Packages

Fiscal Landscape, Spending Packages, CPI, Trading the Semis, Cleveland Cliffs

Most readers were well aware that the U.S. Senate had passed on Tuesday a bi-partisan infrastructure bill that authorized $550 billion in new spending on roads and bridges ($110 billion), rails ($66 billion), broadband internet service ($65 billion), waterworks ($55 billion), and more. The bill also reauthorizes and repurposes another $450 billion+ bringing the size of the package to a rough $1 trillion. This would be the “why.” This is why most industrial commodities rallied on Tuesday, though not really all the way back to last week’s levels. This would be why there has been some harvesting at the longer end of the U.S. Treasury yield curve. The U.S. 10 Year Note went out paying 1.35% on Tuesday afternoon, and as the Senate has been at work all night, that yield has moved above 1.37%, while the 30 Year Bond pays more than 2% for the first time in almost a month.

This would also be why, from an equity market perspective, the Energy, Materials, Financial, and Industrial sectors (all cyclicals) led a mixed market on Tuesday, and why defensive and growth sectors performed less well. The Transports, though a component of the Industrials sector, actually outperformed all sector select SPDR ETFs, which was more a bi-product more of Canadian Pacific’s (CP) move to outbid Canadian National Railway’s (CNI) attempt to acquire Kansas City Southern (KSU) .

We Move On

Most readers are likely less aware that at just before 04:00 Wednesday morning on the east coast, the U.S. Senate also passed that $3.5 trillion budget resolution that really has no legislative impact as of yet, but does pave the way in the short wake of having passed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, for committee level work to begin on putting together $3.5 trillion worth of spending. Such spending will combat climate change, target child care, education, health care, and more. While the infrastructure bill passed the Senate easily in a 69-30 vote where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell counted among those Republicans voting in favor, this much larger resolution passed in strictly partisan fashion, 50-49.

Now, nothing hits the president’s desk unless it also passes in the House of Representatives. The House is in recess and the return of the full House had not been scheduled until September 20th. However, now according to a letter from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House will return the week of August 23rd, when they could vote (or not) on passing the smaller infrastructure bill, as well as work on passing a budget resolution identical or close to identical to what passed in the Senate this morning. Should this occur, it is then that the Senate may pass such legislation through “reconciliation” requiring a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes that would otherwise be required to pass legislation in the upper house of the U.S. legislature.

This is no “slam dunk” as in the House, Democrats can not lose more than four of their own votes, and in the Senate, the Democratic caucus (technically, there are two independents) can not lose a single vote. While Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are both Democrats, both are also considered to be fiscal conservatives. In Manchin’s case, he will also likely come under pressure from his constituency to defend fossil fuel energy. In the House, there are probably about a half dozen Democratic representatives who fall into the fiscally conservative category and close to another half dozen more “progressive” types who would like to see the spending package grow.

Hang Ups

Though the smaller infrastructure bill has been described as “paid for” in advance, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicates that if passed into law, this piece of legislation will add $256 billion to the federal budget deficit over a decade. The larger spending plan would, if passed, obviously have a much greater negative impact on federal budgets and would require tax increases that supporters claim would be limited to corporations and highly paid individuals.

It is here that various nuances of the tax code will be challenged and either have to change, or rely more heavily upon deficit spending. Exacerbating the funding issue will be the whole SALT limit on the deductibility of state and local taxes which is currently $10K, and largely impacts homeowners in blue states. Increasing capital gains taxes and taxing unrealized capital gains at least upon death are likely to be hotly contested ideas among many as to where to draw the line on income tax increases, and how far to go on business taxes.

In short, this is a long way from done, and will evolve as time passes. The infrastructure bill has a far better chance at passage, but only if the House actually brings it up for a vote. Speaker Pelosi has already stated the intention to handcuff the two packages together. The headlines concerning the trajectory of the nation’s fiscal policy will force price discovery toward a more volatile place over the next month-plus. This will occur as the COVID-related health crisis potentially peaks, and as the central bank considers a path for monetary policy that may conflict with the path chosen by the federal government.

This morning’s report of July consumer prices (released by the BLS) will impact not only today’s algorithmic excuse for price discovery, but how the whole Jackson Hole clambake shakes out. That will in turn impact how inexpensively the federal government will be able to borrow new funds created by that central bank. This could also provoke a change in leadership at the central bank at the discretion of the president. Current Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who has been spectacular through this crisis, appears to be ready to at least attempt to normalize monetary conditions when appropriate, while Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard seems at least to this observer, to be openly campaigning for Powell’s job, publicly claiming a preference for policy that would more closely serve the administration’s fiscal agenda.

