Silver stars as stocks retrace

Markets are retracing to test new support levels after a strong surge during the week on weaker than expected inflation data. Silver and Gold are the exception, making new highs, with demand fueled by lower long-term Treasury yields, a weaker Dollar, and strong buying from China.

Stocks

The S&P 500 is retracing to test support at 5200/5250. Higher Trend Index troughs indicate buying pressure. Respect of support is likely and would confirm our target of 5500.

S&P 500

In Australia, the ASX 200 retreated from resistance at 7900. Follow-through below 7700 would warn of another test of support at 7500/7550. Rising Trend Index troughs, however, warn that respect is more likely — that would mean another test of the all-time high.

ASX 200

Financial Markets

Ten-year Treasury yields retraced to test new resistance between 4.4% and 4.5%. Respect is likely and would signal a decline to test support between 4.1% and 4.2%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Financial market liquidity is improving, with commercial bank reserves at the Fed recovering after a sharp fall during April tax payment season.

Commercial Bank Reserves at Fed

The Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index is again falling, signaling easier monetary conditions.

Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index

Bitcoin (BTC) recovered above the former $64K support level, confirming easier financial conditions. Retracement that respects the new support level would strengthen the signal.

Bitcoin (BTC)

Economic Activity

Real retail sales are edging lower but remain in line with their pre-pandemic trend (dotted line) — supported by full employment, lower inflation and government spending to secure critical supply chains.

Advance Real Retail Sales

Light vehicle sales remain below 2019 levels but sales above 15 million continue to reflect robust consumer sentiment.

Light Vehicle Sales

Heavy truck sales rebounded to 40.2K units, indicating reasonable business activity. Continuation of the recent down-trend, however, with a fall below 37.5K, would signal that the economy is slowing. Breach of 35K would warn that a recession is imminent.

Heavy Truck Sales

Precious Metals & the Dollar

The Dollar index is retracing to test new resistance at 105. Lower Trend Index peaks warn of selling pressure and respect of resistance is likely, offering a short-term target of 103.

Dollar Index

Silver is the star performer of the week, climbing steeply to close at $31.43 per ounce, following a brief pause on Thursday. Rising Trend Index troughs indicate strong buying pressure and our target of $32 is likely to be broken.

Spot Silver

Gold also displays buying pressure, although the Trend Index rise is not as steep as Silver. Expect retracement to test the new support level at $2400 per ounce, but respect is likely and would confirm our target of $2500.

Spot Gold

The chart below from Jan Nieuwenhuijs shows Gold as a percentage of global central bank reserves, from 1880 to today. There is plenty of potential for holdings to increase as central banks attempt to diversify away from a Dollar-based global reserve currency.

Gold as a percentage of International Reserves

China: Gold Demand

China sold a record amount of Treasury and US agency bonds in the first quarter as it diversifies away from US financial assets. Bloomberg:

Beijing offloaded a total of $53.3 billion of Treasuries and agency bonds combined in the first quarter, according to calculations based on the latest data from the US Department of the Treasury. Belgium, often seen as a custodian of China’s holdings, disposed of $22 billion of Treasuries during the period.

China: Reserves

At the same time, China is rapidly increasing its official Gold holdings.

China: Gold Holdings

China’s domestic Gold price consistently shows a strong premium over the international price, currently RMB 567 per gram (Au99.99) versus 558.8 for the iAu99.99 international contract on the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The cause of strong domestic Gold demand is not hard to find.

China: Home Prices

Chinese investors have in the past favored residential real estate as a store of wealth but growth in real estate prices ended in 2021. Investors are now switching their focus to Gold.

Crude Oil

Nymex light crude respected support at $79 per barrel. Penetration of the secondary (orange) trendline would suggest that a base is forming. Lower crude oil and gasoline prices are likely to ease inflationary pressure.

Nymex Light Crude

Conclusion

Silver is the star performer of the week, rising steeply to close at $31.43 per ounce. Gold also broke resistance — breakout above $2400 per ounce offering a target of $2500.

