Weighing the Week Ahead: Is Market Optimism Justified?

We have a rather light week for economic data. The biggest reports came last week. Earnings season continues. Everyone is keeping a close eye on President Trump, wondering what might happen next. Meanwhile, stocks are at all-time highs and interest rates have stabilized. This combination creates more questions than answers, which will lead the punditry to wonder:

Is the market optimism justified?

Last Week

Last week the economic news was strong, but (once again) with little reaction from stocks.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA two weeks ago I predicted a focus on volatility, wondering whether policy uncertainty would have a reaction in stocks. That was a good call, although overshadowed by the policy moves themselves. There were several articles on volatility, mostly noting the lack of reaction in the VIX.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short via Jill Mislinski. She notes that the week’s gain was all from early action on Friday. Some attributed this to the employment report, but the timing is more consistent with a reaction to Trump actions on Dodd-Frank.

Let us also update another chart from this useful weekly article — a graphic picture of drawdowns. You can readily see both the frequency and magnitude.

Doug has a special knack for pulling together all the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post for several more charts providing long-term perspective.

Some Super Bowl Fun with Two Hidden Lessons

Most readers will be watching the Super Bowl today. Did you know how important this is for market performance in 2017? The old AFC/NFC forecast is passé. We now must “dig deeper” into the data. By email I received an analysis that looked at Manning’s, Broncos, and other factors. I’ll focus on this year’s table.

And here is the recommended interpretation:

Looking at the averages, one might think that having New England or Bill Belichick in the big game is no big deal. A look at the year by year results shows that this could be a huge deal since the averages mask big swings in both directions.

For New England, just being in the big game could be a bearish sign as the market has dropped 6% on average in years where the Patriots have played in the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. During the Tom Brady dynasty years, the Patriots have won four of six times so far while the market is tied 3-3. Two of the years the Patriots have made the big game, 2002 and 2008 have coincided with major bear markets, an ominous sign.

Markets have also been volatile in years where Bill Belichick has coached in the big game both with New England and the New York Giants. Following his coaching appearances, the market has finished up 30% once, down 30% once, up 20% once and down 20% once.

Conclusion: What Super Bowl matchups could mean for the market in 2017

Based on the volatile reaction by markets to seeing New England and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl, combined with the short-term positive, long- term negative reaction to last year’s win by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, it looks like we could be in for a highly volatile for the markets this year. The bull market of recent years could be due for a setback. While signs are mixed over what direction the market may finish the year, there is a strong possibility of a 20% plus move this year.

Jane Wells asked some questions (What milestone did the Dow recently pass? Who is Janet Yellen?) to the high-income Super Bowl Participants. You will enjoy their answers.

Oscar likes the Falcons, but Vince insists that football picks are not part of his programming! Mrs. OldProf likes the Falcons as well, but that is just because they beat her Packers. I’ll stick with the Michigan man.

Use the comments to suggest the “hidden” lessons. WTWA readers should not need me for this oneJ

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something very positive. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

This week’s news was again quite good—almost all positive. I make objective calls, which means not stretching to achieve a false balance. If I missed something for the “bad” list, please feel free to suggest it in the comments.

The Good

  • Consumer spending rose 0.5% in December, beating November’s increase of 0.2% and expectations of 0.4%.
  • Pending home sales rose 1.6%, beating expectations for a 0.6% gain.
  • Consumer confidence remained high at 111.8, although slightly slower than the December reading.
  • Initial jobless claims remained low, at 246K. (Calculated Risk).
  • Factory orders increased 1.3% beating expectations and much better than the 2.3% loss from November.
  • ISM manufacturing registered 56, beating expectations and reaching a level not seen for more than two years. (Scott Grannis). This chart shows why it is important.

  • Auto sales remained at record levels. (Phil LeBeau, CNBC). There is also a shift to the more profitable vehicles.
  • Nonfarm payrolls showed a net gain of 227K. The headline solidly beat expectations, so I am scoring this as “good.” The details were a bit more mixed, with some slight negatives. This is my own summary after reading many sources.
    • Positive
      • Headline job gain.
      • Increase in labor force participation.
      • Benchmark revisions confirming that prior data was something of an under-estimate– also showing healthy growth of jobs from new businesses. (This parallels the Business Dynamics report, which I wrote about here).
    • Negative
      • Small negative revisions to prior months.
      • No gain in the “household survey” employment.
      • Slight uptick in unemployment.
      • Sluggish increase (O.1%) in wage gains.

     

The Bad

  • Personal income increased by 0.3% in December, slightly missing expectations for a gain of 0.4%, but much stronger than the prior month’s 0.1% gain.
  • Construction spending for December declined 0.2%, missing expectations for a slight gain and dramatically lower than the prior month’s 0.9% pop.
  • Earnings beats are slightly below recent averages. (Factset).

 

The Ugly

A possible Chinese stress test for Trump. Jennifer M. Harris, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations has an Op-Ed piece, with the full article at CNN. Here is the key quote:

Major geopolitical crises have a way of greeting US presidents soon after taking office. Nazi Germany’s withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933, the Soviet-led construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 — all were among the most daunting tests of US foreign policy in the past century, and all came less than a year into the tenures of new US administrations.

This is no accident. Foreign governments often like to test a new White House early on.

Russia, Iran, and North Korea are other obvious candidates.

 

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. Jacob Wolinsky has a terrific review of Harry Dent predictions. Here is one of the most dramatic, from just a year ago.

Time to redraw that one. The power of graphs with red lines and arrows is amazing. Jacob’s article also includes the results of a Google search for Dent’s predictions. You must see it to believe it!

I especially appreciate that Jacob was inspired by his Silver Bullet award in 2013. I only wish that more would join me in highlighting people doing this kind of valuable work.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dent’s business model is working just fine. Check out the speaking fees.


The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

It is back to normal for the volume of economic data, but the most important reports came last week.

The “A” List

  • Michigan Sentiment (F). Continued strength anticipated. Special interest in future expectations.
  • Trade balance (T). December data with impact on Q4 GDP adjustments. Will be watched more closely as Trump policy is clarified.
  • Initial jobless claims (Th). How long can the amazing strength continue?

The “B” List

  • JOLTS report (T). Misunderstood and misused. This is about labor market structure, not job growth.
  • Wholesale inventories (Th). December data can have some effect on GDP adjustment. Favorite spinning target.
  • Crude inventories (Th). Recently showing even more impact on oil prices. Rightly or wrongly, that spills over to stocks.

     

Fed speakers are back on the trail. Questions will probe the new political environment and hints about future rate hikes.

Earnings reports will remain important. Early actions from the Trump Administration have captured the spotlight and will continue to do so.

Next Week’s Theme

 

There is plenty of good economic news. A nice chart-packed review from Steven Hansen (GEI). And also from Urban Camel. Here is just one example comparing full-time and part-time jobs. There are plenty of great charts in both posts.

The earnings recession is over and future growth looks good. (Brian Gilmartin).

And yet everyone is nervous. (Great piece from Josh Brown).

While President Trump will continue to grab the spotlight this week, I will continue my focus on the stock market fundamentals. In today’s Final Thought I will offer some suggestions about how to implement this approach. Meanwhile, expect the key question for this week to be:

Is market optimism justified?

The basic positions cover a wide range. Even if one or more of them seem incredible to you, be assured that someone passionately maintains that viewpoint.

  • You must be kidding! Market valuations are in nosebleed territory. Investors are like Wile E. Coyote.
  • It is only a matter of time before the new Administration does something to spark a crisis.
  • Technical indicators have moved to neutral. (Charles Kirk and Guy Ortmann of Scarsdale Equities. Both are excellent, but require a relationship).
  • Markets can expect solid earnings growth with upside of 10% or so. (Ed Yardeni, Barron’s).
  • Companies are getting more comfortable with Trump and more confident about the future. (Avondale digest of conference calls – a great resource).
  • Tax cuts, repatriation of corporate profits, and lower regulations will create an explosion in economic growth.

What does this mean for investors? As usual, I’ll have a few ideas of my own in today’s “Final Thought”.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Think first about your risk. Only then should you consider possible rewards. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

 

Although dropping last week, the yield on the ten-year note has increased significantly since the election. This has lowered the risk premium a bit. I suspect much more to come. By this I mean that the relative attractiveness of stocks and bonds will continue to narrow.

The C-Score has also dropped. The relationship is not linear, and it remains in the “safe” zone.

The Featured Sources:

 

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment. (see below).

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies.

Doug Short: The World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has several interesting approaches to asset allocation. Try out his new public Twitter Feed, the source of this interesting chart:

This illustrates Dwaine’s take on leading indicators, asking about time above the current value.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator and much more.Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal.

Scott Grannis: The market is not very optimistic. This shows the importance of our weekly coverage of the equity risk premium, showing the relative attractiveness of investors’ two major choices – stocks and bonds.

 

How to Use WTWA (especially important for new readers)

In this series, I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. Most readers can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have eight different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

Most of my readers are not clients. While I write as if I were speaking personally to one of them, my objective is to help everyone. I provide several free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com for our current report package. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!)

 

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and the top sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue with a strongly bullish market forecast. All our models are now fully invested. The group meets weekly for a discussion they call the “Stock Exchange.” In each post I include a trading theme, ideas from each of our four technical experts, and some rebuttal from a fundamental analyst (usually me). We try to have fun, but there are always fresh ideas. Last week Holmes made a timely call on Macy’s (M). Many of the stocks cited are worth your consideration.

Top Trading Advice

 

As I suspected a few weeks ago, Dr. Brett Steenbarger is taking a sabbatical to work on his next book. Most traders have probably not matched me in reading all his posts. Many of them have enduring value, so you should take some time to review his archives. My favorite this week helps you to explore you best trading strengths and virtues.

Ralph Vince has a warning about Trump Effects:

While everyone is in a lathered-up blather about executive orders and screeching, we gotta keep our eyes on the ball. I for one can’t get sucked up into political noise when there’s money to be made.

Nearly everyone I speak to is looking for three things:

1. A pullback in equities.
2. Interest rates have bottomed and will now approach more historically normal levels.
3. Volatility is bound to increase in the coming months and perhaps years.

And the degree of which I am hearing this makes me quite certain none of these are in the cards.

A colorful YOLO story – possibly fake – about a trader going “all-in” on poor earnings from Apple (AAPL). His collection of puts and short call spreads would make $5 million if it worked, recovering the $2.5 million inheritance he lost in two years. With the strong report, he was completely blown out, as witnessed on a live stream. There are many lessons here whether it was true or not. Handling wealth. Position size, whatever your confidence. Suspicion about those making dramatic calls to sell their services.

 

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be Davidson (via Todd Sullivan), who pulls together economic data and conclusions in his explanation of why stronger Employment Reports Indicate Higher Equity Markets.He includes several important indicators, emphasizing the need to look at several. This illustrates the right way to do financial research. He writes:

One must continuously test indicators against each other to be intellectually honest.

 

Stock Ideas

 

Barron’s likes Chili’s (Brinker International – EAT) but not Chipotle (CMG).

Our trading model, Holmes, has joined our other models in a weekly market discussion. Each one has a different “personality” and I get to be the human doing fundamental analysis. We have an enjoyable discussion every week, including four or five specific ideas that we are buying. This week the dip-buying Holmes (who has been very hot) liked Macy’s (M). That worked well for those who did their own research and agreed.

Seeking yield?

How about health care REITs? Blue Harbinger analyzes twenty candidates, two of which we own.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. If you are a serious investor managing your own account, this is a must-read. Even the more casual long-term investor should make time for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. My personal favorites this week are two entries I see as related. Josh Brown points out the opportunity for young people to start saving and investing, enjoying compound interest. Tony Isola shows the flip side – the cost of an impulsive purchase paid off on a credit card. This is a great lesson!

Seeking Alpha Editor Gil Weinreich’s Financial Advisors’ Daily Digest has quickly become a must-read for financial professionals. Somewhat to my surprise, the topics are also especially relevant for active individual investors. They frequently join in the comments, adding to the value of the posts for both groups. Gil has several good topics, but I especially liked this discussion of the fiduciary rule. Most people do not understand what this means, and what is at stake. I strongly support Gil’s argument.

Watch out for…

Binary options. Another product that seems simple but few understand or trade successfully. (FT).

BDC’s. BDC Buzz has the story.

VIX trading. Bill Luby provides data on the poor results of VIX ETPs. Many are tempted to buy the VIX as a hedge without even knowing how it is calculated or whether it is a leading indicator.

Final Thoughts

 

Like Josh Brown, I am hearing a lot of worry about what might happen in the Trump Administration. Over the last several months I have highlighted all of the following:

  • An expectation that the Market would rally no matter who won the election – just removing one element of uncertainty.
  • The earnings recession ended in Q316.
  • Forward earnings are the most effective way to forecast the market, and 8-10% higher is quite plausible.
  • P/E multiples are strong when people have confidence in earnings.
  • This could be conservative if repatriation, better growth, or reduced regulation come to pass.
  • The best sectors are financials, tech, home builders, and some biotech.
  • The biggest market worry is a battle over trade, especially with China.

To my surprise I opened Barron’s and found Dr. Ed Yardeni making exactly the same points. Anyone reading WTWA for the last few months could have done the interview. I generate my own ideas and reach my own conclusions, but I always like it when astute analysts look at the same evidence and agree.

In a similar vein, my Seeking Alpha colleague Bill Kort has a great analysis of the danger of mixing your opinions about news with your investments. I am delighted that some of my work and my highlighting of Morgan Housel encouraged him to pursue this valuable topic.

Policy uncertainty remains the most important investor worry. We can mitigate this in two ways:

  1. De-emphasize the social issues. Yes, they are important. Feel them passionately if you wish. As an investor, you must ask whether they affect your portfolio.
  2. Consider timing. We cannot know about and react to a military attack. We can monitor the progress of trade negotiations. The most important investor threats still leave us time to react. I am watching closely, and so should you.

Why You Never See the Best Employment Data

On the first Friday of each month the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the Employment Situation Report. The data – especially the payroll employment change – is the subject of much speculation, forecasting, and spinning once it is announced. Most sophisticated analysts (like me) regularly report that the sampling error is +/- 120K jobs or so. And that is after the second revision. Few realize that the revisions mostly “top off” the sample responses. There is also non-sampling error, of course, if the current universe of employers is not representative.

The BLS method involves attempting a “count” of the total number of jobs, via a survey, in one month and subtracting it from the prior month. It is not a direct count of change in the number of jobs. ADP attempts a similar estimate using payroll data from their private clients. Today they reported a gain of 246K private jobs. Both are estimates – and only estimates!

The most accurate employment report comes from a source you never hear about, the quarterly Business Dynamics Report. It is based upon the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the authoritative final count of all things labor. The QCEW is the basis for the final benchmarking of all the major BLS reports. Why? The data is drawn from local employment offices, not surveys. Businesses are legally required to report all workers. It is the basis for employment insurance, and there is obviously no incentive to overstate employment.

