Soft Landing Continues to Fade

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The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.
-John Maynard Keynes (1883 – 1946)

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Yesterday, I received the following question: "Why aren’t you short yet?"

The short answer is, "No manager can afford to be too early on the short side. You can be long and wrong; you can even afford to be in cash and wrong; but short and wrong is fatal."

The more complete answer is simply this: The markets have been banking on a soft landing; As the recent economic data points have shown, this is an increasingly unlikely outcome. Consioder the following:

Durable Goods Orders: A key barometer of business CapEx equipment spending - decreased by 0.5% in August. Durables were downwardly revised to 2.7% in July. This confirms prior reports indicating slowing growth in the manufacturing sector. ISM index slipped 54.5,  in August from 54.7 in July. The Philly Fed reported a -0.4 reading of its business conditions index. Economists had expected 15.0;

Mortgage Apps  Despite rates sliding to multi month lows, mortgage apps were soft.

New Homes Sales: We looked at the New Home Sales data last year,
and found them unreliable — they are based on statements from
Builders; A more accurate basis is to use a moving average, and to
ignore wild swings beyond the margin of error.

Existing Homes Sales: Existing home sales, at 6 X the size of the new home sales, continue to slide as sales units slow, inventories rise and prices fall.

Consumer Revolving Debt: As HELOCs and Mortgage refis fade, we see revolving credit increase.  That’s right, the US consumer has maintained their consumption by taking on more debt;   

Business CapEx Spending:  See Durable Goods

The market’s short term technicals do support the run for the highs; We have an excessive short interest, as well as generally gloomy sentiment readings.

But that peak is unlikely to be very sustainable.

Sources:
Durable-Goods Orders Declined Unexpectedly in August by 0.5%
JEFF BATER
WSJ, September 27, 2006 9:16 a.m.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115935977968175402.html

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