The True Message of the Market (and Thinking for Yourself)

This report is a major update on what’s happening in global Equities, including what I’ve shared over the past several weeks and extending it even further.

Before we begin, I want to address what I think is the biggest problem facing investors and traders today: the constant daily barrage of permabears and nitpickers fighting the market.

The first group needs no introduction. The permabears are a known breed with notoriously short lifespans. Virtually all of them blow up and become bloggers (except those that never traded real money to begin with). Sadly that’s just the start of their mission to destroy themselves and others, as they begin to prey on unfortunate folks by luring them with n=2 “this (completely useless) indicator also happened in 2000/2007 so the world is ending” charts. You can spot them a mile away, because they tell you how bearish they are, every single day.

But there is another toxic breed of pundits that provide even LESS value: the nitpickers. They’re just as easy to spot, because they exhibit several common behaviors: snarky tweets, clever soundbites, short sentences heavy on sarcasm and zero data. Sometimes, claiming a data point is “the highest since [not very long ago]” with no analysis included (for a reason). They’re successful at presenting themselves as analysts/strategists, but ultimately they’re just as toxic. Why? Because they don’t have a system, don’t have a process, are not real market practitioners, have no real understanding of how to actually trade or invest in markets, and their sole job is to feed you noise and distract you from what’s really happening.

Let me show you what’s really happening, and how important this is.

On October 28, I shared the following charts on Twitter and wrote: “Japan and Europe showing massive strength – previously observed at the start of every Major Cyclical Bull Market in the last 20 years. In the context of historic outflows, LT Momentum confirming up and Cyclicals already leading – truly a sight to behold.”

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What does it mean to say “Long-Term momentum is turning up”?

From my last report published here on Sep 19: “If this historic base is complete, could we soon enter the steepest part of the price advance? This would be compatible with a market that has been totally abandoned by investors and beginning to show historic Thrust behavior.”

The Japanese market itself had already been suggesting this Bullish potential for almost two years, while it based at the old multi-decade horizontal tops line. Most important of all, price and breadth are now confirming each other in a historic way. The market is telling us to focus on the big picture.

It’s happening everywhere, as I also mentioned in that September report when markets began to exhibit historic thrust behavior.

Further, on October 29 I shared this chart: “I consider this the most important chart in the world right now. The Stock/Bond Ratio is breaking out of a massive 2-year compression, confirming the SPX breakout. Trend momentum is just beginning to expand – a potential major & historic rally getting started.”

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Here’s what the Stock/Bond Ratio looks like now again the market is telling us to focus on the big picture.

Here is a version of the Stock/Bond Ratio using the Nasdaq index look at the clear strength as it’s almost at a new multi-year high:

Related to this, on October 30 I shared this chart: “Here’s why the Stock/Bond Ratio is so critical: One version using NDX is the strongest of all. Most people said they “disagree with the chart”/”take the opposite side” – in the long run, this is the fastest way to the poor house. Never argue with the market.”

Here is what fighting the market looks like, at similar points in the past when Stocks were exhibiting similar strength:

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On Nov 4, I shared the following: “Here’s the problem for those still trying to fade every uptick in this rally: Remember the massive Weekly compressions – NDX bandwidth was at bottom 5% of its history. The bands are now expanding with rising prices. Further, LT momentum has also turned up. Pure energy.”

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Finally, a chart I shared on Nov 1: “I consider the Stock/Bond Ratio the most important chart in the world – here’s another reason why: Relentless selling & pessimism identical to the end of the last 3 global crises. This is how Stocks began major rallies, breaking out with few believers. “Wall St never changes”.”

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Here’s what the chart looks like now, breaking out with flows just starting to turn up from a historic capitulation:

Again it’s important to emphasize: what’s actually happening, what are the implications, and what is the time frame?

Instead of reflecting on these meaningful questions, here’s what Twitter’s nitpickers decided to say:

(1) “The market went up but not enough Stocks are making new highs”. I wrote this before and it’s worth repeating: the nitpickers don’t tell you that new Lows are zero (globally), and the MSCI World Index is doing just fine up 20% YTD with 52Wk Highs in the single digits most of the year. Also, if the market keeps pushing any higher, New Highs will go into full expansion mode. And that’s exactly what’s happening, as 52Wk Highs are expanding into double-digits just like in 2016 when markets last broke out of a 2-year consolidation. Any more upside and the expansion could go into full gear.

