Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekly Market Summary

Summary:  The major US indices traded at new all-time highs (ATH) again this week, led by surging small cap stocks. SPX is now higher 6 months in a row and 10 of the past 11 months; that level of momentum has never marked a bull market high.

Short-term optimism has reached an extreme that has resulted in a lower weekly close within the next 6 weeks every time over the past 5 years.

The fundamental narrative for the current rally is that the Trump administration's tax plan will boost earnings by an estimated 6%. If investors expect the tax plan to also cause economic growth to accelerate, then they are very likely to be disappointed.

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SPX, COMPQ, RUT and NYSE made new all-time highs (ATH) again this week.  SPX has been up 5 of the last 6 weeks. The dominant trend remains higher. Enlarge any image by clicking on it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Weekly Market Summary

Summary:  The major US indices all traded at new all-time highs (ATH) this week. Even the lagging small caps index closed at a new ATH on Friday, and transports are very near a new ATH. Persistent strength like that seen throughout 2017 has almost always continued into year-end. However, like last week, a few studies suggest short-term upside will likely be limited. The third quarter ends on Friday.

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US equities are now in the second longest and second strongest bull market of the post-war era. Enlarge any image by clicking on it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Weekly Market Summary

Summary:  The major US indices all recorded new all-time highs (ATH) this week. The very broad NYSE, covering 2800 stocks, also made a new ATH, suggesting the rally is supported by adequate breadth. Longer-term studies and the fundamental macro data continue to indicate that further upside into year-end is odds-on. Remarkably, a new survey shows that fund managers are the most underweight US equities in 10 years, despite the SPX rising 9 of the last 10 months by an impressive 17%.

On a short-term basis, there are several reasons to be on alert for weakness over the next week or two.    An important FOMC meeting is on deck for Wednesday.

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US equities remain in a long term uptrend. SPX, DJIA, NYSE, COMPQ and NDX all made new all-time highs (ATH) this week.

Long-term uptrends typically weaken before they reverse strongly. Note the bottom panel: the 20-wma will flatten in advance of a significant correction to price (yellow shading). This process has not started yet. That doesn't mean that an intermediate-term fall of 5-8% is unlikely; in fact, a correction by that amount is common in most years. But any such fall is likely to followed by a rebound to the prior highs before a more siginificant correction ensues.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fund Managers' Current Asset Allocation - September

Summary: Global equities have risen 12% in the past 6 months and 17% in the past year, yet fund managers continue to hold significant amounts of cash, suggesting lingering risk aversion. They have become more bullish towards equities, but not excessively so with their hedging activity near a 10 month high.

Allocations to US equities dropped to their lowest level in 10 years (since November 2007) in September: this is when US equities usually outperform. In contrast, weightings towards Europe and emerging markets have jumped to levels that suggest these regions are likely to underperform on a relative basis. These weightings also suggest that Europe and/or emerging markets are likely to be the source for any global "risk off' event. Notably, the S&P has outperformed Europe's STOXX600 by 10% the past four months.

Fund managers are modestly underweight global bonds.

The US dollar has gone from overvalued a few months ago to the most undervalued in nearly 3 years. Fund managers had viewed the dollar as overvalued starting in November 2016; since then, the dollar has lost about 8%. Contrarians should be alert to a change in direction for the dollar.

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Among the various ways of measuring investor sentiment, the BAML survey of global fund managers is one of the better as the results reflect how managers are allocated in various asset classes. These managers oversee a combined $600b in assets.

The data should be viewed mostly from a contrarian perspective; that is, when equities fall in price, allocations to cash go higher and allocations to equities go lower as investors become bearish, setting up a buy signal. When prices rise, the opposite occurs, setting up a sell signal. We did a recap of this pattern in December 2014 (post).

Let's review the highlights from the past month.

Overall: Relative to history, fund managers are very overweight cash and underweight bonds. Their equity allocation is modestly overweight. Enlarge any image by clicking on it.
Within equities, the US is significantly underweight while Europe is significantly overweight. 
A pure contrarian would overweight US equities relative to Europe and emerging markets, and overweight global bonds relative to a 60-30-10 basket. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September Macro Update: Employment Growth Slows Further

SummaryThe macro data from the past month continues to mostly point to positive growth. On balance, the evidence suggests the imminent onset of a recession is unlikely.

The bond market agrees with the macro data. The yield curve has 'inverted' (10 year yields less than 2-year yields) ahead of every recession in the past 40 years (arrows). The lag between inversion and the start of the next recession has been long: at least a year and in several instances as long as 2-3 years. On this basis, the current expansion will last well into 2018 at a minimum. Enlarge any image by clicking on it.