The Stock Market

     

 

 

Mud Volcanoes

There are numerous explanations for just what in the heck is going on with the economy.  Some are good.  Many are bad.  Today we’ll do our part to bring clarity to disorder…

 

Two data series it is worth paying attention to at the moment: the unemployment rate (U3) and initial claims. As the chart at the top shows, when the former makes a low it is time to worry about the economy. Low points in the U3 UE rate slightly lead the beginning of recessions. Claims on the other hand are near coincident indicators of the stock market, this is to say, lows in initial claims tend to happen within a time period of four to six weeks surrounding major stock market peaks (in most cases they lead slightly, but small lags have occasionally occurred as well). Note: neither indicator confirms an imminent turning point as of yet – initial claims would e.g. have to rise to around 300k in order to do so. The same is true of other major recession indicators, their most recent readings do not yet confirm that the business cycle is about to turn down. However, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that indicates such a downturn may soon be confirmed, including recent market moves (i.e., deteriorating stock prices and rising credit spreads). [PT]

 

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A Plethora of Headaches

We hope the recent market turmoil is not giving our readers too much of a headache. As you are no doubt aware, the events of the last few weeks have made maneuvering around global markets rather difficult.

 

A less than happy NYSE floor trader [PT]

Photo crdit: Brendan McDermit

 

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Investment Grade Junk

All is now bustle and hubbub in the late months of the year.  This goes for the stock market too. If you recall, on September 22nd the S&P 500 hit an all-time high of 2,940.  This was nearly 100 points above the prior high of 2,847, which was notched on January 26th.  For a brief moment, it appeared the stock market had resumed its near decade long upward trend.

 

We actually did not believe in the validity of the September breakout attempt: the extremely large divergence between the broad market and the narrow big cap leadership was one of many signs that an internal breakdown in the stock market was well underway. It is probably legitimate to refer to the January 2018 high as the “orthodox” stock market peak – the point at which most stocks topped out. [PT]

 

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The Mighty Gartman

Investment newsletter writer Dennis Gartman (a.k.a. “the Commodities King”) has been a target of ridicule at Zerohedge for a long time. His pompous style of writing and his uncanny ability to frequently make perfectly mistimed short term market calls have made him an easy target.* It would be quite ironic if a so far quite good recommendation he made last week were to turn into the call of a lifetime (see ZH: “Gartman: ‘We Are Officially Recommending Shorting This Rally'”).

 

A little collage devoted to the Commodity King. It is easy to see how he ended up being made fun of. Actually, by now he has garnered a quite sizable fan community at Zerohedge and other web sites that report on his frequently ill-timed flip-flops (often announced with great conviction). However, a major call on the stock market he recently made seems to have been perfectly timed.

 

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From Crash Danger to End-of-the-Year Ramp

 

[Ed note by PT: we are unfortunately a week late in posting this issue of SI, which didn’t reach us in time due to a technical problem. We decided to post it belatedly anyway: for one thing, the effect under discussion is normally in effect until the end of the year; for another, the statistical validity of this information goes beyond the current year, as it is a recurring phenomenon. Lastly we would note that we have a strong suspicion that the effect may actually be cut short this year – details to be discussed in a follow-up post]

 

Knock, knock… it’s Jack, from Wall Street

 

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Just a Little Avalanche or an Implosion?

A few years ago, we briefly discussed the dynamics of sand piles in these pages, which are a special field of study in mathematics and physics (mathematically inclined readers can take a look at two papers on the subject here:”Driving Sandpiles to Criticality and Beyond “ (PDF) and  ‘Games on Line Graphs and Sand Piles “(PDF) – unfortunately two other studies that used to be available have in the meantime disappeared from the inter-tubes).

 

Waiting to crumble: a giant sand dune in the Namib desert.

