Bob Doll: Bull market continues

From Bob Doll’s weekly commentary:

…Despite its longevity and strength, we don’t believe the current bull market is approaching an end. The U.S. remains in an environment of solid growth and easy monetary policy. We think we would need to see some combination of economically damaging political turmoil, decisively higher bond yields and/or a material drop in the value of the dollar to cause an end to this bull market. None of those events appear particularly likely.

Source: Weekly Investment Commentary from Bob Doll | Nuveen

East to West

First, the canary in the coal mine, the Seoul Composite Index, found support at 2300. Follow-through above 2400 would be a bullish sign, suggesting a fresh advance.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index found support despite ICBMs flying overhead, rallying to test resistance at 20000. Recovery above 20000 is likely and would signal a fresh advance.

Nikkei 225 Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is retracing to test its new support level at 3300. Respect is likely and would confirm a fresh advance.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s NSE Nifty Index is testing resistance at 10000/10100. Twiggs Trend Index oscillating above zero signals long-term buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would indicate a fresh advance with a long-term target of 11000*.

Nifty Index

Target 10000 + ( 10000 – 9000 ) = 11000

Moving to Europe, Germany’s DAX rallied off support at 12000, suggesting a fresh advance. Recovery of the Trend Index above zero is bullish. Breakout above 13000 would signal another primary advance.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The UK’s Footsie, however, broke support at 7300 on the back of BREXIT worries, warning of a primary down-trend. Twiggs Trend Index peaks below zero signal selling pressure. Follow-through below 7100 would confirm a bear market.

FTSE 100

In Canada, the TSX 60 continues to consolidate below its former primary support level at 900. A declining Trend Index warns of selling pressure. Breach of medium-term support at 880 would confirm a primary down-trend.

TSX 60

S&P 500 and Nasdaq test resistance

The bull market continues, with the S&P 500 testing resistance at 2500. Twiggs Trend Index troughs above zero signal buying pressure. Breakout would signal a fresh advance, offering an immediate target of 2600.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 is similarly testing resistance at 6000. Immediate target for a breakout would be 6200.

Nasdaq 100

ASX 200 selling pressure as iron ore corrects

Iron ore penetrated its rising trendline, signaling a correction. A trough that forms above the June 2017 low would be bullish for miners.

Iron ore

That seems likely given rising crude steel output in China.

China Output

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining index is testing support at 3200. Breach is likely and would signal a test of 3000. But respect of 3000 would confirm the long-term up-trend.

ASX 300 Metals and Mining

The ASX 300 Banks index rallied off support at 8000. Respect of resistance at 8500 would be a bearish sign and breach of 8000 would signal a primary down-trend. Recovery above 8800 is unlikely at present but would complete a double-bottom reversal.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 continues to consolidate in a narrow line between 5650 and 5800 but the tall shadow on this week’s candle and Twiggs Trend Index troughs below zero both warn of selling pressure. Breach of support would signal a primary decline, but direction remains uncertain until there is a clear breakout.

ASX 200

Gold looks for support as Dollar retraces

Spot Gold is retracing to test support after a strong advance to $1350/ounce. Respect of the rising trendline would signal another strong advance but a stronger correction, respecting support at $1300 is more likely. The immediate target for another advance is the 2016 high of $1375. Rising Twiggs Trend Index indicates buying pressure. Breach of support at $1300 is unlikely at present.

Spot Gold

Target 1300 + ( 1300 – 1200 ) = 1400

Gold is supported by a weakening Dollar, with the Dollar Index retracing to test its new resistance level after breaking primary support at 92. Respect of resistance is likely and would confirm the long-term target of 83*.

Dollar Index

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

Rising crude oil prices would also be bullish for gold, increasing inflationary pressure and also easing pressure on oil-producing states to sell off gold reserves accumulated when oil prices were high. Nymex Light Crude is testing resistance at $50/barrel. Upward breakout would suggest that the recent down-trend has ended — a bullish sign for gold.

Nymex Light Crude

Australia: Economy needs more support

Low corporate bond spreads (BBB-Treasury) indicate the absence of financial stress.

Corporate Bond Spread

Australian wage growth is also low, but declining.

Wage Index

And shrinking currency growth suggests the economy needs even more support than the large recent spend on public infrastructure.

Currency Growth

It’s a bull market

US hourly wages continue to grow at a subdued 2.5% per year. The Fed will normally only move to tighten monetary policy when annual growth exceeds 3.0%.

