Prophets

Past Is No Prologue for Markets in New Paradigms

From oil to European elections to the Fed, investors can no longer ignore the warning signs.

Black swans are flocking.

Photographer: Christian Petersen

I recall, with great fondness, the words of 1970s Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive when they sang “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet." I believe that it may be an applicable phrase for what is coming our way. There are the black swans, and there is the horizon, and I can see the birds winging in our direction.

Rarities or not then, we have singularities approaching, and we had better be prepared for what we might encounter. With the swirl of geopolitical and economic events that confront us, the future may not be extrapolated from the past any longer. There is no status quo. It sulked off into the wilderness with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, the ascension of the U.S. shale oil industry and a Federal Reserve about to be populated with at least three new people appointed by President Trump -- and probably business people. We are off on new adventures.

Take oil. The U.S. now has the largest reserves of any nation on the planet. This was made possible by technology that allowed for our shale oil industry and horizontal drilling, and it continues to improve and lower the cost of American energy. OPEC, in my view, is a “dead man walking” and they can publicize production cuts, cheat on them as always, and bang their heads against their proverbial wall of deceit. It makes no difference.

In my estimation, oil will be used to offset the infrastructure build-outs and the growth in military spending. Oil will be the equalizer. This will get done by new laws taxing oil importation and by granting tax credits for oil exportation. This may be done on a country-by-country basis, favoring a few nations, but the effects will be profound.

Remember, Mr. Trump’s “Buy American—Sell American—Trade American” has another side, and it is “Tax American.” It will be better to generate revenues here, and then tax them, than handing our money to foreign governments.

Also remember that “America First” means “Them Second,” and in the case of some members of OPEC it will mean they become 129th in line. The “fickle finger of fate” will not be the only finger they will be getting. I look for oil to head to $45 soon, as some of these foreign governments, with social programs set at $70 to 100 per barrel, froth at the mouth and possibly end up in resurrection or even revolution. A 50-year cycle is being broken.

In terms of the Fed, the economists, the academics and the ivy-walled contingent are about to be pushed aside by Trump. I do not care about the Fed’s dot plot, or the unending diatribes from central bank officials, or their notions of “normalization,” any longer. Trump’s appointees will push them aside quickly, and the focus that markets place on their every word, and even pronunciation of them, will soon be a thing of the past.

In Europe, the Dutch election is today. I do not predict a “Nexit,” but the new government will surely be far less friendly to the European Union than the last one. If Nexit somehow does occur, then the swan will be both black and blue, because it will mark the beginning of the end of the EU.

Then we have the French election and along with it a possible “Frexit,” no agreement (once again) on bailing out Greece, probably an Italian election, and the distinct possibility of a real rupture in the Italian banking system, which is effectively broke and being held together by some European Central Bank glue that will not last for very long. Europe is at a tipping point, and any number of forthcoming events could send Europe over the edge and into the abyss.

We are right at the Maginot Line when it comes to interest rates. The 10-year Treasury yield support/resistance line is 2.61 percent, in my calculations. Unlike other bands, at lower levels, this one is critical because if we break it, there is not much to support any stops until it reaches 3 percent. Consequently, breaking 2.61 percent will lead to serious slowdowns in equity buy-backs, commercial lending, commercial real estate and residential mortgages, and it will significantly impair revenue growth in the U.S.

With Trump’s plan to spur growth through tax cuts and less regulation, I am highly dubious that he is going to allow the Fed to wander about, under the guise of “normalization,” and send interest rates higher.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Mark Grant at mjgrant@bloomberg.net

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    Robert Burgess at bburgess@bloomberg.net

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