“Old dog” of Wall Street: “It is very similar to what you get before you slip into a crisis”

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I am speaking of Art Cashin, UBS guy, and CNBC talking head. And when I say “old dog” it is meant as a compliment. As in the old dog who has seen lots of young dogs come and go. I find his analysis valuable often. Some do not. (Or say they don’t.) I guess I just have a soft spot in my heart from reading his column back when I was first introduced to the world of finance. He always wrote about the “old days” and sometimes of the really old days. Anyway I like him even if he is calling for the Fed to lower rates again.

(From Finanz und Wirtschaft)

A main source of concern is the sharp drop in oil prices. Both, WTI and Brent, closed below $30 on Friday. Why is this causing so much havoc on Wall Street?

Investors are concerned that many of the small and domestic producers here in the United States have money owned in the high yield market. So if oil prices continue to go lower they’re afraid that up to two thirds of those fracking companies may go into bankruptcy. They fear that through financial contagion those bankruptcies would then begin to spread into other areas of the financial markets.

 

Are there already signs of contagion?

Several market participants have been asked to put up more collateral to prepare for bad loans. Also, on Wednesday there were both rumors and indications that there was a good deal of forced selling going on. There were rumors that it could have been either a hedge fund or a sovereign wealth fund, maybe investors who are exposed to the oil prices. It could have been Saudi  Arabia or Norway. Forced selling and margin calls are very hard to deal with because such an investor basically has no latitude. Positions must be sold at any price and that’s very difficult for the market…

 

On the other hand, many economists are seeing encouraging signs in the US labor market. In December payroll employment rose by over 290’000 and beat expectations handily.

When you look closer into the numbers you see that 280’000 of those jobs were seasonal adjustments. In other words it wasn’t physical people standing there, it was an assumption by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They said it was December and the weather normally is cold so they had to add on some people. And If you went over to the household survey you saw that 35% of the new jobs were people under the age of nineteen. In fact, only 3% of the jobs went to people in the prime category between the ages of 25 and 55. So the vast majority of the new jobs went to people under 24 and over 55. To me, that looked liked holiday hiring: people who make deliveries, wrap packages etc. These are not long lasting jobs. That’s why I think the next couple of payroll numbers will not show that kind of strength.

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