Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Morning Call---Sweden's approach---do nothing

The Morning Call


The Market

The Averages  (22327, 2626) rallied yesterday, but still finished in short term downtrends whose boundaries are ~17304/2231 on the downside and ~22917/2717 on the upside. 

Very short term, the huge buyside orders in the quarter end institutional rebalancing process continue to influence trading.

Quarter end rebalancing.

On a slightly longer term basis, I still think the evidence points to more downside: (1) stocks condition has largely been worked off, (2) the VIX is not reflecting a reduction in risk adverseness among investors, (3) both indices experienced gap up opens last Tuesday [which need to be filled] and (4) some of the most powerful rallies occur during bear markets.  There is almost no visible support until ~ 15399/1810. 

            And.  The unprecedented drop in autocorrelation.

            A short history of dead cat bounces.

TLT, GLD and UUP had a quiet day on low volume with no change to their technical picture.

            Monday in the charts.



            Yesterday was another day of mixed US data.  February pending home sales were better than anticipated while the March Dallas Fed manufacturing index was awful.

            Overseas, the numbers were better than expected.  March EU economic sentiment,  industrial sentiment and services sentiment were above estimates while March EU consumer confidence and March German CPI were in line and EU business confidence came in below forecasts.

            Coronavirus headlines:

            ***overnight update.

            We need more testing.

            Grounds for optimism.

            Keeping perspective on scientific claims.

            Sweden’s approach---do nothing.

            The Fed and the damage it has done:

            Jim Grant warns Fed actions are a clear and present danger (must read):

            Multi trillion dollar helicopter credit drop.

            Bottom line: the above interview with Jim Grant captures all my worries about what is in my opinion the biggest problem facing the Market.  There are insolvencies ahead that the Market likely hasn’t discounted.

            Projected S&P quarterly dividends.

            Where ‘I bought it for the dividend’ went wrong.

            Unknown unknowns.

    News on Stocks in Our Portfolios

   This Week’s Data


            February pending home sales rose 2.4% versus expectations of -1.0%.

            The March Dallas Fed manufacturing index came in at -70 versus estimates of -6.

                        Month to date retail chain store sales grew at a slower rate than in the prior week.

            The January Case Shiller home price index was flat versus projections of up 0.2%.


            February Japanese unemployment was 2.4%, in line; retail sales were +0.6% versus -0.9%; industrial production was up 0.4% versus up 0.1%; construction orders were up 0.7% versus -12.0%; housing starts were -12.3% versus -14.7%

            The March Chinese manufacturing PMI came in at 52 versus expectations of 45; the nonmanufacturing PMI was 52.3 versus 40.4.

            The March German unemployment rates was 5.0% versus estimates of 5.1%.

            March EU CPI was +0.5%, in line.

            Q4 UK GDP was flat, in line; business investment was -0.5% versus -1.0%; the trade deficit was L5.6 billion versus L7.0 billion.


            Oil man’s plea to Trump.

What I am reading today

            An American approach to the coronavirus crisis.

Visit Investing for Survival’s website (http://investingforsurvival.com/home) to learn more about our Investment Strategy, Prices Disciplines and Subscriber Service.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday Morning Chartology

The Morning Call


The Market

            The S&P’s chart is pretty self-explanatory.  The index is in a short term downtrend.  It has rallied off the lower boundary of that trend; but remains a good distance away from making a challenge of its upper boundary (~2739).  If the downtrend continues, the next visible support level is ~1810.

            The long bond maintains its robust upward momentum.  The upper boundaries of its very short term and intermediate term uptrends don’t seem to be offering much resistance; so, my assumption is that there is little restraining a further move to the upside.

            Gold’s chart remains strong.  There are a couple of things to note: (1) GLD has tried several times to push through the closely aligned upper boundaries of its very short term and short term uptrends---unsuccessfully so.  I interpret that to mean that those boundaries will continue to act as rising upside resistance, (2) on Monday, it bounced off both DMA’s; so they likely represent support and (3) it created gap up opens on both Monday and Tuesday which represents a very short term magnetic pull to the downside.

            The pin action in the dollar is as unusual as anything that I have seen.  While it remains in a short term uptrend and above both moving average (a plus), its volatility is  unnerving in the sense that it clearly portrays the uncertainty in the dollar funding market---which, as you know, I consider one of the major risks to the Market.

            Under normal circumstances if I showed you this chart of the VIX and ask you what you thought that the Averages has done in the last week, the last thing you would say would be that they were up 15-20%.   This pin action tells me that investors remain quite risk averse and that I should expect more downside in stock prices.



            ***overnight update on coronavirus.

            Part two.

            Data on hours worked.
            Good news from Washington state.

            China joins in monetary easing.

The end of the great debt super cycle?

CFTC bails out Capital One.

