an MFE has occurred.

2. You have to understand how markets will be affected after the MFE has occurred and the correlations between the different asset classes (currencies, stocks, bonds and commodities).

The most recent MFE began on March 15, the day of Bernanke’s 60 Minutes interview in which he said the Fed was “electronically” printing money. Go to this page: http://video.google.com/videosearch?…um=4&ct=title# and see the “The Chairman Part 1” video at about 8 minutes in.

It’s true that economists and commentators were talking about the Fed printing money before the interview because everyone was well aware that the Fed had already expanded its balance sheet (quantitative or credit easing = money creation).  But the Federal Reserve admitting it on national television was a whole different matter in my opinion. The dollar bear market began in earnest from there while stocks, commodities and Treasury yields rose.

In other words, Bernanke created a rally in risky assets because he convinced investors that the value of the so-called safe assets (the dollar and Treasuries) would depreciate.  What also was interesting about this MFE was that none of the so-called experts, including the financial press, picked up on it.

Then again, none of the so-called experts said anything about what would happen to the dollar after Lehman went bust either, including such luminaries as Jim Rogers who’s been a commodity bull forever (and who got crushed in the 2008 commodity collapse) as well as Peter Schiff who also lost his shirt because he didn’t recognize that a dollar-boosting flight to safety would occur after Lehman’s bankruptcy.

Why did Bernanke make the radical decision to allow himself to be interviewed on 60 Minutes? I think that it was because despite all of its previous balance sheet expansion, the Fed to that point had been totally unable to accomplish its goal of boosting stocks and creating some measure of inflation (making commodities more expensive) by weakening the dollar in order to counter the far more dangerous deflationary pressure of the financial crisis. The S&P had made a fresh low just one week before and had declined nearly 58%. No question they were concerned that all of the actions taken to that time could potentially fail, sending the global economy deep into a depression.

By the first week in June, the S&P had gained about 40% from the March low. The dollar had lost thousands of pips to the euro, pound and A$, oil was threatening $70 and yield on the benchmark 10 year Treasury was up near 4%. That created another set of problems for the Fed however, because of the detrimental effect that rising energy prices and interest rates naturally would have on consumer spending and housing (because of rising mortgage rates).

From that point, the Fed began a serious effort to talk up the risks of deflation (while talking down the risks of inflation) and from there, the markets basically went sideways. In other words, just as his efforts to convince investors that the dollar would depreciate helped boost markets, his deflationary concerns helped throw cold water on the rally he created with his printing-dollars comments.

Market correlations are pretty straightforward once you realize something:

When you trade spot forex, you’re trading pairs-GBP/USD for example. When you buy the pound you are simultaneously selling the dollar. When you’re trading currency futures, the contract is listed in euros or pounds or A$’s-there’s no “pair” in futures. However, despite that you’re still “selling” the dollar when for example you buy the euro contract because you are trading in dollars and your contract moves against the dollar.

It’s the same thing for any instrument which is priced in dollars no matter what the asset class is. So when for example you’re buying a stock, for all intents and purposes you are “selling” dollars-your bet is that your stock is going to appreciate against the dollar.

Think of it this way-if an asset class priced in dollars goes up, what does it go up against? The dollar of course. So when all of these asset classes are appreciating, it tends to put downward pressure on the dollar.

It’s the same for the S&P-the S&P is priced in dollars so for all intents and purposes if you are long the S&P you are short dollars.

So think of it this way:

S&P/USD
OIL/USD
GOLD/USD

Or just:

Commodities/USD
Stocks/USD

How about bonds (Treasuries)?

First, by convention, when people say bonds are up or down they are talking about price.

Second, bond prices and yields move in opposite directions for a very simple reason: If you buy a bond today for $1 that yields 2% and yields go up tomorrow, of course the bond you just bought is going to be worth less simply because it yields less.

Stocks and commodities are risky assets while Treasury bonds (and notes and bills) are “risk free.” They’re risk free because if held to maturity your principle and interest are guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. So when the market is “risk averse” (like it was after the Lehman collapse, another MFE)), stocks are sold and bonds are bought.

So in general, stocks and Treasuries are inversely correlated. We saw that after Lehman and we saw it happen again after Bernanke’s little interview.

It all comes down to investors appetite (or lack thereof) for risk, which obviously is heavily influenced by what I call Major Fundamental Events. “Risk aversion” places tremendous upward pressure on the dollar while the acceptance of risk has the exact opposite effect.

