Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Continued Surge In Small Business And Consumer Optimism

Sentiment for both consumers and small businesses continues to soar. Today the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was reported at 107.5. I highlighted the surge in consumer sentiment at the end of November.



NFIB notes in its report,
"Not since the roaring Reagan economy has small business optimism been as high as it was in November, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Index of Small Business Optimism, released today." 
“We haven’t seen this kind of optimism in 34 years, and we’ve seen it only once in the 44 years that NFIB has been conducting this research,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “Small business owners are exuberant about the economy, and they are ready to lead the U.S. economy in a period of robust growth.”
The report also indicates the current reading for November is the second highest reading in the 44-year history of the Index. Some highlights in the report:
  • Job Creation plans increased six points last month, providing more evidence of a strong labor market.
  • The number of owners who said it’s a Good Time to Expand rose four points.
  • Inventory Plans increased by three points.
  • Inventory Satisfaction increased by three points and,
  • Actual Earnings Trend moved up two points.
The significant improvement in sentiment, especially in business sentiment, has been a common theme for the last year. NFIB's report on December 2016 small business optimism saw one of the Index's largest increases. Below is a chart tracking the market's performance since NFIB's last five highest readings from December of last year. This year's market return has been the strongest.


Sentiment is an important part of investing psychology. With both consumer and small business expressing high levels of optimism, it is not surprising equity returns have been as strong as they have been this year.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Earnings, Not Multiple Expansion, The Key To Favorable 2018 Equity Returns

It seems like an eternity since the S&P 500 Index experienced a pullback of more than 5%. In fact, the last greater than 5% pullback occurred over a year ago during the period of June 8, 2016 to June 27, 2016. This lack of downside volatility has taken place during a nearly uninterrupted increase in the market that began in February last year. Additionally, the market advance since the end of the financial crisis looks remarkable as well. Little or no downside volatility might be understandable if the equity markets were trading sideways this entire time; however, that has not been the case as can be seen below.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Strong Corporate Profit Picture A Key Component In Today's GDP Report

Included with today's second estimate GDP report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis is the preliminary estimate for third quarter corporate profits. The corporate profit measure is reported in several different formats, i.e. with and without inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments. As I noted in a June post, more information on the adjustments can be found can be found in this BEA Briefing Paper (PDF).

The profit growth before tax and with the inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments equaled 5.4% on a year over year basis. Without the adjustments, year over year profit growth equaled 10%. Importantly, NIPA profits have a nearly 1.0 correlation to IBES S&P 500 forward earnings and historically peak four quarters, or a year before the IBES forward earnings estimate. This preliminary corporate profit report is not signalling a peak in IBES S&P 500 forward earnings.


Also, with the preliminary corporate profit growth figure one can evaluate the NIPA P/E. The growth in NIPA corporate profits has resulted in a slight decline in the NIPA P/E as can be seen in the below chart. As I noted in the June post referenced above, what is useful with the NIPA profit measure is the fact it covers a larger earnings base for the U.S and covers more industries as it is not limited to public companies. Additionally, the NIPA figure makes an effort to adjust for the differing accounting measures being utilized by companies.


By reviewing some of my posts written over the past few months, the lack of any meaningful market pullback has been one recurring theme. However, with the continued strength exhibited in corporate profit growth, the market's path is certainly warranted as stock prices follow earnings. Also, the strong profit picture is beginning to result in a downtrend in the market's NIPA valuation, without a significant correction taking place. That does not mean high valuation equities will not correct more significantly, like what occurred in some technology stocks today. All in all, today's revision higher in Q3 GDP and the prelimnary profit report are both tailwinds for the economy and equity markets, all else being equal.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soaring Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence soared to a 17-year high in The Conference Board's report today. High levels of consumer confidence tend to translate to an improved retail sales environment as can be seen in the below chart. With consumers accounting for approximately 70% of economic (GDP) activity, today's confidence report portends a positive retail sales environment during the holiday shopping season.


On the other side of the coin though, The Conference Board's third quarter CEO Confidence measure was reported with a slight decline in early October as represented by the green line in the below chart. About two weeks ago we reported on the NFIB Small Business Optimism measure and it declined as well in its recent report; however, small business optimism remains at a high level.