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(2) “The Put/Call Ratio is really low and the last time was January 2018.” This isn’t even worth showing a chart, it’s just more ridiculous noise. There were hundreds of times throughout history that the P/C Ratio was very low. Many of them occurred just as Stocks were launching into some of the biggest rallies ever, such as March 2009, August 2010, November 2012 (breakout rally), December 2016 (breakout rally). Again, what carries more weight? A single day of options buying activity or the trillions of dollars that need to chase Stocks and cut Bonds as the Stock/Bond Ratio breaks out of a historic consolidation?

To illustrate, here’s the 50-day moving average of the Put/Call Ratio (inverted) that’s supposedly euphoric. A week ago I said that maybe the true contrarian & objective view is to focus on the big picture – and ignore those fading every daily tick. Turn off the noise.

(3) “But Sentiment survey X is high and it’s impossible for Stocks to keep going.” Wrong. High initial sentiment was also a feature of the launch phase of every major rally in history (see chart below from NDR, with my annotations included). Other features include positive long-term momentum, breadth thrusts, extreme pessimism & outflows, all of which are present today thanks to the permas and nitpickers.

(4) Another one making the rounds: “AAII bullish sentiment 4W change was the highest in 2 years!” This fits the classic nitpicker style, ‘the highest since X’ with no analysis included (for a reason).

Below, the majority of historical sentiment spikes were associated with Stocks either launching a major Bull market rally, or an epic Bear market rally within a bigger downtrend. Even in 2000 and 2008.

Finally, it’s important to remember: there will be endless noise in the next weeks and months, claiming the next intraday data point is really bearish. There’s always something. But as I noted in every chart here, and in hundreds of tweets over the last months, the medium and long-term signals are still in a deep, historic panic. For instance, here is a chart from Oct 18, showing the 6-month average of AAII Bulls. The chart is from three weeks ago. Today, that moving average is at 29.61 (still falling). And yet people are going around parading the “4-week change”.

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Finishing this report with a positive message:

BE YOURSELF

Even though I believe there’s significant evidence suggesting we’re in a Major and potentially Historic global rally, Stocks don’t move in a straight line and usually pull back/consolidate regularly. Also from experience, I think Stocks probably won’t drop a whole lot if millions of people are nitpicking the latest intraday datapoint and completely ignoring the big picture.

More than ever, markets are littered with people looking to distract you with answers to questions that don’t matter.

Do you want to see what all those people look like? Here they are, millions of little pixels piling themselves up into towers (just like in that zombie movie) every time the market pulls back. Millions of hours of human potential, now just a line on a chart.

Each pixel is a permabear or nitpicker sending a tweet claiming victory for a 2% pullback or the inevitable correction, along what has been one of the most epic secular Bull markets of all time.

Free yourself from them (if you haven’t already). Erase them from your market research process. Build a system that listens to the market, and the market will quietly show you the answers. Be yourself, think for yourself, and the world will be yours.

Thanks for reading.

If you liked this post, please share it with colleagues, subscribe to the Blog to receive future updates, and follow me on Twitter for daily charts: @MacroCharts.

Global Equities signalling Major Bullish Thrusts

In this report, I will discuss the following three topics:

(1) Exactly one month ago, I noted Emerging Markets were in a historic panic. Since then, they have slowly stabilized and rallied ahead of U.S., Europe and Japan. As I’ll present today, the rally in EM looks similar to the start of prior Major Bull markets.

(2) In a stunning new development, last week produced significant and compelling evidence that a Major Global Equity extension rally has ALSO started in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Today’s charts will show a powerful combination of Price & Breadth Thrusts has triggered simultaneously in every Major Global developed market.

(3) Throughout the report I’ll discuss potential implications of these signals, while also presenting various scenarios and areas of research going forward.

PART 1: EMERGING MARKETS TURNING UP FROM A HISTORIC BOTTOM

In chronological order:

On August 19, my EM Core Trend Model turned up from a historic oversold level. This was a critical signal I was tracking in my August report. I shared this chart on August 20 on Twitter, as critical initial evidence for a potential Major bottom in EM unfolding.

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Also on August 19, my Mexico MEXBOL Core Trend Model turned up from a historic oversold level. Similar turns identified most major bottoms since 2008 with only one failure (sideways from 4Q17-4Q18).

On August 21, 67% of South Korea KOSPI stocks triggered a MACD Buy Signal. I tweeted this chart the following day: “Starting to show signs of life… Similar to some historic bottoms. Look for a base to form, setting up potential Major rally.”

