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 little  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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Canaries in the Coal Mine Part III – The Others

The final group of canaries don’t have anything in common. I just grouped them together to avoid having three more small canaries. Let’s start with high yield (junk) bonds which I write about very often on the blog. I like to use one of the exchange traded funds (ETF) ones as well as one from the mutual fund space.
Right below, you can see JNK which is one of the two major high yield bond ETFs. It peaked in early January. Just below that chart, you will find PHYDX which is a PIMCO’s giant high yield mutual fund. It, too, peaked in early January which is technically not so bad, however I am very concerned about the depth of the decline that ensued and high yield’s inability to rally very much since. While I do think high yield will rally this month and into Q3, I believe there is a good chance that the January peak for this all-important canary could mark the bull market high. If that’s the case, the stock market will have lost an important canary for quarters or perhaps even years to come.

The New York Stock Exchange Advance/Decline Line (NYAD) is next and it is important because it shows the levels of participation in the bull market rally. 90% of all bull markets deaths show a NYAD canary that was dead at least three months before prices started to roll over. In other words, the NYAD is a very good leading indicator that will sometimes give false warnings, but rarely fail to warn. It usually pays to watch for times when stocks are making new highs and this indicator is not.
Below you can see that at the January peak, the NYAD was scoring fresh new highs. As has been the theme of this whole issue, this is absolutely not the type of behavior usually seen at bull market peaks.
Finally, somewhat similar to the NYAD, we look at the percent of stocks above their average price of the last 200 days. Bull market typically end with significant weakness beneath the surface over the long-term. That means the line below should be going down well before price see their final highs and the number should certainly be less than 60%. At the January stock market peak, 75% of stocks were trading above their 200 day long-term trend.
Summing it all up, as has been the case during every single stock market pullback and correction since the bull market launched in March 2009, the bearish pundits have been dead wrong. The preponderance of the evidence strongly suggests new highs for the stock market which I have been forecasting all year, above Dow 27,000. I still have an upside projection to Dow 30,000.

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Canaries in the Coal Mine Part II – Sectors

Let’s turn to the next group of canaries and see how our sectors were doing at the January peak. First, I am repeating the Dow Industrials with the Dow Transports right below it to show Dow Theory which says that these two indices should be making highs together or a warning is sent. While both indices saw all-time highs in January, you may observe that they were on the same day or even week. That would not be a warning or cause for concern unless more time elapsed in between.
Seeing that the Dow Transports did make an all-time high in January, let’s turn to the other key sector canaries. As you can see below, the banks, semiconductors and consumer discretionary all made new highs in January. Again, this is absolutely not the type of behavior typically seen at the end of bull markets.

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Canaries in the Coal Mine Part I – Indices

Canaries in the coal mine is always a vitally important issue for me to write as it speaks to the long-term, especially when it comes to the risk of a bear market. In 2018, since stocks corrected 12% in February, I have boldly, firmly and confidently stated on CNBC, on Fox Business, on Yahoo Finance, on all local stations in CT and almost every week on the blog that the bull market which began in March 2009 remains alive and well, albeit somewhat old and wrinkly. Stocks would recover from Dow 23,500 and head to 27,000 in Q3 with 30,000 not out of the question this year.

While pundit after pundit offered very differing opinions, sometimes challenging my “perma bull” stance, I refused to cede any ground. Bull markets have never, ever ended with the behavior seen at the last all-time high on January 26, 2018. Of course, I could be wrong, a precedent set and have egg and losses all over my face. However, the odds would say that is a long shot.

As an aside, I always chuckle when people label me “perma bull” or “perma bear”. If anything, I am a perma opportunist, using the data at hand to guide me. For years, one of my friend’s fathers who sells financial and insurance products for Ameriprise would always tell me that I was too negative. He would tell me to just buy “good stuff” and don’t worry. That “good stuff” were those high flying Dotcom stocks and the years were 1999-2001.
Back to the canaries. For newer readers, this issue is only relevant and valuable to gauge whether a bull market is in jeopardy of ending. As such, prices must be at new highs or rolled over from new highs. Canaries say absolutely nothing 5%, 10%, 15% or even 20% bull market declines. This analysis will not be useful in forecasting those declines.
With all of that out of the way, let’s dive in. The canaries issue is full of charts so it will print a lot longer than any normal issue with a lot less text from me. The idea behind canaries in the coal mine is that bull markets do not die all at once. It’s a process. Canaries begin to die long before the public realizes that a bear market is coming, sometimes as long as 24 months in advance. It puts on warning and cautions us against taking on even more risk.
Let’s start with the five major stock market indices. At bull market peaks, we would not see all indices scoring new highs together. One, two or even three indices would fall short. Below, you can see that all five major indices scored all-time highs in sync in January. That is very strong behavior and absolutely not what you would normally see at the end of a bull market.

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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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Like an Elevator

Down big. Up big. It’s like riding the elevator at the Empire State Building. Italy’s banking system goes from being on the verge of collapse to all is hunky dory in 36 hours. The past few days looked a little bit like BREXIT almost two years ago. While I did not believe BREXIT was going to be a huge event at the time, I still think that Italy has the potential to be that sub prime mortgage canary in the coal mine for the next global crisis. We should not stop focusing there.

The bottom line is that stocks remain in the trading range established from the January all-time high peak to the February bottom in the Dow Industrials, S&P 500 and S&P 400. The Russell 2000 and NASDAQ 100 have already exceeded their January highs and I fully expect the others to follow next quarter.

The short-term remains murky. Our shorter-term models are negative. Semis, transports and discretionary behave well. Junk bonds act like something is brewing on the horizon. Both may be right.

The government revised Q1 GDP growth to +2.2%, slightly lower than expected. For the past decade, the first quarter of the year has been weaker, even after adjusting for seasonal tendencies. It’s been somewhat of a head scratcher for economists. However, that weakness does not change my own forecast for much stronger growth in Q2 and Q3. As you know, I am looking for recession beginning between mid-2019 and mid-202, but it should from higher levels of output by the economy. I do not think it’s beginning right here.

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