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5 Things To Ponder: Random Thoughts Edition

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Lance Roberts of STA Wealth Management,

This past week I read some very diverse articles that I wanted to share with you.  Hopefully, they will stimulate your grey matter over the weekend as you indulge in melted artifical cheese, processed fillers, and copious amounts of artificial colorings and flavors during the Super Bowl showdown (I am assuming you did not order any of the party packs)

In yesterdays missive I discussed the recent selloff and the likelihood that, despite yesterdays bounce, the correction process was likely not complete.  However, one thing I did not get to was the "January Barometer."

I spend much of my time analyzing statistical data to help refine a strategic "guess" about the future.  I recently reviewed the Decennial and Presidential Cycles which suggested that the current cyclical bull market likely has 18 to 24 months of life left.  Over the next 11 months, the the Presidential Cycle suggested that it could be a more difficult year than what we enjoyed in 2013 by experiencing a greater than 10% correction during the summer months.  That historical analysis is now being potentially supported by the "January Barometer."

The January Barometer, a theory that was initially postulated by Yale Hirsch in 1972, states that the overall gain or loss of the S&P 500 during the month of January will set the stock market's tone for the rest of the year. If the S&P ends January higher than the first trading day of the year, the market (as represented by the S&P) has generally trended higher for the rest of the year as well and vice versa if January ends in a loss.

Stock Trader's Almanac points out that:

"Statistically... In the 75-year history examined last Friday [1/18/2013], there were only 22 full-year declines. So yes, the S&P 500 has posted annual gains 70.7% of the time since 1938. What is missing from this argument is the fact that when January was positive, the full year was also positive 89.4% of the time and when January was down the year was down 60.7% of the time. Also, every down January on the S&P 500 since 1938, without exception, has preceded a new or extended bear market, a 10% correction, or a flat year."

Another interesting tidbit here is that the volatility index (as measured by the VIX) is up 26% this month. Since 1986, when the VIX was launched, there has been only three previous instances when that index gained over 15% in January.  In two of those instances, the S&P ended the year down more than -5%. The third instance was 1987 when the market crashed in October, however, the year did manage to close to the positive. 

The table below shows the history of the January Barometer via CNBC:


The January Barometer is just the latest in a string of historical statistical evidence that suggests a more significant correction is likely coming.  While it is certainly possible that the market could defy the odds, particularly with the Federal Reserve still priming the pump (although less so), "hoping" for such an outcome has never qualified as a valid investment strategy.

With that tucked away here are some random things to ponder this weekend.

1) Is America Turning Japanese by J Bradford Long

I have discussed many times in the past (here and here) about the economic and demographic similarities between Japan and the U.S.  However, Mr. Long gives a very good history of Japan and how, at their peak of prosperity, they were not so very different from where the U.S. is today. 

"With one-third the population of the United States, Japan was unlikely ever to become the world's preeminent economic superpower. But Japan would close the 30% gap (adjusted for purchasing power parity) between its per capita GDP and that of the US. The prevailing belief was that, by 2015 or so, Japan's per capita GDP would more likely than not be 10% higher than in the US (in PPP terms).


None of that happened. Japan's economy today is some 40% smaller than observers back in the late 1980's confidently predicted. The 70% of per capita US GDP that Japan achieved back then proved to be the high-water mark. Its economy-wide relative productivity level has since declined, with two decades of malaise eliminating the pressures to upgrade in agriculture, distribution, and other services."

It is a very interesting read.

2) Bank Regulator Fears Bubble And Warns Funds via Reuters

"The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has already told banks to avoid some of the riskiest junk loans to companies, but is alarmed that banks may still do such deals by sharing some of the risk with asset managers.


'We do not see any benefit to banks working with alternative asset managers or shadow banks to skirt the regulation and continue to have weak deals flooding markets,' said Martin Pfinsgraff, senior deputy comptroller for large bank supervision at the OCC, in a statement in response to questions from Reuters.


Among the investors in alternative asset managers are pension funds that have funding issues of their own, he said.


'Transferring future losses from banks to pension funds does not aid long-term financial stability for the U.S. economy,' he added.


That may be happening with leveraged loan issuance, which hit a record $1.14 trillion in the U.S. in 2013, up 72 percent from the year before, according to Thomson Reuters Loan Pricing Corp (LPC).


