China in a cleft stick

The CCP is in a cleft stick over the protests in Hong Kong. Either they escalate and clear protestors with a massive show of force — which risks further escalation — or they wait patiently and let the protest run its course. Their problem is that there are more than 800 million Chinese citizens watching, who will take this as a precedent for future demonstrations in China. The shadow of Tiananmen Square will be replaced by the outcome of the current protests, whatever that is.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index broke support at 24000, signaling a correction to 21000/22000. Reversal of 13-week Twiggs Money Flow below zero would warn of a bear market. Breach of support at 21000 would indicate a primary down-trend.

Hang Seng Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index, however, broke resistance at 2340/2350, indicating an advance to 2440/2450. Rising 13-week Twiggs Money Flow continues to indicate medium-term buying pressure. I would advocate caution, given the situation in Hong Kong and a negative outlook for the economy.

Shanghai Composite Index

* Target calculation: 2250 + ( 2250 – 2000 ) = 2500

India’s Sensex is testing support at 26000. Bearish divergence on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow continues to warn of long-term selling pressure, but another trough above zero would suggest that buyers are regaining control. Failure of support would signal a correction to the primary trendline — around 25000 — while respect would indicate an advance to 28000*.

Sensex

* Target calculation: 27000 + ( 27000 – 26000 ) = 28000

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index retraced to test support at 16000, but respect of this level would be a bullish sign, suggesting a breakout above its 2013 high of 16300 with a long-term target of 18000*. Reversal below 16000 is unlikely, but would warn of a correction. Another 13-week Twiggs Money Flow would signal long-term buying pressure.

Nikkei 225

* Target calculation: 16000 + ( 16000 – 14000 ) = 18000

DAX threatens bear trend

Germany’s DAX is retracing for another test of support at 9300 and 13-week Twiggs Money Flow retreat below zero, after a bearish divergence, warns of long-term selling pressure. Failure of support would warn of a primary down-trend, while breach of primary support at 9000/8900 would confirm. Respect of support is unlikely, but recovery above 9800 would suggest another advance.

DAX

* Target calculation: 9000 – ( 10000 – 9000 ) = 8000

The Footsie is also likely to test primary support at 6400/6500. Divergence on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow, however, is nowhere near as bearish as the DAX and stronger support is likely.

FTSE 100

* Target calculation: 6500 – ( 6900 – 6500 ) = 6100

QE: The end is nigh?

I have read a number of predictions recently as to how stocks will collapse into a bear market when quantitative easing ends. The red line on the graph below shows how the Fed expanded its balance sheet by $3.5 trillion between 2008 and 2014, injecting new money into the system through acquisition of Treasuries and other government-backed securities.

Fed Assets and Excess Reserves on Deposit

Many are not aware that $2.7 trillion of that flowed straight back to the Fed, deposited by banks as excess reserves. So the net flow of new money into the system was actually a lot lower: around $0.8 trillion.

The Fed has indicated they will end bond purchases in October 2014, which means that the red line will level off at close to $4.5 trillion. If excess reserve deposits continue to grow, that would cause a net outflow of money from the system. But that is highly unlikely. Excess Reserves have been growing at a slower rate than Fed Assets for the last three quarters, as the graph of Fed Assets minus Excess Reserves shows. If that trend continues, there will be a net injection of money even though asset purchases have halted.

Fed Assets and Excess Reserves on Deposit

Interest paid on excess reserves is a powerful weapon in the hands of the FOMC. The Fed can accelerate the flow of money into the market by reducing the interest rate, forcing banks to withdraw funds on deposit in search of better returns outside the Fed. Alternatively, raising interest paid above the current 0.25% p.a. on excess reserves would have the opposite effect, attracting more deposits and slowing the flow of money into the market.

The Fed is likely to use these tools to maintain a positive flow into the market until the labor market has healed. As Janet Yellen said at Jackson Hole:

“It likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after our current asset purchase program ends.”

That’s Fedspeak for “Read my lips: there will be no interest rate hikes.”

Aussie Dollar and ASX find short-term support

The Australian Dollar found support at $0.8650/$0.8700 and is likely to retrace to test the new resistance level at $0.8850/$0.8900. Declining 13-week Twiggs Momentum (below zero) signals a primary down-trend. Respect of resistance is likely and breach of primary support ($0.8650) would offer a target of $0.80*.

AUDUSD

* Target calculation: 0.87 – ( 0.94 – 0.87 ) = 0.80

The ASX 200 is also retracing and likely to test resistance around 5350. Peaks below zero on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow warn of long-term selling pressure. Respect of resistance is likely and would warn of a test of 4900/5000*.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5350 – ( 5700 – 5350 ) = 5000

The ASX 200 VIX is rising, but remains at levels typical of a bull market.

ASX 200

Rising interest rates: Good or bad for stocks?

