Gold at a watershed

Silver found short-term support at $14.50/ounce but declining Trend Index peaks indicate selling pressure and a test of primary support at $14 is likely.

Spot Silver in USD

Gold, by contrast, has found strong support at $1280/ounce, refusing to give way despite concerted selling. Breach of 1280 would signal a test of primary support at 1180 but recovery above 1300 becomes increasingly likely the longer that support holds.

Spot Gold in USD

A rising Dollar would weaken demand for Gold but the Dollar Index has met strong resistance between 97 and 98. Follow-through above 98 would signal a fresh advance but a fall below 97 would be bullish for Gold.

Dollar Index

10-Year Treasury yields have also broken support at 2.4% offering a short-term target of 2.2%. Falling Treasury yields have a depressing effect on the Dollar and boost demand for Gold (by lowering the opportunity cost).

10-Year Treasury Yield

Gold is therefore at a watershed. Breach of strong support for Gold at $1280 would be a strong bear signal but respect would be a bullish sign, suggesting another advance. Probability is still favor of the bearish scenario but the bull case is strengthening.

 

 

ASX 200 rises despite falling Dollar

The Aussie Dollar was trading above 80 US cents 18 months ago but has now broken support at 70 US cents. The immediate target is 68 cents but our long-term target is 60 cents, the lows of 2008.

AUD/USD

While this may benefit mining and other export-led sectors, the medium-term impact may be increased cost of offshore funding for the major banks. The chart below, sourced from the RBA, shows major banks rely on offshore funding of close to $650 billion (between 18% and 19% of total funding of $3.4 trillion).

Major Bank Funding

The ASX 200, buoyant after a surprise election result, broke resistance at 6400. Expect retracement to test the new support level, shown at 6350/6400 below on the daily chart. Respect would confirm a fresh advance.

ASX 200

I remain cautious of Australian stocks because of two factors: (1) potential fallout from a US-China trade war; and (2) declining housing prices and construction activity in Australia. With (common equity Tier 1) leverage ratios close to 5%, banks are under-capitalized and could act as “an accelerant rather than a shock-absorber” with any external shocks.

S&P 500 and the trade war

We are now headed for a full-blown trade war. Donald Trump may have highlighted the issue but this is not a conflict between him and Xi — it should have been addressed years ago — nor even between China and the West. Accusations of racism are misguided. This is a conflict between totalitarianism and the rule of law. Between the CCP (with Putin, Erdogan, and the Ayatollahs in their corner) and Western democracy.

Australia will be forced to take sides. China may be Australia’s largest trading partner but the US & UK are it’s ideological partners. I cannot see the remotest possibility of Australia selling out its principles for profits, no matter how tempting the short-term rewards (or threatened hardships). We have a proud history of standing up against oppression and exploitation.

Disruptions to supply chains and supply contracts in the US (and China) are going to be significant and are likely to impact on earnings. The S&P 500 reaction is so far muted, with retracement testing medium-term support at 2800. There is also no indication of selling pressure on the Trend Index. Nevertheless, a breach of 2800 is likely and would warn of a test of primary support at 2400.

S&P 500

Falling Treasury yields highlight the outflow from equities and into bonds. Stock buybacks are becoming the primary inflow into stocks.

10-Year Treasury Yields

However, corporate bond spreads — lowest investment grade (Baa) yields minus the equivalent Treasury yield — are still well below the 3.0% level associated with elevated risk.

S&P 500

Profits may fall due to supply disruption (similar to 2015 on the chart below) but the Fed is unlikely to cut interest rates unless employment follows (as in 2007). Inflation is likely to rise as supply chains are disrupted but chances of a rate rise are negligible. Fed Chairman Jay Powell’s eyes are going to be firmly fixed on Total Non-farm Payrolls. If annual growth falls below 1.0% (RHS), expect a rate cut.

S&P 500

This excerpt from a newsletter I wrote in April 2018 (Playing hardball with China) is illuminating: “In 2010, Paul Krugman wrote:

Some still argue that we must reason gently with China, not confront it. But we’ve been reasoning with China for years, as its surplus ballooned, and gotten nowhere: on Sunday Wen Jiabao, the Chinese prime minister, declared — absurdly — that his nation’s currency is not undervalued. (The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that the renminbi is undervalued by between 20 and 40 percent.) And Mr. Wen accused other nations of doing what China actually does, seeking to weaken their currencies “just for the purposes of increasing their own exports.”

