Iran attacks Israel

Markets are overshadowed by news that Iran directly attacked Israel in retaliation for the bombing of its embassy in Damascus which killed two high-ranking Iranian generals.

Iran

This is a significant escalation in Iran’s on-going proxy war against Israel.

Russia and its allies are emboldened by the US failure to support Ukraine and are stepping up their attacks on Western allies.

Iran

Mick Ryan (retired Australian Maj. General) writes:

…What is Iran’s ultimate goal here and its strategy to achieve it? This is a major shift in the way the Iranians have attacked Israel for years. Proxy forces are normally Iran’s preference in order to keep it at arm’s length from a potential Israeli response. Why has it decided on such a drastic course change in its strategy to confront Israel?

He lays out four options for retaliation — ranging from no direct response to a massive hammer blow to deter a repeat — and concludes:

All of these are possible in the hours and days ahead. All have advantages, as well as considerable disadvantages, for the Israelis. But one thing is certain, the concept of ‘re-establishing deterrence’ against Iran will be an important guiding idea.

And, it is uncertain whether the Iranians are really prepared for what they may have unleashed against their country and the wider region.

Flight to Safety

Given the high level of uncertainty, we can expect a significant flight to safe haven assets. Stocks are expected to weaken, with the S&P 500 breaching support at 5100 to signal a secondary correction.

S&P 500

The S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX) has already warned of a market move to risk-off after breaching support at 6650. A test of support at 6400 is likely.

S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX)

The Russelll 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM) has similarly breached support at 200, warning of a correction to 190.

Russelll 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

Brent crude is expected to test resistance at $96 per barrel.

Brent Crude

10-Year Treasury yields are already retracing and headed for a test of new support at 4.35%. Respect is likely, however, and would confirm an advance to test resistance at 5.0%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

The Dollar Index may not follow 10-year Treasury yields, with safe haven demand fueling a test of 107.

Dollar Index

Gold saw significant profit-taking on Friday after reaching our target of $2400 per ounce earlier in the day. Retracement is likely to respect support at $2300, followed by a strong advance fueled by safe-haven demand.

Spot Gold

The international contract on the Shanghai Gold Exchange (iAu99.99) is trading at 562 Yuan/gram. This equates to a USD price of $2415 per troy ounce — a sizable premium over Friday’s close at $2344.

Silver has retraced to test support at $28 per ounce. Respect is likely, signaling a test of resistance at $29 per ounce. Breakout above $29 would offer a long-term target of $36 per ounce.

Spot Silver

Bitcoin is consolidating below resistance at $72K. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of $92K, while reversal below support at $64K would warn of a correction to test $52K.

Bitcoin

Conclusion

Escalation in the Iran-Israel conflict is likely to drive crude oil prices to new highs as geopolitical risk rises. Inflationary pressures are expected to climb as a result, reducing the possibility of Fed rate cuts this year.

Other geopolitical factors could intervene, including the Saudis increasing production to hold crude oil prices below $100 per barrel. Above $100 is considered unsustainable by many producers and believed to lead to sharp falls in demand as the global economy contracts in response.

Financial markets, stocks and precious metals are likely to be dominated by safe-haven demand in the weeks ahead. A shift from small caps — and even the broad S&P 500 to the largest “magnificent seven” tech stocks — is expected as investors grow increasingly risk averse. Demand for Gold & Silver is expected to rise. The Dollar is likely to strengthen, along with short-/medium-term Treasuries. But long-term yields are unclear because of conflicting inflation/safe-haven pressures.

Acknowledgements

 

Strong liquidity and a weak Yuan boost stocks & Gold

The S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX) closed at a new record high above 6800. The advance signals that the current rally is finding broader support and is not as concentrated on the top 7 mega-cap technology stocks.

S&P 500 Equal Weighted Index ($IQX)

Retracement on the Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM) respected support at 200, signaling a fresh advance. Our target is the 2021 high at 240. The breakout again signals that investors are growing more comfortable with risk,

Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

Financial Markets

Bitcoin retraced slightly. Respect of support at $68K is likely, however, and would confirm an advance to test $72K.

Bitcoin

The Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index eased to -0.556, indicating plenty of liquidity in financial markets.

Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index
The Corporate Bond Market Distress Index reflects healthy credit markets, with Investment Grade (brown below) slightly above the 25th percentile and the High Yield Index (ocher) near record lows, below the 5th percentile on the right-hand scale.
Corporate Bond Market Distress Index

Gold & the Dollar

The Dollar Index continues to test resistance at 104.5. Follow-through above 105 would offer a target of 107.
Dollar Index

Gold is strengthening despite a relatively strong Dollar, with demand from China driving up prices. Breakout above $2200 would confirm our target of $2400 per ounce.

