Interesting Videoclips of the Week (February 20 – February 24, 2012)

Editor’s Note:  In this series of articles, we include important or interesting videoclips with our comments. This
is an article that expresses our personal opinions about comments made
on Television and in Print. It is NOT intended to provide any investment
advice of any type whatsoever.  No one should base any investing
decisions or conclusions based on anything written in or inferred from
this article. Investing is a serious matter and all investment decisions
should only be taken after a detailed discussion with your investment
advisor and should be subject to your objectives, suitability
requirements and risk tolerances.

What’s Not To Like

S&P 500 closed this week at its highest level in nearly four years. Michigan consumer sentiment number came in at the highest level since a year ago. Apple, the symbol of consumer spending, closed at a new all time high. Europe seems quiet and a Fed President lauded the ECB for its good job. VIX, the Volatility Index, keeps trending lower. And interest rates stay low despite the ebullience. So may be all is indeed right with this world!

That is Leon Cooperman told us this week (see clip 5 below). He has great confidence that the Fed is ultimately going to get their way.  And what “way” is that? – Elevate asset prices, help consumption, help the economy and in 2-3 years time, worry about inflation and raise rates.

President Bullard of the St. Louis Fed went farther than Mr. Cooperman and predicted 3% GDP growth in 2012 and a drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8% by the end of the year.  President Bullard also said that he would raise interest rates in 2013 (see clip 2 below).

Frankly, we don’t take President Bullard seriously. Because, the Treasury market didn’t take his views seriously. That was the message of the spectacular 7-year auction on Thursday. The auction drove the entire Treasury curve down in yield. The long end of the curve continued its rally on Friday with the 10-year yield closing below 2%. 

The US Stock Market – Technical Calls

How can all asset classes rally at the same time? How often has that happened and how has it been resolved? David Darst of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney provided the answer on Friday afternoon:

  • .. last
    60 months, that’s five years, there have been only 4 times when stocks,
    bonds, gold and oil have gone up in one month. January was one of
    those, that’s the 5th time. Every single time, that’s a medium term peak
    for stocks and they are down by double digits a few months later
    . \

This week, Adam Johnson of Bloomberg announced that Tom DeMark had gone to cash a couple of weeks ago. Strangely Mr. DeMark neither volunteered this information nor did he explain his reasons for such a major decision. He simply said he is looking for two more up closes and then a 5.56% decline in the S&P. He said this decline would be more rotational and the declines in sectors could be much larger than the decline in the S&P 500 (see clip 7 below).

In contrast, Jeff Weiss came on CNBC Fast Money to describe the current rally as much better than people are giving credit for. His caveat is the 1300 level. Lawrence McMillan of The Option Strategist calls the technical picture bullish as long as SPX holds above 1340. 

The U.S. Economy

Perhaps, President Bullard like Chairman Bernanke takes his clues about the economy from the stock market. Some others don’t. Prominent among them are Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI and David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff.

David Rosenberg sees Q1 GDP at 1% and predicts a serious recession in Europe. Just as the effects of the 2008 US recession were felt in Europe a couple of quarters later, he sees the impact of a European recession hitting the US with a lag. He thinks this lag is being misunderstood by optimists as decoupling (see clip 3 below).

Lakshman Achuthan stands by ECRI’s recession call and states out that the coincident indicator index of the US economy is down 21% year over year. He points out that the velocity of money has dropped to a record low in the US. If he turns out to be correct, the consequences for all risk markets could be harsh. This is why we gave our pole position of the week to Mr. Achuthan’s clip.

Emerging Markets & Fund Flows 

Michael Hartnett of BAC-Merrill Lynch was prescient in his “buy” trigger in December 2011. This was based on fund flows out of Emerging Markets. Mr. Hartnett received a Sell Signal for EM on February 2, 2012. This week, in his report titled Risk-On Fatigue, he notes that EM has underperformed Developed markets since his 02/02/2012 Sell signal. He also notes that Treasuries have seen 6 straight weeks of outflows.

As a personal note, we found clear signs of a slowdown in India during our recent trip. Unlike the urban slowdown in 2008, the rural economy in India has slowed down in 2012. India has no shortage of demand. So the Indian industrial economy is critically dependent on credit inflows and the Indian rural economy is critically dependent on fiscal stimulus. So the Indian market tends to be a high beta play on risk-on or risk-off conditions. That may be why $5 billion of inflows went to India in the first 7 weeks of 2012.

