Forward P/E turns back up

Dow Jones Industrials

Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to climb, heading for a target of 21000. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow signal strong buying pressure.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The S&P 500 follows a similar path.

S&P 500

With the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) close to historic lows around 10 percent.

VIX

However, at least one investment manager, Bob Doll, is growing more cautious:

“…we think the easy gains for equities are in the rearview mirror and we are growing less positive toward the stock market. We do not believe the current bull market has ended, but the pace and magnitude of the gains we have seen over the past year are unlikely to persist.”

Forward P/E Ratio

Bob Doll’s view is reinforced by recent developments with the S&P 500 Forward Price-Earnings Ratio. I remarked at the beginning of February that the Forward P/E had dropped below 20, signaling a time to invest.

Actual earnings results, however, have come in below earlier estimates — shown by the difference between the first of the purple (latest estimate) and orange bars (04Feb2017) on the chart below.

S&P 500 Forward Price-Earnings Ratio

In the mean time the S&P 500 index has continued to climb, driving the Forward P/E up towards 20.

This is not yet cause for alarm. We are only one month away from the end of the quarter, when Forward P/E is again expected to dip as the next quarter’s earnings (Q1 2018) are taken into account.

S&P 500 Forward Price-Earnings Ratio

But there are two events that would be cause for concern:

  1. If the index continues to grow at a faster pace than earnings; and/or
  2. If forward earnings estimates continue to be revised downward, revealing over-optimistic expectations.

Either of the above could cause Forward P/E to rise above 20, reflecting over-priced stocks.

Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.

~ Warren Buffett

ASX 200 retreats

The ASX 200 broke down below its recent consolidation, signaling another test of support at 5600. There is no indication on Twiggs Money Flow of unusual selling pressure and at present I expect support to hold.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5800 + ( 5800 – 5600 ) = 6000

Diane Schuur – New York State Of Mind

Great rendition of the Billy Joel classic.

Diane Joan Schuur (born December 10, 1953) is a prolific American jazz singer and pianist. Complications from a premature birth caused her total loss of vision.

China: Inflation on the rise

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is approaching resistance at 3300 after respecting its new support level at 3100. Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero indicate long-term buying pressure. Breakout would provide further confirmation of the primary up-trend.

Shanghai Composite Index

* Target medium-term: 3100 + ( 3100 – 2800 ) = 3400

The rising market is primarily a result of central bank stimulus so investors need to consider the result if this is withdrawn. Rising producer prices warn that underlying inflation is growing. If this continues the PBOC will be forced to retreat.

China: Producer Prices Annual Change

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is also testing resistance, at 24000. A Twiggs Money Flow trough that respects zero would signal long-term buying pressure but that looks uncertain at present.
Hang Seng Index

Europe: Long-term buying pressure

The FTSE 100 is consolidating below resistance at 7350. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate strong buying pressure. Breakout above 7350 is likely and would signal an advance to 7500*. The long-term target is 8000.

FTSE 100

* Target: 7100 + ( 7100 – 6700 ) = 7500

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 is similarly consolidating while Twiggs Money Flow reflects long-term buying pressure. Breakout above 3330 would signal a fresh advance with a target of 3500*.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

* Target: 3300 + ( 3300 – 3100 ) = 3500

India looks bullish

India’s Sensex is again testing resistance at 29000, while rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Breakout would offer a target of 32000* but the index will first have to overcome strong resistance at its 2015 high of 30000.

Sensex Index

* Target: 29000 + ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 32000

Gold breaks through $1250

10-Year Treasury Yields are testing support at 2.30%. Expect this to hold. Breach of the rising trendline would warn of a correction but this seems unlikely with the Fed intent on normalizing interest rates. Breakout above 2.50% would offer a target of 3.0%.

10-Year Treasury Yields

The Dollar Index rally remains muted since finding support at 100. Rising long-term yields would fuel the advance, with bearish consequences for gold.

Dollar Index

China’s Yuan is consolidating. Resistance on USDCNY at 7 Yuan is likely to be tested soon.