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On August 23, 72% of Hong Kong HSI stocks triggered a MACD Buy Signal. I wrote: “One of the biggest spikes of all time. ALL TEN priors led to massive 6-12M gains. Only one made new lows first (2015). Look for a base to form, setting up potential Major rally.”

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On August 29, 60% of Mexico MEXBOL stocks triggered a MACD Buy Signal. This confirmed the Core Trend Model Buy signal that had triggered ten days prior. I wrote: “One of the biggest spikes of all time. Seen at some historic bottoms, including both final bottoms in 2008. Look for a base to form, setting up potential Major rally.”

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Taken together, the massive number of signals in EM were indicating strong signs of a historic turn, similar to the start of prior Major Bull markets.

But EM alone wouldn’t be enough to carry Global Stocks higher…

PART 2: MAJOR BULL MARKET THRUSTS IN U.S., EUROPE AND JAPAN

A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THRUSTS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS

Several legendary market technicians such as Wayne Whaley, Marty Zweig and Walter Deemer have studied the behavior of Price, Breadth and Volume Thrusts. While there are many important variations and calculations, Thrusts ultimately all measure the same thing — a rare but extremely important moment in time when Stock Buyers (demand) are overwhelming Stock Sellers (supply) for a sustained period, usually a few weeks. This extreme Buying is typically seen after Major Stock Market bottoms but can ALSO occur as Stocks are breaking out from extended consolidation periods.

Which brings us to what’s happening today…

UNITED STATES

Last week, U.S. Stocks triggered their SECOND Major Breadth Thrust of the year. This is one of several Major Breadth Thrust signals I track for the S&P 500 index (this specific one is based on Wayne Whaley’s PTA work). The first Thrust came right after the December 2018 bottom, a Major rally initiation signal.

I shared this chart on Twitter on September 16, noting “similar strength was seen in 2013 and 2016 as Stocks broke out of identical 2-year ranges. A new Bull Market extension rally may have begun, marking the end of the 20-month volatile trading range which began January 2018.”

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Later that day I added that “the entire market is showing massive strength. NYSE Composite triggered only the 5th Major Thrust in over a decade. Note the base at the highs. Russell 2000 triggered only the 6th Major Thrust in over a decade.” [*Note my NYSE Composite data is for Common Stocks only, sourced from my own proprietary database going back to the 1940s.]

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Now let’s add some charts I’ve never shown before:

Last week nearly half of Russell 2000 Stocks spiked above their Upper Band – a potential rally initiation signal identical to the ones last seen in 2011-2013 and 2016. This is a textbook type of Thrust within the category of Price Thrusts.

Also last week, nearly a third of Nasdaq Composite Stocks spiked above their Upper Band – another textbook rally initiation signal similar to the ones last seen in 2011-2013 and 2016.

So many Thrusts triggered across the major U.S. Indexes & Sectors that it may be impossible to cover them efficiently in a single report. The key message is — that the weight of the signal evidence suggests the U.S. market is in broad directional alignment and starting a potential historic Bull Market extension run.

JAPAN

Last week, nearly 70% of Nikkei Stocks spiked above their Upper Bands – an extremely powerful Price Thrust (rally initiation) signal last seen 2009, 2013 and 2014 – the start of historic runs in Japanese Stocks. Many thanks to @Reflexivity27 on Twitter for giving me the chart idea here, originally using the TOPIX index.

Further on Japan, last week nearly 80% of Nikkei Stocks made a new 4-Week high – another extremely powerful Thrust (rally initiation) signal last seen 2009, 2013 and 2014 – the start of historic runs in Japanese Stocks.

These Thrusts are coming right after a historic capitulation in Japanese Stocks:

Japan has been completely abandoned by Foreign Investors. This mass capitulation is how the last two major Bull markets started. Last week’s Thrusts should mark the beginning of a historic revival in appetite for Japan Stocks, adding massive fuel to the Bull run. The Nikkei quietly gained almost +4% last week, the TOPIX almost +5%, and the TOPIX Banks almost +9%. Very few people were talking about this.

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Further, Nikkei Volume is now starting to wake up from its slumber (original chart here). Note the initial Volume spike turning the moving average back up. This is a potential Major rally initiation pattern similar to 2013, 2014 and 2016. The buying stampede may have begun, likely aided by Foreign Investors rushing back into the market.