Stocks are bullish after weaker than expected CPI growth for April. The S&P 500 is likely to respect support at 5200/5250, confirming our target of 5500.

Ten-year Treasury yields are also softening on weaker inflation data. Respect of resistance at 4.4% to 4.5% would offer a target between 4.1% and 4.2%. Lower yields are likely to weaken the Dollar, further boosting Gold and Silver prices.

China continues to switch its official reserves from US Treasuries to Gold. Coupled with strong domestic demand from Chinese investors — disillusioned with real estate and the weakening Yuan — combined official and private investor demand from China is expected to maintain upward pressure on bullion prices.

Acknowledgements

Made in Australia

The Australian labor market remains tight, even with unemployment rising to 4.1% in April. The trend (light blue) is at 4.0% — still well below its pre-pandemic low of 5.0%.

Unemployment

The economy is growing, with aggregate hours worked rising to 1,962m in April. The trend (light blue) still points upward.

Aggregate Monthly Hours Worked

Wage Rates

The wage price index (WPI) ticked lower, to 4.09% for the 12 months to March ’24, while quarterly growth fell to 0.8% (3.2% annualized), warning of further slowing ahead.

Wages Index

The chart below, from Shane Oliver, shows how inflation has eroded real wages (blue) over the last three years. Slowing nominal wage growth suggests that workers are going to struggle to restore real income to pre-pandemic levels.

Real Wages

Made in Australia

Treasurer Jim Chalmers revealed long-term plans to spend $22.7 billion on clean energy and strategic industries as part of Labor’s Future Made in Australia program. From the ABC (emphasis added):

Sydney-based SunDrive is one of the big winners of a budget that is investing major money into a “Future Made in Australia”.

The solar panel start-up has a new technology that replaces expensive silver with cheaper copper in a high-efficiency solar panel, developed from research done at UNSW.

But unlike previous Australian solar technology advances, which powered China’s dominance in producing panels, SunDrive’s founders want to manufacture at least some of their product onshore.

“Australia has led the world in solar innovation — today’s commercial solar cells were invented in Australia, Australia has held the world record efficiency for 30 of the last 40 years,” SunDrive CEO Vince Allen said.

“However, very little of the economic value that has been produced has been captured in Australia from its solar R&D efforts….”

Australia is unlikely to succeed in manufacturing any new technology at scale until it achieves structural reforms to boost the country’s international competitiveness. Costs of labor and energy are two of the largest impediments to establishing new industries here.

Australia enjoys similar median income to France, Germany, Canada and Japan — and similar electricity prices — but all of these countries are losing manufacturing industries to competitors with lower cost structures.

Electricity Prices in US$/kWh

The biggest impediment for many poorer countries is political stability and corruption. Countries, with lower cost structures, that can solve these two challenges are likely to attract new industry to their shores.

Conclusion

Real wages in Australia have been eroded by inflation over the last three years. Most major political parties seem to agree that the way to address inflation is to encourage immigration to drive down labor costs. That has backfired, with rising shelter costs contributing to stubbornly high CPI. Real GDP per capita instead is falling as a result of high immigration and high inflation.

The Australian economy is largely supported by mining, housing and service industries. The only way for government to re-establish a manufacturing base here, is to attract new investment by addressing structural issues that cause high manufacturing input costs. Offering incentives for a few high profile projects does not address the underlying structural issues and leaves them reliant on government handouts for their existence.

Acknowledgements

Progress…. with Chinese characteristics | Jim Grant

….Yet as the world’s second-largest economy continues to slog through the aftermath of its debt-driven economic miracle-cum-titanic housing bubble, policymakers put their best foot forward – with Chinese characteristics. Thus, aggregate financing fell by nearly RMB 200 billion in April from the prior month, data released over the weekend show, marking the first outright contraction in that metric of broad credit availability in nearly two decades.

