It’s a bull market

The US economy continues to show signs of a robust expansion. Net capital formation is rising (as a percentage of GDP) as it is wont to do during a boom. In layman’s terms net capital formation is the net growth in physical assets used in the production of goods and services, after allowing for depreciation.

Net Capital Formation

The Wicksell spread has turned positive. When return on investment (we use nominal GDP growth as a surrogate) exceeds the cost of capital (reflected by low investment grade Baa bond yields) that encourages new investment and economic expansion as in the 1960 – 1980 period on the chart below.

Wicksell Spread

Real bond yields, reflected below by Baa yields minus core CPI (blue line) on the chart below, are also near record lows. Low real returns on bonds support high stock earnings multiples.

Real Bond Yields

Fed Chairman Powell summed up the situation in a speech on Tuesday this week:

…Many of us have been looking back recently on the decade that has passed since the depths of the financial crisis. In light of that experience, I am glad to be able to stand here and say that the economy is strong, unemployment is near 50-year lows, and inflation is roughly at our 2 percent objective. The baseline outlook of forecasters inside and outside the Fed is for more of the same.

This historically rare pairing of steady, low inflation and very low unemployment is testament to the fact that we remain in extraordinary times. Our ongoing policy of gradual interest rate normalization reflects our efforts to balance the inevitable risks that come with extraordinary times, so as to extend the current expansion, while maintaining maximum employment and low and stable inflation.

The biggest risk is that investors get carried away and drive earnings multiples sky high, but gradual rate increases from the Fed and the threat of tariff wars appear to be keeping animal spirits in check.

S&P 500 cracks trendline

The S&P 500 penetrated its secondary trendline, indicating a correction to test support at the LT trendline at 2800. Shorter-term 21-day Twiggs Money Flow crossed below zero to warn of a secondary correction. Follow-through below the January high at 2870 would confirm.

S&P 500

Nasdaq 100 breach of 7400 would also confirm, signaling a correction to test support at 7000.

Nasdaq 100

Treasury yields confirm bond bear market

10-Year Treasury yields respected their new support level at 3.00%, confirming a primary advance.

10-year Treasury Yield

Breakout above 3.00% also completes a double-bottom reversal, signaling the end of a three-decade-long secular bull market in bonds.

LT 10-year Treasury Yield

The yield differential between 10-year and 3-month Treasuries is declining but a flat yield curve does not warn of a recession. Only if the yield differential crosses below zero, with short-term yields rising faster than long-term, will there be a recession warning.

Real returns on long-term bonds — the gap between the green and blue lines below — remain near record lows.

1981 to 2018: 10-Year Treasury Yields and GDP Implicit Price Deflator

Only if the gap widens (real returns rise significantly) are we likely to see downward pressure on stock valuations, with falling price-earnings multiples.

East to West: Trade tariffs spark rally

Commodities rallied and Asian stocks found support after a three-month sell-off.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

From Reuters (September 19):

Copper jumped to its highest in three weeks on Wednesday, boosted by a weaker dollar after a new round of U.S.-China trade tariffs were not as high as previously expected.

China will levy tariffs on about $60 billion worth of U.S. goods in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. Washington’s new duties, however, were set at 10 percent for now, rising to 25 percent by the end of the year, rather than starting immediately at 25 percent…….

“In some ways the bad news had been priced into the markets and, if anything, the news on trade had been slightly less severe than we had thought it would be,” said Capital Economic analyst Caroline Bain.

“It’s still too early to talk about this as sustainable … it just seems to be a bit of a relief rally after all of the bad news.”

The Shanghai Composite Index rallied off primary support at 2650, a slight bullish divergence on the Trend Index signaling short-term buying pressure. Penetration of the descending trendline would suggest that a bottom is forming.

Shanghai Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is testing its January high at 24,000.

Nikkei 225 Index

India’s Nifty is testing support at 11,000. Long tails indicate buying pressure. Respect of support would signal another advance.

Nifty Index

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 rallied off primary support at 3300 but is yet to break the down-trend.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

The Footsie also rallied, finding support at 7250, but a declining Trend Index warns of continued selling pressure.

FTSE 100 Index

North America

The S&P 500 rallied off the new support level at 2875 and is likely to test its long-term target of 3000.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100, however, continues to test support at 7700. Breach would warn of a correction to test 7000.

