Dispassionate big picture overview.
While the perma bears may find comfort in the dollar's decline, its weakness has not been very broad, but really limited to the euro, sterling and currencies that move in their orbit. Still further dollar declines look likely near-term.
Investors who believe that history has lessons to teach should take our present concerns with significant weight, but should also recognize that tendencies that repeatedly prove reliable over complete market cycles are sometimes defied over portions of those cycles. Meanwhile, investors who are convinced that this time is different can ignore what follows. The primary reason not to listen to a word of it is that similar concerns, particularly since late-2011, have been followed by yet further market gains. If one places full weight on this recent period, and no weight on history, it follows that stocks can only advance forever. What seems different this time, enough to revive the conclusion that “this time is different,” is faith in the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak...
As suggested here last week, the dollar moved higher over the past five sessions. Although it finished the week on a firm note, I suspect we may have a pullback before seeing higher levels. Here is why.
As the markets elevate higher on the back of the global central bank interventions it is important to keep in context the historical tendencies of the markets over time. Here we are once again with markets, driven by inflows of liquidity from Central Banks, hitting all-time highs. Of course, the chorus of justifications have come to the forefront as to why "this time is different." The current level of overbought conditions, combined with extreme complacency, in the market leave unwitting investors in danger of a more severe correction than currently anticipated. There is virtually no “bullish” argument that will withstand real scrutiny. Yield analysis is flawed because of the artificial interest rate suppression. It is the same for equity risk premium analysis. However, because the optimistic analysis supports the underlying psychological greed - all real scrutiny that would reveal evidence to contrary is dismissed. However, it is "willful blindness" that eventually leads to a dislocation in the markets. In this regard let's review the three most common arguments used to support the current market exuberance.
While there are a plethora of Wall Street analysts calling for much higher levels for the S&P 500; most of these calls are based simply on the belief that the current trajectory must continue indefinitely. While you certainly cannot "fight the Fed" the underlying fundamentals and economics that support the markets long term are not present for the party. What is very important to understand, and can be clearly seen in the chart below, is that despite repeated calls for "ever rising" stock markets in the past eventually left investors devastated. Markets do not, and cannot, continue indefinitely in one direction. Unfortunately, for most individuals, by the time they realize what is happening it will likely be far too late to act. Could the catalyst be 'language' changes from the FOMC as they see bubbles and froth in high-yield credit and margined stocks?
It is the yen, not the dollar, that is the key currency in the foreign exchange market.
There have been some large moves in the foreign exchange market in recent days. The euro posted its largest rally in four months last week. The yen has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since June 2010 and extended the declining streak to nine consecutive weeks, something not seen since 1989. The Canadian and Australian dollar rose to multi-moth highs, as did the Mexican peso.
In last week's technical note, we suggested the key question whether the sharp drop in the major foreign currencies following the avoidance of the full fiscal cliff in the US was trend reversal or overdue correction. We favored the latter and looked for the underlying trends to continue. They did.
Now market participants face a different question. Given the out-sized moves, have the trends become stretched? The answer, we propose, is more nuanced than last week. There is not one answer for all the major currencies we review here.
Because there are still some traders who adhere to such old normal traditions as charting and technical analysis (because apparently the FOMC committee sits down each month and observes Ichimoku clouds, RSI indicators and Bollinger bands), it is probably notable that one of the most respected chartists, Steve Cohen's favorite technician Tom DeMark, is now uniformly bearish on virtually all markets around the world which have triggered a sell signal in his studies, and is about to drop the axe on the US as well where a "Daily 13" signal is imminent. The caveat, of course, is that in a world in which fundamentals haven't mattered in years, why should technicals?
The US dollar moved lower over the past week against the major currencies, with the notable exception of the Japanese yen. The greenback's technical tone has deteriorated. The euro and sterling appear to have convincingly broken above significant down trend lines. With the holiday season upon us, there seems to be no compelling technical reason not to look for a continuation of dollar weakness into the end of the year. Few are incentivized to fight the trend.
