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Tuesday October 18, 2005 - 11:21:48 GMT
Black Swan Capital -

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Tipping Point?

Key News
•A report by Georgetown Economic Services said China understated its trade surplus in 2004 by as much as US$233bn. (AustralAsian Investment Review)
•Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the government is unlikely to try to stem the decline in the yen. (Bloomberg)
•Key reports due today (WSJ):
7:45a.m. ICSC-UBS Store Sales Index For Oct. 15 Wk.
8:30a.m. Sept. Producer Price Index. Consensus: +1.4%. Previous: +0.6%.
8:30a.m. Sept. Producer Price Index, Ex-Food & Energy. Consensus: +0.2%. Previous: Unch.
8:55a.m. Redbook Retail Sales Index For Oct. 15 Wk. Previous: +0.7%.
5:00p.m. ABC/Money Consumer Confidence For Oct. 8 Wk. Previous: -19.

“If we are correct that real estate in general and housing specifically have peaked, we wouldn’t be surprised if the stock market dropped by 40-50% over the next year to 18 months. This would take the S&P 500 down to the 600-700 level, and even if the earnings of $70 per share actually do hold up the market would drop to the normal bear market trough level of 10 times earnings or less.”

Comstock Partners

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“The Bank Credit Analyst suggests recent turbulence in global markets (manifested in the October equity sell-off) is the first sign that policy and financial conditions may have reached some sort of tipping point which threatens to upend the balancing act which has been supporting global growth,” according to the AustralAsian Investment Review.

Is a global tipping point close at hand? We know the Fed tries to be “pre-emptive.” But we also know they are most often late.

With the whiff of inflation—Mr. G & Co. have kicked it into high gear. They feel they have plenty of cover: 1) higher energy and commodities MAY seep into final goods prices and wages; 2) someone has to mop up the 24/7 stream of funds flowing from the fiscal side; and 3) implicitly take some air from the asset bubbles Mr. G created, thus allowing him to play the historical revisionism game come memoir time.

Thus, drag number one on growth is the hike in interest rates from the world’s central bank. And of course, drag number 2 is energy prices.

The equation then:

GG = AC ((LC+LI) f (UC))

Global Growth = Available Credit as function of Leveraged Consumption/Investment, which in turn is a function of underlying collateral values

“LC= Leveraged credit = Asset bubble wealth creation i.e. extraction”

“LI = Leveraged investment = stretch for yield/derivatives risk/hedge fund lemmings in energy”

“UC = Underlying collateral supporting LC and LI”

And keep in mind, the valuation of collateral—supporting a whole bunch of levered investments—is a subjective event. A decline in collateral value self-feeds because of the nature of subjective valuation: As the asset supported by the collateral falls for whatever reason [usually manifested in exit doors not being large enough to efficiently accommodate those rushing to leave] the underlying collateral itself is usually impaired in some direct of indirect way [the risk asset is getting hit, so sell the good one to maintain liquidity] and is revalued lower, thus supporting less and less leverage. Leading to more and more selling…

Pick a market, any market, and I think we can find times when this process of self-feeding liquidation occurred.

I am not sure where I am going with all this rambling today. But, should global markets actually “tip over” one has to consider the best single hiding place. Maybe it’s gold. But gold can’t handle all of it. We might suggest the US dollar would benefit—by virtue of its ties to the world’s largest capital markets and short-term Treasury paper. We are not sure if that is part of what we are seeing in this dollar rally. But then again, we wouldn’t know that without the elusive gift of hindsight anyway.

Jack Crooks
Black Swan Capital


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