That’s why you want an MFE to occur-things can only move one way after one happens and when you recognize it early, you can absolutely make a killing.

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July 27th, 2009 @ 1:36 pm by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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To become a really great trader takes more than smarts; it also requires you to make a cold, hard assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. You have to know exactly what you can and cannot do, trade to what you can, and not let your weakness dominate. The following lesson from Warren Buffett should be instructive in this regard.

Back in September of 2008, Goldman Sachs was looking for a “stamp of approval” so the company turned to probably the most famous and respected trader in the world, Warren Buffett. Goldman agreed to pay Mr. Buffett an extraordinary rate of interest-10% a year on $5 billion worth of preferred shares.  Buffett however wasn’t satisfied with that-he insisted on obtaining warrants which gave him the right to purchase Goldman stock for $115 per share, about where the stock was trading at the time.  In fact, Buffett never would have gotten into the Goldman investment in the first place without receiving the warrants-they were a “kicker” on the deal that he absolutely insisted upon.

Buffett probably could have negotiated a better price for the warrants because remember, it was Goldman who came looking for Buffett, not the other way around. Here’s where it gets interesting.

As Mr. Buffett has often said, he’s a long term investor with no ability whatsoever to trade in the short term. But he doesn’t let his inability to trade in the short term (his weakness) get in the way of his long term trading ability (his strength). Within three months of making the $115/share deal, Goldman was trading at about $52, making the warrants virtually worthless because no one is going to exercise the right to buy something at a loss. Aside from that, the deal looked even worse because remember that Buffett never would have bought the preferreds without the warrants in the first place.

When Goldman sank to $52, Warren Buffett didn’t turn tail and run by cashing in his preferreds because they now were attached to worthless warrants. In other words, he didn’t let himself get stopped out of the trade. Why? Because Warren Buffett was trading to his strength-the long term; he wasn’t going to let a short term fluctuation (which he admittedly has no ability to trade anyway) interfere with what he knows to be his greatest abilities.

In the meantime, Goldman closed at about $162 on Friday, meaning that Mr. Buffett is up around 40% on those warrants. And he’s still getting paid 10% a year on his preferred shares.

What would have made this trade even more difficult for mere mortals is that his positions were played out all over the financial press. And although I don’t have the exact quotes, I distinctly remember an article on CNBC which postulated that the “old boy had lost his touch” when Goldman’s price was declining. Meanwhile, Buffett had warned during an interview that it always was possible (one could argue probable) that he might get things very wrong in he short term.

So, what are the trading lessons here? First, you always want to trade to your strengths. If you have a system that works for you, stick with it. If you don’t, get one that does. Second, if Warren Buffett is one of the world’s great traders, and he sometimes has to hold a trade at a loss in order to eventually become profitable, chances are that you and I are going to have to be able to do the same thing. Most importantly, don’t get into a trade if you aren’t willing to hold a loss and don’t get into a trade if having a loss is going to make you believe that your original opinion was wrong to the point where it forces you to close your position. Those are pretty high standards-it probably means that you’re going to have less trades but it also probably means that the ones you have will be that much more successful.

On a different subject, here’s why stabilization in U.S. housing along with rising equity markets are so vital to a global economic recovery.

U.S. homes prices lead the way because they’re the ultimate collateral for the $11 trillion of US home mortgage debt, a significant share of which is held in the form of asset-backed securities by foreigners. Some economists are now saying that prices appear to be stabilizing (even though they could drift a bit lower into 2010) due to the decline of inventory overhang being brought about by the sharp drop in the number of new homes coming onto the market.

Rising stock markets are a major contributor to global business activity in two major ways. First, rising share prices will lead to increased household wealth and spending. We’re seeing this happen in China, where a 50% increase in stock markets has led the way to a 30% rise in consumption on the part of consumers. Second, as the market value of existing corporate assets (proxied by stock prices) relative to their replacement costs grow, it will make economic sense for business to make new capital investment, a significant driver of GDP.

One factor that is likely to remain as a huge driver of improving equity prices is the continued policy of monetary expansion. During a Town Hall interview with PBS on Sunday night, Fed Chairman Bernanke retained the dovish outlook displayed in his Congressional testimony last week by implying that the emergency liquidity programs will be unwound only when there is certainty of economic recovery while reiterating his expectation of low inflationary pressure over the next couple of years. He also forecasted unemployment above 10% and suggested that the first half 2010 may not mark the peak jobless rate, meaning that at this time the Fed is not expecting to raise borrowing costs until well into 2010 and possibly later.

