Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is there any more pop after the drop?

Mid-week market update: Is there any more "pop" after last week's drop? The market certainly had a big rally yesterday, and it is not unusual to see a pause the day after a big move.



Here are the bull and bear cases.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tops are processes: Here's why

I received a ton of comments after yesterday's post (see A correction, or the start of a bear market?), probably because of the tumultuous nature of last week's market action. Readers pointed out a number of buy and sell signals that I had missed in yesterday's post and asked me to comment on them. (Rather than email me directly, I encourage everyone to put their comments in the comments section rather so that the rest of the community can see them.)

The bullish and bearish signals are not necessarily contradictory, as they operate in different time frames. I believe that they reinforce my conviction that the market is undergoing a long-term top. Tops are processes. Stock prices don`t go straight down when the market tops out. The most recent break was just a warning.

Even if you are bearish, I reiterate my view that the markets are too oversold to meltdown from current levels. Rob Hanna of Quantifiable Edges found that market bounces that begin on a Friday tend to be the most reliably bullish.



Here is the other feedback that I received which makes me believe that the US equity market is in the process of making a top.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A correction, or the start of a bear 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 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 the trading component of the Trend Model to look for changes in the direction of the main Trend Model signal. A bullish Trend Model signal that gets less bullish is a trading "sell" signal. Conversely, a bearish Trend Model signal that gets less bearish is a trading "buy" signal. The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below. The turnover rate of the trading model is high, and it has varied between 150% to 200% per month.

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: Buy 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.


Where's the bottom?
When the market selloff began last Wednesday, Callum Thomas conducted an (unscientific) Twitter poll asking if this is a correction, the start of a bear market, or just market noise. The overwhelming response favored a correction, which is contrarian bearish from a sentiment viewpoint.



Regular readers know that I have become increasingly cautious on the outlook for US equities since August (see 10 or more technical reasons to be cautious on stocks and Red sky in the morning). Now that the major US averages have begun to show signs of technical breakdowns, it is time to ask, "Is this just a correction, or the start of a bear market?"

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Things you don't see at market bottoms: Booming confidence edition

The last time I published a post in a series of "things you don't see at market bottoms" based on US based investor enthusiasm was in June. Sufficient signs have emerged again for another edition.

As a reminder, it is said that while bottoms are events, but tops are processes. Translated, markets bottom out when panic sets in, and therefore they can be more easily identifiable. By contrast, market tops form when a series of conditions come together, but not necessarily all at the same time. My experience has shown that overly bullish sentiment should be viewed as a condition indicator, and not a market timing tool.

Past editions of this series include:
I reiterate my belief that excessively bullish sentiment may not signal the top of the equity market, but investors should be aware of the risks of an environment in which sentiment has become increasingly frothy.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Has the correction bottomed? What`s next?

Mid-week market update: Is the correction over? At least my inner trader had been positioned for market weakness. Subscribers who had been following my inner trader, you know that we issued real-time alerts to buy the market on September 12, 2018 and flipped short on September 21, 2018. (You can subscribe here if you haven't done so).



Where's the bottom?

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

More cracks appear in the New Fragile Five

Recessions serve to unwind the excesses of the past expansion cycle. While the immediate odds of a US recession is still relatively low right now (see A recession in 2020?), and there are few excesses in the economy, the problems are found outside US borders. This time, most of the excessive private debt accumulation has occurred in China, and Canada.

I wrote about the New Fragile Five last March. Loomis Sayles made the case for these countries to be the New Fragile Five, which includes Canada, based on unsustainable real estate bubbles:
Cracks are starting to appear in five highly leveraged economies: Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand. For several years following the global financial crisis, these five countries all shared a common theme—a multi-year housing boom, fueled by low interest rates, which resulted in very elevated levels of household debt.

This boom is starting to dissipate in all five markets. House prices have largely reversed course, be it slowing appreciation or outright decline. Moreover, this is occurring even as interest rates remain at or near record lows and labor markets continue to be robust. Importantly, this is a correction that many thought could not occur given the otherwise strong economic growth backdrop in these countries. But we take a long-term view of house prices, and began highlighting affordability problems in these markets several years ago.

Signs are growing that those property bubbles are popping.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

A recession in 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 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 the trading component of the Trend Model to look for changes in the direction of the main Trend Model signal. A bullish Trend Model signal that gets less bullish is a trading "sell" signal. Conversely, a bearish Trend Model signal that gets less bearish is a trading "buy" signal. The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below. The turnover rate of the trading model is high, and it has varied between 150% to 200% per month.

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: Buy 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.


The 2020 recession consensus call
In the past few months, there has been a cacophony of voices calling for a recession or significant slowdown in 2020, such as Ben Bernanke (via Bloomberg), and Ray Dalio (via Business Insider). Bloomberg reported that two-thirds of business economists expect a recession by the end of 2020.

To be sure, the American economy is exhibiting behavior consistent with a late cycle expansion. Estimates of the output gap show that both the US and developed economies are running at, or above capacity, which are usually signs that a recession is just around the corner.


How close is the American economy to a recession? I answer that question using the long-leading indicator methodology outlined by New Deal democrat (NDD) in 2015. These indicators are designed to spot a recession about a year in advance, and they are broadly categorized into three groups (my words, not his):
  • The consumer or household sector
  • The corporate sector
  • Monetary conditions
I would add the disclaimer that while the analytical framework comes from NDD, the interpretation of the output is entirely mine.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Style and factor analysis reveals the challenges for bulls and bears

Mid-week market update: The Dow has made another record high. Most technical analysts would interpret such a development bullishly as there is nothing more bullish than a stock or index making a new all-time high. However, there is the nagging problem of poor breadth.

In the past few weeks, I have been warning about the precarious technical condition of the stock market. On Monday, I wrote about the narrowing Bollinger Band of the VIX Index, which is a sign of complacency, and the pattern of declining new highs on both NYSE and NASDAQ stocks even as the market advanced to all-time highs (see The calm before the storm?). The negative breadth divergence has gotten so that that it has prompted analysts like SentimenTrader to point out the ominous historical parallels with the Tech Bubble top.


He also highlighted the historical record of poor breadth when the DJIA made a new high.



Rather than obsess endless about the negative breadth divergence, I examined performance market cap, style, or factor, rotation. The analysis yielded some surprising answers, and laid out the challenges for the bulls and bears.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The calm before the storm?

Notwithstanding today's NAFTA USMCA driven reflex rally today, one puzzle to this market is the remarkable level of complacency in the face of potential market moving events, such as a trade war.

From a technical perspective, complacency can be seen through the historically low level of weekly Bollinger Band on the VIX Index, which has foreshadowed volatility spikes (h/t Andrew Thrasher). The chart below depicts the 10-year history of this indicator. While the sample size is small (N=5), four of the five past instances have seen market corrections (red vertical lines). The only exception occurred when the stock market had already weakened. When combined with episodes of low levels of NYSE and NASDAQ new highs, which is the case today, the outlook is particularly worrisome.


The full post can be found at our new site here.