A measure of the riskiness of these loans has also been rising - the average size of the debt for companies taking these loans in 2013 was 6.21 times a form of cash flow known as EBITDA or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, up from 5.86 times in 2012 and the highest since 2007, LPC said."

Is it just me, or have we seen this before?

3) Real Disposable Income Collapses In December via Zero Hedge

I have been rather vocal as of late that the "pop" in GDP in the last half of 2013 was not a sign of economic liftoff, as hoped by many economists, but rather an inventory restocking cycle due to post Hurricane Sandy/Fiscal Cliff economic drag in the first half of the year.  Considering that 70% of the economy is driven by personal consumption the latest reading on real disposable incomes does not suggest stronger economic growth in the coming quarters. 

"We may not know much about "Keynesian economics" (and neither does anyone else: they just plug and pray, literally), but we know one thing: when real disposable personal income drops by 0.2% from a month earlier, and plummets by 2.7% from a year ago,  the biggest collapse since the semi-depression in 1974, something is wrong with the US consumer."


4) Margin Debt Surged In December via Pragmatic Capitalism

 Cullen pointed out something very interesting in regards to margin debt.

"Of course, it would be silly to assume that this indicator is going to tell you when the market’s turning and I know a number of people have raised valid concerns about this metric, but I still find it to be a useful indication of broader sentiment.  That is, as equities rally and euphoria increases we tend to see increasing levels of debt accumulation.  And yes, we know that much of this is long only debt because short interest has actually been declining at the NYSE over the past 5 years.  This is all consistent with the idea of a disaggregation of credit and the tendency for herding behavior to lead to increased euphoria as market participants view the bull market as increasingly invulnerable.  Classic debt dynamics in an equity market cycle."

He is correct.  There are many people that have dismissed the surge in margin debt as it has not immediately caused a market reversion.  However, as I stated earlier this week:

"It is important to note that it is not the rise in margin debt that is the problem for the markets - it is the fall. When the ultimate reversal begins, and investors are forced to liquidate to meet margin calls, the market begins to feed upon itself.  This forced liquidation quickly accelerates downside reversions in equity markets leaving investors little opportunity to react.  The last two peaks in margin debts have had nasty outcomes for this very reason.


Lastly, spikes in margin date on an annualized basis (brought to my attention by my colleague Eric Hull) has typically marked either short term peaks are larger market corrections.  This chart below is a log chart of the S&P 500.  While this makes the chart easier to read, it also smooths some of the more relevant market reversion like Long Term Capital Management or the Asian Contagion in the late 90's."


5) 5 Steps To Strong Economic Growth via Forbes

As I stated above, there are many "hopes" for stronger economic growth in the 2014 and beyond despite the fact that we are already in one of the longest post-recession economic recoveries on record.  While I have my own ideas for how to obtain stronger economic growth (lower tax rates, reduce regulations, etc.); David Malpass laid out some ideas worthy of consideration.

  • Let interest rates rise.
  • Rewrite the debt limit so it restrains spending growth.
  • Yen ceiling
  • Reduce the size of government
  • Liberalize trade

He concludes with a most interesting point:

"Most governments plan to stay the course in 2014, hoping growth in other countries picks up enough to keep them in power. That’s possible, but each decision to maintain the status quo means slower job growth than that needed to meet the coming increase in the elderly population."

With everybody hoping that someone else is going to pull them out of the quicksand - who is left to do the pulling?

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Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:01 | 4389529 SelfGov
SelfGov's picture

Growth growth growth...

Growth is over. The Second Law of thermodynamics is seeing to that.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:30 | 4389618 Thunderwall
Thunderwall's picture
de·pres·sion di?preSH?n noun noun: depression; plural noun: depressions
  • a long and severe recession in an economy or market.
Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:30 | 4389619 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Actually, it is mostly the First but you mean well...

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 19:00 | 4389763 Poor Grogman
Poor Grogman's picture

What? Not even a mention of global warming this time?

Have you got updated briefing documents?

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 19:59 | 4389951 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

Did you find that clue you were looking for?

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 20:25 | 4390011 Poor Grogman
Poor Grogman's picture

Is that all you have?

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 19:06 | 4389788 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

Moar Groath! Make it soa!

