Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bracing for more pain

In theory, stock prices should be poised to rally. The SPX is testing a key support zone dating back to October 2014 and it is experiencing positive divergences on the 5 and 14 day RSI. If it did bottom here, the initial target would be the first Fibonacci retracement level at about 1935, with further resistance at about 1975 and 2010.



The bulls are set up for some short-term disappointment. I wrote on Sunday that I expected further stock market weakness ahead for this week because momentum was weak and readings were not oversold (see Waiting for the market to heal). Monday's market action did not disappoint that forecast.

The omens were positive for for a bullish reversal on Wednesday. Overnight, the shares of Deutsche Bank soared on a rumor of a buyback of its senior debt as a demonstration of its balance sheet strength and European bourses rallied in sympathy. At one point, ES futures were up over 1% in the overnight market. By the time the dust settled at Wednesday's close, the SPX was flat on the day.

The full post is at our new site here.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If I had to watch just ONE THING...

During periods of market turmoil like the one we are experiencing, it's important to keep your eye on the ball and not to get overly distracted. If I had to just had to watch just one thing, it would be how forward 12-month EPS are evolving. That's because Ed Yardeni found that forward EPS is highly correlated with coincidental economic indicators. In that context, the current market weakness makes sense because what`s really bothering the market is a lack of growth. If the growth outlook were to improve, stock prices would stabilize and start rising again.

The chart below shows the latest update from John Butters of Factset. Consensus forward EPS still looks a bit wobbly, but its weakness is nothing like the 2008 bear market (annotations in red are mine).


Before you write me about how annual or quarterly EPS estimates are falling as a way of bolstering the bear case, this analysis from Ed Yardeni shows that EPS estimates for any single fiscal year tend to start high and decline over time. The way to normalize the falling estimate effect is to calculate a continuous forward 12-month EPS, which is far more stable.



If you don`t have access to a database with consensus EPS estimates to calculate an aggregate forward 12-month EPS, you can get it from Factset. Unfortunately, Factset only updates their estimates weekly on Fridays. If you are impatient, there are a number of ways of monitoring how growth expectations are changing in real-time.

The full post is at our new site here.


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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Waiting for the market to heal

Model signal summary
Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities
Trend Model signal: Risk-off
Trading model: Bearish (downgrade)

The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on research outlined in our post Building the ultimate market timing model.

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading model component of the Trend Model seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend getting better (bullish) or worse (bearish)?" The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below.


Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my blog on weekends and tweet any changes during the week at @humblestudent.


Forming a bottom
Despite the recent recession scare that's been spooking markets, I have been saying for the past few weeks that disciplined macro and fundamental analysis do not support a recession call (see Bottomed, but wait for a re-test of the lows). So equities should rise in the absence of a recession, right? Wrong! From a macro and fundamental perspective, much damage has been done to risk appetite by the recent episode of industrial weakness in the US. In parallel, we have also seen a lot of technical damage in the charts. The market needs time to heal before stock prices can rise again in a sustainable way.

The full post can be found at our new site here.



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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Is the Fed tightening too much?

Regular readers will know that I have been relatively constructive about stock prices longer term, though I am bracing for further short-term volatility. However, the level of anxiety among my readers is high and I have had to play a game of whack-a-mole with bearish themes (as an example see Why China won't blow up the world (this year)).

One of the more recent explanations for the current bout of stock market weakness is that the Federal Reserve is engineering an extraordinary level of tightening, as measured by the Shadow Fund Funds rate (SFF). Such Fed action, it is said, is creating a high degree of stress in the financial markets and causing stocks to tank and risk appetites to shrink (annotations are mine).


How concerned should we be about this development?

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Why China won't blow up the world (this year)

I had a response to my last blog post in which I indicated that the contagion effects from a China slowdown had been contained (see Bottomed, but wait for a re-test of the lows). A reader pointed to comments by Worth Wray worried aloud about the possible catastrophic of a RMB devaluation. While I had initially dismissed Wray as a permabear, the combination of these concerns and a report of further weakness from China's Manufacturing PMI meant that these concerns deserve a more complete and detailed answer.