Hourly Wage Growth

Currency in circulation, growing at a healthy annual rate of 7.3%, shows the Fed stance remains supportive.

Currency in Circulation

Turning to corporations (excluding the financial sector), employee compensation remains low relative to net value added (below 70%), while corporate profits are high at 12%. Economic contractions are normally preceded by rising employee compensation and falling profits as in 1999/2000.

Employee Compensation & Corporate Profits Relative to Net Value Added

The rising Freight Services Index indicates that economic activity is strong.

Freight Services Index

While a low corporate bond spread — lowest investment-grade (Baa) minus the equivalent Treasury yield — indicates the absence of stress in financial markets.

Corporate Bond Spreads

What more can I say: It’s a bull market.

Australia: What housing bubble?

Some interesting comments from economist Saul Eslake regarding the Australian housing bubble:

“Rising house prices are not of themselves a reason for the market to drop. About two thirds of Australia’s household debt is owned by the top 40 per cent of households, by income distribution. There hasn’t been a lot of lending to people on low incomes,” explains Eslake.

Lending to people on small salaries is one of the reasons housing markets in other countries, such as the US in the sub-prime crisis, have come under pressure in the past.

There has also been a decline in the home ownership rate in Australia that also reduced the chance of a housing bubble popping. According to the 2016 census, home ownership is the lowest it has been since the census of 1954…..

Australia also never experienced the same extent of low-doc lending as happened in the US prior to the financial crisis, where “ninja loans” – no income, no job, no assets – were commonplace.

Similarly, very high LVR lending, another problem in the US, did not occur to the same extent in this market.

“In the US people of surprisingly modest means could get loans valued in excess of 100 per cent of the value of the property. But in Australia it’s very difficult to get a mortgage at more than 80 per cent LVR without mortgage insurance,” says Eslake.

…..An excess supply of housing, which impacted the US and Irish markets, is also missing in Australia.

“In countries housing supply ran a long way ahead of underlying demand. Builders kept building in the expectation of future demand. When the cycle changed, forced sales and excess supply crashed the market,” says Eslake.

For the last 15 years Australia has had a housing shortage. While that’s changing given a record numbers of apartments have been built in the last few years, supply has not yet outstripped demand.

While he does mention risks attached to interest-only mortgages, Saul’s view is that “a correction in the domestic residential property market, at this point in the cycle it seems unlikely.”

I believe there are further assumptions that he has not mentioned:

  • That banks continue to provide credit at the same rate as they are at present. A slow-down in new credit, precipitated by rising interest rates or falling prices, could cause a contraction.
  • That the inflow of foreign investment into Australian residential housing continues at the same rate as at present. There are three possible headwinds:
    1. Reluctance on the part of Australian banks to increase exposure to foreign investors.
    2. Tighter monetary policy in China.
    3. And a Chinese crackdown to restrict capital outflows.
  • That current low interest rates continue. Inflationary pressures are low, so this is not unreasonable at present, but circumstances can change. So can LVRs.

I would describe the situation as reasonably stable at present but increasingly precarious in the long-term as the ratio of household debt to disposable income continues to climb.

Source: Opinion: What if the housing market crashed?

Australia: Housing bubbles and declining business investment

The Australian housing bubble is alive and kicking, with house prices growing at close to 10% per year.

House Prices

Loan approvals are climbing, especially for owner-occupiers. Fueled by record low interest rates.

Loan Approvals

Causing household debt to soar relative to disposable income.

Loan Approvals

Business Investment

Nominal GDP growth of 6.34% for the 2017 FY is a rough measure of the average return on capital investment.

Australia Nominal GDP

With a mean of close to 5% over the last two decades, it is little wonder that business investment is falling. Not only in mining-related engineering but in machinery and equipment.

Australia Business Investment

Capital Misallocation

More capital is being allocated to housing than to business investment.

Australia Credit Growth

Returns on housing are largely speculative, premised on further house price growth, and do little to boost GDP growth and productivity.

The result of soaring house prices and household debt is therefore lower business investment and lower GDP and wages growth.

Australia Wages Growth

You don’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to recognize that soaring household debt and shrinking wage growth is likely to end badly.

