Sector Leadership Remains Very Strong

This is going to be a quick update as I am standing at the gate in Hartford waiting for my delayed flight to board. It’s never a good sign when early morning flights are late. I am heading down to the east coast of Florida for a quick trip to visit clients and maybe even hit a few golf balls in between meetings if my back holds up.

Let’s get the theme out of the way early. The short-term still looks overbought and extended, something I continue to say, however the intermediate and long-term remains strong. The GOP, Trump, Paul Ryan inspired rally is not over! Just remember that overbought/oversold and extended can always become more so in the strongest markets. Buying weakness is the correct strategy as I have discussed for a while, until proven otherwise. Looking at the S&P 500, a pullback to the 2310-2315 level seems the most logical.

While all of the major indices have had glorious runs, the NASDAQ 100 has been the strongest and most extended this quarter. This was the index I spotlighted during the first week of 2017 as one that had the best potential to start the new year. Now it has the greatest risk of underperformance. As I look for other index opportunities, Europe looks the most appealing as a laggard play.

Turning to the four key sectors, while they are all leading and look fine, semis have rallied the most and are a bit stretched here, followed by consumer discretionary. Banks appear to be consolidating again before another move higher and the transports bring up the rear, but are by no means behaving poorly.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the divergence in crude oil and the energy stocks. I tried loading the charts through the plane’s WiFi, but that’s just not happening as I finish this on board a very bumpy flight. Longtime readers know how much I hate turbulence and how it seems to follow me on the road. At least I will be in sunny and warm Florida for a few days with a bevy of good restaurants lined up.

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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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Stocks Tired But No Reason to Sell Just Yet

Stocks are now in one of the most seasonally strong times of year within one of the most seasonally strong times of year. The big question is whether the market has used up most of the available fuel and needs a break first. Certainly, the last few days have seen a mild pullback. It looks like the bears have a tiny bit of work left to do on the downside. However, those looking for any significant price damage during the these final two weeks will probably be sorely wrong.

I say this every year, but there are few reasons to sell over the final few weeks. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen; it just means that it’s less likely to happen. The Fed is done. Earnings season is still a few weeks away. Washington will quiet down. Since 1990, only 2002, 2005 and 2012 saw any real selling and it wasn’t all that significant. We have some tired indices and some exhausted sectors, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath for a collapse.

Leadership remains strong. High yield bonds are hanging in nicely. Intermediate-term participation is solid.

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Irrational Exuberance

This past weekend was the first official ski weekend for my youngest son and me. And boy was it cold in Vermont! But with mid-winter conditions, it was hard not to overdo it. I overdid it and now I am in a world of pain. Neck, back, quads, calves, fingers.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I am usually a chatty one on the lift. Since we typically ride the quad or 6 pack, we are usually with strangers. When people find out what I do for a living, they rarely ask questions except for the occasional “what’s the hottest stock right now”.

This weekend was very different.

Not only was I offered unsolicited advice on chairlift rides about investing, but I was also told that no one really needs a financial advisor. Everyone can do it themselves. I loved the guy who told me everyone should just use the robos to invest and call it a day. After all, they are super cheap and it’s all about cost. They didn’t like my analogy about driving a Yugo or finding the cheapest doctor or plumber.

If I could quantify the level of exuberance, I would say it was approaching irrational. Nothing like I experienced in late 1999 and early 2000, but that was once in a lifetime. The public is coming back to the stock market and higher highs await us. The problem is that the public tends to arrive late to the party and never leaves when they should. If someone told me 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years ago that mom and pop wouldn’t start investing again on balance until Dow 19,000, I would have laughed in their face. But they are right.

This doesn’t mean much for the immediate future. The window I starting writing about for a decline exactly one month ago has essentially closed. Sure, we can and should see a 2-3% pullback. If everyone is looking for that, it won’t come right away. However, all of the warning signs I have written about for a larger decline have dissipated. Buying weakness is the strategy until proven otherwise.

Keep an eye on buying the most battered into the Fed meeting on Wednesday.

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Bulls Continue to Trample Ahead

On Wednesday, I gave a higher level overview of how the stock market is behaving along with the leadership and some key indicators. Nothing has really changed. Almost everything is severely overbought, but they can still become even more overbought. Pullbacks through year-end should be shallow and no more than 2-3%, lasting just a few days.

Another piece of good news for the longevity of the bull market came this week. The NYSE Advance/Decline Line scored an all-time high. That effectively insulates the bull market from ending for at least several months if not longer. Broad participation is there and weakness has to be bought until proven otherwise.

nyad

Additionally, high yield (junk) bonds are a whisker away from new highs as well. As you know, they are one of my favorite canaries in the coal mine. Bull markets typically don’t end with junk trading so well. That adds further insulation for the bull to live on well into 2017 if not longer.

jnk

Without any pullback, those looking for investment should find laggards, instruments that haven’t kept pace with the advance. Healthcare, biotech, staples, REITs, utilities and preferred stocks are a few to research.

Have a great weekend! My nose smells snow in Vermont and it’s time to makes some turns…

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Window for Decline Almost Closed

For the past three weeks, our models have been defensive regarding the stock market after the first week’s post-election surge. I often say that when certain conditions are present, a “window of opportunity” opens for a stock market decline. The longer time passes without a decline, the more likely the window will close. Today, the window is starting to close and I imagine that by two weeks from today, it will be fully closed, modest decline or not.

The  Dow, S&P 500, S&P 400 and Russell 2000 are all in gear to the upside and look strong, although definitely overbought. The NASDAQ 100, on the other hand, has given back all of its post-election hoopla and just doesn’t behave well. While that bellwether index is dominated by Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, which have been under strong downside pressure, it would be careless to dismiss this as just a few bad apples (no pun intended). It remains a red flag for now.

Looking at my four key sectors, banks, discretionary and transports are all acting very well and indicating good things for the bull market. Only semiconductors are questionable, however, they really haven’t done anything terribly wrong except see an outsized down day last Thursday. Further supporting excellent leadership is the performance of the materials, industrials and energy. With the defensive staples, utilities and REITs continuing to lag the rally, that adds further credence to the longevity of the bull market. I do think, however, that a short-term trading opportunity may exist as the Fed raises rates next  Wednesday and the most beaten down sectors begin to rally on that news.

High yield bonds are finally starting to kick it into high gear after breaking out to the upside on Tuesday. Even the NYSE Advance/Decline Line is ever so slowly inching back toward an all-time high. Unless something dramatically changes over the coming week, weakness is a must buy into January.

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Yahoo Finance Today & Quick Update

I am excited to join the good folks at Yahoo Finance for their live show today at noon. To watch, go to finance.yahoo.com and you should see the show streaming.

While so many people fretted over the election in Italy, the global financial markets don’t really seem to care this morning with the bulls in charge. Although December is a very positive time for U.S. stocks, it’s backloaded, meaning that the second half of the month is much more powerful historically than the first half of the month. In fact, the first two weeks of December tend to see lower prices.

With the Fed meeting next week and likely to raise interest rates for the first time in a year, I am keenly watching instruments which have been decimated in anticipation of that hike. Those securities, like many bond sectors, could reverse and rally on the announcement of higher rates, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

One area of increasing concern is the technology sector which has already given back all of its post-election celebration. In particular, the mega cap leadership of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google is looking very tired and weak. While Netflix and Apple could still steady themselves and score fresh highs in Q1, the others look like they have further to go on the downside. Add in Thursday’s shellacking of the semiconductors and there is good reason to pay closer attention now.

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