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THE MORNING LINE

Is Copper Signaling the Return of Inflation?

I’ve been a hardcore deflationist for so long that it took a wake-up call from the always astute Jesse Felder to jolt me out of my complacency. His latest report is headlined Dr. Copper Could Soon Deliver a Diagnosis of Inflation, and it’s an eye-opener. The chart accompanying Felder’s think-piece suggests that copper futures have been developing thrust for the last several years that could launch a steep rally. He uses a pennant formation to show this, and the breakout point on his chart would come at around $2.95 per pound if it occurs this month. I have illustrated his pennant in the chart above with red lines.

My perspective is somewhat different and uses the Hidden Pivot Method to extrapolate a breakout at exactly $3.12 per pound. Any higher, especially if the futures can close for two consecutive months above that price, would be very bullish. But even someone with no knowledge of technical analysis can see that all signs point higher, with many uptrends of varying degree in play simultaneously. My technical runes say that a strong breakout to the upside would have the potential to push the price of a pound of copper as high as $5.33. If so, the corresponding inflation we might expect to see in the price of goods and services would be severe and a jolt to the global economy, especially since inflation has lain dormant for nearly 40 years.

‘The Doctor’ Is Usually Right

Concerning copper’s ability to predict inflation, I’ll let Felder explain:  Traders call copper ‘Dr. Copper’ because he has a Ph.D in economics. In fact, most of the time, Dr. Copper forecasts recessions and recoveries, inflation and deflation, far more accurately than his colleagues in the ‘dismal science,’ so it pays to pay attention to his macroeconomic messages.  Just so.  And although I continue to believe that a deflationary endgame for the global financial bubble is unavoidable, if copper were to bolt sharply higher I would have to concede that the deflationary bust I’ve been anticipating for so long may lie further down the road. Regardless, the potential for a catastrophic outcome, presumably but not necessarily deflationary, would remain. That’s because steep inflation would push interest rates high enough to implode the global debt bubble, a quadrillion dollar credit edifice that is fatally addicted to low rates and which could not adjust to a sudden, 100-basis-point upthrust, let alone entrenched rates of 5% or more. _______ UPDATE (Jan 21, 9:56 p.m.): Doc Copper took a flying dive on the opening, seemingly validating the notion that a virus outbreak in China could threaten the global economy. If so, it would qualify as a genuine black swan event — i.e., something no one could have predicted ending these boom times.  No question, there will be economic ripples in China, starting with a reduction of their New Year’s extravaganza.  But until such time as the Wuhan bug sickens dozens of people in a few major U.S. cities, it’s hard to imagine Wall Street acting worried for long.

$+TSLA – Tesla Motors (Last:569.43)

This one’s just for fun and educational purposes: shorting a stock that has wreaked more damage on bears than any squeeze I can recall. Ever. The chart shows a well defined rally target at precisely 510.14, and it is there that we will attempt to intercept the stock, at least on paper. I’ll suggest an rABC set-up with the following coordinates on the 60-minute chart: A=435.31 (12/27 at 10:30 a.m. EST); B= 402.08 (12/31); and C= yet to be determined. C will of course migrate higher and become a moving target as TSLA ascends toward 510.14, but I would suggest

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GCG20 – February Gold (Last:1593.40)

Thursday’s fleeting upthrust tripped a theoretical buy signal at the green line. Ordinarily it would be easy to overlook or ignore it, since buy signals since late August have come to naught. However, gold’s price action has been so tedious and frustrating in the interim that we should take extra care to avoid missing the turn when it comes, especially since the impulsive thrust that occurred last summer was so powerful and promising. Most immediately, we’ll use p=1529.50 as a minimum upside objective and trade it aggressively. In practice, this will mean looking for rABC and  ‘mechanical’ setups in charts

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$DXY – NYBOT Dollar Index (Last:97.36)

I’ve been steadfastly bullish on the dollar for years, in part because a strong dollar is congruent with the deflationary endgame that seems likely when the stock-market bubble bursts. Even so, it’s conceivable we could see an inflationary blip along the way, especially under a president who seems determined to weaken the dollar to help U.S. manufacturers.  The intermediate-term chart (inset) therefore bears watching, since it could provide us with evidence that the dollar weakness since early October is about to intensify.  Despite Friday’s robust bounce from the trendline, I expect a relapse to reach the target. If it breaches

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TNX.X – Ten-Year Note Rate (Last:1.933%)

Although some notable long-term bond bulls are close to throwing in the towel as U.S. Treasury yields continue to climb, the chart suggests the bull market begun nearly 40 years ago still has farther to go.  Yields on the long bond settled Friday at 2.41%, up from 1.90% in August, while T-Notes have gone from 1.43% to 1.93% over the same time. The rallies have been impressive if not to say scary, since they have subjected hundreds of trillions of dollars of borrowings to a deflationary turn of the screw. The burden of debt promises to lighten before it becomes

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