Nasdaq 100

Canada’s TSX 60 found support at 950 but declining peaks on the Trend Index continue to warn of selling pressure.

TSX 60 Index

Markets are dominated by one concern, a US-China trade war, and volatility is likely to remain high until a resolution is found.

Aussie gold stocks rally

Gold continues to find resistance at $1210/ounce. Trend Index peaks below zero warn of selling pressure. Respect of resistance would indicate another decline and a long-term target of the 2015 low at $1050/ounce.

Spot Gold in USD

Currencies

The PBOC is supporting the Yuan at 14.5 US cents.

CNY/USD

Support for the Yuan is driving down the Dollar. Dollar Index breach of support at 95 warns of a correction to test 91. Bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of selling pressure. A falling Dollar is likely to boost demand for gold.

Dollar Index

The Australian Dollar benefited from the weaker greenback, rallying to test resistance at 73/73.5 US cents. Trend Index peaks below zero continue to warn of long-term selling pressure. Respect of resistance is likely and would signal a test of the 2015/2016 low at 70 US cents.

Australian Dollar/USD

Gold Stocks

Australian gold stocks rallied despite the strengthening Aussie Dollar. The All Ordinaries Gold Index (XGD) is likely to encounter stiff resistance between 4900 and 5100.  A Trend Index peak below zero would warn of further selling pressure and continuation of the down-trend.

All Ordinaries Gold Index

ASX 200: Banks lack support but miners receive a boost

The ASX 200 correction continues to test medium-term support at 6150. Small candles on the weekly chart indicate a lack of enthusiasm from buyers and support is unlikely to hold. Breach would signal a test of the rising long-term trendline at 6000.

ASX 200

The ASX 300 Banks index continues to test support at 7700. Declining Trend Index warns of selling pressure. Breach of support is likely and would signal a test of primary support at 7300.

ASX 300 Banks Index

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining, however, received a boost from stronger commodity prices and is testing resistance at 3750. A Trend Index peak near zero is less likely but would warn of selling pressure and a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

I remain cautious on Australian stocks, holding over 30% cash in the Australian Growth portfolio.

How will a bond bear market affect stocks?

10-Year Treasury yields broke out of their triangular consolidation at 3.00%, while the Trend Index recovered above zero signaling a fresh advance.

10-year Treasury Yield

Importance of resistance at 3.00% is best illustrated on a long-term monthly chart. Yields declined for more than three decades (since 1981) in a bond bull market but the rise above 3.00% completes a double-bottom reversal, warning of rising yields and a bond bear market. Target for the advance is 4.50%.

10-year Treasury Yield

The yield differential between 10-year and 3-month Treasuries has declined since 2010, prompting discussion as to whether a flat yield curve will cause a recession.  Interesting that the yield differential recovered almost 20 basis points in September, with long-term yields rising faster than short-term. Penetration of the descending trendline would suggest that an imminent negative yield curve is unlikely.

10-year Treasury Yield

How would a bond bear market affect stocks?

Capital losses from rising yields on long-maturity bonds would increase demand for shorter maturities, driving down short-term yields and causing a steeper yield curve. A bullish sign for stocks.

Inflation is low and the rise in long-term yields is likely to be gradual. Another bullish sign.

The last bond bear market lasted from the early 1950s to a peak in September 1981. Higher interest rates were driven by rising inflation ( indicated below by percentage change in the GDP implicit price deflator). The 1975 spike in inflation was caused by the OPEC oil embargo in retaliation for US support of Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

1950 to 1981: 10-Year Treasury Yields and GDP Implicit Price Deflator

Stock prices continued to climb during the bond bear market, apart from a 1973 – 1974 setback, but the Price-Earnings ratio fell sharply in ’73-’74 and only recovered 10 years later, in the mid-1980s.

1950 to 1981: S&P 500 and PE Ratio

Alarmists may jump to the conclusion that a bond bear market would lead to a similar massive fall in earnings multiples but there were other factors in play in 1975 to 1985.

First, crude prices spiked after the OPEC oil embargo and only retreated in the mid-1980s.