USDCNY

The PBOC has been burning through its foreign reserves to slow the rate of depreciation against the Dollar, to create a soft landing. A sharp fall would destabilize global financial markets and fuel capital flight from China.

China Foreign Reserves

Spot Gold broke through resistance at $1250, signaling an advance to $1300.

Spot Gold

Australia & Canada in 4 charts

RBA governor Phil Lowe recently made a speech comparing the experiences of Australia and Canada over the last decade. Both have undergone a resources and housing boom. Four charts highlight the differences and similarities between the two countries.

Australia’s spike in mining investment during the resources boom did serious damage to non-mining investment while Canada’s smaller boom had no impact.

Australia & Canada: Mining v. Non-Mining Investment

Immigration fueled a spike in population growth in Australia, adding pressure on infrastructure and housing.

Australia & Canada: Population Growth

Both countries are experiencing a housing bubble, fueled by low interest rates and lately by export of China’s property bubble, with capital fleeing China and driving up house prices in the two countries.

Australia & Canada: Housing

Record levels of household debt make the situation more precarious and vulnerable to a correction.

Australia & Canada: Household Debt

Hat tip to David Llewellyn-Smith at Macrobusiness

We Are Growing Less Positive (But Not Negative) Toward Equities | Bob Doll

Great headline from Bob Doll (Nuveen Investments) latest newsletter.

Bob Doll

“….we think the easy gains for equities are in the rearview mirror and we are growing less positive toward the stock market. We do not believe the current bull market has ended, but the pace and magnitude of the gains we have seen over the past year are unlikely to persist.”

His key points:

  • We believe investors are overly complacent about the state of the global economy and the political backdrop.

  • We remain cautiously optimistic toward equities, but think the pace of recent gains is unlikely to persist and that risks will rise this year.

Still positive on the economy but wary of the political backdrop seems a common theme among investment managers. The timing of any reversal (Doll: 2018) will largely be determined by inflation and interest rates.

Source: Weekly Investment Commentary from Bob Doll | Nuveen

Michael Gove on Brexit, productivity and innovation

Interesting viewpoint on Brexit.  How the EU became anti-innovation, erecting barriers to entry which favor incumbents.

Bond spreads bullish for US, less so Australia

Yield Curve

The yield curve is one of the best predictors of US economic recessions. Every time the yield curve has turned negative in the last fifty years, a recession has followed.

First of all, what is a yield curve? It is the plot of yields on bonds, normally Treasuries, against their maturities. Long maturity bonds are expected to have higher yields than short-term bills, to compensate for the increased risk (primarily of interest rate changes). If you tie your money up for longer, you would expect a higher return. Hence a rising yield curve.

A rising yield curve is a major source of profit to the banks as their funding is mostly short-term while they charge long-term rates to borrowers, pocketing a healthy interest margin.

When the Fed steps into the market, however, restricting the flow of money into the economy, then short-term rates rise faster than long-term rates and the yield curve can invert (referred to as a negative yield curve).

Bank interest margins are squeezed — it is no longer profitable to borrow short and lend long — and they restrict the flow of new credit.

Credit is the lifeblood of the economy and activity slows.

The chart below compares US recessions to the yield differential: the difference between 10-year Treasury yields and the yield on 3-month T-bills. The yield differential falls below zero when 3-month T-bills yield more than 10-year T-notes.

Yield Differential: 10-year Treasury yields minus 3-month T-bills

You can see that every time the yield differential dips below zero it is followed by a gray bar indicating a recession. There is one exception: the phantom recession of 1966 when the S&P 500 fell 22%. This was originally certified as a recession by the NBER but they later changed their mind and airbrushed it out of history.

You can also see that the yield differential is declining at present but, at 2.0%, it is a long way from a flat or negative yield curve. This supports my argument last week that current Fed rate hikes are more about normalizing interest rates than about monetary tightening.

That could change in the future but at present the bull market still appears to have plenty in the tank.

Corporate Bond Spreads

Corporate bond spreads — the yield difference between high-grade corporate bonds and the risk-free Treasury rate — are another useful indicator of the state of the economy.