Let me be clear. I don't deny that China faces many problems because of its stalling economic growth rate. Despite all of the hand wringing by western observers, however, Beijing has many tools at its disposal to mitigate the immediate downside risks facing China and the global economy. The China growth story will probably not end well, but it will not end today.

The full post is at our new site here.



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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bottomed, but wait for re-test of lows

Model signal summary
Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities
Trend Model signal: Risk-off
Trading model: Bullish

The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on research outlined in our post Building the ultimate market timing model.

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading model component of the Trend Model seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend getting better (bullish) or worse (bearish)?" The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below.


Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my blog on weekends and tweet any changes during the week at @humblestudent.


Confirmation of limited tail-risk
Whew! Q4 GDP came in at 0.7%, which was below expectations of 0.8%, but growth was still positive and well above some of the Apocalyptic calls for a negative print. This week, we saw further confirmation that macro tail-risk is limited. The US economy is not headed for a recession and the downside risk from China has also been contained.

The full post is at our new site here.



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Friday, January 29, 2016

It's a savings plan!

In the past several weeks, I have been seeing rising levels of angst in social media as the stock market tanked. While anxiety is certainly appropriate for traders, this kind of volatility shouldn't be a concern for investors as long as they have a plan.

Learning to redefine your objectives
Here is what I mean by having a plan.

The full post is at our new site here.


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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Building the ultimate market timing model

I've been giving much thought about the investment philosophy behind the post over at Philosophical Economics about the GTT market timing model. To understand what`s behind his investment philosophy, let`s start back with first principles of equity investing.

The equity claim represent the "stub" claim behind debt, or bond financing in a company and therefore represent greater investment risk. Financial theory holds that higher risk should be rewarded with higher expected (average) return. While equities earn more than bonds, on average, they will be subject to higher levels of risk.

The Philosophical Economics GTT model is a way of mitigating some of the risks of equity investing. When it spots an unfriendly market environment for stocks, it imposes a greater degree of risk control with the use of moving average based trend following models. That way, the investor can avoid the worst of downside risk while capturing upside return.

But what represents an unfriendly market environment? Jesse Livermore at Philosophical Economics defines it as recession, but I have repeatedly said that prolonged bear markets are caused by one of the following:
  1. War or rebellion causing the permanent loss of capital;
  2. Recession; or
  3. An overly aggressive central bank tightening monetary policy.
If we ignore the risk of war and rebellion for the moment, the Jesse Livermore GTT model only addresses a recession risk forecast, but ignores the risks posed by excessively tight monetary policy. His GTT model would have stayed long equities during the Crash of 1987, when the Fed raised rates twice in September to defend the dollar. A proper asset allocation model also needs to consider the effects of central bank policy. Here is where I think I can add value to that modeling framework.

The full post is at our new site here.


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Why the Saudis will either blink...or collapse

As Saudi Arabia`s budget has come under pressure from low oil prices, I see that the Kingdom (KSA) has announced a diversification initiative into IT, healthcare and tourism (via CNBC):
Saudi Arabia outlined ambitious plans on Monday to move into industries ranging from information technology to health care and tourism, as it sought to convince international investors it can cope with an era of cheap oil.

A meeting and presentation at a luxury Riyadh hotel was held against a backdrop of low oil prices pressuring the kingdom's currency and saddling it with an annual state budget deficit of almost $100 billion - the biggest economic challenge for Riyadh in well over a decade.

Top Saudi officials said they would reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil and public sector employment. Growth and job creation would shift to the private sector, with state spending helping to jump-start industries in the initial stage.

"It's going to switch from simple quantitative growth based on commodity exports to qualitative growth that is evenly distributed" across the economy, said Khalid al-Falih, chairman of national oil giant Saudi Aramco.

What KSA faces is a classic problem in development economics. How do you create new industries and employment in an economically depressed region?

The full post is at our new site here.




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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bullish or bearish? What's your time horizon?

Trend Model signal summary
Trend Model signal: Risk-off
Trading model: Bullish

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading model component of the Trend Model seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend getting better (bullish) or worse (bearish)?" The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below.


Update schedule: I generally update Trend Model readings on my blog on weekends and tweet any changes during the week at @humblestudent.


