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

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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.

 

 

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.

 

Markets – Technicals, Volume, Participation and Complacency Do Matter

Markets – Technicals, Volume, Participation and Complacency Do Matter

August is behind us as is the summer trading season and for 2012, instead of a summer crash, Mr. Market brought us a low volume and low volatility rally. The trading action evolved into a neat trading channel from the lows put in on June 4th through the recent highs put in on August 21st. The one standard deviation regression channel on the chart below tells the story best as we have traded within it for nearly three months now. The narrowing of volatility towards the end of the month really kept the trading action compact and since early August, exclusively above the midpoint of the channel which was only broken again over the past couple of days.

The market should again straddle the 1400 SPX and 13000 Dow levels going into a short holiday week full of economic headlines. The biggie obviously will be what the ECB brings to market to deal with the run on sovereign bonds of countries such as Spain and Italy. These nations cannot endure such high rates for much longer and are in dire need of a bailout. We have already begun to get some details and it seems that the ECB will be buying short term bonds of these nations to keep short term borrowing costs low. There are many hurdles to overcome as the legality of this program will be challenged particularly by the Germans. The details of what these countries are going to have to “give up” to get this ECB assistance is still a huge murky subject . Presumably we can expect the ECB to ask for “the first born” and it remains to be seen if Spain and others are willing to give up so much control. As was the case with the Fed last week, we seem to find “balance” at the 1395 to 1403 level in the broad market SPX going into these headlines.

This weekend and into today we got a very clear look at the ever slowing global growth picture. Pretty much across the board, the economic data is pointing to a pullback in manufacturing. Not exactly what the market wanted to see heading into September… or is it?… The slowing pace of manufacturing should make the case for easing that much more clear for the Fed and ECB which should (in today’s upside down market) be interpreted as bullish for risk assets. Well, today at least, markets are looking at the data very cautiously and perhaps positing that the central banks are behind the curve here as the slowing global economy has picked up some steam to the downside.

The recent global economic data does not portend well to upcoming Q3 corporate earnings season. There appears to have been a strong slowdown in economic activity over the past couple of months and clearly these will be reflected in the upcoming earnings cycle. Over the next few weeks, I expect quite a bit of analysts to come in and adjust earnings expectations lower for the quarter and for year-end.

So, in the very near term, I am still bearish. Not as bearish as I was at SPY 143.09 on August 21st but I think we are certainly headed lower within this established trading pattern to test supports at SPY 137.50 and slightly higher. Where we go from there really depends on very precise binary outcomes to some of these upcoming headlines so to speculate too far ahead at this moment would be just that, speculation.

 

 

 

 

Markets- Held Hostage By The Central Bankers

Markets- Held Hostage By The Central Bankers

There is an incredible amount of anxiety in global financial markets in regards to what the central banks of Europe and the US have in store over the next 2 weeks. Earlier in the summer when the S&P 500 traded at 1280 and unemployment seemed ready to turn higher once again, the probability of more stimulus from the Federal Reserve was high.

As the summer comes to an end, the Fed through its use of the bully pulpit and timely comments via its “voice” at the WSJ did succeed in buying time to analyze the incoming economic data points. Over in Europe, the head of the ECB, Mario Draghi managed the same with very strong indications that the ECB was going to do whatever it took to ensure the survival of the Euro.

The result of these promises simply stated are 140 or so S&P 500 points and some euro stability. I am not going to present exact figures on this but suffice it to say that this is quite a substantial move on a “promise” to do something rather than the actual delivery of action. The market as a discounting mechanism has already priced in some additional easing at this point, exactly how much obviously depends on what comes forth from the central bankers but I am of the opinion that there is better than fair chance that the market will be somewhat disappointed by what is actually delivered.

Ben Bernanke has an unbelievably difficult job. In no way do I fault him for what ails our economy or stock market at the moment but a review on the effectiveness of these quantitative easing program down the road will arrive at the conclusion that it has been a failure. It has failed because the initial program was not nearly large enough in scope and because it was not accompanied by fiscal policy. Because of this piece meal approach, the market begged and got QE2 and is now begging and will probably get QE3 which will be even more short lived in effect than its predecessor.

