Dow Hits Another Milestone, But Signs of Caution Loom – WSJ

By Corrie Driebusch and Michael Wursthorn Updated Oct. 18, 2017 9:04 p.m. ET

The Dow Jones Industrial Average powered past 23000 on Wednesday, but the latest milestone masks a potentially worrisome trend: investors keep yanking money out of stock funds.

Investors pulled roughly a net $36 billion out of U.S. stock mutual and exchange-traded funds in the third quarter, according to EPFR Global. Overall in 2017, more money has flowed out of such funds than has flowed in, EPFR data show, even as the Dow has climbed to 51 fresh highs this year….

Source: Dow Hits Another Milestone, But Signs of Caution Loom – WSJ

East to West: Seoul and Footsie find support

A Twiggs Money Flow trough high above zero reflects strong buying support on the Seoul Composite Index. Breach of support at 2300 is unlikely but would signal a primary down-trend.

Seoul Composite Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index broke resistance at 20200, signaling another advance.

Nikkei 225 Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index has been in a strong bull market since breaking resistance at 24000 early this year.

Hang Seng Index

India’s NSE Nifty Index displays strong buying pressure, with Twiggs Money Flow oscillating above the zero line. Breakout above resistance at 10000/10100 is likely and would signal another advance.

Nifty Index

Target 10000 + ( 10000 – 9000 ) = 11000

Moving to Europe, Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 is headed for a test of resistance at 3650. A big Twiggs Money Flow trough above zero signals buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of 3900*.

DJ Euro Stoxx 50

* Target calculation: 3650 + ( 3650 – 3400 ) = 3900

The UK’s Footsie is rallying strongly after a bear trap at 7300. Often the strongest bull signals start with a bear trap or false break through support. breakout above 7550 would offer a target of 7900*.

FTSE 100

* Target calculation: 7550 + ( 7550 – 7200 ) = 7900

Canada’s TSX 60 continues to consolidate below its former primary support level at 900. Beset by a massive property bubble, with soaring household debt, and weak crude oil prices the index displays a similar pattern to the ASX 200. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. Breach of support at 880 would confirm the primary down-trend.

TSX 60

S&P 500 makes new high

The S&P 500 made a new high on Friday, while Twiggs Money Flow rose above its descending trendline, signaling that selling pressure has eased. Expect retracement to test the new support level but respect is likely and would confirm a target of 2600* for the advance.

S&P 500

* Target calculation: 2500 + ( 2500 – 2400 ) = 2600

The Nasdaq 100 has been dragging its feet a bit, still testing resistance at 6000. But Technology stocks are likely to follow the main index, with breakout above 6000 signaling a fresh advance.

Nasdaq 100

Tech giants Amazon and Apple are partly responsible for Nasdaq tardiness, with Amazon retreating from its watershed breakout above $1000. Further decline would be cause for concern — when leading stocks no longer lead — but recovery above $1000 is more likely and would be a bullish sign for the broader market.

Amazon

The big shrink commences

“The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged and said Wednesday that it would begin to withdraw some of the trillions of dollars that it invested in the US economy after the 2008 financial crisis.” ~ Binyamin Applebaum

The Federal Reserve balance sheet ballooned in the last decade to current holdings of $2.5 trillion of US Treasury securities and $1.8 trillion of mortgage-backed securities.

Hourly Wage Growth

Fed total assets of $4.5 trillion (the red line on the above chart) does not give the full picture. Of the cash injected into the economy, $2.2 trillion found its way back to the Fed by way of excess reserves deposited by banks (the blue line). These deposits earn interest at the rate of 1.25% p.a., providing a secure return on surplus funds. What this means is that the net effect of the balance sheet expansion is the difference between the two lines, or $2.3 trillion.

Even $2.3 trillion is a big number and any meaningful sale of securities by the Fed would contract the supply of money, tipping the economy into recession. So how does the Fed propose to manage “normalization of its balance sheet” without disrupting the economy?

Firstly, the Fed does not intend to sell securities. It will simply decrease the “reinvestment of principal repayments it receives from securities held” according to its June 2017 Normalization Plan.

The amount withheld from reinvestment will commence at $10 billion per month ($6bn US Treasuries and $4bn MBS) and step up by $10 billion each quarter until it reaches a total of $50 billion per quarter.

That means that $100 billion will be withheld in the first year and $200 billion in each year thereafter….”so that the Federal Reserve’s securities holdings will continue to decline in a gradual and predictable manner until the Committee judges that the Federal Reserve is holding no more securities than necessary to implement monetary policy efficiently and effectively.”