True to form, the government looks to sweep those inconvenient figures under the rug, as Bloomberg relays that seven separate research notes from local brokerages commenting on that data release were scrubbed from the WeChat social media platform as of this morning.

Then, too, regulators have switched off live trading data showing foreign investment flows on the mainland Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges via the Stock Connect trading link. That move, which was telegraphed in an April announcement, follows word that foreign direct investment registered at just $10.3 billion during the first quarter, down 56% from the first three months of 2023.

~ Jim Grant, Grant’s Almost Daily

US consumer incomes and credit card debt

Many market commentators talk about the struggling US consumer, with rising costs forcing them to take on expensive debt, but this is not borne out by the data.

Real disposable personal income per capita (blue below) reached $50.4K in March, compared to the pre-pandemic peak of $48K in Feb 2020. The subsequent spike in 2020-21 was caused by a massive rise in government transfers (red) which have now almost completely subsided.

Real Disposable Personal Income Per Capita & Government Transfers

Average per capita income could conceal a skewed distribution towards high income-earners but median incomes don’t show this. Real median personal income fell from $41K in 2019 to $40.4K in 2020, recovering to $40.5K in 2022. Unfortunately that is the latest available data, but there is no sign of a reversal in the long-term up-trend, with the recent dip minor relative to most past recessions.

Real Median Personal Income

Consumer loans for credit cards and other revolving debt have climbed steeply relative to disposable personal income, reaching 5.06% in March 2024 (blue below). But the sharp fall in 2020-21 was the result of a spike in government transfers (red) and the ratio is no higher than pre-pandemic levels of 5.08% to 5.15% in 2019.

Credit Card Debt/Disposable Personal Income & Government Transfers/Disposable Personal Income

Conclusion

Government stimulus helped to soften the fall in incomes during the pandemic and assisted the post-pandemic recovery. Real per capita disposable income is at an all-time high outside of the pandemic stimulus in 2020-21 and real median personal income displays a strong up-trend. Credit cards and revolving consumer debt are also no higher than pre-pandemic levels relative to disposable personal income.

We feel that many commentators are too focused on the negatives and fail to recognize the robust performance of the American consumer.

True cost of US debt | Niall Ferguson

Ferguson’s Law states that any great power that spends more on debt service (interest payments on the national debt) than on defense will not stay great for very long. True of Hapsburg Spain, true of ancien régime France, true of the Ottoman Empire, true of the British Empire, this law is about to be put to the test by the US beginning this very year, when (according to the CBO) net interest outlays will be 3.1% of GDP, defense spending 3.0%.

Niall Ferguson: China, Russia, Iran axis is bad news for Trump and GOP isolationists – Bloomberg, 4/21/24

End of Dollar dominance | Michael Pettis

Because a world in which the US dollar and the US economy continues to play its current roles in accommodating deep structural imbalances is unsustainable, a major shift is inevitable and we can’t simply call on Washington to prevent any change.

The issue should be whether Washington directs this shift unilaterally, directs it in concert with major allies, or waits until unsustainable pressures force a much more disruptive adjustment.

It’s not whether things will change but how they change.

~ Michael Pettis

Gold, Crude, Copper and the Elephant

Gold, crude and copper is where the action is, while stocks and Treasuries take a back seat for the present.

Markets are signalling a reluctance to take on risk, while long-term Treasury yields threaten to trend higher.

We also revisit rising Treasury debt — the elephant in the room — and examine the CBO’s budget projections in more detail.

Crude Oil

Brent crude respected resistance at $84 per barrel, signaling a decline to below $80.

Brent Crude

Nymex light crude breach of support at $78 per barrel would confirm the reversal. A decline in crude oil is likely and would ease inflationary pressures, with the expected fall in long-term yields bullish for stocks, bonds and precious metals.

Nymex Light Crude

Crude oil production remains steady at a massive 13.1 million barrels per day according to the EIA report for the week to May 3.

