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04222017 April 22, 2017

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, markets, stocks.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 100%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 04/21/17

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-11.3, -3.43, -6.54, -1.94

Partial recap of my interim report of 4/19 – Stocks have given up much of their gains built on the ‘hopes’ of health care reform, tax reform, relief in regulations, or, any of the political promises that fueled one more fluff-filled rally.  Optimism was enough to create this last opportunity.  It is not enough to sustain, or, incur any reasonable risk.

Four days later, from CNBC – Stocks surged as talk out of Washington pointed to the potential for some action on health care, which is viewed as a precursor to any move forward on tax reform. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also said Thursday that progress is being made on tax reform. President Donald Trump said he was hopeful there would be a vote on health care next week and also to fund the government.

With virtually no gains for over 2 months, rhetoric such as the above keeps markets stuck in a perpetual, dream-filled loop to nowhere.

The chart below shows the wasted motion currently underway.

That MSCI World Index is a broad global equity benchmark that represents large and mid-cap equity performance across 23 developed markets countries. It covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country and MSCI World benchmark does not offer exposure to emerging markets.

Otherwise, and with all due respect to the advances from Election Day into February, it’s worthy to note that pre-Election Day price levels were flat to down for most of the previous 18 months; from March ‘15 to November ‘16, C Fund 44 to 45, F Fund 51 to 49, I Fund 61 to 56. Early in February, several days of the bulk of February gains resulted from comments from administration officials giving hints of a tax cut.

Any news on (1) health care reform, or (2) tax reform, or (3) tax cut, or (4) infrastructure = automatic stock rally; a rally that might or might not remain several weeks later. (‘tax cut’ in the news on 4/21 – index prices moved slightly upward immediately, though, it reversed within minutes. There were two such occasions in early February that created the same ‘sugar high’ for the markets.)

Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones has a message for Janet Yellen and investors: Be very afraid.
The legendary macro trader says that years of low interest rates have bloated stock valuations to a level not seen since 2000, right before the Nasdaq tumbled 75 percent over two-plus years. That measure — the value of the stock market relative to the size of the economy — should be “terrifying” to a central banker, Jones said earlier this month at a closed-door Goldman Sachs Asset Management conference, according to people who heard him.

This chart shows the S&P 500 with respect to the size of total economic activity, GDP.

The market is expensive!  A week ago, I mentioned the 28.8 price-to-earnings ratio, which is 73% higher than the 100 year average. This expense projects a future return in the very low single digits over the next ten years.

The 500 companies in the S&P500 can be divided into 11 sectors.

Each sector contains different number of companies.

Within this current 29.1 P/E, as of 4/21, the individual S&P sectors are shown as follows:

Sector                            Number of Stocks        Shiller P/E        Regular P/E

Energy                                35                                 17.40           -41.80**

Consumer Defensive          41                                  23.30            19.20

Financial Services               70                                 23.70            16.00

Industrials                          70                                 23.90             21.50

Utilities                              28                                  25.00            34.20

Healthcare                         59                                  27.40            20.60

Basic Materials                   23                                  27.70            35.60

Consumer Cyclical             85                                   28.20            21.90

Technology                       60                                   30.80            24.10

Communication Services   9                                     31.20            20.80

Real Estate                        24                                   47.80            22.70

S&P 500                           500                                  29.10            26.40

** – negative price-to-earnings in the energy sector are due to significant losses in coal, oil & gas exploration, integrated oil & gas, gas & oil storage, as a result of oil prices remaining below the break-even points for many companies in the sector.  This is also evidence of the flaws in ‘regular’ p/e ratios, versus the Shiller p/e’s.

Meanwhile….a short-term underlying technical picture is absolutely unchanged through this week, and is decidedly negative. For eight days in a row, many major averages have hovered UNDER a line of resistance, a ceiling, at the 50 day moving average.

Friday’s S&P500 level is actually 15 points lower than the February 21st level of 2366!

Last September, the C fund lost 4% within 7 weeks after breaking below the 50 day moving average.

Similar patterns show up in the F and I funds.

S fund’s 50 day moving average is 57.08.

I fund’s 20 day moving average is 62.03, as it nears the 50 day average at 61.36.

The more consecutive closes below these key averages, the more negative the near-term technical picture.

F fund performance relative to C fund

F fund performance relative to S fund

F fund performance relative to I fund

The F fund is poised to outperform C, S and I funds, with (1) the topping of the equity markets in early March, corresponding to (2) the topping in interest rates early in the year, a perfect, normally correlated occurrence.

On the liquidity front, this month the Fed added $23.4 billion in cash to Primary Dealer Trading Accounts in the period April 12-20. This is slightly more than the March addition of $21.9 billion, the smallest add since January 2016. It was a sharp decline from February’s $41.6 billion.  These levels are far below the QE levels of a few years ago.  What’s different this time? That QE support, that ended in 2014, was NOT withdrawn the next month, as is the support from mortgage backed securities!!!!

In the past 18 months, there have been several periods that tied or exceeded 20-30 year records in the number of days where major stock averages did not exceed 1% up or down for a number of days in a row.  This shows a lack of conviction on the part of both buyers, AND sellers.  Potential buyers are waiting on lower prices.  Potential sellers are waiting on higher prices.  In either case, no one wants to be first, to get in OR out. The latest report on borrowing to buy stocks (margin debt) has just hit another high.  Those borrowers might believe that it’s a good idea.  They won’t believe so later, if their gains don’t meet their expectations, forcing them to sell sooner than expected, and, possibly, under pressure to do so.  If this happens, you’ll know!!

So, as you thought that the Fed ended QE in late 2014, and it did, the Fed has continued to add cash to the financial markets every month. It does so via the purchases of mortgage backed securities (MBS). It calls them “replacement purchases.” The Fed is the bank for the banks, i.e. the central bank. It has resolved since 2009 to force trillions in excess cash into the banking system and making sure that that, somehow, some additional money flows through the system. It has also resolved to make sure that the amount of the cash in the system does not shrink. It does that each month via its program of MBS replacement purchases. The Primary Dealers* are selected by the Fed for the privilege of trading directly with the Fed in the execution of monetary policy. This is essentially the only means by which monetary policy is transmitted directly to the securities markets, and then indirectly into the US and world economies. The only means which the Fed uses in the transmission and execution of monetary policy is via securities trades with the Primary Dealers.  Yes! The Fed is still providing some degree of artificial support to the markets.  It’s just not to the same degree as before the expiration of quantitative easing (QE).

  • List of current primary dealersBank of Nova Scotia, New York Agency, BMO Capital Markets Corp., BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Barclays Capital Inc., Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., Citigroup Global Markets Inc.,Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC , Daiwa Capital Markets America Inc., Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., Goldman, Sachs & Co., HSBC Securities (USA) Inc., Jefferies LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, Mizuho Securities USA LLC, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, Nomura Securities International, Inc., RBC Capital Markets, LLC, RBS Securities Inc., Societe Generale, New York Branch, TD Securities (USA) LLC, UBS Securities LLC., Wells Fargo Securities, LLC

When the Fed buys MBS to replace those paid down from its balance sheet, it does so via trades with Primary Dealers. It buys MBS via forward purchase contracts which are typically settled in the next month or the following month. The Fed is only keeping the amount of its assets level. But it pumps billions in cash into the accounts of Primary Dealers each month as part of that process.

The dealers are in the business making markets in a broad spectrum of securities, including MBS. Their biggest customer is the Fed. When the Fed cashes out the dealers by purchasing MBS from them, the dealers can both leverage and redeploy that cash to not only buy more MBS, but to purchase whatever other securities it wants to. Stocks are a favored vehicle. The Fed cashes out the dealers when it settles the MBS purchases around the third week of the month each month. Even though the amount of cash in the system is roughly static, the Fed is still pumping cash into Primary Dealer accounts each month. That has an impact on the stock market. It’s obviously not the only impact, but it’s still part of the central bank game of rigging the market.

This chart of the combination of all of the Fed feeding since 2009, and even beyond the quantitative easing (QE), although it ended in 2014, continues, in reduced effect, through monthly purchasing of mortgage backed securities, providing trading revenues to participating banks.

Notice that from the end of QE, in late 2014, and on to late 2016, market levels were insignificantly higher overall. This ‘juicing’, only within the past 5 months (post-election) was on the ‘hopes’ I mentioned in the interim report, based upon prospects for health care reform, tax reform, etc., that, realistically, won’t have the market impact that is was already anticipated. Almost none of these elements are going to address the ‘greed’ factor that’s already been cranked into markets over the past few years, to get them to current levels.

With mortgage rates coming off the highs, there could be a slight increase in refi activity. That causes an increase in MBS paydowns, which the Fed will replace in the next month. Then it takes another month or two for those purchases to settle. There is a lag of 5-6 months between the drop in mortgage rates and the increase in the settlement of the Fed’s replacement purchases. By then the Fed may have begun to implement its proposed policy of “normalizing” the balance sheet. That’s a nice way of saying “shrinking” the balance sheet. To do that the Fed is proposing to allow its Treasury holdings to mature and not be rolled over. It’s also proposing not replacing MBS as they are paid down. So instead of a small addition to the Fed’s MBS purchases from the Primary Dealers a few months down the road, the Fed will indirectly withdraw money from the banking system and the markets. By doing it slowly over several years, the Fed may be able to avoid crashing the market. I use the word “may” purposely. Any shrinkage of the Fed’s assets will increase the odds of an accident. Slow and steady tightening will act like the drip, drip, of the old Chinese water torture. It will promulgate a bear market in stocks. Accidents do tend to happen in bear markets. The drip, drip, drip eventually turns into a cascade.

Most interesting, the Fed minutes last week also showed that Fed officials were discussing what to do with the central bank’s massive $4.5-trillion balance sheet, which was quadrupled during the financial crisis and its aftermath as the Fed engaged in three rounds of bond purchases as a way to depress long-term interest rates and give the stock market a boost. The minutes said that Fed officials agreed “a change in the committee’s reinvestment policy would likely be appropriate later this year.” Currently, the Fed has been keeping the level of the balance sheet steady at $4.5 trillion, by re-investing 100% of maturing debt.

It has been held for years that we’ll know the Fed is serious about tightening when it starts shrinking the balance sheet. Right now they are in the signaling stage. They’re talking about it. When the Fed talks about an idea, it eventually gets around to doing it. The Street is already telling you it will be no big deal. Don’t believe it. It’s time to ‘sell’ the stock rallies.  Not everyone will get the message in time.

Will the Fed Burst the Bubble in 2017?

The Fed has engineered the second longest Bull market in Wall Street’s history. It’s been dubbed the “Least Loved” Bull, because the US-economy’s recovery from the Great Recession has been the weakest since the 1930’s averaging only +2% growth per year. Still, the rising market for US-stocks, turned eight years old on March 9th, and might have finally silenced the critics in the “Doom and Gloom” business, who doubted its staying power. From a statistical perspective, this market’s no slouch. It has posted big enough returns to rank #4 all-time in terms of performance, with the mega-Bull run from the 1990’s taking top honors with a gain of +417%, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The current market can’t be faulted for a lack of endurance, either, as only one Bull has lasted longer. It has also generated more than $21-trillion in new stock market wealth.  ALWAYS keep in mind that these ‘returns’, always measured from the March ‘09 bottom, are measured from a point of a 12-year low, where all of the gains from 1997 to 2009 were wiped out.  Any triple-digit gains for the past 8 years also apply from 1997 to today.  That places averages for this 20-year period right back in the range of long-term norms.  There are no free lunches.  You only get returns with time, or, with higher than average risk, in the absence of sufficient time.

