When we first exposed the shockingly dire lack of breadth in US equity markets, it was shrugged off by the mainstream media as yet another 'worry' in the wall to climb. It seems, however, that facts inevitably force their way to the surface and so both Bloomberg (more than 100% of this year’s increase in the S&P 500 Index is attributable to two sectors, health-care and retail. That’s the tightest clustering for an advancing year since at least 2000) and The Wall Street Journal (Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Gilead and Walt Disney Co. account for more than all of the $199 billion in market-capitalization gains in the S&P 500) have been forced to expose the ugly truth about US equities... it is not a stock market - it's a market of 6 tail-chasing momentum stocks.
When we noted the stock market’s weak internals yesterday, we weren’t sure if things could get any worse – and by how much – with the major averages still able to hold near 52-week highs. Well, the answers were “yes” and “a lot”... yesterday, July 20, 2015, was the thinnest new high on record in the U.S. stock market.
With 10% declines following the past 5 occurrences, the after-effects of this development have not been kind to the Nasdaq.
While there were certainly concerning bits of evidence piling up regarding the longer-term fate of U.S. stocks, the most important factors in the immediate-term – such as the ongoing confirmation of new highs by the NYSE Advance-Decline Line – continued to support the bull market. That may be starting to change...
After a test of the breakout level in March, the index moved to new highs again in April. However, over the last few weeks, the VLG’s triple top breakout has shown initial signs of cracking.
The current equities bull run seems unstoppable. No amount of geopolitical concerns, Greek default fears, rate hikes, US dollar strength, crude oil price volatility, Russian sanctions or whatever else you can think of can put a dent on it. Perhaps we should take a step back and try to understand what is driving this strength. OK, we know that central banks continue to spike the punchbowl, but what is the actual transmission mechanism that directs all this liquidity into equities – as opposed to commodities for instance, which continue to struggle?
Let’s focus on what happened in the lead up to the summer of 2011, right before the markets cratered on the back of everything that was going on in Europe and the downgrade of the US' credit rating by S&P. The leveraged loans index peaked at the start of the year and traded sideways up until that eventful August. This was a sign that something was not right in the credit markets; and equities pretty much followed the same pattern. If we fast forward to today, we can see that the leveraged loans index peaked in July 2014, indicated by the red line in the graph, and has noticeably declined since; at the same time equities continued to move higher, a divergence which is a novelty in this bull market. Is this telling us something? We believe so - it is a red flag for equities.
When the most persistent, most aggressive, and most sizeable actions of policymakers are those that discourage saving, promote debt-financed consumption, and encourage the diversion of scarce savings to yield-seeking financial speculation rather than productive investment, the backbone that supports a rising standard of living is broken.
Rogers tells us he's buying Chinese financials, remains long the yen and thinks gold could be going much lower.
S&P futures dumped their most in almost 4 months on marginal volume today as a budget deal (moar fiscal means less moar monetary policy) and a potentially hawkish Stan Fischer on the Fed spread taper fears across all assets with gold lower, Treasury yields higher, and USD rising. New 52-week-lows spiked to 4 month highs as higher beta muppetry took Trannies down most in almost 4 months. The S&P tested back below the payrolls-data and FOMC Minutes launchpad levels from last week as rather notably, while most sectors are still up 5-10% from the debt-ceiling lows, Utilities are now unch. Treasuries weakened back to unchanged from the payrolls print for 5Y (though 7s-130s are -3 to 4bps still). This is the biggest jump in VIX in 2 months as the term structure is the most inverted since US downgrade levels in Aug 2011. Dow <16,000; S&P <1,800; NASDAQ ~4,000 - Retirement Off!
There is plenty of discussion of outflows but we though the following chart was perhaps the most insightful at why this drop is different from the last few year's BTFD corrections. As we noted here, corporate bond managers have desperately avoided selling down their cash holdings (since they know dealer liquidity cannot support broad-based selling and its an over-crowded trade) and bid for hedges in CDS markets. But it seems, given the utter collapse in the advance-decline lines for high-yield and investment-grade bonds that the liquidations have begun. While the selling in high-yield bonds is on par with the Lehman liquidationlevels, it is the collapse in investment grade bond demand that is dramatic (and worse than Lehman). It's not like we couldn't see it coming at some point (here) and as we warned here, What Happens Next? Simply put, stocks cannot rally in a world of surging debt finance costs.
Longer-term divergences tend to provide the most concerning backdrop for the current relative strength of stocks. BofAML's technical research analyst Mary Ann Bartels is concerned that the major negative divergence between market breadth and the S&P 500 indicates a risk of a deep correction in 2013. As she notes: "Although the advance-decline lines have moved up with the US equity market since mid November, bearish divergences remain in place for the S&P 500 and NYSE Stocks advance-decline. This is an important negative divergence as we enter 2013." Add to that the divergence between NYSE net new highs and the divergence with Transports and markets face a triple threat.
While we are bombarded with talking heads telling us that there is money-on-the-sidelines and everyone is so bearish with the market climbing a wall of worry, the reality - as we see across multiple asset classes - is that investors are overweight risk assets (e.g. credit investors overweight IG and HY and mutual fund cash at record lows), near-extreme levels of bullishness (AAII and Put-Call Ratios), near extreme levels of non-bearishness (AAII), and yet credit investors believe markets are overvalued (though still buying) even as IG and HY bonds are seeing near-record highs in advance-decline.
Walls-of-worry; Short-squeezes; money-on-the-sidelines; Everyone's Bearish, right? Well, instead of just listening to the drone of the mainstream media and talking heads, who appear once any rally appears in the hope of garnering some more AUM and taking commissions, we thought it worth a few minutes to look at actual data, positions, and sentiment across equity, debt, and FX asset classes. Sure enough - here are ten charts that show investors are anything but bearish and that the ammunition for the next leg from here can only come from central-banks (and we are concerned that disappointment is due).