Frankly, EM depends on China and as Michael Shaoul of Marketfield Asset Management told Bloomberg’s Betty Liu:

  • “M1 in China collapsed in January, the local creation of liquidity is at its smallest rate since the data began in mid-1990s .”

Oil Won’t Stop until the Economy Breaks

And then you have the potential of an oil shock. Massive liquidity
injections by central banks itself is enough to keep oil prices high.
The prospect of an Iran war, the reality of a civil war in Syria is
prompting investors to hide in Oil. The rise in Oil is a huge problem
for the struggling US consumer and for most emerging markets.

How far could Oil go? According to John Burbank of Passport Capital, Oil
won’t stop until the US economy breaks. So he is invested in the one
market that benefits from this rise, Saudi Arabia (see clip 4 below). And his prediction is not based on a war in the Middle East.

A conflict in the Middle East would probably be disastrous for Emerging
Markets and Europe. While Iran is the cover story, we are getting
increasingly concerned about the civil war in Syria escalating into a
region wide Sunni-Shia conflict with Saudi Arabia leading the Sunni
regimes and Iran leading the Shia regimes and communities. 

Featured Videoclips:

  1. Recession Call Stands Lakshman Achuthan on CNBC Squawk Box on Friday, February 24
  2. 3% GDP growth in 2012 & Rates to rise in 2013 James Bullard on CNBC Squawk Box on Friday, February 24
  3. Q1 2012 GDP at 1%, Serious Recession in EuropeDavid Rosenberg on Bloomberg’s Surveillance Midday on Friday, February 24
  4. Saudi Arabia like India in 2003,2004John Burbank on Bloomberg’s InBusiness with Margaret Brennan on Friday, February 24
  5. Don’t Buy Government Bonds Leon Cooperman with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker on Wednesday, February 22
  6. Baby Boomers & Ford Motor CompanyBill Gross on Bloomberg’s Street Smart on Thursday, February 24
  7. Went to Cash a couple of weeks agoTom DeMark with Bloomberg’s Adam Johnson on Tuesday, February 21

1. Recession Call Stands – Lakshman Achuthan on CNBC Squawk Box (10:02 minute clip)  – Friday, February 24

Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI made the recession call in his appearance on CNBC Squawk Box on Friday, September 30, 2011:

  • it’s a done deal. We are going into a recession. There is a contagion among those forward looking indicators that we only see at the onset of a business cycle recessionAnd it is a new recession.

The economic data looked pretty bad at that time and the call seemed logical. Then the data began improving. So Bloomberg’s Tom Keene questioned Lakshman Achuthan on Friday, December 8, 2011:

  • Keene – You had a recession call. What happened?
  • Achuthan It is happening…… If there is no recession in Q4 or the first half of 2012, then we are wrong….The downturn we have now is very different than the downturn in 2010 which did not persist. This one is persisting……forward looking data has remained weak, it is getting weaker. It is not turning up…..

In contrast, the risk markets are sending very different signals. The global stock markets have rallied, commodities have rallied and optimism abounds. So what did Mr. Achuthan say to the anchors on CNBC Squawk Box on Friday?

