Red Screen at Morning, Investor Take Warning

Growing up as I did in coastal New England, this old rhyme was drilled into us as children:

Red sky at night, sailor's delight;

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

Because many of the people in town still made their living on the sea, the safety of person and property depended on being able to recognize the signs of approaching danger.

A notably red sky at morning is usually due to sunrise reflection off of moisture-bearing clouds, signifying an arriving a storm system bringing rain, wind and rough seas. Those who ignored a red sky warning often did so at their peril.

Red Sky In The Markets

I'm reminded of that childhood rhyme because the markets are giving us a clear "red sky" warning right now. One that comes after (too) many years of uninterrupted fair winds and smooth sailing.

The markets have plunged nearly 8% over just a single week. And the losses are across the board. Nearly every asset class from stocks to bonds to commodities to real estate are participating in the pain. Market displays are a sea of red.

We've written so often and recently of the dangerous level of over-valuation in asset prices (caused by years of central bank intervention) that to re-hash the premise again feels unnecessary.

But the chart below is worth our attention now, as it really drives home just how dangerously over-extended the markets have become. It's a 20-year chart of the S&P 500, showing how it has traded vs its 50-month moving average (the thin green line).

Importantly, the chart also plots the Bollinger bands for this moving average. These are the thin red (upper) and purple (lower) lines above and below the green one.

The simple definition of Bollinger bands is that they are measurements of volatility, and serve as indicators of "highness" or "lowness" of price relative to trading history (a more complex explanation can be found here).

What that means is, when the price of the S&P 500 trades near the upper (red) Bollinger band, that's an indication it's over-priced vs its historic trading behavior. And vice-versa when it trades near the lower (purple) band.

Now, the chart below is important because it shows that over the past 20-years, the S&P 500 has *never* traded above the its 50-month upper Bollinger band -- EXCEPT for the 7 months preceding this one. Simply put, the market had not been more overvalued in (at least) the past 20 years as it was last month:

(click here for an expanded view)

But just as frightening, though, is how the 7% drop the S&P has experienced over the past week has only brought it back to just touch the upper Bollinger band. Despite its recent losses, the S&P is still wildly over-valued.

Said another way: it still has further to fall. A LOT further.

If indeed this is the start of a major correction, one that clears out all  "excessive exuberance" as happened in 2001 and 2008, we could well see a retracement down past the 50-month moving average, all the way to (and possibly, briefly, below) the lower Bollinger band.

That would put the S&P somewhere around 1,500-1,600 -- a drop of around 40% from where it closed today.

And as we made the case earlier this week when looking at classic asset price bubble curves, a return of the S&P to a price level below 1,000 can't be ruled out.

Time To Batten Down The Hatches

When a storm arrives at sea, sailors hunker down. They strip, tie fast, and stow everything they can -- then they ride out the storm and re-emerge once it has passed.

This is an excellent model for today's investor. If this week's plunge indeed accelerates into a bear market, simply surviving the carnage with a substantial percentage of your capital intact will constitute "winning".

So, if you still have long positions in your personal or retirement portfolios, what should you be doing at this point?

1) Move To Cash

Get your money to the sidelines. Remember that everything is relative during periods of extreme volatility like now. When everything around you is dropping in value, the relative value of your cash position rises.

Those who had already moved to cash now find they can buy 7% more of the S&P with it than they could a mere week ago. That relative rise in purchasing power will only increase should the markets fall farther from here.

Cash is also offering an improving absolute return as well these days, as interest rates rise. Not that you'd know it from what your bank is offering you (surprising no one, banks have kept depositor rates near 0% despite receiving higher interest payments themselves from the Federal Reserve).

But holding your cash in short-term T-Bills (durations of less than 1 year) through a program like TreasuryDirect is now returning yields of close to 1.5%. That's 25-50 times(!) more than what the average bank savings account interest rate is right now.

Given this high relative payout and the extreme safety of Treasurys (the last financial instrument in the world likely to default, as the US will simply print the money to repay, if necessary), this strategy is a clear no-brainer for those with a material amount of cash.

Those looking to learn more about the TreasuryDirect program, including how to open an account there, can read this primer we created.

