S&P 500 tunnel vision

Stocks are growing increasingly bullish, after strong earnings results for the last quarter, with the S&P 500 closing above 5000 for the first time.

S&P 500

Even small caps are growing increasingly bullish, with the Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) testing resistance at 200. Breakout would signal that the current narrow advance is broadening.

iShares Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

The Price-to-Sales ratio remains elevated, at 2.56, warning of long-term reversion towards the mean at 1.70.

S&P 500 Price-to-Sales

Sales growth improved slightly to 5.2% for the December quarter, compared to December 2022. But this is before inflation; so real growth remains low.

S&P 500 Sales Growth

Operating margins shrunk to 10.7%, with 75.6% of corporations having reported, from earlier estimates of 11.0%.

S&P 500 Operating Margin

Treasury Market

Ten-year Treasury yields are testing resistance at 4.20%. Breakout would offer a target of 4.60% — a bear signal for stocks.

10-Year Treasury Yield

The 2-year Treasury yield — normally a reliable leading indicator of the Fed funds rate — is currently rising, warning that Fed rate cuts are likely to remain on pause for longer.

Fed Funds Rate & 2-Year Treasury Yield

The long-term challenge facing Treasury is the rising projected budget deficits, with debt likely to grow at a faster pace than GDP. CBO projections vastly understate the likely deficit as Brian Riedl explains below:

CBO Projected Deficits

Revised CBO Projected Deficits

Gold & the Dollar

The Dollar Index retraced to test support at 104 but is greatly influenced by the direction of the Fed funds rate and Treasury yields.

Dollar Index

Gold is ranging between $2000 and $2055 per ounce. The lower close at $2024 suggests another test of support at $2000.

Spot Gold

2023 is the first time that the gold price has kept rising while ETF gold holdings are falling. Cause of the divergence is believed to be strong central bank purchases over the past 12 months.

Gold ETF Tonnage


The S&P 500 is vastly overpriced when we compare the current price-to-sales ratio of 2.56 to its long-term average of 1.70. Sales growth is also falling, while operating margins are shrinking. Investors seem to have tunnel vision, focused on rising prices rather than underlying fundamentals.

Long-term yields are rising, with the Fed expected to postpone rate cuts until mid-year, which is bearish for stocks.

Federal deficits are expected to grow to $3.6 trillion by 2034, warning of rising inflationary pressure and higher Treasury yields. The Fed may suppress long-term yields but that is likely to increase inflationary pressure even more.

The short-term outlook for Gold is bearish — if long-term yields rise — but the long-term outlook is strongly bullish because of expected rising inflation and central bank purchases.


Dovish Fed, Dollar falls, Gold climbs

Long-term Treasury yields plunged in response to a dovish Fed meeting which kept rates on hold, with a target range of 5.25% – 5.00%. Ten-year Treasury yields are now testing our target at 4.0%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Declining inflation and signs of labor market easing moved the FOMC to discard the additional rate hike and increase projected rate cuts to 75 basis points next year. Their dot plot now shows 2024 ending with a target range of 4.5% – 4.75%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Unemployment is forecast to rise to 4.1%, from 3.8% at the end of 2023, but still close to full employment. PCE inflation is projected to slow from 2.8% at the end of ’23 to 2.4% by the end of ’24, with real GDP growth slowing from 2.6% in 2023 to 1.4% next year.

QT continues unchanged at the rate of $95 billion per month: $60 billion Treasuries and $35 billion MBS.

The S&P 500 closed at 4707, headed for a test of its previous high at 4800. Breakout would signal a primary advance, with a target of 5500.

S&P 500

The equal-weighted S&P 500 ($IQX) also rallied strongly, testing medium-term resistance at 6300, compared to the early 2022 high of 6665.

S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index

Large caps show plenty of buyer interest but the Russell 2000 small caps ETF lags far behind. Normally small caps lead in the first stage of a bull market, so this warns that investors are more risk-averse than in a typical bull market.

Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

Gold & the Dollar

The Dollar weakened, as no doubt intended. Breach of support at 102.50 would offer a target of 100.

Dollar Index

Gold jumped to $2031 per troy ounce. Recovery above $2000 signals another test of resistance at the earlier close of $2070. Dollar Index breach of support at 102.50 would be likely to push Gold above $2070, confirming the medium-term target of $2250 per ounce.

Spot Gold


The bull-trend in stocks, bonds and Gold continues. Breakout to new highs on the S&P 500 and Gold are likely. But beware that the bullish outlook is built on an unstable foundation, with commodities warning of a global recession and record-high federal debt-to-GDP limiting Fed options if the Treasury market is threatened by large outflows.