JoeMcMonigle headshotPlease note this was transcribed to best of the ability of the transcriber and may have minor errors. Please refer to the podcast itself to clarify anything.

Erik:     Joining me now as this week's featured interview guest is former US Department of Energy Chief of Staff Joe McMonigle, who now heads up the energy research team at Hedgeye.

Joe, I think everybody understands that the key question in today's oil market is whether the rebalancing that OPEC production cuts were supposed to achieve is really happening or if the supply glut is actually still continuing. So let's start with your high-level view first. Is OPEC effectively managing supply or are they really just managing market sentiment?

Joe:      I think, to date, they have been managing sentiment and, of course, engaging in verbal intervention in the market. Yes, they did do this production cut deal a year ago—well, actually last November. They're eight months into that deal now, and it's really had not that much of an impact on the market. I think, originally, when the deal was announced, I think oil bulls really liked the idea and prices were boosted as a result.

But many people, a lot of very savvy oil analysts and forecasters at banks, predicted big inventory draws in the spring that just never materialized. And, of course, the return of higher prices has incurred shale to rise—which, of course, we can get into later because it's sort of a different phenomenon. But, just to really judge the effectiveness of the production cut deal, last Friday oil ended at—or settled at—47 and some change. It was actually a penny lower than it was a year ago.

So, just to judge—obviously, prices in the last couple days have fluctuated a little bit—but, really, if you're looking at where prices were a year ago versus where they are today, I don't think you can really say that the production cut deal has had a lot of influence or has been very effective. And I think as a result the markets started out really impressed, and I think they've been pretty disappointed as we're into month eight now, almost nine months of the deal.

JoshCrumbPlease note this was transcribed to best of the ability of the transcriber and may have minor errors. Please refer to the podcast itself to clarify anything.   

Erik:     Joining me next on the program is co-founder, Josh Crumb. And, Josh, I’d really like to get into gold in this interview because we’ve seen so much tape action lately that really had a lot of gold bulls excited.

Before we do that, though, something I find is that everybody in the gold market has a different idea about what gold is, why you have it in the portfolio, and what you’re trying to accomplish from an investment strategy. Some people would tell you that it’s a store of value, some people would say it’s a hedge against financial market collapse. And the gold bugs would tell you that, as soon as the evil cabal of central bankers is done with their manipulation scheme, it’s going to $400,000 an ounce overnight and they’re going to get rich.

So, what is gold? Is it a get-rich asset or is it a stay-rich asset? And how do you use it or see it fitting into a portfolio?

Josh:    That sounds good. Thanks, Erik. Yeah, I think that’s probably the best place to start because we seem to have—I call it at least two bookends of the view of what gold is. In my background I actually worked at Goldman-Sacks on a macro team and looked at commodity markets, including gold. And what we looked at was, really, like most of Wall Street, in a supply and demand model. You know, much like you look at copper, oil.

I had different drivers but, essentially, people were looking at it for year-over-year change in supply and year-over-year change in demand and the level of inventory. This is a very standard model.

But the problem with that sort of linear model is, you look at it as what’s the demand for, say, jewelry, or for coins, or ETF flows? And so, you look at it, but the problem is you have almost all of history’s gold sitting there in inventory—roughly $7 trillion worth of gold as a commodity stock or, as I would view it, as a money stock. Which makes it very different than carrying 30 days of inventory of oil or 60 days of aluminum.

So it’s a very different market. And people really, in the guts of commodity markets, they understand that inventories and spreads drive prices. But then, on the other side of the spectrum, you have this view that the dollar is completely worthless, backed up by nothing, created out of thin air. And, although there’s aspects of that that I probably tend to lean towards with the extraordinary policies in central banking—but that’s also not fully true because there’s a lot of assets that back up the dollar.

Where I’m going with this is I think it’s important to look at gold’s—remove the economic lens and even remove the financial lens for a second, and just look at gold and commodities in nature—what is it that the math of gold shows us over time? Without any models, without any theories, if you look at the data, you see that the production cost—the cost of mining gold, relative to the cost of mining copper or the cost of producing wheat, or all of these different commodities—stays very, very proportional over very, very long periods of time.

