Real Estate Market Bubble… Again?

 Real Estate Markets In Bubble Territory… Again?
Real Estate Market BubbleIn 2006, the U.S. experienced a Real Estate Market Bubble with unimaginable consequences. Homeowner incentives led to overbuilding and too many people were willing to pay skyhigh prices for them with the help of liberal (and at times, fraudulent) mortgages. Home prices today are about 1 percent off of that 2006  peak.

When the housing market collapsed, many lost their primary savings asset, their homes. Home prices sank for years, finally stabilizing in 2012. Today,  the average national home price is at $275,000, which is  just .05 percent of a record high.

Is today’s Real Estate environment any different?

The difference from a decade ago today is that these skyrocketing prices are not being driven by very liberal mortgages that most can’t afford. They are being driven by a lack of homes for sale, as well as record low interest rates. Big difference but a bubble nonetheless. The percent of income required to buy the average house today is 20 percent while in 2006 it was 35 percent. Rates are low, and that makes an important impact on affordability.

The problem is if interest rates start to move up, affordability would decrease. Also, low rates may make homes affordable, but an important number of potential buyers would still not qualify for those low rates or be able to come up with the down payments.

Home equity is also pushing prices higher.

Today, homeowners  have considerably more equity in their homes, roughly 45%,  than they did in the 2006 housing bubble, when they had roughly 25 %. That allows more room for prices to come down and for homeowners to still stay above the red line.

Rental demand is up across the board but primarily for single-family homes, is strong and serves as an income stream for investors. As younger folks age into their home buying years, more than ever before they are choosing to rent, because they either don’t meet mortgage underwriting requirements or are unable to save for a down payment because rents sky-high.

Where do we go from here?

All these factors, unique to today’s housing market, continue to put upward pressure on home prices. Among the nation’s 40 largest cities, 14 have already seen home prices reach new highs. They include, Boston, MA, Charlotte, NC, Austin, TX, Dallas, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco Seattle, Denver and Pittsburgh .  A notable exception was San Jose, California, which boasts some of the highest home prices in the nation, did fall off its highs and absurd price increases in San Francisco are decreasing.

These factors indicate a national real estate market that is much healthier but one that is still prone to major downside consequences. While the outcome of this new bubble may not be as harmful to homeowners and the economy, it could very well hurt those late comers.

The speed of the federal reserve rate hikes will have a say on whether the bursting of this bubble is a messy one or not. A Federal Reserve way behind the curve trying to contain inflation will hold the key to this dynamic.

 

Stock Market Updates – Quantitative, Fundamental and Technical Analysis… In That Order!

Stock market updatesIt has been some time since I wrote a Stock Market Updates blog post and it feels good to share my opinions in this format again!

Today’s post deals with my “order of analysis” and it stems from a conversation I had with a colleague regarding how I approach the myriad of investing and trading decisions in the course of trying to narrow down the best possible vehicles where to deploy capital.

Stocks go up, go down or stay flat in price. If you are long (own the stock) and the stock goes up, you are going to make a profit. If you are long and the stock goes down in price, you are going to incur a loss. If what you own stays stagnant in price you will lose the opportunity cost of allocating your capital elsewhere but in real dollars and cents, beyond the transaction costs, you will not have incurred a gain or a loss. Simple right?

Well it is! What is not simple is this:

How do I know what and when to buy a stock and when to sell it?

First let’s consider some well know facts. Stocks in the long run have about a 70% to 75% chance of being higher or flat on a daily basis. That is a very powerful statement of fact and the primary reason why most individual investors should stay far away from shorting stocks. Shorting stocks is when you borrow shares on margin in hope of closing the trade at a lower price point. Or simply stated, when your bet is that the stock will go down.

So if we agree 75% of the time stocks go up or stay flat, then it follows that our job as investors and traders is to choose those stocks that have a better probability of going up! Of course easier said than done… and in there lies the topic of this post.

