The Stock Market

     

 

 

A Well Known Seasonal Phenomenon in the US Market – Is There More to It?

I already discussed the “turn-of-the-month effect” in a previous issues of Seasonal Insights, see e.g. this report from earlier this year. The term describes the fact that price gains in the stock market tend to cluster around the turn of the month. By contrast, the rest of the time around the middle of the month is typically less profitable for investors.

 

Due to continual monetary inflation in the fiat money system and the “survivor bias” inherent in stock market index construction, nominal stock prices are rising 67% of the time. Nevertheless the long term uptrend in nominal prices is subject to countless recurring seasonal patterns. The market as a whole on average tends to generate the bulk of its gains only at certain times.  [PT]

 

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A “Typical” Correction? A Narrative Fail May Be in Store

Obviously, assorted crash analogs have by now gone out of the window – we already noted that the market was late if it was to continue to mimic them, as the decline would have had to accelerate in the last week of March to remain in compliance with the “official time table”. Of course crashes are always very low probability events – but there are occasions when they have a higher probability than otherwise, and we will certainly point those out when we see them. Anyway, something else is evidently happening. Here is a chart of the SPX that shows the important trend-line which was so far successfully defended:

 

According to the “keep it simple” chart, this was just a run-of the mill correction, very similar to every other correction seen since the 2009 low. But is that really the case?

 

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SPX Trendline Battle, Relative Strength in RUT

We reviewed the daily charts after yesterday’s close and noticed that the Russell 2000 Index, the NYA and transportation stocks all exhibited relative strength (the same holds actually for the DJIA), particularly vs. the FANG/NDX group. This is happening just as the SPX is battling with an extremely important trendline. As we pointed out before, relative strength in the RUT in particular served as a short term reversal signal ever since the sell-off started in February. The question is if this signal will continue to work. Here is an updated chart:

 

The SPX, the RUT and the RUT-SPX ratio. Relative strength in the Russell persists, and it has acted quite firm over the past several days in the face of growing weakness in the big cap tech sector. On previous occasions this has indicated an imminent short term upside reversal. At the same time, the SPX is sitting on the decisive trendline recently discussed by Dimitri Speck in connection with “crash analogs”. Interestingly, the Modified Ned Davis Method flipped to a 50% net short position on the Russell last Friday – will it be whipsawed again?

 

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A Word on 1987 Analogies – Why Even Bother?

As our friend Dimitri Speck noted in his recent update, the chart pattern of the SPX continues to follow famous crash antecedents quite closely, but obviously not precisely. In particular, the decisive trendline break was rejected for the moment. If the market were to follow the 1987 analog with precision, it would already have crashed this week. Nevertheless, we wanted to show one more parallel in connection with the previously discussed “flight to fantasy” effect. As we mentioned when we posted this chart, the divergent DJIA/NDX peaks we could recently observe happened in 1987 as well. Here is a chart of the event:

 

Divergent highs and lows in the NDX compared to the DJIA in 1987. The similarity with the recent divergence at the peak – which took even almost the same time to develop (DJIA peak on Jan 26 vs. NDX on March 12) – is quite glaring. It is one of several reasons why we believe the January top in the major benchmark indexes may turn out to be a significant one, regardless of whether an 87-style crash wave develops.

 

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Anatomy of Waterfall Declines

In an article published in these pages in early March, I have discussed the similarities between the current chart pattern in the S&P 500 Index compared to the patterns that formed ahead of the crashes of 1929 and 1987, as well as the crash-like plunge in the Nikkei 225 Index in 1990. The following five similarities were decisive features of these crash patterns:

 

– a rally along a clearly discernible trendline on a linear chart

– an accelerated move toward a peak at the end of the advance

– an initial decline testing the trendline

– a counter-trend rebound

– a break of the trendline

 

After the trendline was broken, waterfall declines began in the three antecedents of 1929, 1987 and the Nikkei in 1990. In early March, I pointed out that the decisive development was the break of the trendline on the second test. What has happened since then?

 

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SPX, Quo Vadis? Considering the Crash Potential

In view of the fact that the stock market action has gotten a bit out of hand again this week, we are providing a brief update of charts we have discussed in these pages over the past few weeks (see e.g. “The Flight to Fantasy”). We are doing this mainly because the probability that a low probability event will actually happen has increased somewhat in recent days.