We are now at the September quarter-end, normally a volatile time for stocks. Expect selling pressure to increase over the next few weeks as investment managers sell off poor-performing stocks. Increased cash balances then enable them to take advantage of new opportunities as they present themselves. If the fundamental under-pinning of the market is sound, the market is likely to undergo a minor dip before resuming its advance. If not, and there are serious flaws, the sell-off could turn into a rout — as in 1987 and 2007.

At present the market appears sound, with none of our market indicators flagging elevated risk, and the bull market is likely to continue.

Bears cite the potential for an increase in US interest rates as a major threat to the US economy. The track record for the last 15 years suggests otherwise. The graph below compares percentage change in 10-year Treasury yields to the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index (divided by 20 for purposes of comparison). The two tend to rise and fall in sync, with a 20% to 40% rise in the index accompanying a 1% increase in yields.

10-year Treasury yields v. Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index

The Fed tends to be conservative about raising interest rates (“doves” outnumber “hawks”) and is unlikely to raise rates until there is solid evidence of a recovery. So a rise in interest rates is more likely to be followed by a surge in stocks than a fall.

US stocks

The S&P 500 found significant support at 1965, the lower border of the broadening wedge. Monday’s long tail flags (short-term) buying pressure. Follow-through above 1990 would suggest a rally to test the upper border. Breach of 1965, however would indicate another correction. Decline of 21-day Twiggs Money Flow below zero would confirm, while recovery above its September high would suggest that buyers are back in control.

S&P 500

* Target calculation: 2000 + ( 2000 – 1900 ) = 2100

CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is rising, but the low level continues to suggest a bull market.

VIX Index

Dow Jones Industrial Average found support at 16950 on the weekly chart. Long tails again flag buying pressure. Recovery above 17150 would suggest another advance, while follow-through above 17350 would confirm. Breach of support at 16950 is unlikely, but would warn of a correction. 13-Week Twiggs Money Flow reflects some hesitancy, but the long-term picture is bullish.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

* Target calculation: 16500 + ( 16500 – 15500 ) = 17500

Ukrainian Soldiers Provide More Evidence of Russian Military Participation in Eastern Ukraine

Matthew Aid reports that captured Ukrainian soldiers offer new evidence of direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine:

Stepping out of a bus on at dusk on Sunday during a prisoner exchange, Alexei Koshelenko said he was captured during heavy fighting on Aug. 24-25 near the town of Ilovaysk, east of the separatist stronghold of Donetsk…..

“We were hit by multiple rocket launcher Grads and after that the troops just swept us away. We were completed defeated within 20 minutes. Many of us were killed, others are missing,” Koshelenko told reporters.”They were Russians,” he said, standing among unshaven and exhausted-looking soldiers being counted before the swap was completed. Referring to a city 300 km 200 miles northeast of Moscow, he said: “They said they were an airborne assault battalion from Kostroma.”

Read more at 2 Ukrainian Soldiers Provide More Evidence of Russian Military Participation in Fighting in the Eastern Ukraine – Matthew Aid.

Putin: If you love someone set them free…

Winston Churchill: For a nation to tax itself into prosperity…

The Scottish Question Has Not Been Answered

Peter Geoghegan writes on the impact of further devolution in Scotland:

At present, England has no devolved legislature similar to Scotland’s. Instead, all laws for England are made at Westminster. Consequently, non-English MPs often vote on issues that only affect England. Any change to this policy would likely be fiercely resisted, particularly by Labour which has a large contingent of Scottish and Welsh MPs.

Labour, ironically, could be the biggest loser in Scotland’s referendum. It has traditionally been the party of central Scotland — of the post-industrial towns and villages that ring Glasgow and Edinburgh and hold much of the country’s 5 million people. In Glasgow, there was long been a saying that you could shave a monkey and get it elected on the Labour ticket. But in the referendum, almost 40 percent of Labour voters chose independence….

Read more at The Scottish Question Has Not Been Answered.

America’s Never-Ending War | Project Syndicate

Brahma Chellaney, Professor of Strategic Studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research writes:

It is time for the US to recognize that since it launched its war on terror, the scourge has only spread. The Afghanistan-Pakistan belt has remained “ground zero” for transnational terrorism, and once-stable countries like Libya, Iraq, and Syria have emerged as new hubs.

….Making matters worse, Obama plans to use the same tactics to fight the Islamic State that led to its emergence: authorizing the CIA, aided by some of the region’s oil sheikhdoms, to train and arm thousands of Syrian rebels. It is not difficult to see the risks inherent in flooding the Syrian killing fields with even more and better-armed fighters.

The US may have some of the world’s top think tanks and most highly educated minds. But it consistently ignores the lessons of its past blunders – and so repeats them. US-led policies toward the Islamic world have prevented a clash between civilizations only by fueling a clash within a civilization that has fundamentally weakened regional and international security.

