Sunday, October 16, 2016

Q3 earnings season: Stud or a dud?

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 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. Past trading of the trading model has shown turnover rates of about 200% per month.

The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Risk-on*
  • 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 any changes during the week at @humblestudent. Subscribers will also receive email notices of any changes in my trading portfolio.

Is the earnings recession over?
Regular readers will know that I have been bullish on stocks for the last few months. My forecast has called for an equity rally into year-end and beyond. Last week, a couple of Street strategists have turned cautious on the stock market. I would therefore like to examine the bear cases that they present.

Bloomberg reported that Goldman Sachs strategist David Kostin set an SPX year-end target of 2100. The main reason for the bearish call is earnings disappointment.
"Variables that determine earnings surprises – changes in U.S. economic growth, interest rates, oil price, the dollar, and EPS [earnings per share] revisions – suggest a below-average share of firms will report positive earnings per share surprises (43 percent vs. 46 percent)," he writes in a note to clients. " We see a weak third-quarter reporting season coupled with negative fourth-quarter EPS revisions pushing stocks 2 percent lower to our year-end target of 2,100."

Bloomberg also reported that HSBC strategist Ben Laidler also sounded a cautious note, based on valuation and likely earnings disappointment:
"We think markets are pretty vulnerable. You have earnings expectations which are pretty high, you have valuations which are pretty high," he said. "You look around the world, the level of economic-policy uncertainty is very, very high — I think that is a dangerous combination right now."
As I will show, at the core is the bull vs. bear debate is whether the earnings recession ended in Q3 2016.

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

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