Did You Notice…

…That the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index printed at 99.7 for July, which is still on the strong side, but well below June’s print, and well below expectations. Within the report, scanning the component categories, there really is not much to like. 49% of those surveyed had current job openings that could not be filled. This was a 48 year high. Other important categories are in contraction however, such as “Plans to Increase Inventories”, “Expect The Economy To Improve”, “Expect Real Sales Higher”, and “Earnings Trend.” All in all, this was a very “past peak” looking report on the mindset of the American small business person.

Trading

Traders and investors surely noticed weakness across the semiconductor space on Tuesday. The softness was centered more specifically on memory chip makers and semiconductor equipment makers as market researcher “TrendForce” forecast as much as a 5% decrease in contract pricing for memory chips quarter over quarter for the quarter ending this December 31st.

I am currently in no “memory” plays such as Micron (MU) , or Western Digital (WDC) . I am currently in no equipment plays such as Lam Research (LRCX) , Applied Materials (AMAT) , or KLA Corp (KLAC) . Note: KLAC is technically in the best shape of the three, but still has a lower gap left unfilled.

Where I am, in the chip space… is still in Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) , though I did take off a partial, still in Marvell Technology (MRVL) , because 5G is still next year’s story as it has been for a few years now, and still in Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) , which has not worked as well as the other two, but as foundry to the world is still cheap in my opinion.

What’s that? No Nvidia (NVDA) ? Thought you’d notice. Took my leave of the name when I lightened up on AMD. Still love Lisa. Still love Jensen, but business is business, and NVDA hit resistance like a mosquito hitting a windshield in the same spot twice this summer. Double Top? We’ll see. I’ll be back. Just a little exercise in capital extraction.

Question From a Reader

I try to answer reader questions as they come in. On Tuesday afternoon, I received one that I thought several readers might have wanted to ask… so here goes:

Question:

Please advise your action plan now that CLF has quickly reached the $26 target, but is subject to the short $26 call.

Answer:

Okay, the deal is this. Materials stocks were chief algorithmic beneficiaries of the passage of that $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Steel stocks were part of the move. Cleveland Cliffs (CLF) broke out, Jim Cramer fave Nucor (NUE) broke out. Heck, even United States Steel (X) tried. First, hopefully one’s exposure to industrial metals is fairly broad at this time. I remain long Alcoa (AA) , Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) , and Southern Copper (SCCO) , in addition to CLF. All have started to work. The copper trades are behind steel and aluminum trades technically.

As for the specific trade mentioned, CLF hit $26 here in August, whereas in my piece I suggested selling January calls against the position. (I am in this trade with you.) The fact is that after taking in the premium, your net basis is probably $23+ for the equity position. The trader can not unwind the options position and leave the equity position intact without exposing oneself to increased risk.

Right now, I am guessing that the equity trade is $6 to $7 in your favor, while the options trade is probably $2 to $3 against. You could take profits now, and cover both halves of the trade. Otherwise, this is dead money until January, and there is no guarantee that CLF continues to trade above $26 for five months. I am likely, myself, to sell the equity for that nice profit, and take the hit on the option trade, which still leaves a rather nice net profit in place, and re-allocate that capital elsewhere.

Economics (All Times Eastern)

08:30 – CPI (July): Expecting 5.4% y/y, Last 5.4% y/y.

08:30 – Core CPI (July): Expecting 4.3% y/y, Last 4.5% y/y.

10:30 – Oil Inventories (Weekly): Last +3.626M.

10:30 – Gasoline Stocks (Weekly): Last -5.292M.

13:00 – Ten Year Note Auction: $41B.

13:00 – Federal Budget Statement (July): Last $-174B.

The Fed (All Times Eastern)

10:30 – Speaker: Atlanta Fed Pres. Raphael Bostic.

12:00 – Speaker: Kansas City Fed Pres. Esther George.

Today’s Earnings Highlights (Consensus EPS Expectations)

Before the Open: (WEN) (.18), (WIX) (-.41)

After the Close: (EBAY) (.95), (NIO) (-.74), (VRM) (-.49)

(AMD, MRVL, NVDA, and NUE are holdings in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells these stocks? Learn more now.)

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