  • Achuthan – …Our call still stands. Since our recession call (September 2011), all of the definitive hard data that is used to officially date business cycle recessions, it has been getting worse not better despite what the consensus view of an improving economy has been. GDP growth, year over year peaks in Q3 of 2010 and falls down to 1.5% by Q2 of 2011 and has flat lined essentially since then, the last reading was 1.6. Similarly personal income growth — I’m talking big, aggregate numbers, has the same kind of pattern. Broad sales growth. the broadest measures of sales, same kind of pattern. Industrial production growth, year over year, as of January it is at a 22-month low.
  • Achuthan – So you put all of this,…., you put it into a coincident index of the U.S. economy and if you look at the year over year growth
    of that index it’s now at
    a 21-month low – it is the definitive measure of economic growth. In English the growth has been slowing……you haven’t had a decline like that in the past 50 years without a recession following in short order, okay?
  • Achuthan – I wish this wasn’t our forecast. we are the skunk of the garden party. it’s no fun…. but to the point of the Fed, – the world’s central banks, plural, are printing money like crazy. That does make you feel better but go to where that interacts with the economy. You look at the Velocity of Moneyhow often does money exchange — all that money that’s going in, they’re goosing the money supply, how often does it exchange in the economy? That’s a really important metric on the health of the economy. It has dropped to a record low in the United States. it’s near a record low in Europe. it’s even near a record low in China.  These are not symptoms of health. And when you have all that money out there, it’s got to do something. so it is goosing the markets.
  • Quick (CNBC) – does the coincidence index …give an indication of what’s coming in terms of the jobs outlook? Have we seen the best number and is the jobs picture going to get worse from here?
  • Achuthan – The index itself does not forecast forward. What we’ve seen there in that decline in the growth rate you haven’t seen in the past 50 years is not a recession in short order so that doesn’t bode well for jobs. Speaking to jobs, I admit, I am acknowledging they have improved through the latest readings. But jobs are basically a bit of a lagging indicator. They follow, they do not lead consumer spending growth.
  • Quickwould your call be that jobs are going to get worse?
  • Achuthan – yeah, and I’d say in the next few months I would expect them to start to flag because they follow, they lag at turning points where consumer spending growth has been going and we know that’s clearly been going down and if you delve into that, look at personal disposable income, you look at personal disposable income that has been negative now growth for five months. You’ve never had that, not even close.
  • Achuthan – Now let’s switch to our leading indicators stock market. is one of them – but the stock market, just like it has forecast nine out of the past five recessions, it has forecast nine out of the past five recoveries. It could be QE-related, too. First off on the leading indicators I look at them across the board – they are not negating our recession forecast, the full array.
  • Achuthan – We’re printing a lot of money and given all that money I’m surprised the index hasn’t lifted more because the risk assets are being goosed and look back to early ’08. The recession begins in December of ’07 and what happens? You get a springtime rally – double digits in S&P. We’ve gone much further this time. We’ve printed more money. We were cutting interest rates a little bit and back there inside of a recession oil went to $147 because the economy wasn’t able to absorb all that liquidity.

Later on Friday, Mr. Achuthan appeared on Bloomberg’s Surveillance Midday and made similar comments.

2. 3% Growth in 2012 & Rates to rise in 2013James Bullard on CNBC Squawk Box – Friday, February 24

James Bullard is the President of the St. Louis Fed. He made some candid, un-Fed like comments in his appearance. His comments span 3 different videoclips.

In his first clip, President Bullard scoffed at the forecast of Lakshman Achuthan (see clip 1 above):

  • Kernen (CNBC) – Did you see the interview that we had with (Lakshman Achuthan)? Did you hear any of that? Have we overshot on our expectations for how solid th
    recovery is and do you feel the coincident indicators are indicating that it’s much less vibrant than we think?
  • BullardI thought he was like the weather today, a little bit gloomy. So, no, I think the economy’s looking brighter in 2012 here. I think we can get 3% growth. I think we can get unemployment down 7.8% by the end of the year.
  • Kernen – what the heck was he talking about? what was he looking at?
  • Bullard – He is looking at coincident indicators and they are great things to talk about and on the show. But I would say this, the indicators don’t know about things like European Sovereign Debt crisis and probabilities of meltdown in Europe falling. Those kinds of things aren’t factored in, so I think that that’s really what’s changed here early this year at the European situation has settled down some. It’s not — obviously it’s still a problem but it’s settled down some, and the ECB has done a good job of restoring calm.

We are confused. Don’t indicators reflect the impact of events like the European Sovereign debt crisis? And if economic indicators, as Mr. Bullard says, are merely great things to talk about on TV, then how does Mr. Bullard measure the health of the economy? Does he simply rationalize any indicator by applying any reasoning that seems convenient to him?

We also don’t understand whether his estimate of 3% growth depends on the success of ECB’s efforts. Kernen and company didn’t ask and so we don’t know.

CNBC’s Steve Liesman then asked an important question, a tough question about the impact of Fed’s policies:

  • Liesman – The Wall Street Journal has an editorial this morning basically saying that higher oil prices are in large part the result of Fed policy, and you can’t go out there and take responsibility for higher stock prices and not take responsibility for higher oil prices. Is it right?

  • Bullardyou know, I was on here last year when, you know, probably about this time when QE-2 was in full force, and I do think that some of it said true that commodity prices, and I think that’s a serious issue for the committee to consider exactly how that’s working. I think is a difficult thing to get our heads around. But I do think it’s an important consideration. I think it would be very worrisome that you have the situation in Iran being a wild card for global oil prices. You wouldn’t want to feed into that with new policy moves at the Fed.