It’s somewhat disingenuous of me or anyone really to critic this Fed. I doubt many could have done a better job in dealing with the crisis from a monetary policy standpoint than Ben Bernanke. Nonetheless, it has failed in its purpose of stimulating economic activity and spurring job growth. The fiscal policy issues facing the nation and the stubbornly partisan politics in Washington which refuses to put country first and ideology second in order to address them, has to bear a huge chunk of the blame in this failure.

The end result for us (the American taxpayers), the ultimate losers in this mess, is that we are now at a serious crossroads having mortgaged a good chunk of our children’s future economic health in this exercise. Will more QE “work”? of course it won’t in the sense that liquidity is not the problem facing this economy, It’s the confidence, the visibility, to put this liquidity to work in the economy for more than 5 minutes.

The uncertainty we hear so much about is very real and it does affect how businesses plan for the future. The fact remains that corporate America has done a remarkable job managing through this period and turning over a profit to shareholders. The problem is that they have done this through cost management and through very favorable refinancing of their longer term debt, as opposed to growing business holistically.

This along with favorable currency exchanges over the past several years have allowed companies to plug along and survive if you will, in a very treacherous environment. The fact remains that at some point, folks have to get back to work. Companies have to implement longer term investment plans and have the confidence that the available liquidity will be supported by clear and competitive fiscal policies. That is certainly not the case at the moment.

While QE will not achieve these goals, it will provide another expensive, provisory “kick in the behind” to risk assets. The reason for this is that it will stimulate flow of cash to the stock market and provide another round of artificial thrust to risk assets. Borrowing cash at .25% to invest in the market is a no brainer when everyone is doing the same. The effect is an artificial push higher in asset prices until the “drug” wears off and the addicted party comes back to beg for more. No matter your views on this, if you are in the “stock investing business”, you have two choices, play along or get out. You can’t fight the Fed when these programs are enacted, especially in the short term.

The case for the ECB is even more complex than what we face in the US. It is involves factors that we do not have to deal with, well, at least for now, which are factors relating to sovereign issues and in the actual structure of the European financial union. The demise of the US dollar is nowhere near the “edge of the cliff” as is the Euro. The ECB however does have the ability to learn from the Feds missteps with its QE programs and not make the same errors. A Band-Aid approach by the ECB here would be very damaging to that “confidence factor” I mentioned above.

I read a very simple and concise commentary today from an analyst referencing sentiment as measured by asset flow within the Rydex family of funds. The two basic takeaways is that although many of the traditional metrics we use to gauge the market’s next directional steps are pointing decidedly bearish, the next directional steps are going to be decided by a group of bankers meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and another set meeting in Brussels. What ensues next is anybody’s guess.

 

Markets- All About The Central Bankers These Days

Markets- All About The Central Bankers These Days

Residents of South Florida dodged a bullet with tropical storm Issac. The storm jogged just slightly west after crossing the eastern portion of Cuba which placed its trajectory just outside of the Florida Keys into the Gulf of Mexico. The storm brought plenty of rain and some strong gusts but in the scheme of things, South Florida can breathe a sigh of relief. The storm is now heading NNW and on track to make landfall in the Louisiana/Alabama Gulf Coast in an area that has had more than its fair share of natural disasters over the past 10 years.

Markets opened this morning in a relatively subdued fashion with really very few sectors showing definitive relative strength. Apple (AAPL) shot higher after its win in the court battle with Samsung over patent infringement and that seemed to be enough to at least early on, keep markets slightly positive. Breadth at midday is terribly narrow and perhaps as expected, many traders are going to take a wait and see on what comes out of the Fed this coming Friday when Bernanke is expected to make comments following the symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The ECB is also potential on the verge of announcing easing measures at their next scheduled meeting of September 6th.