Critically, note these Thrusts are triggering right as the Nikkei appears to be completing a Major base at the prior highs from 1994-2015. In other words what was previously resistance for three decades may now be support. Meanwhile note the Monthly MACD curling up, in preparation for what could eventually turn into a Bullish cross identical to 2016. This cross would likely confirm a massive Bull market extension rally.

The Nikkei’s massive three-decade base is even more interesting on a Weekly scale, adding the 200-week moving average as a trend gauge. Note how the Nikkei just formed a double bottom on its rising 200wma, an almost identical repeat of the 2016 bottoming pattern. If this historic base is complete, could we soon enter the STEEPEST part of the price advance? This would be compatible with a market that has been totally abandoned by investors and beginning to show historic Thrust behavior.

EUROPE

The DAX just triggered one of the biggest Breadth Thrusts of the decade.

To save space I won’t show the full Europe signal list here. Rather, let’s look at some new ideas — for instance, the unique trend potential that’s ALREADY in place in Europe:

Below, the DAX has already completed a Monthly Bull cross at the zero line. This is a potential historic opportunity in the making, not just in the DAX but also across the entire European continent, as every other Major index has also completed a similar pattern (SX5E, FTSEMIB, CAC, to name a few).

Looking at the DAX’s weekly chart, note the completed Base at the 200wma and now in full 1-2 launch sequence. This is the identical pattern noted in the Nikkei earlier. Also note the Weekly MACD crossing up from the zero line. All time frames (M/W/D) are aligned to the Bull side, with Major Thrusts in place, and almost no one has any European Equity exposure (see chart on EU Equity exposure here).

Taking a last look at Europe, note the SX5E weekly chart with a box consolidation at the 200wma. Similar to the DAX, the weekly and monthly gauges have also turned up. Europe could finally have the energy to break its multi-year resistance line and trigger a Major Bull Market extension rally.

IN SUMMARY,

The weight of the evidence suggests Global Markets are in broad alignment and starting a potential historic Bull Market extension rally. Short-term moves notwithstanding, markets are sending a powerful message of strength which should be respected.

Historically, prior Bull Markets typically ended with epic rallies, usually lasting several months and with every region in the world participating. While it’s impossible to know if this Bull Market will follow the same script, one thing seems absolutely clear – almost no one is ready for such an outcome.

I believe this theme is of such critical importance, I’ll continue to focus on these major signals and share what I’m seeing here and on Twitter — so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

If you liked this post, please share it with colleagues, subscribe to the Blog to receive future updates, and follow me on Twitter for daily charts: @MacroCharts.

Emerging Markets in a Historic Panic

There’s no other way to describe what’s currently happening in Emerging Markets.

To get everyone up to speed, I will start this post with some charts I shared on Twitter over the last week, and then share some new charts (never seen before), tying everything together at the end and making the case for a major potential opportunity in EM.

In chronological order:

On August 6, 61% of Stocks in the South Korea KOSPI Index hit oversold RSIs. Only two other times in history were more oversold: (1) The four trading days from October 24-29 2008 which included the KOSPI’s exact final bottom of the Bear market (October 27). (2) The only other day, October 29 2018, was the exact day the KOSPI bottomed last year. So far, August 6 was the exact day of the bottom in KOSPI for this year.

Also on August 6, 47.23% of Stocks in the South Korea KOSPI Index made new 52-Week Lows. I shared the below chart on Twitter with the following comments: in nearly 20 years, just ten days had more than 45% of Korean stocks at 52-Week Lows. August 6 was the 9th most oversold day in data history. The most recent spike (2018) led to an +18% rally. The other spikes (2003, 2008, 2011) led to career-making rallies.

On August 13 and 14, a historic 76% of Stocks in the Hong Kong HSI Index (H-Shares) hit oversold RSIs. This was one of the most negative extremes ever. Incredibly, H-Shares were nearly as oversold as their 2008 lows. Including last week, in the last 18 years just seven total days had more than 75% of H-Shares with Oversold RSIsLast Tuesday and Wednesday were the #5 and #6 most oversold days in history. After those spikes, a common pattern was for the market to spend some weeks forming a base, eventually transitioning to a multi-month rally. So far, August 14 was the closing low in the H-Shares index.

