The Biggest Trap of European QE

The cat is out of the bag. The ECB will buy up to euro60 billion a month from March 2015 to September 2016. Purchased assets will include government bonds, debt securities by European institutions and private-sector bonds.

Why? Eurozone inflation is negative. Deflation is bad news, and pumping money (QE) into financial markets is hoped to fight deflation and spark inflation.

Inflation, by definition, erodes the value of a currency. The obvious conclusion; eurozone QE should send the euro lower.

But if something is too obvious, it can obviously wrong.

Let’s take a look at what U.S. QE did for the U.S. dollar.

The chart below plots the U.S. Dollar Index against the various QE programs.

QE1 saw wild dollar swings, but no discernable down side bias. In fact, the dollar rallied when QE fist started.

QE2 didn’t sink the dollar either and the greenback actually rallied during QE3/4.

Headlines like ‘Why quantitative easing is likely to trigger a collapse of the U.S. Dollar’ proved incorrect.

The euro lost 18% since May 2014. This is one of the most pronounced declines in recent history.

In 2008 the euro lost 23.1% before bouncing back, in 2009/10 21.5%. Technical support for the euro is not far below current trade, so shorting the euro is akin to picking up pennies in front of a train.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, investors should put the CurrencyShares Euro ETF (NYSEArca: FXE) on their shopping list and start exiting the PowerShares DB US Dollar Bullish ETF (NYSEArca: UUP).

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar ReportThe Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

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Will the Absence of QE Continue to Melt Gold?

The Fed just announced that sterilized QE is over, done, toast. Gold prices have crashed, slicing through a 15-month support shelf like a knife through butter. But, are QE and gold really connected? This chart shows the surprising truth.

Here are two facts (most investors will say they are not random):

  1. QE is over.
  2. Gold is crashing.

Here is a key question:

Is gold crashing because QE is over?

To get the answer, we’ll do two things: 1) Rewind and 2) Reason.

Rewind Time to 2008

Gold’s last big bull market leg started in October 2008, right after the Federal Reserve unleashed QE1.

Investors feared inflation due to the massive liquidity influx. Gold was considered as the default inflation hedge and prices soared from $680/oz to $1,900/oz.

At first glance it seems like QE1 buoyed gold. The inverse conclusion is that the end of QE may well sink gold.

Reason & Facts

During QE1, gold prices, and gold ETFs like the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD), gained 34%.

QE2 lifted GLD by 10%.

But, and that’s a big but, throughout QE3/QE4 GLD lost 32%.

The chart below plots GLD against a visual description of QE1 – QE4. QE3 and QE4 are lumped into one graph (light green) to illustrate the combined effect of both programs.

QE3 started when gold was still trading near $1,800/oz ($175 for GLD). It’s been down hill ever since.

Gold rallied during QE1 and QE2 and declined during QE3 and QE4. Statistically, the evidence shows a 50% chance that QE may or may not have affected gold prices.

I realize that there are other factors in play, but one takeaway from this chart is that the absence of QE in itself is not necessarily terrible for gold and GLD.

More Facts

The December 29, 2013 Profit Radar Report featured the following gold forecast for the year ahead:

Gold prices have steadily declined since November, but we haven’t seen a capitulation sell off yet. Capitulation is generally the last phase of a bear market. It flushes out weak hands. Prices can’t stage a lasting rally as long as weak hands continue to sell every bounce.

Gold sentiment is very bearish (bullish for gold) and prices may bounce from here. However, without prior capitulation, any rally is built on a shaky foundation and unlikely to spark a new bull market.

We would like to see a new low (below the June low at 1,178). There’s support at 1,162 – 1,155 and 1,028 – 992. Depending on the structure of any decline, we would evaluate if it makes sense to buy around 1,160 or if a drop to 1,000 +/- is more likely.”

Obviously much has happened since December 29, and the levels mentioned back then may need some tweaking. Nevertheless, gold has fallen below 1,178 and is trading near the 1,155 support level.

In addition, gold sentiment has soured quite a bit. Two recent CNBC articles expected gold prices to drop below $1,000 and trade at $800 next year.

The Commitment of Traders report shows increased pessimism, but not historically extreme pessimism.

The chewed out adage that fishing for a bottom is like catching a falling knife obviously applies to anyone looking to buy gold.

But based on a composite analysis of fundamentals, sentiment and price action, the falling golden knife is closer to the kitchen floor than the hand that dropped it.

