Monday, October 19, 2020

Does the economy even need more stimulus?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set a Tuesday deadline for an agreement for a coronavirus stimulus package before the election. Recent data begs the question of whether more stimulus is even needed. 

Last Friday's retail sales print was astonishingly strong and beat market expectations. While retail sales statistics are notoriously noisy, September retail sales rose sequentially in all major categories.


In addition, consumer confidence improved in early October despite the expiry of the $600 per week stimulus payments.



The full post can be found here.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

How the US is becoming an emerging market

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.



The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • Trading model: Neutral*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


A pre-election stall?
As we approach the November election, the market may be setting up for a pre-election stall. President Trump, otherwise known as "Dow Man", is fond of benchmarking his performance using the stock market. The S&P 500 (SPY) has returned an impressive 64.5% unannualized since Inauguration. Its performance against the long bond (TLT) is less compelling, but it beat bonds by a total of 12.1% over the same period. 



The most disturbing metric is the market's risk perception. The VIX Index is elevated, and trades at a premium to EM VIX. The market is now pricing US risk like an emerging market. Market nervousness is rising, and traders will have to contend with a heightened risk environment until the November 3 election.

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How to trade the election

With the US election just over two weeks away, it's time to look past the election and focus on how the economy and markets are likely to behave. Barry Ritholz correctly advised investors in a recent post to check their political beliefs at the door when analyzing markets. Stock prices have done slightly better under Democratic administrations, but the effect is mostly noise in light of the small sample size.


With that in mind, let's consider the differences in market environment if Trump were to win, compared to a Biden win.

The full post can be found here.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Trading the breadth thrust

Mid-week market update:  I discovered an error in my last publication (see A Momentum Renaissance). The market did not achieve a Zweig Breadth Thrust buy signal last Thursday as I previously indicated, though it was very close.

As a reminder, the Zweig Breadth Thrust buy signal is triggered when the ZBT Indicator moves from an oversold to overbought reading within 10 trading days. In my previous publication, I misinterpreted the first day of the window as September 25, it was actually September 24. The ZBT reached an overbought condition in 11 days, not 10, therefore the ZBT buy signal was not triggered. 


I apologize for the error. Nevertheless, several other breadth thrust signals with less strict criteria were recently triggered, and it is worthwhile analyzing how to trade such conditions.

The full post can be found here.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

A Momentum Renaissance?

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.



The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bearish*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


A MoMo revival
Despite my expectations, the market took on a risk-on tone in the past week, and momentum is making a return. The relative performance of price momentum factor ETFs have been strong since their bottom in early September, and most have made new recovery highs.


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The full post can be found here.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A valuation puzzle: Why are stocks so strong?

One of the investment puzzles of 2020 is the stock market's behavior. In the face of the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression, why haven't stock prices fallen further? Investors saw a brief panic in February and March, and the S&P 500 has recovered and even made an all-time high in early September. As a consequence, valuations have become more elevated.



One common explanation is the unprecedented level of support from central banks around the world. Interest rates have fallen, and all major central banks have engaged in some form of quantitative easing. Let's revisit the equity valuation question, and determine the future outlook for equity prices.

The full post can be found here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Out of the woods?

Mid-week market update: As President Trump left the hospital and returned to the White House, the message from his doctors was he was doing fine, but he was not "out of the woods". Numerous outside physicians have made the point that COVID-19 is nothing like the flu. Flu symptoms hit the patient and eventually dissipate and go away. COVID-19 patients often have ups and downs in their infection. They may feel fine, but symptoms flare, dissipate, and return. The process can last weeks, even months. Just because Trump reported feels fine now doesn't mean that he won't feel fine by this weekend.

Just like Trump's COVID-19 infection, neither the equity bulls nor bears are out of the woods. Yesterday (Tuesday), Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a speech that it was time to go big on fiscal stimulus:
The expansion is still far from complete. At this early stage, I would argue that the risks of policy intervention are still asymmetric. Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses. Over time, household insolvencies and business bankruptcies would rise, harming the productive capacity of the economy, and holding back wage growth. By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste. The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods.
The September FOMC minutes indicated a consensus that fiscal support is forthcoming, and the economy could tank without a rescue package.
Indeed, many participants noted that their economic outlook assumed additional fiscal support and that if future fiscal support was significantly smaller or arrived significantly later than they expected, the pace of the recovery could be slower than anticipated.
Trump tanked the market by tweeting that he was calling off the negotiations for a stimulus package. While he did tweet later that he was in favor of a standalone bill for a $1200 stimulus payment, his chief of staff Mark Meadows confirmed today that stimulus bill negotiations are dead.



The full post can be found here.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The more things change...

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.