Now let’s look at some NEW charts that I researched and saved specifically for this report today:

My Emerging Markets Intermediate Breadth Oscillator is extremely compressed. Similar to the prior charts, this indicator shows the net amount of EM Stocks declining has reached nearly historic oversold levels. In most prior cases, this created a “ball held underwater” situation where EM Stocks ultimately responded with an extremely sharp rally. In some cases, a historic rally.

EEM ETF. Here too, we are witnessing history being made. This is the most liquid, most popular EM ETF in the world. And its NAV discount has reached one of biggest extremes of all time, indicating EM traders want to “sell at any price”This panic condition has produced some of the biggest bottoms in history, including the exact 2008 low, which was just barely more extreme than today.

My EM Core Trend Model is at major oversold Buy levels, already below the region where all EM bottoms formed since 2009. It’s important to mention that risk remains elevated while the model is still declining. Still, I’m looking for a turn up in the model to provide a clue that an important bottom has been made. The oversold conditions are so broad and historic, it’s possible that EM (particularly H-Shares and KOSPI) are bottoming before U.S. Markets. Hold that thought for now and I’ll talk more about this later.

As would be expected from a panic of this magnitude, the outflows have also been proportionally historic:

EEM Net Flows. Widespread selling should lay the groundwork for a bigger recovery later this year, as funds are forced to chase the recovery. Any residual price declines from here would likely make the capitulation even more extreme.

EWH Net Flows. Massive & historic outflows, second largest on record. Since this ETF’s inception 23+ years ago, the record outflow was back in 2013 during the Chinese bank liquidity crisis, when overnight SHIBOR spiked. Social mood and panic may be approaching similar proportions.

MCHI Net Flows. Biggest panic on record.

IEMG Net Flows. First outflows ever.

Next is a chart overlay of the H-Shares Index with USDHKD Risk Reversals. This shows that a wave of China Bear tourists are betting heavily against the Hong Kong Dollar in the currency options market, highlighted by the extreme and historic spike in Risk Reversal pricing. Historically, similar panics led to major bottoms in H-Shares and huge recovery rallies. I originally shared this chart on Twitter on August 14, with the following added comments: “Hong Kong’s leadership warned last week the city risked sliding into an “abyss”. With social mood and markets in mass capitulation, the bar for a recovery is very low.”

Finally, let’s take a look at two critical price charts I am watching.

HSI weekly chart held the nine-year horizontal shelf and the 200wma, closing last week with a potential Bullish hammer.

Last but not least, note how the EEM chart is potentially tracking for a bottoming scenario. I’ve been updating this scenario in real-time on Twitter over the last few weeks. Note the potential wedge structure in play – which could be missing a final mini-flush lower followed by Bullish reversal. It doesn’t have to play out exactly like this, but overall I think the message is that EM and particularly Asia Equities are close to a turn (and may have already bottomed for the most part).

IN SUMMARY,

Emerging Markets are in a historic panic — particularly Asian Equities which represent the bulk of Global EM market cap.

A major cluster of signals is coming together at this critical time, with the potential to form a historic bottom.

Additionally, since EM has been completely wiped out, it could be bottoming before U.S. Stocks. This happened many times throughout history. (*most famously, in 2001-2002 and 2008-2009). It also happened most recently in December 2018, when EEM made higher lows and continued to form a base while the S&P plunged another -16% in three weeks. I think any residual lows in U.S. markets over the next few weeks would help draw well-developed sideways/basing structures in EEM, EWH, EWY and FXI — setting up a Major Global Equity rally later this year. I believe this theme is so critical to monitor, I will dedicate the next several weeks to track and share everything I’m seeing here and on Twitter — so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

If you liked this post, please share it with colleagues, subscribe to the Blog to receive future updates, and follow me on Twitter for daily charts: @MacroCharts.

Stocks and the Current Environment

Starting with some thoughts I tweeted on June 17:

Here’s a chart showing how extreme the selling/capitulation has been:

This is absolutely historic selling. Remember DotBust? Lehman? This is even more selling than seen at the depths of those recessions.

If a global recession is coming, it will be the most widely anticipated in history.

Everyone finally sold out perfectly at the top.

I’ve lost count of how many charts look like this, most at historic extremes. Every time I send one out, 90% of the responses are “this is 2008, crash coming”.

Take this next chart as an example:

Pretty self-explanatory. I shared it on Twitter with the following commentary:

The Russell 2000 has seen a historic wipeout in positioning (like everything else). Traders have completely abandoned this index, perhaps using it as a “hedge” against other holdings. Look at the bottom panel, showing Small Speculators in a historic selling capitulation, matched only by 2008. Extremely contrarian Bullish.