2) Prepare Your Action Plan

We have long been loud advocates of working with a professional financial advisor. Now, more than ever, you want to review your action plan with him/her.

If you have remaining long positions, battle test them. How do you expect them to perform in a bear market? If the market falls another 10% from here, what will be the expected impact to your overall portfolio? What if the market falls 25%?

Does hedging make sense as a risk management strategy for you? How about building up a short position with a minority percentage of your portfolio?

Now is the time to address and answer these questions, because if indeed a major correction is nigh, it very well may happen so fast you don't have time to act. (Just ask those holding Bitcoin in January how quickly 50% of your position can vaporize.)

As always, if you're having difficulty finding a firm willing or able to engage in the above with you, consider scheduling a free consultation with Peak Prosperity's endorsed financial advisor.

Also, folks frequently underestimate the effort and time it takes to set up accounts, get funds transferred, etc. Don't set yourself up for the frustration and disappointment of delays should you wait until the midst of a market melt-down to get all this in place. The market may be moving so fast at that point as to make your efforts moot. (Again, talk to the crypto crowd here about their challenges funding accounts and trading through the exchanges last month.) 

Instead, get everything set up and prepared now. You don't need to necessarily transfer any funds at this point. But do yourself the service of getting all the administrative hurdles behind you today.

3) Track The Risks & Opportunities Closely

As we've warned for years, we've been living through The Mother Of All Financial Bubbles. When it bursts, the damage is going to be truly horrific.

The ride down in the markets is going to be painful and scary. There are going to be many knock-on effects that are impossible to forecast with precision -- or even to identify -- right now. What will happen with housing, jobs, pensions, entitlement programs, social services, the banking system? All could be impacted.

To what degree? We don't know at this point. Which is why tracking developments in real-time and assessing their likely impacts will be critical.

Similarly, in crisis there is opportunity. There will be speculative opportunities that present themselves during a melt-down (e.g., shorting mortgage insurers during the 2008 crash). And one markets find their bottom and stabilize, there will be the chance to invest in quality assets at fire-sale values compare to today's prices.

Know when to deploy your dry powder, and what to deploy it into, will be key.

We'll be doing our best here at PeakProsperity.com every week to offer essential insights to help you stay well-informed and on top of these fast-moving events.

To that mission, we're swiftly assembled a webinar on this coming Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 8pm EST with Chris Martenson, Lance Roberts, Axel Merk and several other financial experts to provide in-depth context into the recent market plunge and their best assessment of what to expect from here in the near term. (To learn more about the webinar, click here)

Markets are warning us that even stormier seas lie ahead. Heed that warning, sailor, and hold fast!



Reform Conservatism and Reaganomics: A middle road?

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Senator Marco Rubio broke Republican ranks recently when he criticized the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by stating that “there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." Rubio is wrong on this point, as millions of workers have received major raises, while the corporate tax cuts have led to a spike in capital expenditure (investment on new projects) of 39 percent. However, the Florida senator is revisiting an idea that was front and center in the conservative movement before Donald Trump rode down an escalator in June of 2015: reform conservatism.

RELATED: The problem with asking what has conservatism conserved

The "reformicons," like Rubio, supported moving away from conservative or supply-side orthodoxy and toward policies such as the expansion of the child and earned income tax credits. On the other hand, longstanding conservative economic theory indicates that corporate tax cuts, by lowering disincentives on investment, will lead to long-run economic growth that will end up being much more beneficial to the middle class than tax credits.

But asking people to choose between free market economic orthodoxy and policies guided towards addressing inequality and the concerns of the middle class is a false dichotomy.

Instead of advocating policies that many conservatives might dismiss as redistributionist, reformicons should look at the ways government action hinders economic opportunity and exacerbates income inequality. Changing policies that worsen inequality satisfies limited government conservatives' desire for free markets and reformicons' quest for a more egalitarian America. Furthermore, pushing for market policies that reduce the unequal distribution of wealth would help attract left-leaning people and millennials to small government principles.