And so they have this anchored relative cost function based in scarcity. So, regardless of what your model is, how should we analyze gold, how should we look at gold from a theoretical standpoint, we see that the data shows that gold has this very tight long-term correlation with all other commodities. And so that is where the most important thing—for me looking at it—that proves that gold is a store of value relative to the things that are central for humans. You know, eating, energy.

And so, by one definition, the market shows that gold is a store of value, no matter what. Our job is then to figure out why, next. But the math and the history of gold shows that gold is a store of value for that function.

Raoul PalPlease note this was transcribed to best of the ability of the transcriber and may have minor errors. Please refer to the podcast itself to clarify anything.   

Erik:        Joining me now are not just one but two of our most popular guests ever to appear on MacroVoices. Raoul Pal is the founder in principle of Global Macro Investor and a co-founder of Real Vision Television. Julian Brigden is the founder of MI2 Partners.

Now, gentlemen, the two of you are both members of a very elite club. You both run institutional advisory services and you’ve reached a pinnacle in your career to the point where you’re able to command a $40,000 annual subscription fee for your advice. Great work if you can get it, so congratulations.

But if there’s anything that I’ve learned in this game it is that contrasting views from more than one expert are worth more than the sum of the parts, because guys at your level are so persuasive that sometimes it’s hard to see the other view. So I just want to let our listeners know that I have asked both of you to try to emphasize any areas where you might disagree or see things differently and try to give us those contrasting views.

Now, to get started, something the three of us share in common is that we have all articulated secular bullish views about the US dollar, both here on Macro Voices as well as on Real Vision Television. But, while the three of us seem to agree (we can pat our heads for that) it seems like Mr. Market is telling us a very different story. At least in the recent short term.

The dollar index is now tenfold big points below its cycle highest from just a few weeks ago. So let’s start there. What’s going on? Did we get it wrong on the secular call? Is this just a bigger than expected temporary pullback? And what can we expect from here with the dollar, as we’re now trading on a 92 handle? Raoul, why don’t we start with your view.

julian brigden headshotRaoul:     My view, like yours, is bullish dollars. Now, the problem is we’ve only had two dollar bull markets in history, one in the early 80s and one in the late 90s. So we have a very small data sample to look at the behavior of dollar bull markets. But what I did notice is no dollar bull market has had a weekly close down more than 10%. Once it goes more than 10% it’s generally a reversal. So that’s a kind of—not so much a line in the sand but a guideline for me.

Now, we’re very much there now. We’re at 9.5% negative on a weekly basis. So it’s starting to make me concerned. There’s plenty of support levels around here as well. I use DeMark Indicators and they are counting towards a reversal. We know that the market positioning is very high. So for me it’s really crucial that the dollar does hold.

I think the underlying basis for why the dollar bull market should still be in play is still there. But what we need is some sort of change of sentiment within the market, whether it’s either a renewed belief in much faster rate rises in the US or it’s weaker economic growth. The dollar has a kind of smile where it rallies in either/or but falls when we’re in the Goldilocks phase, which we’ve been having recently. So I’m looking at that.

I’m obviously nervous on my view because it has been going against me. And I’ve been in the trade for a long, long time now so, in Euro terms it’s about 148 and a half. So I’m now really finessing the idea does it move further than here?

If we look at the previous dollar bull markets they tend to go much further, so it would tend to suggest there’s maybe another 15 or 20% upside in the dollar over time. I also look at—and something we’ll probably talk about later—the comparison between this dollar bull market and the dollar bull market leading into the 90s is remarkably similar. The pattern almost fits exactly. And that was the period going into 1999 where we had a correction in the dollar.

At that time it went about 8.5% and then it turned around and started rallying as economic growth started falling and rates started easing off a bit. The Europeans at the time were raising rates still. And that whole scenario, we saw actually the dollar go much, much higher. And so that’s what I’m looking for. If I’m wrong, the world’s a different place, and there’s a number of trade opportunities from that. But I still remain a dollar bull but a nervous one.

