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Chart Of The Week

Apr 18 2019

Small Caps And The Recent “Rate Hike”

  • Apr 18, 2019

The 1999 leadership parallels we discussed in the latest Green Book remain intact—U.S. over foreign, Growth over Value, and Large over Small. Small Caps have given up most of the “beta bounce” enjoyed in the first two months off the December low, with one Small Cap measure—the Russell Microcap Index (the bottom 1000 of the Russell 2000)—undercutting last year’s relative strength low and those of 2011 and 2016.

Apr 12 2019

Margins Prove Capitalism Still Works

  • Apr 12, 2019

Corporate profits were outstanding last year, but even the benefit of a 40% cut in the top income-tax rate wasn’t enough to lift the net profit margin back to the all-time high of 10.6% established in early 2012. Still, the latest 10.0% figure is more than a percentage point above the 2007 cycle high and about two points better than any other cycle high.

 

Mar 29 2019

The Cycle Is Over If Confidence Fades Further

  • Mar 29, 2019

The “Expectations” component of the Consumer Confidence survey has been wobbly in the last few months, but the latest report, released on Tuesday, showed the first meaningful hit to consumers’ “Present Situation” since the stock market first began to struggle 14 months ago (Chart 1).

Mar 22 2019

Partying Like It’s 1998-99

  • Mar 22, 2019

We thought Jerome Powell’s “Christmas Capitulation” would be tough to beat, but he accomplished that two days ago with what could be called his “Spring Surrender.” That, in turn, has rekindled hopes of a stock market melt-up along the lines of 1998-99, which, as old-timers will remember, followed a late-cycle correction that was nearly identical to the one seen last year.

 

Mar 15 2019

Be Wary Of The “E” In P/E

  • Mar 15, 2019

U.S. equity valuations remain considerably higher than those of any major foreign market, but there’s no denying they’ve improved from the cyclical peak made in January 2018. That’s true across the capitalization spectrum, and on the basis of both normalized and non-normalized fundamentals.

 

Mar 08 2019

So Long Tax Cuts… We Hardly Knew Ye

  • Mar 8, 2019

Our earnings waterfall analysis for the fourth quarter tells a story consistent with the entirety of 2018: earnings growth was fantastic, boosted by the twin drivers of strong sales growth and a lower corporate tax rate. Chart 1 spotlights the quarter’s tally, which produced a healthy sales growth number despite some economic weakening.

Mar 01 2019

Assessing The Cyclical Risks

  • Mar 1, 2019

With all the excitement over the Fed’s shift in rhetoric and the excellent subsequent market action, there’s a danger of losing sight of the broader cyclical backdrop for U.S. stocks. Remember, the economy is still operating beyond government estimates of its full-employment potential, and it’s not as if the Fed has actually eased policy—as it did successfully at a similar late-cycle juncture in the fall of 1998 and (ultimately unsuccessfully) in the summer of 2007.

Feb 22 2019

Momentum Buyers: Beware

  • Feb 22, 2019

Momentum is a smart beta factor that gives investors excellent upside participation in rising markets. Most other smart beta factors are defensive plays, so Momentum is the place to be in strong upward moves. Momentum filled that role admirably in recent years, rising 56% from 2016 to the September top, compared to an average of +26% for the other major factors.

Feb 15 2019

2019 Earnings: Don't Bet On 6%

  • Feb 15, 2019

Currently, the collective intelligence of Wall Street is predicting 6% S&P 500 EPS growth in 2019. It’s also the 61-year average annual growth rate for the index, so how wrong could it be?

Feb 01 2019

John Bogle: Investment Philosopher

  • Feb 1, 2019

The passing of investment legend John Bogle has brought forth many well-deserved tributes to his professional accomplishments. He was a tireless champion of passive investing and the founder of The Vanguard Group which, as more than a few investors don’t realize, also manages almost $1 trillion in active funds.

Jan 25 2019

The Trump Trade, Two Years In

  • Jan 25, 2019

Donald Trump is thought to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and the economic circumstances prevailing at his inauguration two years ago might have further perpetuated that view. The U.S. economy had already been in recovery mode for 7 1/2 years, and the bull market in U.S. stocks was about to celebrate its eighth birthday.

Jan 18 2019

Sizing Up The Rally

  • Jan 18, 2019

There’s an old saying that bear market rallies look better than the real thing, yet the upswing off December lows looks even better than the typical bear market rally.

