Global stock market correction

Strong red candles across major market indices warn of a global correction.

Breach of 3650 on the S&P 500 would warn of a test of the strong band of support between 3250 and 3400. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow continues to warn of long-term selling pressure.

S&P 500

The European Stoxx 600 threatens a similar secondary correction with a test of support at 375.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is testing support between 6300 and 6500, while Money Flow reversal below zero warns of strong selling pressure. Breach of 6300 is likely and would indicate a strong correction, with primary support at 5500.

FTSE 100

The reaction on China’s Shanghai Composite is of similar weight to the S&P and STOXX. Breach of medium-term support at 3400 would warn of a test of primary support at 3200.

Shanghai Composite

The reaction on Japan’s Nikkei 225 appears secondary and likely to test the rising trendline at 26000.

Nikkei 225

The Seoul Composite is similar, with a rising trendline at 2700.

Seoul Composite

Selling on India’s Nifty 50 is heavier, flagged by a sharp fall in Money Flow over the past three weeks. Support at the rising trendline is unlikely to hold — which would mean a test of support at 12500.

Nifty 50

Conclusion

The correction across global stock markets appears secondary at this stage and likely to test medium-term support levels. Selling is heaviest on the FTSE 100 and India’s Nifty 50. These are the canary in the coal mine and should be monitored for unusual activity. Further falls on strong volume would indicate that sellers are overwhelming support.

Coronavirus: “We are all Keynesians now”

An economic depression requires a 10% (or more) decline in real GDP or a prolonged recession that lasts two or more years.

The current contraction, sparked by the global coronavirus outbreak, is likely to be severe but its magnitude and duration are still uncertain. After an initial spike in cases, with devastating consequences in many countries — both in terms of the number of deaths and the massive economic impact — the rate of contagion is expected to drop significantly. But we could witness further flare-ups, as with SARS.

Development of a vaccine is the only viable long-term defense against the coronavirus but health experts warn that this is at least 12 to 18 months away — still extremely fast when compared to normal vaccine development programs.

The economic impact may soften after the initial shutdown but some industries such as travel, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, shopping malls, and cinemas are likely to experience lasting changes in consumer behavior. The direct consequences will be with us for some time. So will the indirect consequences: small business and corporate failures, widespread unemployment, collapsing real estate prices, and solvency issues within the financial system. The Fed is going to be busy putting out fires. While it can fix liquidity issues with its printing press, it can’t fix solvency issues.

There are three key factors that are likely to determine whether countries end up with a depression or a recession:

1. Leadership during the crisis

Many countries were caught by surprise and the rapid spread of the virus from its source in Wuhan, China. South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan were best prepared, after dealing with the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Extensive testing, tracing and an effective quarantine program helped South Korea to bring the spread under control, after initially being one of the worst-hit.

Daily Increase - South Korea

South Korea: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

The World Health Organization (WHO) did little to help, delaying declaration of a pandemic to appease the CCP. Economic and political self-interest has been the root cause of many failures along the way, including China’s failure to alert global authorities of the outbreak (they had already shut down Wuhan Naval College on January 1st). But this was aided by failure of many leaders to heed warnings from infectious disease experts in late January/early February. When they finally did wake up to the threat, many were totally unprepared, resulting in a massive spike in cases across Europe and North America.

Testing is a major bottleneck, with the FDA fast-tracking approval of new tests, but production volumes are still limited. Abbott recently obtained FDA approval for a new 5-minute test kit that can be used in temporary screening locations, outside of a hospital, but production is currently limited to 50,000 per day. A drop in the ocean. It would take 6 months to produce 9 million kits for New York alone.

Daily Increase - USA

USA: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

Daily Increase - UK

UK: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

Daily Increase - Germany

Germany: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

Daily Increase - Italy

Italy: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

Widespread testing and tracing, social-distancing, and effective quarantine methods have enabled some countries to flatten the curve. Australia may be succeeding in reducing the number of new cases but inadequate testing and tracing could lead to further flare-ups. One of the biggest dangers is asymptomatic carriers who can infect others. Flattening the curve is the first step, but keeping it flat is essential, and requires widespread testing and tracing.

