ASX 200 correction

The ASX 200 continues to test its new support level at 5600. Twiggs Money Flow is now declining, reflecting medium-term selling pressure. Breach of support is likely and would test the lower trend channel around 5500 but the primary up-trend is unchanged.

ASX 200

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

The ASX 300 Banks Index has undergone a sell-off in the last few weeks, weighing heavily on the broader index. Declining Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term selling pressure. Respect of support at 8000 would indicate that the up-trend is intact.

ASX Small Ordinaries Index

Dow breaks 20,000

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke the important psychological barrier of 20,000 this week. The news was greeted with cheers from the media, many advisers and investors.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Older readers may recall a similar event when the Dow broke 1000 on November 14, 1972. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times that day:

The Dow Jones industrial average closed above the 1,000 mark yesterday for the first time in history.

It finished at 1,003.16 for a gain of 6.09 points in what many Wall Streeters consider the equivalent of the initial breaking of the four-minute mile.

“This thing has an obvious psychological effect,” declared one brokerage-house partner. “It’s a hell of a news item. As for the permanence of it — well, I just don’t know.”

Last Friday, the Dow surpassed 1,000 during the course of a day’s trading, but it fell back below the landmark figure by the end of the session.

But yesterday the market was not to be denied. The Dow finally put it all together, the peace rally, the re-election of President Nixon, the surging economy, booming corporate profits and lessening fears about inflation and taxes and controls and other uncertainties of 1973.

…..International Business Machines, Wall Street’s best known glamour issue, moved up 11 1/4 points to 388, its best price of the day.

…..An office broker, watching the stock tape from his desk downtown, murmured in wonderment: “There’s a sort of renewed confidence in the whole economic outlook.”

The broker who questioned the permanence of the move must have had a crystal ball. Three months later, the Dow reversed below 1000, commencing a bear market that ended at 570.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Four years later, in 1976, the Dow again rallied and broke 1000. Only to retreat in another bear market that carried as low as 750. A third advance carried the Average above 1000 in 1981, before another retreat, this time to 780.

Only in 1982, a full ten years after the first breakout, did the Dow finally break clear of 1000, advancing strongly over the next few years.

The next significant barrier for the Dow was 10,000. Breakout took place in 1999, during the Dotcom boom, with a minimum of fuss. At least one pundit at the time predicted the Dow would reach 100,000 by 2020.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Contrary to initial indications, the 10,000 level also proved a formidable barrier, with breach of support in 2001 heralding the start of a bear market that fell as low as 7200.

Recovery in 2003 appeared robust, with two secondary corrections respecting the new support level at 10,000. But the global financial crisis in 2008 saw the Dow fall to 6500. It took more than ten years after the initial breakout before we could comfortably say that the Dow had broken clear of 10,000.

The next important barrier is the current 20,000. It may be naive to think we have seen the last of it.

If past records are anything to go by, we could be in for an interesting decade.

How to survive the next four years

Donald Trump

We are entering a time of uncertainty.

Donald Trump started his presidency with a continuation of the confrontational approach that he exhibited throughout his campaign, with scant regard to unifying the country and governing from the middle. Instead he has signed off on two controversial oil pipelines that, while they would create jobs, have met fierce opposition and are likely to polarize the nation even further.

Subtlety is not Trump’s strong point. Expect a far more abrasive style than the Obama years.

Trump also signed off on constructing a wall along the border with Mexico. Again, this will create jobs and slow illegal immigration — two of his key campaign promises — while harming relations with the Southern neighbor.

Another key target is the trade deficit. The US has not run a trade surplus since 1975. Expect major revision of current trade agreements like NAFTA, which could further damage relations with Mexico, and a slew of actions against trading partners such as China and Japan who have used their foreign reserves in the past to maintain a trade surplus with the US. Floating exchange rates are meant to balance the flow of imports and exports on current account, minimizing trade surpluses/deficits over time. But this can be subverted by accumulating excessive foreign reserves to suppress appreciation of your home currency. Retaliation to US punitive actions is likely and could harm international trade if not carefully managed.

Apart from wars, Trump and chief strategist Steve Bannon also seem intent on provoking a war with the media, baiting the press in a recent New York Times interview:

Bannon delivered a broadside at the press…. saying, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Bannon also said, “I want you to quote me on this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States…..”

Trump and Bannon’s strategy may be to provoke retaliation by the media. One-sided reporting would discredit the press as an objective source of criticism of the new presidency.