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July 23rd, 2009 @ 1:14 am by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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As a trader, in this environment, there’s a credo you really need to live by. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “I’m not married to my positions?” Well, I’ve expanded that as follows: “I’m not married to my positions-I’m just dating them casually.”

The point here is that when circumstances change, your thought process needs to change and right now, in my opinion, circumstances have changed to the point where I have to close my short dollar and long S&P positions which were taken last Sunday night.

What’s turned me off to that trade is that the coming crisis in commercial real estate came into sharp focus on Wednesday.

First, Fed Chairman Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that a potential wave of defaults in commercial real estate may present a “difficult” challenge for the economy, adding that one of the main problems was that the market for securities backed by commercial mortgages (Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities, CMBS) had “completely shut down.”

Second, the profit reports from two of the nation’s largest commercial lenders, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, are likely to bring the market’s severe problems into much sharper focus.  Morgan reported a $700M write-down on its $17B commercial property portfolio this past quarter while its CFO said he doesn’t see “a light at the end of the commercial real estate tunnel yet.” Meanwhile, Wells Fargo saw its non-performing commercial loans rise an eye-popping 69% over the same period. The news here implies that regional banks like PNC and Keycorp are likely to continue facing the same issues since their portfolios are heavily weighted with commercial loans.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that commercial lending is at a virtual standstill right now, because I recently started working at a commercial mortgage bank run by my family. Our firm specializes in the only real form of commercial lending which exists at this time; FHA insured loans for properties like multifamily apartment complexes, senior independent living buildings, and assisted living facilities. For all other types of commercial property (malls, retail strips, office and industrial buildings), unless you have access to private equity (which only the largest players do) you are virtually shut out.

Aside from the problems of commercial property owners being unable to pay their mortgages (a serious enough problem) there exists the problems with performing properties that need to refinance.

Typically, commercial loans are amortized over 20 to 25 years but the terms can be between 5 and 10. At the end of the term, the owner will owe a balloon payment to his or her bank because of the longer amortization period. In normal times, it wasn’t too difficult a problem to just refinance and avoid the balloon but now, in the vast majority of cases, these people cannot find new funding despite the fact that their properties are still performing. And even in the rare circumstance where they can refinance, they’re facing larger down payments (lower loan-to-value ratios), higher interest rates and shorter amortization periods (which naturally makes their monthly payments higher).

The net result of all this stifled lending is going to be a huge amount of defaults and foreclosures. The worst for this market is still in the future.

Now, here’s where the trading lesson is. The situation in commercial property isn’t really new- people like Nouriel Roubini have been warning on this for more than 2 years and prices have already declined about 35%. So the fact that the situation isn’t news might lead you to think that the circumstances regarding commercial property are priced in to the market, meaning that investors have already discounted future value.

What I would say to that is when the Federal Reserve warns members of Congress in public testimony and when banks report on the situation in black and white profit reports, the situation comes more into focus. I would also say to not overestimate the intelligence of investors-they certainly didn’t do such a great job judging how the housing situation would lead to the huge declines in equity markets.

Just to play devil’s advocate here, you might want to argue that despite all the negative news today the market really didn’t decline all that much with the S&P only losing 0.5 points. The answer to that is as a trader, you want to do what good hockey players do-skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been. That’s a judgment call obviously but really, isn’t all trading when you come right down to it?

There’s another old expression you should be aware of: housing tends to lead the economy into and out of recessions. Let’s now amend that to read residential and commercial property leads the economy into and out of recessions. If that’s true (and with commercial real estate amounting to about 10% of GDP it likely is) by all accounts it would appear that commercial property isn’t about to lead the economy anywhere but down.

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July 15th, 2009 @ 2:13 pm by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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There are  times when deciding not to trade is the best trade you can make and right now appears to be one of those times. I know, I know, there are a certain number of you guys out there who claim to be very nimble when the market is moving sideways (as it has been over the past 6 weeks or so) but for the vast majority of traders (me included), sideways movement is just too hard to deal with. The problem is that staying on the sidelines is difficult for many to do because they develop a syndrome I call ‘trader’s finger,’ which means your finger gets itchy to push the buy or sell button.

It’s very important to resist the urge to trade just for trading’s sake or because you feel you have to “do something” like earn a certain amount of pips each week.  I haven’t taken a trade since I saw the markets moving sideways weeks ago and I’m feeling better about my decision every day.