Spot Gold

Crude Oil

Crude is retracing, with Nymex Light Crude testing support at $80 per barrel. Respect is likely and would confirm our target of $90. High crude prices are caused by (a) the Red Sea threat to shipping, forcing tankers to take the longer route to Europe around the Cape of Africa; (b) Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian refineries; and (c) OPEC extension of production cuts through June.

Nymex WTI Light Crude

Russian Gasoline Production

Conclusion

Strong liquidity in financial markets maintains upward pressure on stocks, with advances widening to include the broad S&P 500 index and small cap stocks.

Gold continues to test resistance at $2200 per ounce, driven by demand from China in response to a weakening Yuan. Breakout is likely and would confirm our target of $2400 per ounce.

Crude is retracing to test support, but respect is likely and would confirm another advance. Rising crude prices would increase inflationary pressures in the months ahead, making it difficult for the Fed to cut rates. This would add upward pressure to long-term Treasury yields and erode demand for stocks.

Acknowledgements

Santa rally: Monetary easing offsets China woes

China’s economy is struggling despite injection of moderate stimulus and efforts to support a collapsing real estate sector. Shrinking demand from China threatens a global economic contraction. G7 central banks have responded with monetary easing, causing a broad rally in stocks. This is most likely a bear market rally, with far shorter duration than a bull market.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is testing primary support at 2900, warning of an economic contraction. The Trend Index peak near zero confirms selling pressure.

Shanghai Composite

Copper, however, has penetrated its descending trendline. Follow-through above 8500 would test resistance at $8750 per metric ton, threatening a wide double-bottom reversal with a target of $9500. Breakout above $8750 would signal global economic recovery, while reversal below $7800 would warn of a global recession.

Copper

US Stocks

The S&P 500 is testing it 2022 high at 4800, buoyed by injections of liquidity into financial markets.

S&P 500

The equal-weighted S&P 500 broke resistance at 6300, suggesting a broader rally than just the top 7 stocks. Retracement that respects the new support level would confirm the target at 6665.

S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX)

The Russell 2000 small caps ETF (IWM) threatens a similar breakout above 200, offering a target of 240. Breakout would confirm that investors are growing more aggressive (risk-on) and downplaying risks.

Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM)

Interest Rates

Ten-year Treasury yields are retracing to test resistance at 3.9% or 4.0%; respect is likely and would confirm the target of 3.5%.

10-Year Treasury Yield
An increase in supply of Treasury Notes will test bulls’ conviction next week:

A raft of fresh, post-Christmas government bond supply will put that comprehensive bullishness to the test. Next week, Treasury will auction $57 billion, $58 billion and $40 billion in two-, five- and seven-year notes, respectively. That’s up 20%, 15% and 7% from their average sizes over the past four monthly auctions. (Grant’s Current Yield)

The 2-year Treasury yield (purple below) is falling in anticipation of Fed rate cuts next year. A peak in the 2-year tends to lead the first rate cuts by 6 to 9 months. The signal misfired with the SVB banks crisis in March but the October peak warns of Fed rate cuts in Q2 or Q3 of 2024.
Fed Funds Rate Minimum Target & 2-Year Treasury Yield

International Stocks

The FTSE 100 is testing resistance at 7700, with a Trend Index trough at zero signaling buying pressure.

FTSE 100

The DJ Stoxx Euro 600 — reflecting the top 600 stocks in Europe — broke resistance at 470. Follow-through above 480 would test the 2022 high of 494.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is testing long-term resistance at 33750. Breakout would signal a fresh primary advance but declining Trend Index peaks show a lack of commitment from buyers.

Nikkei 225 Index

The ASX 200 is testing resistance at 7600, buoyed by strong iron ore prices and falling long-term bond yields. A sharp rise in the Trend Index indicates buying pressure but reversal below 7400 would warn of a correction to test support at 7000.

ASX 200

Gold & the Dollar

The US Dollar Index respected resistance at 102.50, confirming the target at 100. Trend Index peaks below zero signal strong selling pressure.

Dollar Index

Gold broke through resistance at $2050, closing at $2053 per ounce. Expect retracement to test the new support level; respect would confirm another attempt at $2100. A falling Dollar and increased bullion demand from central banks is expected to maintain upward pressure on Gold prices.

Spot Gold

Conclusion

Stocks are rallying in response to falling long-term Treasury yields and in anticipation of Fed rate cuts next year. But falling LT Treasury yields is a medium-term rally in a long-term bear market, with LT yields expected to rise in 2025. Fed rate cuts are also a bearish sign, normally preceding a recession by several quarters — falling earnings are definitely not bullish for stocks.

