Gold breaks support

The Dollar price of gold has broken support at $1240/ounce, signaling a primary down-trend.

Spot Gold in USD

The Dollar Index continues to test resistance, consolidating in a narrow band below 95, a bullish sign. Chinese selling of the Dollar, to support the Yuan, has not materialized in sufficient magnitude to reverse Dollar strength. Breakout above 95 would spur selling of gold.

Dollar Index

The Australian Dollar has not weakened sufficiently to protect local gold miners. The All Ordinaries Gold Index (XGD) is heading for a test of support at 4900/4950. Given the circumstances, support is unlikely to hold. Expect a test of 4600.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

Time to sell Gold stocks

Stocks: Evolution Mining, Northern Star Resources, Regis Resources, St Barbara
Symbols: EVN, NST, RRL, SBM
Exchange: ASX
Date: July 19, 2018

Spot Gold

The Dollar price of gold has broken support at $1240/ounce, signaling a primary down-trend.

Spot Gold in USD

The Dollar Index continues to test resistance, consolidating in a narrow band below 95, a bullish sign. Chinese selling of the Dollar, to support the Yuan, has not materialized in sufficient magnitude to reverse Dollar strength. Breakout above 95 would spur selling of gold.

Dollar Index

The Australian Dollar has not weakened sufficiently to protect local gold miners. The All Ordinaries Gold Index (XGD) is heading for a test of support at 4900/4950. Given the circumstances, support is unlikely to hold.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

Bearish divergence on 21-day Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure across all four gold stocks in the Australian Growth portfolio.

Evolution (EVN) is the weakest, having broken primary support at $3.10.

Evolution (EVN)

Northern Star (NST) broke medium-term support at $7.00 but is still in an up-trend. LT bearish divergence on Money Flow warns of selling pressure.

Northern Star (NST)

Regis Resources (RRL) respected medium-term support at $4.90 but Money Flow peaks below zero warn of strong selling pressure.

Regis Resources (RRL)

St Barbara (SBM) respected its rising trendline but Money Flow also warns of selling pressure.

St Barbara (SBM)

Conclusion

I don’t like the idea of holding gold stocks long-term when the USD price of gold is in a primary down-trend. Now is a good time to lock in profits from the last 6 months.

SELL (July 19, 2018)

Disclosure

Staff of The Patient Investor may directly or indirectly own shares in the above companies.

ACCC bells the cat on electricity | Graham Young

While on the fringe of our normal investment sphere, this article by Graham Young on energy costs, published today in Online Opinion, poses some serious questions for the Australian economy.

In an inversion of the social hierarchy of Yes Minister, it would appear that Australia has at least one courageous public servant – ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

When it comes to energy generation Sims has shown remarkable fortitude and has belled the cat a number of times, including calling-out the price gouging of the Queensland government through their publicly-owned electricity utilities.

His latest act of heroism is the ACCC Electricity supply and prices inquiry final report which is a tacit acknowledgement that current strategies for CO2 abatement will not work at an affordable price.

It is the best analysis of the energy market that we have, and must lead to a rethink of the role of the AEMO, AER and AEMC. These bodies have comprehensively failed and pushed Australian power prices up to unsustainable levels.

The report also calls into question the NEG, proposing a role for the federal government to provide stability through the provision of stable baseload power generation.

The role of the Chief Scientist, Mr Finkel, must also be under review as it shows how ineffective his Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market was.

It also means that the states should wind-down their subsidy schemes for wind and solar and hand control of these matters to the Commonwealth government. With a national electricity network the decisions in one state impact on the prices paid by consumers in all states.

Many on the left, including the Opposition, are pointing to market failure as a problem, but what the ACCC reveals is the real problem is regulator failure.

In an ideal world the ACCC proposal for the federal government to underwrite the construction of new baseload power is suboptimal, but a regrettable necessity in the current situation. It is likely to be less costly than building Snowy 2.0 to deal with the vagaries of increased penetration of wind and solar.

Another implication of the report is that Australia, and the world, also needs to adopt a new approach to CO2 abatement: intermittent energy will not power the world, even with storage.