Why Don’t We Hear About This?

No one reports the results of the Business Dynamics Report or the QCEW because we do not have this great and accurate data until eight months later. From the Wall Street perspective, it is “old news.” Here is an important table from the last report.

For our current purposes, the key number is the net employment change of 307,000. I am going to compare that to the estimates made at the time of the original releases.

We should also observe that overall job creation in the quarter was almost 7.5 million jobs. This is very important, but no one seems to know it. Jobs destroyed were over seven million, leaving the net of 307 thousand. This is around 100K per month, and that is all you will hear about.

Please also note that the new jobs come from both additions at current establishments and opening establishments. New jobs from new businesses were 1.4 million for the quarter. The data from this series proves that those complaining about the BLS birth/death adjustment are wrong now, and always have been.

The Estimates

If we fire up the Wayback machine, we can look at the reported employment data from this period. To understand the data, we must realize that the BLS, ADP, (and others) are all making an estimate of the “true job growth.” Their estimates represent different methods, all with pluses and minuses. Let’s see how the two estimates did against what we now know to be “the truth.”

We do not have monthly data for the BED series, but we can see how the two sources did for the entire three-month period. “Truth” was a gain of 307K. Both estimating sources were a bit too high, with the BLS doing better for this round. I have occasionally done this comparison, concluding that the ADP method should also be considered. It would be useful to do this analysis over a longer period. It takes a lot of careful work. (Perhaps if I get a good summer intern, this will be one of the projects. Applications welcome).

Implications for Investors

I understand that investors generally tune out educational posts, especially when a “deep dive” is involved. This is discouraging, since one of my missions is to help people “navigate the noise.” In the case of employment data, it is nearly all noise!

Here are conclusions I have reached, and which you might consider:

  • BLS and ADP both provide useful estimates of employment change. It is a mistake to regard (as most do) the BLS as the “official” result.
  • We should expect variation in the monthly BLS numbers. The survey has a confidence interval of 120K! If the data are real, then the reports should fluctuate around truth.
  • Traders focus on the BLS. They must, since that will be the trading flow. If you are a trader and want to game that announcement, you are on your own. If you are an investor, you should include both reports in your thinking.
  • Do not be bamboozled by those who claim that seasonal adjustments or estimates of new jobs are misleading. I have studied dozens of these claims. None of the writers show any real expertise in data analysis or a proven track record. They are all men on a mission or women on the warpath.
  • The overall path of employment growth remains solid. That will be true even if we get a “weak” payroll employment number on Friday.

And Finally

This topic is (yet another) example of how difficult it is to find real experts. It takes real skill and knowledge. You cannot just read the newspaper.

Other Reading

Your Employment Report IQ – No one knows even 25% of these answers, despite the importance. My favorite prof and greatest teacher introduced me to labor economics. He “approved this message” and said that everyone should read it. While I appreciate the encouragement from a great mentor, the viewership was about 10% of my WTWA pieces – and far less than other pseudo-experts. Trying to help people is an uphill battle!

My best single piece on the monthly employment report. Guessing beans in a jar?

Weighing the Week Ahead: Digging Down on the Trump Effect

We have a reasonable volume of economic data, but few important reports. We are awaiting earnings season. The elephant in the room (sorry – I just couldn’t help myself) is the transition to the Trump Administration. Many are tired of hearing about this and thinking about the consequences, but that is not a sound plan for the intelligent investor. The punditry is far from exhausting this topic. They are making their own transition from Candidate Trump to President Trump. In the coming week, the punditry will be asking:

What can investors really expect under Trump?

Last Week

Last week the economic news was strong, but with little reaction from stocks.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA I predicted a focus on more reaction to PEOTUS versus the regular Santa Claus rally. Despite all the economic data, that was in fact a popular topic. Go figure.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. He captures the story for the week and the continuing narrow range.

(click to enlarge)

Doug has a special knack for pulling together all the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis grounded in data and several more charts providing long-term perspective.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something very positive. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

This week’s news was quite good-almost all positive. I make objective calls, which means not stretching to achieve a false balance. If I missed something for the “bad” list, please feel free to suggest it in the comments.

The Good

  • Chemical activity ends the year strongly. Get the full story and a helpful table of the relevant data at GEI.
  • Construction spending was up 0.9%, to the highest level in ten years. (Washington Post). According to our go-to source, Calculated Risk, it was another solid report.
  • Earnings pre-announcements were more positive than usual in Q416. (FactSet).
  • Home loan originations are stronger than they were one year ago. (CoreLogic via GEI).
  • ISM manufacturing reached 54.7, the highest level in two years. The ISM also has a strong interpretation of the data, headlining their press release with some leading indicators and including a supporting table.

New Orders, Production and Employment Growing
Inventories Contracting
Supplier Deliveries Slowing

  • Auto Sales were strong, reflecting the overall economy. “Davidson” (via Todd Sullivan) discusses the data, some of the credit relationships, and this interesting relationship with employment.

  • Employment data showed continuing strength. Some call the Friday data “weak.” Those were the headlines in the morning, right after the market opened. When stocks closed higher, the headlines changed —- referring to the same data. I had to put the mute on as the punditry tried to draw inferences from a 20K miss when there is 120K sampling error – plus revisions. There were both good points and weak points in last week’s data.
    • Good
      • Employment growth remains consistent with moderate economic growth
      • Unemployment remains very low
      • Wages have started to increase, something that critics have called necessary for the last few years.
      • Initial jobless claims tumbled again, close to a 43-year low (Jeff Bartash, MarketWatch)

  • Weak
    • ADP private payroll growth, which I view as important, declined 60K from the prior month and missed expectations by 20K.
    • The headline payroll gain was also a 20K miss from expectations.

The WSJ has a nice chart pack that is republished in several places. Take a look here.

The Bad

  • Factory orders declined 2.4% on a monthly basis, but it was mostly noise from transportation changes.
  • Mortgage applications turn negative. New Deal Democrat’s valuable high frequency indicators highlight this news, but you should read the entire post.

The Ugly

Bitcoin. Not that long ago the debate was whether this would work as a substitute currency. Last week it dropped 20% in a single day. Yes, that followed a 40% increase in the prior two weeks. It is still more like leveraged commodities trading than a currency. (Reuters).

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. This week’s award goes to KraneShares for an excellent post taking on several popular misconceptions about China – ghost cities, currency manipulation, and the significance of manufacturing weakness. I find their KWEB product a good way to invest in China despite limited knowledge about individual stocks – or confidence in reports and accounting. The conclusions are not just opinions of the fund managers. Here is one example:

Stephen Roach, former Morgan Stanley Chief Economist and Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, once said that China’s modernization is “the greatest urbanization story the world has ever seen” and that ghost cities will soon become “thriving metropolitan areas1.” Regardless of what Mr. Roach, and many other China scholars, have said the notion of widespread Ghost Cities in China has persisted with many US investors.

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

It is back to normal for the volume of economic data, but fewer of the most important reports.

The “A” List

  • Retail sales (F). There is great interest in the December results, particularly after weak reports from some big players.
  • Michigan sentiment (F). Continuing strength in January?
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • JOLTS report (T). Important as a read on the structure of the labor market, not some macro indicator as usually cited.
  • PPI (F). Interest in the inflation reports is building, but the worrisome stages are not imminent.
  • Consumer credit (M). The big increase expected in November will get plenty of spin.
  • Business inventories (F) . Volatile November data, but relevant for the Q4 GDP calculation. Another spin candidate.
  • Wholesale inventories (T). See Business Inventories (above).
  • Crude inventories (W). Recently showing even more impact on oil prices. Rightly or wrongly, that spills over to stocks.

Fed speakers are out in force this week, including Chair Yellen. Enjoy!

Next Week’s Theme

Like it or not, the market focus on Trump is continuing. It is not my job to pick what I want others to think about. The purpose of WTWA is to help us all prepare, whether we like the current topics or not. Without much fresh data, expect another round of punditry about Trump. It might get a little stronger, with more people engaged in:

Digging Down on the Trump Effect

The initial discussion on the post-election effect is already outdated. Dr. Ed Yardeni explains that the reaction was not very surprising.

Whether this continues is another question. Hoover and Carter are among the best starts while Obama was among the worst. Where you wind up has a lot to do with where you start.

Some investors may already be tired of the Trump theme, but it will remain the most popular topic in the weeks ahead. The punditry has gone through two stages. First, the immediate knee-jerk reaction to the election. Second, a period of wondering, “Is that all there is?” The stage is now set for a more careful look at the implications of the Trump Administration.

Unlike transitions of the past, this President-elect is already taking an active role. Each week we learn a little more both through statements (often via tweets) and from cabinet appointments. Serious investment analysts (including me) are going through a careful, three-step process:

  1. How will President Trump differ from Candidate Trump? There are some normal patterns, but those have not worked well in this case!
  2. How quickly can policies be changed?
    1. Immediate actions, under the President’s direct control;
    2. Steps requiring cooperation from a friendly Congress;
    3. Policies where Congressional cooperation is required, but his party is not unified;
    4. Policies that are exceptionally complicated, requiring more time and planning; and
    5. Changes where building the necessary support is unlikely.
  3. What are the investment implications for the most likely policies?

There is no reward for jumping the gun in this analysis, especially with a daily infusion of more relevant data.

What does this mean for investors? As usual, I’ll have a few ideas of my own in today’s “Final Thoughts”.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Think first about your risk. Only then should you consider possible rewards. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

Although dropping last week, the yield on the ten-year note has increased significantly since the election. This has lowered the risk premium a bit. I suspect much more to come. By this I mean that the relative attractiveness of stocks and bonds will continue to narrow.

The C-Score has also dropped, but is still well out of recession warning territory.

The Featured Sources:

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has several interesting approaches to asset allocation. Try out his new public Twitter Feed. His most recent research update suggests some “mixed signals” from labor markets.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator and much more.Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal. Georg thinks it is still a year away. It is interesting to watch this approach along with our weekly monitoring of the C-Score. Georg has updated his unemployment-based recession indicator with the same conclusion.

Doug Short: The World Markets Weekend Update (and much more). Jill Mislinski updates the ECRI coverage, noting that their public leading index has reached an all-time high. Surprisingly, the ECRI public statements remain bearish on the U.S. economy, the global economy, and stocks. It is as if they never recovered from their mistaken recession call in 2011. They have been out of step ever since.

Doug also provides regular updates for the most important economic indicators used in defining business cycle peaks (AKA the start of a recession). A recession requires both a peak and a significant decline in the important indicators. The first chart shows how that happened in the last recession as well as the action after the most recent peak in November, 2014.

This is the chart showing each of the Big Four indicators.

How to Use WTWA (especially important for new readers)

In this series, I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. Most readers can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have eight different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

Most of my readers are not clients. While I write as if I were speaking personally to one of them, my objective is to help everyone. I provide several free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com for our current report package. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include my latest paper, The Top Twelve Investor Pitfalls – and How to Avoid Them. If you regularly navigate these problems, you can fly solo! While that is true for most of my very sophisticated audience, some might benefit from our help.

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and the top sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue with a strongly bullish market forecast. Felix is fully invested. Oscar is fully invested in aggressive sectors. The more cautious Holmes also remains fully invested, but with continued profit-taking and position switching. The group meets weekly for a discussion they call the “Stock Exchange.” In each post I include a trading theme, ideas from each of our four technical experts, and some rebuttal from a fundamental analyst (usually me). There are fresh ideas each week. You can also ask questions and have a little fun.

Top Trading Advice

Howard Lindzon covers the key topic of information overload, and what to do about it. He offers some concrete guidelines on how to cut down the size of your stock screens and the number of people you follow. Great ideas.

Adam H. Grimes has a useful and timely post for traders turning the page on the calendar. While the focus is on motivation, he has several specific suggestions.

Dr. Brett Steenbarger continues to be the MVP for traders who want to improve. He combines his knowledge of psychology, his experience in training traders, with a broad knowledge of markets and key indicators. The combination provides regular insights for traders. One of his helpful posts from last week was some help on “how to break our worst trading habits“. I have been very concerned about this topic recently. Many traders seem uninterested in improving.

Brett’s most powerful post helps to explain why. Most short-term traders need some big moves. Big moves are usually declines. When the market is not delivering, it leads to frustration, bias, and reaching for explanations.

This bearish bias can be deadly, as it leads traders to ignore the actual flow of supply and demand and color their market perceptions with their preferences. More than once, I’ve heard traders complain that a move higher was “fake” or “manipulated” or caused by “machines”, thus discounting what the market was doing and instead sticking with a bias.

He goes on to explain why this attitude is unrealistic in the face of big market forces

I look at many sources for good trading ideas, but I welcome suggestions from readers to broaden the list of candidates.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be … maybe none of the above.

Throughout the year, I highlight the best efforts from various sources. Each week I find some outstanding advice. This week I sense that Brett Steenbarger’s analysis of trading bias also applies to investors. People are bombarded with claims that help to justify their decisions if they have been on the wrong side of the market.

Scientific American describes the difficulty in trying to convince people “when facts fail.” Some of the examples are from the failed end of the world predictions. Ben Carlson reviews the success of Harry Dent, whose doomsday predictions remain popular no matter how costly to investors.

Trying to help people find a way out of this trap – and more success – I crafted some investor New Year’s resolutions that you would not see anywhere else. Unless I have lost my mind, it is loaded with good advice. Yet it was not a highly-recommended post. Perhaps that supports the basic point about bias, but I still hope a few people were helped.

Stock Ideas

Buy CRAP? That is the creative acronym from Tom Lee. He has been accurately bullish for years, but now sees little upside in the overall market. In his mind, it is time to focus on Computers, Resources, American banks and Phone carriers – all levered to investment recovery, inflation and deregulation.

Tiernan Ray suggests considering FANG. This helpful article includes several other tech ideas.

How about biotech? Bret Jensen considers the possibility for a rebound.

Great analysis in a humorous presentation? Abba’s Aces has a playoff bracket consisting of stocks. Each win represents a nice analysis of two companies. The factors represent a process like ours, and the results make sense. Here is the current bracket:

Our trading model, Holmes, has joined our other models in a weekly market discussion. Each one has a different “personality” and I get to be the human doing fundamental analysis. We have an enjoyable discussion every week, including four or five specific ideas that we are buying. This week Holmes (who has been very hot) likes Mallinckrodt (NYSE:MNK). Check out the post for my own reaction, and more information about the trading models.

Seeking yield? Blue Harbinger highlights a closed end fund trading at a discount. It has a yield of 4.1%, but should be regarded as contrarian. The question with CEF’s at a discount is whether the discount is deserved. In this case, it is mostly about the interest rates. Read the full post and give it some thought before you go on your own personal REIT expeditions.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. If you are a serious investor managing your own account, this is a must-read. Even the more casual long-term investor should make time for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are always several great choices worth reading. My personal favorite this week is the simple advice from Allan S. Roth in the WSJ – risk, rebalancing, tuning out noise, and watching fees.

