S&P 500: Stocks lift but jobs and profits a red flag

The S&P 500 has advanced steadily since breaking resistance at 3000.

S&P 500

Lifted by Fed liquidity injections in the repo market.

S&P 500 and Fed Assets

Optimism over improved global trade has spread, with the DJ Euro Stoxx 600 breaking resistance at 400.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

South Korea’s KOSPI completed a double-bottom reversal to signal an up-trend.

KOSPI

And India’s Nifty Index broke resistance at 12,000.

Nifty

Commodity prices remain low but rising Trend Index troughs on the DJ-UBS Commodity Index suggest that a bottom is forming.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

Crude spiked up with rising US-Iran tensions but is expected to re-test support at 50 as supply threats fade.

Nymex Light Crude

Fedex recovered above primary support at 150, but the outlook for economic activity remains bearish.

Fedex

Falling US wages growth warns of slowing job creation.

Average Hourly Wages

Declining employment growth highlights similar weakness.

Employment Growth

Initial jobless claims, while not alarming, are now starting to rise.

Initial Claims

Growth in weekly hours worked has slowed, with real GDP expected to follow.

Real GDP and Weekly Hours Worked

While GDP growth is slowing, corporate profits (before tax) are also declining as a percentage of GDP.

Corporate profits Before Tax/GDP

Market Capitalization of equities has spiked to a ratio of 20 times Corporate Profits (before tax), an extreme only previously seen in the Dotcom bubble.

Market Cap/Corporate Profits before Tax

The market can remain irrational for longer than you or I can stay solvent, but this is a clear warning to investors to stay on the defensive.

We maintain our view that stocks are over-valued and will remain under-weight equities (over-weight cash) until normal earnings multiples are restored.

S&P 500 and Europe: New deal or a false dawn?

Donald Trump and is making noises about an interim trade deal with the CCP, while Boris Johnson appears to be making progress on a Brexit deal with Ireland premier Leo Varadkar.

Trump’s announcement is little more than a sham, intended to goose financial markets, with nothing yet committed to writing:

“Trump said the deal would take three to five weeks to write and could possibly be wrapped up and signed by the middle of November….”

…what could possibly go wrong?

The economy continues to tick along steadily, with unemployment and initial jobless claims near record lows.

Unemployment & Initial Jobless Claims

But high levels of uncertainty are likely to create a drag on consumer spending and stock earnings.

At the outset of Donal Trump’s presidency, value investor Seth Klarman, who runs the $30 billion Baupost Group hedge fund, predicted the impact that Trump would have on financial markets:

“The erratic tendencies and overconfidence in his own wisdom and judgment that Donald Trump has demonstrated to date are inconsistent with strong leadership and sound decision-making…..

The big picture for investors is this: Trump is high volatility, and investors generally abhor volatility and shun uncertainty…. Not only is Trump shockingly unpredictable, he’s apparently deliberately so; he says it’s part of his plan.”

In his letter, Mr Klarman warned: “If things go wrong, we could find ourselves at the beginning of a lengthy decline in dollar hegemony, a rapid rise in interest rates and inflation, and global angst.”

While not entirely prescient — we have low interest rates and low inflation — Klarman was right about the decline in dollar hegemony and the rise in global angst.

Markets are clearly in risk-off mode.

US Equity ETFs recorded a net outflow of $824m this week, compared to a net inflow of $2,104m into US Fixed Income. Year-to-date flows present a similar picture, with a 3.3% inflow into US Equity compared to 13.9% into US Fixed Income (Source: ETF.com).

ETF Flows YTD

Long tails on the S&P 500 candles indicate buying support. Expect another test of our long-term target at 3000. Volatility remains above 1%, however, indicating elevated risk. Breach of 2800 is unlikely at present but would offer a target of 2400.

S&P 500

According to Factset, the S&P 500 is likely to report a third quarter this year with a year-on-year decline in earnings.

S&P 500 Earnings

The Nasdaq 100 paints a similar picture, with another test of 8000 likely.

Nasdaq 100

It is becoming impossible to justify current heady earnings multiples when reported earnings are declining.

Europe

If Johnson’s “free trade zone” for Northern Ireland can break the Brexit impasse, then there may be room for optimism over the future UK – EU relationship.

Europe seems to be stirring. Trailing a distant third, to North America and Asia in terms of investment performance, there are some early encouraging signs. A higher trough indicates buying pressure and breakout above 400 on DJ Stoxx Euro 600 would signal a primary advance.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie shows similar early signs of a potential recovery. A higher trough on the trend Index indicates buying pressure. Breakout above 7600 would signal a primary advance.

FTSE 100

Let us hope that this is not a false dawn and the UK and EU are able to resolve their differences.

For the present, our outlook for the global economy remains bearish and equity exposure for International Growth is a low 34% of portfolio value.

