Bears Knocking on Door Again

The major stock market indices are under pressure for the second day in a row, potentially threatening to close below last Friday’s low which is a line in the sand I spoke about on Monday. We will see what happens after 4pm. The selling continues to look orderly and there is not much internal damage being done to the market so far. Semis and banks concern me the most as the bull market can survive without either but not both. Most of the other sectors are pulling back as you would expect, but the defensive groups telecom, staples, utilities and REITs are firming. High yield bonds remain solid but that can change quickly.

The currency market has probably seen the most action with the dollar seeming to put in a low on Thursday. After an 8% decline since December, there is a lot of room for a bounce. That means that currencies like the Yen, Euro, Loonie and Aussie should see weakness, possibly significant, over the coming days or weeks. That would also mean a soft patch in energy prices.

Lots going on right now and volatility is on the upswing!

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Watching the Bounce

Thursday’s shellacking in the stock market was a bit unusual given how close in time stocks were to all time highs. As I mentioned in Street$marts, my screen was a complete sea of red except for the instruments that go up when stocks go down. As I have over said over and over and over, based on history, the bull market remains alive.

In the short-term, it looks like the best case for the bulls would be a few days of bounce to the upside followed by another decline to revisit this morning’s low or briefly exceed it this month. Then another run to new highs could ensure.

I would become a bit more concerned if stocks began to unravel this afternoon or rallied mildly today followed by an ugly day on Monday. In any case, it’s important to watch which sectors bounce the most or withstand selling pressure the best. So far, I am not heartened to see utilities and staples leading today.

On the bond front, it’s time for treasury bonds to make a stand. They have pulled back for a few days and they need to stabilize here. High yield (junk) bonds have been decimated lately, wiping out the entire gain since January. This is a serious canary in the coal mine if it’s not rectified this year.

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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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Stocks Remain in Pullback Mode

With the major indices down 4-8% I am once again getting questions whether the bull market has ended and a multi-year decline is unfolding. I don’t think so.The New York Stock Exchange Cumulative Advance/Decline line recently scored an all time high. When bull markets end, we typically see this indicator peak months, quarters or even years before the Dow and S&P 500. The same can be said of the high yield bond sector. Bear markets are usually associated with restrictive monetary conditions and excessive valuations. It’s very hard to argue we are seeing those right now.

This decline continues to look like a pullback, meaning less than 10% in the Dow and S&P 500. It will end when the weaker bulls give up hope and thrown in the towel, something that has not happened yet. Sometimes that takes a few weeks while others it takes months or even quarters. Remember, my 2014 forecast called for a digestive type year like 1992, 2004 and 2007. That’s what we have seen so far.

Stocks are very oversold in the short-term and on their way to oversold in the intermediate-term. However, as we saw on the way up, overbought and oversold can get more overbought and oversold until a reversal takes hold. Just watching the volatility (fear) index, VIX, breach 20 should give us a hint that the decline is coming close to the end. We have already seen volume in inverse ETFs begin to spike which indicate that investors are running for downside protection.

What’s making headlines right now is the veracity of the decline in the former high flying market leaders like biotech and Internet. Those sectors led on the way down and I am keenly watching them for signs of stability and life. I am also watching them because we now own sizable positions in our sector program. It’s too early to tell if they have peaked for good, but once the market bounces, these should rally hard.

It doesn’t look like the stock market has hammered in a good bottom yet. The typical pattern would see a rally that lasts more than a day or two followed by another decline below the previous low. Today was only day one of a rally. Aggressive and nimble traders can look to sell a 1% rally and try to buy again at new lows, but that should only be contemplated for traders who can sit and watch and have a plan. Otherwise, there should be a better buying opportunity this quarter. Investors continue to hide in consumer staples, utilities and REITs on the equity side and my favorite investment that everyone hates, long-term treasury bonds which we happily have a big position in our global macro strategy.

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Bears Growl as Line in the Sand Breached

As I look back at the titles of the posts this week, I see “Stocks Looking to Rest”, “Bulls Hanging in During Tug O’ War” and “Bears Creeping In”. It was hard not to at least lean to bearish side. Until Thursday although prices were lower, the bulls fought hard. But on Thursday, the flood gates opened with some major league selling in the indices. On the sector front, all were sharply lower with the exception of utilities and precious metals. The surface of Thursday’s action looked pretty nasty.

Lifting the hood, the bulls may take a little solace in the fact that for such a widespread down day, the number of decliners only outpaced advancers by a 2:1 margin. Down volume did not swamp up volume, coming in at 5:1. It was a bad day for the bulls, but by no means disastrous, at least not yet.

Stocks are short-term oversold and if the playbook of the past 18 months remains intact, the bulls are supposed to step up almost immediately. Additional selling from here would open the floodgates to a much larger decline. For Friday,there should be two way action in the morning with any pushes to news lows being buyable. Another afternoon rout will really embolden the bears.

The next few days are key.

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Bulls Hanging In During Tug o’ War

All of the ingredients were in place for one of those quick, sharp down days on Monday with a plethora of geopolitical news. From poor economic news out of China to continuing saga in Crimea and the Ukraine to the still missing aircraft, all the excuses were there.

And while stocks sold off early in the day, a similar story over the past few years played out; the bulls slowly and steadily stepped up to trim the losses. After four days of essentially going nowhere, we have some close lines in the sand to watch for clues of the next big short-term move.

On the S&P 500, closing above last week’s high of 1884 will inflict more pain on the bears, while closing below yesterday’s low of 1867 will likely cause the bulls to pull back a bit. Absence those two scenarios, the market looks neutral here.

Sector wise, biotech, utilities and REITs have pulled back enough to take another stab to the long side as long as you have an exit plan close by.

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