Wednesday, January 13, 2021

One last push, or a downside break?

Mid-week market update: I have been warning about the extended nature of this stock market for several weeks. The latest II sentiment update shows more of the same. Bullish sentiment has come off the boil, but readings are reminiscent of the conditions seen during the melt-up top that ended in early 2018.


The market can correct at any time, but I also have to allow for the possibility of one last bullish push to fresh highs. Here is what I am watching.

The full post can be found here.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Tactically cautious, despite the data glitch

In yesterday's post, I pointed out that, according to FactSet, consensus S&P 500 EPS estimates had dropped about -0.50 across the board over the last three weeks (see 2020 is over, what's the next pain trade?).


The decline turned out to be a data anomaly. A closer examination of the evolution of consensus estimates revealed a sudden drop in EPS estimates three weeks ago. Discontinuous changes like that are highly unusual, and it was traced to the inclusion of heavyweight Tesla in the S&P 500. In this case, analyzing the evolution of consensus earnings before and after the Tesla inclusion was not an apples-to-apples comparison. My previous bearish conclusion should therefore be discounted.


Nevertheless, I am becoming tactically cautious about the stock market despite resolving this data anomaly.

The full post can be found here.


Sunday, January 10, 2021

2020 is over, what's the next pain trade?

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 that 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: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bullish*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* 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.


The next pain trade
Now that 2020 is over, what's the next pain trade? I have a few candidates in mind. The latest BoA Global Fund Manager Survey taken in early December described the top two most crowded trade as long technology stocks, and short USD.

Another source of vulnerability is the expectation of a steepening yield curve. If history is any guide, heightened expectations of a steepening yield curve have resolved with market upsets of differing magnitude.


As a reminder, this survey was taken in December. After the Georgia special Senate elections gave the Democrats the trifecta of the control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, the 10-year Treasury yield surged to over 1%, and the yield curve steepened even further.

All of these vulnerabilities are connected from a cross-asset perspective - the steepening yield curve, long technology stocks, and short USD. 

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Democrats' Trifecta win explained

Last weekend, I conducted an unscientific and low sample Twitter poll on the market perception of the Georgia special Senate elections. The results were surprising. Respondents were bullish on both a Republican and Democratic sweep.


As the results of the Georgia Senate race became clear, the analyst writing under the pseudonym Jesse Livermore tweeted that these results represent a "fiscal Goldilocks" scenario.


However, the analysis of the investment risk and opportunity is far more nuanced than just a simple bull and bear question.

The full post can be found here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Santa has returned to the North Pole

Mid-week market update: The last day of the Santa Claus rally window closed yesterday, and Santa has returned to the North Pole. But he left one present today in the form of an intra-day all-time high for all the good boys and girls who ever doubted him.




Tactically, today's rally may be the last hurrah for the bulls. 

The full post can be found here.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

An update on the seasonal FOMO stampede

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 that 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: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bullish*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* 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.


No stampede
Three weeks ago, I rhetorically asked if the market would surge higher during a seasonally favorable time of year (see Time for another year-end FOMO stampede?). I observed that "the Fear & Greed Index followed a pattern of an initial high, a retreat, followed by a higher high either coincident or ahead of the ultimate stock market peak." (Warning, small sample size of n=4).

Since I wrote those words, the S&P 500 rose a respectable 2.5% while the Fear and Greed Index fell to 51. It's not exactly a stampede. The main question is: "Will Fear and Greed exhibit a second peak before the actual market peak?"

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Roaring 20's scenario, and what could go wrong

Happy New Year! Investors were happy to see the tumultuous 2020 come to a close. The past year has been one with little precedent. A pandemic brought the global economy to a screeching halt. The stock market crashed, and it was followed by an unprecedented level of fiscal and monetary response from authorities around the world. As the year came to an end, a consensus is emerging that a cyclical recovery has begun and we are seeing the dawn of a new equity bull. Some have even compared it to the Roaring 20's, when the world emerged from the devastation of the Spanish Flu and World War I.

New bull markets often start with powerful breadth thrusts. As LPL Financial documents, the second year of a new bull can also bring solid returns, albeit not as strong as the first year.