S&P 500 survives but risk is elevated

Our recession indicator, a 3-month TMO of seasonally adjusted non-farm payrolls, ticked up slightly to 0.52%. This reflects a slight improvement in monthly employment data but the indicator remains precariously close to the amber (high risk) warning level of 0.50%. The red warning level of 0.30% would signal extreme risk of recession.

Non-Farm Payrolls Recession Indicator

During the week we discussed the high cost of uncertainty and how this impacts on business investment and consumer spending. Slowing growth in hours worked suggests that real GDP growth is likely to slow towards an annual rate of 1.0%. This would obviously be a drag on stock earnings.

Real GDP and Hours Worked

The S&P 500 retreated from resistance at 3000 but a long tail on this week’s candle indicates buying support. Another test of 3000 is likely. Breach of 2800 is unlikely at present but would signal a reversal with a target of 2400.

S&P 500

21-Day Volatility remains high and the recent trough above 1.0% warns of elevated risk.

S&P 500 21-Day Volatility

The plunge on 10-Year Treasury Yields, testing support at 1.5%, also warns of a risk-off environment.

10-Year Treasury Yields

On the global stage, low manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI)  warn that Europe is at risk of recession.  DJ Euro Stoxx 600 is retracing to test support at 360/366. Breach would signal a primary down-trend.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is similarly testing support at 7000.

FTSE 100

Nymex Crude is heading for a test of support at $50/barrel. Trend Index peaks below zero warn of selling pressure. Breach of support would signal a primary down-trend — suggesting a contraction in global demand.

Nymex Light Crude

The outlook for the global economy is bearish and we have reduced our equity exposure for International Growth to 34% of portfolio value.

S&P 500: Flight to safety

10-Year Treasury yields are near record lows after Donald Trump’s announcement of further tariffs on China. The fall reflects the flight to safety, with rising demand for Treasuries as a safe haven.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Crude found support at $50/barrel. Breach would warn of a new down-trend, with a target of $40/barrel. Declining crude prices reflect a pessimistic outlook for the global economy.

10-Year 3-Month Treasury Spread

The S&P 500 found support at 2850. Rising volatility warns of increased market risk. A test of support at 2750 remains likely.

S&P 500

Declining Money Flow on the Nasdaq 100 reflects rising selling pressure. Expect a test of 7000.

Nasdaq 100

The Shanghai Composite Index broke support at 2850. A Trend Index peak at zero warns of strong selling pressure. Expect a test of support at 2500.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is testing support at 11,000. Breach would offer a target of 10,000.

Nifty Index

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600, reflecting large cap stocks in the European Union, is testing primary support at 368. Strong bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of a double-top reversal, with a target of 330.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is similarly testing support at 7150. Breach would offer a target of 6600.

FTSE 100

I have warned clients to cut exposure to the market. It’s a good time to be cautious.

“There is a time for all things, but I didn’t know it. And that is precisely what beats so many men in Wall Street who are very far from being in the main sucker class. There is the plain fool, who does the wrong thing at all times everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks he must trade all the time.”

~ Jesse Livermore

S&P 500: Treasuries reflect flight to safety

10-Year Treasury yields plunged below 2.0% on Donald Trump’s announcement of further tariffs (10% on $300bn) on China. The fall reflects rising demand for Treasuries as a safe haven in these turbulent times.

10-Year Treasury Yield

The spread between 10-Year and 3-Month Treasuries recovered above zero. This is a bearish sign: recession normally follows the recovery and not the initial inversion.

10-Year 3-Month Treasury Spread

The S&P 500 retreated below 3000 on Trump’s announcement, strengthening the bearish divergence signal on Twiggs Money Flow which warns of a correction. A test of support at 2750 is likely.

S&P 500

The Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) is expected to test primary support at 145. Small cap stocks have lagged the S&P 500 this year, highlighting risk aversion.

Russell 2000 Small Caps Index

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600, reflecting large cap stocks in the European Union, is similarly headed for a test of primary support at 365. Strong bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of a reversal.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

Falling commodity prices reflect market concerns for the global economy. A Nymex Light Crude breach of $51/barrel would signal a primary down-trend. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of selling pressure.

Nymex Light Crude

The DJ-UBS Commodity Index is similarly headed for a test of support at 75. Breach would signal a primary down-trend. A peak near zero on the Trend Index warns of strong selling pressure.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

Dr Copper, often used as a barometer of the global economy, has breached primary support at 5800, signaling a decline. Again, a Trend Index peak below zero warns of strong selling pressure.

Copper

Employment stats for July have improved slightly, with Average Hourly Wages growth easing to 3.3% (Total Private).

Average Hourly Wage

And annual payroll growth ticked up to 1.5%

Employment Growth & FFR

But weekly hours worked are declining, warning that real GDP will decline further, after printing 2.3% for the second quarter.

Real GDP & Weekly Hours Worked

I have warned my clients to cut exposure to the market. It’s a good time to be cautious.

“Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

~ Benjamin Graham

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

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

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.