Criminal justice reform is an area that reformicons and free marketers should come together around. The drug war has been a disaster, and the burden of this misguided government approach have fallen on impoverished minority communities disproportionately, in the form of mass incarceration and lower social mobility. Not only has the drug war been terrible for these communities, it's proved costly to the taxpayer––well over a trillion dollars has gone into the drug war since its inception, and $80 billion dollars a year goes into mass incarceration.

Prioritizing retraining and rehabilitation instead of overcriminalization would help address inequality, fitting reformicons' goals, and promote a better-trained workforce and lower government spending, appealing to basic conservative preferences.

Government regulations tend to disproportionately hurt small businesses and new or would-be entrepreneurs. In no area is this more egregious than occupational licensing––the practice of requiring a government-issued license to perform a job. The percentage of jobs that require licenses has risen from five percent to 30 percent since 1950. Ostensibly justified by public health concerns, occupational licensing laws have, broadly, been shown to neither promote public health nor improve the quality of service. Instead, they serve to provide a 15 percent wage boost to licensed barbers and florists, while, thanks to the hundreds of hours and expensive fees required to attain the licenses, suppressing low-income entrepreneurship, and costing the economy $200 billion dollars annually.

Those economic losses tend to primarily hurt low-income people who both can't start businesses and have to pay more for essential services. Rolling back occupational licenses will satisfy the business wing's desire for deregulation and a more free market and the reformicons' support for addressing income inequality and increasing opportunity.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality.

Tax expenditures form another opportunity for common ground between the Rubio types and the mainstream. Tax deductions and exclusions, both on the individual and corporate sides of the tax code, remain in place after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Itemized deductions on the individual side disproportionately benefit the wealthy, while corporate tax expenditures help well-connected corporations and sectors, such as the fossil fuel industry.

The favoritism at play in the complex tax code perpetuates inequality. Additionally, a more complicated tax code is less conducive to economic growth than one with lower tax rates and fewer exemptions. Therefore, a simpler tax code with fewer deductions and exclusions would not only create a more level playing field, as the reformicons desire, but also additional economic growth.

A forward-thinking economic program for the Republican Party should marry the best ideas put forward by both supply-siders and reform conservatives. It's possible to take the issues of income inequality and lack of social mobility seriously, while also keeping mainstay conservative economic ideas about the importance of less cumbersome regulations and lower taxes.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate studying economics at Tufts University. He is a contributor for Lone Conservative, and his writing has appeared in Townhall and The Daily Caller. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Is this what inclusivity and tolerance look like? Fox News host Tomi Lahren was at a weekend brunch with her mom in Minnesota when other patrons started yelling obscenities and harassing her. After a confrontation, someone threw a drink at her, the moment captured on video for social media.

RELATED: Glenn Addresses Tomi Lahren's Pro-Choice Stance on 'The View'

On today's show, Pat and Jeffy talked about this uncomfortable moment and why it shows that supposedly “tolerant" liberals have to resort to physical violence in response to ideas they don't like.

President Donald Trump has done a remarkable job of keeping his campaign promises so far. From pulling the US from the Iran Deal and Paris Climate Accord to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the president has followed through on his campaign trail vows.

RELATED: The media's derangement over Trump has me wearing a new hat and predicting THIS for 2020

“It's quite remarkable. I don't know if anybody remembers, but I was the guy who was saying he's not gonna do any of those things," joked Glenn on “The News and Why it Matters," adding, “He has taken massive steps, massive movement or completed each of those promises … I am blown away."

Watch the video above to hear Glenn Beck, Sara Gonzales, Doc Thompson, Stu Burguiere and Pat Gray discuss the story.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar brings white fan onstage to sing with him, but here’s the catch

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for American Express

Rapper Kendrick Lamar asked a fan to come onstage and sing with him, only to condemn her when she failed to censor all of the song's frequent mentions of the “n-word" while singing along.

RELATED: You'll Never Guess Who Wrote the Racist Message Targeting Black Air Force Cadets

“I am so sorry," she apologized when Lamar pointed out that she needed to “bleep" that word. “I'm used to singing it like you wrote it." She was booed at by the crowd of people, many screaming “f*** you" after her mistake.

On Tuesday's show, Pat and Jeffy watched the clip and talked about some of the Twitter reactions.

“This is ridiculous," Pat said. “The situation with this word has become so ludicrous."