Overall, confidence levels for business and consumers are at relatively high levels and this should be a tailwind for economic activity near term.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Sentiment Cycle Phase: "Buy The Dip"

Aside from fundamental market data, the equity market tends to follow a sentiment cycle as described by Justin Mamis, a famed market technician and author, who wrote several books on technical analysis. One of his books, The Nature of Risk, contains a discussion on the equity market's sentiment cycle. Below is The Sentiment Cycle chart included in The Nature of Risk.


In The Nature of Risk Mamis notes the market sentiment cycle begins with stocks climbing the proverbial "wall of worry." In a post I wrote in July 2009, Where Are We In The Market Cycle?, I noted the market seemed to be coming out of the financial crisis and had moved into this "wall of worry" phase of the sentiment cycle. Then in June of 2014 I noted in a blog post, VIX Is Low But Investors In Denial Stage Of Market Sentiment Cycle, I surmised the market was likely in the "denial" phase of the sentiment cycle. Today, I believe we are in or near the "buy the dip" phase of the market sentiment cycle.


One missing aspect with the market today is the lack of slowly increasing trading volume like occurred in the run up to the market top in 2008 and seen in the above monthly market chart. However, the lack of any significant market pullback since mid year 2016 is certainly representative of investors being content with "buying on the dips."

The sentiment cycle length seems to be an extended one in this bull market cycle and we can list any number of reasons for the extension. However, from a sentiment and technical perspective, this cycle, although long in duration, likely has further upside as buying "enthusiasm" seems absent. A confirming enthusiasm data point would be increasing volume into a so called blow off top.

Lastly, in Justin Mamis' last newsletter, he highlighted The Sentiment Cycle chart and had the following to say about it:
A cycle begins with stocks climbing “a wall of worry,” and ends when there is no worry anymore. Even after the rise tops out, investors continue to believe that they should buy the dips...Unwillingness to believe in that change marks the first phase down: “It’s just another buying opportunity.” The second, realistic, phase down is the passage from bullish to bearish sentiment...Selling begins to make sense. It culminates with the third phase: investors, in disgust,...dump right near the eventual low in the conviction that the bad news is never going to stop…
I think investors would have a hard time arguing against the fact that "buy the dip" is prevalent in recent stock market action. 


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Answering Market Questions Over Thanksgiving

In addition to receiving a few questions about Bitcoin from a few relatives over Thanksgiving, the other common question/comment was "can you believe this stock market, how long can it last." I confess I do not believe in market timing nor do I have a crystal ball; however, that does not mean one should put their head in the sand and ignore important market signals. Aside from the importance of monitoring weekly economic data reports, investors can review a couple of high level data points to gain perspective on the health of the economy and companies broadly. Just as earnings growth is important to evaluate at the company level, market level earnings are important as a rising tide may be lifting all boats. There is truth to the fact that stock prices have a tendency to follow earnings and that is clearly evident in the below chart.


From late 2014 through early 2016, S&P 500 earnings (green line above) were range bound and moved sideways during this period. The S&P 500 Index moved sideways over this time period as well. The market bottomed in February of 2016 and the beginning of the S&P 500 uptrend coincided with an improving earnings picture.

The below chart is a different look at the earnings picture by showing the 12-month forward growth rate expectations for the S&P 500 Index. The chart shows earnings growth at 10.1% looking twelve months out into the future and if stock prices follow earnings, market returns could be in the low double digits too.


I suppose the market's resilience, i.e., very little downside volatility could be viewed as a concern. The last greater than 5% market pullback occurred over a year ago, in June 2016, and the average intra-year pullback since 1980 is 14%. 


The market will experience another pullback and some investors seem to be waiting for this event before investing any additional cash into stocks. This in and of itself may be a reason the market is experiencing shallow pullbacks as investors seem to be 'buying on the dips.'

I could show a number of charts indicating the market is trading above its long term average valuation level. Often missing from these valuation charts is the back drop or perspective of valuations in a low interest rate environment. Stocks can and do trade at higher valuations when interest rates are low like they are today.


One of Warren Buffet's favorite valuation measures is the market cap of corporate equities to U.S. GDP. Some strategists expressing a bearish equity market point of view will show the below chart to support their negative perspective.


Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, corporate profits as a percentage of GDP remain near record levels.