Not only has the current approach led to unsustainably high power prices, but CO2 world emissions are still growing, and after an approximate 10% decrease since 2005, so too are Australia’s.

It’s likely that any decrease in Australian emissions is due to higher power prices creating a degree of de-industrialisation. But as we consume at ever increasing levels, the amount of CO2 embedded in our economic production and consumption is probably higher than it was in 2005.

All that has happened is there has been a flight of production from Australia to countries with lower electricity prices, and higher CO2 emissions.

The world has been running a number of real world experiments on renewable energy over the last 13 years since the Kyoto Climate Agreement came into effect. Those experiments prove conclusively that with present technologies renewables are not viable, even if the politicians of Germany and California, to mention two, haven’t worked it out yet.

Everywhere that penetration of renewables has exceeded 25% or so, prices have increased. This is because, while the collection of energy is relatively cheap, with the raw materials of wind and sunlight being provided free by nature, the systems components are phenomenally expensive, requiring investment in networks, standby power generation and storage, at the same time pushing the price of baseload power higher.

The only form of renewables that provide reliable power at reasonable prices are hydro schemes, and some of them run out of water at times as well.

The definitive proof of this failure is that, if it were possible to power an economy using renewables only, and if they were, as Mark Butler claimed yesterday, cheaper than alternatives, then the Communist People’s Republic of China, a brownfields site for industrialisation, would take this opportunity to provide all future power through renewable energy.

Instead of that, our chief strategic rival is building nuclear reactors (17 under construction and a total of 100 operational by 2030), and coal-fired power stations (299 units under construction in China today, according to the Australian Parliamentary Library).

They are then using that power to manufacture and then dump photovoltaic cells on the Western World which we are then using to deindustrialise, giving them a further industrial and strategic advantage.

If Butler is right they wouldn’t waste their time building a “more expensive” system with baseload power generators which they will then have to decommission, and retrofit the system for “cheaper” renewables – it just wouldn’t make sense.

The ACCC report gives us a chance to take account of these realities and recalibrate our approach to the Paris Accord.

In the first place we need to get a real feel for the CO2 intensity of world economies, and that can’t be measured just on domestic emissions, when much of our consumption is imported. We need to measure the CO2 actually embedded in our consumption.

This will provide a better discipline and put an end to the Ponzi scheme where we shuffle our emissions off somewhere else without actually changing much more than place of production.

Then we need to accept the reality that Bronze Age technologies like wind, and novelties like solar, cannot provide reliable grid-scale power, and increase actual electricity costs and that the only technology that has a chance of solving the energy trilemma (cost, reliability and emissions) is nuclear. So if we are serious about emissions we need to be serious about nuclear.

Given the issues with nuclear a sensible use of the resources being poured into “clean” energy should be redirected to researching nuclear power and handling spent nuclear fuel.

Australia is already a leader in one of these areas, having developed Synrock for safe storage of spent nuclear fuel in 1978.

An alternative to storage is reprocessing. As a country which already mines uranium and turns it into yellow cake we have advantages there as well.

While developing a nuclear program we need holding and bridging strategies to limit emissions. Efficiency is probably the lowest cost strategy, and an increased use of gas, which emits half as much CO2 as coal, another.

Finally we need to understand that storage will never be suitable for a large scale grid without repealing the Second Law of Thermodynamics – that’s the one that put paid to perpetual motion machines.

Battery enthusiasts draw comparisons between computers and batteries and predict that, just as computers have dived in cost and soared in computing power, the same will happen to batteries and power output.

But computers have done this by miniaturising and using less power to do the same work. Batteries are all about producing energy, and only so much efficiency can be wrung out of this process.

A more realistic model for how much increased efficiency is available is the motor vehicle. While it is true to say that the modern car is a significant refinement on the Model T, that refinement is nothing like the one that occurred between a pioneering computer like ENIAC, and the laptop on which I am typing this article.

The only step change in energy production comparable to that in computing is contained in the equation e=mc2, where Einstein showed that changing a small amount of mass into energy released huge amounts of energy.

Which brings us back to nuclear.

While the ACCC report doesn’t mention nuclear, it does open up the conversation. Politicians need to grab the opportunity. Otherwise they face a grinding political death between the stones of increasing electricity costs and decreasing reliability, all while CO2 emissions continue to rise.