Two views of the market
As the market has been experiencing a high degree of volatility, this week's post will be split into two parts, which reflect the divergent views of my inner trader and inner investor. While my inner trader believes that the markets will be volatile and treacherous for bulls and bears alike, my inner investor thinks that concerns are overblown. Investors shouldn't feel paralyzed like mid-Atlantic Americans are by the Jonas blizzard this weekend, as those fears will all melt away by spring, if not before.




The full post is at our new site here.



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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A possible generational low in oil and energy stocks

The bad news just doesn't stop coming for oil. It all began when Saudi Arabia had turned on the production spigots to counter growing production from American frackers, and now it has to contend with the geopolitical dimensions of the growing power of Russia and Iran in the Middle East. The calls are growing for $20 oil and even $10 oil as there seems to be no prospects of an end to the oversupplied market.

For some long-term perspective, keep in mind this chart from of supply and demand from Jeff Gundlach (via Business Insider). While it is true that there is a significant gap between supply and demand right now, demand has steadily risen and that excess supply will eventually get absorbed:


The full post is at our new site here.



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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Buy! Blood is in the streets!

Trend Model signal summary
Trend Model signal: Risk-off
Trading model: Bullish (upgrade)

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading model component of the Trend Model seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend getting better (bullish) or worse (bearish)?" The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below.


Update schedule: I generally update Trend Model readings on my blog on weekends and tweet any changes during the week at @humblestudent.


How worried should you be?
Well, the stock market certain took a fright last week! At this point, we have to ask ourselves the question of how worried should we be about the market outlook.

For investors, the answer to that question depends on your time horizon. Do you need the money next month, next quarter or next year? If you need the money in such a short period, then did your asset allocation reflect those circumstances? I would contend that as your anxiety level should be falling as your time horizon lengthens.

In this week`s review, I will cover the following topics, starting from long term framework to a shorter one:
  • What is the downside tail-risk for stock prices?
  • What's the upside potential?
  • What does the near-term risk-reward environment for stock prices?
The full post is at our new site here.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

New site is unstable

The new site is down because of a failed software update. We will have it up as soon as possible. Please check back at this page for status updates.

Site is back up but unstable. If anyone has any problems, please email me at cam at humblestudentofthemarkets dot com.

As a result of these difficulties, we are extending the deadline for taking new subscribers from midnight tonight (Pacific Time) to midnight Monday January 18, 2016.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Explaining the lack of capitulation (and what it means)

Dana Lyons recently wrote a terrific piece about the level of complacency in the current bout of stock market weakness. The SPX had fallen over 9% in two weeks, but the VIX Index was barely challenging its December highs and it was nowhere near the highs set during the August/September selloff.


He found that past instances of where the market fell a lot but the VIX did not respond in a corresponding fashion foreshadowed further stock market weakness.




Where is the wash-out?
I had also been concerned about the apparent lack of panic during the latest market slide. My Trifecta Bottom Model, which was first described here, uses three somewhat uncorrelated components to spot short-term market bottoms:
  1. VIX term structure inversion: Which measures rising fear in the option market much better than the absolute level of the VIX Index;
  2. TRIN: When TRIN is above 2, it is often an indication of capitulative price-insensitive selling, otherwise known as margin clerk market; and
  3. OBOS: This is an intermediate term oversold indicator which indicates an oversold condition when the indicator falls below 0.5.
The Trifecta Bottom Model has been uncanny in spotting bottoms in the last three years. The chart below shows the record of this model in the last year, where the blue vertical lines indicate that two of the three components have been triggered (Exacta signal) and the red line indicates that all three were triggered. All marked short-term bottoms. The latest bout of stock market weakness saw TRIN hit a high of 1.97 (not quite 2.0) and the OBOS reach a low of 0.52 (not quite 0.5). Are these readings close enough to trigger a buy signal?



The full post is at our new site here.




Site Notice
Please be reminded that the new site is closing to new subscribers as of midnight (Pacific Time) this Friday, January 15, 2016. This is because I would like to better control the rapid growth of our community.