Then I added:

Now look at all the bottoms in the last 11 years. Small Traders were capitulating/selling in all of them. Forget Stocks for a moment. When Small Traders do this in any market, emotions are the primary factor. Avoid emotions, they are the enemy.

Here are some of the responses I received after posting these two charts:

“It says we are in 2008 all over again”

“Small Specs are smart money, this is right before a giant crash”

“Doesn’t matter, liquidity is falling and nothing can stop it”

“There is nothing but talk about how bearish everybody else is. Kind of funny”

“Translation: smart money leaving, dumb money overpaying”

Only one person responded to the first chart with the following:

“Looks like all were great entry points”

Every day since Stocks bottomed in early June, I continue to be surprised by how extreme the mood has become. And it’s not just the data. Even just talking to people it’s clear that a deep fear/anger has taken over. Emotions are at historic extremes.

I’ve kept a trading journal for over two decades. This is a shortened version of what I’ve observed these last few weeks:

  • Since Stocks bottomed in early June, it’s been a relentless rally only surpassed by the extreme reluctance to embrace it. Every single day it’s the same story, veiled in some fresh argument:
  • First I was told the rally was fake because it was all short-covering and not real buying. Then it was supposed to fail at resistance, as traders bought massive Puts and investors sold their longs (what little they had left) down to the bone, pushing my models to extreme oversold. As June FOMC approached, Stocks had supposedly gotten ahead of themselves and would peak on the Fed announcement. Then I was told Stocks barely rose after the announcement, which indicated buyer fatigue. The next day when Stocks exploded higher again, I was told the Fed was manipulating rates on behalf of the White House. Now with the S&P grinding highs “it’s too late to be bullish” (this is from an actual headline that came out last week). To top it off, on the day of the breakout last week, traders pulled billions out of SPY because they felt like being even more in cash.
  • Mass insanity is the only way to describe the last few weeks. The Bearish narrative is so entrenched that it still hasn’t adjusted to the fact that Stocks ran to new highs in almost a straight line. Bears were promised a recession, a deflationary bust, a trade crisis to last “the rest of our careers”, an “uninvestable anti-Tech mood”, “Tech’s glory days are over”, and “don’t take any risk in 2019” (these quotes are from various media articles published during this rally). And now, with Stocks at the highs the same people who missed the whole move say “it’s too late to be bullish”.
  • Paul Tudor Jones once said there is no training for the last third of a Bull market. There are very few people left in the business today who saw both the 2006-2007 Housing/Commodity/EM Bubble and the 1999-2000 Tech Bubble in real-time. The current environment is the complete opposite of those periods.
  • If the Bull market HASN’T ended, then it’s missing a classic “final third”.

Back to the same chart from earlier, adding some red lines:

This is the third time in this Bull market that Stocks recovered from a large correction but investor selling continued relentlessly. In 2012 and 2016, the selling persisted until Stocks had already pushed all the way back to previous highs. The following years were both massive extension rallies.

I can already hear the feedback…

“But it will end in tears just like [insert favorite year here] all over again, Short everything!”

Maybe it will end in tears. But I’m not sure that it has to end right here. One thing we can all agree on, is that history repeats itself. Just don’t forget it can also repeat itself on the upside.

IN SUMMARY…

This is one of the most extreme environments I’ve ever seen. Though I am far from certain, I think the path of maximum pain is higher. Stocks & Commodities are rising, the Dollar & Bonds may be headed lower. Central Bank liquidity is coming back, not just in the U.S. but all over the world.

Meanwhile against this backdrop, Stocks just posted the biggest first-half gain since 1997. You know what else last happened in 1997? Stocks broke to new highs with more individual investors leaning Bearish than Bullish (AAII survey). Who knows, maybe it’s time to dust off the old diary from the 1997-1999 “last third”, just in case.

Thanks for reading!

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The Most Important Force in Stocks

Tell me if you’ve heard this over the last ten years:

“The economy of [X] is more dependent on debt than ever before”

“Companies are issuing record debt to buy back stock, this will end badly”

“Debt is too high and the [economy/markets/savings/wealth] will [explode/implode]”

“The Bond rally is telling us something bad is coming”

Extra points if you’ve heard all of these from a market guru, famous economist, TV personality, ivy professor promoting a book, or ex-hedge fund manager with a blog.