Liesman asked a tough question and then allowed Mr. Bullard to evade it with a rambling response. Becky Quick asked a question about QE3:

  • Quick – Is it possible for the Fed to be able to say that the situation – the economic situation – is improving and that’s good news, which means you may not see QE-3 if I’m interpreting that correctly? but it could be enough of a concern still that we would keep rates low through 2014 as we’ve indicated? is it possible to walk that fine line?
  • Bullard – Monetary policy always walking a fine line, so, yes, I think that’s about right. and, you know, I wouldn’t take QE-3 off the table ever. I‘ve been one that says this is a potent weapon that we can use, but we should use it only if the economy deteriorates and especially if the inflation numbers come in below our inflation target and start to look — start to drift down into, you know, more disinflation or deflation, and so we’re not — we’re not in that circumstance right now. Headline inflation above target. Even core CPI is above target measured from a year ago.

We are underwhelmed by President Bullard and by the quality of his comments.  If you see the clip, you will notice an air of smugness (if there is such a word) about Mr. Bullard. We did not hear or see in President Bullard the intellect we see in Bill Gross, Jeff Gundlach, David Rosenberg or Lakshman Achuthan.

In the 3rd clip, Steve Liesman asked a direct question about interest rates and followed up:

  • Liesman – When you forecast the Fed will first hike interest rates?
  • Bullard2013.
  • Liesman – So, you’re one of those people. So, how is it that there are so many people, you among them, I’m sure President Fisher was in there, we interviewed President Plosser, he’s in there, too, 6 of the 17 members say there will be a hike in 2013, but the statement says 2014, how does that square?
  • Bullard – well, it’s up to the Chairman to form a consensus. I guess what I’m impressed about that date, you can think about the date and you can think about the uncertainty around that date and it’s pretty wide. It’s pretty wide, and the dispersion on the committee shows that, and it just shows you that different people can have different views of how the economy’s going to behave in the next several years. Very hard to forecast out to, you know, it’s hard to forecast out six months, you know, much less two years or three years. so, that’s where we are. and i do think the date’s adjustable if the economy changes.

Later on, the group discussed the possibility of a single mandate for the Fed and how that might impact decision making at the Fed.

David Rosenberg does not share Mr. Bullard’s confidence about Europe (see clip 3 below) and John Burbank of Passport Capital seems to disagree with just about everything Mr. Bullard said. And frankly, these two have a far better track record than Mr. Bullard.

3. Decoupling vs. Lag – Europe Recession & USA – Q1 GDP at 1% – David Rosenberg on Bloomberg Surveillance Midday (17:08 minute clip)  – Friday, February 24

We haven’t seen much of David Rosenberg on Financial TV in recent months. So we were eager to hear what he had to say about the ebullience in the risk markets. A summary of his comments are below:

  • If gas prices go over $4 and stay there, the odds of a recession go up materially….
  • I am thinking of Bob Farrell’s Rule 9 – “when all the expert forecasts agree, something else is going to happen“. That is exactly what happened last year when we had tremendous ebullience over the economic outlook, risk assets. It worked basically into April…last year was the story of investor anxiety and capital markets volatility. I am thinking, right now, very similarly, you have a very high level of bullishness, and I would say, a very high degree of investor complacency right now.
  • Right now, the markets are breathing in the fumes of central bank liquidity…right now, you have positive seasonals, positive technicals..the fundamentals to me are questionable…human nature is that you take the most recent trend and extrapolate it into the future…this is the mistake a lot of economists, strategists make…the point I am stressing here in 2007, the stock ma
    rket peaked in October, the problems started pestering a year earlier…
  • At Gluskin Sheff, we are not pushing people into Government Bonds, we are pushing them into corporate bonds….corporate bonds is a totally appropriate place to be in the Fixed Income markets…
  • last year, the earnings held in but the multiple contracted…it is not going to be a story about multiple contraction anymore, it is going to be a story of earnings disappointments
  • (about Gas prices) – rule of thumb is that a rise of 1 penny in gas prices drains $1.5 billion from household cashflows..if we break over above $4, you are talking about another $50-$100 billion drainage from income…
  • I think the first quarter is going to be close to 1% in annual rate...the consumer is sputtering  into the first quarter, Housing is 2.5% of GDP, , consumer is 70% of GDP…..
  • You have three different shocks coming down the pike. We have not seen the full impact of the European recession. I think it is going to be a very serious recession in Europe. People are talking about Decoupling again, the US went into a recession in 08 and it took about a couple of quarters for Europe to feel it and the rest of the world. Everybody confused Decoupling with Lag.  We are going to have a Net Export shock in addition to the Oil shock..and how people respond to the end of the Bush tax cuts is going to be real important.

Veteran hedge fund manager John Burbank seems to concur with David Rosenberg in the next clip.

