Trump Tariff Tantrum Again

Stocks came back from some mild morning weakness on Friday but still look like they want to pause to refresh as the on again, off again continuation of the Trump Tariff Tantrum is front page now. In the very short-term, it’s pretty easy. Closing above last week’s highs gives the bulls energy to move higher. Closing below Friday’s low means stocks could see a mild 2-3% pullback before heading to all-time highs in Q3. The seasonal trends show some weakness ahead as it is the week after option expiration with stocks in an uptrend. I believe the hat tip goes to Rob Hanna of Quantifiable Edges but I am not 100% sure.

While banks have pulled back and need to stabilize, semis are still okay but really need new highs. I keep writing about transports as they look like the next major sector to take off and lead. That’s still the case as they seem poised to run to new highs.

Bonds on the other hand, look like they have a little life, especially if they close above Friday’s high. The more the masses have become aware that rates have gone up so dramatically in absolute terms, the more I have been positive on bonds. While I continue to believe that the 35-year bull market in bonds ended in July 2016, there will be plenty of opportunities on the long side over the coming years and decades. It’s just like with stocks. While they have gone up, up, up for more than 9 years, they have been plenty of times to position for a move in the other direction.

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Bears May Have Reason to Celebrate But It Will Be Short-Lived

On Wednesday with most of our tried and true Fed Day trends muted, I mentioned the possibility for a negative set up. With the S&P 500 down on statement day, that set up a shorting opportunity for yesterday, today and into next week. Nothing big, just some potential mild weakness after a very nice run into the Fed meeting.

If any weakness does materialize, it will be interesting to see if tech cedes leadership in favor of value. With the NASDAQ 100 it certainly doesn’t appear that way and my call for a change in leadership in favor of value does seem a premature and a bit foolish. Speaking of the NASDAQ 100, I am a littleĀ  bothered that semis remain below their highs. That needs to be watched closely for signs of a more serious divergence and warning. Investors have been more focused on software and internet which is okay in the short-term.

Looking at the other three key sectors, banks remain mired in a trading which I continue to believe will resolve itself to the upside next quarter. Transports have been strong and leading and should also see all-time highs next quarter. Consumer Discretionary has been the strongest leader over the past 6 weeks, but I would imagine the upside acceleration begins to slow sooner than later.

Finally, as I started to mention late last week, high yield bonds no longer stink. They have been kicking it up a notch of late, but still remain nowhere near their 2017 highs.

The bottom line. Any short-term weakness should be bought.

 

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Leadership A Changin’

Stocks appear to be shrugging off the reversal I wrote about last week, pretty much as expected. There is a lot of the news docket this week with the Fed meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday as well as the summit in Singapore with North Korea. While the latter will be all the focus, the former has a much better chance of moving the markets. You should expect another special Fed edition shortly.

Over the past week or so, index leadership in the stock market has been showing signs of changing. While the Dow has been lagging for most of the year, it is perking up in the short-term and it is now rated number one against the S&P 500, S&P 400, Russell 200 and NASDAQ 100. After that, the S&P 500 and S&P 400 are essentially tied with Russell 2000 and NASDAQ 100 bringing up the rear. This probably comes as a surprise since the last two ranked indices have been leading the rally and the Dow has performed the worst.

Getting a little more granular, value stocks seem to be finally attracting some interest over growth. It’s been a long, long time with large cap looking slightly better than mid cap. Could the FAANGs be losing a little luster?!?!

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ANOTHER Reversal

While stocks opened higher on Thursday, the bulls couldn’t hold on to those gains as the Trump Tariff & Trade Tantrum sprouted up again. With the G7 meeting this weekend, stocks are probably going to pause and let tensions cool off. As headlines and tweets crossed the wires, stocks gave up those early gains and for a few hours, selling was strong.

Below is a chart that has become all too familiar. It’s the Russell 2000 Index of small cap companies and it shows all of the “key” reversals this year which are marked by stocks rallying early and then selling off into the close. Technicians often fret over these as they are usually seen before corrections set in. However, they are also seen many, many other times without much downside follow through.

Stocks have had a nice run. Any small pullback or pause would probably be healthy. The bull market isn’t over and Dow 27,000 is in sight for Q3. Remember, the S&P 400, Russell 2000 and NASDAQ 100 have all made new highs. Just the Dow and S&P 500 are remaining. The market is quietly strong and there has been little fanfare, especially from the media. I expect that to change when the two lagging indexes make new highs.