On top of the Trump turmoil in the US, we have Brexit which threatens to disrupt trade between the UK and European Union. If not managed carefully, this could lead to copycat actions from other EU member states.

Increasingly aggressive steps by China and Russia are another destabilizing factor — with the two nations asserting their global power against weaker neighbors. Iran is another offender, attempting to establish a crescent of influence in the Middle East against fierce opposition by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their Sunni partners. Also, North Korea is expanding its nuclear arsenal.

We live in dangerous times.

But these may also be times of opportunity. Trump has made some solid appointments to his team who could exert a positive influence on the global outlook. And confrontation may resolve some long-festering sores on both the economic and geo-political fronts.

How are we to know? Where can we get an unbiased view of economic prospects if confrontation is high, uncertainty a given — the new President issuing random tweets in the night as the mood takes him — and a distracted media?

There are two reliable sources of information: prices and earnings. Stock prices reflect market sentiment, the waves of human emotion that dominate short- and medium-term market behavior. And earnings will either confirm or refute market sentiment in the longer term.

As Benjamin Graham wrote:

“In the short term the stock market behaves like a voting machine, but in the long term it acts like a weighing machine”.

In the short-term, stock prices may deviate from true value as future earnings and growth prospects are often unclear. But prices will adjust closer to true value as more information becomes available and views of earnings and prospects narrow over time.

We are bound to experience periods of intense volatility over the next four years as hopes and fears rise and fall. These periods represent both a threat and an opportunity. A threat if you have invested on hopes and expectations rather than on solid performance. And an opportunity if intense volatility causes prices to fall below true value.

It will pay to keep a close watch on technical signals on the major indexes. As well as earnings growth in relation to index performance.

Also, keep a close eye on long-term indicators of market risk such as the Treasury yield curve and corporate bond spreads. These often forewarn of coming reactions and will be reviewed on a regular basis in future newsletters.

ASX 200 strengthens

The ASX 200 is testing its new support level at 5600. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Respect of 5600 is likely and would signal an advance to 6000*.

ASX 200

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

Small cap stocks, represented by the ASX Small Ordinaries Index, are weaker, indicating the market remains risk-averse. Twiggs Money Flow below zero continues to indicate selling pressure.

ASX Small Ordinaries Index

Peggy Noonan | ‘Everybody’s Been Shot’

Wonderful column from Peggy Noonan:

There’s a small but telling scene in Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” that contains some dialogue that reverberates, at least for me. In the spirit of Samuel Johnson, who said man needs more often to be reminded than instructed, I offer it to all, including myself, who might benefit from its message.

The movie, as you know, is about the Battle of the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. In the scene, the actor Tom Sizemore, playing your basic tough-guy U.S. Army Ranger colonel, is in charge of a small convoy of humvees trying to make its way back to base under heavy gun and rocket fire. The colonel stops the convoy, takes in some wounded, tears a dead driver out of a driver’s seat, and barks at a bleeding sergeant who’s standing in shock nearby:

Colonel: Get into that truck and drive.
Sergeant: But I’m shot, Colonel.
Colonel: Everybody’s shot, get in and drive.

“Everybody’s shot.” Those are great metaphoric words.

Let me tell you how they seem to apply metaphorically. An hour before I saw the movie, I was with friends at lunch, and they filled me in on the latest doings in our beloved country while I was away. Cornel West is very, very angry at Larry Summers for suggesting that Prof. West shouldn’t essentially perp-walk his way through the halls of academe. A Secret Service agent—a presidential Secret Service agent!—had a hissy fit when an airline pilot refused to let him board a plane carrying his gun with dubious paperwork. The agent is not only threatening a lawsuit, he says he doesn’t want money when he wins. He wants the airline to be forced to give sensitivity training. I thought: I think someone needs sensitivity training all right, but I don’t think it’s the airline.

Just after the movie, I picked up Ellis Cose’s latest book, “The Envy of the World,” about the “daunting challenges” that face black men in 21st-century America. I read and thought, Earth to Ellis: Everyone faces daunting challenges in 21st-century America.

Because everybody’s been shot.

What does that mean? It means something we used to know. It means everyone has it hard, everyone takes hits, everyone’s been fragged, everyone gets tagged, life isn’t easy for anyone…..

Source: Peggy Noonan | ‘Everybody’s Been Shot’

Nasdaq breaks its Dotcom high

Tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 broke through its all-time high at 4900, first reached in the Dotcom bubble of 1999/2000. Follow-through above 5000 would signal another primary advance. Bearish divergence on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow warns of medium-term selling pressure, possibly profit-taking at the long-term high.

