Before we get into a review of the important facets of 2018, let’s look back and take a look at last years year end letter and take note of what we foretold.
As we noted in last weeks letter, the equity markets looked locked and loaded to test their crucial supports and they did just that. The SP500 tested the 2550 level and the Nasdaq the all-important 6495 level, both markets saw minor follow through. All eyes are dependent upon what the FED does on Wednesday as the markets still see around a 68% chance of another 25bp hike. We read in the WSJ on Monday an Op-ed from Stan Drunkenmiller and Kevin Warsh and it can be summed up via this quote, “the central bank should pause its double-barreled blitz of higher interest rates and tighter liquidity.” As much as we respect the both of them, we disagree whole heartedly.
One of the things we pride ourselves in is the fact that we do not take public information for face value, nor do we even contemplate the sources very much. That seems risky right, but in realty what we are being sold and who’s selling it are about as trustworthy as a 3 year old holding an ice cream cone without giving it a lick. In fact, we are inundated with various reports from all over the World Wide Web, main stream media, etc.
We have a lot to get into and we will start this note off with this week’s big news, which was delivered by Apple. Here are the numbers as reported:
- Q4 EPS: 2.91BN, beating Exp. $2.78
- Revenue: $62.9BN, beating Exp. $61.44 billion
- iPhone sales: 46.9 million, missing Exp. 48.4 million
- iPad sales: 9.8 million, missing Exp. 10.5 million, and down from 10.3 million a year ago
- Mac sales: 5.3 million, beating Exp. 4.9 million, and down from 5.4 million a year ago
- iPhone ASP: $793, up from $618, smashing Exp. $729
- Guidance for holiday quarter revenue: $89-$93billion, with the midline below Wall Street estimates of $92.74 billion (Zerohedge)
Last Friday the U.S. Labor Debt. reported the economy added 223k jobs in May, which was higher than the forecast amount of 190k. The unemployment rate fell to 3.8% the lowest since 1969, even hourly earnings rose to annual rate of 2.7%. The WSJ reported that Trump tweeted “looking forward” to the jobs report about an hour before the release, but can POTUS be held to the embargo rule??? We doubt it, but the tweet caused an early jump in yields as traders anticipated a better than expected number based upon the Presidents tweet.
Also, out last week the FED reported on upcoming changes with Volcker 2.0. The WSJ reports that the prohibition on prop trading by banks would continue, but less stringent and more simplified enforcement for the rule would give bank managers more flexibility toward trader behavior.
Just tossing this tidbit out and despite the recent pull back in Crude, we went to the gas station yesterday and Unleaded Gas, the premium version was $4.30! How’s that for summer driving budgets? Is there a difference in 87 or 93 octanes? Probably, but I bet most will forgo the more expensive Premium and buy the 87 version! Somehow, we tend to feel that the price of oil is manipulated, but that’s just us!
The WSJ also had a great article on the price of Lumber today. One thing of note there, Lumber hit a high on May 17 at $639 and as of yesterday closed at $589, down nearly 8%. Is this significant? Can we correlate the price of Lumber in leading the way to another down leg in housing? It peaked in early 2005 as well, so this should be interesting? A break of this 8% threshold may see some CTA trend followers hop on board.
We also continue to see political posturing due to the heightened trade tensions, especially with China. Today China proposed a deal that included a $70 billion deal to purchase farm, manufacturing and energy products. The Trump administration wants to see upwards of $375 billion in trade deficit reduction and what it seems like to us, is that Trump is a master negotiator and will most likely get his way. After all, negotiations are about posturing from the position of power and considering China is fully reliant on exports and considering their growing leverage, we tend to think the U.S. holds the power. We also came across this chart from Bloomberg, which clearly demonstrates growing Chinese corp. debt and interest costs!