Seeking Alpha Editor Gil Weinreich’s Financial Advisors’ Daily Digest has quickly become a must-read for financial professionals. Somewhat to my surprise, the topics also stimulate comments from active individual investors. It has added to the value of the posts for both groups. This week, although I disagree with the basic conclusion, I recommend that you read the discussion of debt in this post. My own view is that individual investors should carefully assess debt versus their assets. The preoccupation with societal debt and market effects is overdone – a subject for another day.

Watch out for…

Questionable investment practices. In contrast with the famous Ronald Reagan line, the government actually is there to help you “…make better informed investment decisions and avoid common scams in 2017.” GEI reports on ten tips from the SEC. #5 is especially sad, but very common:

Be alert to affinity fraud. Affinity frauds target members of identifiable groups, such as the elderly, religious or ethnic communities, or the military. Even if you know the person making the investment offer, be sure to check out the investment and the person’s background – no matter how trustworthy the person seems.

Final Thoughts

My analysis of Trump Effects remains a work in progress. I can give you a few hints about the conclusions.

  • Some sort of fund repatriation will be part of the package. All else equal, that suggests a bias to companies that might gain the most. The Atlanta Fed provides some hard data.

  • Expect tax cuts, probably including some nods to Democrats. This will represent fiscal stimulus.
  • Cyclicals continue to show strength, partly from the expectation noted above. (Eddy Elfenbein).
  • The trade war is likely to be a bargaining approach. It is an error to over-react on speculation.
  • The health care issue is far from settled. Early symbolic repeal? Yes. Real changes? Unclear.
  • And that is just a start.

There is a much more to this story. It requires both skill and careful research. As a former poli-sci and public policy professor, a long-time expert in economics, and a thirty-year veteran of financial markets, I have a good package of skills for this problem. That is good news, but it also means that I understand the challenge and the complexity.

Most traders and investors are responding from the gut. They may have valid concerns, but they are getting them mixed up with the need for calm, unemotional decisions. In my annual preview at Seeking Alpha I warned about over-reacting to emotion. (I always appreciate participating in this annual series, which generates many ideas you do not see elsewhere).

In the crucial weeks ahead, a mistake could be costly. Study hard and move carefully.

Weighing the Week Ahead: Has the Market Rotation Begun?

We have normal week for economic data, and a big week for earnings reports. The last Presidential debate will grab headlines. We have been monitoring these factors for weeks, but something new is showing up in the data. Let’s call it a “stealth rotation” from bonds to stocks and from bond substitutes to less favored stocks. If the punditry carefully watches the data, they will be asking:

Has a market rotation begun?

 

Last Week

Last week’s news was pretty good, despite the negative reaction in stocks.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted special attention to the early earnings reports and questions about whether the earnings recession was ending. That was a reasonable guess, although most of the commentary seemed to focus on a couple of big earnings misses. There was also plenty of competition from some surprising China data, the ongoing Fed debate, and of course, the election news.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. Stocks had a negative week. You can see the opening gap on Thursday after the Chinese trade data, and also Friday’s failed rally.

Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis grounded in data and several more charts providing long-term perspective.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • JOLTS continues to show a solid labor market. Chair Yellen uses it as a signal for a tight labor market. The healthy “quit rate” shows that many people are comfortable in voluntarily leaving jobs. Some reports focused strictly on the number of job openings, which is a poor use of the data.

  • Initial jobless claims also show labor market strength.

  • Retail sales provided the week’s best economic news, rising 0.6%, the best increase in three months. (Bloomberg)
  • Corporate earnings nicely beat expectations. FactSet has some interesting early data – 76% of the reporting companies have beaten earnings expectations and 62% have beaten on sales.

 

The Bad

  • Import container counts are again lower. Steven Hansen (GEI) smooths out the effects of the Hanjin Shipping bankruptcy and finds a troubling trend. Does it portend weak holiday spending? The chart below is the year-over-year change in the three month moving average.

  • Chinese exports and imports both declined more than expected.
  • Q3 GDP estimates edge lower as more data is reported. Calculated Risk summarizes the move from various sources. Here is one example:

  • Michigan consumer sentiment slips to 87.9 in the October preliminary report. Jill Mislinski updates the story and the terrific Doug Short chart combining multiple elements of the story in a single look.

The Ugly

The political sideshow. There were polls to determine the “winner” of the debate. Not so long ago debates were seen as a way for the trailing candidate to show equality of stature – same stage, same rules, etc. Many challengers have used this effectively. It is also a way to demonstrate that a “Presidential” image. If an expert from years ago, without any context, read the transcript of this “town hall forum” debate s/he would not believe it. Campaigns are ever-more focused on the undecided or uncommitted voters, especially in the key states. Suppose for a moment that these voters may not have been the ones sitting at the front of the class. What do we expect the campaigns to do? The sound bite negative ads are one approach, but this is reaching a whole new level – and not a high one.

The most important thing you can do as an investor is to vote your conscience while still using sound, unemotional judgement concerning your personal finances.

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. No award this week. Nominations welcome. I also note that Dr. Ed Yardeni joined us in applauding the Justin Lahart article on CAPE. Dr. Ed provides his own thoughts about market valuation and the advantages of forward earnings.

I am not a fan of valuation measures based on trailing earnings, especially if they trail over the past 10 years. I believe that the stock market is forward looking and discounts analysts’ consensus expectations for earnings over the year ahead. More specifically, I use S&P 500 12-month forward consensus expected operating earnings, which is a time-weighted average of analysts’ expectations for the current year and the coming one.

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have a fairly big week for economic data, as well as earnings reports. I watch everything on the calendar, so you do not need to! Check out WTWA to focus on what is really important – and ignore the noise.

The “A” List

  • Housing starts and building permits (W). Important forward looking data on a crucial sector.
  • Industrial production (M). Volatile September data. Any sign of a rebound from last month’s loss?
  • Fed Beige Book (W). Prepared for the next FOMC meeting, this provides color from each Fed district, going beyond the data.
  • Leading indicators (Th). Widely followed, despite some controversy. Rebound expected from last month’s negative reading.
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • Existing home sales (Th). Without the impact of new homes, but still a good read on the overall housing market.
  • CPI (T). Inflation is still not very important, and it will not be until there are a few higher months.
  • Philly Fed (Th). Has earned some respect as one of the few regional indicators that can move markets. The first October data.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

 

More important than the economic data will be continuing earnings news.

Next Week’s Theme

The Presidential campaign and the final debate continue to dominate the news. The regular economic data this week include important leading indicators about housing. These will not get the attention deserved. Corporate earnings reports will also get some attention, but the emphasis seems to be on spectacular “misses.” Did you even realize that the earnings season is positive so far? Unless you look at the FactSet data, you would not know.

Through this haze there have been a few glimmers of a new trend. If you are alert, you will see more attention to the question:

Has a market rotation begun?

There is some evidence.

  • The ten-year note has moved noticeably higher while the yield curve has steepened.
  • Utilities are losing ground while banks are gaining. Brian Gilmartin astutely asks, whether banks are assuming that role.
  • Economic skepticism remains intense – but perhaps the result of the election. Chris Matthews (Fortune) notes that concern about the economy has grown even as data show improvement.

    …a voter’s political beliefs and the overall political environment instead drives how they feel about their economic circumstances.

    There’s no better way to interpret the latest results from the latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll, which showed that 30% percent of Americans are very fearful they will lose their job in the next six months, up 10% from last year.

And also….

A particularly telling figure in this year’s survey: While 37% of those surveyed said their personal economic situation has improved over the past year—versus 21.5% who said it got worse—just 30.3% said the overall economy improved. What’s more, 36.9% said it got worse.

If more people’s financial situation improved than deteriorated, why do more people think it’s the opposite for the economy in general?

As always, I’ll have a few ideas of my own in the conclusion.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Think first about your risk. Only then should you consider possible rewards. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

 

The Featured Sources:

 

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal. Georg thinks it is still a year away. It is interesting to watch this approach along with our weekly monitoring of the C-Score. This week Georg also updates his unemployment-based indicator, still not signaling a recession as you can see from the chart below.

GEI reports that the ECRI’s growth index remains solid, despite a marginal fall last week. Meanwhile, the ECRI continues its prediction of “stagflation lite” and Fed criticism.

This is a good time to review the St. Louis Financial Stress Index – vastly superior to anecdotes and headlines.

 

How to Use WTWA (important for new readers)

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. Most readers can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes and friends – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why it is a great time to own for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions on this subject. What scares you?)

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue with a strongly bullish market forecast. Felix is fully invested. Oscar holds several aggressive sectors. The more cautious Holmes also remains fully invested. They now have a regular Thursday night discussion, which they call the “Stock Exchange.” This is the place to get some ideas from the best technical analysis – and you can ask questions!

Top Trading Advice

Brett Steenbarger reminds us that we should always consider what we would be doing if not trading. Is it a good choice? He also highlights an interesting trading contest for women. It leads both to prizes and to job opportunities. While performance is measured, the criteria do not encouraging taking wild shots. You can still apply, but do so right away if interested since the contest has started.

Do you have an edge in your trading? Do you have a tested, trusted system? Adam H. Grimes describes this important first step for traders as well as what they should do next.

If you don’t meet Adam’s tests, you should definitely re-read Dr. Brett’s post!

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be Neal Frankle’s analysis of a client question about real estate versus stocks. In a generic sense, it is a common question faced by nearly everyone. Neal realizes that everyone’s situation differs. Using the couple’s investment goals and time frame, he compares three alternative choices. From this analysis one of the choices is easily eliminated. It is an excellent demonstration of sound contextual analysis. To appreciate the result, you should read the whole post. Here is an intriguing chart:

 

Stock Ideas

Chuck Carnevale’s most recent idea is CVS Health Corporation (CVS). His analysis shows that the stock has moved from overvalued territory to fair value – and with plenty of upside.

Our newest trading model, Holmes, has joined our other models in a weekly market discussion. Each one has a different “personality” and I get to be the human doing fundamental analysis. We have an enjoyable discussion every week, with four or five specific ideas that we are also buying. This week Holmes likes Dexcom (DXCM). Check out the post for my own reaction. And his choice from last week, Air Products and Chemicals (APD), has now been endorsed by Athena. Check out the post to see the other picks, ask questions, and choose your favorite model.

While we cannot verify the suitability of specific stocks for everyone who is a reader, the ideas have worked well so far. My hope is that it will be a good starting point for your own research. Holmes may exit a position at any time. If you want more information about the exits, just sign up via holmes at newarc dot com. You will get an email update whenever we sell an announced position.

Tom Armistead takes a deep dive into the numbers in his study of IBM. Read his post to see why artificial intelligence is a crucial factor.

Lee Jackson recommends four dividend stocks from the defense sector. And also five contrarian picks with good yield.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are always several great choices worth reading. My personal favorite this week is the Forbes report on a survey of young adults. It is a good read for young people and for investors wanting to understand current trends.

 

Gil Weinreich continues his excellent series for investment advisers, and of great interest to investors as well. He frequently features ideas about best practices for the advisor community. This week he introduced a new contributor, Neal Frankle. It is this week’s “best investment advice.” (And thanks to Gil for mentioning me along with others in his fine group).

Market Outlook

Mark Hulbert notes the seasonal strength typical of year’s end. Could there be a “monster rally?”

 

Final Thoughts

 

There is a continuing gap between perception and reality when it comes to economic progress and risks. This has translated into extremely defensive investment decisions, emphasizing anything that seems to provide yield. The incessant political accusations have made this worse.

The resulting environment encourages stories – even by unbiased journalists – seizing upon the dramatic. I am seeing the “R word” thrown around much more often, and by people without any special experience or track record.

The developing market rotation is still some weeks away from popular recognition, but there are signs it is getting closer. This Bloomberg interview with Tom Lee is well worth watching. Lee’s market read and forecasts have been excellent for years. He has remained bullish, and for the right reasons. I am encouraged when I see him commenting on the themes that I am also seeing.

One catalyst will be absolute losses in bond mutual funds. Investors are about to learn something important and possibly painful: Bonds and bond substitutes do not come with guarantees.

Weighing the Week Ahead: Is this the End of the “Earnings Recession?”

We face a modest week for economic data. While equity markets remain open, bonds will not trade on Monday (Columbus Day). Yom Kippur begins Tuesday at sundown and extends through the next day. The punditry, fueled by recent revelations as well as Sunday’s debate, will pounce on the election news. With the official start of earnings season on Tuesday and important reports by the end of the week, perhaps we can hope to see a serious market discussion before the week ends. I expect the punditry (eventually) to be asking,

Is the earnings recession over?

Last Week

Last week’s news was very good, although there was little reaction in stocks.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted a shift from the gloomy outlook might be improving as some of the current worries were reduced. That was a good guess for an overall theme. There were quite a few “looking ahead” pieces both on TV and in print. The other news – the election, Brexit, and flash crash news was featured on some days, but it is difficult to plan for that.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. Stocks had a flat week, and stayed within a range of about 1%. CNBC breathlessly noted the “triple digit moves” on several occasions. This is a great illustration of making something out of nothing.

Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis grounded in data and several more charts providing long-term perspective.

Personal Note

The market is at a crucial point. It is not a time for sitting on the fence. Next weekend Mrs. OldProf (hometown Green Bay) and I are headed to visit her family in Wisconsin, so maybe I should say not a time for being a “deer in the headlights.” I am planning to write next week, but I can’t be sure. Meanwhile, we have a family fight brewing for tomorrow night, with the Presidential debate at the same time as a football game.

Because of the importance, I put extra effort into this week’s WTWA edition, and I hope it is helpful. People are sometimes bashful about reaching out to us with questions. Please feel free to get in touch via main at newarc dot com.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • Auto sales beat expectations, up 4.7% to an annualized rate of 17.8M. Calculated Risk puts this into perspective.

  • High-frequency indicators remain strong. New Deal Democrat does an excellent weekly update, which I follow regularly. His latest report shows the strength in both long-leading and short-term indicators. The concurrent indicators are mixed. Reading this post helps to understand why many using less data are more confused about the market.
  • A shortage of truck drivers? A $5000 bonus is available. Another among the many small, unremarked indicators which I follow. (Tyler Cowen)
  • Home prices up 6.2% over last year according to the CoreLogic index. (GEI)
  • Employment reports were generally positive.

  • Jobless claims dropped to 249K.
  • Labor participation increased, while the unemployment rate also increased from 4.9% to 5%.
  • The work week moved higher.
  • Best of all, hourly earnings increased 0.2% over August and 2.6% year-over-year.
  • The median duration of unemployment is down to 10.3 weeks. (WSJ)

  • ISM Non-Manufacturing made a big jump to 57.1, almost 6 points higher than last month and four points higher than expectations.

The Bad

  • Construction spending fell 0.7%.
  • ADP Private Employment gained only 154K, down from 175K in the prior month and missing expectations. This was worse than the “official” private employment estimate.
  • Commercial real estate index stumbles. Calculated Risk tracks this and provides a good update.