Here is a sample of some of my recent posts:

Two weeks ago, I wrote The reason why the bulls should be cautious about a January hangover. To be sure, I never expected the kind of downdraft that the market is experiencing, but I was directionally correct. What's more, my big picture calls were pretty good last year (and they contrarian enough that I got a ton of hate mail):




I know that many readers have been following me for a long time. I would like to give them the opportunity to get the best start on 2016. Come over to the new site and take a look.

The subscription page is here (US$199.99 for one year, US$19.99 for one month, US$4.99 for a 24-hour day pass). Even if you are not ready to subscribe, you can always sign up for email notification of free posts as they are free and available to the public two weeks after publication.



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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Where my inner investor is bottom fishing

I thought that, as a change of pace, I would write about where my inner investor is finding opportunities, instead of focusing on the daily gyrations of the stock market and whether it has found a short-term bottom, which is a topic I will cover in a post this weekend.

The art of bottom fishing requires a strong constitution, which is suitable for people like my inner investor who has a longer time horizon. You have to go into the exercise thinking that you don't care that you catch the exact bottom, but with a mindset that Mr. Market has put a sale price on an investment. You may buy X at $10, see it fall to $7, but be ultimately rewarded in several years when it rises to $20, $30 or $40 (note that these are just examples and not return forecasts).

With that framework in mind, here are a couple of opportunities identified by my inner investor.

The full post is at our new site here.



Site Notice
Please be reminded that the new site is closing to new subscribers as of midnight (Pacific Time) this Friday, January 15, 2016. This is because I would like to better control the rapid growth of our community.

Here is a sample of some of my recent posts:

Two weeks ago, I wrote The reason why the bulls should be cautious about a January hangover. To be sure, I never expected the kind of downdraft that the market is experiencing, but I was directionally correct. What's more, my big picture calls were pretty good last year (and they contrarian enough that I got a ton of hate mail):




I know that many readers have been following me for a long time. I would like to give them the opportunity to get the best start on 2016. Come over to the new site and take a look.

The subscription page is here (US$199.99 for one year, US$19.99 for one month, US$4.99 for a 24-hour day pass). Even if you are not ready to subscribe, you can always sign up for email notification of free posts as they are free and available to the public two weeks after publication.

We would love to have you join our community.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Not prone to victory laps, but...

I was brought up to be modest and I am not prone to taking victory laps, but I was reminded of my post from two weeks ago, The reason why the bulls should be cautious about a January hangover. To be sure, I never expected the kind of downdraft that the market is experiencing, but I was directionally correct.

What's more, my big picture calls were pretty good last year (and they contrarian enough that I got a ton of hate mail):



That brings up the point that the new site is closing to new subscribers except for 24-hour day passes as of midnight (Pacific Time) this Friday, January 15, 2016 because I would like to better control the rapid growth of our community.

I know that many readers have been following me for a long time. I would like to give them the opportunity to get the best start on 2016. Come over and take a look.

The subscription page is here (US$199.99 for one year, US$19.99 for one month, US$4.99 for a 24-hour day pass). Even if you are not ready to subscribe, you can always sign up for email notification of free posts as they are available two weeks after publication.

We would love to have you join our community.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A modest proposal for the PBoC

The specter of currency wars and competitive devaluation is in the air. Evan Soltas recently penned a post at FT Alphaville addressing the issue of how petrostates can solve their fiscal woes. The answer was either fiscal austerity or devaluation. The Telegraph reported that the World Bank was urging Saudi Arabia to use its currency reserves to defend the USD-riyal peg and resist the siren song of devaluation.


The Chinese elephant in the room
The elephant in the room of competitive devaluation is China. With the latest release of China PMI is looking a bit on the weak side, another round of stimulus would not be surprising at all.


As Sober Look pointed out, there is room for the PBoC to ease monetary policy:



If the Chinese central bank were to undertake any steps to stimulate the economy, however, it would have the effect of putting downward pressure on its currency, which could stoke fears of a currency war. Business Insider reports that Charlene Chu of Autonomous Research has suggested that China needs as much as USD 5 trillion in credit injections in order to have a similar effect as the shock-and-awe campaign of 2009. If Beijing were pursue that course of action, I have a modest proposal for the PBoC.

The full post is at our new site here.



