January 13, 2015

Here is a slightly-modified excerpt from a commentary posted at TSI last week:

Following the lead of Doug Kass I am now going to present a list of financial-market surprises for the year ahead. These are events/developments that are expected by very few market participants and commentators, but in my view have either a greater than 50% chance of happening (in the cases of surprises 1 to 6) or at least a high-enough probability of happening to be worthy of serious consideration (in the cases of surprises 7 to 9). Here’s the list:

1) The Fed continues to make noises about ‘normalising’ monetary policy, but ends up doing almost nothing. At most, there is a single 0.25% rate hike. One reason is the fear that economic weakness elsewhere in the world, primarily the euro-zone, will weigh on the US economy. Another reason is the absence of an obvious “price inflation” problem. A third reason is the Fed’s unwavering commitment to the absurd Keynesian idea that an economy can be strengthened by punishing savers.

2) US Treasury yields defy the majority view by ending the year flat-to-lower. More specifically, the 30-year T-Bond yield is roughly unchanged over the course of the year, but yields decline in the middle and at the short end of the curve. Of all the Treasury securities, the 5-year T-Note experiences the largest decline in yield as traders belatedly realise that the Fed will not be taking any significant steps towards ‘policy normalisation’ during 2015 or 2016.

3) Gold defies the numerous calls for a decline to US$1000 or lower. It does no worse than test its 2014 low during the first half of the year and commences a major upward trend by the middle of the year. As is always the case, gold’s bullish trend is driven by declining confidence in central banking and rising concern about ‘tail risk’. A related surprise is that the gold-mining indices outperform gold bullion.

4) Despite superficially lousy fundamentals, concerns about future supply reductions/disruptions cause oil to commence a cyclical bull market during the second half of the year.

5) The recovery in the oil price comes too late to prevent widespread debt default and bankruptcy within the US oil-and-gas industry. Due to the many knock-on effects of large-scale retrenchment within this industry, including slowdowns in all the businesses that indirectly benefited from the flood of money channeled into the drilling of shale deposits, it becomes clear that the collapse in the oil price was a net-negative for the US economy.

6) The Yen ends 2015 more than 10% higher than it ended 2014 as the Yen supply continues to grow at a comparatively slow annualised rate of less than 5% and carry-traders exit their positions in reaction to increasing risk aversion.

7) The S&P500 never closes above its December-2014 peak and generally works its way lower throughout the year.

8) The Russian currency (the Ruble) and stock market (RSX) bottom-out during the first half of the year and end 2015 with net gains.

9) The copper price trades below US$2.30/pound during the first half of the year within the context of a deflation scare and downwardly-revised forecasts for global economic growth.

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