Banks drag ASX lower

The ASX 300 Banks index is headed for a test of support at 8000. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. Breach of 8000 would signal a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200 continues to consolidate in a narrow line between 5650 and 5800. The index is testing support at 5650 while Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. Breach of support would signal a primary decline, but direction remains uncertain until there is a clear breakout.

ASX 200

Hardly an over-heated market

Discussions as to whether the stock market is over-priced normally imply that stocks are about to fall if valuations are too high. But history shows that this isn’t true. The euphoria of bull markets often outruns earnings multiples and only reverses when there is an unexpected fall in earnings.

Earnings multiples (the price-earnings ratio) may rise for two reasons:

  1. Stock prices are rising faster than earnings; or
  2. Earnings are falling and stock prices are declining at a slower rate.

S&P 500 Historic PE

The S&P 500 historic price-earnings ratio (based on the last 4 quarters earnings) spiked above 20 several times in the last three decades:

  • 1991 was caused by falling earnings;
  • 1997 by rising stock prices;
  • sharp falls in earnings were responsible for 2001 and 2008; and
  • declining earnings, particularly in the Energy sector, explain the bump in 2015.

The problem with historic PE is that it looks backward, at the last 4 quarters, rather than forward. If we take the Forward PE, based on the next 4 quarters earnings estimates, we can see that earnings are recovering.

S&P 500 Forward PE

Forward PE dipped below 20 in 2016, indicating that expected earnings are advancing faster than prices.

This does not signal a buy opportunity, which normally presents when Forward PE is close to 15:

  • 1988-1989
  • 1993-1994
  • 2002-2005
  • 2009-2012

S&P 500 and Forward PE

Nor does it represent a sell signal.

Most corporations (98.5%) have reported earnings for June 2017. Estimates are included for the remainder, giving total earnings of $27.00 per share.

S&P project that earnings will grow a further 20% over the next four quarters (Jun-18: $32.40). This may be optimistic but provided earnings grow faster than the index we will see earnings multiples decline.

S&P 500 Forward Earnings Estimates

Hardly an over-heated market.

Dollar breaks support, Gold rises

The Dollar Index broke support at 92. Retracement may test the new resistance level but respect is likely would confirm the long-term target of 83*.

Dollar Index

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

The Dollar is also falling fast against the Chinese Yuan. Breach of primary support at 6.60 and decline of the Trend Index below zero both warn of a primary down-trend.

USDCNY

A weak Dollar and rising geo-political tensions (North Korea) are bullish for gold. The immediate target is the 2016 high of $1375. Rising Twiggs Trend Index confirms buying pressure. Retracement that respects support at $1300 would strengthen the bull signal.

Spot Gold

Target 1300 + ( 1300 – 1200 ) = 1400

Another major influence on gold is crude oil prices. So far, crude has respected resistance at $50 despite the weaker Dollar. Softer crude prices would be bearish for gold.

Nymex Light Crude

Australia’s property bubble and the Wicksell spread

Interesting comment By Neils Jensen in The Absolute Return Letter on Australia’s property bubble and the Wicksell spread:

In practical terms, history has shown that the economy is in near perfect balance when the difference between the Baa corporate bond yield and nominal GDP growth (the proxy for the Wicksell spread) is about 2%. When the spread is much higher than that, bank lending grinds to a halt, and when it is lower, banks are increasingly eager to lend, and that eagerness increases, the lower the spread is.

….Take Australia, where the Wicksell spread is currently dramatically below 2% (Exhibit 10). I will challenge you to find a Wicksell spread anywhere that is lower than Australia’s is at present. And, as a consequence of years of a low Wicksell spread, Australia has enjoyed a phenomenal boom in property prices. Capital is widely misallocated!

However, because Australia targets 2% inflation, like almost all developed countries do, the alarm bells don’t ring (yet) at the Reserve Bank of Australia. Now, before you think this is a vendetta against Australia, I should point out that many other countries currently have Wicksell spreads that are almost as low. In Europe, the two most out-of-synch spreads currently are those of Norway and the UK. No wonder property prices have done very well in those two countries….

Basically, what Neils is saying is that nominal GDP growth (the average return on capital) should be 2% higher than the yield on lowest investment-grade bonds, not 2% lower.

Source: Two Sides of the Same Coin – The Absolute Return Letter

Asian stocks rally, Europe follows

Asian stocks have started to rally and Europe is likely to follow. Canada faces stronger headwinds and is expected to struggle to break resistance at 900.