Daily Increase - Australia

Australia: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)

The curves for North America and Europe remain exponential. They may even spike a lot higher if hospital facilities are overrun. Success in flattening the curve is critical, not just in minimizing the number of deaths but in containing the economic impact.

2. Economic rescue measures during the crisis

Rescue measures amounting to roughly 10% of annual GDP have been introduced in several countries, including the US and Australia, to soften the economic impact of the shutdown. More Keynesian stimulus may be needed if the coronavirus curve is not flattened. Layoffs have spiked and many small businesses will be unable to recover without substantial support.

3. Economic stimulus after the crisis

This is not a time for half-measures and the $2 trillion infrastructure program proposed in the US is also appropriate in the circumstances. Australia is likely to need a similar program (10% of GDP) but it is essential that the money be spent on productive infrastructure assets. Productive assets must generate a market-related return on investment ….or generate an equivalent increase in government tax revenue but this is much more difficult to measure. Investment in unproductive assets would leave the country with a sizable debt and no ready means of repaying it (much like Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts).

Conclusion

Social-distancing and effective quarantine measures are necessary to flatten the curve but widespread testing and tracing is essential to prevent further flare-ups. Development of a vaccine could take two years or more. Until then there is likely to be an on-going economic impact, long after the initial shock. This is likely to be compounded by a solvency crisis in small and large businesses, threatening the stability of the financial system. The best we can hope for, in the circumstances, is to escape with a recession — less than 10% contraction in GDP and less than two year duration — but this will require strong leadership, public cooperation and skillful prioritization of resources.

—–

“We are all Keynesians now.” ~ Richard Nixon (after 1971 collapse of the gold standard)

The Fed has no vaccine for COVID-19

The World Health Organization has not yet declared the COVID-19 coronavirus a global pandemic but investors are not waiting.

Spooked by the rapid explosion of cases outside of China — South Korea now has 2,931 confirmed cases and Italy 889; — and dire warnings from health professionals, investors are fleeing to safety.

The CDC on February 21st announced:

“We are not seeing community spread here in the United States, yet. But it is very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen.

…..This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat. We don’t yet have a vaccine ….nor do we have a medicine to treat it specifically.

…..We are now taking, and will continue to take, unprecedented aggressive actions to reduce the impact of this virus.”

China claims to have the disease under control, reporting a sharp decline in new cases. But they have zero credibility after the massive suppression of information, frequent revision of statistics, and rapid disappearance of anyone who contradicts the official CCP line.

This report from Trivium China shows how CCP temporizing allowed the virus to spread:

China’s National Health Commission website published minutes from a meeting the NHC held with its provincial branches on January 14:

  • “The epidemic prevention and control situation has undergone important changes, and the spread of the epidemic may increase significantly, especially with the arrival of the Spring Festival……
  • [We must] implement the most stringent measures, control the epidemic locally, and do our best to avoid the spread of the epidemic in Wuhan.”
  • But the NHC didn’t give any public warning about the virus before January 20.

Severity of the disease should also not be underestimated. Of 43,940 active cases, 18% are listed as serious or critical, while 7% of 39,439 closed cases have died. The growing number of relapses, after the patient initially recovered, is also concerning.

China is going to find it difficult to restore business as usual with the constant threat of another outbreak. Activity remains well below normal levels.

China coal consumption

Official PMI figures point to a “brutal contraction” for China. February Manufacturing PMI plunged to 35.7, while Services were even lower at 29.6.

China PMI

It is difficult to estimate the economic impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. Profs. Warwick McKibbin and David Levine take a stab:

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 may become a footnote in history – a disaster narrowly averted. It could also become a global pandemic similar to some of the worst pandemics of the twentieth century. For example, assume the COVID-19 is as easy to spread and as dangerous as the 1957 Asian flu. Based on the epidemiological estimates of mortality and morbidity rates from that experience, our best estimate from a 2006 study on pandemics was that such a virus might kill more than 14 million people and shrink global GDP by more than $500 billion. These estimates are far higher than the costs were in 1957 because our world is increasingly connected and urban. Preliminary results currently being updated in 2020 suggest even higher numbers for worse case COVID-19…..[Brookings]

This is not a problem that the Fed can handle.

