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.
The European Stoxx 600 threatens a similar secondary correction with a test of support at 375.
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.
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.
The reaction on Japan’s Nikkei 225 appears secondary and likely to test the rising trendline at 26000.
The Seoul Composite is similar, with a rising trendline at 2700.
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.
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.
There is no reliable benchmark for assessing performance of different markets (stocks, bonds, precious metals, commodities, etc.) since central banks have flooded financial markets with more than $8 trillion in freshly printed currency since the start of 2020. The chart below from Ed Yardeni shows total assets of the five major central banks (Fed, ECB, BOC, BOE and BOJ) expanded to $27.9T at the end of November 2020, from below $20T at the start of the year.
With no convenient benchmark, the best way to measure performance is using relative strength between two prices/indices.
Measured in Gold (rather than Dollars) the S&P 500 iShares ETF (IVV) has underperformed since mid-2019. Respect of the red descending trendline would confirm further weakness ahead (or outperformance for Gold).
But if we take a broad basket of commodities, stocks are still outperforming. Reversal of the current up-trend would signal that he global economy is recovering, with rising demand for commodities as manufacturing output increases. Breach of the latest, sharply rising trendline would warn of a correction to the long-term rising trendline and, most likely, even further.
There are pockets of rising prices in commodities but the broader indices remain weak.
Copper shows signs of a recovery. Breakout above -0.5 would signal outperformance relative to Gold.
Brent crude shows a similar rally. Breakout above the declining red trendline would suggest outperformance ahead.
But the broad basket of commodities measured by the DJ-UBS Commodity Index is still in a down-trend.
Silver broke out of its downward trend channel relative to Gold. Completion of the recent pullback (at zero) confirms the breakout and signals future outperformance.
Comparing major stock indices, the S&P 500 has outperformed the DJ Stoxx Euro 600 since 2010. Lately the up-trend has accelerated and breach of the latest rising trendline would warn of reversion to at least the long-term trendline. More likely even further.
The S&P 500 shows a similar accelerating up-trend relative to the ASX 200. Breach of the latest trendline would similarly signal reversion to the LT trendline and most likely further.
Reversion is already under way with India’s Nifty 50 (NSX), now outperforming the S&P 500.
S&P 500 performance relative to the Shanghai Composite plateaued at around +0.4. Breakout would signal further gains but respect of resistance is as likely.
Looking within the Russell 1000 large caps index, Growth stocks (IWF) have clearly outperformed Value (IWD) since 2006. Breach of the latest, incredibly steep trendline, however, warns of reversion to the mean. We are likely to see Value outperform Growth in 2021.
The S&P 500 has made strong gains against Treasury bonds since March (iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF [TLT]) but is expected to run into resistance between 1.3 and 1.4. Rising inflation fears, however, may lower bond prices, spurring further outperformance by stocks.
The US Dollar is weakening against a basket of major currencies. Euro breakout above resistance at $1.25 would signal a long-term up-trend.
China’s Yuan has already broken resistance at 14.6 US cents, signaling a long-term up-trend.
India’s Rupee remains sluggish.
But the Australian Dollar is surging. The recent correction that respected support at 70 US cents suggests an advance to at least 80 cents.
Gold, surprisingly, retraced over the last few months despite the weakening US Dollar. But respect of support at $1800/ounce would signal another primary advance.
Silver is expected to outperform Gold.
Gold is expected to outperform stocks.
Value stocks are expected to outperform Growth.
India’s Nifty 50 is expected to outperform other major indices. This is likely to be followed by the Stoxx Euro 600 and ASX 200 but only if they break their latest, sharply rising trendlines. That leaves the S&P 500 and Shanghai Composite filling the minor placings.
Copper and Crude show signs of a recovery but the broad basket of currencies is expected to underperform stocks and precious metals.
The Greenback is expected to weaken against most major currencies, while rising inflation is likely to leave bond investors holding the wooden spoon.
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.
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.
USA: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)
UK: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)
Germany: Initial Cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 (JHU)
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.
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).
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)
Australian business confidence is sagging, according to the latest Roy Morgan poll, signaling the end of the post-election bounce*.
Source: Roy Morgan Business Single Source, Dec 2010-Oct 2019. Average monthly sample over the last 12 months=912.
- A decreasing number of businesses (40.7%, down 5.8ppts) expect the Australian economy to have ‘good times’ economically over the next year while 52.4% (up 4.2ppts) expect ‘bad times’;
- In addition, just 44.1% (down 7ppts) of businesses expect ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next five years and 45.9% (up 2.9ppts) now expect ‘bad times’.
RBA interest rate cuts don’t seem to be working.
A similar picture is emerging in the US, where CEO confidence is near recession levels.
CEO confidence affects hiring and investment decisions and is an important leading indicator for GDP and earnings growth.
*Hat tip to Macrobusiness.
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.
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).
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.
According to Factset, the S&P 500 is likely to report a third quarter this year with a year-on-year decline in earnings.
The Nasdaq 100 paints a similar picture, with another test of 8000 likely.
It is becoming impossible to justify current heady earnings multiples when reported earnings are declining.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
21-Day Volatility remains high and the recent trough above 1.0% warns of elevated risk.
The plunge on 10-Year Treasury Yields, testing support at 1.5%, also warns of a risk-off environment.
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.
The Footsie is similarly testing support at 7000.
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.
The outlook for the global economy is bearish and we have reduced our equity exposure for International Growth to 34% of portfolio value.
As Mark Carney observed at Jackson Hole: the global reserve currency system is broken — it has been since Nixon defaulted on gold backing for the Dollar in 1973 — and there is no fix. We have to find a replacement along the lines of Carney’s suggestion. On Macrovoices, two experts on the EuroDollar system, Jeffrey Snider and Luke Gromen discuss the massive tectonic shift facing the global financial system.
This is a complex topic but it is important that we grasp the implications before a tsunami appears on the horizon.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.