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Inside The Stock Market ...trends, cross-currents, and outlook

Aug 06 2020

Free For All?

  • Aug 6, 2020

The weekly covers of The Economist do a pretty good job of capturing the zeitgeist of global financial affairs, but there’s so much packed into every issue (and enough to do around our shop) that sometimes all we see are the covers. But we have to admit we’re disappointed in The Economist for the week ended July 31st. The “Free Money” theme is at least four months too late!

Aug 06 2020

Measuring The Cost Of “Free”

  • Aug 6, 2020

The S&P 500 and NASDAQ have lately traded as if the hybrid “Fed/Treasury put” entails no cost at all. But dollar alternatives—like forex, precious metals, and crypto-currencies—are saying, “Not so fast!”

Aug 06 2020

Implications Of The “Breakout”

  • Aug 6, 2020

July’s developments led to us investigate the market valuations accompanying all past month-end S&P 500 breakouts which (1) eclipsed the prior month-end bull market high; and (2) made a new all-time high in the process.

Aug 06 2020

After The “Thrust”…

  • Aug 6, 2020

We’re concerned that cyclical groups, which normally catch fire after a breadth thrust, are tracking along the bottom (or below) the previous worst-case outcomes following identical breadth-thrust signals.

Aug 06 2020

Sentimental Musings

  • Aug 6, 2020

We get irked when TV pundits misrepresent the mood of equity investors as unduly pessimistic based one or two (or zero) data points. Among the dozens of “Attitudinal” indicators we track, an overwhelming majority show professional and retail investors have jumped back into the fray.

Aug 06 2020

A Look At Two Historical Near-Misses

  • Aug 6, 2020

As we go to press (said no one in the digital age, ever!), the S&P 500 was moving to within a couple percentage points of its February 19th all-time high. Given still-high valuations for the blue chips and increasingly frothy sentiment, we think any break above that high will be underwhelming, if not a potentially historic “trap.”

Aug 06 2020

A “Low-Risk” BUY?!?

  • Aug 6, 2020

So what do we make of July’s “low-risk” VLT BUY signal on the DJIA—the index on which the indicator’s creator (Sedge Coppock) did his original work? Sadly, not much.

Aug 06 2020

A “Litmus Group” For The Bulls

  • Aug 6, 2020

As troubled sectors vary from downturn to downturn, commercial banks have shown an uncanny ability to leap in front of each cycle’s proverbial pie truck. This time, it’s hard to identify the precise epicenter—especially amidst all the bailouts.

Aug 06 2020

How To Value Gold

  • Aug 6, 2020

July’s surge drove the yellow metal to the brink of its overvaluation threshold, where only 150 ounces of gold are required to buy the median-priced existing home (currently about $299,000). Impressively, gold made all but the last month of this move without attracting mainstream attention.

Aug 06 2020

Corporate Debt Continues To Pile Up

  • Aug 6, 2020

Public companies are loading up on debt. Since we wrote about this topic over a year ago, a few metrics have reached, or are surpassing, peaks of 1999-2000. When the readings move to extreme levels, we recommend readers take precautions.

Jul 08 2020

Different Paths, Same Ending?

  • Jul 8, 2020

For those who believe the economy “drives” trends in stock market leadership, consider the cases of 1999-2000 and 2019-2020.

Jul 08 2020

Everyone Loves A Winner

  • Jul 8, 2020

The bullish consensus seems to be that unlimited Fed liquidity will lift all stock market and economic boats. However, past liquidity floods have tended to lift boats that were already the most buoyant. The “Y2K Liquidity Facility” and last fall’s emergency Fed intervention in the overnight repo market are two cases in which liquidity seemed to flow to where it was needed the least.

Jul 08 2020

Low Single Digits?

  • Jul 8, 2020

We encourage diversity of thought in our shop, but even pessimists among our ranks have a hard time making the case for a ten-year negative return for U.S. stocks, which was recently predicted by the founder of a large hedge fund.

