Chart Of The Week
Old timers will recognize our title as a twist on Ronald Reagan’s clincher in the final 1980 presidential debate with Jimmy Carter.
We recalled Reagan’s line while preparing for today’s 40th anniversary of the great 1982 secular stock-market low. Investors in the S&P 500 have earned an annualized total return of +12.4% since that trough, about two percentage points above the long-term average.
The 2022 economic backdrop is nothing like the near-Goldilocks environment accompanying the first few innings of the Y2K Tech bust. However, the action to-date in the former Growth stock leaders has followed the 2000-2002 path very closely—and almost on a point-for-point basis, when it comes to some indexes. With the stock market “weight of the evidence” still negative, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Y2K analog holds for a while longer.
Losses in the Russell 2000 Growth Index and the NYFANG+ Index have topped 40%, and the only true equity rockstar, spawned by a 13-year secular bull market, has watched her fund’s value drop by more than three-quarters. Yet there’s still a televised debate as to whether this decline is even a bear! Could there be a more devious creature on the face of the planet?
Just after yesterday’s close, we loaded our precocious bull into an SUV and drove to the local veterinary clinic for a two-year checkup.
Our bovine buddy drew some sympathetic stares while we were waiting in the lobby. Noting our bull’s droopy eyelids and gray facial hair, an assistant informed us, “You know, you didn’t actually need to bring him here. We now have a mobile euthanasia service.” We just smiled, and waited for the veterinarian, who is said to be a specialist in this new super-species of bull.
Well before the war drums in Eastern Europe began to beat, this stock market correction had already been marching to a different beat. The market’s confusion might be understandable, because—unlike during most of the post-GFC corrections—it has so far failed to “self-medicate!”
A persistent feature of stock market declines in the past 13 years has been that they have typically triggered a simultaneous falloff in bond yields.
It’s probably about high time that we check in with our past and present members of the esteemed 4% Club. For those of you not familiar with this vignette: back in the day, achieving a 4% weight in the S&P 500 had been a rare feat, occurring only during periods of extreme enthusiasm for technology, conglomerates or oil. The blessing of membership soon turned into a curse, with most taking just a cup of coffee behind the velvet ropes before being thrown to the curb because of dramatic underperformance to the rest of the Index. Our two most recent inductees seem to be following the proper established Club protocol for not lingering at the party too long. The two other members, however, have been receiving their mail at the Club for quite some time.
Our ongoing research into the relative performance of active vs. passive fund styles reveals that market conditions play a significant role in the active/passive return cycle. Accordingly, we identified a set of metrics that describe the market conditions we believe influence which of the two management styles is more likely to outperform. This note updates our research efforts through December 31, 2021.
Yesterday, the Russell 2000 closed down 20.9% from its November 8th high, and market bulls have conceded it was “due” for a pullback after a 146% gain off the March-2020 COVID lows.
The Russell’s decline is moderate by the historical high-beta standards of Small Caps. However, this drop—combined with other developments transpiring over the last few years—has produced a shocking result: The Russell 2000 is now unchanged on an inflation-adjusted basis since its “Quantitative-Tightening Top” of August 31, 2018. But what a three-year ride it’s been!
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.
With the most speculative year in U.S. stock market history drawing to a close, we could probably all use a rest. How about a rest that lasts 12 months?
The year 2022 on the Jewish calendar is a Shmita year—historically considered to be a year of rest, or sabbatical, following six years of work. Unfortunately, markets have frequently taken this suggestion quite literally! There’s been a major financial disruption in seven of the eight Shmita years dating back to 1966:
Last week we argued that U.S. money growth remains way too high to reasonably expect a peak in consumer price inflation during the next few months. At the peaks of the last five bouts of inflation of 5% or more, real growth in the M2 money supply had turned negative in four cases and had slipped to less than 1% in the other one. Today, real M2 is growing at nearly a 7% rate.