The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bearish*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


Plus ça change...
The market was subjected to an unexpected shock late Thursday when President Trump announced that he had been diagnosed with a COVID-19 infection. What was unusual was the behavior of many market internals - they stayed the same.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

In light of this development, Trump is forced to quarantine and his campaign activities are suspended or curtailed. This creates a headwind for his electoral chances about a month ahead of the election. The betting odds on a Trump victory fell in the betting markets, but the overall Republican odds of a victory was steady as the odds on the Pence contract rose.  Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Equally puzzling was the behavior of risk. Prior to the news, the option market was discounting heightened odds of a disputed election. Average option implied volatility (IV) spiked just ahead of the November 3 election, and they remained elevated until mid-December. The shape of the implied volatility curve stayed the same after the news. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose



The technical behavior of the market was also relatively steady. Both the S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 rallied last week and regained their respective 50 day moving average (dma) levels. Both indices remained range-bound for the week, bounded by a band of upside resistance and downside support.


The full post can be found here.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Broken Trends: How the world changed

The world is changing, but it changed even before Trump's COVID-19 news.


In the past few weeks, a couple of key macro trends have reversed themselves. The US Dollar, which large speculators had accumulated a crowded short position, stopped falling and began to turn up. In addition, inflation expectations, as measured by the 5x5 year forward, stopped rising and pulled back.


These developments have important implications for investors.

The full post can be found here.


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Something for everyone

Mid-week market update: The Presidential Debate last night was painful to watch. After the debate, different broadcasters conducted instant polls of who won the debate. The CNN poll showed that 60% believed that Biden had won, and 29% thought that Trump had won. The Fox poll showed that 60% thought Trump had won, and 39% thought Biden had won.

Lol! There was something for everyone.

In reality, the debate probably didn't change many minds, and the market's perception of electoral risk was also largely unchanged. My own survey of SPY's at-the-money option implied volatility shows that while implied volatility had fallen, the shape of the curve is unchanged. The early November election spike is still there, and risk remains elevated until mid-December.


For equity traders focused on market direction, there is also something for both bulls and bears.

The full post can be found here.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Fun with CoT data

There was some excitement last week when SentimenTrader wrote about the massive aggregate short by large speculators and CTA trend followers in equity futures. Conventional contrarian analysis would be bearish, but this is a lesson for traders and investors to look beneath the surface before jumping to conclusions.


The full post can be found here.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Time to de-risk

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.


The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


Time to be cautious
This is an out-of-sample application of my Asset Allocation Trend Model signals to a model portfolio. If the Trend Model is bullish, the model portfolio will take a 80% position in SPY (stocks) and 20% position in IEF (bonds), neutral at 60% SPY and 40% IEF, and bearish at 40% SPY and 60% IEF. As the chart shows, the model portfolio has been able to achieve equity-like returns over the test period with balance fund-like risk.



The Trend Model's signal was upgraded to neutral from bearish on May 15, 2020 and it has remained in neutral ever since. Recent developments have caused it to turn more cautious. Here is why.

The full post can be found here.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

How to spot the next market bottom

RealMoney columnist Helene Meisler asked rhetorically in an article where her readers thought we are in the equity sentiment cycle. She concluded that the market is in the "subtle warning" phase, though she would allow that the "overt warning" phase was also possible.

I agree. This retreat is acting like the start of a major pullback. The S&P 500 recently violated its 50 day moving average (dma). Past major pullbacks that began with 50 dma breaks were marked by the percent of S&P 500 bullish on point and figure charts plunging below 50%. To be sure, this does not assure us of a significant downturn, though it represents a sufficient though not necessary condition for one.


Two weeks ago, I discussed the magnitude of market weakness (see How far can the market fall?), with the caveat that those were not targets, but estimates of downside potential. This week, I outline some techniques on how to spot a market bottom.

The full post can be found here.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The tone is still risk-off

Mid-week market update: I have some good news and bad news. The good news is the performance of the NASDAQ 100,  the market leadership, has stabilized. The relative performance of the NASDAQ 100 against the S&P 500 successfully tested a rising relative trend line, and the relative uptrend is still intact.


The bad news is the NDX rally failed at the 50 day moving average, and the rest of the market is maintaining a risk-off tone.

The full post can be found here.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Election jitters are rising

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.


The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


More election volatility
While I am not a volatility trader, my recent calls on the evolution of volatility have been on the mark. Three weeks ago, I raised the possibility of a volatility storm (see Volmageddon, or market melt-up?) owing to rising election jitters. I concluded "I would estimate a two-thirds probability of a correction, and one-third probability of a melt-up, but I am keeping an open mind as to the ultimate outcome". Two weeks ago, I turned more definitive about rising volatility and called for a volatility storm (see Brace for the volatility storm).

The rising election induced volatility theme has become increasingly mainstream in the financial press. Bloomberg highlighted that the one and three month spread in the MOVE Index, which measures bond market volatility, is spiking.



Marketwatch also reported that analysis from BNP Paribas shows that the implied equity market volatility over the election window is sky high compared to past realized returns of election results. 



In addition, all these option readings were taken before the news about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Should the election results be contested and wind up in the Supreme Court, the odds of a 4-4 deadlocked decision just rose with Ginburg's death, in which case the lower court's decision would stand. This raises the odds of judicial and constitutional chaos. Imagine different states with wildly inconsistent decisions on balloting. The Supreme Court nomination fight also raises the political resolve of both sides in Congress. Don't expect any stimulus bill before the election, and even a Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government beyond September 30 is in jeopardy. Watch for implied volatility to rise in the coming week.