But if sweet reason won’t work, what’s the alternative? In 1971 the United States dealt with a similar but much less severe problem of foreign undervaluation by imposing a temporary 10 percent surcharge on imports, which was removed a few months later after Germany, Japan and other nations raised the dollar value of their currencies. At this point, it’s hard to see China changing its policies unless faced with the threat of similar action — except that this time the surcharge would have to be much larger, say 25 percent.

I don’t propose this turn to policy hardball lightly. But Chinese currency policy is adding materially to the world’s economic problems at a time when those problems are already very severe. It’s time to take a stand.

Krugman (no surprise) now seems more opposed to trade tariffs but observes:

….I think it’s worth noting that even if we are headed for a full-scale trade war, conventional estimates of the costs of such a war don’t come anywhere near to 10 percent of GDP, or even 6 percent. In fact, it’s one of the dirty little secrets of international economics that standard estimates of the cost of protectionism, while not trivial, aren’t usually earthshaking either.”

Trump has to show that he is prepared to endure the hardships of a trade war and not kowtow to Beijing. But the chances of a reasonable response are unlikely.

Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them.

~ Thucydides (circa 400 BC)

Xero deep in overvalued territory (XRO)

From Morningstar today:

“Cloud-based accounting software firm Xero has booked a strong result but the WAAAX club member remains deep in overvalued territory, says Morningstar.

Xero this week reported a solid first half 2019 result, which included a 36 per cent boost in revenue and a 31 per cent jump in subscriber numbers.

But still, 2019 marks the 11th consecutive year of losses for Xero, which is a member of the so-called Australian tech stock club, known as the WAAAX, which include WiseTech, Afterpay, Altium, and Appen…..”

This supports our view, from January 2019:

“We consider Xero Limited (XRO) to be over-priced and recommend waiting until market price aligns with fair value.”

Xero is currently priced at $60.14, whereas our estimate of fair value, from January 2019, is $31.75, based on a 10-year payback period.

The eye of the storm

“On Wednesday, the US Department of Commerce added Huawei – and 70 other companies – to its “Entity List.” …. Huawei cannot buy parts or components from US companies without the explicit approval of the US government.” (Trivium China)

We are sliding towards a fully-fledged trade war. Following straight after the imposition of tariffs by both the US and China, US action against Huawei will be taken as a direct attack on Chinese industry.

The CCP is already stoking nationalist sentiment to bolster public support.

“Last night and today, CCTV replaced regularly scheduled programming with two films about the Chinese army fighting the US in the Korean War.” (Trivium China)

Market response is so far muted. On the daily chart, the S&P 500 correction is modest. Expect another test of 2800. Breach would offer a target of 2600.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 retreated below its new support level at 7700 but Money Flow remains strong.

Nasdaq 100

China’s Shanghai Composite found support at 2900.

Shanghai Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is ranging between 20000 and 24000. Expect another test of primary support at 20000.

Nikkei 225

India’s Nifty is testing support at 11000. Respect would confirm the primary up-trend.

Nifty Index

In Europe, The DJ Euro Stoxx 600 is undergoing a correction that is likely to test support at 365. But Trend Index above zero continues to signal buying support.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie found support at 7200, with Trend Index again signaling buying support.

FTSE 100

10-Year Treasury yields are testing support at 2.40%. One of the few clear signs that markets are growing increasingly risk averse, as demand for bonds drives down yields.

10-Year Treasury Yields

Is the S&P 500 way over-priced?

Robert Shiller’s CAPE (Price/10-year simple MA of inflation-adjusted earnings) is at 30.31, the second-highest peak (behind the Dotcom bubble) in 120 years.

S&P 500 CAPE

PEmax (Price/highest prior 12-month earnings) is far lower at 21.04. I prefer this as a more accurate measure of stock pricing than CAPE. But PEmax is still high relative to the peaks of Black Friday in October 1929 and Black Monday in October 1987.

S&P 500 PE of Maximum Prior Earnings

Forecast earnings for the remainder of 2019 may be slightly optimistic, given recent escalation of the US-China trade war, but the forward price-earnings multiple is lower, at 18.62. The sharp difference between forward and historic PE ratios (as in PEmax) is largely attributable to the earnings hiccup in Q4 of 2018 which is excluded from the forward ratio.

S&P 500 Forward Price-Earnings Ratio

Forecast earnings growth, on the chart below, shows a similar anomaly in Q4 of the current year, caused by comparison to the earnings dip in Q4 of 2018. Forecasts assume that earnings will grow between 7.1% and 7.8% for the rest of 2019, rising to above 11% in 2020.

S&P 500 Earnings Growth

Their projections seem optimistic.