 

Quantitative, Fundamental, Technical…

As a market participant I always chuckle at those debates of who is right or wrong or which discipline is “best”, Quantitative Analysis, Fundamental Analysis or Technical Analysis. If you click on the links, you will get a more in-depth description of  each but for the purpose of this article, lets look at it as such:

Quantitative analysis, tries to arrive at an answer by evaluating questions of “How much”.

 

Real buy and sell figures at various price points over time. Some folks out there have begun calling this “evidence based” investing. I am good with quantitative analysis. No need to rename something that has been around for many years just for the sake of launching a new marketing campaign.

This is a factor that I consider paramount. I want to buy a stock that is in the beginning of an accumulation phase. No matter how good a stock may seem from a fundamental or technical basis, if no one is buying the stock, it will languish and remain flat. Do we want our limited allocation of money to be deployed to a stock that will more than likely remain flat? The answer is definitely no. As individual investors we have a limited amount of cash to deploy to our investment positions and a flat stock does us no good.

Many so-called “value” stocks fall under this criteria. Often a stock looks great from a fundamental point of view but for some reason or another it goes unnoticed by the market. If no one is buying it does it matter if it’s a great fundamental story? What is the point of holding a stock for years with the hope that the market will eventually recognize what you have?

Once we find stocks that pass our quantitative analysis and screens, the next thing we look at is the fundamental merits of these stocks. In other words we look to answer the following:

Do I agree with the fundamental reason behind the quantifiable buying of the stock?

Fundamental analysis refers to a company’s business metrics. Is the company earning a profit? is it over valued versus its peers? does it have a price to earnings ratio above the broad market benchmark and so forth. I want to own stocks that are beginning to move higher whose fundamental story makes sense to me. Does the company make a product or offer a service I support and believe in?

Some traders will say this doesn’t matter. “who cares if it’s a “good” company or stock…it’s moving so just buy it” Well this may work in the near term but a stock will eventually trade-off of reality. A hyped up stock with poor fundamentals may fly high quickly but will fall just as quickly. I for one prefer to own stocks I believe in and understand from a fundamental point of view.

 

Technical indicators and pattern recognition

Lastly and least important of all in my opinion is technical analysis. Technical analysis is esoteric in the sense that it can be referred to as art just as easily as it could science. Patterns and the action of traders, (buy or sell) when these patterns are recognized in charts can and do move markets.

Over the years, many quantitative indicators have been lumped into the broad category of “technical analysis” incorrectly. At its pure sense, technical analysis is the study of price action. Technical analysts use price charts to try to determine when both short-term and longer term price inflections are about to occur. In the near term, an understanding of technical analysis can help better an entry or exit point once you are ready to place your trade.

So there you are! Quantitative + Fundamental + Technical analysis. All three have their place, some more so than others. Keep your analysis to this order and watch your profits grow !

 

 

 

All About the Brightest, Tastiest Fruit of Them All … Apple!

All About the Brightest, Tastiest Fruit of Them All … Apple!

Apple (AAPL) is obviously the most systemically important company on the planet today. The bull market over the past couple of years has been predicated on two very clear factors, one is quantitative easing by the Fed and the other is Apple continuing its meteoric success. Take one or the other away and we have to ask much different questions in order to formulate an investment opinion in the current market.

The Fed has promised QE for as long as is needed

This action has masked some real “sins” in today’s market while the Fed’s “grand experiment” unfolds. With this onslaught of liquidity, anybody managing money has bought shares of the most hyped (for good reason) company in the history of companies! The growth in Apple’s market value over this year alone is staggering and generally speaking its success is also based on two factors.

The first is the fact that the company puts out great products that everyone wants to own and the second is that it has been one of the better managed corporations in modern financial history. Add beta chasing liquidity to the mix and you have an explosive combination.

Recently the stock has faltered.

It is down nearly 10% from its high of the year and some are rightfully questioning its staying power. The launch of the iphone 5 has been lackluster (from the perspective of what we expect from Apple) and there have been some technical gremlins which are unusual for this company. For traders, even for traders who do not trade AAPL (me) the performance of this stock is crucially important because of its weighing in the broad indices and the impact that this company has on peripheral names, those companies whose business model is dominated by supplying Apple with components and services.