Wide bond spreads indicate increased risk of corporate default. Investors are concerned about the state of the economy and demand a higher premium for taking credit risk.

Narrow spreads suggest that credit premiums are low and confidence in the economy is good.

If we examine the chart below, bond spreads are declining, indicating confidence in the US economy, with even the lowest investment grade BBB dipping below 150 basis points (or 1.50%). This is synonymous with a bull market.

US Bond Spreads

Australian corporate bond spreads are higher than the US, with BBB still at 200 bps. They have also declined over the last year but seem to be trending upward from their 2013 low. This is not conclusive as the current trough is not yet complete, but a higher low would warn that credit risk is rising.

Australian Bond Spreads

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.

~ Warren Buffett

Jewel Kilcher – Hands

Interesting life story:

Europe: More bull markets

The FTSE 100 continues to advance after respecting its new support level at 7000/7100. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow indicate strong buying pressure. Follow-through above 7350 would signal an advance to 7500*. The long-term target is 8000.

FTSE 100

* Target: 7100 + ( 7100 – 6700 ) = 7500

A weak correction on Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 over the last 6 weeks suggests buying pressure, also reflected by rising Twiggs Money Flow. Recovery above 3300 signals a fresh advance with a target of 3500*.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

* Target: 3300 + ( 3300 – 3100 ) = 3500

Dow and Nasdaq: It’s a bull market

The Nasdaq 100 is in blue sky territory, having broken clear of its Dotcom high at 4900. Rising troughs on Twiggs Money Flow signal long-term buying pressure. A correction to test the new support level remains likely but this is unlikely to upset the bull market.

Nasdaq 100

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is also in a bull market, headed for a test of 21000. Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero again indicate strong buying pressure.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

The Dow Jones Transport Average is also in blue sky territory having respected its new support level at 9000. The up-trend provides bull market confirmation required by classic Dow Theory.

Dow Jones Transport Average

Interest rates bearish for gold

10-Year Treasury Yields are consolidating below resistance at 2.50%. Long tails suggest medium-term buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of 3.0%.

10-Year Treasury Yields

The Dollar Index rally has so far been muted since finding support at 100. But rising long-term yields are likely to fuel the advance, with bearish consequences for gold.

Dollar Index

Spot Gold is consolidating below $1250/ounce. Reversal below $1200 would warn of another decline. Breach of primary support at $1130 would confirm. Arguments for a further advance appear weak, but breakout above $1250 would signal an advance to $1300.

Spot Gold

ASX banks lead the charge

The ASX 200 followed-through above 5750 after respecting its new support level at 5600, indicating an advance to 6000*. Rising Twiggs Money Flow signals buying pressure.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5800 + ( 5800 – 5600 ) = 6000

Australian banks are leading the charge, with the ASX 300 Banks Index testing 9000. A trough high above zero on Twiggs Money Flow indicates strong buying pressure. Breakout above 9000 would signal another advance.

ASX 300 Banks Index

Bank profits have declined for the last two years, but Bad and Doubtful Debt Charges are not a major cause.

RBA Chart Pack: Bank Profits and Bad Debt Expenses

The main culprit is declining return on equity as banks beefed up capital ratios and risk-weighting on residential mortgages in response to pressure from APRA.

RBA Chart Pack: Bank Return on Equity

Seven Signs Australians Are Facing Economic Armageddon

Economics advisor John Adams warns that Australia faces “economic Armageddon” because of “significant structural imbalances” not seen since the lead up to the Great Depression in the 1920s.

Here are his seven signs:

Seven Signs Australians Are Facing Economic Armageddon

Sign 1: Record Australian Household Debt

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, Australia’s household debt as a proportion of disposable income now stands at a record high of 187%.

The two closest episodes were the 1880s and the 1920s, which both preceded the only two economic depressions ever experienced in Australian history in 1890 and 1929.

Sign 2: Record Australian Net Foreign Debt

Australia’s net foreign debt now stands at more than $1 trillion and as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product was at a record high of 63.3% in June 2016.

This makes Australians much more vulnerable to international economic developments such as higher global interest rates, international financial crises or major government or corporate bankruptcies.

