Pretty Good Little Fight

It’s been 24 years since I moved out of New York City to the calm and quiet of CT. I love hearing nature at night in my pitch black bedroom instead of the horns and trucks driving down the avenues. I stayed in the city last night as I had an early conference for our custodian this morning at the NYSE and I wasn’t really interested in getting up at 4:30am to train in. Well, I forgot how loud the city is all night and I am operating on very little quality sleep. So, please excuse any typos, grammatical errors or just plain stupid comments.

Very quietly, the Dow and S&P 500 has been down three straight days. In this market, that could be accused of being a correction or even a bear market! While the S&P 400 and Russell 2000 have declined more, they look like they are in the very early stages of stepping up to lead. That would be a much welcomed development if it happens.

Meanwhile, the NASDAQ 100 is behaving in textbook fashion after the second “shock” day in a month. That index remains volatile but nowhere near so as two weeks ago. As the tech sector works through this consolidation, it’s interesting to note that essentially all trading activity has remained in that tall, red candle from the “shock” day as well as below the mid point of that day. Meanwhile, a very defined trading range has been established as you can see below. It’s tough to get really excited for the bulls or the bears until one end of the range is closed above or below. I do expect, however, that the ultimate resolution will be to the upside, regardless of what happens over the next month or two.

For the first time since March, my favorite canary in the coal mine, high yield bonds, is under pressure. While it would be very easy to dismiss this because of the collapse in energy prices, I usually don’t buy the whole “qualifier” argument. The energy sector has a significant percent of high yield bonds. Think about all those mid and small size U.S. energy companies drilling for oil in the shale. Many used debt to finance those operations and when oil goes down in price, their ability to profitably drill becomes an issues. If theses companies can’t drill profitably, their ability to service their debt gets called into question.

Anyway, junk bonds are falling and regardless of the reason, it’s a short-term cause for a little concern right here until they stabilize. If they continue lower, and some other pieces fall into place, I will have to reassess my intermediate-term forecast for stocks, but that’s putting the cart way before the horse. To counter the high yield bond concern, the NYSE A/D Line scored yet another fresh, all-time high this week.

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Seasonals Say No, But Bulls Say Yes

The major stock market indices closed last week on decent footing and should be poised for further gains with the Dow and S&P 500 seeing new highs first . Even the recently hit NASDAQ 100 hung in and remains above the line in the sand I drew last week. However, this week is a seasonally weak one as it’s the five days immediately following June option expiration. We’ll see how that plays out as pre-market indications show a higher open.

On the sector front, it remains the “bizarro” world with the opposites now in charge. As semis and discretionary ceded, the bears were all over this “collapse” in leadership. However, as has been the case so many times during this epic bull market, rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated! Transports, banks, healthcare and industrials are now leading stocks to Dow 23,000. High yield bonds are chugging along and there continues to be broad participation. Don’t overthink it. Buying the dips is the correct strategy.

FYI. I have received lots of emails regarding Amazon and should people buy it. My short answer is NO. I am not a fan at $1000 after seeing it rally more than 100% in 18 months. While it will ebb and flow with the NASDAQ 100, I think there are better risk/reward opportunities elsewhere.

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Bulls Still in Charge (as is Amazon!)

The major stock market indices put in a very constructive day on Thursday with stocks opening at their lows for the day and closing in the upper end of the range. The beaten down NASDAQ 100 saw the best behavior as it tries to repair itself from two unexpectedly large and volatile down days over the past month from all-time highs. One clue will be a weekly closing price for this index and the semiconductors near the high for the week. That won’t happen today. As long as the major indices and tech sector do not close at new June lows, the bulls have the ball, even if that means some sideways movement for a bit.

Leadership continues to rotate with the banks and financials really stepping up along with transports, industrials, REITs and healthcare. High yield and the NYSE A/D Line scored all-time highs this week. All of this gives me additional confidence that after this pullback ends, another leg to 22,000 is coming.

The big news of the day is Amazon’s proposed buyout of Whole Foods which is certainly a landscape changer. Amazon being the disruptor that it is getting into the grocery store business? That is not going to make Costco and Kroger’s and WalMart and Target very happy! It will be interesting to see what happens with the Blue Apron IPO. Who really wants to compete with Amazon? Look what WalMart did to its competitors!