I can’t feel comfortable in a trade if I don’t have a clear idea of where the market will be in a few weeks or months and what’s even more important is that I’ve avoided putting myself through the mental anguish of making bad trading decisions and losing money, which I hate to do and which I know is inevitable when markets get choppy.

Basically, I have the same goal in trading that I have when I get in my car, which is to not get into an accident. The way I look at it, as long as I avoid crashing, the odds are a lot higher that I’ll eventually get to my destination.

What’s interesting is that over the past few weeks I’ve seen so many “professional” opinions on Bloomberg or wherever turn out to be totally wrong. Even good ‘ole Marc Faber, one of my favorite people, appears to have gotten things incorrect when he said 2 weeks again that the dollar was set to gain over the next two months or so. Since then, he might be ahead a little bit but what’s more likely is that all the back and forth movement has caused him a lot of aggravation.

Now, Marc Faber is probably one of the world’s great traders but even he looked to be suffering from trader’s finger during his last Bloomberg interview. Back in March when markets were really crashing, he seemed to go out of his way to say that stocks were set to rally-and that turned out to be one of the year’s great calls. He didn’t have quite the same confidence 2 weeks ago however-in fact, it looked more like he was saying something in order to justify being interviewed. After all, it’s hard to get in front of the cameras and advise people to stay on the sidelines!

But when you think about it, why should that be so? I know that I put just as much effort into making a judgment not to trade as I did when I called a 1000 pip short trade on the pound last summer (my “Four Figure Trade” article), or when I went long on GBP/JPY and AUD/JPY in May (see twitter) and made about 900 pips over 4 days, or when I made about 400% on some A$ options (twitter again) between April and May.

Now, what am I looking for that could start a trend? Simple really if you use some logic. Let me ask you a question.

Is it not true that all of the fiscal and monetary policies have been put in place because the economy is in an emergency situation? Of course it is. So then doesn’t it follow that if and when the signs are given that these extraordinary policies can begin to be withdrawn it indicates that conditions are improving and will continue to do so? I would think so. In fact, I was hoping against hope that the G8 might signal just that last week but unfortunately, they did just the opposite when they said that now is not the time to begin withdrawing liquidity. Apparently, they weren’t in a “green shoots’ mood in Italy (although we did learn that Obama has a preference for satin-clad booty…lol).

Likewise, when economists like Paul Krugman are talking about the need for a second stimulus, that doesn’t exactly instill much confidence in me that the economy is set to improve in a meaningful way any time soon. And when I hear Nouriel Roubini talking about unemployment going to 11%, an anemic recovery and the chance of a double dip recession along with housing prices falling another 20%, somehow it just doesn’t put me in the mood to buy and hold for the long term.

In fact, I think that professor Roubini helped put the kibosh on the spring rally, so what we need to see is some data proving his opinions on the economy are wrong (a tall order, I know). So, it would be great to see new unemployment claims fall below 500K per week and for the number of continuing claims to stop making fresh records with each report. Stabilization of housing prices as measured by the S&P/Case-Schiller Home Price Index would be helpful. The ISM’s above 50 would be very significant.

Obviously it’s going to take some time to see these data points materialize but what I’m also going to be looking for are any surprises like Bernanke announcing the Fed was “electronically” printing dollars. Listening to what’s being said at Jackson Hole next month could prove to be valuable.

Also, check the Fed’s H.4.1 report each week, specifically the line regarding the amount of deposits commercial banks are holding at the Fed banks under liabilities. In normal times there’s about $14B or so on deposit being kept there because of reserve requirements but at the height of the crisis banks were hoarding nearly $1T .

All that money sitting at the Fed means  the banks aren’t lending (or doing very little lending). We need to see that trend towards normalization because as the amount on deposit decreases, the velocity of money increases as banks make more and more loans.  The amount kept on deposit decreased to about $625B just before stocks took in March but increased to about $900B during the stress tests, so I would like to see it get at least to that level (and decrease further) again.

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July 13th, 2009 @ 11:44 am by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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There were two very good articles (actually, one is a thread in the forum section) posted on FF recently that I thought had a lot of relevance for traders. What I’d like to do here is expand on both and tie them together because I think there are some very valuable forex trading lessons to be had. The first was an article posted by Piptrain called “How The USD/JPY Can Predict The End Of The Recession” and the thread that caught my attention was called “Giving Up” by Jimmy Jones.

