Sent: Tuesday, September 8, 2020 11:05 AM
Subject: Ross Rant Sept 8
I believe we will get a good upside surprise Oct 29 when the Q3 GDP is released along with unemployment numbers. After the labor report this past week, it is clear with the end of the $600, people are returning to work, and some travel is happening, even if just by road. Manufacturing is doing well, as pent up demand is now showing up in manufacturing and imports, and as the $600 plus the $1200 subsidy has been getting spent. While the unemployment picture is still bad, and the Dems are doing all they can to keep it bad, it is, and will continue to be, improving rapidly. We could easily be down to 7%, or maybe even 6.5% by end of October. It now depends a lot on how fast things reopen, if there is no new surge after Labor Day, and very importantly, how fast schools reopen so moms can go back to work. The teachers unions are doing their best to keep schools closed and to harm the recovery by spreading fear among the teachers and parents, or just claiming the schools are unsafe. The teachers unions are very closely tied to the Dems to give them bigger pensions and healthcare. This has nothing to do with the virus. In many parts of the world, including Europe, schools are fully reopened with no problems. The damage to the kids by not reopening is vastly worse than whatever might happen with a few kids getting sick. The unions don’t care about the kids.
There were 10.5 million private jobs added in the past 4 months. That is almost half of all lost jobs. After 2009 it took 3 years to add the same number of jobs, and the unemployment rate now is just a little more than in 2012. Labor participation is up to 61.7% For five years after 2009 the rate declined because there were so many entitlement programs and unemployment was 99 weeks. All were incentives not to work. Social security disability which was a major program in 2009 is now 1 million fewer than in 2012. Note that after the $600 ended July 31, employment took a nice rise and the world did not end. The $300 per week now starting to go out will allow many to catch up on rent and other bills. The lower end of workers saw a big increase in August and wages are up 4.65% on average from last year and up 4.9% for production workers. The savings rate in July was 17.8%-a very high number. Home prices up 12% from last year, and stock prices are at near new highs, making the wealth effect more impactful, especially with historic low interest rates and low gas prices. The ISM manufacturing index is at a 21 month high. Take all of this together and the trend going the right direction, and the economy could be in relatively good shape by election day. Biden can say whatever, but the economy now is in as good shape as it was in 2012-4 years into the Obama recovery. It may be a long time to get back to 3.5% unemployment but we are headed in the right direction assuming no major surge in virus form Labor Day. Expect lots of stories in the press about how bad it is and anecdotes of people who can’t pay rent or buy food, but reality is things are doing pretty well for now in terms of rate of recovery. That is why Pelosi will not agree to a new stimulus program. She wants to kill the progress. Voters will get that message soon and blame her more than Trump.
One hitch in the jobs numbers is the public unions, including teachers, plan to hold nationwide strikes soon supposedly to get political ends met like defund police. If they do this, it will just infuriate voters and likely give Trump another thing to batter Biden with. What is Joe going to say- he thinks these strikes are a good thing, or that he supports the strikers? Meanwhile Trump will say the Dems and unions are intentionally sabotaging the jobs recovery and wanting to defund police, and keeping your kids out of school, so keeping you from working.
Oil prices are lower again as the US summer driving season ends and as China reduces purchases. Refiners apparently have more than adequate supply of crude. The Saudis just announced another cut in production, but prices dropped anyway. Good for consumers, not good for the oil patch. Venezuela is now about to have almost no oil production since they let their equipment go with no maintenance and now Chevron is pulling out as the last oil co there. The oil service companies are also pulling out. Result is there is no cooking gas or fuel for vehicles. The economy is in total collapse and basic life functions like cooking and driving are coming to a stop. There is not even fuel for trucks to deliver food to markets. We apparently have prevented tankers from going from Iran to Venezuela. The regime will collapse one of these days and Iran has no ability to sell oil to them now, further damaging their economy. The Iranian currency has dropped 85% since sanctions, but Biden wants to end the sanctions and let Iran off the hook again just as they are in full collapse. Just like last time. He even has Wendy Herman and Kerry lined up to go back to Iran to reestablish the nuke deal, just as the Arabs are making peace deals with Israel and teaming up against Iran.
