Over the last couple of weeks, I have discussed the entrance of the markets into the seasonally strong period of the year and the potential to increase equity exposure in portfolios on a “short-term” basis. To wit:
“With the markets EXTREMELY overbought short-term, the setup for putting money into the market currently is not ideal.
However, as shown in the chart below, the markets have registered a short-term BUY signal that suggests that we remain alert for a pullback that generates a short-term oversold condition without violating any important supports.“
The chart below updates that analysis through Monday’s close.
“As shown, the recent surge in the markets has driven asset prices back resistance near the old highs. Simultaneously, the markets are pushing into very overbought conditions with a rather extreme deviation from the longer-term moving average. Such deviations tend not to last for an extended period.
In plain English it essentially means the markets have likely completed its current advance and need a short-term correction to provide a better ‘risk/reward’ entry for investors to increase equity exposure.”
As shown in the chart above, the expected correction began in earnest this week.Currently, a correction back to previous support levels (2040-2060) will likely find“buyers” betting on the traditional year-end rally.
Long-Term Concerns Remain
However, it is the longer-term picture that I remain worried about. As noted by my friendJoe Calhoun at Alhambra Partners:
“Stocks also belie this belief that the Fed finally has it right, that growth is finally accelerating and the real recovery is finally underway. Yes, stocks have rallied nicely the last few weeks and have nearly recovered from their August swoon. But all that has done so far is to bring stocks back to where they were in mid-August just before the sell off.While it is certainly possible that we will yet make new highs, I think it is important that momentum is not confirming the move higher except, again, in the very short term. Long term momentum indicators still show a market in the process of topping.”
He is correct. As shown in the MONTHLY chart below, a variety of measures still remain very concerning on a long-term basis registering signals only witnessed at peaks of past bull markets.
There is little evidence currently that the rally over the last couple of months has done much to reverse the more “bearish” market signals that currently exist. Furthermore, as noted by Jochen Schmidt, the current market action may be more indicative of market topping process.
As shown in the next chart, Jochen’s point can be seen more clearly by looking at a longer-term chart of previous bull market topping processes.
The combined “sell signals,” as measured by moving average crossovers, momentum and MACD, have only coincided near major bull-market peaks and bear-market bottoms.
Importantly, those coinciding signals can occur several months before the actual change to the overall “trend” of the market occurs.
Currently, with two of three longer-term “sell signals” registered, with only the final moving average crossover remaining on a “buy” signal, investors should remain more cognisant about relative risk levels in portfolios currently.
Not unlike previous market topping action, the markets could indeed even register “new highs,” as witnessed in both 2000 and 2007 before the major market correction begins.This is typically how “bull markets” end by providing false signals and sucking in the last of those willing to “buy the top.” The devastation comes soon after.
Looking For “Santa Claus”
As I suggested above the “seasonally strong” period of the year may present an opportunity for more seasoned and tactical traders willing to take on additioinal risk. However, for longer-term investors the risk/reward ratio is not favorably tilted currently.
As we progress though the last two months of the year, historical tendencies suggest a bias to the upside. This is particuarly the case given the weakness this past summer which has left many mutual and hedge funds trailing their benchmarks. The need to play “catch-up” will likely create a push into larger capitalization stocks as portfolios are “window dressed” for year end reporting.
This traditional “Santa Claus” rally, however, does not guarantee the resumption of the ongoing “bull market” into 2016.
For that corporate earnings will need to recover, and soon. However, as Joe notes in his missive, this is unlikely to occur:
“That shouldn’t really be that surprising considering what is going on with earnings. With so much hoopla surrounding the Fed it has almost been lost in the shuffle but earnings this quarter have not been very good overall. If you look at “operating earnings” – earnings before all the bad stuff that is allegedly one time but rarely is – over 70% of companies are beating estimates although the beat rate for revenue is quite a bit lower. However, reported earnings paint a different picture with less than half the companies beating estimates. This kind of divergence happens every cycle as we get near the end of the expansion. It speaks to the quality of the earnings and the creativity of CFOs at the end of an expansion.
Companies this cycle have loaded up on debt to buy back stock and keep earnings per share rising. That and other means of cost cutting were necessary because revenue growth has been hard to come by. Particularly hard hit recently have been the US multinational companies, hit by the double whammy of a rapidly rising dollar.“
There is a vast difference between having a strong dollar in a strongly growing economy, and a strong dollar in a weak one. The later weighs on further growth as the deterioration of exports is not offset by the rising consumption of imports. As I discussed last week, a combination of plunging imports and exports is something that should not be ignored.
“The sharp rise in the dollar, which has been cited by many companies as the reason for weak earnings results due to the negative impact to exports, should be a boon for consumers as the stronger dollar makes imports cheaper. However, that has clearly not been the case and suggests the domestic consumer is substantially weaker than other headline data suggests.”
The import/export data is suggesting that the global weakness arising from China and the Eurozone have now impacted the domestic economy. While the Fed continues to suggest that economic strength is improving, the underlying data continues to suggest it isn’t.”
As I have continued to suggest, there is a probability that the markets could rally through the end of the year. However, without a strengthening of the earnings and economic backdrop, such a rally will likely be a continuation of the current market topping process over the intermediate term.
While none of this means that a major market reversion is imminent, it does suggest taking on an accelerated risk profile in the current environment will likely not be greatly rewarding.
Images: Flickr (licence attribution)
About The Author
Lance Roberts – Host of StreetTalk Live
After having been in the investing world for more than 25 years from private banking and investment management to private and venture capital; Lance has pretty much “been there and done that” at one point or another. His common sense approach has appealed to audiences for over a decade and continues to grow each and every week.
Lance is also the Chief Editor of the X-Report, a weekly subscriber based-newsletter that is distributed nationwide. The newsletter covers economic, political and market topics as they relate to the management portfolios. A daily financial blog, audio and video’s also keep members informed of the day’s events and how it impacts your money.
Lance’s investment strategies and knowledge have been featured on Fox 26, CNBC, Fox Business News and Fox News. He has been quoted by a litany of publications from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post all the way to TheStreet.com as well as on several of the nation’s biggest financial blogs such as the Pragmatic Capitalist, Zero Hedge and Seeking Alpha.