"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


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thoughts on Wild Swings in Price

It is both amusing and saddening at the same time to read the continued comments from the perma bulls in the gold community who bemoan every sharp fall in gold as the work of some sinister force working to deliberately keep the price of their beloved yellow metal god from reaching its ordained higher price level. We have all seen it often enough to know it by now.

Never you mind that perceptions and sentiment shift nearly daily in our modern markets, especially during a time in which so many are unsure of what is coming our way next. Is it inflation? Is it deflation? Is the economy growing? Is it falling back into mediocrity? Are big foreign banks in danger of failing? Are they okay? Does China have too much debt? Is it nothing to be concerned about? Is the employment situation in the US improving? Is it mired in part time work? Are events in Ukraine serious dangers to world equity markets? Are they limited to the locale? I could go on and one but the reader no doubt gets the point already. Questions abound and answers are uncertain as players constantly repositioning themselves according to the perceived answers on any given day.

We witness these rapid shifts in perception not only on an almost daily basis, but also, in many commodity futures markets, in an intraday basis.

Computerized trading merely amplifies the shift as rapid fire orders, either to buy or to sell, overwhelm the orders on the other side. Huge buy orders gorge on the offers above the market in such speed that the market seems to catapult higher in a maddening frenzy only to give way with as much alacrity to the downside as avalanches of sell orders wipe out the pool of bids completely overwhelming the buy side of the market.

Back and forth it goes, where she stops nobody knows.

Take a look at the cattle market today. I have included a 15 minute chart to note the huge swings in price occurring within rather brief intervals during the session. Just looking at the chart does not capture the wild surges in emotion that result because the swings in price are so intense that the dollar extent of the movements can be enormous. Traders are more often than not unclear as to the "WHY" behind a sharp move in price and as a result, panic/fear/greed etc. soar as the players run here and there trying to protect themselves from ruin or to capture something that they "just know is the big one".

Early in the session the price moved from near 158 to 159.25 or so, a $500 move per single contract. Then price abruptly reversed dropping the equivalent of  LIMIT DOWN move as it fell 300 points off the high of the session in a matter of 45 minutes or so. IT then abruptly reversed higher moving nearly 200 points off the worst level of the session. The former down move is the equivalent of $1200 per contract while the latter is $800. Throw in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 contracts or whatever, and you can see the extent to which losses can arise lashing, and slashing and mangling anyone of the wrong side.

As I have said many, many times here already, those who keep regaling us with this claptrap about "gold price smashes" and gold takedowns by the feds", etc., as if somehow gold is the only animal out there that experiences wild swings in price are merely displaying their ignorance of the nature of modern futures trading.

No one knows exactly when a large order is going to move prices higher or lower. What they do know however is that if they DO NOT REACT to it, they run the very real risk of getting steamrolled. One can argue for example, "Who in their right mind would sell so many cattle contracts in such large size that they are guaranteed to knock the price lower rather than being able to obtain the best possible price for those contracts that they are wishing to sell".

Does this mean that the price of cattle is being suppressed by sinister forces working at the behest of the government in order to keep the consumer happy with cheaper beef? Of course it does not. What it means is that the days of scale up selling programs or scale down buying programs have been replaced by "All-In" or "All-Out" computerized buys and sells. Hedge funds and other large speculators have moved primarily to technical based system trading. those few discretionary traders such as myself and some of my other companions are firmly in the minority in this new age.

Commercially oriented firms, who seek to hedge, understand ( or at least they should by now) that these antics by the large speculators and their computers provide them with big distortions in price at times due to the excessive nature of their buying and/or selling. They will not hesitate to take advantage of these distortions/opportunities  by selling large amounts of contracts if they feel prices are overextended to the top or buying large amounts if they feel price is undervalued based on their analysis of the market. Were it not for the actions of these commercial firms, there is no telling how whacky some of these markets could become if they were utterly at the mercy of the hedge funds and their computers.

I shudder to think what I would have to deal with as a trader if the markets were to become the arena of nothing but hedge funds. Those guys pay no attention to anything fundamental and what is even worse, they don't even care. If it moves, they chase it. It is that simple. If it stops moving, they get out and go the other direction.

By the way, on a slightly different note, have any of you readers out there who follow the Commitment of Traders reports but more particularly the breathless analysis that we are subject to nearly every Friday afternoon when those reports hit the internet, noticed how they are almost ceaselessly being spun as bullish for gold and silver. It is exactly like a "Head's - I win; Tail's - You lose" excerpt. Commercials are on the long side - wow - it's bullish. Commercials are on the short side but not as much as they were before - wow - it's bullish. Hedge funds are short - wow - it's a guaranteed short squeeze and is bullish. Hedge funds are buying - wow - they want to own gold again - it's bullish. Swap dealers are long - wow - it's bullish...etc, etc,. etc.

Moving only briefly to the grains - reports this AM of a big soymeal order and the usual chatter about heat in August sparked a round of serious short covering the beans. That pulled corn higher as well. Enough of this chatter was around that bulls were able to make use of it to spook some bears and take prices up. After the sharp fall in the price of beans over the three weeks, it was a given that at some point we would get a temporary bottom in this market. Maybe we got one today. Who knows? What we do know is that price stopped going lower today on ideas that beans and meal were cheap and that keep the sellers from being too aggressive. Bulls were then able to push price high enough to catch some upside stops. Looks like it back to watching weather forecasts once again.

The S&P 500 notched yet another brand new all-time high today. Absolutely nothing seems to faze this thing. Meanwhile the yield on the Ten Year is stuck below 2.5%. It is currently a tad lower today ( in spite of the higher equity markets) at 2.464%. The VIX is also lower. No fear anywhere once again it would seem in spite of the Gaza chaos and Ukraine.

The Dollar is a bit stronger and the Euro has now completed the second close below a significant chart support level. I will try to get some more up later with some charts if my schedule permits...