The best-performing group for the past eight years was the consumer discretionary sector, which includes home improvement retailer Home Depot, coffee shop Starbucks and athletic apparel and sneaker giant Nike, has benefited from an improving economy and people’s willingness to buy things not deemed necessities. The S&P-500 index has rallied +250% since hitting a closing low of 676.53 on March 9th, 2009. The gains since, uninterrupted by a decline of -20% or more, rank this bull market as the second longest ever. The S&P continued to rally through a five quarter long recession in corporate earnings through most of 2016, supported in part by historically low interest rates which made stocks comparatively cheaper and more rewarding than high grade bond yields. The “Least Loved” Bull market is nearly three years older than the average Bull, and is more than a year shorter than the longest one: the rally from October 11th, 1990 to March 24th, 2000.

However, this Bull market isn’t only the second oldest, it’s also the second-most expensive. On a trailing 12-month basis, using Q’4 2016 GAAP earnings per share, the S&P 500’s price-to-earnings ratio stands at 25x, -second only to the 30-times earnings multiple recorded at the end of the tech bubble in 2000. (The range was also into the high 20’s surrounding the Great Crash of 1929.  We’ve left that out, since it predates everyone reading this.) Investors, however, are encouraged by a projected +11% rise in 2017 operating-earnings per share and think the growth could be even stronger if the Trump administration successfully delivers on promised tax cuts and increased infrastructure spending. Others see the potential for a final “melt-up” that could mark the top. Share prices could shoot up sharply if retail investors get jazzed about stocks again and start “pouring” money into the market. The melt-up may have already started, or finished on March 1st (the current high), on expectations that Trump’s tax reform will significantly cut taxes for both corporations and individuals. The stock index hasn’t suffered a drop of -20% since the Great Recession Bear, which ended on March 9, 2009. But the broad market gauge is up more than +250% since. There is no doubt that when the SPX is up +250%, with mid-single-digit sales growth, that it is a liquidity driven market. Then again, liquidity is one of the five cornerstones of the investing process, along with valuations, fundamentals, technicals and fund flows. This is clearly not going to last indefinitely, but the conditions for a Bear market – a decline of -20%, are only in place WHEN the Fed drains liquidity to the extent that it causes an economic recession (more on that below). Whether we like the interventions or not, for markets, the Fed matters. It has always mattered.

Indeed, if one left it at that, the answer would not be exactly wrong. However, there is one more factor which is rarely discussed, and which – according to Deutsche Bank – virtually the entire equity rally of the past four years is the result of plunging bond yields, which as a reminder, is the direct pathway by which central banks operate. As Deutsche Bank’s analysts warn, “various Fed officials have raised the issue of financial stability in the context of the reach for yield and riskier products to make up for low rates. This is part of financial repression. The logic might be that once the Fed has normalized, elements of that reach for yield and risk would be unwound and this could lead to disruptive financial market volatility.” Put in the simplest possible word, this means the Fed is worried that once rates go up as a result of renormalization and the lack of a central bank to front-run, stocks will crash. As it turns out the Fed has ample reason to be worried. Because QE and the Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy or financial repression is responsible for 92% of the S&P-500 rally since it launched QE-2 in Nov 2012, or just over +800-points, that would suggest that the Fed super-easy money policies are directly responsible for approximately 25% of the “value” in the market, and any moves to undo this support could result in crash. In retrospect, it becomes obvious why the Fed is petrified about even the smallest, +25-bps rate hike. The problem is an irredeemably flawed monetary doctrine that tracks every tick in the S&P-500 index, and uses financial repression, or artificially low interest rates and bond yields were the principal mechanism whereby wealth is transferred from savers to the US-government and shareholders in the US-stock markets.

Stock traders have been under the spell of monetary easing” to the point where negative news such as downbeat US jobs data in March did not stop stock prices from going up. Traders shrugged off uncertainty because they expect any bad news to be followed by continued low interest rates or bond purchases that increase the supply of money in the economy. Yet again, massive credit-fueled capital misallocation simply papers over short-term cracks and extends the life of the economy’s expansion cycle, but leaves a bigger more damaging hangover of credit defaults in its wake, unless just a little more credit fueled zombification will help. Many traders don’t expect the Fed to normalize its interest rates or reduce the size of its bond portfolio in any meaningful way, and the feeling is that we’re OK for a while, and everyone thinks they’re smart enough to know when the music is going to stop.

Many investors are bullish on stocks in the ninth year of a rally. Earnings will improve with future tax cuts and the liquidity spigot is still wide open, so it’s like a giant game of musical chairs. The attitude on the part of most investors is that they have to play while the Fed got the music going.

The Fed’s bombshell announcement; “a change in reinvestment policy would likely be appropriate later this year,” from the minutes of the Fed’s discussion at their March Meeting released Wednesday, showed near-unanimous support for the +25-bps rate hike to 0.875%, the second rate hike in three months. The group decided to keep signaling that future rate hikes would be gradual, and futures traders are giving 60% odds of a +25-bps rate hike to 1.125% at the June meeting. Traders are split on the likelihood of a rate hike to 1.375% by year’s end, with the Dec ’17 contract priced at an implied yield of 1.25%, or a 50% chance. The Fed has a major credibility flaw and traders are skeptical of their hawkish rhetoric.

Not so coincidentally, as the Fed Fund rate has been increasing, mortgage rates are falling. Why is that?  While increasing the Fed Funds rate makes it more expensive for the banks to borrow from the Fed, mortgage rates are based on the 10-year Treasury Note, which has been weakening since it’s peak in December and March. The 10-year Treasury Note is more responsive to changes in the dollar, and to global rate concerns.

Final Note

There’s always a possibility of unexpected, but, related, outside negative influence that can always act to disrupt even the most carefully positioned scenarios.

The Shanghai index has been locked in a tight range, also pretending to project a stable financial environment.  This has been accomplished with some degree of force, using involuntary means to prevent selling. It has even been illegal to sell stocks under some conditions.

In the event that the support range currently in play doesn’t hold, it could result in a wave of forced selling that could destabilize our markets as well.  I’ll be watching for any echoes that come in our direction.

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10112016 October 11, 2016

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, markets, stocks.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 75%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 10/11/16

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-5.35, +19.83, +8.88, -5.06

Some markets are designed to test the patience and limits of investors, with no gains, no losses, and more guessing and wondering.

For 14 weeks, since the date of the last report, dozens of markets worldwide have moved only slightly from their previous levels.

Tom Fitzpatrick is a top strategist at Citi and studies charts of trading patterns to forecast changes in the stock market.

When he and his team overlaid the current chart of the benchmark S&P 500 with the index in 1987 — right before the crash — they got “the chills.”

marketchartoftheday

  • There’s heightened concern about Europe and its banks. The UK has set a March 2017 date for when it will begin legal proceedings to exit the European Union, and Deutsche Bank failed to reach a swift deal that would lower its $14 billion fine with US authorities.
  • We’re in “the most polarizing US presidential election in modern times.”
  • More reports are circulating about central banks in Japan and Europe removing some of the economic stimulus they’ve provided by tapering their bond purchases. This is raising concerns about the efficacy of central bank policy around the world, Fitzpatrick said.
  • And finally, some peculiar market moves: a 16% move in oil prices within a week; a 20-basis-point shift in US 10-year yields in five days; and a $90 move in gold prices in nine days. The Chinese yuan and British pound have made massive moves in a short period of time, too.

The MSCI World Index is a broad global equity benchmark that represents large and mid-cap equity performance across 23 developed markets countries. It covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country.  This single index covers issues in the following countries: United States, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore.mcsi

On July 18, the last Weather Report date, the MSCI World Index was at 1703.93.  It closed on 10/10 at 1715.22, for a net change in nearly 3 months of  0.066%.

The dependence on Fed announcements, meetings, expectations, press events has become extreme.  This ‘screams’ to the absence of a market actually moving on fundamentals of either good or bad data.  Good data encourages.  Bad data implicates more Fed action and dependence.  This is the ‘no-win/no-loss’ short-term cycle, waiting on some major, unexpected event to finally ‘pop’ the complacency; the bubble.

Over the past several months the markets have consistently drifted from one Fed or Central Bank meeting to the next. Yet, with each meeting, the questions of stronger economic growth, rate hikes, and financial stability are passed off until the next meeting. So, we wait….until the next meeting…..and the next meeting…..and the next meeting.

Business channels are already starting their ‘countdown clocks’, now at 22 days, for the next meeting.  BIG YAWN!

Equity Markets – Long Term

The chart below shows the historic ‘topping’ patterns now in place.  What has in the past been a 1-2 year process of ‘topping’, followed by a severe correction, is now a 2-3(?) year process.  The lack of a downdraft, if you ignore the 8-10% pullbacks on October of ‘14, August ‘15, and January ‘16, have created a sense of calm by many who perceive little risk. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In each case, upside has still been limited to a level that is far smaller than the travel downward.  These are tests.  Those who fall asleep fully invested will find themselves rushing for the door a few days too late.

S&P500 July 18th: 2166.89; October 10th: 2163.66; Net Change:-3.23

sptop(We’ve been in this circle on the right for TWO YEARS!!)

In normal times, the S&P 500 Index should compound at 5.7% real return; so, the past five years have delivered roughly double what is normal. Getting double what you deserve (in isolation) should always make you nervous. Deceptively, these returns have only happened because of the combination of FED intervention, increasing margin debt, and stock buybacks, or, in summary, historic levels of financial engineering and borrowed money, from individuals, companies, and central banks.  This money must be repaid.

Market Fundamentals/Economy

medicorefundamentals

(***click chart for better view, press back button to return***)

 

Something smells funny.

That smell is what we call price/earnings (P/E) ratio multiple expansion. Rather than waiting for actual growth in earnings, the marketplace, over the past five years, has simply decided to pay more for earnings. Paying more for the same dollar of earnings is rarely wise and often foolish.

The chart below covers stock price to earnings ratios over the past 75 years.  One thing is clear; bull markets neither sustain themselves nor continue from these levels.

When you hear that ‘stocks are cheaper than they’ve been in 10 years’, keep this picture below in mind.  It most certainly is not true.

schillerratio

We’ve returned, once again, to the most expensive market levels in several generations. Markets are within a fraction of the valuations last seen before the last peak in late 2007. Even if some are willing, for no good reason, to chase prices higher, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be left holding the bag by those who choose not to do so.

The latest data from FactSet shows that S&P 500 companies spent $125.1 billion on share buybacks during the second quarter of 2016, the lowest figure in nearly three years:

sharebuybacks

Share buybacks have been one of the biggest drivers of US equity markets since the end of the financial crisis.

Between 2012 and 2015, US companies bought $1.7 trillion of their own stock, according to Goldman Sachs. Without these big purchases, US equity flows would have actually been negative by over $1 trillion during that period. Low interest rates have encouraged companies to take on debt, and much of it was used to buy back shares rather than investing in their underlying businesses.

Whether the latest cooling in share buybacks will continue or the larger trend will resume is unclear. If it’s the latter, I’d expect equity market volatility to increase in coming quarters.

Shorter term, the stock market appears to be stuck in neutral since July-August and the trading range is narrowing.  Some indexes show a coiling in a sideways triangle pattern, which says we’re going to get a strong move soon.

The month-to-month indecision shows a conflict between obvious central bank purchases for temporary support, and the reality of declining earnings, decreases in major asset purchases by the Fed (ended Oct. ’14),  European Central Bank (ending in Mar. ’17), and the Bank of Japan. (decreases not yet announced, but, expected)

Overall, more than $20 TRILLION dollars worldwide have created artificial buoyancy to world markets in the past 7 years.  It can’t go on forever, because the pace, methods and impact of ‘unwinding’ are not predictable.

These charts show different levels of resistance for different reasons.  Primarily, trend lines for each chart extend back into last year, and possibly before.