4. Saudi Arabia like India in 2003, 2004 – John Burbank on Bloomberg’s InBusiness with Margaret Brennan – Friday, February 24

John Burbank is the founder and CEO of Passport Capital, a $4 billion
long-short hedge fund. This is a really interesting clip. We encourage
all to watch this clip. The summary below is courtesy of Bloomberg TV.

On the price of oil and his Saudi investments:

  • “[Oil] is up 16%, more than any of the indices. It’s a big problem for the rest of the world – central
    bank easing and liquidity providing presents a lot of problems for the
    average consumer here but also for emerging markets around the world
  • “The one market it really helps is the Saudi market. We have 15% of our capital in the Saudi market – only about 1% is held by foreigners.
    It should be opening up this year. So we think unfortunately QE3, which
    is now being pursued in Europe and Japan, essentially in the U.S. with
    other programs, has negative feedback loops. And oil we think is the
    one. Gold goes up 10%, 20%, 50%, it doesn’t cause any problems with
    people the way banking is done these days, but oil does… I don’t think oil is going to stop until the economy breaks which is a real risk.
  • “The average consumer isn’t doing
    well. Their income has been flat for almost ten years, but their costs
    keep rising. They had a benefit with natural gas being cheaper this
    year, but the oil price is now breaking out and it’s breaking out
    because of all the liquidity in the world. The oil price is making new
    highs in euros and pounds and it may soon in dollars. That’s a big

On investing in Saudi:  

  • Right
    now, we have to use swaps. We’ve been in the market for about three
    years. Foreigners couldn’t actually own Saudi stocks until August 2008.
    So we’ve spent quite a lot of time doing our research and understanding
    the market.”

  • “[Saudi Arabia] is very sincere in opening up the market to foreigners. It reminds me of India in the 2003, 2004 time period before you could buy Indian stocks directly
    Saudi, which is 70% of the G.C.C, and by far the most important, the
    most liquid market, is something that foreigners are going to want to

  • “Right now, you can’t buy an
    ETF, you can’t buy Saudi stock. It’s obviously very difficult to buy a
    security directly. We have done that. We know that foreigners now are
    looking at the market. The market is about 11 times earnings with almost
    a 5% dividend yield in 2012, and that’s on an unlevered basis. The
    Saudis have about $600 billion of reserves and corporates have very
    little debt. To me, there’s a lot of systemic risk in the Western
    world…[but] in the Saudi market, they’ve been very restrictive. Banks
    have not wanted to make it easy to borrow money and buy stocks after the
    bubble that happened in 2005, 2006.”

On tensions in the Middle East:

  • “If
    tensions with Iran means oil goes up, then that’s good for the Saudi
    economy but not good for the rest of the world. Fundamentally, if
    there’s a problem with Iran, it’s a problem for the whole world…The
    biggest risk for Saudi is really a risk that the whole world bears, but
    actually Saudi benefits. Oil goes to $150, $200, it means the economy is
    going to grow even faster because the government has more money it can
    deploy in the economy.”

  • “Saudi
    is not like an overbuilt economy. It’s just opening up now. Building is
    going on. The Saudis are so conservative that they don’t lend against
    land. “

On the European Central Bank issuing more money: 

  • “A lot of the risk has been taken out of the market, on a near-term basis. We’re actually quite bearish.
    The only reason all this liquidity is coming into the market is because
    things are really bad. It’s not because things are good.”

  • I
    don’t believe in a global rally right now. It’s a bounce back from
    oversold conditions last year. But I think the confidence in central
    banking is far overdone
    . It’s hard to fight the Fed when prices are going in the other direction.”

  • “It’s hard to know where
    things are going to go. The point is, just because they’re putting
    liquidity in the market doesn’t mean the economy is improving.


On Passport’s strategy:

  • “We’re
    stock pickers. In fact, this is a great year to be long and short
    individual securities.  In 2008, everything went down. In 2009,
    everything went up. In 2010, everything moved together and eventually
    ended up. Last year, things started separating. Our strategy is to be
    picking individual securities, companies that are not depending on
    economic growth.”

    Biotech and healthcare is one of those sectors.
    There hasn’t been an obesity drug approved in over 30 years and we
    thought Qnexa would have a good chance of being approved…We were one of I
    think four big holders in the stock. We think it can double again
    because we think a large pharma would probably like to own the company
    at some point.”

5. Don’t Buy US Government Bonds – Leon Cooperman with Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker
(03:07 minute clip) – Wednesday, February 22

Leon Cooperman is the Chief Executive of Omega Advisors, a hedge fund.  Mr. Cooperman was the Chief Strategist at Goldman Sachs before that. He has been a very successful manager.