EIA: Crude Oil Production

Inventories (including SPR) recovered to above 1.6 trillion barrels, while market concerns eased over Iran-Israel tensions.

EIA: Total Crude Oil and Petroleum Products (Incl. SPR) Inventory

Copper

Copper is testing short-term resistance at $10K per metric ton. Breakout is likely and would test major resistance (green) at $10.5K.

Copper

The rise, however, is caused by a production halt at Cobre Panama. Production could be resumed if the mine-owner First Quantum can reach agreement with the new president-elect Jose Raul Mulino. From Reuters:

Mulino, a 64-year-old former security minister, won Panama’s election on Sunday [May 5] with 34% of the vote and said his government would be pro-investment and pro-business, adding that the Central American country would honor its debts, while he vowed to not forget the poor. He won with the help of popular former President Ricardo Martinelli who was barred from running due to a money laundering conviction. Mulino, who served as security minister during Martinelli’s administration from 2009 to 2014, had been Martinelli’s vice presidential candidate and took his place.

Gold & the Dollar

The Dollar Index continues to test support at 105. Respect remains likely, with Trend Index troughs above zero signaling buying pressure, unless Janet Yellen at Treasury intervenes to weaken the Dollar in support of the UST market.

Dollar Index

Gold broke resistance at $2350 per ounce, signaling another advance. But first expect retracement to test the new support level. Respect would confirm a target of $2500 per ounce.

Spot Gold

Shanghai Gold Exchange domestic contract Au99.99 is trading at 553 RMB/gram, equivalent to a USD price of $2380 per ounce at the current USDCNY exchange rate of 7.2268.

Stocks

The S&P closed above 5200 on Friday but a doji candlestick and lower Trend Index peaks indicate a lack of enthusiasm from buyers.

S&P 500

The Russell 2000 small caps ETF (IWM) reflects the lack of broad market support for the rally, with Trend Index peaks below zero warning of selling pressure. Another test of support at 200 is likely.

Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

Financial Markets

Ten-year Treasury yields continue to test the band of support between 4.4% and 4.5%. Recovery above 4.5% would signal another test of 4.7%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Bitcoin is testing support at $61K. Follow-trough below say $60K would confirm the decline — initially signaled by breach of support at $64K — and warn that financial markets are moving to a risk-off position.

Bitcoin (BTC)

Commercial bank reserve balances at the Fed, however, grew by $78 billion in the week to May 8, indicating that financial market liquidity is improving.

Commercial Bank Reserves

Consumers

Consumer sentiment retreated to 67.4 in the University of Michigan survey for May 2024, but the up-trend continues.

University of Michigan: Consumer Sentiment

Five-year inflation expectations jumped to 3.1% but the three-month moving average, ranging between 2.9% and 3.0%, signals little change in the long-term outlook.

University of Michigan: 5-Year Inflation Expectations

The Elephant in the Room

Last week we published a note suggesting that investors were distracted by short-term noise and ignoring the elephant in the room — the precarious level of US federal debt. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that Treasury debt will grow to a clearly unsustainable 172% of GDP by 2034.

CBO: Debt-to-GDP

The US fiscal deficit is projected to grow from $1.6 trillion in 2024 to $2.6 trillion by 2034. Remember: all projections are wrong, but some are useful.

CBO: Projected Deficits

Often the most useful part of a projection is the underlying assumptions.

Real GDP growth below is a modest 1.5% in 2024, reaching 2.2% by 2026 — nothing controversial there. But the inflation projection is Pollyannaish, assuming a steady CPI decline from 3.2% in 2023 to 2.2% by 2034 — totally unrealistic if the budget deficit is to remain at close to 6.0% of GDP.

CBO: Economic Projections

Assumed inflation (above) also impacts on projected nominal interest rates, with the projected fed funds rate declining to 2.9% by 2027 and 10-year Treasury yields to a low 3.8%. Every 1.0% overshoot in inflation would be likely to cause a similar increase in both long- and short-term interest rates.

