S&P 500 earnings surge

Of companies in the S&P 500 index, 90.2% have reported their results for the quarter. According to S&P Dow Jones Indices:

  • Sales growth at 11.0% year-on-year (Y/Y) is close to a potential record.
  • The earnings beat rate of 78% is also historically high, compared to an average of 67%.
  • Operating margins are at a record 11.58%, compared to an average of 8.08% over the last 20 years.

Forward earnings estimates are climbing, driving the forward Price-Earnings ratio to a more comfortable 17.6 compared to its March 2015 high of 23.9.

S&P 500 Forward Earnings Estimates

Valuations based on historic earnings remain high, but P/E multiples have fallen to 22.02 from 24.16 in the last quarter. The long-term chart below compares the index price to previous highest annual EPS, to eliminate distortions caused by sudden falls in earnings.

S&P 500 Price-earnings based on Maximum Previous Earnngs

The current earnings multiple is still significantly higher than the 18.86 reached prior to the 1929 Wall Street crash and 18.69 in October 1987. But high valuations don’t cause market crashes. Sudden falls in earnings do. And there is little sign of that at present.

The S&P 500 is retracing for another test of its new support level at 2800. Respect would signal an advance to 3000. Declining Money Flow warns of selling pressure but this appears secondary in nature, with the indicator still well above the zero line.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 also warns of a correction, with bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow. Again this appears secondary in nature because of the indicator’s position relative to the zero line. Expect a test of support at 7000.

Nasdaq 100

S&P 500 rallies while inflation subdued

Average hourly earnings growth came in at 2.7% (All Employees) for the 12 months ended July 2018. Growth in average hourly earnings is an excellent gauge of underlying inflationary pressures in the economy, which remain subdued.

Average Hourly Wages Growth

Consumer price index (CPI) growth is slightly higher, at 2.8% for June 2018, but lower core CPI (2.2%) suggests that food and energy prices are partly to blame.

Consumer Price Index and Core CPI

The S&P 500 respected support at 2800, signaling an advance to 3000. Declining 21-day Volatility suggests that market risk is declining and the market is returning to business as usual.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 shook off recent Facebook (FB) and Netflix (NFLX) tremors and is testing resistance at 7400. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of 7800.

Nasdaq 100

Bears in the East, Bulls in the West

Market fears of a trade war appear to be easing but investors in China and South Korea remain cautious.

The Shanghai Composite Index is retracing to test resistance at the former primary support level at 3000.

Shanghai Composite Index

Dow Jones – UBS Commodity Index shows a similar retracement in commodity prices.

DJ-UBS Commodity Index

While crude oil prices have found support at the LT rising trendline.

Nymex Light Crude

South Korea’s Seoul Composite Index is in a primary down-trend but retracement to test the former primary support level at 2350 is likely.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan is more isolated and the Nikkei 225 is testing resistance at 23,000. A rising Trend Index suggests that breakout is likely, which would test the January high at 24,000.

Nikkei 225 Index

India is stronger, with the Nifty breaking resistance at its January high of 11,100 to signal a primary advance with a target of 12,000. But first, expect retracement to test the new support level.

Nifty Index

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 was boosted by news that the EU-US trade dispute is settled. A Trend Index trough above zero signals strong buying pressure. and another test of 400 is likely.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

A bullish saucer pattern on the Footsie suggest further gains. The Trend Index trough above zero indicates buying pressure. Breakout of the index above 7800 would signal another advance, with a target of 8200.

FTSE 100 Index

North America

The Nasdaq 100 retreated when Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) reported disappointing growth for the quarter. Bearish divergence on the Trend Index warns of selling pressure but this appears secondary and support at 7000 is likely to hold. Respect would confirm another advance.

Nasdaq 100

Friday’s retreat is also evident on the S&P 500 daily chart. Expect retracement to test new support at 2800. A strong GDP result should strengthen support.

S&P 500

Canada’s TSX 60 retraced to test the new support level at 970. Respect would signal a test of 1000 but breach is as likely, testing support at 940.

TSX 60 Index

Tech stocks and small caps lead US advance

The S&P 500 continues to test resistance at 2800. Declining Volatility suggests a return to business as usual. Breakout above 2800, with follow-through above 2820, would suggest a primary advance to 3000.

S&P 500

Dow Jones Industrial Average is similarly testing resistance at 25400. Breakout would signal a fresh advance but buying pressure is modest and gains are likely to be slow.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Nasdaq 100 leads the charge, advancing towards a target of 7700 after respecting new support at 7000.

Nasdaq 100

Small caps are also out-performing, with the Russell 2000 iShares ETF testing resistance at 170 after breaking out above its January high of 160.

Russell 2000 Small Caps

Although this is the final stage of a bull market, there is no sign of it ending. I am wary of the impact of a trade war on individual stocks and have reduced  International Growth portfolio exposure to multinationals that have strong sales in China.

CPI rises but US stocks rally

June consumer price index (CPI) jumped to 2.8% but forward estimates of inflation, represented by the 5-Year breakeven rate (5-year Treasury yield minus TIPS) remain subdued at 2.06%.

CPI and 5-Year Breakeven

Core CPI (excluding food and energy) is at 2.2% while average hourly earnings (total private: production and non-supervisory employees) annual growth, representing underlying inflationary pressure, is higher at 2.7%.

Core CPI and Average Hourly Earnings: Production and Nonsupervisory

Credit and broad money supply (MZM plus time deposits) growth remain steady, tracking nominal GDP growth at around 5.0%. A spike in credit growth often precedes a similar spike in broad money supply by several quarters.

Credit and Broad Money Supply Growth

And a surge in broad money supply growth, ahead of nominal GDP, flagged rising inflationary pressures ahead of the last two recessions, prompting the Fed to step on the brakes.

