Companies have been beating first-quarter earnings expectations nicely, but there's a big problem up on America's top lines.» Read More
It's already been a hard week for natural gas, but it looks like there's more pain to come.
Natural gas futures were hammered on Thursday, as government supply data showed the biggest weekly gain in inventories in four years. Supplies rose by 111 billion cubic feet, which was more than the 93 million to 97 million expected, and well above the 72 billion cubic feet we saw last week.
(Read More: US natural gas supplies grew last week)
Worse, the consequent downdraft happened to coincide with the break of a key technical level at $4, causing many long positions to liquidate.
This year, Doug Kass has suffered the unenviable fate of watching the market rise 13 percent while he remained bearish. But on Thursday's episode of "Futures Now," he said that the end of the rally will soon be upon us.
"The narrative now is whether the Fed is simply pushing on a string," Kass said, "and many market participants are coming to this 'aha' moment."
Kass, the founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management, believes that the data have been weak, and will get even weaker.
"I have a variant view on both corporate profits and the outlook for economic growth versus the consensus. My concerns have been ignored by the markets, but they have been supported by the cautious guidance by corporations during the first-quarter earnings calls as well as by the recent economic data," Kass said.
(Read More: Housing Grows, Hiring Slow, Sequester Hits: Fed)
The problem is that "central bank liquidity blurs the line of demarcation between economic reality and stock market euphoria." For Kass, market participants are buying into the idea that the U.S. economy is growing, when we're simply seeing the impact of more liquidity.
Housing has experienced an incredible recovery. Though still far from the elevated levels of 2006, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index has increased by 8 percent over the past year, and the S&P Homebuilding sector has enjoyed nearly triple the gains of the S&P 500 over the past year.
But is this growth organic, or is it simply a result of the artificially low interest rates fostered by the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program?
"The housing recovery we have seen is not, in fact, a QE bubble," CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld told CNBC's "Futures Now."
This is not merely an academic question. As traders hold their breath for the Fed to begin tapering its asset purchases, the question of whether housing can continue to grow without the Fed has become critical.
Shenfeld believes that housing growth will not merely continue—it will accelerate, even if mortgage rates rise due to a Fed exit.
"Mortgage availability actually remains very, very tight," Shenfeld said. "I think that as the mortgage market recovers, which it will with recovering consumer credit, we'll get more support from mortgages for the housing rally in 2014, even if mortgage rates are in fact higher than they have been—because mortgage availability will be that much better."
(Read More: Another Housing Market Bubble Brewing)
After all, mortgage rates are so low that a move higher should not do much damage, the economist said.
"Remember that today, we're sitting on 30-year mortgage rates that are under 4 percent," Shenfeld noted. "Even if we push those rates up another 50, 60 basis points, we're into the mid-4 percent range on a 30-year mortgage. Remember that in the last cycle, anything under 6 percent was a screaming bargain."
(Read More: Best ETFs to Play Housing Boom)
Gold is gearing up to make a huge move one way or another. So which way will it go?
Buyers continue to test the crucial level of $1,422. In the event that $1,425 prints, shorts and those standing vigilant should briskly drive prices back above $1,450, sending gold on its way to test the multiyear low of $1,523. Not too long ago, gold sliced through that low like a hot knife through butter.
On the other hand, if the gold bulls (or the gold bugs) can't get $1,425 to print, the bears live a bit longer.
(Read More: Gold Rises After US Jobs Data Misses Forecasts)
Gold is searching for direction.
Gold followed up on Friday's near-$40 swing lower by stabilizing above major support, and August gold futures retested a high of $1,416.5.
Indeed, as data have become more mixed, the likelihood of seeing a curtailing of the bond purchasing program diminishes. On Monday, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart maintained that the central bank is committed to its bond-buying program, bringing further support to the metal.
The Dollar Index has traded sharply lower over the last few trading days. In this scenario, we would normally expect gold to benefit from a corresponding bid. But the fact that gold has traded in relative calm and has not broken out to the upside leads me to believe that the negative forces affecting gold remain in control.
This thesis will be confirmed if the August futures contract trades down to $1,384. The immediate downside objective would then be $1,357. A subsequent trade above $1,403 would convince me that I was wrong.
S&P 500 futures have stabilized following Friday's massive selloff.
Friday's decline put the June S&P futures at a low of 1,626.25, below the major 1,631 support level. Investors hit the sidelines as they began to fear that the backstop put in place by the Federal Reserve, to the tune of $85 billion in bond purchases a month, will be curtailed.
On Monday, ahead of ISM Manufacturing data, June S&P futures reached to retest the 1,639-1,642 pocket, as many have begun to believe that a curtail in bond purchases is already priced in following the drop.
Doug Kass has long been a bear on gold. In fact the founder of Seabreeze Partners Management engaged in a heated debate about gold with Euro Pacific Capital's Peter Schiff on the April 16 episode of "Futures Now," telling the ultrabullish Schiff that gold has "no intrinsic worth" and is "purchased by buyers in the hope that someone else—who knows that gold will forever be unproductive—will pay more for it in the future."
(Read More: Kass and Schiff Feud About Gold)
But now, Kass has become one of those very buyers. And why not—after all, he believes that someone else will pay more for it in the future!
"There's a time and a place and a price for everything," Kass said on Thursday's episode of "Futures Now." For Kass, this is now the time to buy gold.
As Kass wrote earlier this week, "Negative sentiment in gold has become extreme." So for Kass, gold now "provides a contrarian's appeal."
Indeed, Kass sees bearishness everywhere he looks. "The sharp price drop in gold has brought on a growing short position," he wrote. And "Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have recently slashed their gold price projections. I view this surrender as consistent with a possible contrarian signal."
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