Slope of Hope Blog Posts

This is the heart and soul of the web site. Here we have literally tens of thousands of posts dating back over a decade. These are listed in reverse chronological order. You can also click on any category icon to see posts tagged with that particular category.

A Bull in a China Shop

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Following is the opening segment of this week’s edition of Notes From the Rabbit Hole, NFTRH 504. For months now we have been tracking a divergence in the key cyclical Semiconductor Equipment segment (I am short AMAT & LRCX) to the broader Semi sector (ref. the most recent article from May 18th here) and this week we put more context to the divergence.

A Bull in a China Shop

In light of the developing trade war between the US and China, let’s review the all-important Semiconductor sector and in particular, the Semi Equipment segment, which is a key economic early bird (and canary in a coal mine).

Various sectors took hits on Friday as Trump moved forward with Tariffs on China. But most of those sectors and industries are follow-on aspects of the economic cycle, which got its start when the early bird chirped in early 2013.

With China in Trump’s crosshairs and China a very key player in Semi Fab Equipment, there is a fundamental reason that the Equipment companies are faltering. From SEMI by way of a post at nftrh.com in March.

“SEMI predicts Samsung will lead the pack in fab equipment spending in both 2018 and 2019, even though it will invest less each year than in 2017. By contrast, China will dramatically increase its year-over-year (YOY) fab equipment spending for the next two years – by 57 percent in 2018 and 60 percent in 2019 – to support fab projects from both overseas and domestic companies. The China spending surge will thrust it past Korea as the top spending region in 2019.” (more…)

Inflation Trade, in Progress Since Gold Kicked it Off in Q1 2016

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I am sure you remember the lead up to Q1 2016. The US economy and stock market were transitioning from a Goldilocks environment and narrowly avoiding a bear market while the rest of the world was still battling deflation. Precious metals and commodities were in the dumper and try though US and global central banks might, they seemed to fail to woo the inflation genie out of its bottle at every turn.

Then came December of 2015 when gold and silver made bottoms followed by the gold miners in January of 2016. Then by the time February had come and gone the whole raft of other inflatables (commodities and stocks) had bottomed and begun to set sail.

As I listened to Mr. Powell speak about inflation yesterday my mind wandered back to Q1 2016 as I thought about the Fed trying to manage inflation at or around 2%. I also thought about how inflation tends to lift boats, not sink them. At least that is what it does in its earlier stages, in its manageable stages. (more…)

Their Job: Entertain. Your Job: Ignore.

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Agree 100%, Charlie.

See: Buy in May and Stay Invested

Now, I am not of that ilk personally. My closely held biases are that a) the market’s cycles can be interpreted and managed (although my bias also has led me astray at times, in my execution) and b) that the economy, and by extension the markets, are not normal; not your grandpa’s economy and markets because they are ginned and steroidally goosed by off-the-charts (i.e. experimental) central bank meddling. That’s my bias in line with my entire history of public writing since 2004.

So I am not a stock market apologist, bull wise guy or ‘buy ‘n hold stocks for the long’ run tout. But I am the guy who is frequently nonplussed about the mainstream media fanning the flames of investor/trader sentiment during inflammatory news cycles. As Charlie says “it is their job to entertain” and “your job to ignore”.

But this applies not only in the major media. It applies to the minor media as well. Led by ZeroHedge, a whole raft of blogs and other entities are going to fan your flames with all sorts of opinionated, agenda driven or just plain biased information. And what Charlie has right is that it is absolutely imperative to tune it the hell out. That is because the bias never changes because it is promoting emotional viewpoints, promoting sides, teams. In the market the only side is the right side, whether your little heart of hearts agrees with it or not. (more…)

About the Stock Market Rally

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Okay, so now here come the bullish articles about how it is different from 2000 and 2007, how Elliott Waves predict a rise to SPX 3000 (maybe, because it may go down first) and after the fact, how peachy everything still is. Now, I am not saying the writers linked above (one of which was @ Biiwii) are flipping to or fro; just that they are with the general mood out there that is nice and comfy again.