The extent of the Fed's easing, and the implication of its guidance, suggests an even more dovish posture than the expansion of QE3+ (remember it was purposely open-ended, unlike QE1 and QE2). While the euro zone economy appears to be contracting this quarter at a slightly faster pace than in Q3, the slowdown in the US is more dramatic. Growth may be more than cut in half from the 2.7% annual pace seen in Q3. The fiscal cliff is the main cause of consternation at the moment. Although there is private negotiations taking place, the public posturing is what investors have to guide them, and it is not particularly flattering.
Today's AAPL move, on no news, is as of this moment a $35+ move in one trading session, or a $30+ billion market cap move in one trading session, and a nearly $60 move from the Friday lows. As the histogram below shows, in absolute terms, this is the second largest intraday move up in the stock in the past two years, and a 4 sigma move for a stock which has moved 7% on a 1.7% standard deviation, for no other reason than the "stock is oversold" or whatever other narrative those who put narratives to stock moves have ascribed to it today. And with HFT's determining valuation based on momentum, RSI, Bollinger bands, and other meaningless New Normal technicals, we have just gone from massively oversold, to massively-er overbought.
The U.S. stock market is getting a wedgie, and so is the U.S. dollar. That matters, as wedges tend to break up or down in a big way. Stocks are a "risk-on" trade, the dollar is a "risk-off" trade, so they are riding a see-saw with wedgies. Yes, I realize this is an unpleasant image, so let's turn to the charts.
If there is one lesson to be learned from the Japanese experience with deleveraging over the past few decades it’s that deleveraging cycles have there own special rhythm of reflationary and deflationary interludes. Pretty simple thinking as balance sheet deleveraging by definition cannot be a short term process given the prior decades required to build up the leverage accumulated in any economic/financial system. If deleveraging were a short term process, it would play out as a massive short term depression. And clearly any central bank would act to disallow such an outcome, exactly has been the case not only in Japan over the last few decades, but now also in the US and the Eurozone. We just need to remember that this is a dance. There is an ebb and flow to the greater (generational) deleveraging cycle. Just as leveraging up was not a linear process, neither will the process of deleveraging be linear. Why bring this larger picture cycle rhythm up right now? The recent price volatility we’ve seen in assets that can be characterized as offering purchasing power protection within the context of a global central banking community debasing currencies as their preferred method of reflation for now, specifically recent the price volatility of gold.
A lot of technical analysts and financial pundits are expecting a standard-issue Santa Claus Rally once a "solution" to Europe's debt crisis magically appears. There will be no such magical solution for the simple reason the problems are intrinsic to the euro, the Eurozone's immense debts and the structure of the E.U. itself. The accident has finally happened, and it's called the euro/European debt crisis. I see a lot of analysts trying to torture a Bullish interpretation out of the charts, so let's take a "nothing fancy" chart of the broad-based S&P 500 with five basic TA tools: Bollinger Bands to measure volatility, relative strength (RSI), MACD (moving average convergence-divergence), stochastics and volume. If we use Technical Analysis 101 (basic version), a number of things quickly pop out of this chart--and none of them are remotely bullish.
At FMX|Connect we offer little variety in the technical analysis arena. We leave that expertise to Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover fame, one of the preeminent energy analysts of our generation and someone with whom we are proud to partner. There are however two indicators that we feel quite comfortable with. These indicators are largely based on probabilities and volatility, areas we are much more at home assessing. The first one we’ve called our Trend-Vol Indicator. It measures the risk-reward in being short volatility through its cycles. Secondly, it often gives a low noise directional indicator which our readers may know we’ve used with some success during this Gold bull market. Its methodology is largely home-grown and proprietary: but suffice to say, it is a concoction of Bollinger bands, historical and implied volatility correlations, with a dash of skew thrown in. The second indicator we claim less ownership of, but have done some refinement to. It is something called the 6 Week Reversal signal, and if memory serves, was popular with Connors and Raschke for a while. Silver is entering an area right now that puts it on our radar for both indicators. This is extremely rare, considering the Trend-Vol system is used for breakouts, and the 6WR is for reversals. Before we get into it, some basic technical stuff we see in Silver.