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

Theresa May: How to herd cats

Theresa May

Theresa May has a task of Herculean proportions: to negotiate a Brexit deal that will gain approval from a divided British parliament and an obstinate EU. Securing a deal would make herding cats look easy.

But Mohamed El Erian argues in Bloomberg that the British prime minister is close to a deal with which everyone is “equally unhappy”. And it is “possible that May has managed to corner both her internal position and the EU, opening a wider window for the government to secure support for her deal in the coming weeks. To understand this, consider how the bargaining positions are changing not just because of the pending March 28 deadline but also, and more importantly, because of the European elections scheduled for May 23-26.

More than the March 28 deadline, the European elections could well constitute a binding practical constraint on both the UK and EU, thereby significantly raising the probability of forcing the clarity and sufficient unity and cooperation needed for a workable proposal…..

With many European officials likely to oppose UK participation in the elections, the prospects of a disorderly hard Brexit essentially imposing itself will prove very threatening to British politicians on both sides of the argument. In other words, a May-proposed deal that includes some further EU concessions will certainly still not be optimal for them but will be better than being widely blamed for the alternative. And Brussels would go ahead, also fearing the alternative.

Here’s how this likely, though not yet overwhelmingly probable scenario would proceed: The May government would get agreement from parliament on a short-term extension to the March 28 deadline. This would be accepted by Brussels and allow for negotiations on some further concessions. Parliament would consider the revised deal and, after lots of noise and jockeying, agree to it before the European elections in which the UK would not participate.”

With an extension beyond April out of the question, parliament faces a clear choice: accept Theresa May’s deal or face a no-deal, hard Brexit. Securing approval of a negotiated deal would be a massive win for May, Britain and the EU.

Hat tip to Greg McKenna.

Robust US employment but global bear market warning

The US economy remains robust, with hours worked (non-farm) ticking up 2.2% in January, despite the government shutdown. Real GDP growth is expected to follow a similar path.

Real GDP and Hours Worked

Average hourly earnings growth increased to 3.4% p.a. for production and non-supervisory employees (3.2% for all employees). The Fed has limited wiggle room to hold back on further rate hikes if underlying inflationary pressures continue to rise.

Average Wage Rate Growth

History shows that the Fed lifts short-term interest rates more in response to hourly wage rates than core CPI.

Average Wage Rate Growth, Core CPI and 3-Month T-Bills

The Leading Index from the Philadelphia Fed ticked down below 1% (0.98%) for November 2018. While not yet cause for concern, it does warn that the economy is slowing. Further falls, to below 0.5%, would warn of a recession.

Leading Index

Markets are anticipating a slow-down, triggered by falling demand in China more than in the US.

S&P 500 volatility remains high and a large (Twiggs Volatility 21-day) trough above 1.0% (not zero as stated in last week’s newsletter) on the current  rally would signal a bear market. Retreat below 2600 would strengthen the signal.

S&P 500

Crude prices have plummeted, anticipatiing falling global (mainly Chinese) demand. Another test of primary support at $42/barrel is likely.

Light Crude

Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index breached primary support at 79, signaling a primary decline with a target of 70.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is in a bear market. Respect of resistance at 2700 would confirm.

Shanghai Composite Index

Bearish divergence on India’s Nifty also warns of selling pressure. Retreat below 10,000 would complete a classic head-and-shoulders top but don’t anticipate the signal.

Nifty Index

DJ Stoxx Euro 600 rallied but is likely to respect resistance at 365/370, confirming a bear market.

DJ Stoxx Euro 600 Index

The UK’s Footsie also rallied but is likely to respect resistance at 7000. Declining Trend Index peaks indicate selling pressure, warning of a bear market.

FTSE 100 Index

My conclusion is the same as last week. This is a bear market. Recovery hinges on an unlikely resolution of the US-China ‘trade dispute’.

Concessions to adversaries only end in self reproach, and the more strictly they are avoided the greater will be the chance of security.

~ Thucydides (460 – 400 B.C.)

Deal or no deal

Brexit

No one knows what the outcome of Brexit will be but, whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to send global markets into a tail-spin. There is bound to be short-term pain on both sides but the long-term costs and benefits are unclear.