But when we had our real-time subscriber update (now public) the mood, amid Italy and Trump Trade uproars, was anything but comfy. Indeed, the cacophony was in full swing and I felt the need to make sure we had the correct parameters rather than the incorrect parameters of sensation and emotion going on in the general financial media. Big deal, the S&P 500 was conducting a test of support and it was doing so amid an inflammatory news cycle. Where have you heard that before?

Here is the updated chart. In the span since our “high priority” (I reserve that descriptor for strategically key moments) update, the Good Ship Lollypop has held support like a charm and proceeded northward, in line with our favored plans. (more…)

Gold, US Stocks and Bonds

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I’ll try to keep things simple with this recap of the 3 of the 5 major food groups (leaving aside commodities and currencies) for investors. No confusing you today with too many inter-market ratios, overly technical language or cute metaphors like the 3 Amigos (although it is notable that Amigo #2 is stopping exactly as we’d forecast, as you’ll see in the Bonds segment below).

So let’s take a technical look at larger picture of the 3 groups using weekly charts for gold and SPX and a monthly for 30yr bond yields, along with some thoughts. We’ll reserve the shorter-term technical management for subscriber updates and weekly NFTRH reports.

Gold

For the sake of your financial well being, continue to tune out inflation, trade wars, shooting wars, Ebola, China demand and Indian wedding season as reasons to be bullish the relic, it’s wilder little brother, silver and the miners. Continue to tune in to gold’s standing vs. stocks and other risk ‘on’ assets along with investor confidence, the economy, interest rate dynamics (including the yield curve) and to an extent, the state of your local currency. (more…)

Semiconductor Canaries: Chirp, Warble… Soon a Croak and Silence?

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In light of earnings reactions in the Semiconductor Equipment sector, it’s time for an update of a theme we have had in play since November, 2017

The canary is no longer chirping in a healthy manner and the economy’s coal mine has a toxic gas leak. While the recent Lam Research (LRCX) earnings report was pretty good and there were positive aspects to that of Applied Materials (AMAT), these highly cyclical companies that have been at the front end of the entire economic cycle that had its beginnings in 2013 are showing signs of wear.

Business is still good but when you are talking about cyclical leaders, it is growth rate that matters. I have read article after article touting strong current business and future drivers that will change the typical Semiconductor cycle as next generation Fabs are needed for ever more dynamic specialty chips for higher-end devices.

Applied Materials Slides After Softer Q3 Forecasts on Weaker Smartphone Demand

“Smartphone sales have been below expectations, particularly for high-end models, and in response, both semiconductor and display suppliers have made adjustments to their capacity planning,” CEO Gary Dickerson told investors on a conference call. “With inventory rebalance that we’re seeing from smartphones, we’re going to see a sequential dip in the Q3. But from our guidance into Q4, you can see that it recovers nicely into Q4.”

(more…)

It Is What It Is

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Below is NFTRH 499‘s opening segment and the first part of the US Stock Market segment. As for the entire report, here’s what subscriber JF had to say before giving me some of his views on the market. Interactions with NFTRH subscribers, an astute bunch, is a hidden benefit I receive from this service.

“Will write more later when in front of PC, but this is a great report. Fucking absurdly solidly enjoyable thorough and easy to read and ponder. Well done.”

It Is What It Is

We will update charts of US stock indexes and sectors, along with global markets in the report below, as usual. But for this week’s intro segment I want to think about the origin of Biiwii.com’s URL (but it is what it is) because there are echoes of inputs from 2004 in play, which were part of the reason for the name of the website.

Specifically, back in 2003-2004 most people were still bearish in expectation of an ongoing secular bear market to follow the secular bull that had concluded in 2000. Personally, I had been leaning toward a resumption of the bear after the 2003 double (‘W’) bottom and bounce. But at some point in 2004 I realized that it wasn’t happening and that inflation was lifting stocks while it lifted gold, silver and commodities even more. But it was what it was, Alan Greenspan had cooked up new bubbles. (more…)