Jan 11 2019

Characteristics Of Major Market Lows

  • Jan 11, 2019

We wrote in the January Green Book that the S&P 500 Christmas Eve low did not have the “right look,” in that: (1) there had been no sign of “smart money” accumulation beforehand; and, (2) downside momentum was also at a new low for the entire correction. Smart money buying is measured by the Smart Money Flow Index, which evaluates trends in first half-hour market action (considered to be more emotional and news-driven), and the last hour of trading (viewed to be more informed and institutional in nature).

Jan 04 2019

How This ‘Borderline’ Bear Stacks Up

  • Jan 4, 2019

The S&P 500 has again shown its mysterious ability to defy the conventional bear market threshold, with the decline into its Christmas Eve low becoming the fourth one in the last 30 years to halt just shy of the magic -20% figure.

 

Dec 28 2018

Stocks Just Delivered A Strong Deflationary Impulse

  • Dec 28, 2018

Investors have just suffered a negative wealth effect that will likely work to tamp down inflation over the next year.

Dec 21 2018

Market Observations

  • Dec 21, 2018

It’s been one of the worst years on record for diversification, with our hypothetical All Asset No Authority (AANA) portfolio down 7.2% YTD through yesterday. That’s the second-worst year for AANA since 1972, and there’s probably not enough time left for performance to undercut 2008 (-24.9%) for the bottom spot.

 

Dec 13 2018

Rental Rates Rocket Alongside Slowing Home Prices

  • Dec 13, 2018

Headlines surrounding the U.S. housing market have recently fixated on sputtering home sales; declining affordability, thanks to the combination of rising mortgage rates and sky-high home prices, is to blame.

Nov 30 2018

What Can Margins Do For An Encore?

  • Nov 30, 2018

A massive drop in corporate tax payments lifted the third quarter NIPA profit margin back to the 10% level for the first time four years. But while we try not to always view the glass as half empty, we find it troubling that margins remain well-below their 2012 highs (10.6%) in spite of this one-time windfall.

 

Nov 23 2018

Thanksgiving Leftovers

  • Nov 23, 2018

Whatever one’s preferred leftovers from yesterday’s feast, the odds are good you’ll find them more appetizing than the slop served up by global asset markets this year. Stocks have obviously been turkeys, but all the surrounding trimmings that help diversify a portfolio have proven anything but complementary to the main course.

Nov 16 2018

Correction Creating Values?

  • Nov 16, 2018

While the consensus view remains that October’s stock market rout was “healthy” and “overdue,” we think it was  more likely the first leg down of much larger decline. But it’s still worth reviewing the improvement in valuations that market losses and this year’s excellent fundamentals have combined to produce.  

 

Nov 09 2018

Have We Already Had The Year-End Rally?

  • Nov 9, 2018

In the March Green Book, we discussed the long history of stock market difficulties during mid-term election years. Incredibly, nine of the past 11 cyclical bear market lows have occurred in these years, with eight of those nine recorded during the seasonally-weak months of May through October (Table 1).

Nov 02 2018

Goldilocks, Meet The Three Bears

  • Nov 2, 2018

During the stock market’s protracted retracement of its January/February decline, we speculated a few times that the final outcome might look similar to the bull market tops of 1990, 2000, and 2007.

Oct 26 2018

Assessing The Damage

  • Oct 26, 2018

Our tactical accounts remain positioned very defensively, and we have yet to see the sort of capitulative market action that would lead us to lift any existing equity hedges.

 

Oct 19 2018

Monitoring Mo’s Mojo

  • Oct 19, 2018

Momentum is one of the most successful investment styles over the long run, and does particularly well in the later stages of a bull market during the run-up to an eventual peak.

Oct 12 2018

Four Paw Prints That Will Confirm Rumored Sightings Of The Bear

  • Oct 12, 2018

We think the odds are better than even that the September 20th S&P 500 high will stand as the stock market high for 2018, and perhaps also as the high for a historic event begun back in 2009. We’re well-prepared for that possibility, with the Leuthold Core now positioned today with net equity exposure of just 37%.

 

Sep 28 2018

New Highs In Stocks Have Some Unwanted Company

  • Sep 28, 2018

In recent commentaries, we’ve highlighted the surprising number of U.S. stocks making 52-week lows on both a daily and weekly basis, a sign that the market’s push higher has become more fractured. While pondering the significance of those lows, however, we missed a new 52-week high last Friday in a series we think will be especially critical to the stock market’s near-term fortunes: the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield. Specifically, the yield matched its weekly closing high of 3.07% posted on May 18th.