No doubt they will cut interest rates. Short-term Treasury yields (gray) are already falling in anticipation of another rate cut (green).

Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR), Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER), and 3-Month Treasury Yield

When consumers are scared, rate cuts will not restore normal consumption patterns. This is both a demand and a supply shock. A virus outbreak would cause consumers to drastically curtail demand: use of public transport, holiday travel, business travel, hotel occupancy, visits to restaurants, shopping malls, sporting events and other public venues. Fast food consumption and discretionary shopping would be especially hard hit.

But supply is also likely to contract due to interruptions to supply chains and shipping logistics, slowing manufacturing output.

Donald Trump may call this a “hoax” but I don’t see him taking any hospital tours, to review preparations. If the virus does spread as anticipated, he is unlikely to win re-election.

Interest spreads hold sway over the global economy

An inverted yield curve is a reliable predictor of recessions but it also warns of falling bank profits. When the spread between long-term Treasury yields and short-term rates is  below zero, net interest margins are squeezed.

Yield Differential (10y - 3m)

In a normal market, with a steep yield curve, net interest margins are wide as bank’s funding maturity is a lot shorter than their loan book. In other words, they borrow short and lend long. Few bank deposits have maturities longer than 3 to 6 months, while loans and leases have much longer maturities and command higher interest rates.

When the yield curve inverts, however, the spread between long and short-term rates disappears and interest margins are squeezed. Not only is that bad for banks, it’s bad for the entire economy.

When their interest margins are squeezed, banks become risk averse and lending growth slows. That is understandable. When interest margins are barely covering operating expenses, banks cannot afford credit write-downs and become highly selective in their lending.

Slowing credit growth has a domino-effect on business investment and consumer spending on durables (mainly housing and automobiles). If there is a sharp fall in credit growth, a recession is normally not far behind1.

Bank Loans & Leases

Right now, the Fed is under pressure to cut interest rates to support the US economy. While this would lower short-term rates and and may flatten the yield curve, cutting interest rates off a low base opens a whole new world of pain.

Quartz this week published a revealing commentary on the damage that negative interest rates in developed economies are doing to bank net interest margins :

The problem for commercial banks is that government bond and mortgage interest rates keep going lower, but it isn’t as easy to cut deposit rates — the rate at which banks themselves borrow from customers — at the same pace. After all, it’s tough to convince people to keep deposits in an account that returns less than they put in (even though this already happens, invisibly, through inflation).

Bank Net Interest Margins in Developed Countries

Ultra-low interest rates are likely to squeeze bank margins in a similar way to the inverted yield curve. And with a similar impact on credit growth and the economy.

If I was Trump I would be pleading with the Fed not to cut interest rates.

Footnote:
1. The NBER declared a recession in 1966 when the S&P 500 fell 22% but later changed their mind and airbrushed it out of history.

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

Nasdaq warns of broad market correction

Tech stocks fell sharply, with the Nasdaq 100 closing below support at 7400, warning of a correction. Twiggs Money Flow (21-day) cross below zero indicates medium-term selling pressure. Follow-through of the index below 7300 would signal a correction to test 7000.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 has so far respected support at 2870. Breach would confirm  a broad market correction and test the rising LT trendline at 2800.

S&P 500

Asia

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index is headed for another test of primary support at 2650. Trend Index peaks at/below zero indicate long-term selling pressure. Breach of 2650 would offer a long-term target of 2000, the 2014 low.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s Nifty is undergoing a strong correction. Breach of support at 10,000 would warn of a primary down-trend.

