Ross Rant...17 Sept. 2022
So now that we have the inflation data for August maybe the doubters will believe me when I say things in the economy are going to get worse, not better. Inflation is not going away for a very long time. Core was up 6.3% from 5.9% in June and July, which means inflation has spread to the entire economy, and not just food and gas. That is bad news. Gas prices will rise again as oil rises again from here. There will be some demand fall off as the recession gets worse, but China will reopen its lockdown cities, and that will increase demand for oil.
WTI (West Texas Intermediate is the underlying commodity of the New York Mercantile Exchange's (NYMEX) oil futures contract and is considered a high-quality oil that is easily refined) is where it was in February just before the big increase. It was up 8.5% in one week on Wednesday.
The White House is already planning on when to refill the SPR which is down to 440 million barrels.
Food inflation is not going down as wheat and corn are in short supply and rising in price. Both are basic ingredients to many final food products.
And now the rail agreement assures wage inflation for several years. That contract sets a floor for teamsters and others to extract big wage increases with the White House firmly backing the unions and creating excess wage increases.
That just means the Fed will have to raise rates even more to cope.
People who have been sending me emails saying inflation is over, and all will be well, need to start to look at the worldwide data. Many Wall St firms that put out optimistic reports like Goldman and Credit Suisse before Tuesday need to wake up to reality of the world. Moynihan and Larry Summers have been saying the consumer is still in good shape financially, and jobs remain tight, so things will not get terrible. Consumers supposedly still have around $1.5 trillion of excess savings. Maybe.
Chances are now greater that the Fed will go 100. Unclear, but now the bond market is suggesting it is possible, so don’t be shocked. The stock market will not react well again, so be prepared for that. The spread of the 2 year over the 30 year is the most in 22 years. PPI (Producer Price Index) was lower a little, but it is still very high. Summers says it will take a real recession to get inflation back down. But not to worry. Old Joe said just go buy a $68,000 EV and save money, so that is all you need to know.
It is scary how ignorant or out of touch with reality the White House really is.
By November things will be worse and layoffs will have begun. Good news this time is the banks are flush with capital and deposits. No issues with banking sector in US. Italy, Greece and some other places are a very different bad story. Some believe the Euro will drop to 88.
One of the good news things is the only safe place for investors now is the US, so money will be increasingly invested here. The dollar is the only safe currency left, and the recession in EU and UK and China will be worse. However, cash is still a nice place for me along with my oil and gas stocks which are all up, and paying big dividends. My view is I will be able to buy stocks I want for the long term at much better prices later in the year. I am into capital preservation and dividends right now.
One of the things to keep in mind is the GFC (Global Financial Crisis... crash) happened 13 years ago, so a lot of young analysts were not yet in the business then. They do not understand what it was like to live through that, nor are they really aware of many things that happened, and how close we came to disaster. So now they do not have the experiences needed to grasp what is really going on worldwide. They get focused on the next inflation report in the US as though that is the whole story, or they look at trading volume last week, or some other meaningless index.
After 57 years involved in Wall St and running companies and real estate projects, I have the scorch marks that give me a perspective young analysts do not have. My point is, Wall St has many people putting out reports and commentary that is simply not based on all of the things that will impact the economy over the next few months, nor the impact on certain companies.
In short, don’t hang your hat on many of these analyst talking heads, or comments on CNBC, or Fox Business. You need to consider the bigger picture, and reach your own conclusions based on a wider scope of analysis on your own. Some wealth managers are no better than the analysts. Follow your gut-it is probably right.
One of the issues many are not considering is that 65% of households are living paycheck to paycheck. Credit card debt is now growing rapidly. That means as the economy gets worse, which it is doing, and as the world economy moves toward recession, people will lose their jobs or get squeezed by inflation so that they will be defaulting on credit cards first before they don’t pay rent or the mortgage. This will get worse as rates rise further. As time goes on into next year, there will be more defaults on credit cards, mortgages or nonpayment of rent as people struggle to buy food and gas.
The Fed is just starting to do QT, (Quantitative tightening refers to monetary policies that contract, or reduce, the Federal Reserve System (Fed) balance sheet) and that means liquidity gets worse as they suck up cash from the system. The Fed is going to keep raising very aggressively.
