Double Reversal of the Reversal

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we saw three separate reversals in the major stock market indices. First, there was a “key” downside reversal after a nice little rally, followed by back to back days of stock selling off early and closing strong. Long time market analyst, Walter Deemer, very aptly replied to one of my tweets that it’s not so much the reversal itself, but the action after those wilder, more emotional days.

People love to cherry pick and and point out reversals at major market tops and bottoms because they worked so perfectly. However, there are many others which see no follow through and the market quickly resumes its trend. My point is that when you see a reversal, it’s time to pay a little closer attention and look for other indicators that support that position.

Stocks are basically chopping sideways with the NASDAQ 100 looking to have the best opportunity for an upside move. The Friday before a long weekend typically has an upward bias so I am watching to see if that fails to materialize and what Tuesday holds. Semis and discretionary are already breaking out and transports are close. Oil looks tired after an epic run but I don’t think the rally is over. After the pullback, energy should see new highs. The energy stocks are a different story. Most bonds are very quietly rallying nicely although junk bonds continue to look like garbage. You already know about my concerns there.

Wishing you a safe and enjoyable long weekend full of family, food and fun.

Thank you to all those who have served our country so courageously, especially those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Paul

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“Key” Reversals. Junk Bonds Still Stink

Let’s start with junk bonds. While they don’t really stink, they are not participating at all in the stock rally. As I mention time and time again, that has little value in the short-term and no predictive power. However, it does matter, and sometimes a lot, over the intermediate-term. My fear, well I am really not scared but rather concerned, is that the final peak in high yield bonds has already been seen. If that’s the case, it doesn’t bode well for the bull market in stocks passed 2019 which would fit in with my thought of recession coming.

On the equity side, while stocks jumped out of the gate on Monday on temporary aversion of the trade war with China, the stock market certainly did  not trade well that day with no index closing at or near the high of the day. On Tuesday, we saw another one of those “key” reversals where stocks open at their highs for the day and close near their lows. It looks ugly on a chart as you can see below in the Russell 2000 Index of small caps which has been the leader. While stocks typically do see weakness after reversals, it’s nothing like the gloom and doom so many technical pundits call for after this one day pattern triggers.

A few of our short-term models turned negative on Monday and Tuesday so I am going to temper my enthusiasm for now. While I remain steadfast that fresh all-time highs are ahead above Dow 27,000, I think some caution is warranted here.

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Pause Ending?

With news out that Trump Tariff Tantrum has been delayed, stocks around the globe are rallying roughly 1%. That’s the expectation when trading begins for the new week. It will be telling to see if all five major stock market indices can score new highs for the month which would give the bulls more credibility. I would really like to see another index besides the Russell 2000 see all-time highs right now.

Additionally, on the far right side of the chart, it’s important for the former technology leader, NASDAQ 100, to at least keep pace on the upside if not lead outright. It will go a long way if this index can close above the light blue and dark blue lines which will set it on a course to all-time highs next month.

On the sector front, semis are doing “fine” but could be doing better. Banks seem poised to lead and score new 2018 highs before long. Ditto for discretionary. Transports, as I mentioned last week, look “juicy” and are also in a strong position to take off to the upside and lead stocks on an assault higher. As I continue to mention, only junk bonds give me cause for concern over the intermediate-term.

Stocks should move higher this week into the unofficial beginning of summer. If they do, I will watch to see if sentiment gets on the giddy side or if skepticism remains. That should tell us a lot about the rally’s duration.

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Small Caps Still Leading But…

The mild pullback/consolidation continues although you wouldn’t know from watching the Russell 2000 small cap index below. This index sits at all-time highs as seen above the dark blue horizontal line as well as breaking higher above the light blue line which has contained price since the early Q1 correction. On the surface things look really good for small caps as they are leading. However, I do think their leadership is close to ending with the other major indices about the step up.

Even beneath the surface with the NYSE A/D Line, things are just fine. Stocks should be insulated from any major carnage for a while. Only the continuing plight of junk bonds has me a little concerned. They just cannot seem to lift their heads at all. While that doesn’t mean much in the short-term, it does have implications the longer this behavior lasts.

I was planning on doing a post on the recent spike in bond yields, but that will have to wait until next week as I am way past my self imposed deadline on an important report to clients.

Have a great weekend.

Hoping that we get two straight days without rain sometime soon!

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Pause to Refresh. Transports Looking Juicy

It looks like Monday’s failure by the bulls put in a short-term peak and stocks will either trade sideways for a bit or pullback below Tuesday’s low. There shouldn’t be too much price deterioration. We have some overbought readings in the major indices so if stocks can resist much weakness, that could speak volumes about the next move which should be to new  highs.