My take is that if Apple doesn’t work in the current market environment, the market in general doesn’t work. Like I mentioned above, the bullish thesis here is a double pronged spear, take one out and the other falters. It won’t be the case forever, but it is the case now.

Looking at a price chart of Apple

reviewing the past couple of years of price action, there is a clear pattern of sharp pushes higher followed by periods of choppy consolidation or as some call digestion. These have invariably been periods where weaker hands handed over shares to stronger hands at lower prices only to see sharp continuations of the upward momentum move. Nothing wrong with this action whatsoever.

Those trading, speculating on short term moves will be much less tolerant of price swings against them and are going to be the first out the door. That is trading 101. Those with a longer timeframe will revert to the fundamental argument that Apple stock is “cheap” and use weakness to build positions.

Since 2011 we have had 8 such periods where shares changed hands, from weak to strong, in this profit taking/shake out action. All eight times the stock managed sharp rises while trying to lasso the runaway train and catch the corrective downturn has been difficult (putting it mildly).

We are at another important juncture with Apple.

There are many questions regarding the potential for a more structural change in the fundamental outlook for Apple and end of year profit taking from those managers heavily invested in the name is a strong possibility. So far I don’t see it. There has been very little selling pressure in the name beyond what we would characterize as normal profit taking by small specs. From a quantitative perspective, the stock has not traded beyond 2 standard deviations from its 40 day moving average for very long before a sharp reversal.

Could this be the “IT” moment? Of course it can, but it has been an unwise bet for some time and in my opinion one that has major implications for the broad market.

 

 

 

Earning – A Wide Angle Lens Look At The Upcoming Quarter

Wide Angle Lens Look At The Upcoming Quarter

Time to take a “wide angle” view of this market to get our bearings on where we stand heading into this last quarter of the year. It has been a tough trading year for most hedging strategies as the “one way” up market has, so far this year, made alpha generation a very tough affair and beta chasing the order of the day. The outlook heading into year-end is book cased by two very strong arguments. As I mentioned above, there is no denying that many money managers are going into this quarter behind their benchmarks and the scenario for a year end “mark up” in equities could be a real catalyst for the bulls.

The resolution of the extreme uncertainty that will come about by the outcome of the elections should also be supportive of a push higher no matter who wins the election. Business and markets in general can deal with a tremendous amount of obstacles but one thing that it often has trouble with is lack of visibility or uncertainty. Make no mistake about it, the outcome of the elections will make a huge difference in the market environment going forward but the difference is from “good to better” as opposed to “good versus bad” in my opinion.

The effect on the economy

going forward by which side wins the elections will be drastically different in my opinion but the market will deal with that in due course. The ever more dovish Fed stands ready with gazillions of dollar at the beckon call of financial markets and the “Bernanke Put”, which investors have come to rely on so heavily, stands ready to bailout markets.

The recent throw the kitchen sink announcements of QE should provide ample liquidity which banks will gladly throw put to work in the stock market.

Against this rosy backdrop lies the ever worsening domestic and Global economies. The slowdown that started to rear its ugly head back in March of this year has escalated and the recent economic data points have been worsening.

Corporate earnings are also on the downside

many companies have slashed earnings outlook for the 4th quarter which was heavily weighted in the overall projections for the S&P 500 year end EPS targets. This fundamental slowdown in earnings growth will weigh on a market trading near multi year highs.

Headline risks abound.

The situation in Europe is far from over and markets are vulnerable to shock events from this crisis. Like it or not, this risk premium will be with us for a while and will keep multiples pegged to the lower extremes of the recent trend.

The political brinksmanship we are sure to see in dealing with the fiscal cliff later this year will augment that headline risk premium as I am fairly certain it will be a drawn out affair particularly if President Obama wins re-election and the Republicans maintain control of the House.