 

The Ugly

My original plan was the poll showing that over 40% of potential voters could not name the Vice-Presidential candidates. With the Presidential campaign in a descending spiral and a violent hurricane, my original idea seems lame. There is plenty of ugly news. We can all hope for a better week ahead.

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. This week’s award goes to Justin Lahart of the Wall Street Journal for his article, Shiller’s Powerful Market Indicator Is Sending a False Signal About Stocks This Time. The article has an excellent discussion of alternative methodologies, including an alternative profit measure that matched the results quite well until 2008. The Shiller CAPE is widely cited as a justification for not owning stocks, but both Prof. Shiller and his co-developer Prof. Harvey do not use it that way themselves. Here is the key conclusion, drawing upon the work of Prof Damodaran the leading expert on corporate valuation:

For New York University finance professor Aswath Damodaran, this is the real sticking point. He set up a spreadsheet to see if there was a way that using the CAPE could boost returns. When the CAPE was high, it put more money into Treasurys and cash, and when it was low it put more into stocks.

He fiddled with it, allowing for different overvaluation and undervaluation thresholds, changing target allocations. And over the past 50-odd years, he couldn’t find a single way he could make CAPE beat a simple buy-and-hold strategy. In the end, he doesn’t think it represents an improvement over using conventional PEs to value stocks.

“This is one of the most oversold, overhyped metrics I’ve ever seen,” says Mr. Damodaran.

Mr. Shiller agrees that the CAPE can’t be used as a market-timing tool, per se. Rather, he thinks that investors should tilt their portfolios away from individual stocks that have high CAPEs. But he says he isn’t ready to modify his CAPE for judging the overall market.

Attacking the most popular excuse for missing the rally is not a popular position. If only more journalists would step up with this kind of investigation.

 

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have a modest week for economic data, with some holiday effects included. While I watch everything on the calendar, you do not need to! Check out WTWA to focus on what is really important – and ignore the noise.

The “A” List

  • FOMC minutes (W). Unlikely to provide fresh news, but will still be watched closely.
  • Michigan sentiment (F). Good read on current employment and spending.
  • Retail sales (F). Rebound in store?
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • PPI (F). Not much is expected. This will not be important until we have a few “hot” months.
  • Business inventories (F). August data, but relevant for GDP calculations.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

 

Other news includes the Presidential debate on Sunday night and the start of earnings season. And of course, near-daily servings of FedSpeak.

Next Week’s Theme

The revelations surrounding the Presidential election campaign are going to dominate the news cycle. Sunday night’s debate will probably fan the flames. With bonds not trading on Monday, stocks will not have that cue. It is possible that these stories will persist, but there is a more important matter: Corporate earnings.

This earnings season could well be a turning point after a long “earnings recession” and a sluggish economy. Stocks have been resilient in the face of bad headlines and seasonal headwinds. Could stronger earnings be the spark for an upside breakout? I expect the pundits to be wondering:

Is this the end of the earnings recession?

There are three basic positions.

  1. Negative. Jim Bianco notes the declining estimates for the quarter and sees parallels to 1987. To be fair, he represents many taking this position. Here is his evidence of the plunging estimates.

  1. Eddy Elfenbein takes a neutral position, noting the trend toward lower earnings. He notes that the picture is much better if you exclude energy.
  2. Brian Gilmartin and FactSet see a possible inflection point. Brian has been the first on this story. Here is his latest analysis. While he is always a good read, it is especially important during earnings season. He provides a lot of analysis on specific stocks. FactSet explains that earnings estimate fall before the season begins, but the final returns beat estimates. Their expectation is that the final reports will break the streak of lower earnings.

The Bianco report seems strange. Surely he knows about the lowered bar and beating expectations. His squiggle chart starts in irrelevant territory and excludes the tail that is obvious in every other quarter. It is difficult for most people to see, exhibiting what I call a high coefficient of obfuscation (TM OldProf). Let us see what really happens. Like 1987? Really?

As always, I’ll have a few ideas of my own in the conclusion.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Think first about your risk. Only then should you consider possible rewards. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

 

The Featured Sources:

 

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal. Georg thinks it is still a year away. It is interesting to watch this approach along with our weekly monitoring of the C-Score. This week Georg also updates his unemployment-based indicator, still not signaling a recession as you can see from the chart below.

Citi does not see a recession either. (HT The Daily Shot)

How to Use WTWA (important for new readers)

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. Most readers can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes and friends – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why it is a great time to own for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions on this subject. What scares you?)

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue with a strongly bullish market forecast. Felix is fully invested. Oscar holds several aggressive sectors. The more cautious Holmes also remains fully invested. They now have a regular Thursday night discussion, which they call the “Stock Exchange.” This is the place to get some ideas from the best technical analysis – and you can ask questions!

Top Trading Advice

Brett Steenbarger (as I guessed a few weeks ago) is doing another book and will be taking a sabbatical for the month. He provides us two more great posts — an update on his trading model and an interesting measure of “pure sentiment.”

Adam H. Grimes also provokes thought with a post about losing. Few understand that it is part of winning.

 

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be JP Morgan’s wonderful quarterly chart book. Budget fifteen or twenty minutes to page through this carefully. My guess is that you will lose track of time as you enjoy the objective presentation of data. While it is difficult to find favorites, here are two that can have the biggest payoff for investors.

First, do not expect stocks to fall as rates move higher! As long as the starting yield is low, increased rates are associated with better earnings, a better economy, and higher stock prices.

And second, interest rates at the long end are not all about the Fed. Inflation is the key for the ten-year note. The Fed controls the short end. Look at the evidence.

Stock Ideas

When you read Chuck Carnevale’s articles, prepare for a stock idea combined with a great lesson. I am amazed at how well he does this, week after week. Following up on his analysis of Consolidated Edison (ED), he uses the same techniques on Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). Even if you are not one of the many investors who own these stocks, you will learn a great deal from Chuck’s process.

Our newest trading model, Holmes, has joined our other models in a weekly market discussion. Each one has a different “personality” and I get to be the human doing fundamental analysis. We have an enjoyable discussion every week, with four or five specific ideas that we are also buying. This week Holmes likes Air Products and Chemicals (APD). Check out the post to see the other picks, ask questions, and choose your favorite model.

While we cannot verify the suitability of specific stocks for everyone who is a reader, the ideas have worked well so far. My hope is that it will be a good starting point for your own research. Holmes may exit a position at any time. If you want more information about the exits, just sign up via holmes at newarc dot com. You will get an email update whenever we sell an announced position.

Tech assumes the sector leadership. Jim Picerno has the story.

Energy seems to have stabilized in the range I identified a couple of months ago. Some believe the OPEC deal has provided a floor. This is important as a place for picking up a few beaten-down names as well as the implications for the overall market. I am doing more research on this topic.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are always several great choices worth reading. My personal favorite this week is Jonathan Clements’ (MarketWatch) warning about seven key mistakes. Read them all, but here is a sample:

1. Stocks are risky.

Reality: Sure, they’re risky. But the implication — that other investments are less risky — simply isn’t correct. Bonds and cash investments may not offer the rollercoaster ride that you get with stocks. But they leave you vulnerable to inflation, which is arguably an even bigger threat.

Gil Weinreich had another superb post in his series that explores the intersection between clients and advisors. He includes a description of the qualities that an advisor needs:

The ability to listen, question and analyze; professional knowledge and core beliefs; knowledge of what one doesn’t know, or what is unknowable; a positive attitude; peer relationships that would allow the advisor to test the value of his ideas or seek needed advisor; a propensity to share knowledge with others; discipline; sense of responsibility; and sensitivity to others’ pain.

This may seem simple and obvious, but it is very strong and helpful. Many investors ask the wrong questions and many advisors just try to maximize fees with high-profit products.

Morgan Housel has a similar message, explaining why good advice is important.

Watch out for…

Utility stocks. Bespoke shows how rapidly these can fall as interest rates rise.

Dana Lyons agrees. Check out his post to see why this sector is at a crucial point.

And FMD Capital on the “fear trade” falling apart.

Final Thoughts

 

To many investors it may seem like nothing is happening. If you follow our indicators you will see significant changes. Stocks are both safer and more promising and there are signs of sector rotation. What do you think will happen when those invested in bond funds learn that the values do not always rise?

If the “earnings recession” ends, that will accelerate the current change in tone. We all know that seasonality improves as the year nears its end, but no one has a good explanation. Here is my hypothesis:

Market participants start thinking in terms of a multiple of the next year’s earnings!

I know it seems silly, but just watch those commenting or writing. You will see it. They will begin to describe stocks of interest in terms of multiples of 2017 earnings. They will not mention Dr. Shiller’s method of looking at historical earnings. They certainly will not discuss Tobin’s Q. (Imagine: Well, Joe, we analyzed the replacement value for Amazon and found it to be vastly overvalued. We could replace their buildings, their fleet, and their workforce for 15% of their market cap). Or Google, or Facebook, or IBM, or Accenture, or any non-manufacturing company. I have never seen Tobin’s Q cited in the context of valuing a specific stock.

My own method is a constant revision of estimates using a slightly modified CAPE approach to get my own expected multiple. Since I am always looking twelve months ahead, the calendar changes are not important. This is why tracking forward earnings is so important. In particular, we have an opportunity to look for stocks with improving outlooks matching the improving economy.

We are “front-running” the pack in a completely legal fashion.

Weighing the Week Ahead: Should We Fear the Fed?

The calendar has little important data. Friday’s sharp selling was widely attributed to the fear of a Fed rate hike in September. Is it time? Should we fear the Fed?

Last Week

There was not much news, and it was another mixed picture.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted a continuing discussion of the Fed and the timing of the first rate increase, combined with concern over a September market correction. The first part was pretty accurate all week, but the market remained quiet. The modest trading range ended spectacularly on Friday., The “C” word is now on the lips of many.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. The overall range, once again, is very narrow. Doug’s take is that Friday was all about the Fed. He writes as follows:

Today’s action essentially confirms the metaphor of an equity market infant nursing on mother Fed’s breast. The selloff was triggered initially by hawkish remarks by the normally dovish Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a voting member of the FOMC. But more surprising was the announcement of an unannounced speech by even more dovish Lael Brainard at the open of the FOMC week, which runs counter to the general policy a silent Fed prior to the FOMC meeting end.

As you will see in today’s “Final Thought,” I have a very different interpretation, still consistent with the data.

Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis and several other charts providing long-term perspective.

A Two-Question Quiz

  1. The recent Purchasing managers index for manufacturing recently registered 49.4. Last week’s “services” index came in at 51.4. Each data series has a long-term relationship with GDP. Which of these reports implies the higher rate of economic growth? Which one implies an impending recession? [See conclusion for the answer.]
  2. Suppose you are in an NFL “survivor” pool. You just need to pick a team that will not lose that week. No point spread. What are your odds of making it through two weeks? You may pick the biggest favorite each week.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • Initial jobless claims fell to 259K, down from the prior week and continuing recent low levels.
  • The Beige Book was mildly positive, providing support for the modest growth scenario.
  • Framing lumber prices remain strong. (Calculated Risk).
  • Sentiment remains bullish. Dana Lyons looks at the ISE Call/Put ratio to refute the idea of a “frothy” market.

  • Durable goods orders had a solid rebound from earlier weakness, increasing 4.4%
  • The JOLTS report registered a new high in job openings and continued strength reflected in the quit rate. This shows the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs. Josh Brown has a good discussion of this point. The labor market structure from the report is less encouraging. The ratio of unemployment to job vacancies confirms non-recessionary conditions, but also a mismatch between available jobs and workers. (Simple explanation here. Also a good chart via The Daily Shot).

The Bad

  • Employment benchmark revisions showed a decrease of 150K jobs over a one-year period ending last March (BLS). While this is a preliminary report, it is usually a good estimate of what we will see in the actual revisions this coming March. Essentially, this means that the job growth over the one-year period ending last March was over-estimated by 150K jobs, described as 0.1% of the labor force. It is a much larger percentage of the reported net job growth. I frequently cite this report as the most accurate count, but one that arrives too late to be of interest to those in the news and financial communities. If you missed my challenging quiz on the employment report, please take a look.
  • Rail traffic had another bad week. Steven Hansen (GEI) reports on the 5.7% decline for the month of August.
  • ISM non-manufacturing dropped to 51.4. As Bespoke notes, this was the biggest monthly decline since 2008.

Here is some color from the actual report:

WHAT RESPONDENTS ARE SAYING …

“Relatively stable August, with no sharp increase or decrease in sales or pricing. Labor availability and cost remains a very high focal point.” (Accommodation & Food Services)

“Overall, the oil and gas industry remain in [a] ‘wait and watch’ mode. The price of oil has impacted investment considerably.” (Construction)

“No significant changes to report. Still on track for expansion efforts to begin fourth quarter 2016.” (Finance & Insurance)

“Still recovering from the current downturn in the renewable energy market which is expected to pick up in the fourth quarter.” (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)

“Stable with some increase in construction activity.” (Public Administration)

“The business environment has softened a bit over the last month. There are now opportunities to fill in the marketplace.” (Retail Trade)

“Midyear [is a] slow time for us, summer build is over, fall is historically light, holiday peak build September and October for peak time November and December.” (Transportation & Warehousing)

“Good, but slowing from previous months.” (Wholesale Trade)

 

The Ugly

North Korea is a multiple winner of my “ugly” award. The recent nuclear test is viewed as completely unacceptable by most of the world. Can leaders find an action that peacefully accomplishes widespread objectives? Will those having the most influence over N. Korea cooperate? These are important questions, beyond our normal concerns over investments.

Jonathan D. Pollack (Brookings) has a good explanation of why the recent test is different and more threatening than those in the past.

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. This week’s award goes to Wisconsin economist Menzie Chinn, who earned a belt full of bullets in a single article. The context is a post for a class in economics. Since so many current financial commentators take pride in not having taken Economics 101, it is a great illustration of why they are wrong! So many mistakes of this sort are made by financial pundits, including intentional misrepresentations. Prof. Chinn illustrates one of the most frequent errors – not using log scales in charts when they are appropriate. Note the deception it would generate in this example, which actually shows a constant rate of increase.

He also debunks the data conspiracy stories, using several links and good explanations. This post might be the single most profitable thing for investors to read this week.

 

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have another light week for economic data. While personally I watch everything on the calendar, you do not need to! I highlight only the most important items in WTWA. Focus is essential.

The “A” List

  • Retail sales (T). The biggest report of the week. The odds of a rate hike will increase if this is positive.
  • Michigan sentiment (F). Consumer confidence has been strong, helping to support the stock market.
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends. Quiet strength is the long-term trend, so a spike would be worrisome.