Second, the Fed will reduce the level of excess reserves by an appreciable amount in order to soften the impact of the first step. So a $100 billion reduction in investments may only result in a net reduction of say half that figure, after taking into account the decline in reserves.

Third, the federal funds rate will remain the primary tool of monetary policy and will be used to fine tune monetary policy to fit economic conditions.

It appears that the Fed will start quite tentatively, withholding only $30 billion in the first quarter, but the longer term targets seem ambitious.

With currency in circulation now growing at an annual rate of $100 billion, even a $50 billion reduction in the first year (net of excess reserves) could leave a big hole.

Currency in Circulation

This is bound to take some of the heat out of the stock market. The plus side is it may restore some sanity to market valuations, but any sudden moves could cause an overreaction.

Added later:

Even if we compare the reduction to the annual change in M1 money supply, it takes a big bite.

M1 money supply

M1 consists of: (1) currency outside the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve Banks, and the vaults of depository institutions; (2) traveler’s checks of nonbank issuers; (3) demand deposits; and (4) other checkable deposits (OCDs), which consist primarily of negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts at depository institutions and credit union share draft accounts.

East to West: Seoul selling pressure

Declining peaks on Twiggs Trend Index and a tall shadow on this week’s candle warn of selling pressure on the Seoul Composite Index. Breach of support at 2300 would signal a primary down-trend.

Seoul Composite Index

Most other exchanges remain bullish, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index breaking resistance at 20200. Expect retracement to test the new support level. Respect would signal a fresh advance.

Nikkei 225 Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is retracing to test its new support level at 3300. Declining peaks on the Trend Index warn of medium-term selling pressure. Respect of support would confirm a primary advance.

Shanghai Composite Index

India’s NSE Nifty Index respected resistance at 10000/10100 and declining peaks on Twiggs Trend Index warn of medium-term selling pressure. Follow-through below the rising trendline would warn of a correction.

Nifty Index

Target 10000 + ( 10000 – 9000 ) = 11000

Moving to Europe, Germany’s DAX consolidated ahead of the elections. The Trend Index trough at zero indicates buying pressure and a test of 13000 is likely.

DJ Euro Stoxx 600

The UK’s Footsie retraced to test its new resistance level at 7300. Respect would confirm a primary down-trend. Declining Twiggs Trend Index peaks, especially below zero, signal selling pressure. Follow-through below 7100 would strengthen the bear signal.

FTSE 100

Canada’s TSX 60 continues to consolidate below its former primary support level at 900. Declining Trend Index warns of selling pressure. Breach of medium-term support at 880 would confirm the primary down-trend.

TSX 60

Fedex bullish but Nasdaq displays selling pressure

Bellwether transport stock Fedex is testing resistance at 220. A higher trough on Twiggs Money Flow indicates buying pressure. Breakout above 220 is likely and would signal a primary advance. This is a bullish sign for broad economic activity.

Nasdaq 100

The S&P 500 is retracing to test its new support level at 2480/2500. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of medium-term selling pressure. Respect of support would confirm a fresh advance, offering an immediate target of 2600. But breach of support is as likely and would warn of a correction to test the rising trendline around 2420.

S&P 500

The Nasdaq 100 also displays medium-term selling pressure, but with a steeper fall on Twiggs Money Flow. Having failed to break resistance at 6000, a correction is likely, with a target of 5750.

Nasdaq 100

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

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.

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.

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

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.

S&P 500 Bull Market Continues

The S&P 500 continues with a secondary correction that is likely to test the long-term rising trendline and support at 2400. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure but this seems secondary in nature.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

Twiggs Volatility (21-day), at 0.63% for the S&P 500, is way below the 1.5% warning level for elevated market risk.

S&P 500 with Twiggs Volatility

The yield curve is flattening, with the 10-year minus 3-month Treasury Yield Differential close to 1.0%. But this is still well above the 0.5% early-warning level. A negative yield curve, where the Yield Differential falls below zero, is normally followed by a recession within 6 to 12 months.

Yield Differential

Fed monetary policy remains accommodative, with currency in circulation expanding at a healthy annual rate of 6.9%.

Currency in Circulation

The bull market remains on track for further gains.

Earnings Bounty Never Came for Stocks….

From Lu Wang at Bloomberg:

The potential for politics to ruin everything was on the mind of Ray Dalio, the founder and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, in an essay published yesterday on LinkedIn. They will probably play a greater role in markets than any time in our lifetimes, he wrote.