This article was first published in The Spectator. Republished under a Creative Commons License.

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

CPI rises but US stocks rally

June consumer price index (CPI) jumped to 2.8% but forward estimates of inflation, represented by the 5-Year breakeven rate (5-year Treasury yield minus TIPS) remain subdued at 2.06%.

CPI and 5-Year Breakeven

Core CPI (excluding food and energy) is at 2.2% while average hourly earnings (total private: production and non-supervisory employees) annual growth, representing underlying inflationary pressure, is higher at 2.7%.

Core CPI and Average Hourly Earnings: Production and Nonsupervisory

Credit and broad money supply (MZM plus time deposits) growth remain steady, tracking nominal GDP growth at around 5.0%. A spike in credit growth often precedes a similar spike in broad money supply by several quarters.

Credit and Broad Money Supply Growth

And a surge in broad money supply growth, ahead of nominal GDP, flagged rising inflationary pressures ahead of the last two recessions, prompting the Fed to step on the brakes.

Nominal GDP and Broad Money Supply Growth

Overall, the inflation outlook appears subdued, with little urgency to hike interest rates at present.

The market is also getting more comfortable with the idea of trade tariffs. The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 2800. Breakout is likely and would suggest a primary advance to 3000.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 followed through above 7300, confirming the primary advance, with a target of 7700.

Nasdaq 100

This is the final stage of a bull market but there is no sign of it ending. I am wary of the impact of a trade war on individual stocks and have reduced exposure to multinationals that make a sizable percentage of their sales in China.

Financial markets are supposed to swing like a pendulum: They may fluctuate wildly in response to exogenous shocks, but eventually they are supposed to come to rest at an equilibrium point…. Instead, as I told Congress, financial markets behaved more like a wrecking ball, swinging from country to country and knocking over the weaker ones. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the international financial system itself constituted the main ingredient in the meltdown process.

~ George Soros on the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the need for greater regulation of global financial markets

ASX 200 hesitates

The ASX 300 Banks index broke resistance at 8000 and is retracing to test the new support level. The index remains in a primary down-trend and only a higher low on the next correction, followed by a new high, would reverse that.

ASX 300 Banks Index

A weaker Australian Dollar has made the banks, with their high dividend yields, more attractive to offshore investors. But the sector remains squeezed by higher funding costs, falling credit growth and rising default risk.

With retracing banks and weaker prospects for miners, the ASX 200 hesitated. Expect another retracement to test 6150, but respect is likely and would confirm the primary advance. Target is the October 2007 high at 6750.

ASX 200

Technical signals suggest a primary advance while economic indicators warn of rising headwinds and a potential bear market. So I remain cautious, with close to 30% cash in the Australian Growth portfolio.

Trade tariff impact on China & Australia

The yuan is falling as threat of a tariff war rises.

Yuan

The Shanghai Composite Index is testing its 2016 low at 2700. Breach would warn of a decline to the 2014 low at 2000.

Shanghai Composite Index

Commodity prices are plunging in anticipation of falling demand from China.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

Chinese monthly iron ore imports are down at 83.24 mt, compared to earlier peaks of 100 mt earlier in 2017. Iron ore spot price is testing primary support $63/tonne. A Trend Index peak below zero warns of selling pressure. Breach of support is likely and would warn of a decline to $58/tonne.

Iron Ore

A falling Aussie Dollar may cushion local resources stocks from some of the impact.

Australian Dollar

But ASX 300 Metals & Mining index continues to test medium-term support at 3800. Breach of support is likely and would warn of a correction to test the rising trendline.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Resources stocks remain in a primary up-trend but I am bearish on the medium-term outlook.

Gold tests support

China continues to support the Yuan and we can expect consolidation around 15 US cents. Threat of trade tariffs is weakening the Yuan, forcing the PBOC to sell off foreign reserves to prevent a downward spiral as investors flee and borrowers hedge against the stronger Dollar.

Dollar/Yuan

PBOC sale of foreign reserves, mainly held in US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, would drive up yields and weaken the Dollar. The Dollar Index continues to test resistance at 95. Respect is likely and would warn of another correction. While unlikely, breakout above 95 would signal that the PBOC is sitting on its hands while the Dollar advances to an initial target of 100.