The “B” List

  • Industrial production (Th). Volatile data with a big gain last month. Not much is expected, but this remains important.
  • CPI (F). Still not important, but this number will start to approach the Fed’s 2% inflation target as year-over-year gasoline prices stabilize.
  • PPI (Th). See CPI above.
  • Business inventories (Th). July data, but it is another piece in the Q2 GDP puzzle.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

 

FedSpeak will enter the pre-meeting blackout period after Monday. Fed Governor Lael Brainard has been dovish, so her Monday presentation will get plenty of attention.

Next Week’s Theme

Last week brought us more quiet for the first part of the abbreviated week. Friday was a very different story. The sharp decline, ending a two-month string of quiet days, commanded attention. What was going on?

The instant conclusion was fear of a September rate increase from the Fed. That sets the tone for next week. Everyone will be asking: Should we fear the Fed?

Normally I recommend spending very little time on yesterday’s news. As I wrote a few months ago, investors do not get paid for this knowledge – only pundits who get to sound smart after the fact!

This week is a bit different. Having a good sense about what happened Friday is important to our advance preparation. Here is an abbreviated sequence of events:

  • Stock futures were set up for a flat opening, just as we had seen all week.
  • Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, repeating a speech made in August, stated that gradually removing accommodation was the best way to extend the duration of the recovery. The Boston Globe states that this pushed the Dow 400 points lower.
  • Stock futures moved lower by about ½ of one percent when the speech was reported.
  • Since markets are not expecting a September rate increase, and only a 60% chance of one before the end of the year, the original move attracted a lot of discussion.
  • When the Dow declined a little more, CNBC started running the headline that Fed fears were slamming stocks.
  • Several commentators cited the possible end of the Fed support for asset prices. Art Cashin fed the fire, noting in mid-afternoon that if stocks were down 300 on just the hint, an actual increase might take them down 1000.

You will see plenty of commentary on these themes. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments, including anything I have missed.

As always, I’ll have a few ideas of my own in the conclusion.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Think risk first, reward second. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

 

The Featured Sources:

 

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

The recession odds (in nine months) have nudged closer to 10%.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

The ECRI has been dropped from our weekly update. It was not so much because of the bad call in 2011, but the stubborn adherence to this position despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Those interested can still follow them via Doug Short and Jill Mislinski. The ECRI commentary remains relentlessly bearish despite the upturn in their own index.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal. Georg thinks it is still a year away. It is interesting to watch this approach along with our weekly monitoring of the C-Score.

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies. This week he further explains the possible turning point in earnings. Most people will not understand this until it is too late to profit.

 

How to Use WTWA

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. Most readers can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why 2016 could be the Year for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions or suggestions for new topics.)

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue with a strongly bullish market forecast. Felix is fully invested. Oscar holds several aggressive sectors. The more cautious Holmes also remains fully invested.

Top Trading Advice

Brett Steenbarger is posting many great ideas. Traders should make a daily visit. I sense another book coming! My favorite this week is How to Extract Greater Profits from Our Trading.

If we don’t see the market gain a second wind after our having made an initial entry, the conditional probabilities of getting the move in the other direction continue to increase.  We are getting further confirmation that buyers can push the market no higher or sellers can push prices no lower.  It is when we see that our initial position is not getting torched and subsequent market behavior is in line with our thesis that we can add a second unit of risk to the trade.  We extract more from our trading by being largest when we’re “rightest” and smallest when we’re wrong.

Dr. Brett is also helping with the psychological aspects of your trading – Three Trading Techniques for Building Positive Trading Patterns.

Paul Tudor Jones: Decide on your stop point before you enter a trade. Finance Trends discusses this and some other advice from the great trader. Holmes is barking approvingly.

Another piece of advance preparation is asking yourself whether the prospective trade really has enough edge. Don’t forget to keep the volatility of expected results in mind! Adam H. Grimes takes up this question and provides links to some prior related work.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be the WSJ warning about “structured CD’s.” (subscription required, but you can find it if you Google the title). Many unwitting investors are biting on a pitch that you can double your money in six years with no risk. Some of those needing early access to funds actually lose money on the CD. Performance data are not available for this product, unregulated by the SEC. The WSJ managed to get some results, and they are abysmal.

Stock Ideas

Chuck Carnevale has some good lessons about how to select dividend stocks. For the buy-and-hold income investor he seeks continuity of the dividend as well as limited volatility in the underlying stock. His analysis is rich with stock ideas — some to consider and some to avoid. I hope DIY stock-pickers are reading Chuck’s stories closely. It is important to learn technique and analysis, not just follow someone else’s stock picks.

Abba – no not ABBA – likes T. Rowe Price (TROW). His analysis is based upon a dividend valuation model. I also like the stock, but we write calls against the position to enhance yield.

Market Folly monitors the moves of big investors with good attention to the most recent moves. Warren Buffett now has nearly 80 million shares of Phillips 66 (PSX).

Ready for some biotech stocks? Bret Jensen serves up regular ideas in his forum. His most recent update includes a key stock in the news, Valeant (VRX), which we own as a trade for technical reasons.

Our newest trading model, Holmes, has been contributing an idea each week, a stock we bought for clients a few days ago. I will mention it here, but you can see it a little sooner if you read my new weekly column. I’ll have a “conversation” each week with all three of our models. Since each has a different personality and style, there are often disagreements – especially with me! While we cannot verify the suitability of specific stocks for everyone who is a reader, the ideas may be a starting point for your own research. Holmes may exit a position at any time, and I am not going to do a special post on each occasion. If you want more information about Holmes and exits, just sign up via holmes at newarc dot com and you will get email updates. This week’s Holmes added several stocks, including Cardinal Health Care (CAH).

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. This was a really great post. There are several great choices worth reading, including my pick for best advice of the week. My personal favorite is the timely and entertaining advice from Tim Maurer, How Fantasy Ruins Football (and Investing). He discusses several popular financial fantasies. He writes:

Fantasy: Gold is a good hedge against inflation. (Or a good hedge against currency risk, or a good investment. Just take your pick.)

Truth: Of the many traits often attributed to gold as an investment, the only one that really holds up is that the precious metal historically has risen in price when stocks are in deep decline. People tend to buy gold when they are scared (and sell it when they aren’t). But good luck shaving off some of your bullion for bread when The Hunger Games start (or when any dystopian tween books series becomes a reality).

Felix disagrees. That is what makes a market!

I also really liked Ben Carlson’s list of things he learned in his 30’s, especially numbers 9 and 10 (negotiating and saving).

Gil Weinreich of Seeking Alpha takes a helpful look at the “retirement crisis.” There is plenty of good advice. Gil’s series is aimed at investment advisors, but has also attracted many DIY investors, including some who are quite skeptical. It is a good dialogue which figures to help both groups. I am trying both to share and to learn.

Market Outlook

The trade for the next 35 years? Short bonds and long equities! Rupert Hargreaves of ValueWalk reports on Deutsche Bank’s advice and rationale.

Most investors are ill-positioned for this scenario. HORAN Capital Advisors reports on the continuing dramatic shift between stock and bond fund flows.

Final Thoughts

 

There really wasn’t any fresh news on Friday, but there must always be an explanation. Consumers demand it! It is a requirement for news reporters. I am reminded of an old book from my student days –a description of how reporters covered a Presidential campaign. The news world was very different in those days. Without instant communications the various news services had quite different deadlines. The wire services had to be the fastest and Walter Mears of the AP was regarded as the best at determining the lead from a complex story. Everyone also wanted to know how the NYT was going to play any news. The Rolling Stone version of the story (from 1972) is an enjoyable read and captures the flavor. Why is it relevant now?

News executives expect solid work, usually judged by reports of other leaders in the field. If you are going to deviate from the accepted lead, you need some special analysis. This is great for investors if they are able to look a little beyond the obvious and tune out the noise. Remember the following:

  • Simple dominates – even if it is simplistic.
  • Any recent event is a candidate to be the cause.
  • Support for popular themes and theories is encouraged. Oil prices were down over 2%, for example. For many this signals economic weakness. Ignore the recent increase in prices.
  • Don’t worry if the timing seems a bit wrong. You can explain that. The market was “digesting” the information. Or it was a “delayed reaction.”
  • And finally – make it into a big story!

A Reality Check

Not everyone bought into this theme. A number of investment managers questioned the logic. It is hard to sound intelligent when the market is plummeting, unless you have an instant explanation. I do not question Art Cashin’s trader take. There was a lot of money available to traders who perceived the potential for a big directional move. The algorithms joined in, technical levels were violated, and many were waiting for a break from the recent trading range. Those who profit from making sure that people are “scared witless” (TM OldProf) piled on.

Investors have time to analyze and to think more carefully about the causal model. The trading community believes that the economy is weak and fears that the Fed will tighten rates at a bad time. Both elements are necessary. Not only does the Fed see a stronger economy; it is committed to start with modest moves. The early stages of a cycle where very low rates are increased is bullish for stocks and bearish for bonds.

The overwhelming majority of investors made no trades on Friday. Many did not even know what happened until it was over. The vast majority of others are not going to take any action next week. This is good. Investors who try to compete with traders are playing a game they cannot win.

Quiz Answers

  1. The manufacturing index of 49.4, if annualized, corresponds to an annual increase in real GDP of 2%. The ISM non-manufacturing index of 51.4 similarly corresponds to real growth of 1%.

    One way to think about this is that the economy is still growing even when the secular decline in manufacturing is continuing.

  2. About 50-50. Even a two-touchdown favorite in the NFL is only about 75% to win. .75 squared is your chance of winning both games. Why should you care? People naturally take apparently obvious events and turn them into sure things. They become way too confident.

Weighing the Week Ahead: Have Stock and Oil Prices Decoupled?

This week’s calendar features another relatively light week for data, a lot of politics, slow summer trading, and options expiration. Something has to fill all of that air time! Expect more Olympic coverage, political commentary, and light features. There will be the usual Fed chatter. To the extent that there is real market discussion, I am looking for a new topic: Have Oil Prices Lost Their Impact on Stocks?

Last Week

The important economic news was mixed as was the market reaction.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA (two weeks ago), I predicted discussion about whether the earnings recession might end in Q3. I suggested we would need to fasten our seatbelts for a showdown on the economy and earnings, probably in quarter three. That might prove out, but we certainly did not need seatbelts last week! We had quiet summer trading with light news and plenty of people on vacation. CNBC interspersed Olympic coverage and even found time to have multiple segments featuring a sandwich on Friday.

Politics, global events, and competition intersected.

Mosquito

 

There was some support for my earnings thesis from our two key sources:

FactSet noted the distribution of earnings results by sector and the continuing overall beat rate.

Brian Gilmartin analyzed the forward curve for earnings, including some important implications.

The Story in One Chart Short

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. The overall range is very narrow, with little overall change. Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis and several other charts providing long-term perspective.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • Gasoline prices are expected to move lower, perhaps as low as $1.92 by year’s end. (EIA forecast via Calculated Risk).
  • Initial jobless claims remain low and even declined by 1000. (See Doug Short for charts and analysis).
  • Mortgage rates are back at the lows, 3.375 for “flawless scenarios.” (Calculated Risk).
  • The JOLTs report showed improved labor market conditions. Most sources are not covering this accurately. It is not an alternative method for estimating net job growth. It does show the trend in job openings, the structure of the labor market, and the voluntary quit rate. Nearly 3 million people each month are voluntarily leaving their jobs, double the number in 2009.
  • Producer prices fell more than expected, 0.4%. Some are citing this as bad news. The bad news will come when stimulus overshoots.
  • Michigan sentiment remained strong, slightly beating expectations. Doug Short does the best analysis and has the most informative chart:

DShort Michigan Sentiment

The Bad

  • Railroad growth remains slow. Zacks explains that this has translated into lower earnings, partly because of the energy sector.
  • Productivity fell 0.5%. Gains in productivity are essential for economic growth.
  • Retail sales disappointed, with no growth month-over-month. It was also a significant miss of the 0.4% expected gain. Doug Short analyzes this disappointing report. As always, he provides helpful historical perspective, including the chart below. It seems to show a return to the pre-recession pace of growth, but without every closing the gap to the prior trend line.

The Ugly

Public retirement commitments. Robert Pozen, in a Brookings op-ed, highlights these costs, and the main reasons:

The unfunded liabilities for retiree healthcare for the 30 largest US cities exceeds $100bn, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organisation. The unfunded liabilities for the 50 US states exceeds $500bn, according to Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency.

Retiree healthcare plans are uniquely American. They exist because the US has never offered universal healthcare before Medicare, the national social insurance programme, at age 65.

Many employees of cities and states retire between 50 and 55, so local governments usually provide them with highly subsidised healthcare between retirement and Medicare, and sometimes beyond.

For a more general analysis of the threat from retirement costs, see Mohamed A. El-Erian’s article on the “titanic risks.”

Noteworthy

There is a lot of current discussion about the “typical” American community. FiveThirtyEight provides some interesting data on both cities and states. You will find the results interesting. Much to my surprise, I am living in the state with demographics closest to the country overall.

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. This week’s award goes to Justin Fox, writing at BloombergView. He takes on a popular myth that just won’t die – the manipulation of government statistics. Like Fox, I have some personal experience in working with the career civil servants who analyze data. The notion that they do whatever a (temporary) political leader instructs is very costly to investors who believe it. The article takes up various accusations and stories, with plenty of good discussion. Here is one key argument:

First, because I know a little bit about the people who put together our nation’s economic statistics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Census Bureau are run on a day-to-day basis by career employees, not political appointees. Even the appointees are often career staffers who get promoted, and many have served under multiple administrations. When top statistics-agency officials do leave government, it’s often for jobs in academia. Credibility with peers is generally of far more value (economic and otherwise) to these people than anything a politician could do for them.

I would add that any shenanigans would be the basis for articles and books by those leaving the agencies.

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have another moderate week for economic data and the end of earnings season is near. While personally I watch everything, I highlight only the most important items in WTWA. It is important to focus.

The “A” List

  • Building permits and housing starts (T). Permits are a good leading indicator.
  • FOMC minutes (W). No one really expects any fresh news, but the punditry will find something.
  • Leading indicators (Th). Still highly regarded by many, despite the various redefinitions. Continuing strength expected.
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • Industrial production (T). Improvement expected in this lagging series, important to GDP.
  • CPI (T). Inflation data remains a secondary indicator. It will take a few hot months to bring it to the fore.
  • Philly Fed (Th). A rebound expected. This result has earned growing respect.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

There is plenty of FedSpeak for those who have been missing that. Options expiration on Friday may delay the exodus to the beach for some.

Next Week’s Theme

Quiet calendars and slow trading offer time for collective introspection. There will be plenty of political discussion, tempting investors to draw unwarranted conclusions about their money. I have noted a new theme in the discussions of the Pundit in Chief and the Senior Stock Trader: Some head-shaking over the daily divergences between oil and stock prices. I might be a little early with this expectation, but it is worth thinking about. Expect the pundits to be wondering:

Has the Correlation between Oil and Stock Prices Broken Down?