My take is that markets may go into this volatile period of headline risk at the midpoint of the regression channel from the recent lows of June 4th at about SPX 1400. We are trading at around 1413 at the moment so we will probably chop lower over the next few days on an absence of buyers and in extremely light summer volume. Support at 1400 should contain any downside push as participants take positions ahead of the Central bank announcements.

Additional QE may or may not be in the works for next month. The probability of more easing has certainly dropped over the past couple of weeks as opposed to earlier in the summer as economic indicators have suggested that perhaps the economy is weak but not at the pace yet where the Fed will take a very heavy handed approach additional easing particularly so close to the elections. It really is a 50/50 probability in my opinion and good arguments are being made on both sides of the spectrum.

As I have mentioned before (and often) what the ECB does here over the next couple of weeks is much more important for the immediate well-being of the equity markets than what is announced by the Fed. The ECB is reaching the end of the rope as far as market confidence is concerned and they need to bring forth a very strong and credible plan to stem the rising of sovereign interest rates for the periphery countries. The ECB needs to send a clear message that they have the will and firepower to stem the crisis. Failure at this juncture could really bring forth an acceleration of the euro crisis. On the other side of the coin, should they (ECB/FED) wow the market and succeed in keeping the bond vigilantes at bay, the equity market should again kick into high gear.

With growth slowing across the globe, the prospects for higher equity prices are tied to the hip of more central bank intervention and fiscal reform. In the near term at least, the likelihood of the former is still better than the latter.

 

 

 

Markets-The Best Traders Are Always Prepared To Be Wrong

Markets-The Best Traders Are Always Prepared To Be Wrong

Lots of chatter on the blogosphere and Twitter in regards to the market’s next step. There are plenty of excellent arguments on both sides of the spectrum and it seems most participants, no matter if bullish or bearish, can easily present a counter argument to the many conflicting indicators. Bulls will site things as short interest being particularly high (a classic contrarian bullish sign) and bears will site the very low levels on the VIX as an example of complacency and extreme exposure to headline risk as a reason to head for the hills. These among many other arguments being expressed by traders both bullish and bearish are valid and merit consideration.

What I have not heard much about lately is the fact that at the moment, insurance (put options) against sharp market swoons, particularly swoons that may occur sooner rather than later, are at very attractive prices. A broker worth his salt, should be advising his clients about exactly this factor not whether there is another 20 or 30 points left to the upside. At this juncture, the trading considerations are crystal clear from both a technical and fundamental standpoint.

You say they are not? Well they are. We are in a bullish trend at the top of a very well defined trading pattern near the highs of the year. The next steps, from a technical standpoint, are either us breaking this uptrend channel and pushing through to set new highs for 2012 and beyond or fail here and make another trip lower to test support at the bottom rails of this channel 35 or so SPX handles lower and perhaps lower.

The VIX at this juncture should be reflecting more “indecision” and “fear” on the part of traders because in either scenario, the next move should be much more volatile than the action from the past couple of weeks. The reason it is not is because the Federal Reserve and the ECB have made strong dovish comments regarding monetary policy which most participants are taking to mean more QE from the Fed and some sort of program from the ECB to derail speculation in the sovereign bond market for the periphery countries, in particular Spain and Italy.

While everyone is trying to figure out the next directional move, the point remains that the market is giving participants an opportunity to buy some short term insurance at a very reasonable price. Implied volatility is at very subdued levels, particularly in the front months. If you have been long the market and are holding on to some nice gains from the recent leg of this rally, terrific! Be smart about protecting your gains and not giving them all back if the market does indeed selloff. You may not fully capture the next few handles but you will be able to withstand any minor shocks without necessarily “running for the hills” and puking out of positions.

Markets are going to do what they are going to do. There is no ”magic” indicator that will guarantee an optimal resolution every time and the best we can do is review the pros and cons to our thesis and execute a plan. The market tends to punish the side with the loudest voice and you can say that “this time it’s different” (heard it today) and that “price is truth” (heard that today too) or that ”9 out of the last 10 times the market did this or that” (hear that every day) until the cows come home but in the end when it comes down to basic dollars and cents it’s about risk versus reward and protecting your capital first. When it’s cheap to do so, even better.