Beef: Why there’s a Five Guys in your Town

It’s been a little over 10 months since we’ve looked at the Meat markets (Live and Feeder Cattle) hitting all time highs, and if you think that’s because the ascent has slowed down… think again.  It’s almost become S&P-like boring to talk about…. Ho hum, another all time high in Cattle today as the market has marched on and on this year. . Feeder Cattle is up 42%, while Live cattle is up 22% YTD. But it’s not just this year. The cattle markets have been in a consistent uptrend the past 4-5 years, more than doubling in price since 2010 {past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results}.

Feeder Cattle
Live Cattle(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)

Here’s where we’ll throw you a curve ball – because unlike the stock market, which is discounting what is excepted to be going on over the next 12-18 months, the cattle markets are factoring in conditions from 2 to 3 years ago. Puzzle me that one, futures markets affected by the past.  For further explanation, we turn to the Texas Department of Agriculture explaining that it was the drought all the way back in 2010 that’s pushing prices higher today, via the Texas Tribune.

At this point, the biggest impact of the drought has been on beef prices,” said Bryan Black, spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture. “The drought that began in the fall of 2010 forced cattle raisers in Texas, Oklahoma and elsewhere to reduce the size of their herds. As a result, beef production has declined, and that has pushed prices higher…. Donnell Brown, the owner of R.A. Brown Ranch, said he has had to reduce his 1,000-cow herd by 50 percent over the last three years.”

Shrinking production(Disclaimer: past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)
Chart Courtesy: Wall Street Journal

What’s that reduction look like in numbers, the Wall Street Journal has a graphic, showing production (not sure that’s the word the cattle getting slaughtered would use) to hit its lowest year to year change since at least 2006, down 5.3%, to 24.4 Billion pounds.

And now there’s a new factor – the high beef prices themselves… which can lead to more ranchers slaughtering the cattle they do have, to take advantage of the high prices, leading to less cattle and even higher prices. Although the flipside to that is also likely to happen. Just like money flew into the Dakotas to take advantage of high energy prices, money will fly into ranching in order to ‘produce’ more cattle and take advantage of the higher prices. Which will eventually lead to more supply… in turn pushing prices back down. It’s why commodity markets are cyclical – with those looking to profit from higher prices by growing more, drilling more, or birthing more cattle, ultimately causing the end of those high prices.

For now, we’ll just hope prices at our local hamburger joint don’t go up too high… Which come to think of it, might be another reason for high beef prices. The number of fast-casual burger spots in Chicago has increased a lot since the financial crisis, when restaurateurs decided on cheaper burger options over more expensive concepts (according to an article we read back in 2009/2010ish… that we just spent way too long trying to find… anybody got it out there?). There’s the national guys… Five Guys, SmashBurger, Epic Burger (our favorite), M Burger, and dozens of local entrants.  Now we’re getting hungry for a (more expensive) burger!





The Scary Commodities this Halloween

Halloween is here once more, and everyone around the office is gearing up: carving pumpkins, buying candy for trick or treat-ers, and last minute runs to the store for costumes. To get everyone else in the mood, we found some Halloween like similarities in the futures markets we couldn’t help but share.


Last year, it was the US Dollar/Euro Currency Battle Signal that got us excited for Halloween (Who doesn’t love bat man?)… and now that Bat Signal has transformed into one of the most feared villains in the galaxy… Jabba the Hutt, of course.

USD EUR(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)


A couple weeks ago we went in depth about the US Dollar having its best quarter in years , and how Managed Futures has historically benefited from it (past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results), but what else is out there on Halloween Eve?

Scary Vs:

We’re talking a shock to the system…. That Damned V Reversal. Here’s Why you should be Afraid of the V-Shaped Reversal

That Damned V(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)

V for Vendetta


Everyone needs their fill of snickers, Milky Way, 3 musketeers on Halloween. But where that chocolate comes from has but the market in limbo the past couple of weeks. It appears, the Cocoa market decided to get nice and scary (volatile) just in time for the ghosts and goblins to come out. That’s just your basic up move of around 12% and -13.5% fall in about a month and a half… nothing to see here, move along.

