S&P 500: Rate cuts and employment

Ten-year Treasury yields rallied for the last two weeks but remain in a down-trend. Respect of resistance at 2.60% would warn of another decline.

10-year Treasury yields

Inflation is subdued and it would be difficult for the Fed to motivate a rate cut when inflation is close to its 2.0% target. The consumer price index (CPI) came in at 1.86% for the 12 months to March 2019, while the more stable Core CPI (ex- Food & Energy) remains close to target at 2.04%.

CPI and Core CPI

After price stability, the second part of the Fed’s dual mandate is to maintain maximum sustainable employment. A review of the last three cycles shows the Fed raising the funds rate (FFR) to curb inflation and then being forced to cut (red highlights) when growth in employment slows.

Payroll Changes and Fed Funds Rate

Total non-farm payrolls are currently growing at close to 2.0%. The Fed would normally need payroll growth to slow by at least 1.0% to motivate a rate cut. The exception is if inflation falls below target, then the Fed may act sooner.

The S&P 500 is headed for another test of its high at 2950, while Trend Index (13-week) recovered to signal moderate buying pressure.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 is similarly testing its earlier high at 7700.

Nasdaq 100

Momentum is slowing and we can expect stubborn resistance at the former highs.

Buckley’s chance that rate hikes will slow

Average hourly wage rates are rising, with Production & Non-Supervisory Employees growing at an annual rate of 3.20% and All Employees at 3.14%.

Average Hourly Wage Rate

This is a clear warning to the Fed that underlying inflationary pressures are rising. There is Buckley’s chance* that they will ease off on rate hikes.

The Fed adopts a restrictive stance whenever hourly wage rate growth exceeds 3%, illustrated below by a high or rising Fed Funds Rate.

Average Hourly Wage Rate

The market is adopting a wait-and-see attitude ahead of Tuesday’s mid-term elections. Stocks like Apple (AAPL) have been sold down on strong volume despite good earnings results: earnings per share of $2.91 and revenue of $62.9 billion for Q4-18, compared to consensus estimates of $2.79 and $61.5 billion.


Optimism over a possible trade deal with China may not last the week.

A harami-like candle on the S&P 500 reflects indecision, while bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of long-term selling pressure. Breach of 2550 is still unlikely but would warn of a primary down-trend.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 tells a similar story, with primary support at 6300.

Nasdaq 100

* William Buckley was an English convict transported to Australia. He escaped when the ships laid anchor in Port Phillip Bay in 1803. The nearest permanent settlement, Sydney, was more than 1000 km away and, considered to have no chance of survival, he was given up for dead. Thirty-two years later, having lived among the Wathaurung Aboriginal people, he emerged from the bush when a settlement was established at Port Phillip in 1835. “Buckley’s chance” is an Australian colloquialism meaning having no chance at all.

Will the Fed hike rates?

The market eagerly awaits the decision of the Fed Open Market Committee (FOMC) on whether to lift the target interest rate (FFR) from its 0.00 – 0.25 percent range maintained since the dark days of 2008.

Core CPI

Core CPI remains subdued at 1.83 percent for the 12 months to August — close to its 2 percent target — so there is no urgency to increase rates despite a strengthening job market.

The act of revising the target rate is largely symbolic. There is no doubt that the economy can withstand an increase in the Fed Funds Rate to 0.5%. But commencement of a tightening cycle may scare an already jittery market. There is a fairly equal split amongst economists as to whether the Fed should proceed with the rate rise or not. My guess is that the Fed will opt for a bet each way, with a wider target range (say 0.00 to 0.50 percent) or a reduced increment (say 0.10 to 0.30 percent). The effective FFR is currently sitting at 0.14 percent and I am sure the Fed’s plan is to continue with a gradual increase over time and no sudden movements.

Effective Fed Funds Rate

The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 2000 after a higher trough and rising 21-day Twiggs Money Flow indicate buying pressure. Recovery above 2000 would signal a relieving rally, while respect of resistance would suggest another test of support at 1900.

S&P 500 Index

* Target calculation: 1900 – ( 2000 – 1900 ) = 1800

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) indicates market risk is declining.

S&P 500 VIX

NYSE short sales are also declining.

NYSE Short Sales

Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above resistance at 16700. Follow-through after the FOMC decision would confirm a relieving rally. Reversal below 16600 would warn of another test of 16000. Failure of support at 16000 is unlikely, but would signal a primary down-trend. Recovery of 21-day Twiggs Money Flow above zero indicates medium-term buying pressure.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Canada’s TSX 60 recovered above 800, indicating solid support between 790 and 800. Recovery above 820 and the descending channel would signal that the correction has ended. Rising 13-week Twiggs Momentum would strengthen the signal, while recovery above zero would confirm.

TSX 60 Index

* Target calculation: 800 – ( 900 – 800 ) = 700


Germany’s DAX found support at 10000. Recovery above 10500 would suggest a relieving rally, but only follow-through above the descending trendline and resistance at 11000 would confirm. Respect of the zero line by 13-week Twiggs Money Flow is a bullish sign; completion of a trough above zero would confirm long-term buying pressure.


The Footsie similarly found support at 6000. Recovery above 6300 would indicate a relieving rally. Penetration of the descending trendline would confirm.

FTSE 100


The Shanghai Composite Index continues to test (enforced) support at 3000. Recovery above 3500 is unlikely, but would indicate that the crisis has passed.

Dow Jones Shanghai Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index found support at 21000 and is likely to test the former primary support level at 23000. 13-Week Twiggs Money Flow below zero indicates long-term selling pressure, but recovery above zero would suggest a false signal. Breakout above 23000 and the descending trendline is unlikely, but would signal that the down-trend is over.

Hang Seng Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 found support at 17500. Recovery above 19000 would signal a rally to test resistance at 21000. The gradual decline on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow suggests medium-term selling pressure rather than a primary (long-term) shift.

Nikkei 225 Index

* Target calculation: 19000 + ( 19000 – 17500 ) = 20500

India’s Sensex is headed for a test of the new resistance level at 26500. The primary trend is downward. Respect of the zero line by 13-week Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Recovery above 26500 is unlikely, but would warn of a bear trap. Respect of resistance remains more likely and would suggest another decline.


* Target calculation: 25000 – ( 26500 – 25000 ) = 23500


The ASX 200 continues to test primary support at 5000. 21-Day Twiggs Money Flow oscillating around zero indicates uncertainty. Breach of 5000 would confirm a primary down-trend. Recovery above 5300 is less likely, but would indicate a bear rally.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5000 – ( 5400 – 5000 ) = 4600

Just a word of caution. Relieving rallies can (and often do) fail. Probability of a continued primary up-trend will only improve once support levels have been tested. Early movers always face greater uncertainty. Which is why our long-term portfolios continue to hold high levels of cash.


Why Europe Failed

Not much wrong with the US economy

NYSE short sales easing

Marcus Miller & Eric Clapton [music]

You really wonder why leaders want these jobs when they really do not want to lead. And what is their risk? That Barack Obama will not get a second term? Or that Angela Merkel’s coalition might finally end up on the rocks? If they actually made the leap they might astound themselves. Because, in the end, everyone in political life gets carried out — the only relevant question is whether the pallbearers will be crying.

~ Paul Keating, 24th Prime Minister of Australia (2011)