Sep 21 2018

Second Quarter Earnings Waterfall

  • Sep 21, 2018

The S&P 500 reported blockbuster earnings growth again in the second quarter of 2018. With the corporate tax cut boosting profits this year, we were curious to know how much of the improvement was tax driven and how much was due to the exceptionally strong economy.

Sep 14 2018

Another Eulogy For The Bond Bull

  • Sep 14, 2018

In the past year, big-name bond gurus have put forth various yield targets that, if exceeded, would provide definitive proof that the secular bull market in Treasury bonds begun in 1981 had finally ended.

Aug 31 2018

Watching Prices And New Orders

  • Aug 31, 2018

Trying to monitor the dozen or so regional purchasing-managers’ surveys released prior to the monthly national report  invites a perpetual case of whiplash...

Aug 24 2018

Why So Many Lows Near A New High?

  • Aug 24, 2018

The S&P 500 has closed within a half percent of an all-time high three times this week, and the S&P 1500 Composite did make such a high on Tuesday, August 21st...

Aug 17 2018

Stock Market Defies Seasonal Gravity

  • Aug 17, 2018

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger” might be a good motto for this never-ending bull market. The bull continues to shrug off the effects of both Quantitative Tightening and an escalating trade war, and it’s doing so during a seasonal stretch in which many of its predecessors have sunk to their knees (if not their demise).

Aug 10 2018

Active vs. Passive Return Drivers - June 2018 Update

  • Aug 10, 2018

Our ongoing research into the relative performance of Active vs. Passive fund styles is based on the belief that just as market conditions cycle, so does the active-passive return spread.

Aug 03 2018

No, It’s Not Y2K Again…But The Lights Could Still Go Out

  • Aug 3, 2018

For the last year, we have labeled the S&P 500 Price/Sales ratio—which has returned to its Y2K bubble levels—the “scariest chart in our database” (Chart 1). Recall that the initial visit to present levels was followed by the S&P 500’s first-ever negative total return decade.

 

Jul 27 2018

How The S&P 500 Could Hit 2,500… Ten Years Out

  • Jul 27, 2018

Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the S&P 500 bull market high, and the index celebrated the event by nearly setting a new peak. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 Total Return Index did make a new high on Wednesday.

Jul 20 2018

Rates Are Up, But Are They High Enough To Punish?

  • Jul 20, 2018

While momentum has been the best-performing stock selection factor in 2018, there’s a less well-known and purely fundamental factor that rates almost as well: A company’s ability to lose money!

Jul 13 2018

The Kindness of Strangers

  • Jul 13, 2018

We have recently been struck by the tremendous valuations being awarded to companies that have never turned a profit. Tesla, Spotify, Workday, and Square all sport market caps above $25 billion based not on their recent earning power (which is zip), but on the hopes that they will one day move well into the black.

Jun 29 2018

Emerging Markets: Down A Lot, But Not Really Cheap

  • Jun 29, 2018

The stock market liquidity squeeze we’ve discussed this year hasn’t played out quite like we expected. Traditionally, Fed tightening and slowing money growth hit Small Caps earlier, and harder, than the blue chip stocks...

Jun 22 2018

Altitudes Are Too High— And Attitudes Are Getting There

  • Jun 22, 2018

An important feature of this bull market—and a reason for its longevity—is the slow recovery in investor attitudes relative to valuation altitudes...

Jun 15 2018

Full Employment And Rising Prices Aren’t Stock-Friendly

  • Jun 15, 2018

Annual Producer Price Inflation rose to 4.0% in May, a key threshold above which the S&P 500 has historically delivered essentially flat returns. But the fact that this reading occurs against a backdrop of full employment is cause for even more concern. Context is key...

Jun 01 2018

If You Think This Market’s Fishy, You’re Right

  • Jun 1, 2018

Tomorrow is the Minnesota season-opener for muskies, but the fanatics who chase them are likely disappointed that it comes a few days after an event that’s known to trigger these beasts: the full moon. The screenshot is from our $9.95 “iSolunar” iPhone app, and shows that Saturday merits only a “three fish” day (out of a possible “four fish”)—based on the moon’s fading illumination.