Eddy Elfenbein noted the breakdown. I am always encouraged when he reports observations consistent with my own. Here is his chart:

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This week’s problem has two parts:

  1. What will happen to oil prices?
  2. Will stocks follow?

For now, let’s stick to the first question, where there are plenty of opinions:

  • Oil supply and demand is now in rough balance. (“Davidson” and some other experts).
  • Oil is going lower – back below $30. There is still a glut and higher prices reflect a short squeeze.
  • Oil is going much higher. The oil glut is smaller than expected leading to a target of $80. Current trading reflects only momentum, not fundamentals.

….and many similar opinions on all sides.

As always, I’ll have a few ideas to add in the conclusion.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Risk first, rewards second. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

The Featured Sources:

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies. This week he expresses more confidence about growth in earnings.

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

The recession odds (in nine months) have nudged closer to 10%.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

The ECRI has been dropped from our weekly update. It was not so much because of the bad call in 2011, but the stubborn adherence to this position despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Those interested can still follow them via Doug Short and Jill Mislinski. The ECRI commentary remains relentlessly bearish despite the upturn in their own index.

It is time for another update of Doug Short’s Big Four. The start of another recession would be marked by a peak and significant decline in these indicators. Most investors should take a frequent look at this chart instead of the headlines in the financial press!

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. Georg regularly analyzes Bob Dieli’s enhanced aggregate spread, considering when it might first give a recession signal. Georg thinks it is still a year away. It is interesting to watch this approach along with our weekly monitoring of the C-Score.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation. This week Dwaine has his own interpretation of the “Big Four” indicators – a recent narrow miss. Despite this, he concludes:

To conclude, looking at the individual co-incident monthly data used by the NBER shows a far more pessimistic view currently than when looking at a syndrome of conditions. But the co-incident data in this particular indicator and the recession probabilities we are registering are not as bullish as the employment data would have you think. In fact, taking our proprietary implementation of the Big-4 index, and comparing it to the last 8 expansions, shows just how meek this recovery has been:

How to Use WTWA

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. For most readers, they can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why 2016 could be the Year for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions or suggestions for new topics.)

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We are continuing with a bullish market forecast. Felix is fully invested, including several aggressive sectors. The more cautious Holmes is now also fully invested.

Top Trading Advice

Traders are worried about the next two months, notes Steven M. Sears (Barron’s). Trading desk chatter about Chair Yellen’s upcoming Jackson Hole speech, a possible rate hike, and mean-reverting behavior in volatility. This has them buying call options on the VIX, popularly known as the fear index. Should you join this trade? I am not making a recommendation, but merely raising an idea for consideration. I do not share the concern about the impact of a rate hike. I also note that several of those quoted are selling derivatives.

Dr. Brett asks, Can Successful Trading Be Taught? He answers “yes” and explains how.

In another great post he explains how to “train your brain.”

We should all seek information from people with the right expertise and the right experience. What could be better than a clinical psychologist, a teacher, a coach of traders, and decades of personal trading experience? Every trader I know would benefit from Brett’s books as well as his blog.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be some ideas that “keep on giving.” This contradicts the page view theory of posting: Look for “actionable investment advice.”

How to Read Financial News: Tips from Portfolio Managers is worth reading and re-reading. Robert J. Martorana is an insightful author and organizer. He was the editor (I called it ‘ringmaster”) when I wrote for TheStreet.com’s Real Money site. He has organized regular conference calls among advisors, bloggers, and investment managers who all have great ideas and strong credentials. Recently he took some of the calls and turned them into a first-rate educational piece about reading financial news. I am delighted to be included. I hope others find the ideas as useful as I do. If it is popular, perhaps Rob will do more of these.

Another good post on this theme is from Morgan Housel, who describes things that he is “pretty sure about.” It is a great list. My favorites are the following:

Recessions and bear markets are very easy to predict, except for the timing, cause, magnitude, duration, location, and policy response.

Look at today’s five largest companies in the world. Fifteen years ago, one of them didn’t exist, one was a tiny start-up, one was a belittled relic of the dot-com bust, another was fighting to stay relevant after flirting with bankruptcy a few years before. I suspect the next 15 years will be even more extreme.

If you tell people what they want to hear, you can be wrong indefinitely without penalty. This explains the careers of many pundits.

Stock Ideas

Oil exploration stocks? Peter Way has an interesting approach to analyzing the upside/downside risk of this sector.

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It is not too late to buy dividend stocks. Philip Van Doorn explains how to sort through the risks.

David Van Knapp has a “periodic table” of dividend champions. You need to read the entire post to appreciate this. Here is part of it:

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Holmes will begin contributing an idea each week, a stock we bought for clients a few days ago. I will mention it here and Holmes will also post it each Friday at Scutify.com. While we cannot verify the suitability of specific stocks for everyone who is a reader, the ideas may be a starting point for your own research. Holmes may exit a position at any time, and I am not going to do a special post on each occasion. If you want this information, just sign up via holmes at newarc dot com and you will get email updates about exits. This week’s Holmes pick is Eastman Chemical (EMN).

Market Overview and Outlook

The consensus market forecast is now Dow 20,000 (sort of). Victor Reklaitis explains at MarketWatch.

Should you hedge against a crash? Marc Faber is (once again) predicting a 50% market crash. Some are outbidding him by calling for 80%! Barry Ritholtz takes up this topic providing a list of his past predictions and this chart:

Should you hedge against Zika? Josh Brown, expressing realistic concern about the virus, emphasizes the need to separate such events from your investment decisions.

Michael Harris suggests, “The frequency of articles in the financial media and blogosphere with calls for a stock market collapse is often a good indicator of a bullish market”. Read the full post for discussion and a chart of events this year.

Should you sell the market high? HORAN Capital Advisors does a complete analysis.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are several great choices worth reading, but my favorite is the NYT article from Ron Lieber, explaining how to maintain your 401(k) – ignore it! You can do better if you follow the risk indicators on WTWA, but most people who closely follow their statements buy and sell at exactly the wrong times.

Election Effects

Expect many more articles on the impact of the election and what stocks you should own. I am sticking with my year-long viewpoint: This is all overdone. The new president, whoever is elected, will face a struggle in passing an innovative agenda. No such analysis can be complete without considering the likely makeup of Congress – and that is just for starters. Barron’s has a cover story featuring a likely Clinton election and analyzing the policies. The NYT analyzes the difference in tax policies.

Value Stocks

If you missed my special post on this topic, addressing the “value trap” question, please take a look.

Watch out for….

Surprises in ETF trading costs. Chris Dieterich (Barron’s) notes that the explosive growth in choices has led to many niche funds without liquidity. He cites some examples where the bid-ask spread imposes a higher cost than the management fee!

Utility stocks. James Picerno wonders whether the “wobbly rally” signals a bubble.

Fancy ideas now aimed at the “little guy.” Some of the big guys are cutting allocations.

Final Thoughts

The correlation between oil prices and stocks never made any sense. Some traders prefer commodity prices as an economic indicator. They are skeptical of the official data. The fact that oil prices represented a supply story rather than weak demand did not stop many from hitting the recession panic button. HFT algo’s picked up something that was working, and a lot of hot money started following this trade. If you were a trader, you had to take notice. On some days CNBC would view oil traders who said they were watching stocks, as well as stock traders who were watching oil. When a trade is working, you should not go too deeply into the reasons.

Investors got the chance to buy some great stocks at lower prices.

Fundamentally, lower gas prices are good. Past price surges were frequently described as a consumer tax with no corresponding benefit. Whether people spent or saved the extra cash, it had a positive effect. Since all transportation costs were lower, everyone was helped, not just drivers, although the effects are difficult to calculate.

When the market responded negatively to lower prices many started reaching for explanations. Attention turned to those living and working in oil production areas, as well as banks making loans to them. This was true enough and easier to see than the larger, but diverse effect on consumers.

A New Chapter?

With the rebound in oil prices, will the punditry cite this as a reason for higher stock prices? I am not counting on that, but two months ago I highlighted the idea that oil prices might have hit a “sweet spot.” Energy company earnings will be better. The potential for higher production places a brake on price spikes. It provides a healthy environment for the economy and the stock market.

The oil/stock relationship may be fading, but count on the trading world to find something new!

Explaining small daily moves in the market averages is like analyzing why a snowflake fell on you rather than the person walking next to you. The many words and hours spent doing this are worse than worthless. The process creates a false sense of logic and order which may well cause mistakes in future decisions.

Weighing the Week Ahead: What Does the Election Mean for Stocks?

This week’s calendar includes a big serving of data, an FOMC meeting, the Democratic convention, and plenty of earnings news. The financial media will be asking: What does the election mean for stocks?

Last Week

The economic news was excellent, and the market reaction was positive. It was a light week for data, but the important news was positive—especially housing.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted that we should expect some challenge to the post-Brexit rally. People would be focused (even more than we usually see) on what could go wrong. It was a big week for earnings and politics as well. The market’s answer to the question reflected some optimism about the second half of the year.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. You can clearly see the successive highs and the final breakout on Friday. Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis and several other charts providing long-term perspective.

Personal Note

I am on vacation this week, and I probably will not write next weekend. I am still keeping an eye on things, so I will put up a short piece if there is really important news.

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • Initial jobless claims are at a 43-year low. (Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch).

  • Housing
    • Existing home sales are strong and would be even stronger with more inventory. Calculated Risk explains the reduction in distressed and foreclosure sales. June sales were the best in ten years.

  • Housing starts and building permits. Growth is solid and prices are higher, but this is not another housing bubble. Patrick Clark (BloombergMarkets) does a good job of explaining the difference in the current growth phase. He writes as follows:

    But residential real estate isn’t in a speculative bubble, industry observers contend. Instead, a low inventory of available homes is driving prices higher—prices, however, will eventually recede as buyers throw up their hands, or as more new homes come on line. The structural issues that led to the housing collapse last decade aren’t present.

    The largest price appreciation is coming in places where population is growing, but zoning laws have restricted the pace of new construction.

The Bad

 

The Ugly

Another week, a new terrorist event. I continue to hope for a week where the ugly award once again goes to a financial problem.

 

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. No award this week. Nominations are always welcome. There is plenty of misinformation to refute!

To help in spotting ideas, here is a handy guide from The Guardian’s Science observer, David Spiegelhalter, Our Nine-Point Guide to Spotting a Dodgy Statistic. (Thanks to reader AR for this suggestion). Most of the examples are British, but with universal application. I especially like the “indicator switching,” a favorite ploy of market pundits.

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have a pretty big week for economic data, featuring the FOMC decision. While I watch everything, I highlight only the most important items in WTWA. It is important to focus.

The “A” List

  • FOMC rate decision (W). A rate increase is not expected; the statement will get close attention.
  • Consumer confidence (T). Conference board version is an indicator for jobs and spending.
  • Michigan sentiment (F). Unlike conference board, has a panel component.
  • GDP (F). First read on Q2 – big rebound expected.
  • New home sales (T). Important economic sector. Can the growth continue?
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • Pending home sales (W). Less important for the economy than new construction, but a good read on the overall market.
  • Chicago PMI (F). An early read on next week’s ISM number.
  • Durable goods (W). Volatile June data, but the trend is important.
  • Employment cost index (F). Q2 data. Wage growth confirmed?
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

 

The big story will still be corporate earnings. The Democratic Convention will grab plenty of news. FedSpeak is on hold for the FOMC meeting, but there are some Friday appearances.

Next Week’s Theme

Markets seem to have digested the Brexit story, and surprisingly shrugged off the terrorist violence. The economic data have quieted recession worries, and even turned positive. We have competing potential themes this week.

The economic news and earnings reports are important. So far the earnings news has been solid. Brian Gilmartin was early and accurate in calling for an earnings trough. His latest post highlights the importance of Apple earnings and previews the other upcoming big reports. FactSet notes that both bottom and top-line results so far are exceeding the average “beat rate” from the last several years. Alliance Bernstein observes that headwinds to earnings growth has abated. Avondale has plenty of color about earnings calls, with a surprisingly positive take on the economy, Brexit, and earnings outlook.

A competing issue will be the FOMC meeting. While no policy change is expected, circumstances have improved enough to put one or two rate hikes back on the table this year. Tim Duy has a chart-packed analysis of what the Fed is seeing. The look at labor market tightness is especially important.

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Instead of these key issues, everyone will be asking:

What will the election mean for stocks?

I rather hope that I am wrong, and that the important economic and earnings news will take center stage.

 

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Risk first, rewards second. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

 

The Featured Sources:

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies. This week he expresses more confidence about growth in earnings.

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

The recession odds (in nine months) have nudged closer to 10%. This does not completely reflect Brexit effects, so we may get a further revision.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

The ECRI has been dropped from our weekly update. It was not so much because of the bad call in 2011, but the stubborn adherence to this position despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Those interested can still follow them via Doug Short and Jill Mislinski. The ECRI commentary remains relentlessly bearish despite the upturn in their own index.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. His latest update describes the elements of the indicator we cite every week.

 

How to Use WTWA

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. For most readers, they can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why 2016 could be the Year for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions or suggestions for new topics.)

 

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue our neutral market forecast. Felix is once again fully invested, including some more aggressive sectors. That continues to work well during the rally. The more cautious Holmes is now about 80% invested, taking some profits last week. Even when the overall market is neutral, there will often be some strong candidates. That is what we see now. It is not a resounding endorsement of the overall market, but a vote for opportunistic trading. I am curious about what it will take for Holmes to turn “mildly bullish.”

Top Trading Advice

Are stocks coiled for an upside move? Dana Lyons, using the mid-cap 400 to illustrate, writes as follows:

Specifically, the 7-day range in the index spans less than 1 percent for just the 8th time ever. And, at precisely 1.00%, the 8-day range is the narrowest in more than 20 years. In fact, all of the historically tighter ranges occurred in the low-volatility early to mid-1990′s period.

He sees a good setup for an upside breakout – tradable if it fits your time frame.

Brett Steenbarger explores the creative aspects of trading, revisiting a recent post that proved to be his most popular ever. Traders will benefit from both.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week it would be the insightful market outlook provided by “Davidson” via Todd Sullivan.

…(E)conomic fundamentals are reliable in forecasting economic activity 12mos-18mos ahead. Fundamentals provide guidance to markets well before and often in contradiction to consensus market psychology. Fundamentals provide a long-term rate of return (Natural Rate) that can be used to compare returns from markets and individual securities. Having fundamentals which can do this for us make them a good tool to separate the investments which carry value from those which reflect more hope than substance. Many forecasters have called for a ‘Market Top’ every year since 2010 ($SPY). In counter-point, fundamentals have continuously forecasted higher equity prices since late 2008. Over the long-term, history shows that fundamentals have always driven market psychology which in turn drives market prices. A market top is not near. A top is not even close. Markets are a ‘Human System’. We should worry most when most are not worried.

Good advice.

Stock Ideas

I always like articles that illustrate good analysis while discussing a potential stock. Valuation expert Aswath Damodaran discusses “story stocks” using Tesla as an example. (He also mentions Amazon). Here is a chart of the basic thesis:

Can distressed energy company bonds be a better choice than the stock? Some traders are buying bonds and selling short the stock. Investors who own the stock might find it preferable to replaced it with bonds. (The FT).