 

Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr cast wary glances at their ancient (modern at the time) pre-Ogygian deluge Quotron. This sucker is going down honey!

 

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Divergences Continue to Send Warning Signals

The chart formation built in the course of the early February sell-off and subsequent rebound continues to look ominous, so we are closely watching the proceedings. There are now numerous new divergences in place that clearly represent a major warning signal for the stock market. For example, here is a chart comparing the SPX to the NDX (Nasdaq 100 Index) and the broad-based NYA (NYSE Composite Index).

 

The tech sector is always the last one to get the memo – we have dubbed this the “flight to fantasy” – and it is always seen near major market peaks. Incidentally, the Nasdaq was the last index to peak in 1987 as well (the DJIA topped out in late August of that year, the Nasdaq on October 5). So this is a well-worn tradition. The divergences that have been established between these indexes in the recent rebound from the early February are a big red flag in our opinion.

 

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Fake Responses 

One month ago we asked: What kind of stock market purge is this?  Over the last 30 days the stock market’s offered plenty of fake responses.  Yet we’re still waiting for a clear answer.

 

As the party continues, the dance moves of the revelers are becoming ever more ominous. Are they still right in the head? Perhaps a little trepanation is called for to relieve those brain tensions a bit?  [PT]

 

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Lord, Grant us Chastity and Temperance… Just Not Yet!

Most fund managers are in an unenviable situation nowadays (particularly if they have a long only mandate). On the one hand, they would love to get an opportunity to buy assets at reasonable prices. On the other hand, should asset prices actually return to levels that could be remotely termed “reasonable”, they would be saddled with staggering losses from their existing exposure. Or more precisely: their investors would be saddled with staggering losses. In this context we have noticed the emergence of a new consensus in the form of an invocation we hereby term the Augustine of Hippo Plea.

 

St. Augustine of Hippo, here seen doing saintly magic in his later years. In his Confessions the Saint admits that as a “wretched young man” he once inserted a phrase into one of his prayers that has become quite famous for the hopeful qualifier attached to it: “Da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.”, read: “Grant me chastity and temperance, but not yet”. At the time the future Saint feared that he might actually get what he wished for. “Timebam enim ne me cito exaudires et cito sanares a morbo concupiscentiae, quem malebam expleri quam extingui”, as he explains (“I was afraid that you might hear me right away and quickly cleanse me of the disease of carnal desire, which I would much rather have explored than expunged”).

 

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Stretched to the Limit

There are good reasons to suspect that the bull market in US equities has been stretched to the limit. These include inter alia: high fundamental valuation levels, as e.g. illustrated by the Shiller P/E ratio (a.k.a. “CAPE”/ cyclically adjusted P/E); rising interest rates; and the maturity of the advance.

 

The end of an era – a little review of the mother of modern crash patterns, the 1929 debacle. In hindsight it is both a bit scary and sad, in light of the important caesura it represented. In many ways the roaring 20s were the last hurrah of a world in its death throes, a world that never managed to make a comeback. The massive expansion of the State that had begun in the years just before WW1 resumed in full force as soon as the post-war party on Wall Street ended. The worried crowd that formed in the streets around the NYSE in the week of the crash may well have suspected that the starting gun to profound change had just been fired. [PT]

 

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Demanding More Debt

Consumer debt, corporate debt, and government debt are all going up.  But that’s not all.  Margin debt – debt that investors borrow against their portfolio to buy more stocks – has hit a record of $642.8 billion.  What in the world are people thinking?

 

A blow-off in margin debt mirroring the blow-off in stock prices. Since February of 2016 alone it has soared by ~$170 billion – this is an entirely new level insanity. The current total of 643 billion is more than double the level of margin debt at the tech mania peak and 15.4 times the amount of margin debt just before the crash of 1987. [PT]

 

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Whipsawed

Frank Roellinger has updated us with respect to the signals given by his Modified Ned Davis Method (MDM) in the course of the recent market correction. The MDM is a purely technical trading system designed for position-trading the Russell 2000 index, both long and short (for details and additional color see The Modified Davis Method and Reader Question on the Modified Ned Davis Method).

 

The Nasdaq pillar…

 

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