It seems that the bears have taken control of the tape, based on a combination of election uncertainty and a reversal of excessive bullish retail positioning on Big Tech stocks.

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

A healthy rotation into cyclical stocks?

There is growing evidence that the stock market is undergoing a rotation from large cap technology to cyclical and reflation stocks. Exhibit A is the market action of the tech heavy NASDAQ 100, which violated a key rising channel and also violated its 50 day moving average (dma). By contrast, the broader S&P 500 is testing its 50 dma and only exhibited a minor break.


Even as the S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 struggled, Material stocks have been making new all-time highs, and its performance against the S&P 500 has decisively turned up.


The full post can be found here.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Time to sound the all-clear?

Mid-week market update: Is time to sound the all-clear? The market staged a relief rally after last week's weakness. Is the stock market ready to resume its uptrend?

A rally to new highs from these levels is unlikely. Last week's pullback inflicted significant technical damage that, at a minimum, a period of sideways consolidation and base building will be necessary before the bulls can take control of the tape again. The S&P 500 violated a rising trend line that stretched back to April. As well, the 8 day moving average (dma) fell through the 21 dma, which is a bearish crossover. Repairing the damage will take time.


The full post can be found here.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Some questions for the Fed

As the FOMC conducts its two-day meeting after its big reveal of its shift in monetary policy, Fed watcher Tim Duy thinks that we won't get much more in the way of details from the Fed after this meeting:

The odds favor the Fed maintains the status quo at this week’s meeting. It does not appear to have a consensus on enhancing forward guidance nor do I suspect FOMC participants feel pressure to force a consensus on that topic just yet. The general improvement in the data likely removes that pressure. The Fed will likely remain content to use the new strategy as justification for maintaining the current near zero rate path. Powell will continue to lean heavily on downside risks to the economy to entrench expectations that the Fed will stick to that path. The dovish risk this week is that the Fed does surprise with either more specific guidance or an alteration of the asset purchase program to favor longer term bonds. I don’t see a lot of risk for a hawkish outcome unless it was something unintentional in the press conference.

As the Citi Inflation Surprise Index edges up for the US, but remain muted for the other major regions, I have some important questions about the Fed's new "average inflation target" policy.


The full post can be found here.


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The bears take control, but for how long?

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model becoming more bullish, or bearish?) and overbought/oversold extremes (don't buy if the trend is overbought, and vice versa). Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here. The hypothetical trading record of the trading model of the real-time alerts that began in March 2016 is shown below.


The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Sell equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Subscribers can access the latest signal in real-time here.


A sentiment buy signal?
As last week's market action demonstrated, the bulls just can't seem to catch a break. Even though the market was short-term oversold, rally attempts have been rather anemic. More worrisome is the behavior of the NASDAQ 100 (NDX), which had been the market leadership. The NDX convincingly breached a rising channel, and it is now testing its 50 day moving average (dma). While its relative uptrend against the S&P 500 remains intact, the relative performance of semiconductor stocks, which had also been a source of technology related market strength, also violated a rising trend line.
One bullish ray of hope came from Mark Hulbert, who pointed out that newsletter writer sentiment had plunged precipitously, which is contrarian bullish.
Consider the average recommended equity exposure level among a subset of short-term stock-market timers that I monitor on a daily basis. (This is what’s measured by my Hulbert Stock Newsletter Sentiment Index, or HSNSI.) This average currently stands at 30.1%, which means that the average timer now has 70% of his equity trading portfolio out of the market.

Just three weeks, ago, in contrast, the HSNSI stood at 65.9%. As you can see from the chart below, the HSNSI’s recent plunge rivals what happened during the February-March waterfall decline. That’s amazing, since the market’s early September sell-off — scary as it was — is child’s play by comparison. In contrast to a 34% plunge in the earlier downturn, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.05% from Sep. 2 to Sep. 8 lost less than 7%.


Hulbert concluded, "So long as the market timers on balance remain lukewarm about the stock market, sentiment for the next few weeks favors higher prices."

Could this be the reprieve that the bullish traders need?

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

How far can the market fall?

Macro Charts recently observed that S&P 500 DSI is turning down from an overbought extreme. Historically, that has led to either sharp corrections or a prolonged period of choppiness.





In light of these conditions, I have been asked about downside equity risk. Is this the start of a significant downdraft? How far can stocks fall from current levels?

I answer these question in the context of secular leadership change. The Big Three market leadership themes in the latest bull cycle has been US over global stocks, large cap growth over value, and large caps over small caps. Transitions from bull to bear phase act to cleanse the excesses of the previous cycle. Until we see definitive signs of leadership changes, it may be too early to call a market top just yet.

From that perspective, we can see that the relative performance of US against global stocks is consolidating sideways after an uptrend; growth beating value, but pulling back; and small caps still lagging large caps after a brief episode of better relative performance.



The full post can be found here.