Investors will need to be agile, to take advantage of the current bullishness in stocks while guarding against:

  • a trend reversal in long-term yields; and
  • signs that the broad economy is falling into recession.

Vacation

This is our last newsletter of the year as we close our office for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year.

We wish all our readers peace and goodwill over the festive season and hope for a less tumultuous year ahead.

The Magpie by Claude Monet

The Magpie by Claude Monet

S&P 500 rallies while consumer sentiment falls

The University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment declined to 61.3 for November. Levels below 70 in the past have signaled a recession.

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment

Consumer sentiment is in sharp contrast to robust personal consumption expenditures which at 93% of disposable personal income are well above pre-pandemic levels.

Personal Consumption Expenditure/Disposable Personal Income

Mortgage rates above 7.0% failed to dampen discretionary spending, with most households having locked in low fixed mortgage rates over the pandemic.

30-Year Mortgage Rate

Home Sales

Existing home sales declined to an annual rate of 3.8 million, with households are reluctant to give up their cheap fixed-rate mortgages.

Existing Home Sales

New home sales surged as a result, boosting residential construction.

New One-Unit Home Sales

Inflation Expectations

The University of Michigan November survey shows 1-year inflation expectations increased to 4.50%.

University of Michigan Inflation Expectations 1-Year

Five-year expectations increased to 3.2%, with the 3-month moving average of 3.0% well above the Fed’s 2.0% target.

University of Michigan Inflation Expectations 5-Year

Rising inflation expectations mean that the Fed is unlikely to cut interest rates in the foreseeable future.

Interest Rates

10-Year Treasury yields continue to test support at 4.40% after Treasury weighted new issuance towards the front-end of the yield curve — largely funded by money market funds currently invested in repo. Breach of support would offer a target of 4.0% — bearish for the Dollar.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Stocks

The S&P 500 is testing its July high of 4600. Breakout is uncertain but would not signal a bull market unless confirmed by other indices.

S&P 500

The S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX) has recovered less than 60% of its last decline.

S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index

The Russell 2000 Small Caps ETF (IWM) is even weaker, retracing less than 50% of its last decline, suggesting that investors have little appetite for risk.

Russell 2000 Small Caps Index iShares ETF (IWM)

Dow Jones Transportation Average has also retraced less than 50%. The Trend Index below zero continues to warn of selling pressure.

Dow Jones Transportation Average ($DJT)

Gold and the Dollar

The Dollar Index retraced to test resistance at 104. Respect is likely and breakout below 103 would offer a target of 100.

Dollar Index

The weakening Dollar is bullish for Gold which is testing resistance at $2000 per ounce. Breakout would offer a short-term target of the previous high at $2050.

Spot Gold

Commodities

Dow Jones Industrial Metals Index ($BIM) fell sharply, warning of another test of primary support at 153. Breach would warn of a global recession, especially if mirrored by a similar breach in Copper.

Dow Jones Industrial Metals Index ($BIM)

Copper is testing its descending trendline at 8300. Reversal below primary support at 7800 would warn of a global recession. China consumes about 50% of the world’s copper production, most of it used in construction. So a lot depends on China’s efforts to rescue their ailing property sector.

Copper

The downward spiral of China’s ailing property sector shows no sign of abating despite the government’s rollout of a seemingly endless series of supportive but as yet ineffective measures, with the crisis stretching for over three years…..

The market for Chinese developers’ dollar-denominated bonds has seen a meltdown over the past two years, losing 87% of its value. The rout has wiped out $135.5 billion of value from $154.9 billion of outstanding notes, according to analysis by Debtwire. (Caixin)

Brent crude is testing resistance at $83 per barrel. Respect would warn of another downward leg to $72 and strengthen a bear market warning from Copper and base metals.

Brent Crude

Conclusion

Personal consumption expenditures remain strong despite falling consumer sentiment. The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 4600 but the advance is narrow, with investors avoiding risk in the broader market.

The Dollar weakened on the back of falling long-term Treasury yields, boosting demand for Gold which is testing resistance at $2000 per ounce. Breakout would offer a short-term target of $2050.

Copper and base metals are expected to again test primary support as doubts remain over China’s ailing property sector. Breach of support would warn of a global recession.

Inflation expectations remain persistent, with five-year expectations at 3.0% in the November University of Michigan consumer survey, well above the Fed’s target of 2.0%. The likelihood of rate cuts in early 2024 is remote unless a major collapse in financial markets forces the Fed’s hand.

Acknowledgements

Macrobusiness: China’s property black hole sucks in the CCP.