An endless war waged on America’s terms against the enemies that it helped to create is unlikely to secure either steady international support or lasting results…..The risk that imperial hubris accelerates, rather than stems, Islamist terror is all too real – yet again.

Read more at America’s Never-Ending War by Brahma Chellaney – Project Syndicate.

Corporate high yield bonds under pressure | SoberLook.com

“The Russians fear us far more than we fear them” | Nigel Farage

Not often I agree with Nigel Farage, but his prescient 2008 warning about Russia and the Ukraine makes you wonder about EU foreign policy:

Australian investors

Australian stocks have taken a bit of a beating over the last few weeks, including a few of the momentum stocks in our portfolio. Risk of a bear market remains low, but a falling Aussie Dollar has prompted international investors to scale back exposure to Australian equities.

AUDUSD

This tends to become self-reinforcing as falling stock prices then prompt further sell-offs. And repatriation causes further weakness in the Aussie Dollar. The down-trend is likely to continue if support at $0.8650/$0.8700 is breached.

Investors who split their portfolio between the S&P 500 and the ASX 200 have been cushioned from the fall, with their US portfolio showing strong appreciation in Australian Dollar terms.

Market turbulence

A Coincident Economic Activity Index above 0.2 indicates the US recovery is on track. Produced by the Philadelphia Fed, the index includes four indicators: nonfarm payroll employment, the unemployment rate, average hours worked in manufacturing, and wages and salaries. Bellwether stock Fedex also suggests rising economic activity.

Coincident Economic Activity Index

But contraction of the ECB balance sheet by € 1 Trillion over the last two years has pitched Europe back into recession.

Weakness in Europe and Asia has the capacity to retard performance of US stocks despite the domestic recovery.

Trouble in the East

Expect a continued arm wrestle between Russia and the West over influence in the Ukraine. Russians obviously view their shrinking sphere of influence as a threat to future security. But Vladimir Putin’s actions in Georgia, Moldova, Crimea and the Ukraine — straight from the KGB playbook — are the biggest threat to their security.

A war-weary US and pacifist Europe may be slow to react, but their capacity when provoked to subdue any threat from the East, through their combined economic might, is immense. One should not be fooled by Putin’s macho posturing. He is playing a very weak hand.

S&P 500 broadening wedge

  • We are at the September quarter-end and can expect stock weakness to continue into October
  • The Dollar is rising
  • Gold and crude oil are falling
  • European stocks are bearish
  • Asian stocks are bearish despite China showing strength
  • US stocks reflect a bull market

Dow Jones Europe Index is testing primary support at 320. Breach would signal a down-trend. Follow-through below 315 would confirm. Penetration of the rising trendline and 13-week Twiggs Momentum peak below zero both strengthen the bear signal.

Dow Jones Europe Index

* Target calculation: 320 – ( 340 – 320 ) = 300

Dow Jones Asia Index broke primary support at 3200 despite bullishness on the Hang Seng and Shanghai Composite. Expect a test of support at 3000 (at the rising trendline). Reversal of 13-week Twiggs Momentum below zero would further strengthen the bear signal. Follow-through below 3000 would confirm a primary down-trend.

Dow Jones Asia Index

* Target calculation: 3100 + ( 3100 – 2800 ) = 3400

Shanghai Composite Index, however, continues to test resistance at 2350. Breakout would confirm a primary up-trend. Rising 13-week Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure.

Shanghai Composite Index

Bear in mind that Dow Asia and Dow Europe are priced in USD and reflect strength in the US Dollar as well as weakness in local markets — though the two are closely connected.

The S&P 500 is consolidating around the 2000 level in a broadening wedge formation. Do not be surprised if the index rallies early next week, to test medium-term resistance at 2020. Fund managers are normally willing to support the market at quarter-end and lock in quarterly performance bonuses. But this is likely to be followed by weakness in October as they sell off non-performing stocks and increase cash holdings until new opportunities present themselves. Breakout below the broadening wedge — and penetration of both support at 1950 and the (secondary) rising trendline — would warn of a correction. A large volume spike from triple-witching hour on September 19th, however, has exaggerated weakness on Twiggs Money Flow. Breakout above 2020 would signal a fresh advance.

S&P 500

* Target calculation: 2000 + ( 2000 – 1900 ) = 2100

CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) remains in the low range (below 20) typical of a bull market.

S&P 500 VIX

The ASX 200 is testing support at 5300/5350. Penetration of the rising trendline warns of a correction to 5000. Declining 13-week Twiggs Money Flow, below zero, after a long-term bearish divergence, also signals weakness. Breach of 5300 would confirm a test of 5000. Recovery above 5550 is unlikely, but would suggest another test of 5650.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5650 + ( 5650 – 5350 ) = 5950