At the same time the UK and EU and China sink further toward recession and energy shortages. That means more subsidies in the EU, which means more sovereign debt issued, which means higher sovereign debt interest cost to sell that debt. It also means new “excess profits” tax in the EU which will mean less supply. Really stupid. At the same time as the recession and energy problems get worse, there is less tax revenue to pay for all that sovereign debt interest. Thus the possibility of a financial crisis around sovereign debt becomes more likely, especially with some less developed countries. Where and how bad is unknowable, but the possibility grows by the month.
The Wall St analysts who say, look inflation is down so the Fed will relent, and the market has already bottomed, are clueless fools. This is no different than 2008, when most analysts and investors were not paying attention to what was really happening below the surface, and I was publicly called an idiot at a conference in January 2008 for predicting the crash. The really bad stuff is just starting to happen. The Hang Seng (The Hang Seng Index is a freefloat-adjusted market-capitalization-weighted stock-market index in Hong Kong. It is used to record and monitor daily changes of the largest companies of the Hong Kong stock market and is the main indicator of the overall market performance in Hong Kong) has already dropped a lot. 40% of the FANG stocks revenue and 25% of earnings comes from the EU which is going into a potentially bad and lasting recession.
In the US growth was driven by massive government spending direct to consumers and business, and zero cost of capital, and most of that has ended. Interest rates are not going back to zero. Consider this- at 3% borrowing cost, the after tax cost of capital was 2.25% and many like me borrowed at 1.7% effective after tax cost. That was free equity in essence. In Europe, rates were negative. If you can’t make good returns at that cost of capital, you should go live in the woods. The Fed was pumping trillions into the financial markets, over inflating asset values. That has ended permanently. So the financial markets are now in reverse. Cost of capital is rising rapidly as rates and spreads increase, and as gross margins are shrinking and inflation continues at near all time high. Lenders are pencils down for many projects. And just to add to the fun, energy is now costing many times what it was two years ago, and it is in short supply, leading to some factories in the EU and UK cutting production. What is it the young analysts do not understand. The party ended, and the train is headed to the cliff.
Home builders are now in a bind. They bought lots at too high a price, and they bought lumber and other materials at the top. Now they need to reduce prices on finished houses to sell them. This is not pretty. Major office developers who bought urban land before the pandemic in anticipation of a major project are in real problems now. Now the lending window is shut for most developers. In the UK, home mortgages are for 3-4 years maturity. Now many are about to roll over into far higher interest costs, just as inflation is hitting record highs and wages do not cover living costs. Truss (Liz Truss, UK new Prime Minister) will be a magician if she is able to work through this successfully. A few years ago I said the private equity guys rushing into Europe were making a long term mistake. They made some money in the short run, but now they and their investors are stuck there.
Home values in the Hamptons are turning very slightly down. A lot of people who rented during Covid, or own a home here, are now going back to the city for the fall/winter. The rental market here was terrible this summer as Covid went away. Side note-one pound of lobster salad this week was $90 in the local seafood shop here in Hamptons. I did not buy any.
Over the next 18 months a lot of construction loans will be rolling into permanent mortgages on commercial real estate. This may become a problem for many developers as the new rates will be maybe 2x what they are currently paying. Finding a loan will be much harder. More equity infusion will be required in many cases as LTV will be down and debt yield required will be up. There will be lots of opportunities for rescue capital funds to step in as new mortgage rates early next year are 2x the old borrowing rates. Urban office, forget it. There will be defaults, and the loan window at banks will be shut. Good strip centers will be OK as small retailers that survived will be stronger.
90% of companies operating in China are strongly considering moving out according to a recent survey. If much of that happens over the next few years, China will have real problems just making their decline that much worse. In my view, investing in Chinese stocks is not what you should be doing. Look for a lot more production to return to N America and maybe Mexico can it ever get itself even partially cleaned up from the cartels and corruption.
