More Profit Taking

Good day… And a Wonderful Wednesday to you! We received more rain yesterday, and the spotting of a twister less than five miles from our office! I’m beginning to feel as though we should be gathering up the animals in twos. The old saying, “right as rain” is losing favor on the list of things I say!

Yesterday, I left you with the thought that the London traders had been buying dollars since they arrived back from their three-day Holiday weekend. The U.S. traders did the same… And I believe profit taking was the order of the day. Unfortunately though, it left the euro (EUR) down one-cent on the day.

The data for the U.S. yesterday wasn’t anything that would lead one to buy dollars, but that’s the game that people play now, every night and every day now… So, let’s go to the tape on the data and be finished with that!

First off, the Case/Shiller Home Prices data showed more rot on the housing vine, as their 20-city home price index fell 14.4%y/y in March – a new record low in data back to 2001. Las Vegas led the way (-25.9%), with Miami a close second (-24.6%).

You can’t tell me the housing meltdown has “bottomed” – not with data like this! And… You can’t tell me that consumers are not being just beaten around the head and shoulders daily with gas prices, food prices, falling house prices, and debt up to their eyeballs!

Speaking of consumer debt… I’ll bet a dollar to a Krispy Kreme that the next big shoe to drop will be the “maxed out” credit cards that consumers have been busy running up, since their “ATM” (house) has closed. I’m not wishing this to come true, folks… I’m simply talking about what I see happening. Sure hope I’m wrong about that one, because credit card debt is the absolute worst thing to have hanging over your head!

OK… Down from the soapbox, and back to the data… The U.S. Conference Board’s consumer confidence fell more than expected in May from 62.8 to 57.2. This is a new low for the data since October 1992, and a depth surpassed only during and just after the depths of recessions since 1970. Need more data that spells “recession”?

Speaking of a recession… A reader sent me a note yesterday saying he was surprised that I didn’t mention that George Soros and Warren Buffett were both “Pfennig readers”, since both were quoted in Europe Saturday as saying that the United States is in a recession, and both said it will be long and deep.

Alrighty then! Hey! My friends down under sent me a note that said they fully expect the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to increase interest rates 50 BPS before year-end. That’s two 25’s… With the first coming in August. Basically, I agree totally, and think these rate hikes will grease the tracks to parity for the Aussie dollar (AUD).

The news didn’t help the Aussie dollar yesterday though, as it looks as though the selling of the Big Dog (euro) affected all the little dogs, even down under!

I’m going to step up on the soapbox again here folks… So if you don’t want to subject yourself to more “Chuck’s views” then skip ahead. OK… If you’re reading this, then that means you’re ready… So, here goes… I was reading stories on the Internet last night and seeing how bloggers and writers are ripping the oil companies. Hmmmm… I guess the “rippers” don’t realize that the guys that head the oil companies don’t own them! The oil companies are owned by pension funds – you, me, and the guy down the street that cuts his grass with his shirt off! We even had some dolt representative from California mention “nationalization” for the oil companies. Of course, she called it “socialism”… Doltness showing there, folks… I shake my head in disbelief.

OK, I’m back now… I have more to say on the subject, but I had better stop there!

In the overnight markets of Asia and London, we haven’t really seen much movement to follow on yesterday’s selling, which is why I believe it was profit taking. Most of the “Big Boys” were out on Friday and Monday… So when they came back and saw the levels, they said, “By Joe, let’s take a profit or two”!

The only currency to see more slippage was the Japanese yen (JPY), with a little slippage from Swiss francs (CHF), as stocks were back en vogue yesterday, and thus the carry trades were back at work.

And the yen’s losses weren’t just against the dollar. Yen is losing lots of ground to the euro again. The losses to the euro had stopped for a while, but they are back!

So… The bad earnings reports of the past 10 days are swept under the rug, eh? Let’s go buy stocks again, the coast is clear! UGH!

Gold saw an end to its rally yesterday too, with a $14 sell off… UGH! The gold sell off also coincided with a big drop in oil price the past few days. Of course, the oil price sell off is the only “welcome” price drop! Oil has dropped from $135 last week to $127 this week… I guess maybe someone in the oil biz got the memo that U.S. drivers are putting the brakes on and not driving so much. Who can? Not with gas prices around $4!

OK, I know that those that own Prius cars can, but you are a very low minority of drivers…

In Germany this morning, we’ve seen some data that should keep rates right where they are if not eventually push them higher. I’m talking about inflation data. Five of the six German regions have reported higher inflation this morning – which points to an increase of 0.06% month-on-month. The consensus was for an increase of 0.04%, so this upside surprise reverses the sharp fall we saw in April. I knew that the April number was questionable.

Norway’s Norges Bank is expected to leave rates unchanged this morning… However, with oil prices being what they are, I expect the Norges Bank to revisit the rate hike table this summer… And that thought should underpin the krone (NOK).

Fed Head Fisher, one of the two dissenting votes of the last rate cut, will speak today. He will speak on “inflation and debt”. This ought to be interesting folks.

Today, we’ll see the color of the U.S. April durable goods, which is not expected to be a “warm and fuzzy for the economy” data print. The forecast is for a decline of -1.5%… But, hear me now and listen to me later… If the print is really this bad, the media will sweep it under the rug, or spin it to sound like good times at Ridgemont High!

So… There you have it! The currencies are drifting about, and are waiting for new signs to give them direction. With that, we’ll head to the Big Finish.

Currencies today 5/28/08: A$ .9575, kiwi .7848, C$ 1.0055, euro 1.5660, sterling 1.9750, Swiss .9630, ISK 73.50, rand 7.72, krone 5.0250, SEK 5.96, forint 155.95, zloty 2.1720, koruna 16.0950, yen 104.80, baht 32.45, sing 1.3630, HKD 7.8050, INR 42.78, China 6.94, pesos 10.37, BRL 1.6650, dollar index 72.43, Oil $127, Silver $17.25, and Gold… $893

That’s it for today… Sorry for the soap box, but I just saw that stuff and it got me going! I’ve told you about the book I’m reading, Greenspan’s Bubbles, by Bill Fleckenstein. Well… I have a reader that wrote the first book pointing out Big Al’s bad decisions called, Who Shot Goldilocks?, and he sent me a copy! So, now I have two books that I can refer to, when blasting the “maestro” (NOT!)… The author even included a CD with an update to the book! I overslept this morning; yesterday was a long day. I never (I guess I can’t say never any longer!) hit the off button and go back to sleep! But I did this morning… So… I had better get this on the distribution server, so the squirrels they have running it can get warmed up! I hope you have a Wonderful Wednesday!

Chuck Butler
May 28, 2008