And finally, what about the economy? The last two quarterly GDP reports show economic growth at 3% or higher. This is pulling up the below trend economic growth rate that has been reality since the end of the financial crisis. A faster pace of economic growth is a large positive. 


At the end of the day, the market may seem like it is priced for perfection, but in a low interest rate/low inflation environment, this does not seem unreasonable as noted above. Corporate earnings and the economy are both experiencing growth and growth that is accelerating. These two variables alone are positive for stocks. I have written a couple of recent posts about the length of this bull market cycle that began in early 2009 and the benefit for investors to review their overall asset allocation. A pullback will take place, but all else being equal, the economy and corporate earnings seem to be on sound footing.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index Highlights Tight Labor Market

Last week NFIB's October report on Small Business Optimism fell short of expectations, but remained at a high level at 103.8 versus 103 in the prior report. A few highlights from the report:
  • "The tight labor market got tighter for small business owners last month, continuing a year-long trend. Fifty-nine percent of owners said they tried to hire in October, with 88 percent of them reporting no or few qualified applicants."
  • "Consumer sentiment surged based on optimism about jobs and incomes, an encouraging development as consumers account for 70 percent of GDP," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.

And continuing to track the market's performance from December of last year (January's report) when NFIB reported one of the highest NFIB readings, the current S&P 500 Index return is outpacing prior market returns associated with high NFIB readings as seen in the below chart.


With a surge in consumer sentiment and a small business environment that is showing continued strength in hiring, these two factors alone should serve as a tailwind for the economy and market in the months ahead.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Are Bearish Investor Sentiment Responses Translating Into Actual Action?

The S&P 500 Index is only down .60% from its November 8, 2017 high yet individual investor and institutional equity sentiment has turned significantly less positive. This negative sentiment has not translated into broadly lower equity prices though, but knowing sentiment measures are contrary indicators, they are approaching levels that would be suggestive of higher equity prices ahead.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Equity Corrections Will Occur Again, Maybe Sooner Than One Expects

If there is one factor that perplexes me about the current market environment it is the lack of volatility since the election. The last time the market experienced a greater than 5% correction was in June of 2016 and the last double digit pullback was in February 2016. Going back to 1980 the average intra-year market decline for the S&P 500 Index is 14.1%. I have written a number of recent posts on the positive global economic environment, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, that may be serving as a tailwind for equity market returns around the world.

On the surface, if one knew mutual funds were holding elevated cash positions, they might conclude that this is a bullish data point since the cash can be deployed in additional equity investments. On the other hand, elevated liquidity in equity funds may be a sign of investors rapidly allocating more funds to equities and this might actually be a negative sentiment measure. In fact, as the below chart shows, there is a high correlation to elevated liquidity in equity funds and market tops.



Friday, November 10, 2017

If History Repeating; Another Five Years For Equity Bull Market

Shortly after the 2016 election in a post titled, Equity Market Beginning To Resemble Bull Market Of The 1950's And 1980's, I discussed how the equity market continued to trace a similar path as the market in the those two earlier decades. A part of my conclusion indicated the anticipated policies under a Trump administration would resemble policies implemented in the 1950's and 1980's, like tax reform and infrastructure spending. Reality is setting in and not much seems to be getting done in Washington on those two fronts; however, the current market continues to follow a similar path as in the 50's and 80's. Better sentiment and regulatory reform, even though by executive order, seems to be having a positive influence on companies. If the past is any guide then, the bull market might have at least another five years to run as can be seen in the below chart.


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Biases Influence Investment Decisions

Every investor makes investment decisions that are influenced by ones biases that form over time. These biases may come in many forms but they tend to fall into a couple of categories, emotional or cognitive. I mention this because it is not that uncommon that I sit down to write a blog post on a certain topic thinking the post's conclusion will go in one direction, but end up with a different conclusion after evaluating some of the research. Some of these blog topics are developed by flipping through a lot of charts, which I do frequently. One such chart is below and shows the relative performance of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats to the S&P 500 Index.



Monday, November 06, 2017

Investment Opportunities Outside The U.S.

In a post yesterday I somewhat rhetorically titled the post wondering if the equity market was at a top. In short, I do not know, but offered suggestions for investors about reviewing their asset allocation vis-à-vis their spending needs.