Year-on-year sales growth is a modest 5.8% for Q1 of 2019 and is likely to continue between 4.0% and 6.0% for the foreseeable future. The spike in sales growth in 2017 – 2018 is a result of recovery from negative growth in 2015 and is unlikely to be repeated.

S&P 500 Quarterly Sales

Operating margins are just as important. Margins recovered to 11.25% for Q1 2019 (89.9% of stocks reported), after a sharp fall in Q4 2018, but it is questionable whether these are sustainable.

S&P 500 Quarterly Operating Margins

Conclusion

Earnings forecasts seem optimistic. With lower sales growth and downside risk in operating margins, long-term earnings growth of between 4.0% and 6.0% is likely. The 30-year average is 6.17% p.a. but low inflation (and a possible trade war) is likely to see us undershoot this.

Forward Price-Earnings ratio of 18.6 is on the high side for expected low earnings growth. A forward PE of 16.0 or less, however, should be viewed as a buy opportunity.

Gold retreats as the Dollar strengthens

China’s Yuan fell sharply against the Dollar on imposition of tariffs by the US. Expect a test of primary support.

Chinese Yuan/US Dollar

The Dollar index strengthened. Follow-through above 98 would signal a fresh advance. The long-term target is 100.

Dollar Index

10-Year Treasury yields are testing support at 2.40%. Breach would offer a target of 2.20%. Rate hikes are a distant memory.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Gold continues to test medium-term support at $1280/ounce. The tall shadow on this week’s candle warns of selling pressure; as does the Trend Index peak at zero. Breach of support would signal a test of primary support.

Spot Gold in USD

Silver continues to fall, heading for a test of primary support at $14. Declining Trend Index peaks indicate selling pressure.

Spot Silver in USD

Gold is likely to follow.

ASX 200 recovers as Aussie Dollar plunges

The Aussie Dollar broke long-term support at 70 US cents (as shown on the quarterly chart below), closing below 69 cents. Target for the decline is 60 cents.

AUD/USD

The ASX 200, reflecting the counter-balance between its two largest sectors, recovered to test resistance at 6350. The Trend Index trough above zero signals buying pressure.

ASX 200

Financials (32% of the ASX 200) penetrated its rising trendline to warn of a correction. Follow-through below 5800 would indicate a test of primary support at 5300.

ASX 200 Financials

Materials (18% of the index), on the other hand, rallied strongly after respecting support at 12500. Follow-through above 13500 would signal another advance.

ASX 200 Materials

I would be cautious of any breakout on the ASX 200 and would wait for retracement (respecting the new support level) to confirm the advance.

S&P 500: No deal

It looks like there will be no trade deal any time soon.

“Trade talks between China and the United States ended on Friday without a deal as President Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports and signaled he was prepared for a prolonged economic fight….. Trump is now moving ahead with plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports. Those new tariffs could go into effect in a matter of weeks.” (New York Times)

Signature of a document was always going to be more theater than substance. Earlier in Bloomberg:

“U.S. President Donald Trump has good reason to be skeptical about China’s willingness to live up to its commitments in any trade deal. Seasoned foreign business executives on the mainland know that any agreement there represents the start of a bargaining process, not the end….”

Response of stock markets, to signs that negotiations had reached an impasse, were muted. The pull-back on the S&P 500 is modest.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 retreated below its new support level at 7700 but the Trend Index remains strong.

Nasdaq 100

China’s Shanghai Composite is undergoing a correction but this week’s long tail suggests selling pressure is moderate.

Shanghai Composite Index

The yuan fell sharply, acting as a shock-absorber.

Chinese Yuan/US Dollar

Stocks like Boeing and Apple may be re-rated but the broad view of the market seems largely unchanged.

Silver leads Gold lower but safe haven demand rising

Silver has broken support at $15/ounce, warning of a test of primary support at $14. Declining Trend Index peaks indicate selling pressure.

Spot Silver in USD

Gold continues to test medium-term support at $1280/ounce. Precious metals tend to move together and Gold is expected to follow Silver in a test of primary support ($1180 for Gold).

Spot Gold in USD

The Dollar index, however, retreated below its new support level at 97.50. Penetration of the rising trendline would warn of a correction.

Dollar Index

China’s Yuan fell sharply against the Dollar as trade talks encountered major turbulence. The outlook for a trade deal now looks poor.

Chinese Yuan/US Dollar

10-Year Treasury yields are also falling as the prospect of further Fed rate hikes dims. Trend Index peaks below zero warn of strong demand for Treasuries (downward pressure on yields).

10-Year Treasury Yield

Failure to ink a trade deal is likely to boost demand for safe haven assets like the Dollar, Yen, Gold and US Treasuries. Capital flight from China may accelerate.