Dollar Index

Gold is testing primary support at $1240/ounce. A stronger Dollar would breach support, warning of a decline to $1150. Respect of primary support is more likely and would signal another rally.

Spot Gold

The price of gold in Australian Dollars has been edging up over the past few years as the Aussie Dollar weakens. But the monthly chart below shows that Gold (USD) has fallen faster than the Aussie Dollar over the last 3 months. Large bearish divergence on the Trend Index indicates selling pressure. Breach of support at $1650 (AUD) and the rising trendline would warn of a reversal.

Gold in Aussie Dollars

The All Ordinaries Gold Index is a bit stronger, having broken through resistance at 5000. A correction that respects the rising trendline and new support level at 5000 would confirm the primary advance, with a target of 6000.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

S&P 500 and Nasdaq relief

June average hourly earnings growth came in flat at 2.74% for Total Private sector and 2.72% for Production and Non-supervisory Employees. This suuports the argument that underlying inflation remains benign, easing pressure on the Fed to accelerate interest rates.

Average Hourly Earnings Growth

The S&P 500 rallied off its long-term rising trendline. Follow-through above 2800 would suggest another primary advance with a target of 3000.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 respected its new support level at 7000, signaling a primary advance. The rising Trend Index indicates buying pressure. Target for the advance is 7700.

Nasdaq 100

The Leading Index from the Philadelphia Fed is a healthy 1.51% for May. Well above the 1.0% level that suggests steady growth (falls below 1.0% are cause for concern).

Leading

Our estimate of annual GDP growth — total payroll x average weekly hours worked — is muted at 1.91% but suggests that earnings growth will remain positive.

Real GDP Estimate

Personal consumption figures for Q1 2018 show growth in consumption of services is slowing but durable goods remain strong, while nondurable goods are steady.

Consumption to Q1 2018

Declining consumption of nondurables normally coincides with a recession but is often preceded by slowing durable goods — below 5.0% on the chart below — for several quarters.

Consumption to Q1 2018

Conclusion: Expect further growth but be cautious of equities that are vulnerable to escalating trade tariffs.

We live in a global economy, but the political organization of our global society is woefully inadequate. We are bereft of the capacity to preserve peace and to counteract the excesses of the financial markets. Without these controls, the global economy, is liable to break down.

~ George Soros: The Crisis of Global Capitalism (1998)

Banks lift ASX 200

The ASX 300 Banks index continues to test resistance at 8000. Respect remains likely and would indicate another test of primary support at 7300.

ASX 300 Banks Index

Rising banks lifted the ASX 200. Follow-through above 6250 signals another primary advance, with a target of the October 2007 high at 6750.

ASX 200

This leaves me in a difficult position. Technical signals suggest a primary advance, while economic indicators warn of rising headwinds and a potential bear market.

Banks

The banking sector is being squeezed by higher funding costs, falling credit growth and rising default risk.

Gerard Minack from Minack Advisers warns that the current credit contraction could cause a significant fall in housing prices:

Most houses are bought on credit, so the demand for housing is a function of the supply of credit. Consequently, housing loan approvals have historically led house prices. New loan approvals have fallen by around 20% year-over-year several times over the past 25 years. If the current credit contraction is more severe – say, a decline of up to 30% – then nationwide house prices could fall high single digits over the coming year.

….All this suggests that a high single-digit decline in house prices would put a material dent in domestic demand. If prices were to fall by, say, 15%, and if consumer income growth was as tepid as it now is, there would be a good chance of recession.

Resources

A falling Chinese Yuan highlights the threat of trade tariffs to the Chinese economy.

CNY/USD

Commodity prices have responded, falling to test primary support levels.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

Including iron ore.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing medium-term support at 3800. Breach is likely and would warn of a correction to test the rising trendline.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

My approach is to sit with one foot either side of the fence. Focus on growth sectors. Stay away from Banks. Stay away from Resources but stay in Gold. And keep a healthy percentage of the Australian portfolio in Cash and reasonably secure interest-bearing investments. Definitely not hybrids.