Jul 08 2020

Should You Trust The Thrust?

  • Jul 8, 2020

There are two concerns with the latest bullish thrust signal, with one, in part, causing the other. First, the S&P 500 return preceding the MBI thrust signal was +42.8%, almost triple the average slippage of +15% associated with all prior signals.

Jul 08 2020

The “Next Big Thing” May Not Be Big

  • Jul 8, 2020

There’s one trend that’s lasted almost as long as the bull market and economic expansion and it hasn’t definitively come to an end. The current Large Cap Leadership Cycle hit the nine-year mark in April.

Jul 08 2020

How Much For Your “Free Lunch?”

  • Jul 8, 2020

The 41% S&P 500 rally would be half as large if measured in terms of gold, and a “unit” of the S&P 500 now buys 70% fewer ounces of gold than it did in early 2000. Meanwhile, when denominated in either silver or Bitcoin, the stock market rally has been almost nonexistent.

Jul 08 2020

Commodity Comeback?

  • Jul 8, 2020

Many analysts thought the last cycle would end with a bit of “fire” in the form of higher commodity and consumer prices, and they might well argue they would have been right if not for the eruption of COVID-19.

Jul 08 2020

The High/Low Says “Buy High!”

  • Jul 8, 2020

We’ve written periodically about the likely distortion of market breadth figures resulting from High Frequency Trading, the domination of ETFs, and (we believe, most importantly) the decimalization of stock quotations. Our concerns led us to expand our technical arsenal, and one of the gems we uncovered in that process was the High/Low Logic Index (HLLI).

Jul 08 2020

Stimulus Gone Wild!

  • Jul 8, 2020

Market perma-bulls deserve high marks for their persistence, yet, despite all that’s transpired in 2020, their case is exactly the same as six months ago: Extreme stimulus won’t “allow” a significant stock market drop, nor any further economic deterioration.

Jul 07 2020

The Second Wave: No One Seems To Care!

  • Jul 7, 2020

While investors cheer the stock market on to challenge its all-time high, new COVID-19 cases are also making daily records in the U.S. The first wave of the pandemic helped to tank the S&P 500 by nearly 30% in the course of three weeks, while the second wave, now in development, has yet to deter the raging bulls.  

Jun 05 2020

A Stock Market Brain Teaser

  • Jun 5, 2020

The bull and bear labels can be dangerous to stock market operators, so much so that famed speculator Jesse Livermore is said to have abandoned them in favor of softer terminology: “Lines of least resistance.” We aren’t about to ditch the old labels, or even our collection of bull and bear bookends.

Jun 05 2020

Revenge Of The Nerds?

  • Jun 5, 2020

Last month we detailed two technical shortcomings of the rally off the March 23rd market low. The stock market duly noted our critique and has issued its response.

Jun 05 2020

“Not Quite” Super

  • Jun 5, 2020

The average “super-overbought” MBI reading occurred 54 days after a market low; June 4th marks the 51st trading day since the March 23rd low. Thus, any signal in the days ahead would arrive essentially “on time,” but the slippage (the S&P 500 gain already realized) would be enormous at around 40%!

Jun 05 2020

“Normalizing” For The Earnings Collapse

  • Jun 5, 2020

Stocks (and more specifically, U.S. blue chips) did not fully (nor even approximately) discount the economic calamity. The result is that, in just over two months, the “baby bull”—if that’s what it is—has achieved what took his legendary predecessor more than eight years to accomplish: Top 25x on our Normalized P/E.

Jun 05 2020

“Peaking” Into The Future

  • Jun 5, 2020

Peak P/E has just moved into its top decile on a postwar basis. If the recent rally is indeed the first roar of a new bull, then this is a bull that’s a “baby” on a calendar basis, but quite elderly from a “character” perspective.

Jun 05 2020

The Wrong Kind Of “Head Start”

  • Jun 5, 2020

The rally’s initial resemblance to the first up-leg off the secular 2009 market bottom is remarkable. Both rallies started in March, and achieved gains of almost 40% within 50 trading days. Both, of course, sprung from a backdrop of unprecedented monetary stimulus.