“While I see no important economic risks on the horizon, I am concerned about growing internal and external conflict leading to impaired government efficiency (e.g. inabilities to pass legislation and set policies) and other conflicts,” he wrote.

Economically, it was a stellar quarter for profits. Operating income in the S&P 500 rose 11 percent, building on a 14 percent increase in the previous three months for the first back-to-back gains exceeding 10 percent since 2011. Companies surpassed estimates by almost 1 percent on the sales line and 4.5 percent in profits, among the higher beat rates of the bull market.

You wouldn’t have known it in the market. S&P 500 companies fell an average 0.6 percent the day after announcing results, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Individual stocks also sat still after the release of better-than-estimated results, the first time since 2000 that positive surprises were not rewarded, according to Bank of America Corp…..

Source: Earnings Bounty Never Came for Stocks Caught Up in Trump Tumult

Global correction

Global stock markets have mostly experienced selling pressure over the last two weeks but most of the activity is secondary in nature and, apart from longer-term issues in the UK and Canada, is unlikely to affect the primary up-trend.

Starting near the North Korean epicenter of the latest tensions, the Seoul Composite Index is largely unfazed. The monthly chart reflects a secondary correction with moderate selling pressure and no hint of panic selling.

Seoul Composite Index

China’s Shanghai Composite Index rallied after a modest correction.

Shanghai Composite Index

While bearish divergence on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index warns of selling pressure and a secondary correction to test 26000.

Hang Seng Index

India’s Sensex is undergoing a correction after breaking its rising trendline but found support at 31000.

BSE Sensex

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

TSX 60

Europe also experienced selling pressure, with the Footsie testing primary support at 7300. Breach of support would signal a primary down-trend.

FTSE 100

Germany’s Dax found support at 12000. Respect, with a Twiggs Money Flow trough above zero, would indicate another primary advance.

DJ Euro Stoxx 50

S&P 500 bull market on track

The S&P 500 is undergoing a secondary correction that is likely to test the long-term rising trendline and support at 2400. Bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure but this seems secondary in nature. The bull market remains on track for further gains.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

The Dow Jones Transportations Average is also undergoing a correction. Bearish divergence with Twiggs Money Flow dipping below zero warns of stronger selling pressure. Expect a test of primary support at 8800.

Dow Transportation Average

The Nasdaq 100 is retreating from resistance at 6000. Bearish divergence warns of secondary selling pressure. Breach of primary support at 5600 is considered unlikely.

Nasdaq 100

US: Low CPI and soft Treasury Yields

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI (excluding food and energy) both came in at a low 1.7% p.a. for the 12 months ended July 2017.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Core CPI

Source: St Louis Fed, BLS

Long-term interest rates are trending lower as CPI moderates. Breach of support at 2.10% by 10-Year Treasury Yields would signal another primary decline with a target of 1.80%*.

10-Year Treasury Yields

Target: 2.10% – (2.40% – 2.10%) = 1.80%

Bank credit growth is slowing, to the level where it is tracking nominal GDP growth, avoiding some of the excesses of previous cycles. But if bank credit falls below GDP growth that would warn of tighter monetary conditions and the economy is likely to slow.

Bank Credit and GDP growth

Source: St Louis Fed, FRB, BEA

The S&P 500 is testing its long-term rising trendline, while bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow warns of selling pressure. But the market appears to have shrugged off Donald Trump’s promises of North Korean “fire and fury” and both of these movements seem secondary in nature. A correction is likely but the primary trend remains on track for further gains.

S&P 500

Target 2400 + ( 2400 – 2300 ) = 2500

Selling pressure surges around the globe

Canada’s TSX 60 fell sharply this week. Twiggs Trend Index below zero warns of long-term selling pressure. Breach of support at 880 would confirm a primary down-trend.

TSX 60

In the UK, the Footsie is testing primary support at 7300. Twiggs Trend Index below zero again warns of long-term selling pressure. Breach of support would signal a primary down-trend.

FTSE 100

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 is testing long-term support at 3400. Twiggs Trend Index, again below zero, warns of long-term selling pressure

DJ Euro Stoxx 50

India’s Sensex is undergoing a correction after breaking its rising trendline and support at 31500. Expect strong support at 29000.

BSE Sensex

China’s Shanghai Composite Index is also testing support. Breach of 3200 would warn of another test of primary support at 3000.

Shanghai Composite Index