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:06 | 4389536 wisehiney
wisehiney's picture

This mule has quit. If you want to move your wagon, get your fat ass out and push.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:07 | 4389547 Duc888
Duc888's picture

"I have discussed many times in the past (here and here) about the economic and demographic similarities between Japan and the U.S.  However, Mr. Long gives a very good history of Japan and how, at their peak of prosperity, they were not so very different from where the U.S. is today. "


I don't think the Japs (yea, yea, politically incorrect, get the fuck over it).....pay whole segments of their population to sit the fuck home and breed.  So far, they're not cutting them checks so they don't riot in the streets.  Maybe that will change.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:12 | 4389562 Duc888
Duc888's picture

"Growth growth growth...

Growth is over. The Second Law of thermodynamics is seeing to that."


Nonsense....we've got our own little internal army of faggots (no disrespect meant to homosexuals here) with ghey boi toys just waiting in the sidelines to beat down the serfs.  It's a growth industry....as is incarceration.  It's a growth industry.....just look around at how many po-dunk towns have new faggy armored personell carriers now.


Yup, we're all gonna be like Baby Harp Seals in a good old fashioned Stasi beat down...probably sooner than later.

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:27 | 4389612 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

What fuckin' rock did you crawl out from under?

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:41 | 4389677 JimS
JimS's picture

Ah, but, all those other down Januarys never had the FED POMOs left, right, and center either. Upward higher and higher. (sarc/)

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 18:52 | 4389726 CunnyFunt
CunnyFunt's picture

In terms of epistemological bases for articles, ZH doesn't discriminate.

Yesterday it was rationalism,  while today it is empiricism. 

Both can't be valid for the same discipline. 

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 19:52 | 4389931 Tall Tom
Tall Tom's picture

Since this is the Random Thoughts Edition and this concerns the topic of the Banker Suicides, bad economic data, and outcomes which are dismal at best and horrible at worst...


Matt Drudge on Twitter suggested having an Exit Plan. Now I do not know what he meant by that but it engaged my twisted and bent thinking.


Do you have an Exit Plan?


Have an Exit Plan??? Yeah. I do. Insulin.


Overdose on Insulin. Just go into an induced Diabetic Shock with the subsequential Coma and Death.


Why leave a bloody mess?


“Splat” is really a bad way to go. You might survive it as a cripple and disfigured, quadriplegic and staring at the ceiling all day. The highlight of your day might be when the Nurse’s Aide has to come in, change your diaper, and wipe your ass. Then it may be a ‘He’ rather than a ‘She’. Or it may be a "He-she" staring at your butt, fantasizing, and taking and undesired advance and advantage as you are powerless to prevent it.


No... That is just too survivable. 


That is the same problem with shooting yourself. You have a decent chance of surviving it…for a while…sometimes for an really long while…unless you really enjoy pain and miserable suffering. And hanging is out of the question. You might be saved and suffer irreversible Brain Damage, from lack of Oxygen, that makes you blind if a hero decides to cut you down.


A much easier exit is to just go to sleep and never wake up. Check into a hotel for a few days where you will not be discovered by some hero.


(I am not too fond of “heroes”. I tend to think of them as the orifice from which fecal matter is expelled...YEAH...ASSHOLES.)


6 cc’s of Insulin, injected IM, will probably do me in since I am not Diabetic.


It is not that bad? Okay? Not yet?

Well I agree. I am still here.

But it will be worse than what you can imagine.

But we all know, whom are in the know, like possibly even Matt Drudge perhaps knows, that this will not end well.


So do you have your Exit Plan?



Fri, 01/31/2014 - 20:09 | 4389967 Panem et Circus
Panem et Circus's picture

Sometimes just continuing to live one more day is in itself a victory

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 00:31 | 4390588 Curiously_Crazy
Curiously_Crazy's picture

I'd be going on similar though slightly different lines.

Heroin OD was the first that came to mind, but then I started getting creative. You know how when you give blood or have a blood test they just stick the needle in and your blood pressure alone pushes the blood out and into the vial. Well, instead of running the plasic tube to a vial run it into a shower or bath drain (ideally has to be lower than you, so a sink won't do) then the blood will flow into a drain so no unsightly mess. While under the influence of a decent bottle of scotch and a dozen or so Benzos one would just effectively go to sleep and never wake up.

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