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Stocks Looking Down After Rate Hike

Everything happened as expected on Wednesday. Stocks stayed in a tight range until 2PM. The Fed raised rates. Yellen spoke about reducing the balance sheet. And the bullish Fed trend was significantly muted. Given how stocks closed, there is a very short-term trend which indicates lower prices today and possibly into next week. However, with the stock market set to open lower, the opportunity to take advantage is likely gone.

The Dow is now the leading index and that’s not the index which typically leads in the healthiest of markets. I don’t expect this to continue. Mid caps have really started stepping up with small caps not looking as dead as they did a short time ago. The NASDAQ 100, on the other hand, looks like it has more downside ahead with some sideways movement coming after that.

As I always say, it’s not what the news actually is, but rather how stocks react. On Fed day, we saw good behavior from industrials, healthcare, home builders, banks, staples, discretionary, REITs and utilities. Read that sentence again. For the most part, those are not the same leaders as we have seen. Rather than the rally ending, it looks like it’s morphing after two “shock” days (big down days out of nowhere) in tech over the past month.

Now, tech may be done leading for a while, but it doesn’t look like the rally is over. Sure, we could see a pullback, but that would be yet another buying opportunity in a long line of successful opportunities.

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Another Tech Wreck

Between the ECB, UK and Comey, there was lots of news to digest. However, stocks really didn’t seem to care. The ECB did nothing and hinted that the European economy was improving. Comey testified and you couldn’t turn left or right without hearing “expert” commentary from the pundits. As expected, it was much ado about nothing.

The big shocker came from the UK where PM Theresa May underestimated her constituency when she called for a general election. Hoping to strengthen her position in BREXIT negotiations, the UK people removed her party’s majority, forcing a coalition government. Not many people saw that coming!

Stocks really didn’t care as Friday began and I don’t think they will by the time Friday ends. The story will end up being the one day tech wreck. Pull up any chart you want of any momentum stock or ETF and they will all look the same. In one, big, red fell swoop, a few hours erased several weeks of gains as we have seen many, many times before during a creeper market.

Apple NVIDIA Netflix Google Facebook QQQ MTUM SOXX IGV and on and on and on.

Although it’s only one day, the selling and volume are vicious so far and the rotation out of the highfliers and into the value stocks is extreme today. Just look at the banks, healthcare, energy and the small caps. You would normally expect to see staples and utilities rally, but not today. This looks purely like a rotation into the laggards. With junk bonds quiet and the NYSE A/D Line positive, I am not going to view this with the bears. Let’s see if the rotation in leadership is a short-term thing or not as well as if it’s a warning sign for the overall market, which I think not.

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NASDAQ 5000. Bubble or is This Time Different?