EuroStoxx 50 July 18th: 2949.17; October 10th: 3035.76; Net Change: +86.59

eurostoxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikkei 225  July 19th: 16723.31; October 10th: 16860; Net Change:+136.78

nikkei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DJIA July 18th: 18533; October 10th: 18329; Net Change:-204

– Dow Industrials –  resistance at 18531, reflecting the May 2015 high.

djia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S&P500 July 18th: 2166.89; October 10th: 2163.66; Net Change:-3.23

– S&P500 – support at the May 2015 high of 2134, but, resistance at this year’s high of 2188

spx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nasdaq 100 July 18th: 4619.78; October 10th: 4893.77; Net Change:+273.99

– Nasdaq 100 – resistance at 4887, stretching back to a line drawn from July & November 2015 highs

 

nasdaq100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell 2000 July 18th: 1208; October 10th: 1251; Net Change:+43

– Russell 2000 – resistance between 1264 and 1294, against a rising trend line due to a rising channel

r2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– AGG (F Fund) – support near today’s low, longer support from the previous February 2016 high; more support just below at the September 9th low; reversal up possible

agg

 

 

 

 

 

EFA (I Fund) – range-bound, and with negative momentum

efaPrior to the most recent dip of about 2.5% on September 9th, the markets had traded in the 4th tightest range since 1928 for over 40 days, with no move on any day more than +/- 1% over the previous day.  That rather dramatic, all-day, September 9th sell-off was generated by Fed governor’s strong suggestions of a September rate hike, which ultimately did not happen.  With only one rate hike in the past 9 years(!), done last December, it is most irrational, thinking that a quarter point increase is nothing more than a mosquito bite in the long term scenario. This comes from decades of fearing a recession brought on by Fed rate hikes. The Fed has a gun with only 1 bullet, from last December’s rate hike. We are going to see a recession at some point in the next 18-24 months and the Fed is desperate to reload by adding some rate hikes to their arsenal. The higher the interest rate when we reach the next recession, the more times they will be able to cut to slow those recessionary forces. They only have one bullet today and it is scaring them because they see the long-term outlook.

The challenge is figuring out which way it is likely to break and then get in front of the move. The deception of a balance between an eventual breakout (up), and a breakdown (down) might find clues with this table.  It shows over 60% of these U.S. and European indices having more than a month since their last high, and/or, currently riding BELOW their 50 day averages.

The next table shows how a majority of market levels in the U. S. and Europe are, once again, looking backward from today at their highest levels.

The 50DMA represents the average of the last 50 days on a moving average basis.

They are in order from the oldest date of hitting their recent highest level.

50DMA Last High
Above Below 3 months ago
Dow Utilities x 7/7/16
Dow Composite x 7/11/16
Previous Weather Report 7/18/16
2 months ago
S&P500 x 8/9/16
Dow Industrials x 8/15/16
Russell 1000 x 8/15/16
S&P100 x 8/15/16
DAX – Berlin x 8/15/16
Russell 3000 x 8/23/16
1 month ago
S&P400 x 9/6/16
S&P600 x 9/6/16
American Comp x 9/6/16
Wilshire 5000 x 9/6/16
NY Composite x 9/7/16
CAC – Paris 9/8/16
Toronto x 9/11/16
Canadian Venture x 9/11/16
Nasdaq x 9/22/16
Nasdaq 100 x 9/22/16
Russell 2000 x 9/22/16
Dow Transportation x 10/3/16
FTSE (London) x 10/4/16

The longer the passage of time, the lower the likelihood of a continuation to higher levels, and the greater likelihood of stagnation, higher risk, and/or weakness/losses.

BREXIT Plus 90 Days

The initial market snap back in late June that accompanied the referendum was just a bit of ‘kicking the can’, given the reaction to the initial shock, leading to the long process involved from the vote to the execution.  Now, after the resignation of David Cameron, and the installation of Theresa May, it’s now time to get to work.

Now, the question is whether there will be a ‘soft’ (best case), or a ‘hard’ (worst case) BREXIT scenario!  There are too many variables involved for anyone to accurately project.

“It is in everyone’s interests for there to be a positive outcome to the negotiations that is mutually beneficial for the U.K. and the EU, causes minimum disruption to the industry and benefits customers,” said Miles Celic, chief executive officer of lobby group TheCityUK.

Adam Marshall, acting director general at the British Chambers of Commerce, said “in a period of historic change, business communities all across the U.K. need to feel supported, not alienated.”

May’s strategy amounts to a bet that voters’ opposition to immigration outweighs all else and that the economy will find support from easier fiscal policy, new trade deals emerge and banks don’t flee London, said Simon Tilford, deputy director at the Center for European Reform. The political payoff could be more support for her Conservatives at a time when the opposition Labour Party is in disarray.

“May wants to give the people what they want and thinks that the people voted for a hard Brexit and that the economic costs are exaggerated,” said Tilford. “A lot of this has to do with Conservative Party unity and she has a better chance of unifying the party going for a hard Brexit.”

Meanwhile, despite “Brexit,” weakening economic growth, declining profitability, terror attacks, Presidential election antics, and Deutsche Bank, the markets continue to cling to its bullish trend. Investors, like “Pavlov’s dogs,” have now been trained the Fed will always be there to bail out the markets. But then again, why shouldn’t they? The chart below shows this most clearly.  (***click chart for better view, then, press back button to return***)

feedclutter

Recession Indications

Several measures of the probability of a recession have recently appeared.

Existing home sales in August totaled 5.33mm, 120k less than expected and down from 5.38mm in July. This is the slowest pace of closings since February.

Unemployment – September’s jobs report contained a sign that investors should be on alert for a U.S. recession, judging by bond guru Jeff Gundlach’s favorite warning signs. (***click chart for better view, press back button to return***)gundlachrecession

During a panel discussion at the New York Historical Society back in May, the Doubleline Capital LP chief executive officer revealed that one of his top three recession indicators was when the unemployment rate breaches its 12-month moving average.

Over the past year, the trend in the unemployment rate has flipped from improving to deteriorating.

“This indicator is a necessary, but not sufficient, sign of a coming recession,” wrote Gundlach in an email to Bloomberg. “It is worth factoring into economic analysis but not a reason for sudden alarm.”
Auto Sales – The first is that while the ‘annualized’ reported sales number was near the highest in 10-years, the historical average of cars sold is still at levels below both previous peaks.  Secondly, and more importantly, is both previous peaks in total auto sales were preceded by a decline in the annual percentage change of cars sold.

autosales

In September, US commercial bankruptcy filings soared 38% from a year ago to 3,072, the 11th month in a row of year-over-year increases, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Commercial bankruptcy filings skyrocketed during the Financial Crisis and peaked in March 2010 at 9,004. Then they fell on a year-over-year basis. In March 2013, the year-over-year decline in filings reached 1,577. Filings continued to fall, but at a slower and slower pace, until November 2015, when for the first time since March 2010, bankruptcy filings rose year-over-year. That was the turning point. Note that there is no ‘plateauing’:”

bankruptcy

 

07182016 July 18, 2016

Posted by easterntiger in economy, financial, markets.
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Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 75%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 7/18/16

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

+42.11, +69.03, +26.59, +0.78

======================================================

(Today from 2 Fridays ago; 2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago; 3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago; 4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

TSP Fund Proxies One Year Returns, as of 7/15/16

F fund/+5.77% YTD,  I fund/-10.00% YTD

S fund/-3.36% YTD,  C fund/+3.57% YTD

 

So, while everyone is expected to say ‘…wow – another new all-time-high…’, right after they just said, ‘…that BREXIT thing wasn’t so bad after all…’.  You should already know that the reality isn’t quite that simple.

Reality check – One Year Return – S&P500 +1.99%, Dow Industrials +2.33%

Events like BREXIT are not measured in their direct effects. They’re measured in all the varied knock-offs – such as the weaker Pound, destabilized Euro and the stronger Dollar, and how those flow through economies.

Italy Eyes $40bn Euro Bank Rescue As First BREXIT Domino Falls

An Italian government task force is watching events hour by hour pledging all steps necessary to ensure the stability of the banks. “Italy will do everything necessary to reassure people”, said Premier Matteo Renzi.

“This is the moment of truth that we’ve all been waiting for for a long time.  We just did not know that it would be BREXIT to let the elephant loose”, said a top Italian banker.

The index for Italian banks has fallen -30% since the British EU referendum on June 23, and is -61% lower than a year ago.

Failure of the Italian banking sector is not so threatening to our positions, or, for our direct interests. It’s the potential impact of the failure of Italy’s banking sector on the rest of the Italian economy that could act in a ripple effect fashion, from that banking crisis, which could, in turn, push Italy back into recession and, in a doomsday scenario, generate a Greek-type meltdown that Europe would find almost impossible to contain.

“The UK referendum hit an already vulnerable banking system in the eurozone. Italian banks are on the front burner, but the temperature is rising in Portugal,” Marc Chandler, the global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, wrote in a Monday note to clients.

Things aren’t looking super great going forward, amid higher oil prices and the overall sense of uncertainty in post-BREXIT Europe.

Barclays forecasts that growth will fall below 1% in 2016, while a Citi Research team led by Ronit Ghose noted that the negative growth effects from the BREXIT were likely to hit periphery countries — i.e. Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece — harder.

Where are the ‘all-time highs? Unfortunately, only in selected places where we can profit….

These are the percentage increases above the previous highs, with each ‘Y’.

Those with ‘N’ are indexes that are NOT at all-time highs!!!

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 11.19.45 PM

 

New All-Time Highs

S&P500, Dow Industrials, S&P MidCaps,

Russell 1000, S&P600 Small Caps, S&P400 MidCap Exchange Traded Fund

No New All-Time Highs

NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange, Russell 2000 Small Caps,

London Financial Times Index, Wilshire 5000, Down Transportation Index,

American Exchange

New All-Time Low

10-Year Treasury Note, 30-Year Treasury Bond

F Fund – Two Years

AGG

 

C Fund – Two Years (higher YTD, but, with significant downside risk)

PEOPX

 

 

I Fund – Two Years

EFA

S Fund – Two Years (Also, higher YTD, but, with significant downside risk)

FSEMX

 

Lance Roberts of ‘Real Investment Advice’ points out some inconvenient facts.

“It is worth reminding you, that while the markets are moving higher and pushing new highs currently, it is doing so against a backdrop of weak fundamentals, high valuations, and deteriorating earnings.”

Of the current price levels, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink says, “If we don’t see better-than-anticipated corporate earnings I think the rally will be short-lived,” he added.

Considering that on a GAAP (accounting) basis, the S&P500 is currently generating about 90* in earnings, or equivalent to a 24x P/E multiple, it is hard to see how one can justify the move “fundamentally.”

* – currently at 86.44, and, that’s down from 105.96 last year at the peak.

Fink said extraordinary central bank asset purchases has been inflating stocks prices. “I don’t think we should be at new [stock] highs,” he said. “All the stock repurchases, you’re seeing this reduction in investable assets.”

Artificially boosting stock prices through convoluted liquidity schemes, devious machinations, backroom central banker deals, sending Bernanke to Japan, and helicopter money dropped on Wall Street only, has just exacerbated the wealth inequality permeating the world. The anger over this blatant pillaging by the .1% who rule the world is reflected in the chaos across Europe and the brewing civil war here in the U.S.

No wealth is being created because no productive investments are being made.

Here is a chart of earnings levels, clearly showing a quarter-over-quarter decline that began over a year ago.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 10.01.32 PM

Let’s assess the progression closely…

  •   The Fed kept rates at ZERO for seven years.
  •   The Fed raised rates just ONCE in the last 10 years.
  •   The Fed spent over $3 trillion in QE.
  •   Total central bank printing totaled $20 trillion since 2008.