On the key sector front, banks and discretionary are quietly stepping up while semis appear to need a rest. Transports may be the most interesting of the lot as this week was the fourth time they tried to get through 10,850 on that index. My sense is that on the fifth try, this key sector will blast through and head to new highs, perhaps in July or August.

The only significant concern I have now is the same one I have had, high yield bonds. They are not leading and barely rallying. While this behavior can sometimes warn falsely or even warn for more than a year, it’s something to keep front and center as my favorite canary in the coal mine.

In Friday’s piece, I will spend some time on the recent spike in yield on the 10 year Treasury note which has everyone’s attention.

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Nothing Sexy But Still Higher Prices

Since May 3rd, the path of least resistance has been up in the major stock market indices. That is supposed to continue although I will soon be on the lookout for a short-term pause or minor pullback. With the small cap Russell 2000 leading, there has been little to complain about lately, at least for the bulls. While none of the four key sectors are knocking it out of the park, they all look poised to head higher. Energy has been leading as is typically the case at the end of the cycle and bull market with high yield bonds being dragged higher and lagging as we normally see in the latter stages.

As I wrote about last week, the NYSE A/D Line is scoring all-time highs which typically insulates stocks from a bear market for 3 to 21 months. The gains may not be as sexy and sultry as they once were, but stocks remain the place to be over the intermediate-term. It’s time to temper expectations that a rising tide will lift all ships. I fully expect rallies to begin to become more selective.

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Bull Markets Do NOT End This Way

*NOTE: I began this piece as my regular Friday blog post as a follow up to a tweet I sent last night. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to say. That turned into more of an Analysis 101 piece which I am distributing to everyone. It’s also one very important piece in my canaries in the coal mine which I hope to have out next week.

One of my favorite long-term indicators scored an all-time high on Thursday, the New York Stock Exchange Advance/Decline Line (NYSE A/D Line). Before you stop reading, start yawning and move on to another topic, this is one of the better indicators of long-term health for the stock market. For those not familiar, every day, we look at the net number of stocks going up or down on the NYSE. If there are 2000 stocks up and 1000 stocks down, the net number is +1000. From there it’s just a cumulative line as you can see below.

The NYSE A/D Line is valuable because it tells you what’s going beneath the surface of the major stock market indices. Since most of the major indices are weighted by market capitalization or value, they can often mask underlying problems if the biggest stocks are doing fine.

Normal behavior over time shows that the NYSE A/D Line and the major indices like the S&P 500 generally move in the same direction with similar peaks and valleys. When the major stock market indices make new highs but the NYSE A/D Line does not, that’s where bulls should begin to worry. If you look at the chart above, the exact opposite is happening. The NYSE A/D Line is at all-time highs, but stocks are still well below those highs. That’s typically a good sign for further strength in stocks over the intermediate-term.

Bull markets usually end when the NYSE A/D Line peaks and rolls over to the downside long before the major stocks indices do. A good analogy would be that the generals are all still battling but the enlisted men have all died. Or, the foundation of the building is full of cracks and is crumbling but the penthouse looks flawless with million dollar art and furniture.

If you look at all of the bear markets since 1955, which I arbitrarily used as a 20% closing decline in the S&P 500 from an all-time high, you find 9 beginning on these dates:

8/3/1956

12/12/1961

2/9/1966

11/29/1968

1/11/1973

11/28/1980

8/25/1987

3/24/2000

10/9/2007

I could have also added 7/16/1990 and 7/17/1998 as those declines were just short of 20%, but it just adds more credence to the outcome. In every single case except for 1968, the NYSE A/D Line topped out before the S&P 500 although 1966 was only three weeks. 1990 and 1998 did as well. The average lead time was 221 market days or about 10.5 months.

Again, with the NYSE A/D Line scoring an all-time high, that has traditionally insulated stocks from a bear market for at least three months but as long as 21 months. It doesn’t mean that stocks can’t fully correct, but that weakness should definitely be bought. While the masses were exclaiming the end of the bull market during the February decline, I have pounded the table at every juncture that regardless of the decline, fresh all-time highs were coming, at least to Dow 27,000, partly because this indicator peaked with stocks in January as it usually does during healthy bull markets and has not yet diverged.

For those wondering, in 2007 as you can see below, the S&P 500 peaked in October, but the NYSE A/D Line topped out in June, a full four months lead time.

The previous bear market from 2000-2002 saw the NYSE A/D Line peak in mid-1998, a full 21 months before the major stock indices did as I show below. In fact, by the time the Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ 100 topped out in March 2000, the vast majority of stocks had already been declining for almost two years. If it wasn’t Dotcom and tech, it wasn’t going up.

While this is a very powerful long-term tool, it is certainly not foolproof nor infallible. It will give warnings that later get corrected without much of a decline in stocks. The NYSE A/D Line will decline as stocks go up, but then regather itself and make new highs down the road. That’s why I use it in conjunction with other tools or canaries in the coal mine.