Starting near Korean epicenter of political tensions, the Seoul Composite Index remains bullish. Though breach of the rising trendline could change matters in an instant. No hint of panic selling….yet.

Seoul Composite Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index finally broke through resistance at 3300, offering a target of 3500. The Trend Index oscillating above zero indicates long-term buying pressure.

Shanghai Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index encountered strong resistance at 20000 but a rounding top is a bullish sign. Recovery above 20000 is likely and would signal a fresh advance.

Nikkei 225 Index

India’s NSE Nifty Index is testing resistance at 10000. Twiggs Trend Index oscillating above zero signals long-term buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would indicate a fresh advance with a long-term target of 11000*.

Nifty Index

Target 10000 + ( 10000 – 9000 ) = 11000

In Europe, the UK’s Footsie, beset with BREXIT issues, still managed to respect support at 7300, avoiding a primary down-trend. Another test of 7600 is likely but breakout and another primary advance appear remote given the loss of momentum and selling pressure signaled by the declining Trend Index.

FTSE 100

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 600 found support at the rising trendline, around 370. Recovery of the Trend Index above zero is likely. Follow-through above 380 would suggest another primary advance.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

Moving to North America, Canada’s TSX 60 continues to consolidate in a narrow line below the former primary support level at 900. Declining Trend Index warns of long-term selling pressure. Breach of support at 880 is likely and would confirm a primary down-trend.

TSX 60

Gold surges above $1300

A weak Dollar and rising geo-political tensions over North Korea are bullish for gold which surged through resistance at $1300/ounce. Target for the advance is $1400*. Rising Twiggs Trend Index confirms buying pressure. Reversal below $1250 is now most unlikely but would warn of another test of primary support at $1200.

Spot Gold

Target 1300 + ( 1300 – 1200 ) = 1400

The Dollar Index continues to test support between 92 and 93.

Dollar Index

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

But the Dollar is falling fast against China’s Yuan. Breach of primary support at 6.60 and decline of the Trend Index below zero both signal a primary down-trend.

USDCNY

*Target: 93 – ( 103 – 93 ) = 83

Another major influence on gold is crude oil prices. Softer crude prices are bearish for gold but the latest decline is finding more support than the preceding three. Recovery above the downward channel and resistance at $50/barrel would signal a fresh advance.

Nymex Light Crude

ASX miners surge

ASX 300 Metals & Mining broke through resistance at its January/February highs, signaling a primary advance.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining

But iron ore penetrated its rising trendline, suggesting that the rally is losing momentum. The next correction is likely to end above primary support (53). It may be prudent to wait for confirmation from iron ore before going all out on miners.

Iron Ore

The ASX 300 Banks index is headed in the opposite direction and continues to drag on the broad market index. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. Expect another test of primary support at 8000; breach would confirm a primary down-trend.

ASX 300 Banks

The ASX 200, pulled in both directions, continues to consolidate in a narrow line between 5650 and 5800. Rising Twiggs Money Flow (21-day) indicates short-term buying pressure and a test of resistance at 5800 is likely. Breakout from the narrow line will signal a primary advance or decline, but direction remains unclear despite the bullish movement from miners.

ASX 200

What does falling job growth indicate?

Job growth fell to 156,000 for August, from a high of 210,000 in June, according to the latest BLS stats.

Job growth

Unemployment ticked up from 4.3% to 4.4% for August.

Unemployment

What does this mean? Very little, if we look at our real GDP forecast based on total nonfarm payroll multiplied by average weekly hours worked. GDP growth is slow but steady.

S&P 500 with Twiggs Volatility

The recently published Philadelphia Fed Leading Index for July has slowed but remains comfortably above the early warning level of 1. The index normally falls below 0.5 in the months ahead of a recession.

Philadelphia Fed Leading Index

The S&P 500 is testing resistance at 2480 after a weak correction that respected support at 2400. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow continues to warn of selling pressure but this seems secondary in nature. Breakout above 2480 is likely and would offer a target of 2540*.

S&P 500

Target 2480 + ( 2480 – 2420 ) = 2540

The Nasdaq 100 is testing resistance at its all-time high of 6000. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow again warns of secondary selling pressure. Breakout would offer a short-term target of 6250 and a long-term target of 7000.

Nasdaq 100

Target 6000 + ( 6000 – 5750 ) = 6250

The bull market remains on track for further gains.

Pink: On being yourself

Pink acceptance speech at the MTV awards.