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.)

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

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.

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

India & Singapore

India’s Sensex Index continues to test support at 17000. A trough above the zero line on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow would indicate strong buying pressure. Recovery above 18000 would confirm a primary advance to 21000*.

BSE Sensex Index

* Target calculation: 18000 + ( 18000 – 15000 ) = 21000

The Nifty Index displays a similar pattern. 63-Day Twiggs Momentum holding above zero indicates a primary up-trend. Recovery above 5400 would signal an advance to 6200*.

NSE Nifty Index

* Target calculation: 5400 + ( 5400 – 4600 ) = 6200

Singapore Straits Times Index is already in a primary up-trend. Breakout above medium-term resistance at 3040 would confirm an advance to 3300*.

Singapore Straits Times Index

* Target calculation: 2900 + ( 2900 – 2500 ) = 3300

India & Singapore

India’s Sensex found support at 17000. Failure would signal another test of primary support at 15000, but 13-week Twiggs Money Flow remains above zero and respect of support is more likely. Recovery above 18000 would confirm tthe primary up-trend, with a target of 21000*.

BSE Sensex Index

* Target calculation: 18 + ( 18 – 15 ) = 21

The NSE Nifty Index is similarly testing medium-term support at 5200. 63-Day Twiggs Momentum holding above zero indicates a primary up-trend. Respect of support at 5200, by say recovery above 5500, would confirm the signal. Failure of support is less likely, but would signal another test of 4500.

NSE Nifty Index

* Target calculation: 5400 + ( 5400 – 4500 ) = 6300

Singapore’s Straits Times Index twice penetrated resistance at 3000, confirming the primary up-trend, but each time retreated. Expect softness until quarter-end followed by another breakout attempt. Target for the advance is 3300*.

Singapore Straits Times Index

* Target calculation: 2900 + ( 2900 – 2500 ) = 3300

India & Singapore

The Sensex respected support at 17000. Recovery above 18000 would indicate a primary up-trend and follow-through above 18500 would confirm. Respect of zero by the latest trough on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow would further strengthen the signal. Target for the advance is 21000*.

BSE Sensex Index

* Target calculation: 18 + ( 18 – 15 ) = 21

The NSE Nifty shows a similar pattern. Follow-through above 5600 would offer a target of 6200*.

NSE Nifty Index

* Target calculation: 5400 + ( 5400 – 4600 ) = 6200

Singapore Straits Times Index is already in a primary up-trend, as signaled by 63-day Twiggs Momentum holding above zero. Recovery above 3000 confirms an advance to 3300*.

Singapore Straits Times Index

* Target calculation: 2900 + ( 2900 – 2500 ) = 3300

India retraces

The Sensex Index is retracing to test its new support level. Respect of 17200 would indicate that the up-trend is intact, while failure would warn of another test of primary support at 15000. Long-term buying pressure remains healthy if 13-week Twiggs Money Flow forms a trough above the zero line.

BSE Sensex Index

* Target calculation: 18000 + ( 18000 – 15000 ) = 21000

The Nifty Index is similarly testing support at 5200. Recovery above 5600 would confirm the primary up-trend. 63-Day Twiggs Momentum above zero suggests a healthy up-trend.

NSE Nifty Index

* Target calculation: 5400 + ( 5400 – 4600 ) = 6200