The latest Profit Radar Report includes a detailed strategy on how to buy gold with minimum risk and maximum rewards.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Dare to Compare – Could the End of QE Crash Stocks Like in 2010 and 2011?

The S&P 500 dropped 17% right after QE1 ended and 20% right after QE2 ran out? Will stocks crash again now that QE3 and QE4 have been completed? Here is the only visual QE history chart along with an unexpected conclusion.

QE1 ended on March 31, 2010. Shortly thereafter the S&P 500 dropped as much as 17.12%.

QE2 ended on June 20, 2011. Shortly thereafter the S&P 500 dropped as much as 20.76%.

Fed officials are expected to end asset purchases (QE3 and QE4) at the next FOMC meeting on October 28-29. Will stocks crater like they did in 2010 and 2011?

QE History & Comparison

QE1 started in December 2008 with $660 billion, was expanded by $1,050 billion in March 2009, and ended in March 2010.

QE2’s $600 billion asset purchase injection started in November 2010 and lasted until June 2011.

QE3 started in September 2012 at a rate of $40 billion per month.

QE4 started in December 2012 at a rate of $45 billion per month.

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Starting in January 2014, QE3 and QE4 have been reduced gradually by $5 billion per month.

QE3 and QE4 have already been wound down to combined monthly purchases of $15 billion, and Fed officials said they expect to end asset purchases after the October 28-29 meeting.

Will the QE3 and QE4 withdrawal shock the system (aka stock market) as QE1 and QE2 did?

QE After Shock?

I’m a visual person and find that a picture (or chart) really says more than a thousand words.

Here is a simple, visual explanation of the various QE programs. This is the only QE history chart on the web, and was originally published in the October 5 Profit Radar Report. QE1, QE2, QE3 and QE4 are illustrated by various shades of green, because green is the color of money (chart courtesy of the Profit Radar Report).

Illustrated are the monthly dollar purchases. Exact monthly asset purchase data for QE1 and QE2 is not readily available, so the amounts shown are based on total committed funds divided by the number of months the program was in effect.

QE3 and QE4 differ from QE1 and QE2 and two important ways:

1) The asset purchases under QE1 and QE2 were more significant than the asset purchases under QE3 and QE4.

2) QE1 and QE2 stopped cold turkey. The Federal Reserve obviously learned from the almost instant S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) selloffs and equipped QE3 and QE4 with the ‘taper’.

Purely theoretical, the actual end of QE3 and QE4 could be a non-event, and should be much less noticeable than the end of QE1 and QE2.

Why Did the S&P 500 Just Lose 200 Points?

But, if that’s the case, why did the S&P 500 just lose as much as 200 points?

Investors may have simply sold stocks in anticipation of QE ending. Sometimes it’s all about mind of matter. If investors mind (that QE is ending) it matters, at least temporarily. In addition, the Dow Jones reached an important technical resistance level on September 17. The Profit Radar Report predicted that this resistance level would increase the risk of a correction.

It is undeniable that the various QE programs have driven asset prices higher. It would be intuitive to conclude that the absence of QE (at least sterilized QE) will send stocks lower.

But the stock market is not always intuitive and doesn’t conform to investors’ expectations.

Furthermore, despite the end of QE, the stock market has not yet displayed the classic pattern of a major market top, the kind of pattern that foreshadowed the 1987, 2000 and 2007 highs. Here’s what I mean: The Missing Ingredient for a Major Bull Market Top

In summary, I wouldn’t sell stocks just because QE is ending.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar ReportThe Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Federal Reserve – How to Tame the Monster it Created

Thanks to quantitative easing (QE) stocks are up 130% and more. The Fed created a monster of a rally, but how do you tame the monster without killing it? As the most recent Fed minutes indicated, it may be ‘easier’ than some think.

Never under estimate the psychological power of a dangling carrot. For years the Federal Reserve used the promise of more QE as an incentive (carrot) to drive stocks higher.

This has worked well. Too well. The Dow Jones, Russell 2000 and other major indexes are trading at all time highs and the Fed’s next challenge is to tame the monster (rally) it created without killing it.

How can this be done? Perhaps with the ‘reverse dangling carrot approach.’ Before we talk about the reverse carrot approach, let’s review how the ‘dangling carrot approach’ works.