Let’s assess the most recent headlines…

The three largest banks in the US—Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo—disclosed that the number of delinquent corporate loans increased by 67% in Q1.

  • JPMorgan’s delinquent corporate loans increased by 50% to $2.21 billion
  • Bank of America’s delinquent loans increased 32% to $1.6 billion
  • Wells Fargo’s delinquent loans increased by 64%, to $3.97 billion

US Industrial Production Declines For 10th Straight Month – Longest Non-Recessionary Streak In History

 

Retail Sales Jump On Downward Revisions, Hover At Recessionary Ledge

 

Empire Fed Unexpectedly Drops As New Orders Tumble, Labor Conditions Deteriorate

Don’t get caught up in the hype of a minor upward price advantage.

The memories of losses nearing 10%, twice in the past year, have faded from the presses.

These minor single-digit YTD gains will also fade quickly once the weight of the fundamentals begins to take it’s toll.

06232016 June 23, 2016

Posted by easterntiger in economy, financial, markets, stocks.
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Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 75%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 6/23/16

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-1.89, -13.58, 16.45, +19.5

======================================================

(Today from 2 Fridays ago; 2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago; 3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago; 4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

TSP Fund Proxies Year-To-Date

Top left – F fund/+4.04% YTD, Top right – I fund/+1.46% YTD

Bottom left – S fund/+2.87% YTD, Bottom right – C fund/+4.15% YTD

(press any image to expand – press ‘x’ button at top left to return)

From the Weekly Momentum Indicator on the S&P100, notice the TWO POINT difference in price from today from NINE DAYS ago!

‘The market is up/The market is down’ virtually means nothing when the market is crossing back and forth in the same area for weeks and months at a time.

The high’s made in May/June of 2015 have still not been broken. Year-to-date is still fluctuating between single-digit plus or minus gains or losses.

Today, as all week, the entire financial world is hovering around the outcome of the referendum on whether the United Kingdom will ‘BREXIT’ or ‘BREMAIN’ in the European Union.   The results are expected sometime tonight with an immediate reaction in the world equity/currency/bond markets tomorrow.  The immediate impact is expected to be fairly ‘huge’ given recent narrow ranges.  A ‘BREMAIN’ will be seen as a stabilizing influence on the Eurozone, resulting in a positive direction on many, if not all, markets worldwide.  A ‘BREXIT’ will be seen as a very negative signal.  Prices would then expected to show immediate and possibly substantial penetration into the RED zones, reflecting the instability that an exit from the European Union by the United Kingdom would mean.

While the UK only represents 3% of world GDP, the economic impact of an exit has been summarized by legendary investor/trader George Soros, as a consequence of a devaluation of the British Pound – “Too many believe that a vote to leave the EU will have no effect on their personal financial position,” he adds. “This is wishful thinking. It would have at least one very clear and immediate effect that will touch every household.”

Soros cites data from the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies stating that if Britain leaves the EU, the average U.K. household will lose £3,000 to £5,000 annually.

Underneath the surface, in the bigger picture ‘beyond the BREXIT’, and regardless of the short-term momentum after the vote, by next week, expectations are for some downward pressure on all the equity indexes.   Following the indications from the Federal Reserve over the past two weeks, of a plan to delay raising rates based upon conflicting data, the F fund has surged relative to a two-year low in benchmark (10-year treasury note) interest rates last week.  As a side note, these low interest rates have not translated to an increase in housing demand.  This is a significant sign of other dragging factors at work, possibly tightening consumer credit conditions, income stagnation, or consumer risk aversion. OTHER SIGNS OF ECONOMIC WEAKNESS are beginning to emerge.  Consumer spending and U. S. GDP is expected to lag in the lower end of recent ranges into next year.  Equity prices, already losing momentum from the loss of (1) Fed-sponsored Quantitative Easing (QE) since October ’14, (2) the peaking of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) margin debt over a year ago (May ’15) and, finally, (3) the recent estimate of stock buybacks, from  JP Morgan Quant Marko Kolanovic, who announced that buybacks have dropped 40% ($250 billion) on a 12-month trailing basis. Share buybacks take approximately 6 quarters to execute so the recent drop will translate into roughly $40 billion less equity demand per quarter. In the chart below, notice how the S&P500/C Fund has remained in an upper range, IN SPITE OF the decline in buybacks.  This WILL be reconciled in the coming quarters.  The three elements are/were the primary sources of U. S. equity strength for the past 7 years.  Many other world indexes are already off in to negative ranges for the year.

us_buybacks

Risk continues to rise, even as prices appear to be unfazed.

 

05232016 May 23, 2016

Posted by easterntiger in economy, financial, gold, markets, oil, silver, stocks.
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Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 75%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 5/20/16

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-6.62, -20.76, -11.11, +6.71

======================================================

(Friday from 3 Fridays ago; 2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago; 3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago; 4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

TSP

As the calendar flips to May, the U.S. stock market enters what is historically its worst six months of the year, in which it typically under-performs the November-April time frame.

This is a well-documented seasonal trend with solid historical numbers behind it. It begs the question: Should investors follow the old Wall Street adage to “sell in May and go away?”

The numbers back it up. Looking at stock market history back to 1950, most of the market’s gains have been made from November to April and the market has generally gone sideways from May to October, says Jeffrey A. Hirsch, editor in chief at Stock Trader’s Almanac.

The November-April period produced an average gain in the Dow Jones industrial average of 7.5 percent since 1950 compared to an average gain of just 0.4 percent from May to October, Hirsch says.

This is just one more reason why I will maintain high allocations to our F Fund, as I have for much of the past 3 years, due to increasing risk and subsequent under-performance of C, I and F funds as compared to the F Fund.  The attractiveness of the F fund has mirrored the lack of increases in interest rates, relatively speaking, from multi-decade, near zero lows.  This lull in rate pressure is in spite of continuous Fed rhetoric projecting rate increases, since the end of Quantitative Easing (QE) in the 4th quarter of 2014.  A continued threat to raise rates is simply a ‘bluff’ tactic, meant to broadcast confidence to the rest of the world of our economic condition.  This is meant to continue to competitively attract capital from other world markets into our U. S. markets.  It is a very risky proposition, given the threat that higher interest rates, even from these generational low levels, can impact on our equally fragile and debt-ridden consumer, government and business purses.

For the following charts, imagine that you had half in F and half in the other fund.  When it rises, the other fund beat the F; when it fell, the F fund beat the other half.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.30.31 PM

S&P 500/C Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the Past Two Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.34.06 PM

S&P 500/C Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the past 5 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.31.26 PM

Small Cap/S Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the past 2 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.33.25 PM

Small Cap/S Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the past 5 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.31.58 PM

International/I Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the past 2 Years

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.32.53 PM

International/I Fund Performance compared to AGG/F Fund Over the past 5 Years

Stocks

Fed officials have been preparing the groundwork for a rate hike for more than a month, having issued about a dozen warnings through the media.  Problem is, the Fed’s credibility is so badly shattered, that few traders actually believe what Fed officials are saying these days.

On April 28th, more than 80 economists polled by Reuters said that they were expecting two rate increases this year, with the first hike coming as early as June. “The Fed’s next interest rate hike will surely cause market pain, but the Fed should just get it over with as soon as possible,” former Dallas Fed chief Fisher warned on April 28th. “I would be prepared when they move, and I hope they move in June — there’ll be a settling in of the market place. There will be a correction. Suck it up. Deal with it. That’s reality,” he told listeners of the television station, -CNBC.

The weekly chart of the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is labeled as a bearish Elliot Wave 5. This fifth wave typically takes the chart subject down to a new low, after it has completed 4 waves with lower highs and lower lows.

How many bull markets have spent an entire year without making new highs? The answer is just thirteen since the 1940’s.

How many eventually did achieve new highs? Just two.

That is out of thirteen times bull markets did not reach new highs in the last sixty years.

What happened to the other eleven times stocks did not reach new highs for a year in a bull market?

You guessed it. Those eleven times ended in bear markets. So history tells us there is an 11/13 chance we are headed for a bear market. That is 85% for those with calculators.

Sounds simple, but the current market conditions are difficult. One day we are up and the next down. Rallies feel solid but never break out. Declines look like the end has arrived, but then they bounce back.

Smart investors have noted that the S&P 500 just staged a very dangerous looking move.

That move was when S&P 500’s 50-week moving average broke below its 100-week moving average. You can see this in the green circle below. We cannot rule out the high probability of a ‘waterfall decline, similar to the 4-day 12% plunge of last August.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.45.01 PM

This move is called a “Death Cross” and for good reason. The last time it happened was in 2008, right before the entire market CRASHED. This is another case of a ‘waterfall’ decline.

The time before that was right before the Tech Bubble burst, crashing stocks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 7.45.30 PM

In short, going back over 16 years, this Death Cross formation has only hit TWICE before. Both times were when major bubbles burst and stocks Crashed.

Margin Debt

A primary fuel for market progress, margin debt, continues to show a peak over a year ago, a month before market prices also peaked.  The last SEVEN consecutive months have been below the 12-month moving average.  This is the first time since 2011 that this has happened.  That period coincides with a 20% decline in market prices around that point.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 10.09.08 PM

Bonds

Notice the actual declining trend in interest rates over the past 20 years, and even in view of the so-called ‘economic recovery’ of the past decade. There is something more involved at work than these short-term ‘bullish’ economic aspects, much of it under the increasing Fed-funded burden of higher debt levels on Fed balance sheets (over $4 trillion in the past 7 years alone).  Long-term economic strength is fuel for higher rates, not lower rates.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 8.19.21 PM

I’ve placed my bets on lower interest rates for the past 13 years, and, I’ve only been proven wrong for very, very short periods of time.

Precious Metals

The demand for Gold surged +21% in Q’1 of 2016, – the fastest pace on record, according to a May 12th-World Gold Council <WGC> report. WGC officials attributed the rise to 4 principal factors: 1- negative interest rates in Japan and Europe; 2- the chance of a devaluation of China’s Yuan; 3- the likelihood of a slower trajectory of Fed rate hikes – than suggested by the Fed’s “Dots Plot,” and 4- expectations of a weaker US$.

A quote from legendary trader and investor W. D. Gann sets the stage for the current state of the gold/silver/platinum/palladium markets.

“Anytime a market exceeds the largest percentage decline or the largest time period of the corrections on the way down in a bear market, it is showing that the momentum is shifting and that buying pressure is finally overcoming selling pressure.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 10.46.42 PM

Marshaling the evidence, in the gold there has never been a bear market rally which has exceeded the preceding bear market rally highs on the way down. Our advance has exceeded the previous two.

Only the 48% bear market rally in 1980 in the aftermath of the greatest bull market in history and the 27% advance in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis have been greater in percentage terms than our 25% advance. Our DNA doesn’t match these two at all. The only conclusion we can draw is that we have a 1st leg up in a new bull market and not a bear market rally.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 10.48.11 PM

Silver hit record demand in 2015, but had its third successive annual deficit, which was 60% larger than 2014. These were just a few of the findings of this year’s report. However, the report is backward looking and the silver market is much different today than it was towards the end of last year.  Erica Rannestad, precious metals demand senior analyst for Thomson Reuters GFMS, agreed in that interest for silver has shifted, which is helping to support prices this year. “First off, in the past 2-3 years, you’ve seen bargain buying. This year, you’ve seen a lot more safe-haven buying, which has been pushing prices higher,” she explained.

