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The Ultimate Death Cross?

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher No Comments Comments
    July 20, 2012

    James Ross, the University Architect at UNC Wilmington and an astute observer of the economy, called my attention to an amusing Business Insiderpiece published yesterday: The S&P Is On The Verge Of The Ultimate Death Cross. The piece mentions a note published Monday by Societe Generale analyst Albert Edwards, who points out that the S&P is on the verge of an “ultimate” death cross. And what, pray tell, is that? A 50-200 moving average crossover, based on months, not days (or even weeks).

    So let’s check this out. The S&P 500 only dates back to March 1957. Since that time the 50-month MA has never crossed below the 200 month MA. The closest it came was the June 1978 monthly close, which gave us a 2.09 point spread between the 50-month (92.09) and the 200-month (90.00). During the 55-plus years that the S&P 500 has existed, there has never been an “Ultimate” Death Cross.

    At the end of last month, the spread was a little over 11 points.

    How disastrous would a trip to the “Death Zone” be? Let’s look further back in time. The chart below uses the S&P Composite data set popularized by Yale professor Robert Shiller. It consists of the monthly averages of daily closes since 1871 — over 140 years of US market history.

    The annotations on the chart speak for themselves.

     

    PostscriptYes, the title of this piece includes an allusion to a regular Monty Python feature, a favorite of many of my fellow Boomers.

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author

    My original dshort.com website was launched in February 2005 using a domain name based on my real name, Doug Short. I’m a formerly retired first wave boomer with a Ph.D. in English from Duke. Now my website has been acquired byAdvisor Perspectives, where I have been appointed the Vice President of Research.

    My first career was a faculty position at North Carolina State University, where I achieved the rank of Full Professor in 1983. During the early ’80s I got hooked on academic uses of microcomputers for research and instruction. In 1983, I co-directed the Sixth International Conference on Computers and the Humanities. An IBM executive who attended the conference made me a job offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Thus began my new career as a Higher Education Consultant for IBM — an ambassador for Information Technology to major universities around the country. After 12 years with Big Blue, I grew tired of the constant travel and left for a series of IT management positions in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. I concluded my IT career managing the group responsible for email and research databases at GlaxoSmithKline until my retirement in 2006.

    Contrary to what many visitors assume based on my last name, I’m not a bearish short seller. It’s true that some of my content has been a bit pessimistic in recent years. But I believe this is a result of economic realities and not a personal bias. For the record, my efforts to educate others about bear markets date from November 2007, as this Motley Fool article attests.
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