But his success has also been his failure, in our opinion.  Mr. Cooperman has been primarily a stock investor and does well when the stock market does well. In contrast, Mr. Cooperman has been reportedly  unable to protect his investors from Macro risks, whether in 1998 or in 2008. He admits himself that he was way too early (meaning wrong) in 2011. 

With this caveat, we include below the excellent summary of his views provided by Bloomberg TV.

On investing in Treasuries:

  • “I have great confidence the Fed is ultimately going to get their way. The Fed is trying to elevate asset prices, help consumption, help the economy and in two-three years time, we will be worrying about inflation and interest rates will be materially higher.”
  • An instrument that I have absolutely no interest in – the most widely traded instrument in the world – is US government bonds. I don’t think people understand how risky a US government bond is at 2% return.”
  • “I understand the arguments of those that are liking it but a 2% government bond… if we’re  talking about marginal tax rates, all in state and local, federal 40%, you’re keeping 60% of your 2%, you are keeping 1.2% . The rate of inflation is somewhere in the range of 2-3% so your capital is being confiscated, it makes no sense.”
  • “If you look at the history of the 10-year government bond – normally, and we’re not in normal times now, we’re in a world of financial repression because of weak economic conditions – in normal times, a 10-year US bond yields in line with nominal GDP – nominal GDP is the summation of inflation plus real growth.”
  • “So if inflation is ranging 2-3%, let’s say and real growth is 2-3%,that would mean nominal GDP would be growing normally between 4-6%. So if I told you 10 year government bond was going to 4-5%, you wouldn’t think that was a bold or unusual forecast. Well, that is an enormous capital loss for the person that holds that 2% government bond.”
  • “Amongst the panoply of financial assets, I think US government bonds are the least attractive and I think equities, and I’ve been premature in all honesty, the market didn’t do as well as I thought it would do last year, it’s slightly ahead of schedule this year- but when I look at the alternative of financial assets – Cash earns zero, and Bernanke has promised us it is going to be zero for a couple of years; you’ve got keep some of that for security and safety purposes; you have U.S. government bonds at 2% – 0 interest and I don’t own ONE In my portfolio.”
  • “The third alternative is high yield, that’s had an enormous rally that’s down to a little over 7%; so selectively you could find individual issues that make sense, but collectively high yield has kind of got itself fully priced.”
  • “Then you’re left with the S&P, which is 13 ½ earnings; yields a bit over 2%, 10% below the historical multiple at a time when interest rates are below historical and you can find lots of cheap stocks out there that will yield more than bonds today that are good companies that will grow over time.”
  • “So I think by default stocks went out, and they are the best house in the financial asset neighborhood. Not to say we’re not without problems – Iran, the price of oil, the uncertainty over political outcome come November…”

On what equities he likes:

  • “I think gold will work, I think the S&P will work, they’ve already worked somewhat this year. The S&P is up somewhere around 8%.”
  • “We find a lot of cheap stocks around, technology. I hate to buy things that are up a lot, so forgive me if I mention things that we own, but we own them and we would not own them if we didn’t like them.”
  • “I would like to put new money to things that haven’t moved.  We like, in technology, Apple and Qualcomm.”

On Apple’s share price and Apple vs. RIM:

  • “We think [Apple] is worth something north of $600.”
  • “It’s funny, it was really like a mass hysteria. We put about a half of one percent  of our assets into RIMM late last year on a theory that they had a revenue base that was being mispriced by the market. Which was 20% of what we had in Apple, we’ve owned Apple now for a long time, and we continue to own a big position, so we had five times more Apple investment than RIMM.”
  • “We kept on getting calls from the press about RIM. We sold RIM because we have a discipline of taking stop losses, still think it might be intriguing. They have 75 million subscribers, that are paying them on average almost five dollars a month for the email service. We’re out of it.
  • “I wouldn’t say Apple is the leading candidate for new money, I wouldn’t put new money into Apple, but we’re riding the trend. And we think they have a unique position and a couple more years of very good runway ahead of them. “
  • “Qualcomm has the dominant chip in smart phones.”
  • “In the financial area, we own JPM, a little bit of Citicorp, Bank of America, and a very unique company called Altisource Portfolio Solutions which helps manage the foreclosure process for banks.”

