Many of the macro drivers in 2007 are in place today (housing bubbling away from median incomes, richly priced equity valuations, excessive leverage in the financial system, etc.).
The stock market is presently a roulette wheel with dimes on black and dynamite on red... The ‘buy the dip’ mentality can introduce periodic recovery attempts even in markets that are quite precarious from a full cycle perspective. Galbraith reminds us that the 1929 market crash did not have observable catalysts: “the crash did not come – as some have suggested – because the market suddenly became aware that a serious depression was in the offing... for it is in the nature of a speculative boom that almost anything can collapse it."
While the current bull market remains "bulletproof" at the moment to geopolitical events, technical deterioration, overbought conditions and extremely complacent conditions; it is worth remembering what was being said during the third phase of the previous two bull markets...
After months of ignoring events in Ukraine, HFT algos suddenly, if one for the time being, have re-discovered just where the former USSR country is on the map, and together with the latest economic disappointment out of China in the form of its official manufacturing PMI which missed expectations for the sixth month in a row, futures are oddly non-green at this moment now that talk of a Ukraine civil war is the new black (after two months of ignoring the elephant in the room... or rather bear in the room). Lighter volumes, courtesy of holidays in Japan and UK, have not helped the market breadth and stocks in Europe are broadly lower with the DAX (-1.33%) and CAC (-1.19%) weighed upon by risk off sentiment and market positioning for the eagerly anticipated ECB policy meeting especially after the EU cuts its Euro-Area 2014 inflation forecast from 1.0% to 0.8%. But what's bad for stocks continues to be good for equities, and moments ago the 10Y dropped to a paltry 2.57%, the lowest since February... and continuing to maul treasury shorts left and right.
The 1900 target for the S&P 500 that Credit Suisse since the start of the year but are seeing increasing signs of a market top with a meaningful correction lower likely to emerge. Volume divergences, DeMark clusters, and reversal days all point to weakness and, as CS concludes, a break of 1844/34 (for the S&P) could lead to a decline to 1800 and then to 1768.
This past week has seen the market struggle due to continued weak economic data, rising tensions between Russia and the Ukraine and an extended bull market run. Market internals are showing some early signs of deterioration even though the longer term bullish trajectory remains intact. Therefore, this week's "Things To Ponder" wades through some broader macro investment thoughts, from the safety of your investments to how market tops are made.
"Stay defensive," warns BofAML's Macneil Curry. While risk assets ended last week on a very strong note, with the S&P500 putting in its best 2 day performance since October; the weight of evidence says that new S&P500 lows are coming and that risk assets should suffer in the weeks ahead. From the S&P500’s impulsive decline from 1850, to negative February seasonals, to deteriorating equity market breadth (the percent of NYSE stocks trading above their 200d avg is at its lowest since Oct'12); it should pay to remain defensive. In the week ahead we look for a top into the 1800/1823 area before the downtrend resumes for 1711/1686; and stay bullish bonds.
But at the end of the day, if your creditors lost faith in your ability to repay it… it’s GAME OVER. This is hitting the emerging market space today.
If we break below these... LOOK OUT BELOW.
Market tops occur when investor psychology changes. But it’s not a clean shift. Investors, like any category of people, are comprised of numerous groups or sub-sects: some get it sooner than others.
The markets are in a perilous condition today. We’ve been noting for months that the markets were displaying signs of a top.
The % of NYSE stocks above their 200-day moving averages has a strong bearish divergence similar to previous plunge-preceding divergences. As BofAML notes, this points to diminishing momentum for market breadth and preceded pullbacks in the range of 15%-20% in 2010 and 2011; increasing the risk for a US equity market pullback in 2014.
Here we go again, creating another asset bubble for the third time in a decade and a half, is how Monument Securities' Paul Mylchreest begins his latest must-read Thunder Road report. As Eckhard Tolle once wrote, “the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it," and that seems apt right now. After Lehman, policy makers went “all-in” on bailouts/ZIRP/QE etc. This avoided an “all-out” collapse and bought time in which a self-sustaining recovery could materialize. The Fed’s tapering threat showed that, five years on from Lehman, the recovery was still not self-sustaining. Mylchreest's study of long-wave (Kondratieff) cycles, however, leaves us concerned as to whether it ever will be. More commentators are having doubts; and the problem looming into view is that we might need a new "plan." The (rhetorical) question then is "Have we really got to the point where it's just about more and more QE, corralling more and more flow into the equity market until it becomes (unsustainably) 'top-heavy'?"
The risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will immediately say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle. The reality is that, as investors, we should consider the possibility, evaluate the risk and manage accordingly. With the current bull market now stretching into its fifth year; it seems appropriate to review the three very distinct phases of historical bull market cycles. While the current bull market cycle may not be set to end tomorrow; it seems sensible to take a pause to question mainstream beliefs.
As stocks press back towards all-time highs amid a US government shutdown, extreme weakness in earnings pre-announcements, slower-than-expected China growth, Europe's recovery in doubt, and a looming debt-ceiling debate in the US, we look at four 'big picture' charts of dismal divergences that suggest it's not different this time at all...