Monday, September 24, 2007


The following is yet another snippet of history to show that now is a good time to BUY, BUY, BUY.

A decline or near decline in the price of the average house is a rare phenomenon. Right now, it is interesting to notice that the cost of new construction, including a lot in a good location continues to rise, even while folks belly ache about a fall in the value of homes. One of the tenets of economics is that "clearing prices" are reached. Yes, the supply of unsold homes on the market is large, especially when looked at in terms of months needed to clear the inventory at the current sales pace. The problem with this popular measure (especially popular with those making the bear case) is the "double leverage" involved. Other numbers show that building permits and starts have fallen dramatically. On the demand side, the numbers show that mortgage applications are already on the rise. In just the past two or three weeks, the bears have said again and again that mortgages are not available.

I am trying to make two points here: 1) that the housing "debacle" is not as bad as it is perceived to be, and 2) the housing debacle has not killed the bull market in stocks.

The following are the 5 times during my life that housing prices were flat or negative over a full year and the increase in the S&P 500 over the next year.

September 1982 44%
November 1990 33%
July 1992 15%
February 1993 8%
April 1995 39%


I like the last entry the best because April of 1995 was right at our previous mid cycle turn. The most recent pattern is in my opinion the one that will be most closely followed in this cycle.


The financial news media is always in search of the next headline. The recent one has been the fall in the US Dollar. Here again, I like the pattern set in April of 1995, when the dollar bottomed just as the pundits were saying that housing was killing the economy.

There are logical reasons why the bottom in the housing market coincides with the bottom in the dollar. Canadians are currently in a state of euphoria over the value of the Loonie. For the first time in 31 years, Canadians can trade a Loonie for a dollar and get back change. For a number of years, Americans could trade a US Dollar for a Loonie and get a quarter or more in change. This is big news for Myrtle Beach and many other coastal communities. When I was a kid, Myrtle Beach had Canadian Day Parades. These celebrations were held during the early spring, when it was still too cold for Americans to consider Myrtle Beach as a vacation destination. Florida resorts are also celebrating the return of the Loons!

The Euro Dollar has also appreciated substantially. The European can trade for a dollar and get more than 40 cents change. Just a few years ago, Americans could trade for a Euro Dollar and get about 20 cents change.

In April of 1995, the winds of change were blowing as they are now. Many a European and Canadian will make out very well by purchasing a US home now. The European might use one million Euros to buy a $1.4 million luxury home in the states. The price of this home will appreciate substantially as soon as the market clears. Even if it were to only hold its value, the return would be 40% to the European if he held the home until the US Dollar and the Euro Dollar reach parity again. While there is no guarantee that parity will ever be reached again, the history of the move after the mid cycle correction of 1994 says that it will.


Should the US dollar strengthen, the price of oil in terms of Euro Dollars will soar. The law of substitution, which is already going 90 miles per hour in 3rd gear, will hit overdrive. No one knows where new supply smashes into new demand but it is clear that that there is going to be a collision between millions of small cars and scores of super large oil refineries. In Port Arthur, Texas, Shell and Saudi Arabia will more than double output about a year after the first of the Vietnamese super refineries comes on line.

Just in recent weeks, wholesale traders in the US have been reluctant to hold inventories of oil as the amount of natural gas in storage is near record levels, gas producers are being forced to slow down or shut down production and the price of natural gas is down to 47% of the price of oil in BTU terms. Of course, natural gas storage capacity is not enough to supply all our winter time needs with natural gas but a mild winter could see a steady decline in the price of heating oil. Any facility set up to burn gas or oil will go with the less expensive gas until supplies are diminished.


Ken Fisher notes that when the financial press cannot find negative economic statistics to whine about, they write about global warming or Paris Hilton. Ken avoids making this a political point but in truth it is. The steady push in most media outlets is anti-Bush, anti-business, anti-war and pro-government "solutions". Of course, the exceptions to the rule, such as talk radio outlets and Fox News, prove the rule. Pretty soon, the stock markets should benefit from a change in sentiment. A "Feel Good Factor" is going to emerge. We have moved into the prosperity phase of the business cycle. During this phase, real wages and incomes of the average citizen will rise to the point that the constantly negative "news" will not sell well. As Andy Warhol taught us many years ago, the "news" is a reflection of the feelings of the people. During a time when the "bad news" does not sell, "good news" will be more prominent. Of course, the market top will come after the public has received a steady diet of "good news".

My "good news" for you today is that the process of building a market top is just getting started. Keep a close watch and you will notice a very gradual shift in the news. Also keep in mind that the kinds of advertising that you will see will also change. You will see lots of ads for companies like Boeing that are making all the planes they can make. Of course, the right time to buy shares in this company was several years ago. It will not go down in price for many years to come but its upward price momentum has already peaked. It takes a long time for the "big boys" to distribute their holdings to the public. Of course, the media outlets that sell these large corporate ads will be the outlets that survive. Do you think it coincidence that positive "news" articles and corporate ads will accompany one another, or soon before or after?

Yes, be a skeptic but be a wealthy skeptic. A fun market is headed our way.


No one knows the ultimate outcome of the current fight for budget and campaign dollars. Funds are flowing in all directions. Powerful "special" interests are playing hard ball. In this crazy but necessary game of horse trading, many in power are willing to vote to spend billions annually for years to come on all sorts of wasteful schemes, provided they "win" the goodies they want for themselves. Senator Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, is one of the current key power players. I do not believe Grassley is for a $35 Billion add on to a disruptive health care plan, but he is willing to vote for it to establish a strong bargaining chip. Almost everyone in the House and Senate would agree that health care reform is needed but none of them would honestly say that the $35 billion dollar would be their personal first step.

Again, I have good news. So far, Congress has been unable to pass much of anything. This is good news for America and good news for the markets. As we have seen time and again, lots of bad legislation passes when one party is in control. Bush will veto the worst of the spending. Unfortunately, to get a dose of his own sugar, he will swallow some bitter medicine. Still, all in all, the compromises reached will not harm the economy badly. As a general rule, the economy will do very well for as long as the government stays out of the way.

BUY, BUY, BUY the fight will be over in a few weeks and members of congress will go home to take credit their "wins". That is one of the good things about a good compromise, all can claim to have won. These wins will become part of the "FELL GOOD" cycle discussed above. When corporations, the news media and the congress combines to tell the "good story", it will be natural for the masses to "FEEL GOOD". BUY, BUY, BUY!