Nasdaq 100

The daily chart of the S&P 500 also shows bearish divergence, but on 21-day Twiggs Money Flow, indicating only short-term selling pressure; reversal below zero would warn of a correction. Target for the advance is 2300*.

S&P 500 Index

* Target medium-term: 2100 + ( 2200 – 2000 ) = 2300

The chart below plots Forward PE (price-earnings ratio) against S&P 500 quarterly earnings. Apologies for the spaghetti chart but each line is important:

  • green bars = quarterly earnings
  • orange bars = forecast earnings (Dec 2016 to Dec 2017)
  • purple line = S&P 500 index
  • blue line = forward PE Ratio (Price/Earnings for the next 4 quarters)

S&P 500 Forward PE and Earnings

The recent peak in Forward PE was due to falling earnings. Price retreated at a slower rate than earnings as the setback was not expected to last. Forward PE has since declined as earnings recovered at a faster rate than the index. But now PE seems to be bottoming as the index accelerates. Reversal of the Forward PE to above 20 would be cause for concern, indicating stocks are highly priced and growing even more expensive, as the index is advancing at a faster pace than earnings.

Remember that the last five bars are only forecasts and actual results may vary. The only time that the market has seen a sustained period with a forward PE greater than 20 was during the Dotcom bubble. Not an experience worth repeating.

ASX risk off

The ASX 200 is retracing to test its new support level at 5500. Bearish divergence on 21-day Twiggs Money Flow warns of short-term selling pressure. Recovery above 5600 would signal a primary advance to 6000*.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5600 + ( 5600 – 5200 ) = 6000

Small cap stocks, represented by the ASX Small Ordinaries Index, however, indicate the market is adopting a risk off approach at present. While institutional stocks advance, the small caps index is undergoing a sell-off, with Twiggs Money Flow reflecting strong selling pressure.

ASX Small Ordinaries Index

A line has formed over the last 7 weeks. Breakout below this level would warn of another decline (and a primary down-trend).

Asia: Japan surges while China ebbs

Japan is surging ahead, with the Nikkei 225 index headed for a test of 20000* after its breakout above 17500 four weeks ago.

Nikkei 225 Index

* Target medium-term: 17500 + ( 17500 – 15000 ) = 20000

India’s Sensex found support at 26000, but narrow consolidation and declining Twiggs Money Flow both warn of selling pressure. Breach of 26000 would indicate another decline, with a target of 23000*.

Sensex Index

* Target medium-term: 26000 – ( 29000 – 26000 ) = 23000

Shanghai Composite Index is undergoing another correction. Respect of support at 3100 would indicate a healthy up-trend, while breach of 3000 would warn of a reversal. Declining Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term selling pressure.

Shanghai Composite Index

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

Sharply falling Money Flow warns of strong selling pressure on Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index. Breach of support at 22000 would signal a primary down-trend with an initial decline to 20000.

Hang Seng Index

Europe on the mend

Bellwether European transport stock Deutsche Post (DHL is a subsidiary) is in a primary up-trend, indicating rising economic activity.

Deutsche Post

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50, representing 50 mega-stocks in the Eurozone, broke through 3100 after a lengthy consolidation (or “line” as Dow would have called it). Breakout matches a similar pattern on the DAX and signals a primary advance with a target of 3500*.

Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50

* Target medium-term: 3100 + ( 3100 – 2700 ) = 3500

The Footsie (FTSE 100) has also been making some headway but is running into resistance at the all-time high of 7100. Declining Twiggs Money Flow, above zero, warns of medium-term selling pressure. Breach of 6700 remains unlikely but would warn of a correction to 6500.

FTSE 100

Fed Raises Rates, Anticipates 3 Increases in 2017 | WSJ

From Harriet Torry at WSJ:

The Federal Reserve said it would raise its benchmark short-term interest rate for the first time in a year and expects to lift it faster than previously projected in the coming year.

Fed officials said they would nudge up the federal-funds rate by a quarter percentage point on Thursday, to between 0.50% and 0.75%, a move that could cause other household and business borrowing costs to rise as well.

They also indicated they see a brightening economic outlook and expect to raise short-term rates next year by another 0.75 percentage point–likely in three quarter-point moves.

I wouldn’t read too much into further rate rises at present. Rates will only be raised if the economy continues to grow. We are still in the “remove abnormally low rates” stage, which hopefully will take some froth out of the market. Monetary tightening by the Fed in response to rising inflation and wage pressures — which could hurt stock prices — still appears some way off.

