Major Trend Index
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.
The abrupt decline in the Momentum work reflects deterioration in most trend models, along with bearish flips in the Chart Scores for the Russell 2000, NYSE Financials, KBW Bank Index, and Securities Broker/Dealer Index (XBD). The NYSE Daily Advance/Decline Line provided only limited warning of the impending weakness.
The weakening we’ve observed for several weeks in most internal stock market measures began to spread last week to the “externals,” i.e., the major market indexes like the DJIA and S&P 500. Still, we are amazed these indexes remain so close to their cycle highs in light of the extent of subsurface damage reflected in the daily and weekly breadth figures.
Read this week's Major Trend.
Swings within the five factor groups were muted, but the small loss in the Intrinsic Value work was enough to drop that category to a new negative extreme for the current bull market. The new low in this category counters the argument that U.S. stocks would “grow into” their valuations in 2018 thanks to the corporate tax cut and acceleration in GDP growth.
A large gain in the Momentum category was almost entirely the result of a positive flip in a key market Reversal Model which had been bearish since March. While the long-term record of this model is good, its BUY signals over a forward three-to-six-month horizon have been less reliably bullish than, say, a breadth or momentum “thrust.”
We’d concede that neither the relative strength of Small Caps nor the divergently strong action of the NYSE Daily Advance/Decline Line fit the pattern of a stock market undergoing a late-cycle period of distribution, however, the relatively low percentage of NYSE issues now trading above their 30-week moving averages (45.5%) suggests the market may not be as internally healthy as popularly portrayed.
After several weeks of muted movements, three MTI categories saw swings of more than 60 points. The Supply/Demand category’s loss was the biggest move, and mostly reflected commercial hedgers’ sudden unwinding of a big net-long position in stock index futures. Such action causes this important “smart money” indicator to be more in line with the DJIA’s Smart Money Flow Index, which continues to act badly.
Performance discontinuities across some of the major indexes are striking. For example, while the NASDAQ Composite is up 12% YTD, the NYSE Composite is down 1%, despite those strong A/D readings for the latter index. Today’s action leaves a similar gap between the Russell 2000 (up 10% YTD) and the DJIA (unchanged).
The decline in the attitudinal work was fairly broad based, with a few indicators even moving back to maximum negative readings.
While we’ve always emphasized the importance of the “weight of the evidence” over the individual MTI factor categories, it’s worth highlighting some key differences between the 2018 correction (which saw a loss in the S&P 500 of 10.2% at the February 8th closing low) and the 2015-2016 S&P 500 correction of 14.2%.