Oil

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 8.49.13 PM.png

There are a lot of tankers sitting off the coast of Singapore waiting for a price increase and refinery availability to dump their cargo (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-05-20/something-stunning-taking-place-coast-singapore ). South American suppliers are trying to sell every drop to have available funds to ensure the population is fed, staving off utter collapse and revolution. India is even trading drugs for oil now. Middle Eastern suppliers are holding supply steady in an attempt to make enough money to support their lifestyles and basic requirements. International refineries are working as fast as they can to turn over supply in hopes of being able to pay their bills. All of this will have a short term cap on prices.

Longer term, as players go bankrupt and governments are overthrown, then supply will be limited into a market of relatively stable world demand. This will drive prices higher, but it is a couple of years away, at least.

In the short term, expect that every approach of WTI Crude Oil near the 50 level will be sold off.

02082016 February 8, 2016

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, markets, oil, stocks.
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Current Positions  (Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 75%; G (money market) – remainder

======================================================

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 2/8/16

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-2.98, +7.92, -62.99, -77.25

======================================================

(Friday from 3 Fridays ago; 2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago; 3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago; 4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

****The majority of this report was completed before the nearly 2% decline of today****

TSP

Here are images of where the respective TSP funds have positioned themselves, for the past year, with respect to the emerging appeal of ‘flight to safety’ of bond funds, and, in our case, the F fund.  Notice the rapidly rising risk of losses in any/all of the equity funds since the middle of last year (as I repeatedly used the high risk/low reward aspect).

S fund to F fund (small caps to bond fund)

FSEMX-AGG

You should only expect these aspects to remain as they are here for at least the next 4-10 quarters.   There will be no substantial, or long-term, impact from changes in Fed policy, as in the past.

I fund to F fund (international funds to bond fund)

EFA

Those techniques have run their course.  They have created a $4 trillion liability, known as the Fed balance sheet.  Even larger liabilities are either underway or already put in place in Europe and Japan.  These ‘freebie’ policies have short-term benefits and very long term consequences, which must be ‘unwound’ in some fashion that has yet to be determined.

C fund to F fund (S&P 500 to bond fund)

PEOPX-AGG

F fund proxy, AGG for comparison

AGGYEAR END SUMMARY

When the whistle blew at the close of trading Thursday, New Year’s Eve, the stock market finished a disappointing week and year, with both posting a nearly 1% loss. In light of the optimism that rang in 2015, there was little joy on Wall Street.

The annual drop was the first since 2008.  So much, too, for the traditional Santa Claus rally: Stocks fell 1.8% in December. In quiet, holiday-shortened trading in the final week, equities moved in lockstep with oil prices. Oil ended the year at $37.04 a barrel, down 3% in the final week, and off 31% for the year, not far from seven-year lows.  It’s now almost $6 per barrel lower after 6 weeks, or, -18.5% year to date, near twelve-year lows.

This is where major asset classes wound up at the end of December, end of the year, end of three years (annualized), and end of five years (annualized).

TotalReturns2015

For the week, the S&P 500 took its largest dive in a month, as investors blanched at weak economic data out of the U.S., including an uninspiring jobs report Friday. The S&P 500 tumbled 1.8% on Friday, with technology stocks leading the way down.

“The market is reacting to what it sees as rising recessionary risks,” said Jason Pride, the director of investment strategy at Glenmede.

Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 261 points, or 1.6%, to 16,204.97, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 60 points, or 3.1% to 1880.05. The Nasdaq tanked 251 points, or 5.4%, to 4363.14. LinkedIn (ticker: LNKD) led the index down, dropping 44% after releasing weak 2016 guidance.

Energy was “the” story in 2015, according to Jonathan Golub, chief equity strategist at RBC Capital Markets. The price of oil “significantly affected both its own sector and the rest of the market.” It’s no coincidence, he adds, that the market’s poor 2015 performance reflected weak growth in the S&P 500 index’s earnings per share.

OIL/COMMODITIES/DOLLAR/ECONOMY

We hear every day that low oil prices are good for the economy. U.S. consumers are saving billions from low gasoline prices. We also hear that low interest rates are great for the economy because it reduces borrowing costs for consumers and businesses. We have both low oil prices and low interest rates but the economy grew at only +0.7% in Q4 and jobs appear to be slowing. Why? Enquiring minds want to know.  You know the Fed is going crazy trying to figure out the answer.

Ironically, the world economy badly needs higher oil prices. The problem is that the world’s economy relies far more today on ’emerging’ countries that rely on oil sales, than 15 or 25 years ago – the last periods of ultra-low oil prices.  Most big emerging countries are heavily dependent on oil and other commodities, such as copper and iron ore. (Brazilian iron-ore miner Vale SA <VALE5.SA> said it will no longer pay a dividend to shareholders). Such economies now account for 42% of the world’s economic output, about double their share in 1990.  From Russia to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria to Brazil, economic growth is slowing down to a crawl and, in many cases, is contracting.

Citi helped spread some doom and gloom on Friday when strategist Jonathan Stubbs said the global economy seems trapped in a ‘death spiral’ that could lead to further weakness in oil prices, recession and a serious equity bear market.  He is definitely going for the scary headlines in this note.

He said the stronger dollar, weaker oil/commodity prices, weaker world trade, petrodollar liquidity, weaker emerging markets and global growth, etc, could lead to “Oilmageddon,” a significant and “synchronized” global recession and modern-day bear market.

He did say that some analysts at Citi predicted the dollar would weaken in 2016 and oil prices would likely bottom. “The death spiral is in nobody’s interest. Rational behavior, most likely will prevail.”

So, release the report with scary headlines and then end it with “rational behavior, most likely will prevail.”  Hmmmm….

He did have one point right. The lack of a world economy floating on petrodollars is a very scary place. When oil was $100 every producing country was flush with dollars and they spent that money all around the world. This kept the global economy lubricated. With global producers now living on 30% of what they received two years ago, an entirely new dynamic is in place. These countries are broke and they are being forced to cancel/remove subsidies that kept their populations happy.

Gasoline for 20 cents a gallon is now 2-3 times that. Utility subsidies that kept electricity, gas and water flowing to poor citizens have been cancelled or reduced significantly. Government wages are being slashed, jobs cut, infrastructure projects cancelled, road maintenance postponed, etc. All of this is due to the 70% decline in oil prices. Hundreds of millions of people are living in countries where the current revenue can no longer support them in the manner in which they were accustomed.

It is no surprise that the global economy is slowing. There is a shortage of petrodollars to keep it lubricated.

This is not likely to change in the near future. Oil prices will rise in Q3/Q4 but it could be years before they return to a level where governments will be able to subsidize/support the population and economic activity like they did in the past.

Occidental Petroleum (OXY) reported last week that the all in cost for oil production in the Permian Basin in Texas was $22-$23 a barrel. Producers in that area can still make a few bucks on new production. However, that is the only area of the country that is profitable. Wood Mackenzie said 3.4 mbpd of global production was cash negative at $35 per Brent barrel. That means they actually lose money on every barrel produced.

Wood Mackenzie said not to expect many producers to actually shut in production. After factoring in the cost to shut off production, the cost to restart, the lost cash flow, negative or not and the danger to future production, prices would have to go a lot lower before producers would bite the bullet and shutdown the wells. When a well is shutdown, things happen underground. Producers spend millions of dollars to get oil to flow towards the pipe so it can be extracted. As long as that oil is flowing, it remains liquid. If production stops that oil can thicken and clog up the pores in the rock and when production is restarted, it may only be a fraction of what it was when it was halted. Wells need to continue running even if they are turned down to a very low rate just to keep the flows moving.

What the stock market is fighting is more evidence of a slowing economy, and not just in the U.S.  The global economy is slowing in unison (some faster than others) and this is the first time for this to occur since the 1930s.  This, of course, fits the general thesis that says we’ve been in a secular bear market since 2000 (since 1998 by measures other than price) and that the next cyclical bear within the secular bear could be a very painful move for those who hold long positions.

Further evidence of a global slowdown in the economy is what we see happening in the currency markets. Everyone is in a race to devalue their currencies in hopes of making their products cheaper for other countries to import. But with everyone doing it the only thing that’s been accomplished is a race to the bottom and a global devaluing of fiat currencies, which has created a deflationary cycle. That of course is what the central banks are trying to fight with their quantitative easing (QE) and zero interest rate policies (ZIRP)/negative interest rate policies (NIRP ) but each is negating the efforts of the other. In the past, as in the 1930s, this currency war tends to lead to very bad things between countries.

The Chairman of the OECD’s Review Committee, William White, wrote “We’re seeing true currency wars and everybody is doing it, and I have no idea where this is going to end. The global elastic has been stretched even further than it was in 2008 on the eve of the Great Recession. The excesses have reached almost every corner of the globe, and combined public/private debt is 20% of GDP higher today. We are holding a tiger by the tail.” We all know what happens when the tiger gets tired of us yanking on his tail.

The economic slowdown obviously affects businesses and we’re seeing that show up in the slowdown in earnings, which is making it more difficult to service the massive debts that they’ve taken on. Some of the debt has been for the development of new energy sources, such as the fracking. Think that debt might be in trouble. Much of the debt has been from companies borrowing heavily to buy back stock in an effort to boost earnings per share and hide the fact that actual earnings have been slowing. Again, a slowdown is now making it more difficult for those companies to service their debt and the slowdown is going to cause a double whammy to earnings.

STOCKS

020816Snapshot(Major indexes through last week)

The Fed keeps pinning their hopes on the employment picture but that picture is a lot dimmer than their simple observations of how people are employed (it’s part of their flawed economic models). The chart below is hard to read because I had to squish it to fit but basically it’s showing the inflation-adjusted price of SPX (on top) vs. the ratio of non-farm employment to part time employment. Each time the ratio has been in decline (meaning part time employment is becoming larger than non-farm (full) employment) we’ve been in a secular bear market. (Two-thirds of the jobs announced in last Friday’s jobs report were minimum wage jobs.) The dates of the first secular bear (pink band) is 1966-1982 and the second secular bear (pink band on the right) is from 1999. You can clearly see how the employment ratio has declined from its 1999 peak and since the 2009 low it hasn’t even recovered to the 2002 low. In other words, the employment picture remains weak but the

Fed feels it was strong enough to warrant a rate increase in December.

SPXAdj55-15

The chart above shows why it can’t be used as a timing tool but it does support why we’ve been in a secular bear, regardless of the new (non-inflation adjusted) price highs for the stock market in both 2007 and 2015. And if we’re still in the secular bear, as I’ve contended for many years, the new price highs into 2015 merely made the stock market more vulnerable to a market crash. Have we started that crash? It’s too early to tell but yes, I do believe we’ve started the next (and should be final) leg of the secular bear. But for those who think it’s a good idea to just sit tight and let the market recover after the decline, I think the recovery will be far slower than the one off the 2009 low. It could take a generation before prices recover back to the December highs.

MARGIN DEBT

A primary fuel for market progress, margin debt, now shows a peak in April, a month before market prices also peaked.  The last FOUR months have been below the 12-month moving average.  This is the first time since 2011 that this has happened.  That period coincides with a 20% decline in market prices around that point.

MarginDebtDec

08212015 Alert August 21, 2015

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, markets, stocks.
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NO CHANGES FROM PREVIOUS ALLOCATION ANNOUNCEMENTS

This is the worst one week decline in the equity indexes since June of 2011.

The S&P500 is off approximately 4.2% from last Friday’s closing level.  Most indexes are now back to September and/or October levels. All major indexes are now negative year-to-date.

SPX08212015

While the financial news is using the backdrop of under-performance of the Chinese economy as an excuse, many signs were already being ignored.