Jun 05 2020

A Bear That Left VLT Unscathed?

  • Jun 5, 2020

Our VLT Momentum algorithm was driven into oversold territory for at least a few months in all prior postwar bears. It didn’t happen yet this spring, which implies that the “grieving process” was neither deep enough nor long-lasting enough to set the stage for anything like a repeat of last decade’s bull. Most of our valuation work says exactly the same thing.

Jun 05 2020

A Long Boom, And The Ultimate Bust

  • Jun 5, 2020

Last December, we marveled at the disconnect between the (surging) S&P 500 and the (sagging) Boom/Bust Indicator. Just six months later, we can only scratch our heads at what the hell we were complaining about.

Jun 05 2020

Sentimental Musings

  • Jun 5, 2020

Long-term sentiment indicators have carved out a four-month pattern similar to what we’ve observed in Large Cap valuation measures. That’s no surprise; valuation is a sentiment measure.

Jun 05 2020

The Money Supply Isn’t Magic

  • Jun 5, 2020

Imagine our surprise when the bullish stock market narrative is suddenly all about money. Cynically, though, that might be because money supply and the unemployment rate are the only economic data series staging upside breakouts, and the latter doesn’t lend itself to a good narrative.

Jun 04 2020

Money Losers Among Small-Cap Growth

  • Jun 4, 2020

Late last year, we presented data showing that profitability has become more elusive for small companies despite a record-long period of economic expansion. We discussed the potential causes underlying this phenomenon.

May 07 2020

There’s More To It Than That

  • May 7, 2020

It’s a down year for stocks, yet John Bogle must still be chuckling. A full-employment economy that had propped up one of the two most overvalued stock markets in U.S. history just suffered a cataclysmic “sudden stop.” Yet Bogle’s buy-and-hold disciplines have so far dodged the bear.

May 07 2020

Betting Against The Odds?

  • May 7, 2020

The optimists are betting that the longest bull market in history—one that carried valuations above levels seen at all but one of preceding cyclical peaks—has been followed by the shortest bear in history, at 27 days.

May 07 2020

Where Are The Leaders We Need?

  • May 7, 2020

Small Caps lagged during the bounce off the March lows before a late-April spurt briefly pulled them ahead of the S&P 500. Still, considering that Russell 2000 losses were so much steeper than the S&P 500’s (-43% versus -33%), we would have expected something better.

May 07 2020

Not The Leader We Wanted??

  • May 7, 2020

If many of the typical leaders of a new bull market aren’t leading, what is? Technology, obviously—and the bigger, the better.

May 07 2020

A Bounce Without “Oomph”

  • May 7, 2020

One would think that one of the most explosive market rallies of all time would trip-off all the traditional “breadth thrust” signals, or maybe even invent a few of its own. Sorry, no luck.

May 07 2020

Calculate The Next Low... With The Last Peak?

  • May 7, 2020

How does one value a stock market in which 12-month forward EPS estimates show their widest dispersion in history? A good start might be with methods we use when forward estimates show practically no dispersion (like three months ago). In either case, we place little weight on such estimates; each revision usually has only marginal impact on our 5-Year Normalized EPS.

May 07 2020

Median Valuations: Down, But Not Cheap

  • May 7, 2020

If we assume that valuations will “bottom” at the “richest” levels ever seen at a bear market low, there’s still 32% downside remaining in the median S&P 500 stock.

May 07 2020

A Bear Market In Price, But Not Time?

  • May 7, 2020

Valuations aside, the absence of any sustained market pain over the last ten years argues for challenging times for stocks in the new decade.

May 07 2020

Is “NASDAQ Fever” Peaking?

  • May 7, 2020

Even casual market observers have begun to marvel at the NASDAQ’s ability to defy the rest of the stock market, and the “U.S. Exceptionalism Index” continues to go parabolic.