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January 21, 2020 | Is Copper Signaling the Return of Inflation?

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

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.

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January 21st, 2020

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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