Almost 15 years to the day after the NASDAQ last closed above 5000, the index finally breached that level again, albeit for only one close, so far. That means that if you invested in the NASDAQ in March 2000, it took you 15 years just to get back to break even, which doesn’t sound like such a great investment. Between then and now, the NASDAQ lost 78% to its October 2002 bottom and rallied 351% to its recent high. That’s a lot of volatility for sure!
While the close above 5000 was just another round number to the bulls, bears from all walks of life came out of the woodwork warning of the same demise that befell the index when the Dotcom bubble burst in 2000. Even Mark Cuban with similar arrogance and pomposity of Donald Trump shouted on all the major business channels about the new NASDAQ bubble. Cuban did later walk that back a bit, claiming he meant in the private markets not the publicly traded ones.
So, is this time really different? Or is the NASDAQ in a bubble that’s about to burst?
Longtime readers know how I feel about the market in general and the NASDAQ isn’t much different. First of all, with a 15 year return of 0%, how can anyone really get excited that it’s a bubble or excessive? Yes, I know we can start the study from October 2002 and end up with a wildly different result, but no one is arguing that the NASDAQ has gone parabolic. That’s just silly.
Looking at some routine fundamental data, analysts often use price to earnings ratio to compare stocks or indexes at different times in history. This number divides the price of a stock or index by the earnings and tells us how much it costs fort $1 of earnings. While this data is easy to obtain on most stocks it is very inconsistent on the NASDAQ going back. At the peak in 2000, I saw as low as 30 times earnings to as high as 200 times earnings. Today, the number 21, at least 50% away from the lowest estimates and worlds away from the insanely high ones.
Yale professor Robert Shiller’s unique cyclically adjusted (CAPE) ratio was an all time high 44 in 2000, but 25 today. Another measure of valuation is the price to book ratio which price divided ┬áby the book value. In 2000, it stood at 5.1 while today it’s almost half at 2.6.
On a non-scientific sentiment front, individual investors were falling over themselves trying to buy the next great Dotcom company. Day traders became heroes and were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and CNBC. People were quitting jobs to day trade a few hours a day for multiples more money. I remember getting stock tips from my trainer at the gym. An old golf buddy’s wife came screaming on to the driving range that they were making millions and should retire to do this full time. My former doctor fired me as his advisor at the end of 1999 for not embracing the new paradigm. He said I didn’t get it anymore. There was a new kind of investing and I was being left behind.
Wall Street Internet analysts like Henry Blodgett and Mary Meeker became rock stars. Ryan Jacobs launched an Internet mutual fund and became a celebrity. Investors were told to ignore earnings and just focus on “eyeballs”. Not only did most of the technology initial public offerings (IPOs) not make money, many of them didn’t even have revenues!
Finally, the NASDAQ index melted up 278% from October 1998 to March 2000, the absolute epitome of a parabolic, bubble’esque advance. The best price move I can find of late saw the index jump 78% from November 2012 to March 2015.
As has been the case since early 2012, the bears have been completely misguided. They continue to believe in their conspiracy theories or manipulation by the global central banks or aliens landing at the NYSE and taking over. Bull markets form when it’s darkest with fear and despair abound. They continue to rise on optimism and eventually die on greed and exuberance. It’s very hard to make the case that death is imminent.
One day, the bears will be right and scream from the rooftops that they were just early. But we all know that they were just plain wrong for too long.
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Alibaba… No Bubble to Me

With the Fed meeting, press conference and Scotland out of the way, markets turned to Alibaba’s initial public offering (IPO) to close a very busy week last Friday. Looking at possibly a record $20+ billion IPO, the money had to come from somewhere. And judging by tech stocks behavior over the prior week or so, it certainly looked like institutional investors were paring back holdings to pay for Alibaba.

The hugely anticipated IPO priced at $68 and promptly opened at $92.70. You would think the exuberance could be felt across individual investor land, but one poll I saw showed 75% of Americans had no idea what Alibaba even was. In tomorrow’s piece, I will show previous “hot” IPOs and how they fared. I vividly remember pundits calling Facebook and Twitter bubbles in tech, stocks and IPOs. How did those calls work out?

I went out for lunch with a good friend on Friday at a local popular spot. He asked what was new in the investment world, to which I replied “Alibaba!” He said, “Ali what?” My friend said he never heard of the company nor was familiar with this hot offering. This all made me very curious, so I emailed a list of random people I know to ask what they knew about Alibaba. Only 20% knew anything about it. Not a single one knew they were going public today. No one really cared.

Of course, my “research” is anything but scientific or academically meaningful, but it’s very hard for me to buy the notion of a massive bubble in stocks, tech or IPOs when the average person in my universe hasn’t a clue about what is being touted as “bubble’esque” or just like the Dotcom era. When the last tech bubble hit in 1999-2000, I couldn’t go to the gym, the golf course or even the supermarket without someone asking me about a tech stock or giving me a tip.

Today and for the most part over the past few years, on a 9:1 ratio, comments from friends who are not clients fall in the disbelief camp. Most disavow the bull market and some outright hate it. More than likely the haters are also probably sitting on a lot of cash wishing they were invested.

The disavow camp typically asks questions like, “how can the Dow be at 17,000?” or “isn’t this all smoke and mirrors from the Fed?” The bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter. Price is the final arbiter. Disavowing the bull market from 6500 to 17,000 because the Fed is operating in uncharted waters is a poor investing strategy. People forget that after stocks collapsed 89% from 1929 to 1932, they “bounced” more than 400% with the government’s very heavy hand in the mix using “extraordinary measures.”

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