One of the interesting things to note is due to the Fed buying muni bonds, that market is holding up better than it should given the poor financial condition of cities and municipal institutions and agencies. If you are a holder of quality munis you will probably be OK thanks to the Fed. That does not mean you should chase yield. The Fed is only buying better quality bonds. For example, don’t buy bonds that depend on stadium attendance, tourism or hotel revenues and hotel taxes to pay interest. The same goes for hospitals and universities. Be careful what bonds you invest in. The defaults are yet to happen.
The blip in the stock market was not unexpected as we now know the last part of the runup was powered by a combination of Softbank buying $4 billion of out of the money calls, a rush of amateur money into FANG stocks and options by Robinhood investors, and general momentum investors. The $4 billion calls controlled $50 billion of stock so that the sellers of the calls most likely bought $50 billion of shares to cover their position. While I still believe the big stocks are not over priced on a long term view, their prices had gone up too fast to be sustainable, and a correction was inevitable. However, as the economy continues to recover, and as the vaccine news continues to be very promising, we will continue to have a sustainable stock market. Not the continued big options driven run up we just saw, but now a slower, more sustainable rise over time. When there is a rush into out of money call options such as we saw this past couple of weeks in Apple and Tesla, then the seller of the call buys the stock to cover his position on the sale of the call. With Softbank and the amateurs flooding the option market for these stocks, the share prices were forced higher too fast. Now those options are valueless and possibly the call sellers were dumping their shares. In any event, the drop in the market was not due to any economic or company specific issue. It was purely due to market speculators and algos following along. Things may be ugly and volatile for a couple of days, but should settle down later this week as some of the sideline investors with all that cash start to come in to buy at the lower share prices. We can expect many more of these blips up and down as the election nears. If the economic news I mention above does come to pass, and if Trump rises in the polls, as he is apparently doing, then the markets will probably move up for the next few weeks. Just be prepared for some more stomach churning days.
I am on an email group that includes some of the most well-known and sophisticated fund manager/investors in the market. Almost none has any more certain idea what the market may do over the next few weeks, months or year than you do, although they have a slight bias to the down side. Estimates are S&P 3100-3600 +-. We are all just guessing which way to go in the dense fog right now. Too many variables. Anybody could be correct. I have my view, which is slightly more positive, and some others have a different view. We will know a lot more by October 7 when a lot more information will be available and you can make a decision what to do before the election.
Here is what it all comes down to. If there is a new stimulus package in the order of $1.5 Trillion in the next few weeks, then the GDP increase in Q4 will follow on to a very good 30% or so increase in Q3. If Trump is then reelected, and the Senate stays Republican, then the stock market in 2021 will be very good. If there is no stimulus package, which Pelosi wants to prevent, then GDP in Q4 will be flat, and if Biden wins and the Senate goes Dem, the stock market in early, and maybe in all of 2021, goes down. That is why Pelosi refuses to come to the table on a new package, and why the teachers refuse to go back to work. They want to keep GDP and unemployment looking bad for the election. It is that simple. The fact that the people, and kids in particular, will be badly hurt is irrelevant to them. It is all about power.
Here are the options: Biden wins and Dems take Senate -market goes down 30%; Biden wins and R’s keep Senate by slim margin market goes down 10%; Trump wins and R’s hold Senate by slim margin, market ends year at 3400-3600 on the S&P, and in 2021 it rises to 3800 , Trump wins and Dems take Senate, market drops to 3000 and in 2021 stays flat or maybe up a little. We will know a lot more by Oct 5 after the first debate and Durham, and the Sept jobs report. All of this assumes the vaccines remain on track and by Nov 1 there is approval for emergency use with distribution by Jan 1. Also assumes no new virus surge in September, October, and death rate continues to drop.
