Short-Term Iffy But Long-Term Remains Strong

Following up from Friday’s post, stocks remain overbought and certainly stretched to the upside although the same can certainly be said all month. They are much in need of a break or at least a quick pause to refresh. However, sometimes strong momentum overpowers everything as we have seen from time to time. I closed last week by saying that the bull market is absolutely not over in my opinion. That prevented the usual emails.

Look no further than two of my favorite long-term indicators, the NYSE Advance/Decline Line and high yield bonds. The NYSE A/D Line just scored a fresh all-time high last week. I can’t tell you how many times people have questioned me on its value, yet it’s been one of the strongest advocates for the bull market since 2009. The rally from the pre-election low has been historic and the rising tide has lifted all ships. The bull market ain’t over.

Junk bonds are below and as you know, they are among my favorite canaries in the coal mine. Bull markets typically don’t end with high yield bonds making new highs as they have been and are right now.

I have said this for years and years, and I will say it again. While this is no longer the most hated and disavowed bull market of all-time, buying weakness remains the strategy until proven otherwise. Those waiting for the perfect pullback to buy will either freeze when it comes or it won’t be the pullback to buy.

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Trump Top Ticking Stock Market?

As I write the next issue of Street$marts, there is a lot of Donald Trump included. Not so much from a political standpoint, but more how he is impacting the stock market and economy. It’s really been amazing that every single meeting I have with clients and prospects, the Trump question is the first one asked.

As you know, when it comes to investing, I have a strong contrarian side to me. As the late Joe Granville once said, “if it’s obvious, it’s obviously wrong”. No one can argue that stocks have been on an historic run. For almost a month, study after study has pointed to a pullback, but one has simply not materialized. That’s called strong momentum or a “creeper” market, one that just keeps creeping higher day after day.

Until today, our models remained green with all systems go. That has changed.

The higher stocks have climbed, the more people have seemed to hop on board, something I have discussed for years on CNBC and Fox Business. I often joked at Dow 12,000, 14,000, 16,000 and 18,000 that we should watch Dow 20,000 for signs of investors finally buying. That turned out not to be such a joke.

Anyway, presidents typically do not comment or answer questions about the stock market. That’s an unwritten rule. However, President Trump seems to be blazing a new trail. Yesterday, he sent the Tweet below.

That Tweet by itself is shocking, but remember, this comes from a man who sold all of his stocks last June and then beat up the stock market during the campaign. Assuming he sold his stocks at roughly Dow 17,700, he is now touting the stock market at Dow 20,600. The contrarian in me says to be a little worried. Couple that with our sentiment model which was coupled with our market model and you  have the ingredients for some weakness.

I absolutely do not believe the bull market is over.

That will stop the usual emails. I am somewhat concerned about the next 4-7% move. It may be time to play some defense and take some very nice profits.

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Sector Leadership Immunizes Stock Market from Bear Market

On Friday, I wrote about the Russell 2000 and what a potential breakout could mean for the stock market. At the open today, this index hit a fresh all-time high. Before breaking out the balloons and party streamers, let’s see if it can close at new highs and not give back too much over the coming days. With the Dow closing above 20,000 for five straight days I will have a new target very shortly that looks to be several thousand points higher.

Turning to key sector leadership, it’s continues to be strong and constructive. Semis have paused of late, but continue to trade right up against new highs. While extended, the rally should still have legs.

Banks, which have traded in a tight range since early December, are trying to breakout to the upside right now. Only a failure here and break to the downside would cause me to temper my intermediate-term enthusiasm.

Like the banks, transports have also been in a trading range since early December and are trying to breakout higher  now. That is certainly bullish from an economic standpoint.

Finally, consumer discretionary, which I did not think would quickly reassert itself heading into 2017, has done just that. It now stands at all-time highs.

It’s really hard for the bears to argue that a bear market or even 10%+ correction is close at hand. The major stock market indices are back in gear to the upside as well as the four key sectors. Of course, this strength never, ever precludes a routine, normal and healthy 2-5% pullback. In this case, as I have said for many years, weakness is a buying opportunity.