As I look ahead to 2021, I consider three key issues.
  • The economy and its outlook;
  • Market positioning and consensus; and
  • What could go wrong?
The full post can be found here.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

My 2020 report card

Now that 2020 has come to an end, it's time to deliver the Humble Student of the Markets report card. While some providers only highlight the good calls in their marketing material, readers will find both the good and bad news here. No investor has perfect foresight, and these report cards serve to dissect the positive and negative aspects of the previous year, so that we learn from our mistakes and don't repeat them.

2020 was a wild year for equity investors. The S&P 500 experienced 109 days of high volatility days during the year, as measured by daily swings of 1% or more. Measured another way, the stock market had high volatility days 45% of the time in 2020, compared an average of 25% since 1990. This level of volatility was similar to a reading of 53% in 2009 and 41% in 2000.

Let's begin with the good news. The Trend Asset Allocation Model's model portfolio delivered a total return of 19.7% compared to 16.1% for a 60% SPY and 40% IEF benchmark (returns are calculated weekly, based on the Monday's close). Total returns from inception of December 31, 2013 were equally impressive. The model portfolio returned 13.8% vs. 10.6% for the benchmark with equal or better risk characteristics.



The full post can be found here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Steady as she goes

Mid-week market update: Not much has changed since my last post, so I just have a brief update during a thin and holiday-shortened week. The S&P 500 remains in a shallow upward channel while flashing a series of "good overbought" conditions during a seasonally positive period for equities. The index staged an upside breakout at the 3700 level. The breakout has held and the market gapped up on Monday. The bears need the index to retreat and fill in the gap as a minimum signal of market weakness.



The full post can be found here.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

When does Santa's party end?

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 that 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: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bullish*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* 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.


The seasonal party
In my last mid-week post, I outlined how the combination of an oversold reading and positive seasonality were combining to provide bullish tailwinds for stocks (see The most wonderful time of the year...). So far, the market is behaving according to the script. The VIX Index retreated after breaching its upper Bollinger Band (BB) last Monday, and the market staged an advance. In light of the narrowness of the BB, traders should watch for a breach of the lower BB, which would be a signal of an overbought market.



The full post can be found here.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Debunking the Buffett Indicator

There has been some recent hand wringing over Warren Buffett's so-called favorite indicator, the market cap to GDP ratio. This ratio has rocketed to new all-time highs, indicating nosebleed valuation conditions for the stock market.


Worries about this ratio are overblown. Here's why.

The full post can be found here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The most wonderful time of the year...

Mid-week market update: In my last post (see Trading the pre-Christmas panic), I pointed out that the VIX Index had spiked above its upper Bollinger Band, which is an indication of an oversold market. In the past year, stock prices have usually stabilized and rallied after such signals (blue vertical line). The only major exception was the February and March skid that saw the market become more and more oversold (red line). The market today appears to be following a more typical pattern of stabilization, which should be followed by recovery during the seasonally strong Christmas period.


Even more constructive for the bull case was how stock prices reacted to bad news. Last night after the market close, President Trump called the latest stimulus package a "disgrace" and threatened to veto the bill. This latest surprise not only threatens the stimulus bill, it also raises the risk of a government shutdown on December 28, 2020. S&P 500 futures initially fell -0.5% overnight on the news but recovered to open green Wednesday morning. 

A market's ability to shrug off bad news is bullish. 

The full post can be found here.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Trading the pre-Christmas panic

What should traders make of the pre-Christmas panic today? S&P 500 futures were down as much as -2.5% overnight. The market opened up down about -1.5%, but recovered most of its losses to a -0.4% retreat today. More importantly, the bulls were able to hold support at 3650.



The VIX Index surged above its upper Bollinger Band, which is a sign of an oversold market. In the past year, most of the similar instances saw the market either rise or stabilize after VIX upper BB readings (blue vertical lines). The only exception occurred in February, when the market cratered as the news of the pandemic spooked risk appetite (red line). On the other hand, the 5-day RSI (top panel) is nowhere near an oversold condition.

The full post can be found here.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Santa rally, Version 2020

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: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bullish*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* 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.


The Santa Claus effect
Is Santa coming to town? Historical studies have documented that seasonal strength usually starts about mid-December and continues into January.


Right on cue, the S&P 500 staged an upside breakout to a fresh all-time high last Thursday, though it pulled back Friday and the breakout held, though just barely.



