Sunday, February 18, 2018

Powell Fed: Market wildcard

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 latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • 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 the those email alerts is shown here.

A change of the guard at the Fed
Is the bond market telling us that it's all over? Stock prices got spooked when the 10-year Treasury yield approached the 3% mark, which was the "line in the sand" drawn by a number of analysts that indicated trouble for equity prices. As the following chart shows, the 10-year yield had violated a trend line that stretched back from 1990. One puzzle is the mixed message shown by the yield curve. Historically, both the 2-10 yield curve, which represents the spread between the 10 and 2 year Treasury yields, and the 10-30 yield curve both inverted at the same time on the last three occasions to warn of looming recessions. This time, the 2-10 yield curve has been volatile and steepened recently, which the 10-30 yield curve stayed on its flattening trend.

What's going on? We can get better answers once we have greater clarity on the future direction of the Powell Fed.
  • How will the Powell Fed's reaction function to inflation differ from the Yellen Fed? The risks of a policy mistake are high during the current late cycle expansion phase of the economy. Adhere to overly strict rules-based models of monetary policy, and the Fed risks tightening too much or too quickly and send the economy into a tailspin. Allow the economy to run a little hot with based on the belief of a symmetrical 2% inflation target, inflation could get out of hand. The Fed would consequently have to step in with a series of staccato rate hikes that guarantee a recession. 
  • What about the third unspoken mandate of financial stability? Will there be a "Powell put" that rescues the stock market should it run into trouble?
Those are all good questions to which no one has any good answers. No wonder the yield curve is sending out confusing messages.

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

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