The budget projection below is equally unrealistic. Defense spending, the CBO would have us believe, declines to 2.5% of GDP by 2034. Given rising geopolitical tensions with Russia-China-Iran, defense spending is likely to exceed the long-term average of 4.2%.

CBO: Budget Projections

Net interest is budgeted to grow from 2.4% of GDP to 3.9% of GDP by 2034 but is based on unrealistic interest rate projections.

CBO: Interest Rate Projections

Treasury debt is likely to grow a lot faster than projections — because of the likely understatement of both defense spending and interest costs. That means that debt held by the “public” will have to grow a lot higher than the $48.3 trillion projected by 2034. If real interest rates are too low, any shortfall in take up by the public will have to be absorbed directly or indirectly by the Fed.

Conclusion

Rising inventory and easing Middle East tensions have weakened crude oil prices. A long-term decline in crude would be likely to relieve inflationary pressures and allow the Fed to cut interest rates.

Copper is rising steeply due to supply shortages, but prices could fall just as rapidly if the Cobre Panama mine is reopened by the new president-elect.

Gold broke resistance at $2350 per ounce, signaling another advance. Retracement that confirms the new support level at $2350 would offer a target of $2500.

Long-term Treasury yields are testing support. Respect of support is likely and would confirm the recent up-trend.

Perceptions of market risk are rising, with Bitcoin testing support at $61K and the Russell 2000 small caps ETF (IWM) warning of selling pressure.

Financial market liquidity, however, recovered slightly in the last week.

Consumer sentiment continues to trend higher, while long-term inflation expectations remain steady at close to 3.0%.

The elephant in the room remains Treasury debt, with CBO projections understating likely deficits due to unrealistic assumptions for inflation, interest rates and defense spending. Debt issuance by Treasury is expected to exceed demand from foreign investors and the general public, leaving the shortfall to be absorbed by the Fed or commercial banks.

The result is likely to be higher long-term inflation, boosting real asset prices while eroding the value of financial assets.

We are long-term bullish on Gold, Defensive stocks, the Heavy Electrical sector, and Critical Materials (Lithium and Copper). The last two stand to benefit from the energy transition. We are also overweight short-term financial assets with duration of 2 years or less:  Mortgages, Term Deposits and Money Market Funds.

We remain underweight Growth stocks — which we consider overpriced — and long-duration financial assets.

Acknowledgements

ASX sector performance

The ASX 200 jumped sharply yesterday but ran into resistance at 7800 today. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of secondary selling pressure and another test of support at the recent lows (orange line) is likely.

ASX 200

The 6-month chart shows the up-trend losing momentum. Breakout above 7900 is less likely but would offer a target of 8200.

ASX 200

Economy

The real cash rate (cash rate minus CPI) remains close to zero, reflecting easy monetary policy despite rate hikes in 2023.

Real Cash Rate

But declining credit growth warns that economic growth is slowing.

Credit & Broad Money Growth

Consumer sentiment is lower than in the 2008 financial crisis — the result of high inflation from negative real interest rates after the pandemic.

Consumer Sentiment

Sectors

The 6-month chart of Financials shows the up-trend losing momentum, as with the ASX 200.

ASX 200 Financials

Net interest margins of the major banks remain under pressure.

Major Bank Net Interest Margins

Consumer Staples are in a down-trend after breaking primary support (red below). Trend Index peaks at zero warn of selling pressure.

ASX 200 Staples

A-REITs are still in an up-trend but declining Trend Index peaks warn of selling pressure.

ASX 200 A-REITs

Health Care threatened a primary down-trend after breaking support at 42K but has since recovered — a bullish sign.

ASX 200 Health Care

Consumer Discretionary is also losing momentum — similar to Financials.

ASX 200 Discretionary

Telecommunications are in a strong down-trend, with the Trend Index breaking below zero.