The ‘Dangling Carrot Approach’

At how many post FOMC meeting conferences did we hear Ben Bernanke assure Wall Street that the Federal Reserve is ready and willing to assist?

From July – November 2010 Bernanke’s steady assurance was nearly as potent as QE2. Do you remember the August 2010 Jackson Hole summit? Bernanke then said: “I believe that additional purchases of longer-term securities … would be effective in further easing financial conditions.”

The placebo QE effect was strong enough to lift the S&P 18% before QE2 became official on November 2, 2011. Thereafter the S&P 500 rallied another 16% to the April 2011 high. QE2 ended in June 2011.

From October 2011 – September 2012 the Fed did nothing more than dangle the QE3 hopium carrot and the S&P 500 rallied 36%. QE3 was finally announced in September 2012, followed by “QE4” (replacement of Operation Twist by outright Treasury purchases).

Containing The Fed Monster – The ‘Reverse Dangling Carrot Approach’

From 2009 – 2012 the Fed talked up QE and stocks. Today the S&P 500 trades 135% above its 2009 low and the Fed knows it created a monster (rally). The Fed also knows that everyone else knows this is a phony funny money rally.

How can the Fed contain the monster it created – take away the punchbowl without causing a severe hangover. The ‘reverse dangling carrot approach’ is born.

Dropping hints about more QE contained the bear market, so dropping hints about reducing QE should tame the QE bull market. This process may have already begun.

The release of the Fed minutes on February 20, showed dissention among committee members about the duration and scope of QE.

Whether this division over the issue is real or just a new PR strategy to contain the Fed monster, I do not know. But we do know that stocks sold off right after the Fed minutes were released.

Just like controlled fires can stimulate a forest, the Fed may try to light ‘controlled burns’ to manage the stock market. As in nature, the summer time (starting in May) is a good time for a ‘controlled burn’ on Wall Street. Shareholders should plan accordingly.

I personally view the Fed like an unwelcome guest. Some guests bring happiness wherever they go. Some (like the Fed), whenever they go. Unfortunately, the Fed’s comment about leaving (scaling back QE) appear to be only a tease.

Glaring but Misunderstood QE – How Much the Fed is Really Spending

QE1, QE2, QE3, expiring Operation Twist, and now QE4. Which of those programs are “sterilized” (non-inflationary) and which ones devalue the dollar? If you’ve lost track, here’s a quick visual summary.

Will Operation Twist be replaced by outright QE was a question addressed here early in December. As it turns out, the Fed decided to do just that.

We now have multiple layers of QE working simultaneously. What’s the total amount being spent and will inflation finally take off?

QE Tally

There are three official tranches of quantitative easing (QE):

1) QE3, announced on September 13, 2012. The Federal Reserve will buy $40 billion per month worth of mortgage-backed securities.

2) QE4, announced on December 12, 2012. The Federal Reserve will buy $45 billion per month worth of longer term Treasuries (corresponding ETF: iShares Barclays 20+ Treasury ETFTLT).

QE4 will be replacing Operation Twist in 2013. Operation Twist is considered “sterilized” or cash neutral QE. Operation Twist simply reshuffled the balanced sheet (sell shorter term in favor of longer term maturities). It did not expand the balance sheet.

Unlike Operation Twist, QE4 will be financed by “non-sterilized” or freshly printed money. This process increases the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and the amount of money in circulation.

3) Reinvestment of maturing securities. In a December 12 press release, the Federal Reserve stated: “The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings mortgage-backed securities and, in January, will resume rolling over maturing Treasury at auction.” This amounts to roughly $25 billion/month of sterilized QE.

In total, the Federal Reserve will buy $110 billion worth of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities every month until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5% and inflation remains below 2.5%.

The first chart below illustrates QE3, QE4, and reinvestments separately and how the three layers combined compare with QE1 and QE2.

The second chart provides a more detailed glimpse of the Fed’s balance sheet (and a mere glimpse is all mere mortals are allowed).

The Fed’s balance sheet as of November 21, 2012 stood at $2.84 trillion and is expected to balloon another $1 trillion over the next 12 months.

Currently $966 billion or 34% are invested in agency debt, mainly mortgage-backed securities. In other words, one of every three dollars in circulation is backed by toxic assets, the same stuff that caused the “Great Recession.”

Inflation

Inflation, where art thou? The Fed’s balance sheet exploded from below $1 trillion to nearly $3 trillion, but inflation (let alone hyper inflation) has been a no show.