I was invited to listen to a private webinar by some very top people involved in military matters re: Ukraine. Without going into details from the call which we were asked not to repeat, their assessment is, Ukraine will win and drive out the Russians. Front line Russian units have been destroyed and battalions worth of tanks, artillery and other weapons were abandoned in the retreat. Slow progress is also being made in the south despite reports saying otherwise. The Russians have severe logistics, tactical and leadership problems. The Ukrainians have shown extraordinary skills and training, and their weapons now are first rate, whereas the Russians are out of top line weapons, and have few remaining first line fighting units. Bottom line, the Russians are losing badly, and have no hope of assembling new forces to put into the battle in any effective way quickly, nor the artillery ammunition to support a major new surge. Their tactics are not effective. Their artillery weapons were fired so much, they are likely no longer usable in many cases. They are going to get driven out. Even if Putin tried to use a battlefield nuke, it will not change the outcome, as those are not mass destruction weapons, and such use will cause Putin to be totally ostracized by everyone. The assumption is, he uses it as a threat, but will not pull the trigger.
The whole ESG (Environmental, social and governance) green movement is doing serious long term damage to the US and the world. There has been essentially no new major investment in oil and gas production for a couple of years. Thus the world is now in an energy crisis that cannot be solved quickly.
The US strategic oil reserve has been depleted for political reasons exposing us to real potential problems if there is a major hurricane or other crisis.
Pipelines are not getting built due to ESG and companies are being pushed by Larry Fink, Vanguard and State St to do ESG things that will harm long term growth and profitability, and hurt national security.
The left in Congress may kill Manchin’s pipeline, and if they do there will be almost no new pipelines unless Republicans get control of both houses. Everyone needs to do what Chevron board did, and say go screw yourself, we are going to do what is best for the company and shareholders. We all need to push back hard on ESG. It is ruining the economy. The good news is the two huge wind farms proposed to be installed off the coast of CA are in serious trouble for approvals as there is huge pushback from a variety of groups on both sides. If those get stopped, then the whole CA push to green energy will get stopped. They will have a real problem.
Meantime China is building coal plants, and fossil fuels will remain in high demand for decades as ESG fails. Oil will be higher.
Now Biden is going to issue new rules for Title IX which will be disastrous for not only girls sports, but girls in general by ignoring that males are males, and not female. They learned nothing from the Lia Thomas horror show (Swimmer who tied NCAA race with Lia Thomas recalls horror when trans athlete 'who is attracted to women' displayed penis in locker room), or from the trans boy who raped a girl in the girls bathroom. And now CA is saying if you are a kid who wants to be trans, come to CA and we will help you and protect you from your parents intervening. This is absolute insanity.
Biden’s new version of Title IX will also put boys back into no due process, no rights at all to defend against false claims from girls of sexual misconduct.
I have first hand knowledge from a friend whose son was falsely accused, and had to leave school for a year even though he was finally exonerated when the witness failed to show and the accuser finally chose to drop it. But that was after $25,000 in legal fees, and his life on campus was ruined. Now Biden has proposed a much worse Title IX which got a record 164,000 comments from parents objecting.
A professor at University of Texas with whom we are in touch re the Amy Wax case (University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax is seeking to crowdfund her legal defense against the university’s charges that she repeatedly violated its non-discrimination rules),
has filed a landmark class action case against Texas A&M in regard to hiring practices.
It is a different aspect than Amy, but similar and parallel in that it goes after the woke ideology of universities as to hiring professors by skin color.
The two cases will set a whole new way universities operate if they both win, which may take a long time to get to SCOTUS. This case is Rich Lowery vs Texas A&M. Just filed in federal court.
We are working hard to help both professors as this is the chance we have been waiting for to try to change what is happening on campus. Amy has filed discovery demands, and we expect the university to not comply because if they do it will blow up their entire case against her. She still needs all the support she can get from everyone. We are working hard to now push to get press attention, and we still need a lot of money for Palm Beach Freedom Institute to do all of this.
Don’t believe any of the polls re the November elections. They were dead wrong in `16 and 20 and were especially wrong about senate races. In those cases they claimed Republicans were going to lose a lot of seats and they were materially wrong. As I have said before, I believe there is a bias by many pollsters, and many Republicans and independents simply do not respond to surveys.
The economy and job fears will be worse, so that will change some voters minds. Nobody really cares about voting to go green.
Republicans need to get their act together and come forth with a clear set of things they will do different, and not just attacking what Dems are doing wrong. There is a paper that was prepared with these items, but it has so far gotten no publicity.
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