Major Trend Index
A less-publicized, but still worrisome “inversion” occurring beyond the Treasury market is that of Consumer Confidence, in which the Conference Board’s Present Situation Index has soared almost 70 points above the Expectations Index. This gap always becomes extreme in the late stages of an economic expansion, and today’s reading surpasses those recorded at all business cycle peaks other than February 2001.
Although we are not in the “melt-up” camp, we’d concede that stock market leadership is exactly what we’d expect if we were in that camp: Domestic over Foreign, Large over Small, and Growth over Value. Price action continues to remind us of the powerful rebound off the fall 1998 lows. Current earnings and liquidity trends, however, are not nearly as supportive as they were during that historic market move.
The Boom/Bust Indicator, a weekly ratio of industrial-commodity prices to initial unemployment claims, has had a near-vertical rebound to old highs in the last several weeks. This index usually peaks out many months in advance of a business cycle peak (although not in 2007, when it provided no warning of the pain to come).
Within the Economic work, the big development was a bullish flip in our Dow Bond Oscillator (DBO), which crossed above the zero threshold by the thinnest of margins. Subjectively, however, we are troubled that government yields across the maturity spectrum have been holding near recent lows in the face of equities’ powerful rally.
From a Momentum perspective, chart work has improved across the board but much of the longer-term trend work has remained in neutral or bear territory. These measures are, by definition, late at turning points, and we strongly prefer that the “anticipatory” tools within the MTI drive most of the swings.
Although the Intrinsic Value category is now about 100 points above the worst levels recorded in early January, it is far too early to begin making a bullish valuation case for the stock market. Interestingly, some of the same pundits who warned “valuation is not a timing tool” on the way up are the ones trotting out these premature, value-based arguments—which are typically built on extremely-optimistic forecasts for 2019 operating EPS.