ASX 200 Telecommunications

Information Technology is outperforming, with accelerating trendlines and rising Trend Index troughs above zero.

ASX 200 Information Technology

Utilities is another bright star, displaying similar accelerating trendlines and rising Trend Index troughs above zero.

ASX 200 Utilities

Energy is testing primary support at 10K with a bearish Trend Index declining below zero.

ASX 200 Energy

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is attempting a recovery. Breakout above 6100 would be a bullish sign, while respect would warn of another test of primary support at 5600.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

The All Ordinaries Gold index is in a strong up-trend. Respect of support at 7500 would signal another advance with a target of 8500. Breach of support, however, would signal another test of 7000.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

Conclusion

The ASX 200 is losing momentum. So are Financials, A-REITs and Consumer Discretionary.

Staples and Telecommunications are in a down-trend and likely to be joined by Energy.

Health Care and Metals & Mining show signs of recovery but further confirmation is needed.

The All Ordinaries Gold index is in a strong up-trend. Respect of support at 7500 would confirm another advance but breach of support, while less likely, would test 7000.

Acknowledgements

The elephant in the room

A weak seasonally-adjusted increase of 175K in non-farm payrolls had a surprisingly bullish effect on stocks. The increased prospect of rate cuts from the Fed excited investors. The opposite of what one would expect from a sign that the economy is slowing.

Markets are focused on the immediate impact of shifts in data and policy but ignoring the elephant in the room — the long term consequences of current monetary and fiscal policy.

Labor market

Job growth slowed to 175K jobs in April, the lowest since October 2023.

Non-Farm Employment

Average hourly earnings growth remained low at 0.20% in April (2.4% annualized), signaling that inflationary pressures are easing.

Average Hourly Earnings Growth

The unemployment rate is still low at 3.9%. The Sahm Recession Indicator is at 0.37. Devised by former Fed economist Claudia Sahm, the indicator signals the start of a recession when the red line below rise to 0.50%.

The Sahm Rule signals the start of a recession when the three-month moving average of the national unemployment rate (U3) rises by 0.50 percentage points or more relative to the minimum of the three-month averages from the previous 12 months.

The rule has proved a reliable recession indicator in the past but we need to remember that: (a) it is not a leading indicator and normally only crosses above 0.5% after the start of a recession; and (b) this is a far from normal labor market.

Sahm Rule & Unemployment Rate

Non-residential construction jobs are way above previous highs as the industry benefits from fiscal spending on infrastructure and the drive to on-shore key industries such as semiconductors.

Non-Residential Construction Jobs

Average hourly earnings growth (green below) slowed to 4.0% for the 12 months to April (for production and non-supervisory employees) indicating that inflationary pressures are easing. In the past, average hourly earnings growth above the unemployment rate (blue) has caused high inflation as in the 1970s (red circle).

Unemployment Rate & Average Hourly Earnings Growth

Economic Activity

Aggregate weekly hours worked are growing at an annual rate of 1.8%. This is below the rate of real GDP growth, suggesting either that (a) productivity gains from AI and other new technologies are having an effect; or (b) real GDP growth is likely to slow.

Real GDP & Aggregate Hours Worked

The GDPNow model from the Atlanta Fed forecasts an optimistic 3.3% annualized real growth rate in Q2.

GDPNow

But the Lewis-Mertens-Stock Weekly Economic Index is far more cautious at an annualized rate of 1.7% for Q2 (so far).

Real GDP & Weekly Economic Index

ISM Services PMI declined to 49.4% for April, indicating a contraction in the large services sector. Earlier, the ISM Manufacturing PMI was slightly weaker, at 49.2%.

ISM Services

The Services New Orders sub-index remains above zero, suggesting some improvement ahead.

ISM Services - New Orders

The Employment sub-index, however, shows a sharp contraction, falling to 45.9%. The services sector is the major employer in the economy and the negative outlook warns that overall jobs growth could slow rapidly.