Not all markets have traveled the same path as the S&P 500 Index though. A number of markets outside the U.S have lagged the U.S. since the end of the financial crisis. The below chart compares the cumulative performance of the S&P 500 Index (SPY) versus the MSCI ACWI ex U.S Index (ACWX). The chart goes back to the beginning of 1992 and clearly the S&P 500 has a performance advantage with a widening gap beginning to develop around 2011.



Sunday, November 05, 2017

Is This The Market Top?

I read an individual's commentary this weekend that was titled Is This As Good As It Gets, and I will have more comments on this later in this post, but it coincides with some clients/investors inquiring whether they should raise cash now. The 'raise cash now' question is certainly understandable when one looks at the strength of the market since the February low last year, up nearly 40% on a price only basis in less than two years.



Thursday, November 02, 2017

Individual And Investment Manager Sentiment Is Diverging

At the end of August bullish investor sentiment reached a year low of 25% and since that time individual investor sentiment has risen to 45.1% as reported by the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) today. During this time period the S&P 500 Index has increased nearly 5%, providing some support to the contrarian nature of the individual sentiment report.


Conversely, the National Association of Active Investment Managers reported a decline in their Exposure Index to 60.2% from 71.7% in the week earlier. As noted by NAAIM, the Exposure Index,
"is not predictive in nature and is of little value in attempting to determine what the stock market will do in the future. The primary goal of most active managers is to manage the risk/reward relationship of the stock market and to stay in tune with what the market is doing at any given time. As the name indicates, the NAAIM Exposure Index provides insight into the actual adjustments active risk managers have made to client accounts over the past two weeks."

Nonetheless, investment managers are positioned for a less constructive bullish market while the individual investor seems more optimistic from a sentiment perspective. One should keep in mind these sentiment measures are most predictive at extremes and it can be argued neither the AAII sentiment reading nor  the NAAIM Exposure Index is at an extreme level. However, sentiment expectations for institutions and  individuals are moving in opposite directions and both will not be right.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Time Period Matters For Outperformance: High Beta Versus Low Volatility

I have read commentary over the last few days noting the outperformance of the PowerShares High Beta Index (SPHB) versus its counterpart, the PowerShares Low Volatility Index (SPLV) over the past 1-year time frame. However, much of this outperformance was generated in the couple of months following the November election.



Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sizable Declines In A Few Individual Stocks; Time To Review Allocations

Much is going right as it relates to the equity markets around the globe; however, this past week saw the market punish companies that reported earnings that did not match market expectations. The below 2-week chart only lists a few of those companies, but companies like Celgene (CELG) down 28.1% and Expedia (EXPE) down 17.5% suffered much of their losses on one or just a few trading days.



Sunday, October 22, 2017

An Increasing Dividend Payout Ratio Is A Positive Indicator For The Market

Admittedly, in an equity market run investors are currently experiencing, i.e., the second longest run without a 20% pullback, a common theme that continues to seep into ones thinking, including mine, is when is the market going to experience a bear market correction of 20% or more. Even a double digit pullback is a scarcity as the below chart of the S&P 500 Index shows. The last double digit pullback occurred in February of 2016.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Citgroup Economic Surprise Indices Have Little Bearing On Equity Market Performance

One set of indices that seems to cycle from positive to negative over a relatively short period of time are the Citigroup Economic Surprise Indices (CESI). This aspect of these indices means they gain prominence from a commentary standpoint when they reach high and low points. What is important for investors to know is the CESI is a mean reverting index, that by design, cycles between highs and lows over relatively short periods of time. In June of this year, the Citigroup U.S. Economic Surprise Index (CESI-US) was a minus 78 after falling from plus 57 in March. At the June low some commentary began noting the U.S. economy might be headed for a recession. However, the correlation of the S&P 500 Index to the CESI-US is a small negative .04, so actually a slight negative correlation between the two variables.




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Synchronized Global Growth

Much of the sentiment and global market data continues to come in on the positive side of the ledger. Friday's University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment jumped six points to 101.1 for October and is the highest reading in thirteen years. As reported by Econoday, "The expectations component is up nearly 7 points to 91.3 with the component for current conditions posting a nearly 5 point gain to 116.4."


In reviewing the Global PMI's for Manufacturing, as of the end of September, the below table shows all of the PMIs are in excess of 50 which suggests improvement versus deterioration in the manufacturing sector. PMI's are leading indicators with health in the manufacturing sector providing insight into sales, employment, etc. The common surveyed questions center on new orders, manufacturing output, employment, suppliers' delivery times and inventory.