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Small Caps Getting Ready to Lead While Worries about Trump Persist

Yesterday, I wrote about the major stock market indices and how the Russell 2000 was finally waking up. Below is an old chart which I first offered in early January. You can see that the small caps have been in a tight trading range all year and are now trying to break out to the upside. With so many studies pointing lower, this is one index which could counter some of the negativity and give the market a little push higher if it can close at all-time highs. That’s another 2% higher from here.

During the snow day, I spoke with several clients who were concerned about President Trump’s behavior. Between the tweeting and executive orders, people were worried about the markets. This is one area I have absolutely no worries at all. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words and we do have checks and balances with the courts and Congress.

Trump is doing a masterful job of keeping Paul Ryan and the GOP-led Congress off the front pages and really out of the media spotlight as they craft very pro-growth legislation while removing unnecessary regulatory hurdles. Ryan and his team are flying under the radar unlike how President Obama’s Congress during his first 100 days.

The markets don’t really care what Trump has to say so far because the comments are not perceived as to adversely impact the economy or markets. Beyond the immigration executive order which has garnered all of the attention, the markets are very focused on lower corporate and individual taxes by Q3 of this year. Companies could potentially have trillions more to work with at home which translates into more jobs, higher earnings and a better landscape if it all can be pulled off.

“IF” is the operative word. As I keep saying, markets are somewhat priced for perfection and if Congress gets bogged down on Ryan’s agenda, that could make the markets frustrated and correct more significantly than the 2-5% pullback we should see sooner than later.

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Bears Still Struggling to Make Progress

Happy snow day to those of you in the northeast!

For several weeks, there have been all kinds of studies which indicate that the risk/reward for stocks is skewed to the downside over the coming weeks and few months. The same can be said of some daily studies. When I say skewed, I mean favors a typical and normal pullback of 2-5%. Yet each time the bulls look tired, they somehow prevent the bears from making any progress. In the past, the bears moaned and groaned that the Fed has been helping the bulls, however, with the second rate hike two months ago, that bogus argument is losing.

As I keep writing, markets are very close to being priced for perfection. They are rallying on the hopes of a pro-growth, legislative tsunami by Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell et al. If that somehow stalls out in Congress, the markets will not be happy. I still do not believe that strength should be bought, but I remain firm that weakness should not be sold. Use pullbacks to rotate to better positions or use cash.

While all of the major indices except the Russell 2000 got in gear to the upside, the Russell looks like it wants to join the party sooner than later. That could provide a little short-term boost to stocks.

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Bulls Win Big on Friday But Still Not Ready

Very nice day for the bulls on Friday as the monthly jobs report was really the Goldilocks scenario. Not too strong and not too weak. The U.S. saw decent growth with some mild revisions lower but almost no wage inflation which caused expectations for a March rate hike by the Fed to decline to roughly 20%.

I would not hang my hat on the Fed staying put in March. There are many data points between now and then and I think with the dollar under pressure, they will push to raise.

Except for the Russell 2000, the major stock market indices are now within one good rally from new highs. I still don’t think this is the rally that propels stocks higher on a new leg, but I also won’t be stubborn if the indicators look better. Right now, I see a little more upside and then back to pause mode. Stocks are really priced for perfection and have borrowed a significant amount from the future.

While semis and banks are leading strongly, discretionary and transports are in constructive ranges for now. I fully expect them to join the party, probably later than sooner. Energy may be the most intriguing sector right here as it pulled back to pre-OPEC levels and negativity has skyrocketed. Staples and utilities are also interesting as they are butting up against overhead supply. Should they get a little kick here, those two groups could run higher for a while.

FYI. Until the Dow closes above 20,000 for five straight days, I won’t have any more upside projections.

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Dow 20,000 Already Forgotten

Last week, the Dow hit my longstanding target of 20,000, first given on CNBC’s Squawk Box in 2010 just after I forecast that the Fed’s balance sheet would hit a staggering $5 trillion. If we see 5 consecutive closes above 20,000, the next upside target will be created. Since Dow 20K, it’s been even more Donald Trump and politics on the financial channels. I think the Q4 GDP report is now totally forgotten.

Market sentiment had become a little frothy heading in to Dow 20K and I thought that finally closing above that meaningless milestone would cause an even stronger rush by the bulls to a potential intermediate-term peak. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case. With President Trump’s pen busier than a one-legged grasshopper at a jumping contest, Dow 20K has taken a backseat. Weekend talk shows totally ignored it. Financial media has largely forgotten about it. This is actually a positive over the intermediate-term.