And even junk bonds are perking up a little…

Have a fun and safe weekend! Little League playoffs tonight. Practice tomorrow assuming we win. High school softball state championship on Saturday. Baseball double header on Sunday plus the usual errands.

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Bulls in Charge. Oil Corrects

With the elevator pattern broken, stocks have enjoyed a nice rally since Friday. The Dow Industrials are FINALLY getting off their rear end and seem poised to visit 25,100. All of the other major indices are well above that comparable level with the Russell 2000 and NASDAQ 100 at new highs. The S&P 500 and S&P 400 are gearing up for new highs. Markets are much healthier with the Dow lagging than leading.

Sector leadership is strong and improving. The NYSE A/D Line continues its new highs ways. Even stinky junk bonds are participating a little bit. If I had to pour some cold water on the rally, I could say that we saw one single day where option traders were on the euphoric side, but that’s really it.

Crude oil is now down more than 10% in two weeks, but no one seems to be noticing, certainly not the transports. One of the great market myths is that energy and transports move in opposite directions. Yet another myth that data don’t support.

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Follow Through???

Stocks ended last week with a solid up day, completing four days of down, up, down, up. The elevator ride may try to end today as stocks are poised to rise at the open. We will have to see if we get a run throughout the day or if they fade and end up in the red. With earnings season over and the biggest economic report of the month already in the books, only the inflation data are left before the Fed meets to hike rates next week.

Taking a peak at the major stock market indices, the Dow Industrials remain the weakest. They need to close above 25,100 to set the stage for a run towards the old highs. The S&P 500 looks charged up for at least another few percent rally, if not a full run towards the old highs. The S&P 400 and NASDAQ 100 are but one good day from new highs while the Russell 2000 continues its run in blue skies territory. In short, stocks have paused, regrouped and want to move higher. That doesn’t reconcile some of my short-term models being negative, but price is always the final arbiter.

On the sector front, all key sectors except banks are behaving very well and should rally towards their old highs next quarter with semis leading the way. Energy should also follow suit. I am not liking the action in materials, industrials and healthcare, but it is very late in the bull market and I won’t be surprised if some sectors have already peaked. Before stocks finally peak, I do expect to see much better behavior from the defensive groups, staples and utilities.

In case you’re wondering, the NYSE A/D Line continues to score fresh all-time highs. Remember, I may be a broken record (remember vinyls???), but 90% of bull markets do NOT end with strong participation like this!

And finally, yes, junk bonds still stink. I am concerned that this vital sector has seen its bull market peak.

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Trump’s Foot in Tweet. Strong Jobs Report & Fed

If it’s the first Friday of the month, it’s the “all-important” jobs report. I opened Twitter to find the president tweeting about the still embargoed report and that was “looking forward to it”. Trump has many communication and information faux pas in his short tenure, but this one may be his biggest blunder. The President of the United States hinting at the content of market moving confidential information scheduled to be released is certainly precedent setting and idiotic.

Anyway, as Trump hinted, the May employment report was strong, much to the chagrin of his detractors. 223,000 new jobs, well beyond expectations. Revisions over the last two months added another 15,000 jobs. Unemployment rate down to 3.8%, the lowest since 2000. Wage growth up .3%. Unemployment for African Americans plummeted to 5.9%, the lowest on record which began in 1972. Only the labor force participation rate mildly disappointed, falling another .1%.

Hard to argue with anything in this report.

And as I have said all year, I am looking for 3.5 rate hikes from the Fed with the risk to the upside with the next rate increase on June 13. Every time there is an event which takes the odds down below 50%, I laugh at the pundits who opine that perhaps only one more hike is coming this year. Now, that’s nonsense.

The elevator looks to continue today with a big up opening. Down, up, down, up. As I mentioned earlier in the week, the NASDAQ 100 and tech have resumed leading. Thank you semis and internet. Transports and discretionary following as well. I am keeping an eye on biotech as a possible risk on catch up play.

Yes. Junk bonds still stink. Very disappointing.

