Friday, January 9, 2015

The Morning Call---Who said "Titan III formation"?

The Morning Call


The Market

The indices (DJIA 17907, S&P 2062) soared yesterday, blowing through their 50 day moving averages and closing within uptrends across all timeframes: short term (16372-19172, 1889-2251), intermediate term (16372-21541, 1727-2343) and long term (5369-18860, 783-2083).

            Volume was up; but breadth was mixed.  The VIX dropped 12%, finishing above its 50 day moving average and within its short term trading range and intermediate term downtrend. 

            The long Treasury was off again but continues in uptrends across all timeframes. 
            The race to negative yields (medium):

            GLD was also down, ending right on the lower boundary of its very short term uptrend and within a short term trading range and an intermediate term downtrend.

Bottom line: when I said yesterday ‘barring a Titan III shot’ the first five days of January would be down, little did I know that we would indeed get that moon shot.  As it turns out, both the Averages closed up in that five day timeframe.  Hence, we now have a positive early year technical indicator to support all those uptrends the indices are in.  In addition, this latest sinking spell ended on a higher low---which is a plus and suggests that our focus shift back to well defined resistance levels: the former (unsuccessfully challenged) highs (17998, 2080) and the existing upper boundaries of the Averages long term uptrends.   Of course, at current levels they are close to those levels, especially the S&P; so I don’t think it is a time to be getting jiggy.  Rather caution makes sense with prices near not only all time highs but also the upper boundaries of long term trends.

            Stock Traders’ Almanac on the First Five Day of January indicator (short):

            Nothing really earth shaking in yesterday’s generally upbeat US economic news: weekly jobless claims were down a bit more than expected, December retail chain store sales were healthy and November consumer credit rose less than anticipated with credit card debt down. 

            Overseas, German factory orders were down.

            ***overnight, China reported December CPI up, PPI down and lowered its estimate of 2014 growth.  The Baltic Dry Index hit an all-time low.  In the EU, German November industrial production fell 0.1%, the ECB said that it is studying a E500 billion bond buying program but as usual gave no details (more Draghi jawboning?) and the leader of the German opposition party said that Merkel’s willingness to let Greece exit the Eurozone is ‘playing with fire’.

            The most talked about factor of the day was comments made by a Fed member in a Wednesday night speech in which he opined that a rise in interest rates would be cataclysmic.  Following the soft, easy dialogue from the minutes of the FOMC’s December meeting, that was all investors needed to kick in the afterburners.

            Not that this is all positive for the economy because there is little evidence out there to suggest that it is.  But it is a plus for speculators, hedge funds and the carry trader who can borrow money cheaply and use it to chase asset prices up (the Titan III formation).

Bottom line: I am not worried about the US economy.  I am worried about the ongoing divergence of asset price valuation from a sluggish but gradually improving economy.  It makes no sense to me for prices to rise as a faster rate than the underlying fundamentals ad infinitum.  The question is, when do these trends mean revert?  I clearly don’t have a clue; otherwise the Market would have rolled over long ago.  But that is not an argument that there will be no mean reversion; it is an argument that I don’t know how to determine the timing.  It also leaves open the risk that the wider the divergence between price and value becomes, the more painful the mean reversion process. 

The only solution that I have that is reasonable viable (for me) is to allow our Price Discipline as it applies to individual stocks to be the model.  That is, when the price of an individual stock reaches a historically wide divergence from the fundamentals of the underlying company, half the position is Sold.  Selling half is my way of hedging for a miscalculation of the price/value spread; but forces me to take money off the table.  However, I would note that when the number of divergences grow the point where our Portfolios are 40-50% in cash (as they are now), it suggests that the risk of mean reversion for the overall Market is significant. 

Speaking of fundamental divergences: comparing GAAP and non GAAP earnings (medium and a must read):

I don’t want to be heavily invested when investors suddenly experience a mean reversion epiphany.  Remember there is only one ‘first guy out the door’.

I can’t emphasize strongly enough that I believe that the key investment strategy today is to take advantage of the current high prices to sell any stock that has been a disappointment or no longer fits your investment criteria and to trim the holding of any stock that has doubled or more in price.

Bear in mind, this is not a recommendation to run for the hills.  Our Portfolios are still 55-60% invested and their cash position is a function of individual stocks either hitting their Sell Half Prices or their underlying company failing to meet the requisite minimum financial criteria needed for inclusion in our Universe.
       Investing for Survival

            Thoughts on a ‘buy and hold’ strategy (medium):

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