2016 Year-End Bull/Bear Debate

As we head into 2017, trying to predict the markets is often quite pointless. The risk for investors is “willful blindness” that builds when complacency reaches extremes. It is worth remembering that the bullish mantra we hear today is much the same as it was in both 1999 and 2007. We don’t need to remind you what happened next.

A Fully Automated Stock Market Blow-Off?

About one month ago we read that risk parity and volatility targeting funds had record exposure to US equities. It seems unlikely that this has changed – what is likely though is that the exposure of CTAs has in the meantime increased as well, as the recent breakout to new highs should be delivering the required technical signals. All these strategies are more or less automated (essentially they are simply quantitative and/or technical strategies relying on inter-market correlations, volatility measures, and/or momentum). We believe this is an inherently very dangerous situation.

The US Stock Market – An Accident Waiting To Happen

Long term risk has increased quite a bit, no matter which data points one happens to consider. Whether one looks at valuations, market internals, leverage or positioning, there are now more warning signs than ever. With the support provided by strong money supply growth declining as well, it becomes ever more likely that these potential dangers will actually materialize. It is an accident waiting to happen.

US Equities' "Impressive Rebound" Is Hollow Inside

If one looks at the NDX alone, one would have to conclude that the bull market is perfectly intact. The same is true of selected sub-sectors, but more and more sectors or stocks within sectors are waving good-bye to the rally. Even NDX and Nasdaq Composite have begun to diverge of late, underscoring the extreme concentration in big cap names. Naturally, divergences can be “repaired”, and internals can always improve. The reality is however that we have been able to observe weakening internals and negative divergences for a very long time by now, and they sure haven’t improved so far. In terms of probabilities, history suggests that it is more likely that the big caps will eventually succumb as well.

Eventually The Weight Becomes Too Much To Bear

The “equal-weight” S&P 500 has dropped to near 3-year lows versus the cap-weighted version. Previous such events under similar conditions occurred at inauspicious times.

Gold And The Grave Dancers

Back in the 1960s, Alan Greenspan wrote a well-known essay that to this day is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the present-day monetary and economic system (which is a kind of “fascism lite” type of statism, masquerading as capitalism) and especially the almost visceral hate etatistes harbor toward gold. Greenspan’s essay is entitled “Gold and Economic Freedom”, and as the title already suggests, the two are intimately connected.

The Stock Market - A Picture Of Excess

It is unknowable how much more pronounced these excesses can become, especially in light of extremely loose monetary policy around the world. Things could easily become quite dicey as soon as tomorrow, but it is just as easily possible that valuations will continue to expand for some time yet. However, these data do indicate one thing: risk has increased enormously, and it will keep increasing the longer the bubble persists. Frankly, the situation also scares us a bit, because we expect that governments and their agencies (such as central banks) will find it extremely difficult to deal with the next crisis. They have become quite overstretched as a result of the last one. After having gone “all in” last time around, what are they supposed to do for an encore? The only options that come to mind are repressive measures such as capital controls, confiscation of private wealth, and a host of other unpleasantries.

Stocks And The Fundamental Backdrop: The New Strategy Is "Hope"

When Will Bad News Cease to be Good News for Stocks? It is quite amazing to watch this. Even as one economic datum after another indicates that a major slowdown is underway that could well turn into a recession (keep in mind that this is not a certainty – at similar junctures in recent years, aggregate economic data recovered just in the nick of time), the US stock market continues to take everything in stride. The longevity, intensity and persistence of a bubble is per se not proof that it will inevitably continue – it is only an indication of the likely amount of pain the market will eventually dispense.