The big US tech companies are now a target of the EU for their source of a bailout by imposing big taxes on them. The head of taxation for the EU just said the big tech companies were big winners during the virus so they need to pay more taxes. In short, the big American companies were the most successful, so let’s tax them instead of our own companies. Classic socialistic view of taxing success. The same politics of the Dems now. Instead of letting the successful job creators use their profits in an efficient way, the government thinks they should take it and spend it in inefficient ways.
There is possibly a black swan circling on October 15. That is the deadline set by UK for a draft agreement with the EU related to Brexit. As of today it appears there is a strong chance there will be no agreement. It needs to happen by then to meet the Dec 31 deadline to have legislation done. If there is no agreement, Boris says he is willing to walk away and make amendments to the agreements already signed as it related to Ireland. He is probably bluffing, but we don’t know. If so, the pound will decline and financial markets could have a big hiccup. It is completely unclear where this one goes from here. In addition, the EU says US tech companies are making a lot of profit so must pay new added taxes to the EU. Trump is defending these US companies, and said such taxes would bring new tariffs and other retaliation for the EU. It is possible the EU will have no deal with the UK, and be in a tax trade war with the US. That would really harm the EU economy. It would not help the US if the EU goes into a major recession and the pound and Euro drop materially. Keep your eye on these events as they will affect the US economy and stock market. It is a massive game of chicken.
The US appears to have had worse unemployment numbers than the EU at the peak, but this is because in the EU you can’t just fire or layoff people. In Germany the government gives companies money to continue to pay salaries so people not really working appear to be working in the data. However, in the US, the greater flexibility to hire and fire means recovery is faster because employers do not have to worry about cutting again quickly in case things go bad again. You can’t do that in Europe so easily. So don’t try to compare the US to other countries when it comes to employment data. They are on a very different system, and do not count the same. Industrial production and GDP are much better measures of what is happening, and even those are not always so accurate.
Many large box stores turned their locations into a combination of fulfillment centers and curbside pickup, allowing them to still do good business. As reopening is occurring, retail in some locations is again hiring. Total retail spend in July was 5.8% above same period last year, so consumers are spending and business is rebuilding quickly. Retail hired 248,000 in August. This does not mean malls and closed stores will reopen and solve the huge over stored problem we have in the US. It just means online shopping is now possibly 30% of retail, and even groceries are being bought online in large quantity. Retail real estate is never going back where it was and there will be a lot of repurposing of retail locations. If you own retail sites you need to be rethinking alternative uses. There will also be a substantial number of NYC hotels that never reopen. There were far too many rooms in NY before the virus and the business was having trouble then. Like with retail, the virus will just accelerate the rationalization of the hotel business. The vaccine will not be the sudden savior of many big hotels. It will just take too long for there to be major conferences and a lot of business travel again. Hotels are now going back to lenders in increasing numbers.
Adam Schiff on CNN now claims Barr is lying that China is a bigger threat to the election interference, more so than Russia. He is still on his Russia conspiracy crap. Biden also chimed in on Friday to say similar things. Do they really expect anyone with a brain to believe them? It makes you wonder about Biden and China given his son got $1.5 billion from the Chinese government, and Joe said China is not a competitor. Meantime China is building a massive navy and attack force to invade Taiwan if Joe is elected. This could get very ugly fast in 2021.
The lunatic snowflake fringe is at it again. At USC a professor teaching communications used an example of a Mandarin word that is commonly used in China to prove a point. It is pronounced Nay Guh, and is commonly used in China like we use um when speaking. So of course the black kids failed to understand the point he was making about language and communication, which had zero to do with ethnic issues, they got insulted, and demanded he be removed, which he was. The university, instead of explaining reality to the kiddies, dumped the professor and just empowered the cancel culture that much more. His use of the term had to do with how various languages use filler words when speaking, which is what the Chinese do with that word which has zero to do with blacks or anything. The school should have said, if you are not mature enough to understand what the professor was talking about, then you do not belong in business school. So things are going to be even worse than ever on campus now.
For those who do not live in the Hamptons, this time of year is died and went to heaven. Every day is clear sunny skies, temperature, 75-80, no humidity, and perfect tennis weather, perfect boating weather. Perfect to just sit outside and say this is as good as it gets.