Barron’s warns about pharmacy benefit managers (on the cover) and utilities. IBM and Cisco get friendlier treatment.

Market Overview and Outlook

Providing a contrast to the oft-cited, infamous 1929 chart, Shawn Langlois (MarketWatch), reviews evidence about whether the current bull market might be just getting going.

 

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are several great choices worth reading, but my favorite is Michael Batnick’s advice on how long-term investors should focus. Read the whole piece, but the essence is this Carl Richards sketch.

Value Stocks

It is important to remember the length of stock market cycles. Even the best approaches can be out of favor for several years. HORAN Capital Advisors notes the encouraging rebound in value stocks, emphasizing the remaining upside potential.

 

Watch out for….

Target date funds. Check out five reasons to think twice. The “set it and forget it” approach might not work for you. (MarketWatch).

Long-term fixed income. Marc Gerstein says, “Owning long-term bonds are like using your jaw to punch Mr. Market in the fist.” Here is his “hate list.”

 

 

Final Thoughts

I have not written much about the election, because there is no clear implication for stocks – at least not yet. Many supposed impacts (drug prices?) are over-estimates of effects. Since we are concerned with investments, we look at political issues only through the prism of those effects.

More important is a mistaken viewpoint that stocks reaching a new high means that investor sentiment is euphoric. Not so.

BofA opines this week that it is time to buy stocks. Rupert Hargreaves (BI) reports:

Hartnett’s simple bullish message is based on the pessimistic attitude of investors in the market following Brexit and amid the general global economic malaise. Indeed, according to Bank of America’s research, investors ended June with the highest cash allocation on record at 5.7% on average and reported the lowest equity allocations in four years. Moreover, it looks as if investors are capitulating into bonds with annualised year-to-date return from global government bonds in 2016 at 25%, the highest return in 30 years. These three bearish indicators combined with the fact that inflows into precious metal funds hit a record during the first week of July, all point to the fact that investors are very bearish on the outlook for global equities. Bank of America, Merrill Lynch’s Bull & Bear Indicator, fell to an “extreme bear” reading of 1.6 on June 28.

There is plenty of room for stocks to advance, depending upon three factors:

  1. The economy – reasonable growth and no recession;
  2. Corporate earnings – getting out of the energy funk and inducing some business investment; and finally
  3. Attracting (even more) investors from alternative allocations.

At the mid-point of 2016, the key for investors is to understand the remaining market potential, and avoid obsession with scary headlines.

Economic cycles very rarely “stall out.” Recessions begin at a business cycle peak, something that is still at least a year away.

Weighing the Week Ahead: Will Earnings Expectations Sustain the Rally in Stocks?

This week’s calendar includes a pretty normal schedule, but not the most important economic reports. There will be an abundance of FedSpeak, with questions about last Friday’s employment data. Despite this, the real story will be the start of earnings season. Expectations are pretty low. Statements about the outlook are always important, but that is especially true right now. The financial media will be asking: Can the profit outlook sustain the rally in stocks?

Last Week

The economic news was pretty good, and the market reaction was even stronger. The continuing market rebound has caught many off base. This week’s review emphasizes Friday’s employment report, since that was the biggest news.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted that the post-Brexit rally might continue if the economic news was good. This could lead to discussion of a possible “summer rally.” After a poor start to the week, the economic data finally turned the trick. From my “final thought” from last week:

Rightly or wrongly, much will depend on the employment report. The economy is the key to future earnings. Recession odds are low, earnings are improving, the oil issue has stabilized, and the Fed is on hold.

In addition to summer rally discussions, there was continuing skepticism – sucker’s rally, bull trap, and similar terms were bandied about. Sometimes I am right about the theme, but incorrect in my expectations. Last week both were on target.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at the great chart from Doug Short that summarizes the week. Since that post has not yet been updated this week, here is the picture from CNN Money. It was a pretty quiet week until the big Friday rally.

cnn weekly

 

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • Rail traffic is showing improvement, but the story reflects some mismatch in holiday timing and weaker comparisons. (Steven Hansen).
  • Las Vegas real estate sales are improving, up 7.1% year-over-year. Calculated Risk notes:

    This is a key distressed market to follow since Las Vegas has seen the largest price decline of any of the Case-Shiller composite 20 cities.

  • Energy prices are lower, with gasoline down 50 cents from last year. The Oil and Energy Insider has plenty of good data. The charts show the forward curve of prices – not just the current spot. U.S. Production continues to decline.

d577d024-1c19-4bb4-b105-28f47c541823

  • Spenders coming back from the mortgage crisis? Victoria Stilwell at Bloomberg makes the case, noting that time has “healed the wounds” allowing more credit for those who had foreclosures.
  • Long-leading indicators have improved. New Deal Democrat has a mid-year summary of ten indicators with demonstrated lead times. This is well worth a look. One nugget among the many good ideas:

    The yield curve remains as positive even now, with the same slope as it had in the middle of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s expansions.  The 5-year spread is even wider than it was during most of the 1960s.

  • ISM services handily beat expectations (56.5 versus 53.3 expected and 52.9 last month). Scott Grannis analyzes the components and has a good chart comparing the U.S. to the Eurozone. He suggests that worries may be over-stated.

US vs Eurozone Serv

  • Employment news was good. We should follow multiple sources on employment, especially because of the volatility and revisions in the “official” data. This week the news was all good, but perhaps not as good as the initial market reaction would suggest.
    • The ADP reported a gain of 172K private jobs, beating expectations of 152K. This is an important independent source.
    • Initial jobless claims hit a new low at 254K, beating expectations by 14,000.
    • Non-farm payrolls recorded a stunning net gain of 287K, exactly the opposite of last month’s result of 11K after revisions. This was good news, but not as good as it seemed. It requires a deeper look.
      • Commentary varied widely. For details, check out the summaries at Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The bearish pundits either denied the strength, said that the market was not prepared for a rate increase, or both. Bullish commentators saw Santa in July, a reassuring number that would not cause the Fed to react.
      • Many fine sources showed balance. This report was not as good as it seemed, nor was last month’s so bad.
      • The charts are always interesting. Here are some of the most important from The WSJ and Bob Dieli’s monthly employment report (subscription required). To summarize from the WSJ, the change in earnings growth is still disappointing; most net job creation is full-time, the number of those wanting but not getting full-time jobs has declined significantly. From Dr. Dieli, the overall path of growth is the main theme. The duration of unemployment is an important and often-neglected story. Both sources have many more helpful charts and plenty of analysis.

2016-07-09_19-16-59

 

2016-07-09_19-19-18

2016-07-09_19-17-53

dieli employment

dieli duration of unemployment

 

The Bad

  • China rollover risk. Tom Orlik at Bloomberg Intelligence analyzes the current situation and the need to roll over $24 trillion in debt.

    The amounts involved, the maturity mismatch between assets and liabilities, and the fragile state of final borrowers all increase the chances of a misstep — and the severity of an impact should one occur. That underlines the importance for the government to maintain buoyant nominal growth, ample liquidity and low interest rates.

  • Manufacturing orders declined by 1%. Steven Hansen (GEI) has the full story with multiple takes on this data series. He sees more of a mixed picture.
  • The worldwide yield curve is flattening. Ed Yardeni discusses this story, concluding that while not recessionary, it bears watching.

FIG1

The Ugly

Three days of violence. Like everyone else, I was sickened and saddened by events. Leaders of all stripes had comments. My own favorite professor, Neil Browne, always emphasized the need for Asking the Right Questions. Although he has allegedly retired, his mission continues. He posted a thoughtful and insightful perspective.

 

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. No award this week. Nominations are always welcome. There is plenty of misinformation to refute!

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have a fairly normal week for economic data. In my calendar I highlight only the most important items, helping us all to focus.

The “A” List

  • Retail Sales (F). Will this reflect improved sentiment and employment?
  • Industrial production (F). A volatile data series–closely watched given the recent manufacturing weakness.
  • Michigan Sentiment (F). Good read on employment and spending.
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • China Q2 GDP (F). It is amazing how quickly this number is generated….
  • CPI (F). May start to get some attention if the expected increase occurs.
  • PPI (Th). See CPI.
  • Fed Beige Book (W). Descriptive reports from various Fed districts, prepared for next FOMC meeting.
  • Business inventories (F). May data, but relevant for GDP.
  • Wholesale inventories (T). Volatile May data – a factor in GDP calculation.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

 

The big story will be corporate earnings. Fed fans can enjoy appearances from at least six of the regional Presidents. Expect each to be asked if Friday’s employment data changes the likely timing and number of rate increases.

Next Week’s Theme

Markets seem to have digested the Brexit story. The economic data have quieted recession worries. We can expect plenty of post-holiday FedSpeak, but little real news from those sources. It is the start of the Q2 earnings season. There are questions about both the top and bottom lines, but expectations are pretty low. The real question is about the future.

Everyone will be asking:

Can the profit outlook sustain the rally in stocks?

Feel free to join the discussion in the comments, but I see three key questions:

  1. Will the outlook for earnings be stronger?
    1. Optimists note that the dollar has stabilized, as has the decline in energy. Earnings expert Brian Gilmartin has emphasized these themes, while still noting the sequential declines in revenues and earnings.
    2. Pessimists emphasize the “earnings recession” and the sluggish second-quarter economy.
  2. Will stocks respond if the earnings outlook is good?
    1. Optimists note ultra-low valuations in many economically sensitive sectors. These stocks have room to run skepticism wanes.
    2. Pessimists point to lagging sectors that seem to lack upside. And of course, the familiar themes about overall market valuation.
  3. Will fundamental improvement be supported by the technical analysis followers?
    1. Optimists see a potential breakout from the long-run trading range.
    2. Pessimists see an overbought market.

 

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Risk first, rewards second. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

indicator snapshot 070816

 

The Featured Sources:

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies. This week he expresses more confidence about growth in earnings.

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

This week the recession odds (in nine months) have nudged closer to 10%. This does not completely reflect Brexit effects, so we may get a further revision.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

The ECRI has been dropped from our weekly update. It was not so much because of the bad call in 2011, but the stubborn adherence to this position despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Those interested can still follow them via Doug Short and Jill Mislinski. The ECRI commentary remains relentlessly bearish despite the upturn in their own index.

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. His latest update describes the elements of the indicator we cite every week.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation.

As we review the weekly indicators it is important to maintain perspective. A 20% chance of a recession would be average. It is not a reason for fear, since it says that a recession is very unlikely. There will be a time to exercise more caution, but we are not yet close to that point. There are many very questionable recession stories right now.

How to Use WTWA

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. For most readers, they can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Holmes – the top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why 2016 could be the Year for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions or suggestions for new topics.)

 

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue our neutral market forecast. Felix remains almost fully invested, including some of the currently-popular fixed income sectors. That is working well. The more cautious Holmes is still fully invested, in a diverse group of 16 stocks from a universe of nearly 1000, selected mostly by liquidity. That group is also responding well. Even when the overall market is neutral, there will often be some strong candidates. That is what we see now. It is not a resounding endorsement of the overall market, but a vote for opportunistic trading.

Top Trading Advice

Worried about the Bloodbath of 2016 and post-Brexit fallout? The Trading Goddess has your back with ten suggestions. My favorite is the pocket chain saw.

Wondering when to sell? Adam H. Grimes helps with the question of when to take profits.

Brett Steenbarger shows the preparation needed for trading. (Start at 3 AM? Hmm). He does describe the need to have a balance including some quality time away from the market.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week (HT Abnormal Returns), it would be Phil Huber’s Fun With Strikethroughs: Wall Street Maxim Edition. He takes on the common misperception that good investing can be accomplished through a few simple rules, and he does so adroitly with humor. You will enjoy the entire list, but here is my favorite:

As goes January, so goes the year nothing.

Stock Ideas

Chuck Carnevale is cautious, even including the dividend aristocrats. He carefully describes his valuation concerns while highlighting the best candidates.

Philip Van Doorn (MarketWatch) has more stocks that were hammered by Brexit yet still favored by analysts. Those shopping for laggards may wish to take a look.

Market Overview

Shawn Langlois’ excellent “Need to Know” column features a variety of interesting market perspectives. This week’s “the call” segment featured Joe Fahmy’s four reasons for the Dow to hit 20K this year. (Check out www.dow20k.com for a prediction on this subject made in 2010 – when the Dow was at 10K).

Laszlo Birinyi publishes an excellent monthly newsletter (subscription required). He covers many analytic methods, but he features a collection of past media stories on the market. It is a helpful way to keep perspective. Take this one for example:

[Jeff] This might sound like something from last month, but it was actually written in 2010.

[Jeff] Maintaining the right long-term perspective is one of the biggest challenges for investors. I cite this striking example not to highlight the error of a single analyst. It was mainstream — a prevailing opinion published in a leading source.

Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors. This week, during his well-deserved vacation, he invited suggestions for good posts that had not gotten much attention at the time of original publication. This produced a number of high-quality ideas that he featured throughout the week. I am not surprised. My sense of something that is really good does not always resonate with readers. Other bloggers share this experience.

I am featuring one of these posts as this week’s best. In addition, please check out Wednesday’s article on Portfolio Management, and have a look at my suggestion. Cullen Roche’s piece on fear and negativity also has a timeless quality.

Watch out for….

The so-called “safe” stocks. These stocks are so overbought that it was a prevalent theme in this week’s investment advice.

Ian Bezek warns about utility yield chasing.

Ellie Ismailidou and Anora Mahmudova (MarketWatch) have a similar warning.

Corporate bond yields are also threatened (Barron’s).

Barron’s questions the fundamentals of the utility business – slowing growing demand vs. supply.

Final Thoughts

 

Stocks will eventually respond to an improving economy. We might have to wait for third-quarter earnings reports, another three months. An improved outlook will speed up this process, since stocks have tracked forward earnings. Improving the outlook will improve those projections.

Jeremy Siegel explains how stabilizing energy stocks, low interest rates, and improved earnings could lead to a 15% increase in stocks.

Years ago we could expect conference calls to “talk up” both current news and future prospects. A skeptical attitude was a healthy approach! More recently, CEO’s seem more interested in keeping expectations low. The financial community will pounce on negative statements and extrapolate to similar companies. It should be a great story.

The rotation from yield stocks to cyclical names and financials is the best opportunity for long-term investors.

But even more patience might be required.

 

Weighing the Week Ahead: Time for the Summer Rally?

This week’s calendar includes plenty of data and a holiday-shortened week. The employment report looms, with many worried about a repeat of the weak May results. With Brexit apparently digested and the Fed on hold, I expect some attention to the possible upside. The financial media will be asking: Is it time for the summer rally?

Last Week

Brexit was the big story. The market rebound was surprising to many, forcing a change of perspective. The economic news was mostly good, but got short shrift.