The positive sentiment and economic data has translated into positive equity market returns around the world. All of the 45 country Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) at the following link are showing positive returns year to date through October 13, 2017.

The economy is not the market and vice versa; however, the positive sentiment and positive economic data currently being reported is translating into higher equity market prices. The lack of market volatility is certainly something that will not persist forever. Maybe the Fed's desire to reduce its balance sheet will result in higher equity market volatility. A correction or pullback near term would be healthy, noting the average intra-year pullback is just over 14%.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Decline In Small Business Optimism

Today, NFIB reported the September Small Business Optimism Index results and they showed the Index fell 2.3 points to 103, which was below the lowest consensus forecast. In spite of the decline, the index remains at a high level as can be seen in the below chart.



Monday, October 02, 2017

Fall 2017 Investor Letter: The Hated Rally Continues

Our Fall 2017 Investor Letter has a music lyrics theme to it and since we have an age-diverse team as it relates to the employees of HORAN Capital Advisors so goes the taste in music for our colleagues as readers of the newsletter will find out.  As Chuck Prince, former chairman and CEO of Citigroup, said almost a decade ago,  "As long as the music is playing, you got to dance." This seems to be one of those markets where the music just doesn't seem to stop and just maybe has resulted in one of the most hated equity market rallies in some time.


The Fall 2017 Investor Letter touches on a number of topics, including the unwinding of the Fed's balance sheet, low interest rates and the negative impact on income generation for investors and the benefit achieved by investors that have pursued diversification outside of the U.S. equity market.

For additional insight into our views for the market and economy, see our Investor Letter accessible at the below link.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shifting Investor Sentiment

It seems the market's consistent bid to move higher this year might be confusing the individual investor. That is, the fact the market has escaped any material pullback this year may be weighing on consumers in that they are prepared for or expect a pullback. As the below chart shows, the market has avoided such a pullback of more than 3% so far this year.


This lack of volatility has not translated into a bullish individual investors though if the American Association of Individual Investors Sentiment Survey is a guide. This week's sentiment report shows bullish sentiment declined almost seven percentage points to 33.3%. Most of this decline showed up in an increase in the neutral reading with a 5.3 percentage point increase to 37.9%.



With the strength of this year's market return that actually began in February of last year, one would expect the individual investor to be bullish on equities. Remembering the sentiment reading is a contrarian one, high bullishness readings can be a negative for future equity prices. Excessive individual investor bullish is certainly not the case at the moment if the survey readings are to be believed.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Recession And Equity Market Bubble Five Years Ago Did Not Materialize, Now What

I was communicating with a client today who reminded me of a conversation we had five years ago almost to the day about whether or not the U.S. equity market was in a bubble. The discussion was prompted by the USA Today article, Consumer Sentiment Stat Hints that Bull Market May be Stalling Out, that highlighted a data point from the recent University of Michigan Sentiment Survey. In the survey it was noted that 65% of individuals surveyed believe stock prices rise over the next twelve months. This is a high level for the survey and a contrarian data point for stocks. The conclusion from that 2012 conversation was equities were attractive and our firm wrote as much in our third quarter 2012 newsletter. Additionally, I shared a Fidelity white paper, U.S. Equities: Light At The End Of The Tunnel. An interesting read in retrospect.

Much was occurring in 2012 with the 10-year Treasury yield below 2% and the Federal Reserve providing massive monetary support (QE) to the economy, i.e., buying $40 billion of mortgage bonds each month. This was occurring on the back of an equity market that was up 100% from the March 2009 low to June 2012. Both print and television financial commentary at the time was intimating concern for the markets.



A CNN Money article from September 2012 was titled, Stocks End Week At Multi Year Highs. In the article a link was provide to, Are Investors Getting Too Greedy which referenced CNN Money's Fear & Greed Index that was flashing an extreme Greed level of 93. Several weeks later and into the first week of October 2012, Sam Zell, Chairman of Equity Group Investments, stated in an interview on CNBC, "We're heading for a recession and that's exactly what you're looking at now."