Sign 3: Record Low Interest rates

Australia has its lowest official interest rates on record with the Reserve Bank of Australia’s cash rate sitting at 1.5%. The current low rate of interest is not sustainable over the medium term and will inevitably rise.

Australians, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, who have borrowed record amounts of money are very susceptible to higher interest rates.

4: Australian Housing Bubble

The expansion of credit by the Reserve Bank of Australia has been pumped into the Australian housing market over the past 25 years. Credit, which has been directed to Housing as a proportion of Australia’s GDP, has exploded from 21.07% in June 1991 to 95.06% in June 2016.

Over the same period, credit which has been directed at the business sector or to other personal expenses has remained relatively steady as a proportion of GDP.

5: Significant Increases in Global Debt

The General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements stated on 6 February 2017:

“Total debt in the global economy, including public debt, has increased significantly since the end of 2007 … Over the past 16 years, debt of governments, households and non-financial firms has risen by 63% in the United States, the euro area, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, 52% in the G20 and 85% in emerging economies. Heavy debt can only leave less room for manoeuvre in responding to future challenges.”

Sign 6: Major International Asset Bubbles

There are significant asset bubbles in bonds, stocks and real estate in major economies such as the United States and China, which has been fueled by the significant increases in global debt.For example, the Shiller PE Index in the United States which measures the price of a company’s stock relative to average earnings over the past 10 years is now at 28.85. This is the third highest recorded behind the Tech Bubble in 1999 and “Black Tuesday” in 1929.

Sign 7: Global Derivatives Bubble

According to the Bank for International Settlements, the value of the over the counter derivatives market (notional amounts outstanding) stood at US$544 trillion.

Much of these derivatives contracts are concentrated on the balance sheets of leading global financial and banking institutions such as Deutsche Bank. The concentration of complex derivative contracts on bank balance sheets poses significant risks to both individual institutions and the global financial system.

Veteran Investor Warren Buffet has repeatedly warned that derivatives are “financial weapons of mass destruction” and could pose as a “potential time bomb”.

Household debt is too high. Rising foreign debt and record low interest rates are fueling a housing bubble. Global debt is too high and rising, while stocks are over-priced. Throw in the global derivatives “bubble” with some truly terrifying numbers just to scare the punters out of their wits.

Nothing new here. Nothing to see. Move along now. The global economy is in good hands…..

Or is it? Aren’t these the same hands that created the current mess we are in?

John Adams is right to warn of the dangers which could have a truly apocalyptic effect, that makes the global financial crisis seem like a mild tremor in comparison.

Some of the risks may be overstated:

The derivatives “bubble” is probably the least of our worries as most of these positions offset each other, giving a net position a lot closer to zero.

Defensive stocks like Consumer Staples and Utilities are over-priced but there still appears to be value in growth stocks. And earnings are growing. So the stock “bubble” is not too alarming.

Global debt is too high but poses no immediate threat except to countries with USD-denominated debt — or Euro-denominated debt in the case of Greece, Italy, etc. — that cannot issue new currency to repay public debt (and inflate their way out of the problem).

But that still leaves four major risks that need to be addressed: Household debt, $1 Trillion foreign debt, record low interest rates and a housing bubble.

From Joe Hildebrand at News.com.au:

Mr Adams called on the RBA to take pre-emptive action by raising interest rates and said the government needed to rein in tax breaks like negative gearing as well as welfare payments.

This, he admitted, would result in “a mild controlled economic recession” but would stave off “uncontrolled devastating depression”.

The problem is that the Australian government appears to be dithering, with one eye on the next election. These are not issues you can “muddle through”.

If not addressed they could turn into the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Source: Apocalyptic warning for Australian families

India’s Sensex meets resistance

India’s Sensex is running into resistance at 29000, with last week’s doji candlestick indicating indecision. Twiggs Money Flow recovered above zero but has since leveled off. Breakout above 29000 would find long-term resistance at 30000 which may prove to be stubborn. Reversal below 28000 would warn of another correction to test support at 26000.

Sensex Index