When people think about crashes, they tend to think about an event – as if some massive, grotesque, red, scaly, fire-breathing, razor-toothed catalyst should be obvious beforehand. But we know from history that that’s not the way it works...
"The sharp rise in bond volatility over the past week or so is reminiscent of the VaR shocks of October 2014 in US rates and April 2013 in Japanese rates," JP Morgan says, before explaining how volatility induced selling (i.e. a VaR shock) is behind the rout in German Bunds. Predictably, QE has helped create the conditions which make such episodes possible.
We have never, ever, seen equity market breadth diverge from equity market performance for such an extended period...
With the "Great Greek Tragedy" now behind the markets, for the time being, all eyes have turned towards the Nasdaq's triumphant march back to 5000. (The graphics department at CNBC have been working overtime on banners and bugs for when it happens....watch for them.) For now, it is all about the hopes of a cyclical upturn in the Eurozone economy supported by the ECB's QE program starting next month. Market participants have been bidding up stocks globally in anticipation that the ECB's program will pick up where the Fed left off, and the flood of liquidity will find its way back into asset prices
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.
Not paying attention to the symptoms, failing to diagnose the problem and not taking any defensive actions will ensure that investors fall victim to the full-blown effect of any 'illness'. Even minor colds can have a lasting impacting on portfolio performance over time, and making up previous losses has never been a prescription for long-term financial health. Is this a "suckers rally?" Maybe, but only time will tell. However, taking some action in portfolios to reduce risks, take some profits, and rebalance your allocation model is always a great way to prevent coming down with a "cold."
"...the underlying cause of a crash will be found in the preceding months or years, in the progressively increasing build-up of market cooperativity, or effective interactions between investors, often translating into accelerating ascent of the market price (the bubble). According to this ‘critical’ point of view, the specific manner by which prices collapsed is not the most important problem: a crash occurs because the market has entered an unstable phase and any small disturbance or process may have triggered the instability."
From Bitcoin to the Swiss gold referendum, and from Chinese trade and North Korean leadership, Jim Rogers covers a lot of ground in this excellent interview with Boom-Bust's Erin Ade. Rogers reflects on the end of the US bull market. citing a number of factors from breadth to the end of QE, adding that he agrees with Albert Edwards' perspective that now is the time to "sell everything and run for your lives," as the "consequences of [The Fed] are now being felt." Most notably though, Rogers believes the de-dollarization is here to stay as Western sanctions force many nations to find alternatives. Simply put, Rogers concludes, "we are all going to pay a terrible price for all this money-printing and debt."
The 100-day moving average of the advance/decline ratio for the MSCI World Index has collapsed to its lowest level since November 2008.
With just $10 billion of freshly-printed money left (plus reinvested maturing debt) the Fed is rapidly running out of put-providing, VIX-selling, low-volume-levitating ammunition to keep the wealth-creation dream alive. Nowhere is that more evident in the collapse in equity market breadth. NYSE New Lows have surged to 14-month highs and the spread to New Highs is weakest since August 2013. Of course, back then, equity bulls could rely on a guaranteed 'flow' from the Fed to BTFD, this time that backstop does not exist.
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.