The S&P energy sector is in the midst of its worst losing streak in 25-plus years, but one technician sees opportunity to profit.» Read More
The immediate reaction in the futures market to the January unemployment report could only be described as confounding.
Within seconds of the report's release at 8:30 a.m. EST Friday, the S&P 500 e-mini futures promptly rose from 1,774 to 1,786, then dropped to 1,760. That represents a 1.5 percent market move, high to low, made in about 10 seconds.
The CEO of Euro Pacific Capital and a famous fan of gold, Schiff predicts that it will skyrocket once the Fed reverses the process of tapering quantitative easing and instead chooses to stimulate further so as to improve the economy.
"At some point, gold's going to go straight up like a moonshot," Schiff said on Tuesday's edition of "Futures Now." "Maybe it's going to take Janet Yellen to come out and call off the taper. Or maybe she's going to have to say, 'We're doing more of it, we're going to start increasing it.' I don't know what that magic moment is going to be."
(Read more: Gold ends nearly 1 percent lower as equities rally)
His call on gold was a good one for several years, before it staged a reversal while Schiff kept his opinion on the metal static. But he blames 2013's 30 percent decline on investors' inability to see the truth he perceives clearly. Because as the Fed buys assets more quickly (the opposite of what the central bank said it plans to do), the inflation Schiff has long called for will finally be created, leading gold to soar.
"For some people, they need a proverbial safe to fall on their head," he said. "But at some point, people are going to figure out what's going on. By the time the crowd figures it out, it's going to be very expensive to buy gold."
Marc Faber predicts that stocks will drop by 20 percent to 30 percent in the near future. But he personally hopes that they will fall even further.
"I think the market is way overdue for a 20 to 30 percent correction," said Faber, the editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report. But that is "nothing that worries me," he said. "In fact, I'm hoping for the market to drop 40 percent so stocks will again become—from a value point of view—attractive."
Faber added with a chuckle: "But that is not the view of someone who is fully invested—obviously not."
(Read more: Why long-term investors should buy this selloff)
The problem, he said on Tuesday's edition of "Futures Now," is that the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program has lifted asset prices substantially.
After a year of steady and quite remarkable gains, fear has crept back into the stock market. Concerns about the U.S. economy have joined emerging market weakness and jitters about the Federal Reserve's stimulus reduction to send the S&P 500 down 6 percent from the high reached Jan. 15. But savvy traders are advising long-term investors that this selloff is presenting a terrific opportunity to buy stocks at a discount.
"If you're a long-term investor, now's the time to be allocating," said Rich Ilczysyzn, senior commodities broker at iiTrader. "I know there's a lot of pension fund capital waiting to be allocated. They may wait for a specific trigger, maybe 5 percent, or maybe 10 percent. But it's not going to give the retail guy a lot of time to jump on. And what's going to happen is, people are going to miss the absolute bottom."
(Read more: The VIX is surging on market fear, but not loathing)
Ilczyszyn says he's using the dip to buy stocks for himself.
"For me, I'm adding because I've got a longer-term horizon. I'm looking out to the next 15, 20 years," he said. "If that's your time frame, you've just got to buy it."
Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services expects the market will fall 8 percent from its recent high, meaning that 2 or so more percentage points of downside. But he says investors are better off buying early than late.
"I actually did call my brother yesterday—he's not a trader, he's an investor—and told him to start buying," Iuorio said. "For investors, it's time to start buying now, and increase buying as we get down closer to 8 percent of a correction."
(Read more: Market strategists: Don't overreact here)
As January comes to a close, many market participants will be tempted to fret about the "January barometer," which holds that stock performance in January predicts the performance over the rest of the year. In a January that has seen stocks slide 3 percent, this could become a concern. But investors would probably do well to ignore this long-standing market meme.
(Read more: Stocks down 4% in January! If history repeats ...)
Proponents of the barometer point to the fact that over the past 35 years, the S&P 500 has followed January's direction 71 percent of the time. However, this statistic is skewed by the fact that it includes January in that full-year performance.
That means that in years like 1987, when the market rose 13 percent in January but finished the year just 2 percent in the green, listening to the January barometer would have yielded a loss of some 10 percent—and yet this year is still counted as a success for the barometer.
Still, even if we merely compare January's performance to the path that stocks beat over the following 11 months, January still appears to predict the S&P's path 66 percent of the time. The problem is that it is much better at "predicting" winning years than losing ones.
Going back to 1979, the S&P rose in 23 out of 35 Januarys. Over the next 11 months, the market consequently rose in 19 of those 23 years that were kicked off by winning Januarys—meaning that a positive January has successfully predicted a winning February-through-December 83 percent of the time.
But in the 12 years when the market fell in January, the market only followed along in four years. That's just a 33 percent success rate.
The reason that positive Januarys prove to be a great barometer, and negative Januarys a terrible one, is the same reason that the "January barometer" appears to exist in the first place: Stocks rise.
Bill Fleckenstein is not ready to call the top for the market just yet. But pointing to the S&P 500's valuation, he says that once stocks do start to fall, the decline could prove extremely painful.
