When Jerome Powell took the reins of the Federal Reserve in early 2018, many commentators cheered the fact that he does not possess a Ph.D. in Economics. It will be many, many years before historians are able to conclude whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Yesterday’s action, though, left us wondering whether Powell might stealthily be in the process of earning a different designation—that of Chartered Market Technician (CMT).
We wrote in the latest Green Book that a breadth indicator that should be more well-known than it is—the High/Low Logic Index (or HLLI)—had moved to “maximum negative” right at the cycle high in the NASDAQ Composite on November 19th. Specifically, the 10-week moving average of this indicator showed a perilous internal condition in which too many NASDAQ stocks were reaching 52-week New Highs and New Lows simultaneously. That’s the very definition of a “fractured” market, and has preceded some important NASDAQ declines. There have also been a couple of premature warnings, as in the summers of 1996 and 2019.
Here’s an example of just how disparate underlying market action has become: with the S&P 500 only 2% away from a cycle high, several major U.S. and foreign market indexes have already moved into an oversold position on the basis of our Very Long Term (VLT) algorithm—with a few (including EAFE, Chart 1) actually triggering “long-term, low-risk” BUY signals in the last two months! We are not sure what to make of this action.
It’s been more than two years since NYSE Margin Debt broke out above its 2007 high, and we remember the rash of bearish commentary that accompanied that milestone. We later showed the Margin Debt increase was almost perfectly proportional to the gain in the stock market itself, and not a reason to turn bearish in and of itself. But our tune has changed.