Nifty Index

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 is again testing primary support at 3300. A Trend Index peak at zero warns of mounting selling pressure. Breach of 3300 would warn of a primary decline, with a target of 3000.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

The Footsie is also testing primary support, at 7250, but a recovering Trend Index indicates buying pressure.

FTSE 100 Index

Rising US interest rates are already hurting developing economies like India and China, and a looming US-China trade war would threaten a global contraction.

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

~ Warren Buffett

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.

East to West: Asian stocks find support

Asian stocks are finding support after a sell-off over the last three months.

The Shanghai Composite Index is showing a slight bullish divergence on the Trend Index. This is secondary in size and suggests a bear market rally.

Shanghai Composite Index

South Korea’s Seoul Composite Index displays a stronger bullish divergence. Breakout above 2350 and the descending trendline is still unlikely but would indicate that a bottom is forming.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 broke through resistance at 23,000, signaling an advance to the January high at 24,000.

Nikkei 225 Index

India shows strong buying pressure, with long tails on the Nifty suggesting another strong advance.

Nifty Index

Europe

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 is trending lower. Support at 374 is secondary but the Trend Index near zero indicates hesitancy.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600 Index

The Footsie found medium-term support at 7250 but a declining Trend Index warns of another test of primary support at 6900/7000.

FTSE 100 Index

North America

The S&P 500 retracement respected support at 2875, suggesting an advance to the long-term target of 3000.

S&P 500

Canada’s TSX 60 on the other hand is undergoing a correction, perhaps exacerbated by concerns over NAFTA. Expect support at 935/940.

TSX 60 Index

Nothing much has changed. While Japan and India are bullish, China and South Korea remain in a bear market. Europe looks hesitant, while the S&amp:P 500 continues in a strong bull market.

The generally accepted view is that markets are always right — that is, market prices tend to discount future developments accurately even when it is unclear what those developments are. I start with the opposite view. I believe the market prices are always wrong in the sense that they present a biased view of the future.

~ George Soros

East to West: US rallies, China falls

The S&P 500 is testing its January high at 2870. A rising Trend Index indicates buying pressure. Follow-through is likely to test resistance at 3000.

S&P 500

A monthly chart of the NASDAQ 100 illustrates tech stock strength, with a rally from 4500 to 7500 in just two years. Breakout above medium-term resistance at 7500 is more likely, offering a target of 8000, while a correction would test support at 7000. Breakout from the triangle pattern on the Trend Index would indicate index direction.

Nasdaq 100

Canada’s TSX 60 index is also advancing. A rising Trend Index suggests buying pressure. Retracement that respects support at 960 is likely and would signal another advance, with a target of 1040.

TSX 60

China paints the opposite picture, with the Shanghai Composite Index testing long-term support at 2700. Trend Index peaks below zero warn of selling pressure and breach of support would offer a long-term target of the 2014 low at 2000.

Shanghai Composite Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index broke support at 28,000/28,500 offering a long-term target of 25,000.

Hang Seng Index

South Korea’s Seoul Composite Index found support above 2200. Retracement to test new resistance at 2350 is likely. A lot depends on progress in peace negotiations with North Korea.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is consolidating between 23,000 and 24,000 suggesting uncertainty over fallout from a threatened US-China trade war.

Nikkei 225

India is more on the periphery of current trade disputes, with the Nifty continuing its advance toward a target of 12,000.

Nifty

In Europe, Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 continues to reflect uncertainty, with long-term consolidation below 400. Breakout would signal a fresh advance but don’t hold your breath. It could take a while.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600

The Footsie is retracing to test support at 7500 but respect is likely and would offer a target of 8000.

FTSE 100

North America clearly leads the global recovery, while Asia lags. Europe is sandwiched in the middle, with potential loss of trade in the East and West if a trade war erupts.

Thucydides once 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. What we are witnessing is negotiation to define rules for peaceful coexistence in the 21st century. A lack of clear rules increases the risk of miscalculation and rapid escalation to a hard conflict.

Absent the willingness to use military force, the country with the greatest economic power is in the strongest position to set the rules.

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

~ Thucydides (460 – 400 B.C.)

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