This is the video recording of the November 2018 Conference Call.
Small-caps have been lagging for most of the year with that trend really accelerating in May, posing a major headwind for the broader market. One thing we were looking for before putting cash to work on the long side was a sign(s) of risk appetite for stocks, which we’re seeing for the first time in a while. The question now is will it last and how does it affect our portfolios?
As you guys know, we’ve been rooting for a stock market crash for most of October. When we’re shorting stocks, we want the market to drop as fast as possible so we can make a profit. You may not like the repercussions of a severe market correction, but since there is nothing we can do to prevent it, all we can do is try and profit from it. Innocent people’s portfolios will get slashed under those circumstances, companies will shut down and people will likely lose their jobs. An economic recession may even follow. We have no idea and no say in the matter anyway. So we’ve had two options in October: Close our eyes and ignore it? Or prepare and profit? We’ve chosen the latter.
In case you’re wondering, we’re still rooting for a complete collapse in U.S. Stocks. The only thing that would make us more neutral is the Russell2000 Index Fund $IWM holding above 151. Under those circumstances and more neutral approach towards equities is best. In the meantime, we’ll keep pressing shorts and hoping for the worst.
Today, I want to bring up two charts that I believe are pointing to further selling. I could even argue that these are the most important charts in America right now. We’re talking Credit Spreads. When institutional money wants to be aggressive, they position themselves into riskier, higher yielding junk bonds at a faster rate than they do into more conservative, lower yielding U.S. Treasury Bonds. If there is stress and they need to be getting more defensive, you’ll see that flow into Treasuries at a much faster rate than into riskier Junk. [Read more…]
The thing about the market is that there is no holy grail. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to find it. The holy grail does not exist. We have to weigh the evidence knowing full well that we’re working with incomplete information. The idea is to accumulate all of the data and make a conclusion based on all of it, not just some of it.
Today, I want to go over a few of the divergences that have put the bulls in a precarious situation. There is a large crowd of permabull “passive” investors that are taught just to buy stocks and hope for the best. They are shown all of these sexy equity curves and told again and again how much they would have made had they invested in the S&P500 in 1950 or 1982 or whatever cherry-picked date is forced upon them.
It doesn’t make these people good or bad. It’s just what it is. I think it’s important for market participants to understand the way things work. Based on the tiny tiny sample size of a 100 years or so, sure a lot of these theories could make some sense. We’ve had less than a handful of secular bear markets during this time, so if you’re making decisions based on the outcome of a few short periods, then go for it. But it’s not something I would ever do.
We need to reevaluate the market constantly as the data comes in and understand that we have no idea what the stock market is going to do. In fact, I’m willing to bet that it will do something it’s never done. You know why? Because the market does something it’s never done all the time. There are only 100 years of history. It’s easy to do something that’s never been done with such little data and such an irresponsibly small sample size. It’s not just different this time, it’s different every time.
I want to reiterate that there is unlimited downside risk in the market right now and I don’t think it’s being respected. It’s not until afterwards that they ask, “what happened??”. And that’s when the blaming game begins: The fed, the trump, the ebola, or whatever excuse du jour is being regurgitated on the various media outlets. The only one to blame is ourselves. It’s our portfolio at risk. We are the only ones who profit when it goes up and the blame is 100% ours if we lose money on long positions when the market goes down.
Is this 2008 all over again? 1987? 1929? I doubt it.
We’re not seeing any stress in credit, which is where the real problems start. In fact, some stocks and sectors are going up while others are going down. We’ve seen relative strength in Energy, Utilities and Consumer Staples. Remember, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a new all-time high just last week. It’s easy to forget right?
So what’s the problem? The problem is that we have failed breakouts in all of the major U.S. Indexes, and at the very least, it is going to take some time to resolve. The questions are: How long? and How low could we go? [Read more…]
There are a lot of interesting developments working through the markets these days. Whether it’s the relentless sector rotation underneath the surface or the divergences between small and large-cap stocks, there is no shortage of topics to discuss about the current environment. I have been in the camp that a breakdown in Bonds to new multi-year lows would likely be accompanied by a lower yen and higher stock and commodities prices. Through last week that strategy has worked really well.
Moving forward, however, how does this face-ripper in rates impact U.S. stocks? Is the relative strength in financials this week a positive sign for equities? Or are they just getting a sympathy bid because of rates? Are Semiconductors finally going to break out above their epic 2000 highs, which they’ve been flirting with all year? What about Gold and Crude Oil? How do they fit in?
I have to give credit to our Intermarket Analysis work for a lot of our success over the years. This “Cross-Asset” perspective is incredibly valuable, particularly when it comes to identifying and staying with important trends. As a supplement to our Technical work in U.S. Stocks and Indexes, we incorporate a variety of Intermarket relationships to help us formulate a thesis. These include Bonds, Commodities and Currencies.
When it comes to safety, I don’t care what people believe is a safe haven, I only care how the market reacts when it needs to go safe. When markets stressed and volatility rises, stocks fall in price and US Treasury Bonds and Japanese Yen reap the benefits. When did Yen and Bonds get strong? Summer of 2015 just as the S&P500 was topping out. When did Yen and Bonds peak? When stocks got going several months before the 2016 elections. Both of these are near their 52-week lows, which makes perfect sense with Stocks at all-time highs.
So, the way I see it, we’re most likely going to see Yen and Bond strength if stocks really sell off this quarter. The other side of that argument is that stocks are likely to do well in an environment where these “safe haven” assets are selling off. Here is a chart of both U.S. Treasury Bonds and Japanese Yen close to major breakdowns. If this is indeed the case, and both of these assets do break, I would bet that stocks are ripping in that environment: [Read more…]
The one thing we do know is that stocks are not in a downtrend. New all-time highs are consistent with a stock market environment where prices are rising. We saw new all-time monthly closing highs in most of the major U.S. Stock Indexes last week. The question is more about whether or not we’re starting to see this trend change or deteriorate in any way. The short answer is no. We do not see enough evidence to support a bearish approach towards equities, quite the opposite in fact.
Here’s what I’m seeing: [Read more…]