Will the current round of QE deliver on inflationist’s predictions? I doubt it.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.

Can QE Bail Out the Stock Market Once Again?

Stocks faltered during QE1 and recovered. Stocks also tumbled during QE2 and rallied back to new recovery highs. From its September high the S&P 500 has already lost 100 points, will QE3 bail out the stock market again?

QE3 looks like the Fed’s biggest boomerang yet. Bernanke announced QE3 on September 13. The S&P closed at 1,460 on this faithful day and recorded a new multi-year recovery high the very next day (1,474.51). Since then the S&P 500 is down 6%, the Nasdaq-100 nearly 10%, and Apple about 23%.

Can QE3 bail out stocks once again?

Based on the QE track record the answer is a plain and simple: Yes.

However, this may not be the time to take a plain vanilla approach. QE3 is the same animal as QE2, but a different breed and even QE2 had some serious genetic flaws that showed up on stock charts as big gashes.

QE2 vs. QE3 – Same Animal, Different Breed

Back in November 2010, I wrote an article on the correlation between the Fed’s Permanent Open Market Purchases (POMO, also known as QE2) and the S&P 500.

Specific transactions, such as coupon purchases of $3.5 billion or larger (back then the Fed was buying Treasuries), resulted in positive S&P performance 89% of the time (when there were no POMO buys, the S&P was up 58% of the time).

Via QE2 the Federal Reserve bought an average of $75 billion worth of Treasuries a month. Via QE3 the Federal Reserve is buying $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) per month.

In Addition, throughout November, the Federal Reserve will purchase $47 billion worth of long-term Treasuries (maturities from 2018 – 2042) and sell $37 billion worth of shorter-term Treasuries (maturities from 2013 – 2015).

The net amount of securities purchased by the Federal Reserve (in November and December) will be $50 billion, compared to about $75 billion during QE2 (I’m not sure if the Fed is still reinvesting maturing Treasuries and if it will extend Operation Twist, scheduled to expire at the end of the year).

QE2 – Not Everything That Shines is Gold

The thought of QE2 triggers images of relentlessly rising stock indexes. Sandwiched in between those “market on steroids” segments, however, were nasty selloffs. One in March 2011 (Japan earthquake) and one in May 2011 (the May 2010 and July 2011 meltdowns happened right after QE1 and QE2 ended).

From the beginning to the end of QE2 the S&P gained only 11%. The chart below shows exactly when the various QE’s started, when they ended, how much stocks gained, and the selloffs in between.

QE doesn’t guarantee higher prices, but thus far in this QE bull market stocks have always been able to recover from any decline and move on to bigger and better highs. Will this be the case again?

Technical Indicators

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones didn’t show any major breadth divergences at their September highs and there are some giant open chart gaps, which suggests that prices will indeed end up recovering some of the recent losses.

So the odds for an eventual year-end rally are good (not sure if it will reach new recovery highs), but we haven’t seen panic selling or bullish price/RSI divergences that would point to any sort of more permanent bottom (we may say a daily price/RSI divergence at today’s close).

At the Profit Radar Report we will simply continue to adjust the stop-loss level for our short positions. This virtually guarantees a profitable trade and exposes us to all the profit potential on the short side. We will take profits once indictors tell us a bottom is near.

The Profit Radar Report monitors money flow, seasonality, sentiment, technicals and other developments to identify low risk and high probability trades and investment opportunities for subscribers.

VIDEO: Will QE3 Drive Treasury Bonds to New All-Time Highs?

Now that QE3 is here we have to talk about the elephant in the room; Treasury bond yields and Treasury bond prices. The purpose of QE3 and Operation Twist is to lower yields. Will it work and is there an investment opportunity?

The Federal Reserve is buying Treasury bonds (more via Operation Twist than QE3). According to the law of supply and demand this should result in higher T-bond prices and lower yields.

This video looks at the historic effect QE and Operation Twist had on 30-year Treasury prices (cause and effect) and identifies the next high probability trade set ups.

ETFs that track long-term Treasuries are the iShares Barclays 20+ year Treasury ETF (TLT) and its double inverse cousin, the UltraShort 20+ year Treasury ProShares (TBT).

Continuous analysis of long-term Treasuries is provided via the Profit Radar Report.

>> Click here to watch video on Treasury bonds.