“Woe to the land whose king is a child and whose leaders are already drunk in the morning. Happy the land whose king is a nobleman, and whose leaders work hard before they feast and drink, and then only to strengthen themselves for the tasks ahead”. (Eccl 10: 16-17)

"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fed's Balance Sheet not growing but not shrinking much either

Take a quick look at the chart below to get a sense of what is taking place as a result of the cessation of the Fed's QE2 program and the inception of its "Operation Twist".

Recall that Operation Twist is nothing more than a rolling over of maturing shorter term Treasury debt into longer term Treasury debt in a deliberate attempt by the Federal Reserve to manipulate the rate of interest on the longer end of the yield curve.

While I personally find the idea that a small group of individuals presumes to be able to determine the exact rate of interest to fine tune an economy and make in move in the direction of their choice to be repugnant, it is what it currently is. I believe this constant interference into the interest rate sector is causing more complications than it is supposedly curing. It was the lowering of interest rates down to 45 year old levels some while back that paved the way for all this malinvestment and contributed to the excess that we are all too sadly aware of by now.

The notion that the same people who were partly responsible for creating this mess are the saviors to rescue us from it is laughable for its stupidity.

That being said, the Street loves nothing more than a Fed-induced liquidity party. As you can see, during both episodes of Quantitative Easing, I and II, the S&P 500, which is an excellent proxy for the US stock markets as a whole, moved higher, nearly reaching levels that it had climbed to just prior to the bust of Lehman Brothers in mid-2008, which ushered in the credit crisis.

As long as the Fed was expanding its balance sheet, there were "Blue Skies - nothing but Blue Skies, do I see" ahead. When the FOMC pulled the plug on QE2 in June of this year, down went the S&P, and it has not yet been able to recover from that cold turkey withdrawal of Billions in liquidity.

What the Fed is now doing with its Operation Twist is not expanding its Balance Sheet but is rather rolling over some of the maturing shorter term debt into longer term Treasuries. The effect has been to basically keep the Treasury portion of their Balance Sheet from not shrinking but also from not expanding. As their Balance Sheet flatlines, the broader stock markets are buckling under the weight of the rotten economy and global slowdown that is now taking hold.

Given the current conditions, it is difficult to gauge what might be a driving factor that would take the S&P anywhere near back to its recent peak just below 1400. Without another injection boost of liquidity, the best that the market could hope for is a period of sideways movement.

Another down day for the Metals

Both gold and silver continue to move lower and towards the bottom of their trading ranges. In the case of gold it dropped through $1620 and fell to just above $1600 where buyers showed up. It is currently attempting to get back over the $1620 level.

Silver violated support at both $31 and then again at $30 but it did encounter some decent-sized buying just below that latter level and has bounced back above $30 as I write this.

As expected, the HUI, once it sank through the support region near 520, fell all the way to the next support zone near 500 which extends down towards 490. This needs to hold if the mining shares are going to avoid even steeper losses.

The HUI is already deeply negative for the year but has been able to recover on each trip down towards 490 for nearly an entire year now. We would not want to see this level give way. If it does, the critical Fibonacci of 50% comes in near 470 and one would expect that to stem the selling. Should it fail there really is not muchn on the chart as far as support goes until we get all the way down towards 460-450.

Note that the weekly uptrend line on the chart has given way. The shares will need a strong rally tomorrow to go off the board for this week on a better note.