Major Trend Index
The Momentum category continues to grind higher, but this push has predictably stirred up investor enthusiasm (as measured this week by an identical decline in our Attitudinal composite). At the same time, longer-term measures like CEO Confidence, Small Business Optimism, and Consumer Confidence have all weakened in the latest reports, suggesting a rollover in animal spirits could be underway.
The bounce in the Economic category interrupted its last few months’ steady grind lower; the increase was led mostly by an upgrade to the NOPE Index (ISM New Orders Minus Price Index), which moved from high neutral to moderately bullish. The action of individual components is hardly reassuring, however.
The Economic work continues to erode, and it would now be deeply negative if not for the conventional scoring of our leading inflation measures, in which disinflation is viewed as a good thing. But if our suspicions that this economic cycle will end in a deflationary bust are correct, the conventional interpretation will be wrong.
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.