China

Far more likely to send investors scuttling for shelter is a ‘no deal’ outcome on US trade negotiations with China. I would be happy to be proved wrong but I believe that a deal is highly unlikely. There may be press photos with beaming officials shaking hands and tweets from the White House promising a rosy future for all (with or without a wall). But what we are witnessing is not straight-forward negotiations between trading partners, which normally take years to resolve, but a hegemonic power struggle between two super-powers, straight out of Thucydides.

Thucydides wrote “When one great power threatens to displace another, war is almost always the result.” In his day it was Athens and Sparta but in the modern era, war between great powers, with mutually assured destruction (MAD), is most unlikely. Absent the willingness to use military force, the country with the greatest economic power is in the strongest position.

One of the key battlefronts is technology.

“China is now almost wholly dependent on foreign chipsets. And that makes leaders nervous, especially given a series of actions by foreign governments to limit the ability of Huawei and ZTE to operate internationally and acquire Western technology.” ~ Trivium China

“To address this risk, President Xi Jinping aims to increase China’s semiconductor self-sufficiency to 40% in 2020 and 70% in 2025 as part of his ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative to modernize domestic industry.” ~ Nikkei

Xi is unlikely to abandon his ‘Made in China 2025’ plans and the US is unlikely to settle for anything less.

USA

The US economy remains robust despite the extended government shutdown and concerns about Fed tightening.

“Federal Reserve officials are close to deciding they will maintain a larger portfolio of Treasury securities than they had expected when they began shrinking those holdings two years ago, putting an end to the central bank’s portfolio wind-down closer into sight.” ~ The Wall Street Journal

This is just spin. As I explained last week. Fed run-down of assets is more than compensated by repayment of liabilities (excess reserves on deposit) on the other side of the balance sheet. Liquidity is unaffected.

Charts remain bearish as the market views global risks.

Volatility is high and a large (Twiggs Volatility 21-day) trough above zero on the current S&P 500 rally would signal a bear market. Retreat below 2600 would strengthen the signal.

S&P 500

Asia

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is in a bear market but shows a bullish divergence on the Trend Index. Breakout above 27,000 would signal a primary up-trend. This seems premature but needs to be monitored.

Hang Seng Index

India’s Nifty has run into stubborn resistance at 11,000. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of selling pressure. Retreat below 10,000 would complete a classic head-and-shoulders top but don’t anticipate the signal.

Nifty Index

Europe

DJ Stoxx Euro 600 is in a primary down-trend. Reversal below 350 would warn of another decline.

DJ Stoxx Euro 600 Index

The UK’s Footsie has retreated below primary support at 6900. Declining Trend Index peaks warn of selling pressure. This is a bear market.

FTSE 100 Index

This is a bear market. Recovery hinges on an unlikely resolution of the US-China ‘trade dispute’.

War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.

~ Thucydides (460 – 400 B.C.)

Bullish in a bull market, bearish in a bear market

We are witnessing the transition from a bull to a bear market.

I subscribe to Jesse Livermore’s maxim (emphasis added):

“I began to see more clearly—perhaps I should say more maturely—that since the entire list moves in accordance with the main current…. Obviously the thing to do was to be bullish in a bull market and bearish in a bear market. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But I had to grasp that general principle firmly before I saw that to put it into practice really meant to anticipate probabilities. It took me a long time to learn to trade on those lines.”

The second part of that quote is equally important. You determine whether a market is bullish or bearish by “anticipating probabilities”. Don’t take signals from the charts in isolation. You have to study general conditions.

Livermore gives a classic example in Reminiscences of a Stock Operator of how he anticipated a bear market in 1906 after the Boer War in South Africa had drained Britain’s coffers and the San Francisco earthquake led to massive insurance payouts, forcing insurers to liquidate large swathes of their investment portfolios. But he was wiped out as the market repeatedly rallied. He persisted and eventually was proved right when large rail stocks announced new stock issues. The fact that the issues were structured as instalment issues, with only a down-payment needed to acquire the stock, alerted Livermore that there was not enough liquidity in the market to absorb the stock issues. His broker extended him a line of credit and…

“I profited by my earlier and costly mistakes and sold more intelligently. My reputation and my credit were reestablished in a jiffy. That is the beauty of being right in a broker’s office, whether by accident or not. But this time I was cold-bloodedly right, not because of a hunch or from skillful reading of the tape, but as the result of my analysis of conditions affecting the stock market in general. I wasn’t guessing. I was anticipating the inevitable. It did not call for any courage to sell stocks. I simply could not see anything but lower prices, and I had to act on it….”