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Chicken Little is Alive and Well

In Friday morning’s piece, The “All-Important” Jobs Report, I discussed that it’s much more important to watch how the markets react to the news rather than what the actual news is. The jobs report was abysmal and the media reacted in kind by rolling out every bearish economist to let us know that the economy was as weak as anytime since 2009. Market strategists also responded as expected with the same wrong calls for a major correction and new bear market.

How many times have we heard these Chicken Littles calling for the end of the world over the past 7 years? It’s such a joke than anyone listens anymore to people who have been continuously misguided for that long. Don’t get me wrong. I make more than my fair share of mistakes. It’s always okay to be wrong; it’s just not okay to stay wrong.

Anyway, after some weakness early Friday morning, stocks slowly and surely rallied throughout the day into the close. That continued on Monday and Tuesday with the S&P 500, S&P 400 and Russell 2000 closing at new highs for 2016. Since I turned positive again on stocks on May 23, the major indices have rocketed higher and are still moving higher today. The peak is not close at hand although some short-term pause to refresh may be closer on the horizon. That could mean 1-3% on the downside. Buying weakness remains the correct strategy until proven otherwise as has been the case since early February.

Interesting to note that almost no one is talking about the fact that both stocks and bonds are rallying sharply together…

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The “All-Important” Jobs Report

Another new month, another employment report. As usual, the media is hyping this to the Nth degree as a clue to what the Fed is going to do with interest rates later this month. I learned very early on that economic reports and earnings and geopolitical news don’t really matter. It’s how the markets REACT to the news that’s really important. In October 2000, companies started reporting very solid earnings, but stocks fell sharply day after day in what became a multi-year bear market. Even in January 2008, GDP was reported to be be on the strong side, just as stocks were collapsing into the first 20% decline of the bear market.

Don’t get hung up on what is released today.

Stocks closed Thursday at their highest levels of the year, something I have been discussing here after turning positive on the market almost two weeks ago. History says there is a 75% chance that stocks close higher on Friday. Then, yet another short-term, routine and healthy pullback should ensue. If stocks gap up at least moderately after the employment report, that would be a good selling opportunity for very short-term oriented people with the idea to buy them back into the first bout of weakness from the typical post-jobs hangover.

Intermediate and long-term, the stock market remains constructive with all-time highs on the way.

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April Employment Report Turns the Tide

One of my long held beliefs is that it really doesn’t matter what the news is, only how the markets react. In almost 27 years of trading, investing and watching, I have seen it too many where the news is so powerful in one direction, yet the market reaction is the exact opposite. Hence, the terms “buy the rumor, sell the news” or “sell the rumor, buy the news”. And sometimes, the news is as expected, yet markets see a more violent reaction. That was the case on Friday with the April employment report.

Since the economic recovery began in 2009, my thesis has been that the U.S. will have your typical post financial crisis recovery, seen many times previous after the Great Depression part I, South America, Latin America and Japan. Growth teases and tantalizes on the upsides, yet ever fully reaches escape velocity where GDP feeds on itself. Historically, it takes two full recessions to return the economy to its previous “normal” state. After six years, that’s where our economy remains.

After another brutal winter in the eastern half of the country first quarter GDP growth was borderline recessionary, just like we saw in 2011. We have now seen the “seasonally adjusted GDP” show some odd negative seasonal tendencies in Q1 that are not being adequately adjusted since the recovery began. Since I remain sanguine on the economy and bullish on the stock market, that leads me to believe that our economy will bounce back strongly in Q2 and Q3, just as it’s done over the past few years.

Getting back to Friday’s jobs report, non-farm payrolls grew by 223,000, equaling expectations while the unemployment rate came in at 5.4%, the lowest since May 2008. The U6 unemployment rate, which measures the unemployed and underemployed came down to 10.4% from 11% in March. Keenly watched hourly earnings only increased by 0.1%, keeping any wage inflation concerns solidly under wraps.

The best description I can give of this report is Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold although some in the perma-bear (continually wrong) camp are hanging their hats on the older ages of those filling new jobs rather than how well dispersed the new jobs were across sectors. Stocks soared and bonds bounced back. Anyone left hanging on to a June interest rate hike by the Fed has to be convinced that is has barely a puncher’s chance of occurring and that while September may be on the table, it’s looking less than 50-50. The jobs market is solid and stable, but far from overheating. I think the Fed needs to see a very good Q2 GDP print in a few months coupled with at least two or three straight employment reports showing a minimum of 250,000 new jobs created.

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