On June 30, 2011 (clip 1) , Leon Cooperman appeared on CNBC Strategy Session with Jeffrey Gundlach. He was bullish on US stocks at that time as well and made the same case (as above) about liking stocks while shunning Treasuries. His target for S&P 500 was 1425. In that interview, Leon Cooperman faced Jeffrey Gundlach who argued that Treasuries were attra
ctive. The next 6 months conclusively proved that Gundlach was right and Cooperman was wrong.

Like equity fee collectors (otherwise known as long only stock managers), Mr. Cooperman talks about cheap stocks with dividend yields that exceed yields on Treasuries. This is a popular argument that was dismissed as “superficially compelling” by Jeffrey Gundlach on October 4, 2011 in his admonition – Don’t Ever Equate Dividend Stocks & Bonds.

Below Bill Gross makes the same point.

6. Baby Boomers & Ford Motor Company – Bill Gross on Bloomberg TV’s Street Smart (09:36 minute clip) – Thursday, February 23

If you listen to this clip, you will actually hear Bill Gross say “Mr. Cooperman has a decent argument (see clip 5 above)“. Mr. Gross has been vocal in stating that the actions of the Fed are tantamount to financial repression and amount to confiscation of capital. He himself gives the example of Johnson & Johnson as a stock that provides  a 3.5% dividend yield with growth potential. And he says candidly “Yes, Treasury yields are artificially suppressed”.

So you would think Mr. Gross is shorting Treasuries or at least shunning them as Leon Cooperman advises. Instead, he keeps buying them. His explanation is of extreme importance to Individual Investors:

  1. Comparing Treasury yields to corporate stock dividends spans a huge gap of risk – AAA for Treasuries and an implied BAA and lower for subordinated stocks as investment instruments.
  2. Stocks can go down too just like bonds. We certainly saw that in 2008.
  3. Demographically, boomers prefer certainty as opposed to speculative capital gains, so there’s an element to that.

Then Bill Gross points out the surprising announcement by Ford Motor Company (stunning in our opinion and characteristically ignored by both Bloomberg TV and CNBC):

  • Why Ford is shifting billions of dollars a year from their equity portfolio into bonds? – They are doing that because of the certainty, locking in their liabilities relative to their assets. Even at a low 2-3% rate. Boomers, from the standpoint of individual investors, are the same way. They are beginning to get older and require more certainty.

For his views on mortgages and the Federal Reserve, read the excellent summary below from Bloomberg TV:

Gross on whether investors should be looking at mortgages:

  • “Sure. An agency mortgage, even a non-agency mortgage, but let’s stick to agencies and Fannie and Freddie, they yield 1% to 1.5% to 2% more than those similar average life Treasuries. If you have an environment where interest rates will not change, and that is the key. Is Bernanke good to his promise? If they do not change, you would prefer to have a 1.5% higher yield, a 3% to 3.5% yield as opposed to a 2%. I think mortgages makes sense. The extension of risk adding to high-yield is another situation that is similar to the equity argument that I just made. Yes, you get a higher yield, but you are principle at risk. As you get older and more fixed- income oriented then perhaps you want to stick to something safer.”

On why PIMCO is announcing a new ETF next week that will mimic the Total Return Fund:

  • “That is a complicated answer, but technically the fees are the expenses on an annual basis are less on the Total Return Fund that now exists versus the ETF. There will be a slight difference, but of course you don’t pay the all-in retail fees and you could make the argument that it’s a lot cheaper as an alternative.  The ETF is limited to the extent it can’t use futures and optional types of securities that have been successful with the Total Return Fund. Basically they will be the same. We are excited to provide the same types of returns for that ETF as we do for the Total Return Fund and allow individual investors to buy it on the New York Stock Exchange. We do not suggest they trade it, but we think they can buy it at 10:30 in the morning, as opposed to the market closing and have a great longer-term performance record.”

Gross on whether the economy and investing environment has improved:

  • “I think they are. We should analyze why. I think that is always difficult, but I think in this case with central banks writing checks in the hundreds of billions, and yes we’re doing that with our Operation Twist, and the ECB is doing that with LTROs, and Japan has stepped it up, and China has been writing checks in terms of increasing their monetary base. There has been a huge flush of money into global markets and ultimately into global economies. You would expect that to happen. That does not mean that is the solution, or the forever solution, but certainly temporarily it has helped to support the economy, and therefore financial markets.”