Chris WhalenPlease note this was transcribed to best of the ability of the transcriber and may have minor errors. Please refer to the podcast itself to clarify anything.   

Erik:    Joining me next on the program is Chris Whalen, and, Chris, thanks so much for joining us. I want to start with the US dollar because, you know, we’ve had quite a few guests talking up a secular bullish argument on the dollar and, boy, it really all sounds very compelling, but look at the chart. The dollar bulls—the chart is telling us dollar bulls that we’re wrong.

So how do you see this playing out? What do you think is driving the weakness that we’re seeing in the US dollar? And does it represent a secular change in direction, or is this just a natural pullback in an ongoing bull market?

Chris:  Well, you know, it’s hard for analysts to get their hands around the dollar because the old relationships, particularly interest rates and trade balances, which used to give you a good idea of where a currency was going to go don’t seem to matter anymore. So the dollar was rising against major currencies after the financial crisis, and particularly over the last four or five years, in large part because people were fleeing whatever country they were in and going to the perceived safety of the United States.

So Russian oligarchs, members of China’s communist party, they sent trillions of dollars to the United States over the past five years. Much of it went into American real estate. They also like Canada by the way, because both the US and Canada protect property rights, and they have a reasonable degree of confidentiality when it comes to investment flows. So if you’re a communist party cadre in China and you’ve stolen millions of dollars, you want a safe place to hide it.

And so this all, this capital flight contributed to the strength of the dollar, really, apart from the normal considerations of trade deficits and interest rates and everything else. Now it’s kind of reversing because there’s been this narrative on Wall Street, particularly in among the private investment community too. That said, well, you know, places like Brazil, Europe, even Asia, even Japan are all of a sudden attractive.

And so you’ve started to see money flowing out again. Whether it’s going to be maintained or not I don’t know. Because, as I say, the old measures for whether a currency was going to appreciate or depreciate really have lost their validity since 2008.

pippa malmgrenPlease note this was transcribed to best of the ability of the transcriber and may have minor errors. Please refer to the podcast itself to clarify anything.

Erik: Joining me next on the program is Dr. Pippa Malmgren, founder of DRPM Group, and colloquially known to the Macrovoices team as the goddess of all things geopolitical pertaining to markets. So Pippa, thanks so much for coming back on the program. It is great to have you. We had your dad on the program. I want to mention to our listeners. If you didn’t listen to that one, you and your dad’s interview together was fantastic. Between the two of you, I think you have advised more U.S. presidents than anyone else I can think of. Just the background and experience that you bring to the table, it was really great. I am really looking forward to this interview as well. Let’s start with Europe. We have heard from Grant Williams the end is nigh, and Brexit was the event, the catalyst that’s going to bring about the complete demise of the European Union over time. It seemed for a while that Europe was falling apart at the seams, and then Macron won the French election. The Euro is rallying. A lot of people say it is all better now. What is the real story? What is your outlook for the European Union both short, medium and long term?

Pippa: I love Grant Williams, so I am very reluctant to cut across him. But I am on the other side of the trade. Europe has big structural problems in the longer run, but in the short run what they have had is a little bit of growth. I think everything is attributing the Macron win to a more settled environment, but really what happened was we got a little bit of growth. We are getting a tiny bit of inflation, and so the markets are a little bit more optimistic. Also, there are a lot of people still trying to figure out does Brexit make Europe stronger or weaker. The argument that it makes them stronger because they lose this break, this country that’s constantly been a pain and not onboad, now they are not there anymore, so Europe can proceed in its Federalist direction much faster and more easily than before, so if you are in favor of that, you go this is a BYE. I like what I see in Europe.

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MACRO VOICES is presented for informational and entertainment purposes only. The information presented in MACRO VOICES should NOT be construed as investment advice. Always consult a licensed investment professional before making important investment decisions. The opinions expressed on MACRO VOICES are those of the participants. MACRO VOICES, its producers, and hosts Erik Townsend and Patrick Ceresna shall NOT be liable for losses resulting from investment decisions based on information or viewpoints presented on MACRO VOICES.

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