One of my all-time favorite songs is a saddle song entitled “The Strawberry Roan” composed by Curley Fletcher, an American composer of cowboy songs and cowboy poetry.
The classic cowboy song, “The Strawberry Roan,” was written in 1915. Curley passed away in 1954.
Over the years, I have referred to “Strawberry Roan” often when markets become volatile, unpredictable and so difficult to trade that I dub them frog walkers.
Curley Fletcher dubbed that strawberry roan a “frog walker,” a “regular outlaw.” The “worst bucker” on the range.
Strawberry could “turn on a nickel and give you some change.” He would “hit on all fours and goes up on high,” leaving the rider “spinning up there in the sky.”
A bucking horse hard to ride and stay with is a frog walker. A market hard to trade and stay with is a frog walker, as well.
Lately, frog walking markets are popping up all over the place. The orneriest markets at this time are corn, gold, hogs and bonds. Allow me to explain with the help of Curley Fletcher.
Corn: The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report regarding planted corn acres was released about two weeks ago, and it was shockingly bearish. It was bearish in face of what was the wettest and slowest planting season on record.
The report data caused corn prices, as well as soybean and wheat prices to make a “high dive.” Trying to stay with corn or other grains on the long side of the ledger while the markets bucked so violently was nearly impossible.
Hogs: The USDA a few trading sessions ago released a Pig Crop report that only comes out twice a year. The data showed that U.S. hog producers continue to expand herds above expectations.
According to the report, the U.S. hog herd is now the largest since 1943. And when that news hit the wires, hog prices headed north, not south. Those old oinkers are not quite the orneriest market on the board, but darn near.
Gold: According to the Federal Reserve, inflationary pressures remain nearly non-existent. Yet, gold prices this week ended at a new six-year high.
History shows that gold is a perfect indicator for inflation. Or, political turmoil.
Do investors and traders following the lead of gold? Or, do they following the observations of the Fed? Or, is the gold market simply ready to “turn on a nickel and give you some change.”
Bonds: Yields on U.S. treasuries have been inverted for a full quarter. In the past, such a scenario was a perfect indicator an economic downturn was at hand.
Consider: The yield curve inverted prior to each of the last seven recessions over the past 50 year without making a mistake. With bond prices now at a two-year high, an inverted yield curve and gold prices at a six-year high, there is trouble ahead for something.
Maybe several some things. And, historically, bonds are a “regular outlaw,” difficult to ride and stay with.
Here are the final two verses to “Strawberry Roan.” Read them and learn what a frog walker can do.
He’s about the worst bucker I’ve seen on the range
He’ll turn on a nickel and give you some change
He hits on all fours and goes up on high
Leaves me a spinnin’ up there in the sky
I turns over twice and I comes back to earth
I lights in a cussin’ the day of his birth
I know there are ponies that I cannot ride
There’s some of them left, they haven’t all died
I’ll bet all my money, the man ain’t alive
That’ll stay with old strawberry
When he makes his high dive
My advice for investors and ag producers is to “pull your hat down snug and tighten that cinch — it is frog walker time.”