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Random Thoughts: Bernanke Delivers a Shot Across the Dow


Ben Bernanke spoke in Chicago this morning, and financial professionals with an English degree will put it to use.

Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

Unlike his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, Big Ben speaks with a layman's tongue; however, the verbiage is intense as far as these things go. The speech-and you can read the full transcript here-covered a wide range of topics and was intended to provide transparency and perhaps-perhaps-a wink on what's to come.

I'll leave out my first observation-the magical morph from "we don't target asset prices" (Greenspan) to "we closely monitor asset prices" (Bernanke)-as that's a whole 'nother ball of wax and focus on the here, now, and perhaps, our next steps.

In particular, in Big Ben's speech, he noted, "In light of the current low interest rate environment, we are watching particularly closely for instances of 'reaching for yield' and other forms of excessive risk-taking, which may affect asset prices and their relationships with fundamentals."

In my view, that's as close as we're going to get in terms of a "shot across the bow" (as it pertains to the curtailing of QE) as the Fed tries to delicately extricate itself from the perception that their historic simulative actions are the causation of the ramp in risk assets. Gold is taking it on the chin (-$45) while stocks, as I scribe this in real-time, attempt to put on a brave face.

Given the extended nature of the tape, if folks are looking for an excuse to sell-that is the qualifier-they likely have one now. And for what it's worth, I think they're gonna probe the downside, if nothing else.

Real technical support resides in and around S&P (INDEXSP:.INX) 1600, if and when; and the financials, in my view, remain an important tell as they continue to tickle resistance, per the chart below.

Also, as gold takes it in the teeth-get it? Gold? Teeth? Never mind-I thought I would dust off our "S&P vs. Commodities" chart, as a picture speaks 1,000 words.

The Land of the Rising Fun

Japan is in the news of late as they pull out all the stops to reflate their stock market economy. I pulled up a chart of the Nikkei (INDEXNIKKEI:NI225) yesterday and in a word, WOW; it's up 67% since November (in local currency; it's +20% in USD).

That's the good news; the less-stellar lens is when we pull back the aperture for a longer-term look. Despite the recent parabolic frolic, the Land of the Rising Sun remains 63% off the stock market top on New Year's Day 1990 (following the 500% bubble).

After 33 years, one could argue that Japan has earned the right to rally in such a way, although I suppose some will debate the merits of artificial stimulus vs. the self-cleansing mechanics of a free market.

Stateside, we're less than five years removed from Shock & Awe, the first phase of the financial crisis, as the S&P 500 dances 145% above the March 2009 nadir. There's no debating who won that battle-price is the ultimate arbiter of variant financial views-but the question remains, was that "it," or is The Second Side of the Financial Storm brewing on the horizon?

As someone who prides himself on seeing both sides of every trade-and yes, that includes embracing optimism during the perceived Apocalypse-I prefer to offer this perspective while global financial markets are flying high (vs. piling in, after the fact, on the downside). We are now at a point where nobody can fathom a pullback and those who can are intent on using it to add upside exposure.

As discussed in The Three Phases of Leave, it isn't always that simple, which is why we so often highlight the benefits of employing discipline over conviction regardless of your stylistic approach.

Random Thoughts

Twitter: @todd_harrison

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