ISM Services - Employment

The Prices sub-index, on the other hand, warns of persistent inflation, rebounding to a strong 59.2%.

ISM Services - Prices

Financial Markets

Bitcoin rallied strongly to again test resistance at $64K. Respect of resistance, signaled by a fall below $61K, would confirm the down-trend and warn of contracting liquidity in financial markets.

Bitcoin (BTC)

The Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index recovered slightly to -0.47, also warning that easy monetary conditions are receding.

Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index

Ten-year Treasury yields declined on news of the weak labor report, testing support at 4.5%. Breach would indicate a decline to 4.2%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

The S&P 500 jumped above resistance at 5100, suggesting another test of resistance at 5250. But we first expect retracement to test support.

S&P 500

Gold & the Dollar

The Dollar weakened in line with falling Treasury yields, with the Dollar Index testing support at 105. Breach would signal a correction, with follow-through below 104 signaling end of the up-trend.

Dollar Index

Gold continues to test support at $2300 per ounce. If support holds, with recovery above $2350, the shallow correction would be a bull signal, suggesting another strong advance. Otherwise, a test of $2200 is likely.

Spot Gold

Crude Oil

Brent crude broke support at $84 per barrel as tensions in the Middle East ease. Follow-through below support at $82 would warn that the up-trend has weakened and is likely to reverse.

Brent Crude

Conclusion

Financial markets, like Pavlov’s dog, are conditioned to react bullishly to rate cuts. Long-term Treasury yields declined and stocks jumped in response to a weak labor report. However, weak jobs growth is not a bull signal, suggesting that the economy is likely to slow. This is borne out by a weak ISM Services PMI for April, warning of a contraction.

The unemployment rate remains low but average hourly earnings growth is declining, indicating that inflationary pressures are easing. ISM Prices sub indices for both Manufacturing and Services, however, warn of strong producer price pressures.

Brent crude broke its rising trendline and follow-through below the next support level at $82 per barrel would warn of reversal to test primary support at $75. Declining energy prices would help to ease inflationary pressures.

The Fed is likely to hold off cutting rates until the outlook for inflation is clearer.

Gold could weaken to $2200 per ounce in the short- to medium-term — if it can break stubborn support at $2300. But we remain long-term bullish on Gold. The elephant in the room is Government debt which is growing at a rate of more than $1 trillion a year, with little prospect of a bipartisan agreement in Congress to address the shortfall. The chart below shows the bipartisan CBO’s projection of federal debt as a percentage of GDP from 2024 to 2054.

CBO Projections of Federal Debt

The only practical way to solve this is to increase GDP at a faster rate than the debt, through inflation. That would erode the real value of the debt but is likely to send Gold and other real assets soaring.

Acknowledgements



Australian CPI disappoints

CPI disappointed, coming in at 1.0% for the March quarter, against expectations of 0.8%. The year-on-year measure declined to 3.6% but there are some worrying signs for the RBA.

Australian CPI

Non-tradable inflation — reflecting domestic goods and services as opposed to imports — remains high at 5.0%.

Australian CPI - Non-Tradable

That includes rent inflation which jumped to a year-on-year rate of 7.8%.

Australian CPI - Rent

It is also distorted by low electricity price inflation at 2.0% which has been adjusted downwards by inclusion of government Energy Bill Relief Rebates. The increase before rebates is 17.0% according to the ABS.

Australian CPI - Electricity

Alex Joiner from IFM Investors shows the Sticky Inflation rate for Australia, calculated using the Atlanta Fed methodology, is at a similar rate to non-tradable inflation:

Australian CPI - Sticky Inflation

Conclusion

Prospects of rate cuts from the RBA in 2024 are fading. Long-term government bond rates jumped on release of the report, with the 10-year AGB yield rising to 4.38%. Rising long-term rates are bearish for stocks but particularly for A-REITs.

ASX 200 A-REITs

Acknowledgements