Piptrain made the very astute observation that USD/JPY had gone from being a co-incident to a leading indicator for the S&P. This is incredibly important because if you know the market is setting up to be in either a “risk on” or risk off” trend, you can enter some trades with potentially huge returns.

To review, “risk on” means investors are buying riskier assets like stocks and commodities as they sell the safe ones-the USD and Treasury’s. Risk off is of course the opposite. The market went into severe risk off mode after Lehman Bros. collapsed last September and we’ve now come to the end of the risk on rally that Bernanke ignited in March.

What also happens when the market is in risk on mode is that the yen falls as traders sell it against the (formally) higher-yielding currencies. At least, that was the case until USD/JPY apparently became a leading indicator of the market’s appetite for risk.

USD/JPY (as well as the other yen crosses) had basically been falling right along with the S&P ever since the market peaked in October 2007 and the move into the yen accelerated when global stock markets collapsed through last Fall after the Lehman bust.  But starting at the beginning of 2009, things changed.

USD/JPY started appreciating in January even as the S&P headed lower, making a bullish divergence just as the MACD sometimes does. The way things look now, what USD/JPY was telling us was that the market was setting up to be in risk on mode; the only thing it needed was the right fundamental catalyst which it got on March 15 when Fed Chairman Bernanke went on 60 Minutes and announced the Central Bank was “electronically” printing dollars. Active depreciation of the dollar is a pretty sure way to ignite a stock rally because if the dollar looks set to depreciate, anything you buy with it (like stocks and commodities) has to gain in nominal if not real terms.

Even more interesting is that during most of the recent rally, USD/JPY was going down-in other words, it was making a bearish divergence, signaling that the rally could only go so far because investors were not truly buying risk. All it needed to completely kill it off was perhaps something like the poor NFP report we got 2 weeks ago.

An even stronger indication that the market is moving into full risk off mode is that USD/JPY is continuing to depreciate even as stocks head lower-in other words, it isn’t making a bullish divergence now which is entirely justified especially after all the recent talk about deflation being a bigger concern than inflation along with the G8 saying that now is not the time to begin withdrawing the extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies that have been implemented during the crisis.

So what can be gained from this?

  1. It does indeed look like stocks and commodities are headed lower, which means the dollar will gain against the higher-yielding euro, pound and A$.
  2. If stocks do go down and USD/JPY starts showing a bullish divergence, we’ll know the market is at least prepared to gain given the right set of economic fundamentals.
  3. If stocks eventually gain and USD/JPY shows a bearish divergence, stay ready for an eventual decline
  4. If USD/JPY gains along with stocks, the rally probably has legs.

Giving Up

Jimmy Jones is talking about giving up trading because after finding success during the rally, he’s found things to be very difficult more recently. The exact reason why Jimmy Jones has found it so difficult to trade lately is because the market entered a consolidation period where price moved back and forth but did not trend. Trading is relatively easy when markets are trending because you can “set and forget” or even take profits along the way and buy on dips (in an up-trending, risk on market) or sell on strength in a down trend. But when markets are moving sideways, as they have been over the past few weeks, it’s very easy to see your account get shredded.

Trend following systems like moving average cross-overs all share the same characteristics-they look good in a trending market but fail utterly when markets are moving sideways. They cannot tell you when a trend will end and they certainly can’t tell you when markets will go sideways, which as we know are the most difficult markets to trade. In fact, sideways markets are the main reason why so many forex traders fail.

There are some traders who claim to be good in these types of markets but for the vast majority of us (myself included), they’re just too hard. I basically avoid them like the plague and if that means I don’t have trades for a few days, weeks, or even months-fine. I’ll keep my powder dry for the time when I believe markets can trend. In other words, the decision not to trade is a trade itself.

The only way to avoid this type of price movement is to be an astute observer of what’s happening with the markets in terms of the willingness to buy (or sell) risk and what makes that especially hard is that is that different circumstances create a different set of conditions. For example, what killed the March rally in my opinion was all the talk about deflation from people like Bill Gross of PIMCO, economist Nouriel Roubini and FOMC member Janet Yellen. Why? Because if deflation is truly the risk, the dollar is not likely to depreciate which means the risky assets bought with it (stocks and commodities) are not likely to gain.

I’m not saying this is easy. You have to do your homework. But being aware of what’s going on will help you spot when the trends might start and more importantly, end.