Finally, naysayers like to argue that the NYSE A/D Line is full of too many non-operating companies which behave more like bonds and therefore the results get skewed. While they are correct, research concludes that including the bond-like proxies is a much better indication of overall stock market healthy than just using the NYSE A/D Line for common stocks only.

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Banks Looking for a Bottom Amid General Market Strength

With earnings season in full swing and estimates ramped up by Wall Street, companies will really need to impress for stocks to get a boost. Banks are front and center right now. With the banking index down 10% since the early march peak, I am looking for a bottom in this sector and revisiting of the old highs later this quarter. However, the most important hurdle will be for this group to close above the 93 level, which will effectively negate the most negative scenarios.

With stocks continuing to trade in a small range, there has been strong selling beneath the surface as measured by a technical indicator called the TRIN. This indicator has been relatively high for the passed few weeks. However, the NYSE A/D Line which you can see below and I wrote about the other day, just hit a fresh all-time high this week. Bull markets have never ended with this kind of broad participation and strength. Normally, there is at least three months and as much as 21 months of weakening before the bull market ends.

 

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Another Gap. Trade & Fade?

After Thursday’s reversal, Friday’s early action looked promising as I left the office before lunch to celebrate my 15th wedding anniversary playing golf with some friends at Foxwoods before the wives met us for dinner and gambling. At least the dinner went well! However, as has been the case lately, opening gaps have often been the high or low point for the day as was seen on Friday as well as on Monday. This is certainly not a sign of great strength. One indication that the pullback is over will be when we get one or two days where stocks open higher and then continue to build momentum right into the close.

With Netflix beating earnings estimates by a wide margin and the financials continuing to beat, stocks look like they want to follow Europe and Asia at the open with another gap higher. On the Dow, S&P 500, S&P 400 and Russell 2000, all we are seeing is traders buying at the lower end of the range and selling in the middle of the range. The NASDAQ 100 remains stronger and the leader, but that too, is digesting.

On the sector front, it’s really more of the same although a touch weaker with semis and transports leading the leaders. The defensive groups, utilities, telecom, staples and REITs remain weak. Healthcare, which falls somewhere in between, has really taken it on the chin as Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Oval Office has become much more likely lately. That’s also a reason why biotech has fallen more than 10% over the past month.

On the flip side, as I often mention, high yield bonds continue to scrape along just below new highs and the NYSE A/D Line scored an all-time high last month, indicating widespread and healthy participation in the rally.

Stocks remain in the same pullback mode I have written about for more than a month. While frustrating, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as the resolution should strongly to the upside above 19,000.

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Just Call Me “No One”

FYI, I have the privilege of co-hosting Fox Business’ Opening Bell this Monday from 10:00am – 11:00am. Maria Bartiromo is on vacation so I finally get to meet Liz Claman after being interviewed by her for years and years. I am a HUGE fan!

All Time Highs… Bull Market Alive

Earlier last week, I wrote an article called All Time Highs on Tap where the Dow and S&P 500 would see all time highs unaccompanied by the other major indices. There has been an ongoing divergence or non confirmation with the Dow and S&P 500 that has some calling for the bull market to end here. I could not disagree more.

While some of the ingredients may be in place when bull markets end, many of the key ones, like the NYSE advance/decline line, are not. Much of 2012 and all of 2013 saw a very powerful bull rally, perhaps even borrowing some of this year’s return. In January, I forecast a digestive type year and remain in that camp. There are going to be times to make money and times to preserve money, but most of the time it will be a year to sit in a trading range.

Sector Rotation Vicious

Sector leadership rotation has been fierce this year and I don’t think that’s about to end until we see a full fledged 10%+ stock market correction. This action is causing some short-term frustration in our sector program, but that’s one of the consequences that this type of investing sometimes brings.

Strength in REITs, utilities and consumer staples along with the incredible rally in the treasury bond complex are all forecasting something on the dark side this year. Whether that’s a single event or big picture issue, it should not be ignored.

Something Dark Out There

As an aside, the 10 year note yield is almost at my 2.50% downside target. For the time being, I am just going to sit back, watch, and enjoy the large position we have in our global macro strategy. Last week, I saw an interview with Brian Belski on CNBC’s Squawk Box where he said that “no one saw this treasury bond rally coming”. That just seemed like an excuse for Brian getting it wrong or he gave me the new nickname, No One.

European stocks continue to do very well and I am glad our global macro strategy has had a position here for a long while. One of my strongest trades of 2014 was in the emerging markets after they were left for dead to begin the year. EM hasn’t been kind to investors, present company included, for several years and I am glad they are reemerging as leaders, excluding China and Russia. Some are explaining this rally away as simply a play on the rally in bonds, but that’s a dangerous path to go down as both stocks and bonds in the US have both rallied since early February, breaking the expected inverse correlation.

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