While the MTI’s Cyclical category remains hostile at -3, we’ve observed steady improvement in its leading inflation components. Especially notable is the reversal in the NOPE Index (ISM New Orders Minus Price Index).
They are simple measures, but our “NOPE” Indexes capture (as well as anything) the escalating inflation squeeze on businesses and consumers. To recap, the NOPE is the spread between the ISM New Orders Index and the Price Index, which can be calculated for both the Manufacturing and Services sectors.
The correction in the S&P 500 since its high on January 3rd qualifies as a “severe” correction, which we define as a decline of at least -12% based on daily closing prices. What are the odds that it becomes a “major” decline*—in which the loss exceeds -19%?
In Section I, we review the history of severe corrections since 1950. In Section II, those corrections are analyzed in the context of the economic cycle, consumer sentiment, and other underlying factors—ones that might help us determine if today’s stock-market weakness is “buyable.”
It is much easier to predict inflation, itself, than to predict when investors will become traumatized by it. Some of the most helpful measures for the latter task come from the ISM Manufacturing Report. October’s readings saw three key measures above the statistical “speed limits” we calculated years ago.
It’s certain that today’s cyclical bout of inflation will prove “transitory,” if only because the word itself is practically meaningless. Our time on earth will also prove transitory, and so too will the current stock market mania—to the shock of most of the nearly 20 million “investors” on the Robinhood platform.
The refusal of the bond market to acknowledge the worsening inflation readings seems to have strengthened the consensus view that any inflation trouble will be “transitory.” Do bonds still know best when there’s a systematic, price-insensitive buyer hoovering up $120 billion of them per month?
Equities continue to benefit from an odd combination of faith and doubt in the Federal Reserve: Faith that the “Fed put” under financial markets is struck closer to the price of the “underlying” than ever before, and doubt that limitless liquidity will trigger a dangerous rise in consumer prices. In all fairness, this glass half full assessment is hardly a theoretical one, but one based on years of empirical evidence.
We’ve been expecting weakness in the manufacturing sector to spread to the service economy, but were not prepared for the nearly four-point drop in the latest ISM Non-Manufacturing Composite. We don’t want to overplay a single monthly reading from an historically volatile report, but the Non-Manufacturing Price Index spiked despite the drop in New Orders.