Before offering some downside targets for a small pullback, let’s wait to see where stocks close on Monday. The bulls could try to defend 19,900 although 19,700 looks more solid. Weakness remains a buying opportunity until proven otherwise.

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Dow Breaking Out & Q4 GDP Miss the Last

After hitting yet another one of my upside targets, 20,000, the Dow has yet to pause. Five straight closes above 20,000 will open up new upside targets before the bull market ends.  As you can see below, the Dow has been consolidating sideways since early December. That’s often referred to as a flat top or box. When prices finally exceed the flat top, they oftentimes see a spurt in the same direction.

Although momentum is on the side of the bulls there are a few short-term headwinds which will present themselves if the rally stalls and closes back in the box sooner than later. Should that occur, I would expect a quick pullback to 19,700.

The NASDAQ 100 has been the leading index since late December, yet it certainly looks a bit tired, the same comment I made earlier in the week. Semiconductors look even more in need of a rest and they typically lead the NASDAQ 100. Keep in mind that all I am saying is that stocks may pause to refresh. The bull market is alive and reasonably healthy. Weakness is a buying opportunity until proven otherwise.

Sector leadership remains strong. Semis, banks, discretionary and transports look powerful although they could use a rest. Industrials and materials are also kicking it into high gear. Healthcare and energy continue to lag, but I think they will have their day in the sun after this quarter.

New highs in high yield bonds and the NYSE A/D Line bode well for the bull market, regardless of the next 5-10% move.

Q4 GDP just printed at 1.9% which was below forecasts. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the low print Donald Trump sees for a while and the market just shrugs it off.

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Bulls Wake Up and Attack

No sooner did the ink dry on Monday’s piece than the market quickly tossed aside my thinking for a bit more of a pullback before racing to new highs. Since December 13, four out five of the major stock market indices have been digesting post-election gains and pulling back in a very orderly fashion. Only the NASDAQ 100 has really moved meaningfully higher.

After a morning of selling on Monday, the bull pushed stocks higher into the close. On Tuesday, the bulls spent the morning holding on to minor gains before the fuel was poured on the flames for a strong afternoon run. The media is giving President Trump the credit, but I think it’s getting old to constantly blame and credit his daily comments on market movement. Leadership was very strong with all four key sectors, banks, semis, discretionary and transports, participating, leading and heading to new highs.

The Dow seems poised to test 20,000 once again with the S&P 500 and S&P 400 on breakout watch. The lagging Russell 2000 is right up against some overhead supply which could act as a small headwind unless the other indices drag the small caps higher and help break them out as well.

The NYSE Advance/Decline Line very quietly scored yet another all-time high as you can see below and that immunizes the stock market from a bear market for a while.

High yield (junk) bonds also got out of their recent little funk and should revisit new highs before long. Tuesday was a little bullish surprise, at least for me, and we will want to see some follow through this week, but definitely not an immediate return to this week’s lows.

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“Buy the Election, Sell the Inauguration”

That’s been a popular refrain over the past week as stocks continue in stall mode, basically since December 13. In fact, the Dow and Russell 2000 are now down on the new year. Only the NASDAQ 100 which I thought would go from laggard to leader has had the power to forge ahead in 2017. However, that index is now looking a bit tired and in need of a little rest which won’t be so bad.

For most of the indices, a move to new January lows would be healthy and set up a nice spot to buy. As I have said, I don’t expect anything more than 3-5% pullback. The bull market remains intact and more new highs are coming.

The mean reversion or post-election losers trade remains in place. Bonds, gold, yen and euro continue to move higher and we are finally seeing the defensive equity sectors begin to move. Those are staples, utilities and REITs. At this point, I do not expect them to continue to rally like I do the other more economically sensitive sectors.

Interesting to note that Donald Trump begins his presidency with the lowest approval rating, 42%, of any incoming president in history. Talk about expectations being low. However, 66% believe the economy will do better under Trump and Consumer Confidence just spiked for the second straight month to a 13 year high. It certainly seems like people have confidence in the Trump/Ryan economic plan, but just do not like Trump as a person. I think President Trump could live with that if his policies succeed.

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