Source: Fed Raises Rates for First Time in 2016, Anticipates 3 Increases in 2017 – WSJ

Factors that Could Derail Equity Markets | Bob Doll

Bob Doll

From Bob Doll at Nuveen Investments:

….Although we have a generally positive view toward the economy, earnings and equity markets, we think it is worth pointing out some possible risks given how quickly and how far markets have moved higher over the past month. To us, the main risk to equity markets is the surge in government bond yields and the rising value of the U.S. dollar. Higher bond yields could create a drag on equity valuations and a higher dollar could put pressure on corporate earnings.

If the current advances in yields and the dollar moderate, equity markets should not experience much damage ….we expect any equity market sell-off resulting from a possible yield/dollar spike to be short-lived.

We are also watching possible political negatives from Donald Trump’s presidency, such as escalating geopolitical turmoil, currency wars with China or anti-immigration/anti-globalization trends. Additionally, investors may become wary of improving sentiment and less attractive valuations.

….Unlike the period since the end of the Great Recession, market sell-offs have been brief and followed quickly by strong risk-on moves. As a result of this shift and a seemingly more solid economic and earnings backdrop, we think it makes sense to retain overweight positions in equities.

I am cautiously bullish. A lot of good could come out of Republican control of both Congress and the Senate, including a revision of the corporations tax code and a more cautious approach to globalization.

The dangers are high stock valuations, with the potential for a backlash if earnings falter or risk levels spike, and low business investment that could hurt future growth. I still consider a Trump administration an additional risk factor. Trump has made some solid appointments, like the highly-regarded Mike Mattis (pleased to see Michael McFaul, former Obama point man on Russia, supporting the appointment) but still has the potential to do some crazy stuff as Bob pointed out.

Source: Weekly Investment Commentary from Bob Doll | Nuveen

ASX: Steam or froth?

The ASX 200 broke resistance at 5500. Follow-through above 5600 would confirm a primary advance with a long-term target of 6000*. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure.

ASX 200

* Target medium-term: 5600 + ( 5600 – 5200 ) = 6000

The ASX 300 Banks Index has followed through after breaking resistance at 8000. Expect retracement to test the new support level but respect is likely.

ASX 300 Banks

What could go wrong?

….Apart from a precarious property bubble in China fueling commodity exports, a property bubble in Australia fueled by record low interest rates and equally precarious immigration flows, declining business investment and slowing wages growth.

The ASX price-earnings ratio is close to historic highs, suggesting we are in Phase III of a bull market — where stocks are advanced on hopes and expectations of future growth rather than on concrete results. By all means follow the rally, but keep your stops tight.

Footsie resurgence

The Footsie (FTSE 100) respected support at 6700 and a strong weekly candlestick suggests another test of the all-time high at 7100. A Twiggs Money Flow trough above zero would confirm long-term buying pressure. Breach of 6700 is now unlikely but would warn of a correction to 6500.

FTSE 100

India: Sensex

India’s Sensex rallied off support at 26000, but Twiggs Money Flow still warns of selling pressure. Breach of 26000 would indicate a test of 25000.

Sensex Index

The DAX is back

Germany’s DAX broke out of its narrow line (or consolidation) between 10200 and 10800, signaling a primary advance with a target of 11500* and confirming a bull market.

DAX

* Target calculation: 10500 + ( 10500 – 9500 ) = 11500

Are stocks overpriced?

Some good discussion on our forum regarding current high stock valuations, based more on hopes than on earnings.

This chart of Price-Earnings ratios highlights the problem. PEs for both the MSCI World Index (ex-Australia) and the ASX 200 are close to historic highs (after the Dotcom bubble).

Price-Earnings

Strong earnings growth would soon fix this but there is little sign of that at present.

ASX rally falters

The ASX 200 rally stalled at 5500. Declining 21-day Twiggs Money Flow indicates rising selling pressure. Breakout above 5500 would complete a bear trap, indicating a primary advance to 5800*. But reversal below 5400 would signal another test of primary support at 5150.

ASX 200

DAX retreats

Germany’s DAX is retracing to test support at 10200. The DAX has formed a narrow line (or consolidation) between 10200 and 10800 over the last quarter. Declining Twiggs Money Flow is typical during a consolidation and does not have much significance unless it crosses below zero. Breakout will signal future direction, either an advance to 11500* or a test of support at 9000.

DAX

* Target calculation: 10500 + ( 10500 – 9500 ) = 11500