Finally from a technical standpoint…

markets are going into the quarter somewhat overbought. The one way move higher since early June had pushed the S&P 500 into real overbought levels at 3 standard deviations from its 34 week moving averages. This had not happened since early April of 2010, a period that was soon followed by a sharp pullback. We have backed off of this extreme over the past 2 weeks but could very well consolidate some more.

From a price perspective…

we are right at the midpoint on the 1 standard deviation regression channel from the March 2009 lows and the recent highs. From this vantage point, a move lower is very probable and my first major downside target here would be 1375 on the SPX. The stochastic oscillator and the accumulation/distribution histogram have shown some signs that support this thesis.

So, from a broad perspective, there you have it. There are several compelling reasons to be either bullish or bearish here. Figuring out when to be either is the name of the game.

 

 

Wide Angle Lens Look At The Upcoming Quarter

Time to take a “wide angle” view of this market to get our bearings on where we stand heading into this last quarter of the year. It has been a tough trading year for most hedging strategies as the “one way” up market has, so far this year, made alpha generation a very tough affair and beta chasing the order of the day. The outlook heading into year-end is book cased by two very strong arguments. As I mentioned above, there is no denying that many money managers are going into this quarter behind their benchmarks and the scenario for a year end “mark up” in equities could be a real catalyst for the bulls. The resolution of the extreme uncertainty that will come about by the outcome of the elections should also be supportive of a push higher no matter who wins the election. Business and markets in general can deal with a tremendous amount of obstacles but one thing that it often has trouble with is lack of visibility or uncertainty. Make no mistake about it, the outcome of the elections will make a huge difference in the market environment going forward but the difference is from “good to better” as opposed to “good versus bad” in my opinion. The effect on the economy going forward by which side wins the elections will be drastically different in my opinion but the market will deal with that in due course. The ever more dovish Fed stands ready with gazillions of dollar at the beckon call of financial markets and the “Bernanke Put”, which investors have come to rely on so heavily, stands ready to bailout markets. The recent throw the kitchen sink announcements of QE should provide ample liquidity which banks will gladly throw put to work in the stock market.

Against this rosy backdrop lies the ever worsening domestic and Global economies. The slowdown that started to rear its ugly head back in March of this year has escalated and the recent economic data points have been worsening. Today’s Chicago PMI was one of the worst reports I have seen in a while. The Fed had reason to go so big and if the data points are any indication, we may be headed to another recession in 2013. Corporate earnings are also on the downside and many companies have slashed earnings outlook for the 4th quarter which was heavily weighted in the overall projections for the S&P 500 year end EPS targets. This fundamental slowdown in earnings growth will weigh on a market trading near multi year highs.

Headline risks abound. The situation in Europe is far from over and markets are vulnerable to shock events from this crisis. Like it or not, this risk premium will be with us for a while and will keep multiples pegged to the lower extremes of the recent trend. The political brinksmanship we are sure to see in dealing with the fiscal cliff later this year will augment that headline risk premium as I am fairly certain it will be a drawn out affair particularly if President Obama wins re-election and the Republicans maintain control of the House.

Finally from a technical standpoint, markets are going into the quarter somewhat overbought. The one way move higher since early June had pushed the S&P 500 into real overbought levels at 3 standard deviations from its 34 week moving averages. This had not happened since early April of 2010, a period that was soon followed by a sharp pullback. We have backed off of this extreme over the past 2 weeks but could very well consolidate some more. From a price perspective we are right at the midpoint on the 1 standard deviation regression channel from the March 2009 lows and the recent highs. From this vantage point, a move lower is very probable and my first major downside target here would be 1375 on the SPX. The stochastic oscillator and the accumulation/distribution histogram have shown some signs that support this thesis.

So, from a broad perspective, there you have it. There are several compelling reasons to be either bullish or bearish here. Figuring out when to be either is the name of the game.