On whether he’s changed his position in U.S. Treasuries:

  • “I do not think so. It is important to recognize, as we a tried to recognize at PIMCO for the past several quarters and past several years, that there are negative repercussions to writing checks and printing money.  It is not just inflationary.  To the extent that zero-based money that we have here in the United States, that we’re seeing in the U.K. and close to that in euro land, it begins to reap some unexpected havoc in terms of the real economy as well. Financial institutions like banks and insurance companies start to close branch offices and lay off people simply because the cost of money does not support the prior economic activity that historically has been the example.”

On whether Bernanke’s promise to keep low interest rates through 2014 is distorting the bond market:

  • “I think it does.  There is no doubt.  It’s something to be reckoned with.  You don’t want to fight the Fed, as they say.  To the extent that yes, they have conditionally promised to keep interest rates low, in Bernanke’s vernacular that basically means 25 basis points for the next three years or so, then that produces an artificially to interest rates. There is no doubt that real interest rates now certainly from the standpoint o
    f the policy rate and even from the standpoint of five-year tip, for instance, an inflation protected security at a -1.25% relative to historical parameters, that is 1-2%, maybe even 3% lower than they should be. Yes, Treasury yields are artificially suppressed.”

On whether he still wants to be in Treasuries:

  • “You do from the standpoint of recognizing the Fed is good to its promise, and that is something to consider, but if Fed is good to the promise, then interest rates are not going anywhere for the next two-three years, and there is a 3% yield from a longer-term Treasury and 2% yield from intermediate-term Treasuries. Does that represent value? Not really. Certainly the saver and the investors being short-circuited, haircutted, based upon historical terms. If in fact the price of the securities cannot go down very much if the Fed holds to its promise, that is if it keeps interest rates low, then 2% is better than nothing.  Put it that way”

On Leon Cooperman telling Bloomberg TV yesterday that the return on bonds is not worth owning them:

  • “I do not argue against that, and Mr. Cooperman has a decent argument. I just argued that in terms of confiscation of capital.  There are several reasons to be cautious, however. One, comparing Treasury yields to corporate stock dividends spans a huge gap of risk. AAA for Treasuries and an implied B AA and lower for subordinated stocks as an investment instruments. Secondly, stocks can go down, too, just like bonds. We certainly saw that in 2008.  Third, demographically, boomers prefer certainty as opposed to speculative capital gains, so there’s an element to that.”

On why Ford is shifting billions of dollars a year from their equity portfolio into bonds:

  • “They’re doing that because of the certainty, locking in their liabilities relative to their assets. Even at a low, 2-3% rate.  Boomers, from the standpoint of individual investors, are the same way. They’re beginning to get older and require more certainty. Do they find appeal in a Johnson and Johnson at 3.5% dividend yield with growth potential? Sure they do, but they also believe they want that money back, and if there is a 2008-2009 scenario, perhaps they won’t.  So there are demographic tradeoffs here that have to be considered.” .


7. Went to cash a couple of weeks ago – Tom DeMark with Bloomberg TV’s Adam Johnson (02:49 minute clip) – Tuesday, February 21

DeMark is a well known technician who has advised major hedge funds or
so Adam Johnson of Bloomberg TV tells us. We have covered previous clips
of DeMark-Johnson conversations in these articles. We are still waiting
for Mr. DeMark to be right in his recent timing calls.

The most interesting point of this clip was made by Adam Johnson at minute 02:40 when he said:

  • Tom, you went to cash a couple of weeks ago…

are confused. Shouldn’t this have been the focus of the conversation?
Going to cash speaks more to us than general drivel about indicators and
combos. What made Mr. DeMark go to cash a couple of weeks ago? What
would make him get back in? Did either he or Adam Johnson disclose to
BTV viewers that he had gone to cash? Adam Johnson did not ask and Tom
DeMark did not say. And this is called financial journalism! Rather sad,
isn’t it!

We include this clip because Mr. DeMark is now making a
qualitatively different prediction than he did in his last 2-3 interviews.
Rather than predicting a market top, he is now calling for an imminent
rotational correction. He expects the S&P 500 to go down by 5.56%
but he expects industry groups to go down much further as money rotates
from sector to sector.

Then, Mr. DeMark goes into his usual “could happen in two days” type mode:

  • We
    are looking for two more up closes. Today could be an up close, we
    haven’t closed yet. So if we follow up with an up close tomorrow, we
    think the market is about ready to decline.

“today” was an up close but the “tomorrow” was a down close. How does
that affect the DeMark prediction? Adam Johnson did not ask and Tom
DeMark did not say.  Mr. DeMark is looking for 1372 and then a decline.

demands we point out that,  a month ago, on January 20, 2012, he said
“S&P 500 could reach 1342 by next week before falling”. 

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