General conditions in the US are still strong.

Credit and the broad money supply (MZM plus time deposits) are growing at close to 5%.

S&P 500

Credit risk premiums are rising but are nowhere near alarming. A spread of more than 3.0% between lowest grade investments (Baa) and 10-year Treasuries would flag a warning.

S&P 500

The big shrink, as the Fed unwinds its balance sheet, is still a myth. Banks are drawing down excess reserves at a faster rate, so that liquidity is rising. The rising green line on the chart below shows Fed assets net of excess reserves.

S&P 500

But charts are bearish.

Market volatility is high and a large bearish divergence on S&P 500 Momentum warns of a bear market.

S&P 500

We need to look at global conditions to identify the cause for market concern: Brexit, slowing European growth, but primarily, a potential trade war with China.

It’s time to be cautiously bearish.

There is no training, classroom or otherwise, that can prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it’s the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market.

~ Paul Tudor Jones

Risk averse rather than fearful

The S&P 500 is again testing the band of primary support between 2600 and 2550. Follow-through below this level would warn of a bear market. Volatility (21-day) is in the amber zone between 1% and 2%. A real test of market resilience will be the next sizable rally or advance. If declining volatility remains above 1%, that would warn of an imminent market sell-off.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 is in a similar position, with declining Money Flow warning of medium-term selling pressure.

Nasdaq 100

Of the big five tech stocks, only Microsoft looks strong. Facebook is in a primary down-trend but Apple and Google are testing primary support. Apple’s exposure to China is obviously a concern. China accounts for roughly 25% of Apple’s global market but Apple estimates that it is responsible for 4.8 million jobs in China which gives them some negotiating clout.

Big Five tech stocks

If two more of the big five broke primary support, that would in my opinion signal a bear market.

Asia

The Shanghai Composite Index is consolidating in a narrow band below 2700. Downward breakout is likely and would signal another decline, with a target of 2300.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is testing resistance at 11,000. Respect would be bearish, warning of another test of primary support at 10,000. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of long-term selling pressure.

NSX Nifty

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx is in a primary down-trend. Follow-through below 350 confirms a bear market, warn of a decline to test 305/310.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie also broke primary support at 6900. Retracement is testing the new resistance level but respect of 7000 is likely and would confirm a bear market, with a target between 5600 and 6000.

FTSE 100

There is a high level of uncertainty in global markets at present. Europe has Brexit and Italy. The US has investigations into Donald Trump’s election campaign. China has the threat of a trade war with the US. But my sense is that the market has become risk averse rather than fearful. There is no sign of panic selling as yet. But investors are clearly on the defensive and prepared to sell off vulnerable stocks.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Europe cracks but US steady

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 followed through below 350, confirming a bear market in Europe. A Trend Index peak below zero warns of strong selling pressure. Expect a decline to test 305/310.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie broke support at 6900, signaling a primary down-trend, while a Trend Index peak at zero warns of selling pressure. Expect a decline, with a target of 6000.

FTSE 100

US markets are high on volatility but low on direction.

The S&P 500 continues to range between 2600 and 2800. Breach of 2600 would warn of a primary decline but rising volatility does not flag immediate danger. A large trough above 1% extending over at least six to eight weeks, however, would warn of elevated risk.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 shows a W-shaped bottom above primary support at 6500. Declining Money Flow is still above the zero line suggesting that the sell-off is secondary in nature.

Nasdaq 100

Last week I mentioned that bellwether transport stock Fedex had breached primary support but quarterly Fedex Express package shipments were rising in August 2018. Statistics for Q2, to November 30, are due for release on December 18 and I expect will reflect a robust economy.