C.J. Mendes

cjm

Trading Options For Income
8770 Sunset Drive 201
Miami Florida 33143

http://www.tradingoptionsforincome.com

 

Markets- The “Nothing Matters” Equity Markets

The “Nothing Matters” Market

The “nothing matters” calls from pundits seem to be picking up steam. Low volume? doesn’t matter, low VIX? doesn’t matter, participation rates? doesn’t matter, market structure issues? doesn’t matter, corporate profits?? Doesn’t matter…. According to what many pundits out there seem to be saying, none of the above matters because the Federal Reserve has said they will ease for as long as necessary to get unemployment to 5.5% and the economy moving again…

In general terms, fighting the Fed has been a losing proposition going back to the period following the Great Depression but in all fairness, we have not seen Fed intervention to this magnitude before. Fair to say that we are in unchartered waters in this regard and while future generations will be able to look and analyze the “causes and effects” of these extraordinary economic times, we, at the present moment can only define the “causes” and speculate on the  “effects”.

Nonetheless, I am not ready to buy into the “nothing matters” argument.

Trading volume for example has been on the soft side for some time now. There are many reasons for this such as the higher average price of stocks these days but the real issue when considering volume is its composition and general participation.

In the past, market volume was comprised of much more retail based, individual investors along with traditional institutional volume and since the early ‘00s, the high frequency and algorithmic traders. Today the retail investor is missing in action, institutions are trading much more in Dark Pools of liquidity outside of the NYSE and high frequency and algorithmic traders make up between 60 and 70% of all trading volume. No matter how you slice it, volume and participation matter.

I think corporate profits also matter

as do the multiples that investors are willing to pay in this environment. I think we are living in a “show me market” where higher valuations will only come about through profit expansion. Analysts and investors will be very careful to pay much higher multiples in this environment of uncertainty and lack of visibility.

While there is room for some multiples expansion and I do think investors will pay slightly higher multiples soon, I don’t buy the “parabolic” move higher in equity prices many are forecasting. I think the fact that we are still fighting to ignite some measure of inflation after so many of these easing programs should raise a red flag that investors are not going to drink the “magic potion” and buy risk assets indiscriminately as perhaps the Fed wants them to.

Market structure matters. Although I think I am pretty well versed in these structural issues, there are many out there that are much more in tune to the pitfalls of these deficiencies. If you are on Twitter, I strongly recommend you follow Eric Scott Hunsader @nanexllc for real insight into the issues plaguing the market today in regards to structure.

Complacency also matters

when complacency reaches extreme levels, the market tends punish those who disregard it. When too many participants forget that markets can go also down , the market has a way to remind folks of how things work.

There are several ways to measure complacency in the market place but the simplest yet effective method is to analyze the action in the cash VIX over the near and intermediate timeframes. Comparisons to periods too far in the past are meaningless because of the many other variables that need to be considered.

The cash VIX gives us a good picture of investor’s appetite for protection using SPX near term put options (30 days out). The VIX presents a picture of what investors are willing to pay in premium over historical volatility for the next 30 days. Complacency is subjective. One trader may look at a VIX reading of 15 and compare it to an actual statistical volatility reading of 10 and have an opinion that markets are not complacent while others can view it as the market discounting the importance of risks ahead.

One objective way to view this

is to take a historical view of how markets have performed at different VIX readings over a specific period of time. Again we want to stay within an intermediate timeframe to get an accurate picture and I like to compare cyclical periods within established longer term trends.

The most recent cycle comprises the bullish period from 2009 to the present. Below are charts of the SPYs and the VIX, weekly charts going back 5 years. So in brief, the VIX is another one of those indicators that shows true trader sentiment because it is backed by up with actions and not only words.

Within a look back period of five years, these levels below 14 have meant complacency and the market has punished that complacency by backing away every single time. Why does it back away? Because when traders are not properly hedged, they are apt to sell positions quickly at any sign of trouble. When traders are properly hedged, they are apt to be more patient with their thesis before changing course. Can the VIX push even lower ? Absolutely yes .

Historical volatility

(real, actual vol) has been very low and many interpret this as a confirmation that volatility is properly priced or even perhaps expensive at these current levels. By this definition, they could be correct. My take is that within this specific look back period, it is undeniable that the market has had trouble dealing with volatility at these low levels. Could it be different this time? Yes but I don’t believe so.