  •  The Dow Theory, which compares the level of the Dow Industrials to the Dow Transportation index, had already issued a sell signal, due to divergence between the two;
  • The ‘death cross’ moving average pattern(s), where the 50-day moving average crosses from above to below the 200-day moving average, has already emerged on numerous markets, including, Dow Jones Industrial average, New York Stock Exchange composite average, Dow Jones Transportation index, the semiconductor sector, the London FTSE indexes, and is pending on several other major indexes;
  • The Dow Jones Industrial average is under it’s 320-day moving average
  • 27 stock markets around the world are already in severe declines
  • Divergences between high prices and very low actual trading volume had reached historic levels
  • Reports of isolated bright spots in the economy failed to provide enough perspective for good decisions; example – this week’s ‘8-year high’ in housing starts ignores the fact that the last 7 years have represented the lowest 7-year levels in the past 32 years; this 8-year high brings us back to the point of the declining 2007 housing starts level, and, the rising 1993 housing starts level. (see chart below)
  • HousingStarts

As expected, demand for the safety of the bond market, our F fund, had already started to increase since early June, with prices once again approaching the highs of the year, reached in February and April .

A more detailed report will be developed and posted as soon as the dust clears from this weeks’ pivotal activity, allowing easier assessments for future recommendations.

06302015 June 30, 2015

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, markets, stocks.
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Current Positions  (No Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 50%; G (money market) – remainder

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 06/30/15

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-13.64, 5.33, 2.13, -12.8

(Today from 3 Fridays ago, 2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago, 3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago, 4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

In the 1993 movie ‘Groundhog Day’, the character played by Bill Murray is a local TV newscaster who finds himself reliving the same day repeatedly, until he finds a way to make some improvements in his character.

Increasingly in the past three months, and for much of the past few years, the news finds itself rotating around the same two issues – (1) that which surrounds the probability of a Greek default and exit from the Eurozone/impact on the remaining Eurozone economies, and, (2) the prospect of the ‘lift-off’ from zero level interest rates by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and what impact that slight(!) rise in short-term rates might have on the psychology of the markets.  Both of these issues have created an ever increasing amount of lowered opportunity and higher risk for our TSP assets.  None of the categories in the TSP funds have created decent opportunities this year, without an abundance of risk to go along with any opportunity. There have been thousands of stories and articles on these two topics in the last few years.  These two topics will continue to dominate our news and market reactions, due to their broad reaching impacts and the fact that neither of these issues will be settled until many larger underlying issues are restructured, or, until the inescapable nature of world-wide debt obligations, and the impact of that debt on assets, is eventually resolved.

stats

(click to enlarge)

Equity markets around the world fell Monday on Greece’s apparent imminent default. Asian indices fell nearly -3% in a volatile day of trading, led by the Shanghai Composite. European indices fared no better; the DAX closed with a loss greater than -3.5% after hitting a low greater than -6% in intra-day action.  The Shanghai Composite is already in a heavily corrected mode, down as much as 20% from it’s June 11th high.

Our markets were not immune, with futures trading indicated an opening near -1% lower than last week’s closing prices and that did not moderate into the open. There was little data and few earnings reports to influence early morning action leaving the indices trading lower once the opening bell sounded. The early low was hit soon after the open, followed by a small bounce and then another intra-day low around 11:30. The morning low did not find support, selling continued throughout the day with the market hitting new lows more than once and leaving the indices at the lows at the end of the day.

After the -2.4% move on the NASDAQ, the S&P 500 made the next largest move and perhaps the one with the most notable visual impact. Monday’s action carried the index down -2.09% and created the largest one day drop for at least the last 12 months. Price action broke support levels at the short term moving average, 2090, 2080 and 2060 coming to rest just above 2050. Closing this week below 2060 could indicate a return to true bear market conditions. The indicators have rolled into a bearish territory and are pointing to lower prices so a test the 2050 level is likely. A break below this level, 2050, could carry the index down to the long term trend line near the 2000 level for a total correction near 7%. One thing hasn’t changed – ‘…stairs up….elevator down…’

SPX(click to enlarge)

From the last report in March, and into much of April, the S&P 500 had made no progress in a span of 70 days, in the area of 2090. For that first 70 days, the index closed at 2091.18, basically the exact same place it was on December 29, 2014. Since April, from 2090, the index has ranged from about 30 points higher, to about 30 points lower.  Today, it is at 2063. This is just the sixth time since the March 2009 bottom that Large Caps have stalled for a seventy-day period. Over the last 1,533 seventy-day periods, the average change was 4.35%.   In the chart below, it’s easy to see that the ranges from highs to lows is growing narrower over time, and has been for several years.

 

70-day

 

In the rotation index below, it can be seen that the trend favoring equities is getting weaker, for about a year, showing bursts of life for increasingly shorter periods.

 

Rotation

 

Below is the MSCI World index,  a stock market index of 1,631[1] ‘world’ stocks. It is maintained by MSCI Inc., formerly Morgan Stanley Capital International, and is used as a common benchmark for ‘world’ or ‘global’ stock funds. It has the strongest parallels to the C and I funds.

MCSI4Mo

Below is the same world index over the past 24 months

 

 

 

 

 

MCSI2Yr

Here is a year-to-date performance of the major US indexes, as of Monday, June 29th close.

(click to enlarge)

 

YTD

Greece has, again, dominated the news and the world markets lately, particularly this week, as it will next week.

Effectively, a June 30th due date for  a payment of under $2 billion is not going to be met.  The Greek prime minister backed away from negotiations last week, saying that the conditions before him would place too many burdens on the Greek population.  Capital controls for banks were announced during the Sunday overnight hours and sparked another round of protests. The news, not unexpected, comes on the eve of an apparent to default (the $1.7B) to the IMF.  There is also an additional $8.3 billion due to the EU and the ECB in July and August.  If Greece can’t pay $1.7B now, there is no need in ignoring the $8.3B that they can’t pay in July and August. Controls will keep banks closed for the next few days, limit the amount of ATM withdrawals by Greek citizens to 60 euros, prevent the transfer of money out of the country and large transactions to electronic means only.

Early Monday afternoon S&P lowered Greece’s credit rating to CCC- with negative outlook. They say a Greek exit from the Euro stands at 50% and that without changes a default is inevitable, likely to occur within the next 6 months. Later in the day Fitch downgraded the Greek banks to restricted default. Greece, or PM Tsipras at an rate, continues to snub creditors and is urging the people to vote no on a referendum to accept terms.  Over the last five years the Greek debt has been restructured to where the IMF, EU and ECB own 90% of it. The equivalent of a Greek bankruptcy should be relatively contained and not impact the rest of Europe. Draghi will dump several hundred billion euros of QE into the market and the Greek impact will only be a blip on the chart.  Here are the likely paths over the next month, in a nutshell. (click to enlarge)

Greek

 

Puerto Rico added a little downdraft to Monday’s sell-off. The governor of the heavily indebted island territory announced today, of all day’s, that the debt load was unpayable. The island needs debt restructuring and reforms, long overdue, and is not expecting to receive aid from the federal government.

 

Bonds

Our F-fund has taken a minor whipping most of the year.  This has been for issues that are out of the ordinary.  The demand has fallen for our bonds, along with a heavy increase in demand for German bonds, ever since European Central Bank President Mario Draghi announced his intention, late last year, to commence U.S.-style quantitative easing, a debt-buying program aimed at keeping yields low and goosing the financial markets with liquidity.   Our bond prices have fallen, from sellers moving out of our 10-year bonds, and this reduces the prices of the F-fund (iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond Fund), as it also increases the interest rates of related U.S. debt instruments, like the 10-year treasury note.  The iShares have lost 3.6% since the high point of the year in early February.  I do not expect this condition to continue as the negative pressure continues to build in equities.  There has yet to be a ‘flight to safety’ into bonds, which benefits the F-fund, since the price pressures on equities/stocks has not yet reached a pressure point.  The additional pressure on bond yields in the Eurozone, tied to the Greek debt problems, has been an additional upward pressure on interest rates, in Europe and here in the U.S.  This will reach a tipping point and a quick reversal, as usual.

AGG

Even this ‘whipping’ has only amounted to about -3.6%.  This is why I don’t move in and out of bonds rapidly/frequently to avoid what are normally minor losses – losses that generally reverse within months under conditions of greater bond price stability/weakening fundamental economic conditions, conditions that never actually go away except over the very long term; we are in a chronically weak economic condition overall, with only brief glimmers of daylight.

01122015 January 12, 2015

Posted by easterntiger in economic history, economy, financial, gold, markets, oil, silver, stocks.
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Current Positions  (Slight Changes)

I(Intl) – exit; S(Small Cap) – exit; C(S&P) –exit

F(bonds) – up to 50%; G (money market) – remainder

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 01/08/15

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-9.74, +22, +2.88,1.26 (Today from 3 Fridays ago/2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago/3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago/4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

The seemingly-invincible US stock markets powered higher again last year, still directly fueled by the Fed’s epic quantitative-easing money creation.  But 2015 is shaping up to be radically different from the past couple years.  The Fed effectively abandoned the stock markets when it terminated its bond buying late last year.

So this year we will finally see if these lofty stock markets can remain afloat without the Fed.  But, let’s not ignore the fact that the $4 trillion added to the market over the past 5/6 years are still on the Fed balance sheet and are still providing artificial buoyancy that was NOT intended to end up in your pockets.  It’s called the ‘wealth effect’, not ‘wealth’.

Mainstream stock investors and speculators are certainly loving life these days.  The flagship S&P 500 stock index enjoyed an excellent 2014, climbing 11.4%.  And that followed 2013’s massive and amazing 29.6% blast higher!  The last couple years were truly extraordinary and record-breaking on many fronts, with the US stock markets essentially doing nothing but rally to an endless streak of new nominal (not inflation adjusted) ‘record’ highs. But, the Fed’s wildly-unprecedented balance-sheet growth of recent years is over.  2015 will actually be the first year since 2007 without any quantitative easing!    

                                   Funds End of Year Results

Here are the relative positions of the respective funds for last year.

************Equity Funds**********                ******Bond Fund*******

S Fund             I Fund          C Fund                       F Fund

+7.80%           -5.27%          +13.78%                  +6.73%

+/- F fund    +/- F fund      +/- F fund

+1.13%            -12.0%         +7.05%

What these end of year results never reflect are the degree of risk involved in generating these returns.  For example, an end of year return on the S fund of 7.8% ignores the -4.9% YTD returns that occurred in the S in February and, even the -4.05%  YTD returns as of late October.  The C fund had only yielded a 2.46% return YTD in early October.  The F fund yielded no negative returns all year, and, ironically, had yielded approximately half of the final return for the year exactly 6 months into the year.  In a bear market, even a bear market pretending to be a bull market, it’s ‘stairs up/elevator down’.  Knowing your risk is just as much a part of the game as knowing your reward. Only one of three equity funds measurably beat our bond fund for the year.

Here are the total 1 mo, 1 yr, 3 yr and 5 yr returns for a range of investments in world financial markets, including bond, commodity, precious metals markets as of 12/31/14.

ret.dec2014 Selected Market Stats for recent weeks, plus December, 2014 and 2013 MarketStats

So, what’s next?

(The following is repeated from a previous post – only this time, the party takes place in Europe) Imagine that it’s 4AM after a huge party. Many have gradually left (a) . All lights are still  on.  There are a couple of large groups still left, talking loudly and sipping on their final drinks. The bar is closed.  The crowds are so busy drinking and talking that they don’t notice that the band has played it’s last tune and has started packing up, all except the drummer, tapping a simple beat.  The room is being charged by the hour, so, there won’t be an announcer to tell anyone that it’s time to clear out; the meter is running.  Every 15 minutes, some guy named ‘Fed’(US), or, Mario Draghi (Europe) walks across the stage and tells everyone to hang around while he looks for another band. (It’s not coming.)  The groups cheer each time.  Outside, there are storms moving in.  Most attendees have anticipated the storm by leaving early (b). Those still there will either take their risks, driving through the storm (c), or, stay around to ‘ride it out’ (d).  In which group are you?  a, b, c or d?