Theme Recap

In my last WTWA, I predicted another week about Brexit, with emphasis on the possibility of a market turning point. That is certainly how the week started. CNBC even bumped Shark Tank and the West Texas guys from the 7PM EDT slot for another round of Markets in Turmoil. After stocks moved higher, the schedule went back to normal.

Last week’s “Final Thoughts” section was also on target, suggesting a weak Monday, but emphasizing the need for investors to consider the plausible range for the week’s trading.

The Story in One Chart

I always start my personal review of the week by looking at this great chart from Doug Short. You can clearly see the exciting path for the week – early weakness from the continuing Brexit selling, a big, three-day rally, and a flat Friday as people left early for the long weekend. Doug has a special knack for pulling together all of the relevant information. His charts save more than a thousand words! Read his entire post where he adds analysis and several other charts providing long-term perspective.

SPX-five-day

The News

Each week I break down events into good and bad. Often there is an “ugly” and on rare occasion something really good. My working definition of “good” has two components. The news must be market friendly and better than expectations. I avoid using my personal preferences in evaluating news – and you should, too!

The Good

  • The ATA trucking index for May was strong up 2.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis and 5.7% year-over-year. (Calculated Risk).
  • Congress and the President managed enough cooperation to pass Puerto Rico relief legislation. (The Hill).
  • Consumer confidence increased significantly to 98 versus the prior reading of 92.4. This beat estimates by over 5 points, but some noted that the survey preceded the Brexit news.
  • Personal spending increased 0.4% m-o-m and almost 5% over the prior year. This will be a positive for Q2 GDP.
  • Fed stress tests were positive, as was the case last week. This week the question was whether banks could execute plans for dividends and stock buybacks. Nearly all passed, but Morgan Stanley was a notable exception. (MarketWatch).
  • The ISM report was strong. The index reading of 53.2 (if annualized) is consistent with GDP growth of 3.2%. Scott Grannis illustrates this relationship.

NAPM vs GDP

 

Looking at the sub-categories provides some useful color.

ISM June 2016

 

The ISM also has a separate report on expected Brexit effects. I found them to be surprisingly small. The Chicago PMI also showed a very strong increase. (Calculated Risk).

The Bad

  • The rail contraction continues although the rolling averages are improving a bit. Steven Hansen has the update.
  • Pending home sales decreased 3.7% in May and 0.2% y-o-y. (Calculated Risk).
  • Construction spending decreased 0.8% in May. Calculated Risk notes that this is mostly from public spending, illustrating with this chart:

ConSpendMay2016

 

The Ugly

Rio Olympics. The stories are starting to mount, with the WSJ calling it a perfect storm of problems. The recession has crushed budgets for public services. Violence and pollution have grabbed headlines. Zika is causing some athletes to reconsider participation. It is a shame that a great tradition is threatened.

The Silver Bullet

I occasionally give the Silver Bullet award to someone who takes up an unpopular or thankless cause, doing the real work to demonstrate the facts. This week’s winner is CNBC anchor Sara Eisen, for her first-rate, myth-busting interview with Fed Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer. (Transcript and video via CNBC). One-by-one she asked all of the key questions in the current debate over Fed policy – potential for negative rates, Brexit impact, does the Fed make decisions based the economic impact abroad, the state of the economy, recession potential, employment, George Soros, and the strong bond market. Whether or not you agree with Vice-Chairman Fischer, it is important to know what he thinks.

Sara Eisen displayed first-rate journalism, as expected from a Medill School graduate. Unlike so many other financial interviewers she did not argue with her subject nor push her own agenda. She did raise all of the current Fed misperceptions common in the trading community. Her preparation and poise helped us all learn important information. It was well worth turning off my mute button and dialing back the TIVO.

The Week Ahead

We would all like to know the direction of the market in advance. Good luck with that! Second best is planning what to look for and how to react. That is the purpose of considering possible themes for the week ahead. You can make your own predictions in the comments.

The Calendar

We have a big week for economic data, and only four days of trading. I expect it to start slowly culminating in the biggest news on Friday. In my calendar I highlight only the most important items, helping us all to focus.

The “A” List

  • Employment report (F). Deserved or not, this is always the biggest news of the month. Rebound expected.
  • FOMC Minutes (W). You might wonder how this could provide fresh news. The punditry will find a way.
  • The ISM Services Index (W). Will strength match the manufacturing index?
  • ADP Private Employment (Th). A good alternative to the “official” numbers.
  • Initial claims (Th). The best concurrent indicator for employment trends.

The “B” List

  • Factory orders (T). Volatile May data, but an important sector
  • Trade Balance (W). Also May data, but a factor in gauging GDP.
  • Crude inventories (W). Often has a significant impact on oil markets, a focal point for traders of everything.

The week may start a bit slowly as participants return from the long weekend. There is plenty of FedSpeak for those needing a fix. More Brexit commentary and predictions will also be a feature, with emphasis on European markets and specific companies.

Next Week’s Theme

After two weeks of Brexit stories, market participants seem ready to move on. We have a pretty busy week for economic data, with the news occurring over only four days and a sleepy start on Tuesday. Friday’s employment report will be the big story of the week, and might be a multi-day theme.

Despite this, I am intrigued by two posts from my blogging friend Eddy Elfenbein. (Eddy seems to have scored a regular appearance gig on CNBC. His comments are always on target, and they should give him more time. I turn off the mute and TIVO back whenever I see him).

First, Eddy noted that the market has been in an extremely tight trading range for almost two years.

Second, he crunched some data showing one-day results for every day of the year for a 120-year period.

One

The two-month period beginning right now has historically provided about half of the annual stock gains. Eddy wisely warns that this is interesting, but not a basis for prediction. I agree, but the theme should attract some attention.

In addition, the Fed is expected to remain on hold and Brexit worries digested. Many will be asking:

Is it time for the summer rally?

Feel free to join the discussion in the comments, but here are the key themes I see.

Bearish

  • The rally has created an overbought market.
  • Market valuation is extended and earnings are weak.
  • Brexit remains important – more than people realize.
  • There is a real threat of global recession.

Bullish

  • The Brexit story seems to have a favorable ending. Ed Yardeni writes:

    The Brexit vote didn’t change my secular bullish stance. That’s because I don’t believe it will cause a recession in the US. I expect that earnings growth will resume during the second half of this year and that interest rates will remain as low as they are now for the foreseeable future.

  • Earnings may well be at a turning point. (Brian Gilmartin, with some support from FactSet).
  • Recession odds (judged by the best methods) remain very low. Stock prices erroneously reflect high macro worries.
  • Low interest rates make stock returns attractive to many investors.

Quant Corner

We follow some regular great sources and also the best insights from each week.

Risk Analysis

Whether you are a trader or an investor, you need to understand risk. Risk first, rewards second. I monitor many quantitative reports and highlight the best methods in this weekly update.

The Indicator Snapshot

Indicator Snapshot 070116

 

The Featured Sources:

Brian Gilmartin: Analysis of expected earnings for the overall market as well as coverage of many individual companies. This week he expresses more confidence about growth in earnings.

Bob Dieli: The “C Score” which is a weekly estimate of his Enhanced Aggregate Spread (the most accurate real-time recession forecasting method over the last few decades). His subscribers get Monthly reports including both an economic overview of the economy and employment.

This week the recession odds (in nine months) have nudged closer to 10%. This does not completely reflect Brexit effects, so we may get a further revision.

Holmes: Our cautious and clever watchdog, who sniffs out opportunity like a great detective, but emphasizes guarding assets.

Doug Short: The Big Four Update, the World Markets Weekend Update (and much more).

The ECRI has been dropped from our weekly update. It was not so much because of the bad call in 2011, but the stubborn adherence to this position despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Those interested can still follow them via Doug Short and Jill Mislinski. The ECRI commentary remains relentlessly bearish despite the upturn in their own index.

ECRI-WLI-YoY-since-2000

 

Georg Vrba: The Business Cycle Indicator, and much more. Check out his site for an array of interesting methods. His latest update describes the elements of the indicator we cite every week.

RecessionAlert: Many strong quantitative indicators for both economic and market analysis. While we feature his recession analysis, Dwaine also has a number of interesting approaches to asset allocation. Dwaine’s most recent update, shows the increase in the number of countries with back-to-back quarters of losses in GDP.

2016-07-01_1721

 

As we review the weekly indicators it is important to maintain perspective. A 20% chance of a recession would be average. It is not a reason for fear, since it says that a recession is very unlikely. There will be a time to exercise more caution, but we are not yet close to that point.

How to Use WTWA

In this series I share my preparation for the coming week. I write each post as if I were speaking directly to one of my clients. For most readers, they can just “listen in.” If you are unhappy with your current investment approach, we will be happy to talk with you. I start with a specific assessment of your personal situation. There is no rush. Each client is different, so I have six different programs ranging from very conservative bond ladders to very aggressive trading programs. A key question:

Are you preserving wealth, or like most of us, do you need to create more wealth?

My objective is to help all readers, so I provide a number of free resources. Just write to info at newarc dot com. We will send whatever you request. We never share your email address with others, and send only what you seek. (Like you, we hate spam!) Free reports include the following:

  • Understanding Risk – what we all should know.
  • Income investing – better yield than the standard dividend portfolio, and also less risk.
  • Felix and Holmes – top artificial intelligence techniques in action.
  • Why 2016 could be the Year for Value Stocks – finding cheap stocks based on long-term earnings.

You can also check out my website for Tips for Individual Investors, and a discussion of the biggest market fears. (I welcome questions or suggestions for new topics.)

Best Advice for the Week Ahead

The right move often depends on your time horizon. Are you a trader or an investor?

Insight for Traders

We consider both our models and also the best advice from sources we follow.

Felix and Holmes

We continue our neutral market forecast. Felix remains almost fully invested but with somewhat more cautious choices. This was good for most of the week. The more cautious Holmes is still fully invested, in selections that dodged the Brexit fallout pretty well. Holmes uses a universe of nearly 1000 stocks, selected mostly by liquidity. Even when the overall market is neutral, there will often be some strong candidates. That is what we see now. It is not a resounding endorsement of the overall market, but a vote for opportunistic trading.

Top Trading Advice

One of the reasons I enjoy and learn from Brett Steenbarger is the unique quality of his insights. He often discusses a topic that you might think is simple and obvious in retrospect. The value is that no one actually follows the key process in real time! His recent post on Confusion and Clarity in Trading is an excellent example. How many times are you in a situation where you simply do not know? How often do you admit it?

Adam H. Grimes also has simple but powerful advice: Take notes! Use them to identify biases and action points.

Insight for Investors

Investors have a longer time horizon. The best moves frequently involve taking advantage of trading volatility!

Best of the Week

If I had to pick a single most important source for investors to read this week, it would be Josh Brown’s first-rate warning about the latest round of financial scams. Josh has street cred on helping investors – often by revealing what is going on behind the scenes. I reviewed his book Backstage Wall Street, noting that it would save reader thousands of dollars. I have also often cited his second book, written with Jeff Macke, on several occasions. What he writes is colorful, fun, and always adding to his main theme of helping the individual investor.

This week’s post emphasizes that intelligent and prominent people can be victims. It happens even if you are dealing with a prestigious firm. It can easily happen to you. There are many good points, but here is the conclusion:

Peter Lynch said that “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections than has been lost in corrections themselves.” If your advisor’s answer to the potential for corrections or volatility is to sell you silly (OP: ahem – stuff) from outer space, then your follow up question should be whether or not he or she gets paid for the privilege of your having bought it.

[Jeff] Sadly, I often see such complicated and illiquid assets in the accounts of new clients, usually after a big commission has already been paid and there is no cheap escape.

Stock Ideas

Barron’s mentions Volkswagen, big U.S. banks, and Southwest airlines as candidates for major moves.

Chuck Carnevale ventures a bit out of his wheelhouse, using his typical valuation methods on a more speculative stock sector – biotech. This is very interesting reading, with plenty of ideas and suggestions.

John Buckingham of the Prudent Speculator has plenty of ideas worth considering.

It is always interesting to compare the results from different research processes and screens. Here is Value Walk’s growth screen for June.

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Brexit Reprise

  • Brexit selling might already be over. The story is getting boring. This was from Tuesday!
  • Brexit might not really occur. Readers might recall that I predicted this a few weeks ago, suggesting that the referendum result might wind up as a negotiating ploy. It was a Barron’s story this week, and others are joining in.
  • Economic predictions are already suspect. I started to quote the culprits, but decided not to. What is the point. Beware of writing when you are reaching outside of your “happy zone.” The basic economic effects on the U.S. will be modest. Most of the dire predictions relate to falling dominoes, an easy and typical scare tactic.
  • Most investors lost money. (MarketWatch).

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Personal Finance

Professional investors and traders have been making Abnormal Returns a daily stop for over ten years. The average investor should make time (even if not able to read AR every day as I do) for a weekly trip on Wednesday. Tadas always has first-rate links for investors in his weekly special edition. There are always several great choices worth reading, and I have two favorites this week. The first, from Josh Brown, is reported above. The second is a brief and cleverly-written story by Carl Richards. It is difficult to quote it without spoiling, so please take a few seconds to read it yourself. Here is the Sketch Guy’s chart:

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Kurt Feuerman has a similar story about the news barrage from perma-bears whenever markets turn volatile. It is well worth reading his account of past crises, looking at the charts, and enjoying the picture of a nasty-looking bear. Here is a key quotation:

Right now, for instance, is a good example of when to exert your objectivity. Fear is running high. Along with that, there’s a pervasive distrust of equities. But let’s look a little closer. The yield on equities is roughly 2.2% versus the 10-year Treasury yield of 1.5%. Once again, there’s a mad dash to safety assets, so the rates on Treasuries continue to fall. Yet the current situation actually creates a double positive for stocks: interest rates are likely to stay lower for longer, which helps support equity valuations while also providing investment-grade issuers with the ability to borrow cheaply and increase shareholder value.

Watch out for….

Chasing performance from last year’s best hedge funds. Abnormal Returns takes two successful funds with completely different strategies. Here is how they are now doing:

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Final Thoughts

I doubt that I can match my “final thoughts” from the last two weeks. I hope readers were helped in weathering another round of macro news with plenty of speculation about U.S. stocks.

The potential trading range I laid out two weeks ago was pretty much on target. The preliminary expectations about the vote led to a larger reaction than would otherwise have occurred. Media milked this for all it was worth, taking the prior Thursday close as the correct starting point, despite the run-up. Just staying cool can be a challenge!

What about a summer rally? It is a good guess about the theme for the week. As is often the case for the weekly theme, I don’t know the answer and neither does anyone else. That said, I rate the possibility higher than most, and therefore another good contrarian play. We have had a long-time tight trading range, so a breakout would be meaningful for many. Rightly or wrongly, much will depend on the employment report.

The economy is the key to future earnings. Recession odds are low, earnings are improving, the oil issue has stabilized, and the Fed is on hold.  Many “trading range worries” are now behind us.