1960 to 1985: West Texas Intermediate Crude prices

The rise of Japan also threatened US dominance in global markets.

1960 to 1985: Nikkei 225 Index

We should rather examine the period prior to 1973 as indicative of a typical bond bear market. The S&P 500 Price-Earnings ratio was largely unaffected by rising yields. Real interest rates actually decreased during the period, with the gap between 10-year yields and the inflation rate only widening near the 1981 peak.

At present, real interest rates are near record lows.

1981 to 2018: 10-Year Treasury Yields and GDP Implicit Price Deflator

We can expect real interest rates to rise over time but that is unlikely to have a significant impact on earnings multiples — unless there is a strong surge in long-term yields ahead of inflation.

 

East to West: Asian stocks find support

Asian stocks are finding support after a sell-off over the last three months.

The Shanghai Composite Index is showing a slight bullish divergence on the Trend Index. This is secondary in size and suggests a bear market rally.

Shanghai Composite Index

South Korea’s Seoul Composite Index displays a stronger bullish divergence. Breakout above 2350 and the descending trendline is still unlikely but would indicate that a bottom is forming.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 broke through resistance at 23,000, signaling an advance to the January high at 24,000.

Nikkei 225 Index

India shows strong buying pressure, with long tails on the Nifty suggesting another strong advance.

Nifty Index

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 is trending lower. Support at 374 is secondary but the Trend Index near zero indicates hesitancy.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

The Footsie found medium-term support at 7250 but a declining Trend Index warns of another test of primary support at 6900/7000.

FTSE 100 Index

North America

The S&P 500 retracement respected support at 2875, suggesting an advance to the long-term target of 3000.

S&P 500

Canada’s TSX 60 on the other hand is undergoing a correction, perhaps exacerbated by concerns over NAFTA. Expect support at 935/940.

TSX 60 Index

Nothing much has changed. While Japan and India are bullish, China and South Korea remain in a bear market. Europe looks hesitant, while the S&amp:P 500 continues in a strong bull market.

The generally accepted view is that markets are always right — that is, market prices tend to discount future developments accurately even when it is unclear what those developments are. I start with the opposite view. I believe the market prices are always wrong in the sense that they present a biased view of the future.

~ George Soros

ASX 200: Correction to test 6000

The ASX 300 Banks index continues to test support at 7700. Declining Trend Index warns of medium-term selling pressure. Breach of support is likely and would signal a test of primary support at 7300.

ASX 300 Banks Index

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is also headed for a test of primary support, at 3400. A Trend Index peak at/below zero would warn of rising selling pressure and a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

Commodities are already in a primary down-trend but Australian stocks are partially cushioned by a weakening Aussie Dollar.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

The ASX 200 found medium-term support at 6150 but this unlikely to hold. Bearish Divergence on the Trend Index warns of medium-term selling pressure. Expect a correction to test the rising long-term trendline at 6000.

ASX 200

I remain cautious on Australian stocks, holding over 30% cash in the Australian Growth portfolio.

Silver warns of further Gold weakness

Precious metals tend to trend or consolidate together, driven by similar investor motives. Spot silver is testing primary support at $14 per ounce, while a Trend Index peak at zero warns of selling pressure. Breach of support would signal a primary down-trend.

Spot Gold in USD

Gold is still testing support at $1200/ounce but Trend Index peaks below zero warn of selling pressure. Respect of the descending trendline indicates another decline with a long-term target of the 2015 low at $1050/ounce, similar to silver.

Spot Gold in USD

Currencies

The Yuan continues to test support at 14.5 US cents.

CNY/USD

The Dollar Index continues to test support at 95, despite the weak Yuan. Bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of selling pressure but long tails indicate support. Breach of support at 95 is uncertain but would signal a correction to test 91 — boosting demand for gold.

Dollar Index

The Australian Dollar continues a strong down-trend, with Trend Index peaks below zero warning of selling pressure. Expect a test of the 2015/2016 low at 70 US cents.

Australian Dollar/USD

Gold Stocks

The falling Aussie Dollar has partially cushioned local gold stocks from weaker gold prices but gold is more volatile than the Dollar. The All Ordinaries Gold Index (XGD) is expected to break support at 4550, offering a long-term target of 4000/4100.

All Ordinaries Gold Index