In the US as well as in Europe, stocks skyrocketed on Thursday, as investors got excited about the letter.  In a January 6 letter to European Parliament member, Luke Ming Flanagan, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi offered another one of his trademark teasers about the possibility of an ECB-implemented, quantitative easing program.  In this case, the magic word was could: Should it become necessary to further address risks of too prolonged a period of low inflation, the Governing Council is unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional instruments within its mandate. This may imply adjusting the size, pace and composition of the ECB’s measures. Such measures may entail the purchase of a variety of assets (?) one of which could be sovereign bonds, as mentioned in your letter.

This tactic never fails to work.  Whenever the European stock market slumps, all Mr. Draghi, or our Fed members, have to do is say that the ECB/the Fed might, or could, or may, or should implement a quantitative easing program – and stock prices skyrocket.  Nevertheless, in the real world, it is highly unlikely that the ECB would ever conduct a quantitative easing program because there are no Eurobonds for it to purchase.  Further, this week the European Court of Justice is scheduled to rule on the legality of quantitative easing on Wednesday, January 14th, which could throw a wrench into the ECB plans.

The president of the ECB and the chief of the Federal Reserve are both reading from the same, flawed playbook.  When the financial markets appear ready to swoon, they just walk across the stage and tell everyone that they’re ‘looking for another band’; so, investors, please leave your money in the market and wait, until you stop believing that the band is coming, or, until you start to suffer losses that you cannot endure.

But, if markets are such great value, why would Warren Buffett now be sitting on a record amount of cash?

At the end of 2007, his firm, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A), was sitting on $44 billion in cash.  Berkshire’s cash balance was down to a more reasonable $25 billion by the end of 2008 after acquiring partial stakes in several blue chips firms such as General Electric and Goldman Sachs. As Bloomberg News noted in October 2013 , Buffett “likes to keep $20 billion on hand should the reinsurance operations need to pay large claims.” If Buffett thought he was sitting on too much cash seven years ago, before his GE and Goldman Sachs purchases, his troubles have grown larger now.  At the end of Q2 2014, Berkshire Hathaway held $55 billion in cash and investments — a company record. If Warren Buffett is not fully invested and holding cash, why should you be fully invested? Could it be that Warren Buffett knows something, among other things, that this chart I’ve kept up all year is telling him? MarginDebtNov

Repeated/updated from the three previous reports, an accurate count of margin debt, or, levels of borrowed money at all brokerage firms for each month is carefully watched by the financial media.  It’s this combination of a) margin debt, b) Fed money loaned to investment banks (finished), and c) stock buybacks by corporations (slight decline over last year) that have provided a vast majority of the power to the markets for much of the past 5/6 years. The result of margin debt figure through November is shown in the chart above, for comparison to all months of the past 3.5 years.  (I’ll have the December figure in 2 weeks.)

Update – Notice that the peak in debt for the year, once again, has STILL not exceeded the February high, after which the primary indexes channeled sideways, with no price appreciation, for 12 weeks. For the past eleven months, the debt level has stalled under $466 million.  This STILL indicates that a primary source of fuel for the market (loans and borrowed money) has stalled and is not likely to resume.  When combined with the now missing portion of Fed stimulation through Quantitative Easing (QE), which ended on October 29th, this removed the bulk of what has sustained the markets back up to the peaks above and below the peaks of 2000 and 2007, depending on the index.

Where do the experts think the market is headed this year?

Here are the current forecasts by major bank analysts for end-of-year S&P 500 levels.

(the S&P 500 closed at 2058.9 on 12/31/14, and is already slightly negative for the year)

-10.75% – 1850 – David Bianco, Deutsche Bank: S&P: EPS: $119.00

-7.72% – 1900 – Brian Belski, BMO: S&P: EPS: $116.00

-7.72%1900 – Barry Knapp, Barclays: S&P: EPS: $119.00

-7.72% – 1900 – David Kostin, Goldman Sachs: S&P: EPS: $116.00

-6.5% – 1925 – Michael Kurtz, Nomura: S&P: EPS: $112.50

-5.29%  – 1950 – Sean Darby, Jefferies: S&P: EPS: $121.00

-5.29% – 1950 – Jonathan Golub, RBC: S&P: EPS: $119.00

-5.29% – 1950 – Julian Emanuel, UBS: S&P: EPS: $116.00

-4.8% – 1960 – Andrew Garthwaite, Credit Suisse: S&P: EPS: $115.90

-4.07% – 1975 – Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup: S&P: EPS: $117.50

-2.86% – 2000 – Savita Subramanian, Bank of America: S&P: EPS: $118.00

-2.18% – 2014 – Adam Parker, Morgan Stanley: S&P: EPS: $116.00

-2.18% – 2014 – John Stoltzfus, Oppenheimer: S&P: EPS: $115.00

+0.78% – 2014 – Tom Lee, JP Morgan: S&P: EPS: $120.00

The average expected return from these major investment banks for 2015 is -5.11%.

And, keep in mind this is measured on what was the strongest of several markets covering US stocks.  Other US exchanges did not perform nearly as well in 2014 as the S&P 500 (refer to ‘Selected Market Stats’ above.)

With all due respect to these recent returns, such anomalously-one-sided stock markets naturally bred the extreme euphoria universally evident today.  Greedy traders have totally forgotten the endlessly-cyclical nature of stock-market history, where bear markets always follow bulls.  They’ve convinced themselves that these stock markets can keep on magically levitating indefinitely, that major sell-offs of any magnitude are no longer a threat worth considering. But extrapolating that incredible upside action of 2013 and 2014 into the future is supremely irrational, because its drivers have vanished. The past couple years’ mammoth stock-market rally was completely artificial, the product of central-bank market manipulation.  The Federal Reserve not only created vast sums of new money out of thin air to monetize bonds, but it aggressively jawboned the stock markets higher.

Virtually every time the Fed made a decision, or its high officials opened their mouths, the implication was being made that it wouldn’t tolerate any material stock-market sell-off.  The Fed kept saying that it was ready to ramp up quantitative easing if necessary.  Stock traders understood this exactly the way the Fed intended, assuming the American central bank was effectively backstopping the US stock markets! But, the bottom line is the Fed has abandoned the stock markets.  The powerful rallies of  2013 and 2014 were driven by extreme Fed money printing to buy up bonds.

But with QE3’s new buying terminated and any QE4 a political impossibility with the new Republican Congress, 2015 is going to look vastly different.  A shrinking Fed balance sheet sparked major corrections even from far lower and cheaper stock levels.

The domestic stock market cannot deliver a sustainable double-digit return without entering a speculative bubble, based on historical data reflecting correlations between the level of the Shiller P/E and subsequent outcomes in the stock market over the past 134 years.  Conditions are ripe for a speculative bubble in the domestic stock market in 2015, and investors should reduce risk in their portfolios in stages during the coming year. Investors should expect below-average returns from the domestic stock market over the next five to 10 years.  Indeed, to expect anything more than mid-single digits requires an assumption that stocks will enter a speculative bubble.  The reason is excessive valuation.

From today’s valuation level the only way to sustain significant upside is to assume a future valuation multiple that would put the stock market into bubble territory. The S&P 500 Index was recently trading at a cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings (p/e) ratio, or “CAPE” of 27.3, meaning the stock market is priced at more than 27 times the 10-year average earnings of the underlying companies in the index.  This is highly unusual.  Out of 1,608 monthly observations between January 1881 and December 2014, the CAPE for the U.S. stock market has measured 27 or higher just 88 times. That is a frequency of only 5.5% throughout this 134-year period. CAPERatioBlending several forecasts together we get a 0.89% annual return forecast for the stock market over the coming decade. A straight comparison to 10-year treasuries at 2.2% shows them to be the more attractive of the two asset classes right now. Even 5-year treasuries are paying 1.6%, nearly double our model’s forecast.* All in all, this looks to be the second worst time to own equities in history.

Still, the stock market’s uptrend remains intact as all of the major indexes currently trade above their 200-day moving averages. But as I’ve noted recently, there are plenty of signs that the trend is not as healthy as bulls would hope. The advance/decline line, new highs-new lows and the percentage of stocks trading above their 200-day moving averages are all diverging fairly dramatically from the new highs recently set in the indexes. This is a serious red flag.

And now that our market cap-to-GDP and household equities indicators have possibly peaked, along with high-yield spreads (inverted), margin debt (shown on my chart above) and corporate profit margins, there seems to be a very good possibility that the uptrend could be tested in short order.  In fact, when I go back and look at the times when all of these indicators peaked around the same time over the past 15 years or so, they coincide pretty neatly with the major stock market peaks: StockMarketPeak   MarginDebtPeak So the uptrend may still be intact but I think we have a plethora (yes, a plethora) of evidence that suggests its days may be numbered. Foreign equities have mostly given up their uptrends over the past few months, demonstrated in the negative return of our I fund, and commodities, led by the oil crash, look even uglier.  Precious metals, a refuge, have held up surprisingly on a rising channel going back 10-15 years.  How much longer can the US stock market swim against the tide?

Bonds

My exit from the F fund in early October was timely, since the price level fell immediately afterward, by about 1%, and only barely exceeded above that exit point by year-end. The weakness in equities after the fake ‘Santa rally’ showed a corresponding strength in bonds, and, another increase in F fund prices.  Current levels are about ¾% higher than that October exit. This trend is expected to continue with the failure of additional strength in equities.  More importantly, any significant breakdown in equities would translate into an immediate transfer from stocks to bonds, and further strengthening in the F fund.

FFund

Oil

The reason oil prices started sliding in June can be explained by record growth in US production, sputtering demand from Europe and China, and an unwind of the Middle East geopolitical risk premium.

The world oil market, which consumes 92 million barrels a day, currently has one million barrels more than it needs. The US pumped 8.97 million barrels a day by the end of October (the highest since 1985) thanks partly to increases in shale-oil output which accounts for 5 million barrels a day.  Libya’s production has recovered from 200,000 barrels a day in April to 900,000 barrels a day, while war hasn’t stopped production in Iraq and output there has risen to an all-time high level of 3.3 million barrels per day. The IMF, meanwhile, has cut its projection for global growth in 2014 for the third time this year to 3.3%. This year, it still expects growth to pick up again, but only slightly.

Everyone believes that the oil-price decline is temporary. It is assumed that once oil prices plummet, the process is much more likely to be self-stabilizing than destabilizing. As the theory goes, once demand drops, price follows, and leveraged high-cost producers shut production. Eventually, supply falls to match demand and price stabilizes. When demand recovers, so does price, and marginal production returns to meet rising demand. Prices then stabilize at a higher level as supply and demand become more balanced. It has been well-said that: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.

But, in practice, there is.” For the classic model to hold true in oil’s case, the market must correctly anticipate the equalizing role of price in the presence of supply/demand imbalances. By 2020, we see oil demand realistically rising to no more than 95 million barrels a day. North American oil consumption has been in a structural decline, whereas the European economy is expected to remain lackluster. Risks to the Chinese economy are tilted to the downside and we find no reason to anticipate a positive growth surprise. This limits the potential for growth in oil demand and leads us to believe global oil prices will struggle to rebound to their previous levels.