"The [price-to-earnings ratio] is 16, 17 times earnings," Fleckenstein said on Tuesday's episode of "Futures Now." "Why would you pay 16 times for an S&P company? I don't care about where rates are, because rates are artificially suppressed. Why isn't that worth 11 or 12 times? Just by that analysis, you'd be down by a quarter or 30 percent. So there's a huge amount of downside."
For Fleckenstein, a noted short seller who is famous for making money in the 2008 crash, the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program has led investors to badly misprice stocks.
The Fed "printing money does not make the economy work, but it sometimes makes stocks go wild," Fleckenstein said. "The reason the stock market did well last year is because the Fed printed $1 trillion."
And as long as the Fed continues its quantitative easing program, and investors continue to have faith in the Fed, "it's not an environment in which you can put together a logical argument to be short and stay short," he said.
Yet if the Fed tapers, the story line could change—particularly if the Fed is forced to increase its QE program after cutting it.
The Federal Open Market Committee is meeting this week, and many expect the Fed to taper its quantiative easing program by another $10 billion, bringing the total amount of QE down to $65 billion per month. And while tapering seemed to be atop nearly everyone's list of concerns in 2013, traders expect the market reaction to the announcement of a further Fed taper to be muted.
"I do believe the Fed intends to announce a continuation of the taper next week, and I don't think it will be particularly shocking to the markets," Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services said Friday, reflecting the views of many traders.
The two-day meeting starts Tuesday. A statement will be released Wednesday, followed by a news conference. This will be the final meeting chaired by Ben Bernanke, with Janet Yellen taking over at the beginning of February.
The Fed announced its first reduction of asset purchases in its December meeting, following months of speculation about when it would start to wind down its $85 billion program. The Fed also noted in December that it would watch employment data closely as it decides upon the future of its asset purchases. Although the December employment report showed that the economy created only 74,000 jobs, economists generally expect the Fed to cut down purchases by another $10 billion anyway.
(Read more: The Fed is trapped; buy gold now, Peter Schiff says)
Gold is starting 2014 on a high note, rising 4 percent after finishing off the worst year since 1981. And with bullion now trading at two-month highs, traders say a short squeeze could be imminent.
"In a heavily shorted market, you'll get to a level where people can no longer stand the pain, and then everybody rushes to the exit at once, causing the move to feed off of itself," said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services.
According to the Jan. 14 Commitments of Traders report from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, short bets on gold rose by 2.9 during the previous seven days, adding to the already-sizable short positioning in the market.
Being short gold in 2013 was a phenomenal trade, as the metal fell nearly 30 percent. But at this point, gold bears may be overplaying their hand.
"There are a significant people out there who really believe the gold price should be much lower, and you have a record amount of shorts in the market" said Mihir Dange, a gold options trader with Grafite Capital. "But usually record shorts and a rally should lead to some sort of squeeze somewhere."
Natural gas has screamed higher this week, as cold weather has led the commodity to rise over 10 percent in three trading sessions, bringing it to the highest level since June 2011. And some energy traders say there's still more room to the upside.
"This is a classic supply-and-demand move," said Anthony Grisanti of GRZ Energy. "All the cold has boosted demand, but we're about 15 percent below last year's supply at this time. So I still expect these prices to rise because I expect the cold to continue through the rest of the month."
A weekly inventory report released on Thursday showed a 107 billion cubic foot withdrawal, about in line with market expectations. Still, inventories are still far below the five-year average for this time of year.
"Yes, we're going to have cold weather—but at the same time, we're going to have to replenish the inventories," Jeff Kilburg of KKM Financial said Thursday on CNBC's "Futures Now." "So I think there's going to be demand for longer, and therefore, natural gas will stay elevated."
Peter Schiff has a warning for gold investors: Don't fear the Fed.
"Gold has already priced in whatever taper is coming," Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, told CNBC. "If anything, it has overpriced it."
Gold is slightly lower Tuesday on the heels of a stronger dollar and a report from Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal suggesting that the Fed will continue to reduce—or taper—its bond-purchasing program when it meets next week. The prospect of a Fed exit has terrified gold bugs and led to bullion's worst annual performance in 2013 since the end of the Clinton administration.
But those fears are misplaced, according to Schiff. As he sees it, the Fed has no viable exit strategy, and once the market realizes that, gold could become the hottest trade of the year.
"If the Fed starts tapering, the whole economy will tank," Schiff said on "Futures Now." "Stocks will suffer, the dollar will collapse, and all the Fed's stimulative programs ... since 2008 will have been for nothing. That's why they have to keep printing money. They can't stop. And eventually, that will make gold a very attractive investment."
In other words, the Fed is trapped in a vicious cycle of easy money, unable to fully revive the economy yet hesitant to end the very programs that it hoped would do just that.
Of course, Schiff has made similar claims in the past two years, none of which have worked out particularly well. And he remains noncommittal about the exact timing of gold's possible accent.
But gold remains his top investment choice, Schiff said, adding, "It's a no-brainer."
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