Here we go again. It's the second quarter of the year, and once again -- as in 2010 and 2011 -- the hedge fund investors that missed the rally in the U.S. stock market have rebooted their "sky is falling" pitch to scare the rest of us out of our shareholdings. They do this so they can buy back into the market on the cheap and enjoy the rally that will occur in the second half of the year -- just like the previous years.
Two months ago, "a few" members of the Federal Reserve Board were favoring a QE. Now, they say it's just "a couple." So, one day it's a strained reading of month-old Federal Reserve Board meeting minutes that concludes that the Board has taken additional monetary stimulus "off the table" because just "a couple" as opposed to "a few" have agreed that action may be necessary. (What if the "couple" happened to be Chairman Bernanke and Janet Yellen, his deputy?). In the end, a couple and a few are the same thing, but the market has overread "a couple."
Curiously, CNBC, the main market news outlet on cable, started promoting this thesis right away (presumably as part of its virulent anti-Obama campaign to talk down the market lest the President's re-election campaign get any bounce from better stock prices and fatter 401(k)s and sure enough the market went down by triple digits.
Then came the monthly jobs report showing only 120,000 net jobs created in March. Clearly a disappointing number compared with the more than 200,000 in February and January, except for the fact that these monthly estimates (which are based on a projection model for a set of interviews with employers, not an actual numerical "headcount") are always wrong and corrected in subsequent months. On a corrected basis, the QUARTERLY jobs report -- a more reliable indicator -- shows a step up in hiring for each of the past THREE quarters, rising from 300,000 plus in Q3 2011 to 400,000 plus in Q4 2011 to more than 600,000 plus in Q1 2012. Of course, this data never made it onto CNBC.
Then came the hedge fund hit to Spanish and Italian sovereign debt interest rates when the European markets opened Tuesday after the Easter holiday. Here's how that happens: the hedgies don't have to actually sell Spanish and Italian government bonds and take losses. All they have to do is bid up the price of credit-protection (the famous credit default swaps (CDS) that helped bring on the U.S. financial panic in 2008) on Spanish and Italian debt. The CDS contracts pay out only if the debt defaults, so a higher price implies a higher risk of default on the underlying debt. When that happens, investors tend to dump the underlying debt, sending the interest rates up.
The hedge funds and other big investors know from the past two years of experience that such movements in the CDS markets move the European sovereign debt markets down and in turn, spook the U.S. stock markets into their now famous "chicken little posture." Translation: you can manipulate the U.S. stock market down by 500 points or more over two or three days just by bidding up a few Euro debt CDS contracts on Italian and Spanish debt! But you won't hear that on the supposedly informative CNBC. You just hear about the Spanish and Italian interest rate spikes, just like last year and the year before. You also hear about other European sovereign debt at just about this time of the year -- after a run up in the U.S. market that some of the "big boys" missed out on.
And so, on Tuesday after Easter, we went down 200 more points on the Dow. As CNBC cheers on the incipient "market correction" and puts on a series of chartists warning of free-fall.
Just to top it off, the CNBC mavens chat incessantly about the coming downturn in corporate earnings on the first day of Q1 reporting season, quoting of course unnamed experts that earnings will actually fall for the quarter. Never mind that 3/4th of the early reporters -- a small but at least "actual" sample -- have already reported earnings that EXCEEDED estimate. Never mind that Alcoa, which was panned all day long by the cable Cassandras, actually reported earning revenues and earnings after Tuesday's closing bell that also significantly exceeded estimates!
Are we seeing a pattern here? It's déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. Fool me once, your fault; fool me twice, my fault; fool me three times, well, that's the lot of U.S. equity traders, as they again fall for the hedge funds' head-fake apocalyptic scenario in the second quarter, and take the rest of us down with them.
What the hedgies and their shills at CNBC count on is the fact that average investors aren't used to short selling, so they don't understand that folks who come on TV and talk the market down might actually be "talking their book" just like the typical stock "promoters" they are justly suspicious of.
Wise up, stock investors -- you are being had, again -- by some real pros that count on you having a short memory from the games they played the last two years, at just this time of the year. They, not you, made the money in the second half of the past two years. Wise up!