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July 10th, 2009 @ 3:29 am by Matt "NewstraderFX" Carniol

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Fed Chairman Bernanke’s little stock rally, which was initiated when he announced on 60 Minutes that the Fed was “electronically’ printing dollars, has apparently come to an end (at least for now). As a currency trader and market observer, you’ll want to know why and the reason has to do with the most famous currency pair you’ve never heard of. Ready? It’s called…

S&P/USD

That the dollar moves inversely to riskier assets like stocks (and commodities as well) isn’t a matter of some kind of mystical correlation that can somehow “break.” The key to knowing this is to understand what really is happening when stocks (or commodities) appreciate, which is easy to see once you accept the existence of S&P/USD.

Look at it this way; when stocks go up, what are they going up against? The dollar of course. The same for goes for commodities because those are priced in dollars all over the world. Well, if these riskier assets have gone up, isn’t it than also true to say the dollar has depreciated. Absolutely. So when the market is buying risk, the dollar will tend to fall as a matter of due course.

What’s really interesting is that in the rare instance (like now) when the Fed is actively trying to devalue the dollar (because the economy is faced was the more serious threat of deflation), the Fed can create a stock rally just as Bernanke intended to do by admitting to the electronic printing of dollars on national television. Why? Because if you are convinced the dollar is going to depreciate, doesn’t that also mean that anything you can buy with it is going to be more expensive? Of course. And the convinced you become that the prices of liquid assets (like stocks and commodities) are going to rise, the more inclined you will be to buy them.

So what’s really happening in the current environment is that the Fed, through its actions and comments on the dollar (and on deflation/inflation which is the same thing) is pushing the market for riskier asset classes up and down. Let’s look at some recent action.

Bernanke’s rally pretty much fizzled out in the middle of May, but it got a temporary boost (about 4%) in the week following the last meeting on June 24 when members removed the deflationary concerns which had appeared in the April 29th statement. But then something interesting happened.

On June 30, San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Janet Yellen expressed some deep concerns about deflation. “I’ll put my cards on the table right away,” she said. “I think the predominant risk is that inflation will be too low, not too high, over the next several years.”

Now, remember what we said; if the market is convinced the Fed is depreciating (creating inflation), riskier assets are going to be bought because inflation means their prices are going to rise (at least nominally). No one wants to hold cash if the potential for inflation is on the horizon, because cash is guaranteed to lose value in an inflationary environment.

Conversely, if inflation really isn’t a threat and the possibility of deflation exists, there’s no reason whatsoever to buy riskier assets. Afterall, your cash is guaranteed to increase in value in a deflationary environment because prices are going down!

In fact, in a deflationary environment you make more money simply by being a “lender” (keeping for money in the bank or in Treasuries). A little arithmetic will show you how this works.

Your real (inflation adjusted) rate of interest is equal to the nominal rate (what the bank is paying you) minus the rate of inflation or R = N – i.

Let’s say inflation is 3% and your bank is paying you a nominal 4% on your deposit. Your real (R) interest rate is the Nominal (N) rate minus inflation or R = 4% – 3% which equals 1%. In real terms you’ve only earned 1% on the money you have in the bank

Now, let’s say there’s deflation (negative inflation) of -2% for the year and your bank is paying you a nominal rate of 3% on your deposit. What’s the real rate of interest you’ve earned?

R = N – I or R = 3 – (-2) = 5%. In real terms, you’ve earned 5% on your deposit!

Now, if I’m guaranteed to earn a risk-free return of say 5%, and I think prices are going down, why in the world would I buy a riskier asset? In the hope that someday its price might go up? Hope is a bad rational for making a trade.

So, Ms. Yellen, with her deflationary concerns, helped kill the rally. She wasn’t alone however; the Fed, with its expert manipulation of the media via the pundits seen all over Bloomberg, started so make plenty of deflationary noises around the middle of May.

As a trader, there are times when you can put this to very good use for longer term trends (which really is where the money is made). If the Fed does start talking about inflation and making noises like it might raise interest rates, do yourself a favor and sell the dollar as you buy riskier assets like stocks and commodities.  But if they continue to talk about the risks of deflation, there’s little reason to sell the dollar or to buy riskier assets. Buy the dollar at that point because it will be in demand.

BTW, Thursday’s weak market action off the surprisingly good unemployment numbers, along with the subsequent decline of S&P futures overnight, bodes very poorly for stocks and very good for the dollar. I can hardly think of a more bearish sign for stocks than the market failing to rally on good news. Afterall, it the market can’t rise when the news is good…

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