A Day of Reckoning For Fed's Alchemists Draws Nigh

December 19, 2018

I’m prone to remind readers from time to time that I don’t have a crystal ball. Although I hit forecasting bullseyes often enough, this feat is just a cheap parlor trick for anyone even a little bit familiar with the Hidden Pivot Method. Under the circumstances, I probably shouldn’t be too disappointed when the crystal ball I insist that I don’t have fails me.

Or has it?  Yesterday I wrote that the stock market would tell us in advance whether the Fed is going to announce a rate hike on Wednesday following a two-day FOMC meeting. I had expected the evidence to be “crystal” clear, based simply on whether the E-Mini S&Ps surpassed 2616.75 on Tuesday. They missed by a mile, implying the Fed will tighten as “everyone” supposedly expects. But now I’m not so sure. Instead of crystal clarity, what Mr. Market delivered was just an 8 Ball tease:  “Reply hazy. Try again later.”

Too Many Uh-Oh’s

How so?  Well, the market turned weak on Tuesday, but for the “wrong” reason. Although Boeing and Apple shares looked feisty enough at the bell to lead the Dow 600 points higher, the rally died just halfway there. The reason is that our all-important bellwether AAPL went comatose after racking up a promising 2% gain in the early going.  This occurred when the Wall Street Journal, alluding to flagging iPhone sales in India, came out with a turd-in-the-punch-bowl headline:  ‘It’s Been a Rout’: Apple’s iPhones Fall Flat in World’s Largest Untapped Market. The headline doomed Tuesday’s stock-market rally, although it took a couple of hours before the Masters of the Universe who manage bear-market levitations called it quits. Of course, they gave it the ol’ sleazeball try at day’s end, goosing the E-Mini S&Ps 30 points in a trice. But the effort was rebuked and the entire gain was erased in minutes when Fedex cut its profit forecast because of an apparent slowdown in global business.

So what is the crystal ball that I don’t possess saying now? “You’re on your own, smart guy!” Fair enough. So I’ll go out on a limb with a few more predictions, all straight from the gut: 1) The Fed will NOT tighten on Wednesday — not with a global recession brewing; 2)  stocks will rally on the announcement, but not for long and not nearly as powerfully as some might expect; 3) the Fed will announce QE5 early in 2019 but it won’t be enough to counter the Mother of All Bear Markets; 4) the broad averages will continue to fall until investors, pundits and the news media come to understand that Fed alchemy is a fraud; 4) the Dow may have to fall below 10,000 to produce this epiphany; and, 5) bear rallies along the way will be sufficiently explosive, as they always have been, to persuade most investors to hang in there.

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