Nominal GDP and Broad Money Supply Growth

Overall, the inflation outlook appears subdued, with little urgency to hike interest rates at present.

The market is also getting more comfortable with the idea of trade tariffs. The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 2800. Breakout is likely and would suggest a primary advance to 3000.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 followed through above 7300, confirming the primary advance, with a target of 7700.

Nasdaq 100

This is the final stage of a bull market but there is no sign of it ending. I am wary of the impact of a trade war on individual stocks and have reduced exposure to multinationals that make a sizable percentage of their sales in China.

Financial markets are supposed to swing like a pendulum: They may fluctuate wildly in response to exogenous shocks, but eventually they are supposed to come to rest at an equilibrium point…. Instead, as I told Congress, financial markets behaved more like a wrecking ball, swinging from country to country and knocking over the weaker ones. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the international financial system itself constituted the main ingredient in the meltdown process.

~ George Soros on the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the need for greater regulation of global financial markets

S&P 500 and Nasdaq relief

June average hourly earnings growth came in flat at 2.74% for Total Private sector and 2.72% for Production and Non-supervisory Employees. This suuports the argument that underlying inflation remains benign, easing pressure on the Fed to accelerate interest rates.

Average Hourly Earnings Growth

The S&P 500 rallied off its long-term rising trendline. Follow-through above 2800 would suggest another primary advance with a target of 3000.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 respected its new support level at 7000, signaling a primary advance. The rising Trend Index indicates buying pressure. Target for the advance is 7700.

Nasdaq 100

The Leading Index from the Philadelphia Fed is a healthy 1.51% for May. Well above the 1.0% level that suggests steady growth (falls below 1.0% are cause for concern).

Leading

Our estimate of annual GDP growth — total payroll x average weekly hours worked — is muted at 1.91% but suggests that earnings growth will remain positive.

Real GDP Estimate

Personal consumption figures for Q1 2018 show growth in consumption of services is slowing but durable goods remain strong, while nondurable goods are steady.

Consumption to Q1 2018

Declining consumption of nondurables normally coincides with a recession but is often preceded by slowing durable goods — below 5.0% on the chart below — for several quarters.

Consumption to Q1 2018

Conclusion: Expect further growth but be cautious of equities that are vulnerable to escalating trade tariffs.

We live in a global economy, but the political organization of our global society is woefully inadequate. We are bereft of the capacity to preserve peace and to counteract the excesses of the financial markets. Without these controls, the global economy, is liable to break down.

~ George Soros: The Crisis of Global Capitalism (1998)

S&P 500 retraces while Shanghai shudders

The S&P 500 retreated from resistance at 2800. Retracement is modest and I expect support above the rising trendline (2700). Volatility (Twiggs 21-Day) is below 1.0%, indicating that market risk has returned to normal levels.

S&P 500 and Twiggs Volatility

The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is in a stronger position, making a new high at 7300, but is now likely to retrace to test the new support level at 7000. I am wary of Twiggs Money Flow as a lower peak would signal bearish divergence. A lot will depend on how buyers react at the new support level.

Nasdaq 100

China’s Shanghai Composite Index, on the other hand, broke support at 3000, signaling a primary decline. Initial target is the February 2016 low at 2700.

Shanghai Composite Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index weakened in sympathy. Breach of support at 29000 would signal a primary down-trend.

Hang Seng Index

Small caps lead US recovery

Russell 2000 Small Caps Index is leading the US recovery. The iShares Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF broke through resistance at 160, signaling a primary advance with a target of 175. According to Dow Theory, small capitalization stocks typically lead the advance in stage 3 of a bull market, with large caps having exhausted their gains.

iShares Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF

But Charles Dow did not have to contend with technology stocks which are a law unto themselves. The Nasdaq 100 broke through resistance at 7000 and is currently retracing to test the new support level. Respect is likely and would signal a primary advance with a target of 7700.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 is further behind, headed for a test of resistance at 2800. Breakout would signal a primary advance with a target of 3000.

S&P 500

Bellwether transport stock Fedex is also recovering, having broken resistance at 256. A bullish sign for the broad economy. Expect a test of resistance at 274/275.

Fedex

Nasdaq bull signal

The Nasdaq 100 broke through resistance at 7000. Expect retracement to test the new support level but respect is likely and would signal a primary advance with a target of 7700.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 respected support at 2700. Follow-through above 2750 would signal another test of 2850.

S&P 500

Volatility is falling and a dip below 1.0% would suggest that the market has returned to business as usual.

Nasdaq and S&P500 meet resistance

July labor stats are out and shows the jobless rate fell to a 16-year low at 4.3%. Unemployment below the long-term natural rate suggests the economy is close to capacity and inflationary pressures should be building.

Unemployment below the long-term natural rate

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS

But hourly wage rates are growing at a modest pace, easing pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates.

Hourly Wage Rates

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS

Fed monetary policy remains accommodative, with the monetary base (net of excess reserves) growing at a robust 7.5% a year.

Hourly Wage Rates

Source: St Louis Fed, FRB

Our forward estimate of real GDP — Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours — continues at a slow but steady annual pace of 1.79%.

Real GDP compared to Nonfarm Payroll * Average Weekly Hours

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS & BEA

The Nasdaq 100 has run into resistance at 6000. No doubt readers noticed Amazon [AMZN] and Alphabet [GOOG] both retreated after reaching the $1000 mark. This is natural. Correction back to the rising trendline would take some of the heat out of the market and provide a solid base for further gains. Selling pressure, reflected by declining peaks on Twiggs Money Flow, appears secondary.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 is also running into resistance, below 2500. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of moderate selling pressure but this again seems to be secondary — in line with a correction rather than a reversal.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500