(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)

Sugar: Super Scary

For those that don’t like Chocolate (see here), there’s the laffy taffies, the warheads, the sour patch kids… basically… Sugar…. And lots of it. The market jumped out it’s mountain trend to start the year and has been choppy ever since.

Sugar(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)

We don’t expect sugar prices to go up anytime soon just because of Halloween, but recent studies show that the brain has the same reaction of cocaine as to sugar, suggesting that there might never be low demand.

Sugar Cocaine


That’s enough to maybe sway one of two people to be long sugar for the couple of the next couple years (or maybe short depending if the government calls for harsher restrictions).

We’ll leave that explanation to the journalists who make you really step back and think about it.  Here’s John Oliver from  Last Week Tonight doing his best to explain Sugar.  Have a happy Halloween, and don’t have too much sugar.

Pursuing Portfolio Perfection

It’s 5 years into the one of the biggest stock market bull runs of all time, and all looks fine for the aging bull even after this brief downturn in October.  For many, this has been a great run and they’ve been doing quite well during it. For many others, it’s been rather annoying, as their “smart” choice of diversification has under performed recently.

But here’s the deal – it’s not about beating the S&P 500. You’re on the quest to find a portfolio that best matches your needs before retirement. For some, that’s so far in the future, you’re not worrying about volatility. For some, it’s within reach, and you want to protect what you have before something bad happens. For some, you’re looking for something in between the two. So what’s your “Perfect Portfolio?” It’s not an easy question to answer, and many pros have tried (check out Meb Faber’s impressive list of asset allocation strategies and stats here). The basic portfolios to consider in our mind are the following:

[Read more...]

Past, Present, and Future in 30 Year Bond Futures

While everyone was watching the US Stock market bounce +5% over the last 8 trading days, there were a few hours of sheer terror/excitement (depending on what side of the trade you were on) in the 30 year US Bond Futures market at 10:00 am hour on October 22nd. What? Say you… I don’t remember any big moves in bonds at that time. And if you were looking at the so called ‘front month’ contract, you would be correct.  The December 2014 bond futures traded in a range of 142-10 to 142-12 between 10 am and 1 pm last Wednesday, as you can see below.

But while all was calm in the front month, there was a huge move going on in the June 2015 back month contract. Wednesday was the first trading day for that contract, and it quickly jumped from 141 to 152, a percentage gain of 7%, with a volume of over 16,000+ contracts in just 2 hrs. Compare the two moves below:

[Read more...]

Would’a Could’a Should’a

Woulda Coulda Shoulda
(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)

NASDAQ: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

(click here for a larger view)
Nasdaq Infograph_6

Stocks… We Hope they Go to Zero!

One of the best things about being in an investment which can do well when markets are down is the fun you can have at cocktail parties, in the locker room at the golf club, and dinner with friends. A -334 point down day in the Dow and around -5% move off of all time highs starts to  bring out the shrugs and exasperated expressions, as those well to do’s around you murmur their version of the timeless classic:

“Tough day in the markets today, huh?”

And here’s where it gets fun… because our go-to response is usually:

“Sure was tough… we hope they go to zero.”

For those from the world of traditional investing, or better yet – those who’ve only been around the last five years – this can be a bit unsettling and cuts a lot of conversations short.

“Go to zero? What?”

While we don’t actually want market to go all the way to zero (we still want a functioning society and all of that), we welcome with open arms the volatility that would accompany some fear and panicked selling. Because, you see, we’re mostly in the business of volatility. Or to be more precise – the business of profiting off of volatility expansions from periods of consolidation and dampened volatility.

As we have laid out before, managed futures tends to do well during market crisis periods because of their ability to go short global markets. In 2008, managed futures programs found themselves short nearly every type of market not considered a safe haven, be it stock indices, energies, foreign currencies, metals, grains, or softs. Fast forward to the past few weeks, and we’ve seen several managed futures programs start to initiate such short positions in markets like US and non-US stock indices, energies, foreign currencies, grains, and metals.

Quite simply, we’re cheering the markets to zero because the lower they go in this move down, the better for our clients in their long volatility investments. Of course, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results and there are clients and programs and positions which may lose money in an extended move lower.  But generally speaking, such down trends work to the benefit of the managed futures space in our experience.

So for now we’ll be cheering… “Go to Zero!”

Russelll To Zero(Disclaimer: Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)
Chart via