Five years after 2012 to today and following all the consternation about bubbles, corrections and recessions, the U.S. equity market (S&P 500 Index) is up an additional 87% and the economy has avoided a recession. Certainly the period from 2015 through the third quarter of 2016 was a choppy one with the S&P 500 Index trading mostly sideways for almost two years. But so far in 2017, U.S. stocks seem to know only one direction and that is up, with the S&P 500 Index returning just under 13% on a price only basis with very little downside volatility


Raising the bubble question now is even more appropriate today then it was five years ago given how far the equity markets have risen over the last five years. Also, market data is decidedly different and is summarized below. Some of the data was taken from the earlier cited Fidelity white paper. If any variable in the below table jumps out at readers, it should be the higher valuation of the S&P 500 Index based on the price earnings ratio or P/E, 56.5% higher, while earnings are higher by only 17.5% during the same time period. In other words, the market advance over the last five years has largely been supported by multiple or P/E expansion. Sentiment data is also more bullish at the moment, but not at a level that has historically been associated with a bear market type downturn.


Certainly given current market valuation levels, earnings growth will be important for strong S&P 500 Index returns as we look ahead. Twelve month trailing earnings as of June 2017 does capture the energy weakness in 2012; however, when evaluating the year over year June 2017 to June 2018 estimated operating earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 Index, earnings growth is expected to equal about 18% and in line with the forward P/E. On a calendar year basis, comparing 2018 to 2017, earnings growth is expected at a respectable low double digit growth rate.

In a couple of recent posts I have noted the Fed's desire to actually begin withdrawing liquidity from the market and they announced as much in last week's Fed statement with a start date beginning next month. An old adage that gets repeated around Fed accommodation changes is, 'don't fight the Fed'. Just as the Fed has been supply liquidity since the onset of the financial crisis, and this has likely had some positive impact on asset prices, withdrawing liquidity can be disrupting on the way out. We will be on guard for potential asset price volatility, but will note, historically, stocks have been positively correlated to the rate moves when they occur below 5%.

In summary, we were strongly bullish in 2012 given equity valuations and a high equity risk premium. We do not expect a recession near term, but believe today that more pressure falls on companies to generate earnings growth, which we do think is likely, but probably not a market where a rising tide raises all boats.


In client accounts we have reduced some equity investments where we believe earnings growth is more challenged  and taken profits in some stocks that have moved higher and gotten ahead of valuations. At the same time, we have allocated equity investments to developed and emerging international markets over the last 18-months or so. This allocation adjustment has been a positive for clients and we continue to find valuations outside the U.S attractive.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Higher Bond Yields A Headwind For Technology Stocks

In a recent note from the John Murphy of the stockcharts.com website ($$) he notes technology stocks tend to have an inverse relationship to bond yields. In his commentary he noted,
  • "One of the lesser known intermarket principles is the inverse link between bond yields and technology stocks' relative performance...Growth stocks like technology...do better in a slower economy which is usually associated with low interest rates."
  • "Value stocks (like banks) do better in a stronger economy with rising bond yields...Rising global bond yields could make the going tougher for technology stocks."
The below chart was included with his comment and shows the inverse relationship between the 10-Year Treasury yield (red line) to a ratio of the Technology SPDR (XLK) divided by the S&P 500 Index. Jon Murphy notes, "Rising rates this past month may again be contributing to tech selling, especially with a more hawkish sounding Fed. The inflationary impact of rising energy prices may also give the Fed more cover for a December rate hike."


Weakness is beginning to show in some of the large cap technology stocks. Below is a chart of the average return of Apple, Alphabet and Amazon for month to date in September. This time period is a short three weeks, but the performance of large cap technology stocks is something investors will want to follow as the last three months of the year unfold.


Disclosure: Firm/family long AAPL, GOOGL


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Market Is In An Uptrend And Trends Tend To Persist

One strategist I read regularly and who prepares weekly technical commentary, Charles Kirk at The Kirk Report, had a reference in this week's report relative to the strength of the current market. Kirk highlighted the below quote from James DePorre,