Fedex

East to West

The S&P 500 put in a strong blue candle this week but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Follow-through above 2800 would signal a test of 2950. Small bullish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow looks promising but is secondary in nature and may not alter the larger trend.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 shows a similar W-shaped bottom but weaker divergence.

Nasdaq 100

Bellwether transport stock Fedex recovered above the former primary support level at 225 but still looks weak. Reversal below 220 would warn of another decline.

Fedex

Asia

The Shanghai Composite Index rally ran out of steam. Respect of 2700 warns of another decline, with a target of 2300.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is headed for a test of 11,000. Respect would be bearish, warning of another test of primary support at 10,000. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of long-term selling pressure.

NSX Nifty

Australia

The ASX 200 is testing primary support at 5650 following a down-turn on the mining index. Bullish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow has now rolled over, with penetration of the rising trendline. Breach of primary support would warn of a decline, with a target of 5000.

ASX 200

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx warns of a bear market. Breach of primary support at 365, and respect of the new resistance level on the subsequent retracement, warn of a decline to test 305/310.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is testing support at 6900, while bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of selling pressure. Breach would signal a decline, with a target between 5600 and 6000.

FTSE 100

Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.

~ Robert Schuller

No explanation required

In the past week, I have seen a number of market commentators attempting to explain the current correction. Reasons given vary from rising interest rates, Fed shrinking its balance sheet, the impact of trade tariffs on manufacturing input costs and inflation, mid-term elections and peak growth in earnings.

Truth is, there is no single reason that could justify the dramatic market falls. Some of the reasons cited are insufficient while others are invalid. But no explanation is necessary. Market sentiment has simply shifted. The scale has tipped and more investors are taking profits than new money coming into the market. When that happens, prices fall. And falling prices become a self-fulfilling prophecy, scaring off new investors and panicking investors with a short-term outlook.

How long this will go on for, I cannot tell. But I am sure there are growing numbers of long-term investors picking through the debris looking for opportunities. And the greater the fall, the greater the opportunity.

Earlier in the week I cited Netflix (NFLX) as one such example. Price has fallen almost 20% in October 2018, while recently released earnings announced a 34% year-on-year increase in revenue for the third quarter and a 130% increase in operating income.

Netflix

Patience is required but opportunities abound.

East to West

A quick recap of markets.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is in a primary down-trend, having broken primary support at 2650, but rising troughs on the Trend Index warn of strong support. I suspect this is government-orchestrated as investors have little reason for optimism.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is testing primary support at 10,000.

Nifty

Europe is in a primary down-trend, with the DJ Euro Stoxx 600 respecting its former primary support level at 365/366.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is testing primary support at 6900/7000.

FTSE 100

Dow Jones Industrial Average is undergoing a strong correction. Bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of a reversal but only breach of primary support at 23,500, completing a double-top, would confirm.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Dow Jones Transportation Average is already testing primary support at 10,000. Reversal signals on both averages would confirm a bear market according to Dow Theory.

Dow Jones Transportation Average

But technology stocks play a far larger role than in Charles Dow’s day, more than a hundred years ago. The Nasdaq 100 is still a long way above primary support at 6,300. Bearish divergence on Money Flow warns of selling pressure, but only breach of primary support would confirm a bear market.

Nasdaq 100

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933 inaugural address

East to West: Europe faces a stern test

The Shanghai Composite Index broke primary support at 2650 but rising troughs on the Trend Index indicate buying pressure. Expect retracement to test the new resistance level at 2700.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is testing primary support at 10,000. Descending peaks on the Trend Index warn of selling pressure. Breach of support at 10,000 would indicate weakness but we need a lower peak to confirm a down-trend.

Nifty Index

European stocks are under the pump, with threats from the Asian contagion, Brexit, Italy and recent US volatility. Breach of support at 365 warns of a primary down-trend.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

The DAX also breached primary support (11,800). Retracement respected the new resistance level and descending Trend Index peaks warn of growing selling pressure.

DAX Index

France’s CAC-40 index is testing primary support at 5000.

CAC-40 Index

The Footsie is testing primary support at 7000, with descending Trend Index peaks again warning of selling pressure. Breach would signal a primary down-trend.

FTSE Index

A down-turn in Europe would add to uncertainty in US markets.