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As well, I would like to remind readers that we will cease to accept new subscribers as of January 15, 2016 as a way to better control the growth of our new community. Hurry, the deadline is coming up faster than you think.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Why this is a correction and not a bear market

Trend Model signal summary
Trend Model signal: Risk-off (downgrade)
Trading model: Bearish

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading model component of the Trend Model seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend getting better (bullish) or worse (bearish)?" The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below.


Update schedule: I generally update Trend Model readings on my blog on weekends and tweet any changes during the week at @humblestudent.


A glass half-full, or half-empty?
Wow! I realize that when I tactically turned negative on stocks last week, this kind of downdraft would happen (see The road to a 2016 market top). Regardless, David Rosenberg had an excellent piece of advice with his "Breakfast with Dave" last week for investors (for traders, it's another story):
I have three pieces of advice of my own to all the nervous nellies out there, not to mention the nattering nabobs of negativity, turn off the television, focus on the big picture, and review your asset mix.
I agree. During these times of market turmoil, I ask myself if any of the following triggers for a bear market are in place:
  1. Are we facing a war or revolution that will cause the permanent impairment of capital (e.g. Russian revolution, World War II, US Civil War, etc.)?
  2. Is a recession on the horizon?
  3. Is the Fed being overly aggressive and tightening the US economy into a recession?
The answer to the first question is obviously no.

I also see minimal risk of a US recession (see my Recession Watch page). Using the framework used by New Deal democrat's approach of adopting the Geoffrey Moore long leading indicators, recession risk is low. As well, Georg Vrba`s work also comes to a similar conclusion.

As for the third question, the Fed is just starting a tightening cycle and they have made it clear that they plan on being slow and gradual. Moreover, various Federal Reserve officials have indicated that they are tolerant of inflation being slightly over target in order to bring the economy back to full employment. So the Fed can hardly be characterized as being aggressive.

In short, the triggers for a bear market are not there. But what`s spooking the markets? I can summarize the worries as:
  • Geopolitics: The North Korean H-bomb test and rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran;
  • China; and
  • Slowing growth.
I will address each of these issues one at a time, based on a bull vs. bear, or glass half-full or half-empty framework. Finally, I will touch on the market outlook in a more tactical fashion, based on the readings from sentiment models and technical analysis.

The full post is at the new site here.


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As well, I would like to remind readers that we will cease to accept new subscribers as of January 15, 2016 as a way to better control the growth of our new community. Hurry, the deadline is coming up faster than you think.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A tradeable bottom?

After the market closed yesterday (Wednesday), I tweeted a series of charts indicating that the market appeared to be oversold, but fear levels weren't extreme yet:
  1. The market was oversold on % of stocks over the 10 day moving average based on the breadth charts from IndexIndicators;
  2. The market was oversold on net 20 day highs - lows;
  3. The market was showing a positive RSI divergence on the hourly SPX chart; but...
  4. The CBOE equity only put/call ratio was only at average levels, which indicated no signs of fear from the option market; and
  5. My Trifecta Bottom Model was nowhere close to a buy signal (described here), which was another sign of complacency.
I had concluded that a bottom was near, but we may need a further wash-out before a tradeable bottom could be seen. The stock market weakened further on Thursday and a number of fear metrics spiked.

Is the market near a durable bottom?

The full post is at our new site here.



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As well, I would like to remind readers that we will cease to accept new subscribers as of January 15, 2016 as a way to better control the growth of our new community. Hurry, the deadline is coming up faster than you think.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Revealing the secret behind trend following models

The blogger Jesse Livermore at Philosophical Economics recently wrote another brilliant post about the use of trend following models and market timing. He found that trend following models work very well on diversified stock indices, but didn't really understand the mechanism of how they worked. As I pride myself on being a left and right brained quant, I am going to try and explain why these classes of models work and why they perform poorly on individual securities.

The full post is at our new site here.



Site Notice
If you signed up for the notification of our Early Bird Special Offer but did not receive it, I have had some reports that they got classified as spam so please check your spam folder. Otherwise you can email me at cam at humblestudentofthemarkets dot com and I will send you the link.

As well, I would like to remind readers that we will cease to accept new subscribers as of January 15, 2016 as a way to better control the growth of our new community. Hurry, the deadline is coming up faster than you think.