"If you simply focus on what the pricing action is saying, then your job of profitably navigating the market becomes a lot less complex. The simple fact is that we are in a very long-term uptrend, and trends tend to persist. The media might have all sorts of headlines to create their narrative, but all we really need to know is that the odds favor the bulls in an uptrend and vice versa. At some point, that pattern (and trend) will change, but trying to predict it ahead of time is a hard way to make a living."
The quote is certainly applicable in the equity market environment investors are currently experiencing as corrections and pullbacks seem to be nearly few and far between. I noted this lack of volatility in a post late last week, The Risk Of De-Risking The Equity Portfolio. And as it relates to trends, over the long term, the market trend is one that moves higher as can be seen in the below chart. An important observation from the below chart is the fact the line mapping the current market advance falls between long term support (green line) and resistance (red line.) So one might say the market is neither oversold or overbought from a technical perspective when only evaluating the below chart.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Stocks Need Some Healthy Competition

It seems a day does not go by where various strategists lament the market's valuation and lack of any significant pullback in over a year and a half. Not only are the valuations of a number of equity indices above their long term average, some might say the valuations are indicative of the speculative froth in the market. One data point highlighted is the margin debt level. Certainly margin debt has increased as can be seen in the first chart below. However, the second chart shows that margin debt as a percentage of total equity market capitalization has remained fairly stable since 2010. A good article on evaluating margin debt can be found in a MarketWatch article from a few years back, Cash vs. margin debt is the real problem for this market.



Friday, September 15, 2017

The Risk Of De-risking The Equity Portfolio

The unique aspect of the current U.S equity market has been the market's desire to move higher without any significant pullback. As the below chart shows, the last correction (double digit decline) occurred in early 2016 and culminated with a 13.3% decline ending February 11, 2016. Since the February correction, two other pullbacks of around 5% occurred around June 2016 and November 2016.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Spike Higher In Bullish Sentiment

In today's Sentiment Survey release by the American Association of Individual Investors, bullish sentiment jump twelve percentage points to 41.3%. All of the increase in bullish investor sentiment come from a 13.8 percentage point drop in bearish sentiment as can be seen in the second chart below.



The bull/bear spread of 19.3 is the second highest of the year following early January's 20.97 bull/bear spread.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

S&P And MSCI May Change The Composition Of The Telecommunications Sector

In July of this year S&P Dow Jones Indices and MSCI announced they were considering making changes to the current GICS Telecommunications Sector. Any changes would be announced in November and go into effect in 2018. Currently, the telecommunications sector represents about 2% of the S&P 500 Index. S&P's and MSCI's intent is to broaden the composition of the sector and rename it Communications Services with the sector weight increasing to approximately 10% of the S&P 500 Index. As noted in the release,
"The main proposal set out in the consultation paper is the creation of a Communication Services Sector, comprised of the current Telecommunication Services Sector, Media Industry Group, and specific companies from the Software & Services Industry Group."
Sector weights in other indexes would be impacted as well with a couple of those noted below. As an example, Communications Services would increase to 13.7% from 1% in the Russell 1000 Growth Index. In the S&P 500 Index, the Information Technology sector would decline to 18.4% from the current 23.3% weighting.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

Growth Outperforming Value And The Economic Cycle

One style of the market that has outperformed, except in 2016, has been growth type equities. In 2016 value outperformed growth with a value outperformance burst subsequent to the election. Value's outperformance essentially ended at the beginning of this year though.



Friday, September 01, 2017

Equity Market Nears Record High And Investors Become Less Bullish

As the equity market nears a record high, both institutional and individual investors continue to indicate they are less bullish. The NAAIM Exposure Index continues to decline with long equity exposure down to 77%.


Yesterday's AAII Sentiment Survey report showed bullish sentiment fell another 3.1 percentage points to 25% and now is below the minus one standard deviation level for bullish sentiment. 



The market rarely rewards investors for being properly positioned for a market pullback. Sentiment measures are contrarian ones and by these measures only, this widespread skepticism would suggest the market might continue to move higher.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

DowDupont Will Be Included In Dow Jones Industrial Average Index

As many readers know, effective September 1, Dow Chemical (DOW) and DuPont (DD) will merge into one company, DowDupont (DWDP). Effective that same day, S&P Dow Jones Indices will replace DuPont, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index, with DowDuPont. S&P notes,
"Replacing du Pont with the new DowDuPont allows the Dow Jones Industrial Average to maintain its exposure to the Materials sector....The change won’t cause any disruption in the level of the index. The divisor used to calculate the index from the component’s prices on their respective home exchanges will be changed prior to the opening on September 1. This procedure prevents any distortion in the index’s reflection of the portion of the U.S. stock market it is designed to measure."