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11192012 November 20, 2012

Posted by easterntiger in economy, financial, gold, markets, oil, silver, stocks.
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Weather Report 11192012

Current Positions  (Changes)
I(Intl) – up to 5%*; S(Small Cap) – up to 5%*; C(S&P) –up to 5%* ; F(bonds) – up to 20%; G(money market) – remainder

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI***) last 4 weeks, thru 11/19
-9.38, -26.36, -27.34, -15.02
(3wks ago/2wks ago/1 wk ago/today)

****search the blog for a detailed description of this personal indicator

Markets alternate between periods of fear and hope.  Hope for an agreement to avoid the automatic mechanisms of the fiscal cliff at the end of the year have taken to the stage, while fear of failure and, to some extent, the European debt crisis have moved slightly away from focus.

As a part of recent fears, Apple had fallen $175/share, or 25% from its’ record high at $705.  As it represents a larger portion of both the NASDAQ and the S&P100 than any other individual stock, Apple and the NASDAQ led the indexes up earlier this year,  and both led all indexes down over two months.  It’s not likely that a solid reversal will occur here without Apple and the NASDAQ.  Another cue to a reversal would be the emergence of a bond interest rate low/bond price high, with volume significant enough to drive money from the safety of bonds to the an attractive risk in equities. With some momentum, a light holiday week rally is almost a guarantee.

Before today’s advance, the S&P500 (SPX) had fallen 8.1% since the high on October 8th.  It had reversed 62% of it’s gain into that October 8th high as measured from the last low on June 4th.  This 62% reversal from a peak is often seen by market technicians as a key point to gather strength for a reversal back up, not necessarily AT this level, but, from NEAR these levels. This level is seen as major support for the Russell 2000 small caps.  Further, light volume tends to favor upward reversals during holiday weeks, at least barring any additional fundamentally bad news from the remainder of the financial markets, internationally or domestically.  I would recommend higher allocations of equities if I did not believe that a slightly ‘lower low’ might be in the cards before the next higher and more significant advance takes place.  If there is another low within the next two weeks or so, I will suggest another 5% increment in equities toward an expected year-end, QE3 induced/supported, fiscal cliff optimism rally.   Based upon the S&P500, S&P100 and Wilshire 5000 composite all returning back above their key 200-day moving averages today (after spending 3 days below), this is a positive signal for the short-term, favoring upside.  Potential upside movement is approximately 4 times the potential downside movement, over the short to intermediate term.

In my previous full post, the recommendation to hold a half allocation* of equities based upon the prospect of an advance was hinged upon the fact that the Dow Industrials had not experienced a 1% decline the entire quarter. Historically, this bode extremely well for the prospects for a higher advance.  However, on October 10th, I suggested an exit from equities based upon two days in which the Dow Industrials exceeded this 1% decline.  There have been 4 other days since the October 10th exit recommendation where this decline has also exceeded 1%.   Prior to today, there had been only 2 positive days exceeding 1% since October 10th.

In spite of any upward reversals between now and the end of the year, we could see a 35-50% or more drop in the S&P within the next 12-24 months, simply on the basis of long-term projections, which would refer to recent levels as likely 4-year highs.

Charlie Minter and Marty Weiner of Comstock Partners have the following to say in a brief last week….” the factors that have sparked the stock market in the last few years have come to an end.  In our view, this is readily apparent in the change in trend since the peak on September 14th.  We think that date will turn out to be the top for some time to come.”  However, shorter term, Doug Kass, founder and President of Seabreeze Partners Management, Inc suggests, “…the elements of a fiscal cliff compromise are in place and that the market is exaggerating the chance of failure. …Stocks should follow to the upside.”  These are not necessarily conflicting views, as the Comstock view takes the next few years into account, while the Seabreeze view focuses more on the shorter term. From these two views, there appears to be some upside at this point. However, it does appear to be limited.

Some casual observers attributed the sharp (2.4%) post-election sell-off in US equities to President Obama’s re-election.  However, within hours after the election results, the major causes were developing elsewhere; and they remind investors of pre-existing concerns that, unfortunately, won’t go away quickly.

One key observer was on a trade floor when US equities started heading south on that morning following the election.  It was a little after 7 A.M. on the east coast.  The trigger was a speech by Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank. The result was an immediate sharp fall in European shares and in US futures.

Draghi echoed a theme highlighted elsewhere: the slowing of the German economy, Europe’s largest.  Together with TV scenes of violence on the streets of Athens, this reminded investors that Europe’s crisis is far from over.

Draghi’s remarks were amplified by investors’ legitimate concerns on how or whether the new Congress and President Obama would both work faithfully to resolve the fiscal cliff – a self-inflicted problem that, if poorly handled, would push the US into recession.  And this relates to a deeper and important question; and one that we need to monitor carefully in the months ahead. There is some serious soul searching ahead for our two political parties.

The issues that challenge both political parties will be in play as politicians struggle to deal with the fiscal cliff. They will be even more visible as politicians seeks to do in this term what eluded them earlier –mobilize sufficient congressional support to maintain policies that sustain high growth, create meaningful jobs, and improve medium-term financial sustainability.  Positive rumors on Friday on the progress of negotiations on the fiscal cliff resulted in a strong reversal off earlier lows of the day.

In addition to the fiscal cliff headlines, but, never far away from the bigger picture, Greek parliamentarians recently took the final major step needed to unlock a fresh injection of cash into their imploding economy.  Now the focus shifts to external creditors.  Expect them to also come through in the next few days. Yet none of this high drama meaningfully changes the awful outlook facing the country’s struggling citizens.

There remain at least three huge problems – with the approach being pursued by Greece and its European neighbors. And they are interconnected in a manner that aggravates the country’s outlook.

First, the design of the program is still flawed. If fully implemented, it does very little to counter the forces of economic contraction; and it does not meaningfully improve medium-term fiscal solvency. And this is even before you focus on the underlying operational assumptions which are, once again, way too optimistic.

Second, external creditors are providing too little support – not only via new cash but, as important, in terms of debt reduction. The former is needed to deal with mounting domestic payments arrears and upcoming obligations. The latter is required to overcome the “debt overhang” that undermines the inflow of capital that is so critical to private sector activity, investment and employment; and this needs to include debt reduction on official loans.

Third, the again-revised program will not crowd into productive investments. Companies clearly see the problems. Much more importantly, Greek citizens are losing the little trust they still have—which isn’t much – in their institutions of government and in the solidarity of their European neighbors.

At best, this latest iteration of yet another Greek bailout will buy a little more time. It will do nothing to meaningfully improve the prospects for the country and its besieged citizens. For that, Greece and Europe need a meaningful reset of their operational and institutional approaches.

Light crude oil is back at $89/barrel, near a level that has held declines going all the way back to late 2009.  There is little or no expectation of further declines below this support level in the absence of significant unfavorable economic news around the world. Similarly, unleaded gasoline is also in a range where price support has existed all this year.  Therefore, no further decline in gasoline prices should be expected under normal conditions.

Interest in gold is just off of a two-month low.

Interest in silver is at a nineteen-month high as traders moved in to ‘buy the dip’ near $32.50.

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