Markets are extended here and the market is complacent to risks. Volatility is very underpriced and the market may be under hedged to deal with a very weak earnings cycle ahead or any shock event. The bullish technical regression channel from June 4th is intact and we should eventually resolve higher, but I am not yet convinced that everything just doesn’t matter anymore…

 

 

Market-Equity Rally All About Short Covering Of The Euro

Market-Equity Rally All About Short Covering Of The Euro

So the Fed has come and gone and bestowed on us a mound full of “QE” to juice up our equity markets. Probability was great that they were going to do something but I think they may have managed to exceed the expectations of the market. It is an interesting dynamic for markets these days as we get more excited about the “band- aid” than the cure itself. So what does this mean for the market? Major sugar/caffeine high for risk assets and a major shellacking to the dollar. Precious metals like Gold and Silver are expected to surge higher as are commodities in response to the weakened dollar.

There are plenty of economist that can do a better job than I at detailing the effects of this action and for those interested, I recommend Cullen Roche at the Pragmatic Capitalist www.pragcap.com who does a great job highlighting the pitfalls of some of the recent actions taken by the Fed. My take on it is that it was coming like it or not but certainly not to the scope of what was unleashed yesterday. The initial reaction from the market was also certainly more robust than I expected but considering what was proposed, not really surprising. The action was punctuated by extreme short covering action and piggy back momentum trading.

Today we are seeing more short covering along with quite a bit of profit taking which isn’t unusual after a sharp move higher into the weekend. So where to from here? The usual reaction to these announcements mean a few days of “blow off” moves as those who placed short term bets take their profits/losses followed by a natural period of consolidation which doesn’t necessarily mean a big drop in the averages but instead consist of sideways trading for a period of time.

There are many calls on the financial channels and other social media outlets for traders to just hold their nose and not fight the Fed which is generally good advice in my opinion. The problem is that this Fed action has been largely priced into the market. The general consensus has been tilted to the Fed easing for some time now since June 4th at SPX 1275 or so when markets turned on a dime after reports from journalist John Hilsenrath over at the WSJ stated that the Fed was leaning heavily towards easing at its next FOMC policy meeting. The market has since rallied nearly 200 SPX points or around 15% and in my opinion, quite a bit of this Fed induced move has been priced into the market after this week. Could we keep going parabolic here? In certain areas yes such as precious metals, materials and commodity related stocks but in other areas I am of the opinion we may have some trouble pushing higher without some consolidation. Problem is that we are not the only ones to see/feel this so the possibility sure exists that we push straight higher from here without a thought!

Here is why I think we are near the end of this extended summer rally and some profit taking is ahead. The sentiment towards the $USD has reached pretty extreme bearish levels and there has been a substantial amount of short covering of the EUR following the ECB announcements. These short term extreme swings in sentiment almost always revert to a mean and I believe this time will not be different. The chart below is of the DXI (US dollar Index) which measures the dollar against a basket of major currencies. At the current reading of 78.86 , we are very near to levels where we have seen a reversion to the mean in the past. I like to use the 55 period moving averages on a 2 day timeframe on the DXI and since 2009 the DXI has rebounded at (around) 2 standard deviations below its 55 period MA several times as circled below. These aren’t exact entry/exit set ups but they simply tell us that the dollar may have fallen a bit too much a bit too fast and a reversion is likely in the short term.

The FXE which is the Euro Trust ETF is also another one I keep an eye on for these reversals. It is extremely overbought in our daily charts. The action this week did force a breakout to the upside (short covering) on the weekly studies but as I mention above, perhaps too fast, too soon and a reversion to the mean is warranted. A move back to around FXE 125 or so is likely as this massive short covering push unwinds. These currency dislocations should in all likelihood help markets consolidate some of the gains. My risk ranges on the SPX is 1417 to 1483 which is pretty wide after the major one way push higher. We will continue managing trade opportunities as they unfold taking some bullish and bearish trades within this risk range. In plain English, we could trade a bit higher before lower and I want to capture both moves.