The full post can be found here.

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Will Biden reset the Sino-American relationship?

As the clock ticks down on Trump's days in the White House, and Biden election has been confirmed by the Electoral College, it's time to ask if a Biden Administration will reset the Sino-American relationship. The key questions to ask are:
  • What does each side want, and what are the sources of friction?
  • What constraints is China operating under?
  • What's the likely path forward?
While my main focus is on trade, that's not the only dimension of friction between the two countries. China's newly assertive foreign policy and brinksmanship in the South China Sea is also a source of concern for geopolitical stability.


The full post can be found here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Waiting for the breakout

Mid-week market update: It's difficult to make a coherent technical analysis comment on the day of an FOMC meeting, but the stock market remains in a holding pattern. While the S&P 500 remains in an uptrend (blue line), it has been consolidating sideways since late November and early December. 


Until we see either an upside breakout or downside breakdown out of the trading range (grey area), it's difficult to make a definitive directional call either way. The bull can point to a brief spike of the VIX above its upper Bollinger Band on Monday, which is a sign of an oversold market. TRIN also rose to 2 on Monday, which can be an indication of panic selling. As well, the VIX Index is normalizing relative to EM VIX since the election. The US market has stopped acting like an emerging market as anxieties have receded. As the S&P 500 tests the top of the range, these are constructive signs that the market is about to rise. On the other hand, the bears can say that even with all these tailwinds, the stock market remains range-bound and unable to stage an upside breakout, indicating that the bulls are having trouble seizing control of the tape.

The full post can be found here.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

How far can stocks pull back?

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: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Bullish*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* 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.


The ketchup effect
The bulls suffered a setback when the S&P 500 violated a minor rising uptrend (dotted line), though secondary uptrend support (solid line) is holding at 3640. Before anyone panics, the uptrends in the S&P 500 and breadth indicators are intact. In all likelihood, the market is just undergoing a period of consolidation since the start of December.


The Swedes call it ketchupeffekt, or the ketchup effect. It's what happens when you try to pour ketchup on food. Nothing happens for a long time, then it all happens at once. The market weakness of last week is a display of ketchupeffekt. Suddenly, all the bad news is happening at once. If this is indeed the start of a pullback, how bad can it get?

Let's explore the downside scenarios.

The full post can be found here.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Time for another year-end FOMO stampede?

In late 2017, the stock market melted up in a FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) stampede as enthusiasm about the Trump tax cuts gripped investor psychology. The market corrected in early 2018 and rose steadily into October, though the advance could not be characterized as a melt-up. In late 2019, the market staged a similar FOMO stampede and the rally was halted by the news of the pandemic spreading around the world.

In each of the above cases, the Fear & Greed Index followed a pattern of an initial high, a retreat, followed by a higher high either coincident or ahead of the ultimate stock market peak. 

Could we see a similar year-end melt-up in 2020?

The full post can be found here.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The bearish window is closing quickly

Mid-week market update: I highlighted this chart as a possible warning on the weekend (see Melt-up, or meltdown?). In the past, high levels of correlation between the S&P 500 and VVIX, the volatility of the VIX, has generally led to market stalls. In addition, high correlations between the S&P 500 and the VIX Index has also been warnings of market tops. We have seen 14 similar warnings in the past three years. nine episodes were resolved in a bearish way (red vertical lines), and five saw the market either consolidate sideways or continue to rise (blue lines). 


The bulls are on the verge of dodging a bullet. All of the bearish instances saw the market decline soon after the signal. It has been a week since correlations spiked on December 2, 2020. While the S&P 500 is testing rising trend line support as NYSE net highs surged, there is no sign of a downside break. Moreover, NYSE breadth, as measured by advances-declines, was surprisingly positive even as the S&P 500 fell -0.8% on the day.



Tactically, the bearish window is closing very quickly. Today's decline may be the bears' last chance.

The full post can be found here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Why you should and shouldn't invest in Bitcoin

In response to my recent publication (see A focus on gold and energy), a number of readers asked, "What about Bitcoin (BTC)?" Indeed, BTC has diverged and beaten gold recently. Even as gold prices corrected, BTC has been rising steadily since early October.


Here are the reasons why you should and shouldn't invest in Bitcoin.

The full post can be found here.