Let me start by saying that markets don’t operate on absolutes. I’ve been trading for 25 years. In the arena every single day. In the middle of this organized chaos, I hear academics every day, taking turns shouting from the gilded seats, trying to be the one who predicts what happens next (always loud and full of confidence).

There is a simpler truth to markets. One that academics/noise-makers cannot grasp, yet all successful traders inherently understand: Sometimes things matter, other times they don’t.

A trader’s goal should be to constantly discard everything that doesn’t matter, so that what’s left is essential.

Let’s try this now, using a historical chart:

Top panel, S&P and 10-Year Yield. Bottom panel, 1-month Net Change in 10-Year Yield (2006-2019).

Now let’s add vertical red lines for every time the 10-Year Yield rises significantly over a 1-month period:

Looking above: see the spike in Yields in June 2007? That was the largest since 2004 (not shown). How about mid-2013, the Fed doing QE3/Infinity but the S&P still traded sideways from May to October, because Yields spiked three different times? Or 2015, Yields spiked twice and Stocks traded sideways for a year. Or most recently in 2018, Yields spiked in January & September and Stocks collapsed both times.

(Also notice above, how spikes have become far less frequent since 2013.)

Nothing works 100% of the time, and Yields have spiked on occasion with Stocks moving higher anyway (2016 a prime example). Nevertheless, over the last 15-20 years, rising Yields are usually bad for Stocks.

Now let’s add vertical green lines for every time the 10-Year Yield falls significantly over a 1-month period:

Recently on June 3 2019, Stocks may have formed an important bottom, after 10-Year Yields fell -47bps over the prior month. In the last four years, only one day had a bigger 1-month net drop in Yields: February 10 2016 (-51bps), which was the day before Stocks bottomed.

Once again nothing works perfectly, but Stocks generally do well after Yields fall sharply. So let’s go back to the start: is the recent Bond rally telling us something bad is coming?

Maybe.

Or maybe despite the loud chorus of sideline crisis-callers, the Bond rally may have just saved the economy (and the Stock market) yet again.

For this entire Bull market, yield declines of this magnitude have created huge runways for Stock prices to recover.

Bull trends die from inflation scares, not disinflation scares. Some of the biggest Stock corrections in recent years came after Yields rose sharply.

Equities love low-inflation/disinflationary growth. If there’s one “truth” in investing, this could be it. Disinflationary growth has kept this Stock Bull market plodding along for longer than anyone thought possible.

For more than a decade since this Bull market began, Stocks have been repeatedly hit with disinflation scares (mostly due to the Dollar rallying, like this year). Those scares pushed Yields sharply lower, clearing the way for Equities to recover, eluding the crash-callers each time. This latest Bond rally could rekindle the same old Bullish force for Stocks, right when the academics are rushing to call it a bad omen yet again.

Thanks for reading!

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Consensus Lawnmower (2019 edition)

Almost everything investors believed just a few months ago has been cut down:

  • EM & China were among the best places to invest.
  • The Fed was “friendly” and the Dollar would continue to weaken.
  • Equity & Rates Volatility would stay low because the Fed removed tail risks.
  • Commodities were going to make a comeback.

Feels like a long time ago, but these views were widely accepted until very recently.

In Mr. Market’s twisted Yogi Berra irony, 2019 has already been a tale of two halves, except we’re not even halfway yet.

Rolling waves of pain:

  • U.S. Financials & Banks fell sharply in March, and bottomed.
  • U.S. Healthcare & Biotech fell sharply in April, and bottomed.
  • The Dollar has rallied sharply, cutting through every consensus EMFX trade.
  • Like last year, the Dollar is moving in waves. First against the weak current account countries (ended a month ago), then Asia (largely over I believe, and wrote about last week), now migrating to a few select final pockets. Wherever the carry books are still holed up, that’s where the Dollar has unfinished business.
  • Asian Stock markets fell sharply in May, in some of the heaviest selling waves in history. Some markets broke selling records, far greater than even the panic in 2008. I’ve documented this extensively on Twitter and prior blog posts. Yet this week, momentum has been quietly stabilizing.
  • As EM tries to stabilize, U.S. markets continue to decline and look for a bottom. Yesterday, the main EM ETFs were up while U.S. indexes were down almost 1%. U.S. Tech in particular is starting to fall faster than most other areas.
  • U.S. Semiconductors, which rallied 50% from the December lows and triggered historic extremes in late April, have given up more than half their gains and become “ground-zero for trade war risk”. Quietly, they closed up yesterday even as the rest of U.S. Tech was down nearly 1%.
  • Even the U.S. defensive sectors are dropping sharply. Over the last two days, they lost nearly 3% (roughly 2-3x what broad markets fell). When Bears take out the defensives, they are running out of targets (everything else has been eradicated). This happened in December too.