 

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End of the Road

The confluence of factors that influence market prices are vast and variable.  One moment patterns and relationships are so pronounced you can set a cornerstone by them.  The next moment they vanish like smoke in the wind. One thing that makes trading stocks so confounding is that the buy and sell points appear so obvious in hindsight.  When examining a stock’s price chart over a multi-year duration the wave movements appear to be almost predictable.

 

The fascinating obviousness of hindsight – it is now perfectly clear when one should have bought AMZN. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite as clear in real time. [PT]

 

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A Chirp from the Deep Level Mines

Back in late 2015 and early 2016, we wrote about a leading indicator for gold stocks, namely the sub-sector of marginal – and hence highly leveraged to the gold price – South African gold stocks. Our example du jour at the time was Harmony Gold (HMY) (see “Marginal Producer Takes Off” and “The Canary in the Gold Mine” for the details).

 

Mining engineer equipped with bio-sensor

Photo credit: Hulton Archive

 

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A Quick Look at a few Technical Yardsticks and Comparisons

We went through numerous charts and data over the weekend to provide a snapshot of where market currently stands. This is in context with our idea that sudden downturns in the form of mini-crashes are likely to happen with very little advance warning, mainly due to market structure issues (the vast increase in systematic trading strategies) and the unique post “QE” environment.

 

Bad hair can be dangerous! Shock-haired Pete and his bro Suck-a-thumb have been traditionally used to get children in Germany and eventually across all of Europe to behave by traumatizing them with some of the most frightening horror stories ever thought up. Everybody in Europe knows these characters, and everybody was scared out of his wits by these stories as a child.

 

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A Well-Established Tradition

Seemingly out of the blue, equities suffered a few bad hair days recently. As regular readers know, we have long argued that one should expect corrections in the form of mini-crashes to strike with very little advance warning, due to issues related to market structure and the unique post “QE” environment. Credit spreads are traditionally a fairly reliable early warning indicator for stocks and the economy (and incidentally for gold as well). Here is a chart of US high yield spreads – currently they indicate that nothing is amiss:

 

As this chart shows, credit spreads do as a rule warn of impending problems for the stock market, the economy or both. Not every surge in spreads is followed by a bear market or a recession, but some sort of market upheaval is usually in the cards. Since the stock market normally peaks before the economy weakens sufficiently for a recession to be declared, the warnings prior to market tops are often subtle – usually all one gets is a confirmed breakout over initial resistance levels, at which time yields will still be quite low. At the moment credit spreads suggest that nothing untoward is expected to occur for as far as the eye can see (a.k.a. the near future). Will something intrude on that enviable and stress-free combination of Nirvana, Goldilocks and the Land of Cockaigne, where everything seems possible, especially good things? Will Santa Claus remain a permanent fixture of the junk bond and stock markets, handing out gifts to all those prepared to spice up their portfolios with bonds bereft of covenants and light in yield, triple-digit P/E stocks, or even CUBE stocks (=completely unburdened by ‘E’)? Perhaps Fisher’s permanent plateau has materialized 90 years later than originally envisaged, but we don’t think so.

 

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A Month with a Bad Reputation

A certain degree of nervousness tends to suffuse global financial markets when the month of October approaches. The memories of sharp slumps that happened in this month in the past – often wiping out the profits of an entire year in a single day – are apt to induce fear. However, if one disregards outliers such as 1987 or 2008, October generally delivers an acceptable performance.

 

The road to October… not much happens at first – until it does. [PT]

 

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A Surprise Rout in the Bond Market

At the time of writing, the stock market is recovering from a fairly steep (by recent standards) intraday sell-off. We have no idea where it will close, but we would argue that even a recovery into the close won’t alter the status of today’s action – it is a typical warning shot. Here is what makes the sell-off unique:

 

30 year bond and 10-year note yields have broken out from a lengthy consolidation pattern. This has actually surprised us, as we felt that the large speculative net short position in bonds and notes was prone to trigger a short covering rally. Alas, the opposite has happened.

 

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