Sunday, November 12, 2017

The tax reform jitters correction?

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. 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: Bullish*
  • 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 will also receive email notices of any changes in my trading portfolio.

Tax reform jitters
This was the week that jitters over the Republican tax bill finally caught up with stock prices. Now that both the House Republicans and Senate Republicans have different versions of a tax bill, the market is waking up to the challenges ahead.
  • Both Houses of Congress have to reconcile their bills, which may not be easy. Further bargaining lies ahead, which has the potential to dilute the bullish effects of any corporate tax cuts.
  • Any bill will have to overcome the twin Byrd Rule hurdle of $1.5 trillion in incremental deficit in the next 10 years, and no further deficits after 10 years. Any violation of the Byrd Rule would require 60 votes in the Senate, which would be challenging as the GOP only has a 52-48 seat majority.
  • The Roy Moore scandal is creating additional uncertainty, as a Moore loss in the December special election in could cut the Republican majority to a single vote in the Senate.
Even before stock prices got spooked, the market showed signs it was ready to go down. There were cautionary signals from risk appetite indicators, which signaled rising skepticism over the passage of any tax bill. The top panel depicts the relative performance of high beta vs. low volatility stocks as a metric of risk appetite. Risk appetite perked up in September as the odds of a tax cut became more likely, then flattened out into a range. This pair broke down through a relative support on Friday. The other pairs show the relative performance of "champagne" stocks Sotheby's (BID) and Tiffany's (TIF) against the market. The "champagne" stocks have been underperforming the market for the last few months, which is another sign of market skepticism that much was going to be accomplished on the tax bill.

As well, the latest update from John Butters of FactSet shows that the market reaction to earnings reports may be showing signs of bullish exhaustion. EPS beats were barely being rewarded, while misses were severely punished (annotations are mine).

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

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