NATO threats to Russia - storm in a teacup. ISIS and Iraq airstrikes - transitory. Israel-Hamas un-cease-fire - fuggetabaadit. This was the week to buy stocks... the riskiest, most overvalued growth-oriented stocks. GDP downgrades - no sweat. Russell 2000 surges to its best week in the last 8 (up 1.5%) while Trannies closed lower for the 2nd week in a row - the first time in 6 months. The Russell rallied perfectly up to its 50-day moving-average. S&P, Dow, and Nasdaq scrambled back to around unch on the week on the back of a tweet and a 4-day-old piece of news... bonds and FX did not. Gold closed the week up 1.3%, back over $1,310 (but silver closed down 1.8%). Oil ended modestly lower (as did copper). Treasury yields saw safe-haven buying and fell 5-7bps on the week (but well off the week's lows -15bps). "Most shorted" stocks rose 1.3% today - best in almost 4 weeks (and biggest weekly squeeze in 2 months).
A day dominated by geopolitical headlines saw stocks hit 4-month lows, gold jump to 3-week highs, and bond yields tumble to 14-month lows. The Dow made new "sell in May" lows today, now -1.5% from end-April (joined in weakness since then by the Russell). The S&P 500 broke its 100-day moving-average (and did not bounce) as USDJPY broke the critical 102.00 level. The Dow stalled at its 200-day moving-average (16343). 10Y Treasury yields continued to plunge pressing a 2.41% handle - new 14-month closing low-yields. Gold jumped above $1315 closing near the highs of the day (and silver above $20). The USD ended up on the day but JPY carry unwinds continued. VIX broke back above 17 (and remains inverted for the 10th day in a row). Equities continues to catch down to high-yield credit's weakness. A late-day buying-panic, sparked by VIX-slamming, was triggered as S&P futures broke 1900.
Is this stock market decline the "real deal"? (that is, the start of a serious correction of 10% or more) Or is it just another garden-variety dip in the long-running Bull market? Let’s start by looking for extremes that tend to mark the tops in Bull markets.
There isn’t much work out there on exactly how much “House money” gamblers or investors are willing to lose before they know to walk away (or run). Fans of technical analysis know their Fibonacci retracement levels by heart – 24%, 38%, 50%, 62% and 100%. Those are the moves that signal the evaporation of house money confidence as investors sell into a declining market. There isn’t much statistical analysis that any of those percentage moves actually mean anything, but enough traders use these signposts that it makes them a useful construct nonetheless. The only other guideposts I can think of relate to the magnitude of any near term market decline. One 5% down day is likely more damaging to investor confidence than a drip-drip-drip decline of 5% over a month or two. The old adage “Selling begets selling” feels true enough in markets with a lot of “House money” on the line. After all, you don’t want to have to walk home from the casino after arriving in a new Rolls-Royce.
Stocks dumped (EU weakness)-and-pumped today with the majors ending marginally higher (except the Trannies down 7 of last 9 days). The Dow Transports are down over 6% from record highs - the worst slide since Feb 2014. The Russell is down over 7.5% from its peak (and the rest of the majors are playing catch-down from that turning point). The S&P bounced perfectly off its 100-day moving-average. Gold and silver jumped notably higher (gold +1% on the week) after more invasion headlines early on. Oil slipped. Treasury yields mimicked stocks, falling early to 13 month low yields and rising (selling TSYs) after Europe closed to end modestly lower ion yields on the day. The headlines though were focused on the plunge in the US Dollar (driven by a surge of JPY buying around lunchtime). Credit markets tracked stocks moestly but we note one pulled high-yield deal today (unusual). When AUDJPY quit on stocks, VIX took over, rammed back under 15.8 to ignite stocks but pushed higher after Europe closed.
At 2.43%, 10Y Treasury yields are back at June 2013 levels with the entire complex pressing low-yields of the day (down 5-6bps on the week). The USD is strengthening (now up 0.45% on the week) to new 11-month highs. Equity markets are reeling in US and Europe. All major US indices are now down almost 1% from last week's payrolls data, and the Dow and Russell 2000 remain notably red year-to-date. In Europe, it's getting ugly fast, the broad European stock market is now down for 2014 with the periphery suffering the most. For 2014, Portugal is worst but Germany's DAX is -3.5% YTD. European bonds are also hurting with Italy, Portugal, and Spain spreads up 12-22bps, with German 2Y yields at 1bps - their lowest in 13 months. Gold is up on the week, jumping above $1300 this morning as copper slides.
Stocks have given up JPY-carry momentum and fallen back to the old VIX-smashing algo (back under 16) to run stops above Friday's highs. This morning's dip has been bought (on notably low volume) and lifted the S&P, Nasdaq, and Russell 2000 back into the green for August (Trannies and The Dow remain laggards). 10Y Yields are unch, the USD Index is unch, gold is down and oil is up. Perhaps, US investors have forgotten that Europe opens again in 12 hours...
The year's best performing major index was its biggest loser this week. Trannies tumbled almost 4% - the worst week in 22 months. The rest of the indices fell 2-3% with the Russell 2000 down 4 weeks in a row for the first time since November 2011. Dow ends -0.5% and Russell -4% for 2014. Away from stocks, Treasury yields collapsed today erasing most of the post-GDP losses and ending the week only 3-5bps wider at the long-end and 1.5bps lower at the front-end. 10Y closed under 2.5%. The USD Index mirrored bonds, surging on GDP and then plunging today to end the week up 0.35%. Gold and silver oddly decoupled today (silver lower) ending week down 1% and 2% respectively on the week. Ugly week for WTI crude, ending under $98 (Feb lows) down 4.4%. High-yield credit spreads rose 9.7% (to over 350bps - worst since Nov 2013) for the worst non-roll week since May 2012.
For mega caps (The Dow) and small caps (The Russell 2000), the old adage "Sell in May" is now working... both are in the red since the end of April (and the S&P is catching down)...
The market has been so overbought for so long, that most investors were ignoring the clear warning signs that we were in trouble.
The deer is back...
The Dow and S&P 500 are now in the red for July as stocks are opening weak this morning. Of course, the month's big loser is the Russell 2000 which is down 5.3% - its worst month in over 2 years.
While equity markets were in focus for the mainstream, the big moves today occurred in Treasuries and oil prices. From the GDP release this morning, Treasury yields surged higher, rallied briefly after FOMC, before closing near the high-yields of the day (up around 10bps or the most in 9 months). Oil prices started to tumble at around 1030ET, flushed again on EU close, tumbled early afternoon on sanctions headlines, then pumped-and-dumped after FOMC to close at near 3-month lows (below $100). Equity markets surged on GDP, dumped on sanctions, pumped-and-dumped on FOMC, then lifted to the close. Only the Nasdaq ends the day above pre-GDP data levels. On the day, only the Dow closed the day red. Gold and silver chopped around in a narrow range as the USD index roundtripped from early GDP gains after FOMC. VIX closed modestly higher on the day. The Russell 2000 is -4.2% for July, its worst month in 2 years.