True bottoms are made when the Bears successfully take down all the last pockets of strength. Sellers have relentlessly and systematically purged the haves for nearly two months. Everywhere we look, the haves have turned to have nots: there’s no one left overweight EM, China, Semis, EMFX, or any cyclicals of any kind. Defensives are heavily favored. Bonds are in a panic spike.

Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are quietly stabilizing directly above the support targets I’ve been tracking for several weeks.

Is it possible that China is forming a base ahead of the U.S.? It’s an extremely contrarian scenario. It also happened three years ago in 2016:

History doesn’t have to repeat exactly, but it wouldn’t be the first time EM & China were sold to the bone, only to bottom ahead of the U.S. and lead the recovery.

The destruction of consensus trades came in waves of selling. It works the other way around too. If sentiment is approaching rock bottom, the recovery will also come in waves:

Here is a candidate for the first wave: a key Asian market, stuck in the middle of the trade war, with heavy exposure to the Tech & Semiconductor industry — representing a massive 50% of its stock market capitalization. Essentially this market is uninvestable in the current environment. All of this psychological damage, for a simple gap fill and base on the 200dma.

We’ve already documented the historic outflows from China and everywhere else in EM. So for posterity, here is the wave of selling that just went through the same market from the prior chart (Taiwan):

No one can say with 100% certainty if the bear case is now fully priced in. What we do know is, many highly-exposed markets — most now deemed uninvestable by the same folks who were pounding the bull case just a month ago — have been deleted from investor menus, have stopped falling on bad news, and are now rising even as U.S. markets continue to search for a bottom.

Over the last month, the market wrote a story gradually, as prices came down. Now another story is quietly being told, for those that are listening. A story that will likely carry bullish implications far into the future.

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Closing my Long USD positions

A quick background on my Dollar view:

I started buying USD-EMFX in March based on (1) my trend models suggesting a major potential move, (2) short-term momentum quietly shifting in favor of the Dollar, and (3) crowded carry positioning and extremely low volatility likely to blow up simultaneously and force deleveraging.

My main fundamental premise was that the economy was doing fine and the market was way too dovish on the Fed. At the time, consensus was looking completely the other way. The narrative was all about the “friendly Fed”. It all went out the window when Powell said low inflation is “transitory” on the May 1 FOMC – which in hindsight was also the day U.S. stocks topped and reversed.

What I’m seeing now that makes me want to rethink my Long USD view:

The Dollar’s rally is getting extremely stretched from a quantitative trend perspective. I thought it would take several months to achieve this, but it took only two. This was one of the most explosive Dollar rallies in such a short period of time, particularly against EM currencies.

The move looks unsustainable at this point – for instance here is the trend strength in USDKRW, which was my biggest Dollar-EMFX position until yesterday:

Here is the same chart for USDCNY. Look what happened to prices historically after similar extremes. A whole lot of nothing. Maybe it’s time to sell some straddles.

The Dollar’s strong momentum could have residual upside, particularly versus Asia on lingering trade war concerns, but I think it would be part of an “M-top” structure, where it chops sideways for a bigger Weekly momentum turn.

For instance, this is a USDKRW chart I tweeted yesterday:

In the chart above, note the M-top patterns in 2014, 2015, 2016 and even 2018 when the MACD got this elevated and rolled over. Incidentally the MACD finally crossed down this morning.

In summary, overall this Dollar move was much more extreme and sharp than I envisioned. Maybe this means it has more to run, particularly if the trade war escalates. Or maybe (I think) it’s close to pricing in a full-blown crisis. Asian FX & Stocks look particularly priced in, having experienced massive outflows in recent weeks. The adjustment looks mostly finished to me, and I prefer to take my hard-earned profits and move on to another opportunity…

I think the next big opportunity is to find the bottom for U.S./China stocks and get aggressive on the Long side. I’ve had this view for a couple of weeks, prices are getting close to my ideal levels and sentiment is almost in the basement. And if the Dollar’s momentum starts to slow, I think it could help underpin Stocks at the perfect time.

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