The International Energy Agency says we could soon hit “peak oil demand”, due to cheaper fuel alternatives, environmental concerns, and improving oil efficiency. The oil market will remain well supplied, even at lower prices. We believe incremental oil demand through 2020 can be met with rising output in Libya, Iraq and Iran. We expect production in Libya to return to the level prior to the civil war, adding at least 600,000 barrels a day to world supply. Big investments in Iraq’s oil industry should pay off too with production rising an extra 1.5-2 million barrels a day over the next five years. We also believe the American-Iranian détente is serious, and that sooner or later both parties will agree to terms and reach a definitive agreement. This will eventually lead to more oil supply coming to the market from Iran, further depressing prices in the “new oil normal”. Iranian oil production has fallen from 4 million barrels a day in 2008 to 2.8 million today, which we would expect to fully recover once international relations normalize. In sum, we see the potential for supply to increase by nearly 4 million barrels a day at the lowest marginal cost, which should be enough to offset output cuts from marginal players in a sluggish world economy. OilSome analysis leads us to conclude that the price of oil is unlikely to average $100 again for the remaining decade.

Normally, falling oil prices would be expected to boost global growth. Ed Morse of Citigroup estimates lower oil prices provide a stimulus of as much as $1.1 trillion to global economies by lowering the cost of fuels and other commodities.  And, unfortunately, another downside to falling prices are related to high levels of junk-bond financing to increase the drilling infrastructure.  Therefore, due to falling prices and the resulting closing of drilling rigs with higher operating costs, many of these bonds will fail, putting pressure on other related assets that are dependent on them.  This could very well provide the catalyst to a stock sell-off, without warning.

Per-capita oil consumption in the US is among the highest in the world so the fall in energy prices raises purchasing power compared to most other major economies. The US consumer stands to benefit from cheaper heating oil and materially lower gasoline prices. It is estimated that the average household consumes 1,200 gallons of gasoline a year, which translates to annual savings of $120 for every 10-cent drop in the price of gasoline.

According to Ethan Harris of Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “Consumers will likely respond quickly to the saving in energy costs. Many families live “hand to mouth”, spending whatever income is available. The Survey of Consumer Finances found that 47% of families had no savings in 2013, up from 44% in the more healthy 2004 economy. Over time, energy costs have become a much bigger part of budgets for low income families. In 2012, families with income below $50,000 spent an average of 21.4% of their income on energy. This is almost double the share in 2001, and it is almost triple the share for families with income above $50,000.” The “new oil normal” will see a wealth transfer from Middle East sovereigns (savers) to leveraged US consumers (spenders).

The consumer windfall from lower oil prices is almost matched by the loss to oil producers. Even though the price of oil has plummeted, the cost of finding it has not.  The oil industry has moved into a higher-cost paradigm and continues to spend significantly more money every year without any meaningful growth in total production. Global crude-only output seems to have plateaued in the mid-70 million barrels a day range. The production capacity of 75% of the world’s oilfields is declining by around 6% per year, so the industry requires up to 4 million barrels per day of new capacity just to hold production steady. This has proven to be very difficult.

Analysts at consulting firm EY estimate that out of the 163 upstream mega-projects currently being bankrolled (worth a combined $1.1 trillion), a majority over budget and behind schedule. Large energy companies are sitting on a great deal of cash which cushions the blow from a weak pricing environment in the short-term. It is still important to keep in mind, however, that most big oil projects have been planned around the notion that oil would stay above $100, which no longer seems likely.

The Economist reports that: “The industry is cutting back on some mega-projects, particularly those in the Arctic region, deepwater prospects and others that present technical challenges. Shell recently said it would again delay its Alaska exploration project, thanks to a combination of regulatory hurdles and technological challenges. The $10 billion Rosebank project in Britain’s North Sea, a joint venture between Chevron of the United States and OMV of Austria, is on hold and set to stay that way unless prices recover. And BP says it is “reviewing” its plans for Mad Dog Phase 2, a deepwater exploration project in the Gulf of Mexico. Statoil’s vast Johan Castberg project in the Barents Sea is in limbo as the Norwegian firm and its partners try to rein in spiralling costs; Statoil is expected to cut up to 1,500 jobs this year.

And then there is Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan project, which thanks to huge cost overruns, lengthy delays and weak oil prices may not be viable for years. Even before the latest fall in oil prices, Shell said its capital spending would be about 20% lower this year than last; Hess will spend about 15% less; and Exxon Mobil and Chevron are making cuts of 5-6%.” Based on analysis by Steven Kopits of Douglas-Westwood: “The vast majority of public oil and gas companies require oil prices of over $100 to achieve positive free cash flow under current capex and dividend programs. Nearly half of the industry needs more than $120. The 4th quartile, where most US E&Ps cluster, needs $130 or more.” As energy companies have gotten used to Brent averaging $110 for the last three years, we believe management teams will be very slow to adjust to the “new oil normal”. They will start by cutting capital spending (the quickest and easiest decision to take), then divesting non-core assets (as access to cheap financing becomes more difficult), and eventually, be forced to take write-downs on assets and projects that are no longer feasible.

The whole adjustment process could take two years or longer, and will accelerate only once CEOs stop thinking the price of oil is going to go back up. A similar phenomenon happened in North America’s natural gas market a couple of years ago. This has vast implications for America’s shale industry. The past five years have seen the budding energy renaissance attract billions of dollars in fixed investment and generate tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. The success of shale has been a major tailwind for the US economy, and its output has been a significant contributor to the improvement in the trade deficit. We believe a sustained drop in the price of oil will slow US shale investment and production growth rates. As much as 50% of shale oil is uneconomic at current prices, and the big unknown factor is the amount of debt that has been incurred by cashflow negative companies to develop resources which will soon become unprofitable at much lower prices.

Robert McNally, a White House adviser to former President George W. Bush and president of the Rapidan Group energy consultancy, told Reuters that Saudi Arabia “will accept a price decline necessary to sweat whatever supply cuts are needed to balance the market out of the US shale oil sector.”

Even legendary oil man T. Boone Pickens believes Saudi Arabia is in a stand-off with US drillers and frackers to “see how the shale boys are going to stand up to a cheaper price.” Prices will have to fall much further though to curb new investment and discourage US production of shale oil. The breakeven point for most shale oil plays has been falling as productivity per well is improving and companies have refined their fracking techniques. The median North American shale development needs an oil price of $57-64 to break even today, compared to $70 last year according to research firm IHS.

Type Average Cost Per Barrel
OnShore Middle East $29
OffShore Shelf $43
Deepwater $53
OnShore Russia $54
Onshore Row $55
North American Shale $62
Oil Sands $74

While it’s not universally believed that Saudi Arabia engineered the latest swoon in oil prices, it would be foolish not to expect them to take advantage of the new market reality. If we are entering a “new oil normal” where the oil price range may move structurally lower in the coming years, wouldn’t you want to maximise your profits today, when prices are still elevated? If, at the same time, you can drive out fringe production sources from the market, and tip the balance in MENA geopolitics (by hurting Russia and Iran), wouldn’t it be worth it? The Kingdom has a long history of using oil to meet political and economic ends.

10212014 October 21, 2014

Posted by easterntiger in economy, financial, markets, silver, stocks.
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Weather Report Update 10212014

Current Positions  (CHANGES) I(Intl) – 10%; S(Small Cap) – up to 10%; C(S&P) –up to 25%

F(bonds) – no change; G (money market) – remainder

Weekly Momentum Indicator (WMI) last 4 weeks, thru 10/17/14

(S&P100 compared to exactly 3 weeks before***)

-31.9, -42.66,  -2.82, -5.09

(Yesterday from 3 Fridays ago/2 Fri’s fm 4 Friday’s ago/3 Fri’s fm 5 Friday’s ago/4 Fri’s fm 6 Friday’s ago)

The partial exit from the F fund last week was warranted, as interest rates hit an ‘exhaustion’ low before rebounding.  This offered the opportunity to hold on to F fund profits at or near the highest prices of the year.  (top to bottom C fund, S fund, I fund, & F fund, since May, with S&P 500 superimposed in thick gray background; maps to C fund)

C

S

I

F

Now that the indexes are back from just above or below zero for the year, there is every incentive to raise them back to between 3-8% before the end of the year. This will coincide with optimism leading into the Fed meeting at the end of the month, seasonal strength approaching Thanksgiving, the shopping season, etc., also known as the ‘Santa rally’, the usual medicine to raise the consumer mood to encourage spending during the season.  69% of the economy is driven by consumer spending.  The historical record of strength into the end of the year is somewhat reliable, particularly after a weak September and October.  A partial entry into equity funds, near some of the lowest levels of the year, is a safe way to participate in the year end support, while still considering the risks surrounding the October 29th Fed meeting.  A final ‘signal’ won’t occur until after that meeting. This exhausts our two intra-fund moves for the month, unfortunately.  For safety, an emergency exit to G is still allowed.  We’ll know whether or not to reduce or to increase these positions early in November.

The ‘depth readings’ are similar to those after the February decline, about a 6% loss, after which levels retraced over the next two months about 7%, most of which occurred in about 4 weeks.

Last week, the I fund fell to it’s lowest levels of the year, -7.45% year to date. The S fund fell as low as -3.65% year to date, only 1.25% over it’s low established in February.  The C fund stayed on the plus side by just over 2% year to date, setting it’s lows for the year earlier in the year at -5.66% year to date in February and -1.17% year to date in April.  In essence, the S&P 500 was riskier early in the year, while the small caps and international funds have become riskier as the year has progressed. So much for the idea that we can treat all categories of equities as having equal opportunities or equal risks. The opportunities and risks vary and cannot be ‘sensed’ by occasionally checking price levels, or, casually observing your personal account statements, after the fact, several times a year.  Meanwhile, the F fund found it’s highs for the year last week, near 7% year to date, as the ‘flight to quality’ in bonds absorbed the same capital that shifted from equities of all categories.  After a brief pause between now and year end, this is expected to resume in the 1st quarter.

Positive

  • Weekly indicators flattened this week, showing short-term support.
  • Sales/purchase ratio by insiders dropped from over 50:1 down to 16:1, reflecting a slightly stronger, but, still negatively-biased intention to increase near-term buying, or, to decrease levels of near-term selling
  • New Highs over New Lows reached a 2-month high last Thursday and Friday.
  • The ‘fear’ or volatility indexes reached their highs in 3 years last week. These highs frequently represent short-term market bottoms.
  • The S&P100 has not been this far below the 40-week moving average since November 2012, a previous buy point, rising 7% by that year’s end.

Negative

  • As large as recent rebounds appear, we are still down lower than levels of Friday, October 10th, except on the S fund, where upward momentum is also slowing first.
  • Numerous support zones were broken in the past two weeks and must now be treated as resistance over the next few weeks.
  • ‘Smart money’ still has some positioning as if they expect future declines, with heavy hedging toward downside expectations over the next few months.
  • The level of buy signals on individual stocks are among the lowest levels of the year
  • April lows were broken on the Russell 3000; August lows were broken on the S&P  500 and NASDAQ 100
  • A 1300 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrials avearge in less than two months has not occurred since July/August 2011, near the end of the traditional weak season occurring this far from a market bottom, as in March 2009, carries significantly more weight, projecting a greater likelihood of weakness beyond any near-term ‘bounce’. The last time before that was at the 2007 market top.

Short-term, sixteen key industries have an average potential upside of 10%, based upon measuring against the current lower levels against both recent highs and their 50-day averages. These industries include oil services, pharmaceuticals, networking, airlines, semiconductors, disk drive manufacturers, transportation, computer hardware, banks, broker/dealers, retail, biotech, real estate investment trusts and insurance.
The oversold condition of the silver market ranks 5th in history in terms of the time to reach this point (3 years, 5 months, 8 days), and, 4th in history in terms of the percentage decline (66% from the most recent high).  These traits strongly suggest that only a low probability exists for a further concern for lower prices.  Statistically and historically, this should be seen as a prime buying point with regard to the likelihood for appreciation on any current purchases.