    News on Stocks in Our Portfolios


   This Week’s Data



            March EU business confidence came in at -.28 versus forecasts of -.05; consumer confidence was -11.6, in line; economic sentiment was 94.5 versus 93.0; industrial sentiment was -10.8 versus -12.7; services sentiment was -2.2 versus -3.0.

            March German CPI was +0.1%,  in line.


Trump hasn’t calmed the oil market.

            Avoiding the errors of the past.

            Bailing out managers and investors.

What I am reading today

            How to get more sleep tonight.

Visit Investing for Survival’s website (http://investingforsurvival.com/home) to learn more about our Investment Strategy, Prices Disciplines and Subscriber Service.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Closing Bell


Statistical Summary

   Current Economic Forecast
2019 estimates (revised)

Real Growth in Gross Domestic Product                          1.5-2.5%
                        Inflation                                                                          +1.5-2%
                        Corporate Profits                                                                6-9%


Real Growth in Gross Domestic Product                               ?
                        Inflation                                                                                  ?
                        Corporate Profits                                                                    ?

   Current Market Forecast
            Dow Jones Industrial Average

                                    Current Trend (revised):  
                                    Short Term Downtrend                            18011-23239
Intermediate Term Uptrend                     16100-32301
Long Term Uptrend                                  6860-38078

                        2019     Year End Fair Value                                   14500-14700

                        2020     Year End Fair Value                                   15100-15300

            Standard & Poor’s 500

                                    Current Trend (revised):
                                    Short Term Downtrend                                2255-2739
                                    Intermediate Term Trading Range              1813-3398                                                          Long Term Uptrend                                     1329-4964
2019 Year End Fair Value                                     1790-1810

2020 Year End Fair Value                                       1870-1890         

Percentage Cash in Our Portfolios

Dividend Growth Portfolio                           48%
            High Yield Portfolio                                     50%
            Aggressive Growth Portfolio                        54%

Spread of the coronavirus and concerns about its potential impact on economic activity have raised enough questions about the expected cyclical growth prospects for the US that I am suspending my 2020 economic outlook until the coronavirus’ ‘impact on economic activity’ becomes clearer.

The overall dataflow this week was negative while the primary indicators were neutral (one plus, two neutral, one negative).  So, I am calling it a negative.  Score: in the last 234 weeks, seventy-nine were positive, one hundred and four negative and fifty-one neutral. 

Overseas stats were negative, though, of the major economies, the Japanese are holding up better than the others.

Importantly, the economic impact of the coronavirus has become manifest in the EU data and is starting to do so in the US.  Unfortunately, there are no signs of a peaking in the coronavirus infection/death rate.  So, we still have no idea regarding the ultimate magnitude of the virus’s consequences on economic growth.    Until we do, making predictions about the economy, at least over the short term, is wasted exercise.

I have suspended my short term economic forecast.

Longer term, I am not altering my long term economic outlook, which is that the economy will continue to grow at a subpar secular rate due to the twin burdens of egregiously irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies---which, by the way, are becoming even more egregiously irresponsible as a result of measures being taken by the government and the Fed in dealing with the current crisis.

The Market-Disciplined Investing

The Averages  (21636, 2541) gave back a portion of this week’s gains yesterday.  That leaves them in short term downtrends whose boundaries are ~18011/2255 on the downside and ~23239/2739 on the upside. 

Very short term, there remains huge buyside orders in the institutional rebalancing process that will occur at quarter’s end.

On a slightly longer term basis, I still think the evidence points to more downside: (1) stocks condition has largely been worked off, (2) the VIX is not reflecting a reduction in risk adverseness among investors, (3) both indices experienced gap up opens on Tuesday [which need to be filled] and (4) some of the most powerful rallies occur during bear markets.  There is almost no visible support until ~ 15399/1810. 



                Stocks tumble after Fed announces a reduction in QE.

TLT, GLD and UUP continued their volatility.  The long bond maintained its strong upward momentum (weak economy/safety trade) while the dollar sold off again---which may be an indication of a lessening in the dollar funding shortage (risk off trade).

                Friday in the charts.

Fundamental-A Dividend Growth Investment Strategy

The recent decline notwithstanding, the DJIA and the S&P are still above ‘Fair Value’ (as calculated by our Valuation Model).  At the moment, the important factors bearing on Fair Value (corporate profitability and the rate at which it is discounted) are:

(1)   the extent to which the economy is growing.  I am clueless about the prospects for economic growth over the next twelve months and will remain so until we have a handle on the magnitude of the risks currently facing the economy.

The coronavirus or more specifically the peak in infections/death rates and the economic damage incurred during the ‘social distancing’ period are the essential pieces of information we need in determining the overall impact on short term economic growth. The good news is that

[a]  with every passing day, we get more information regarding the progression of the disease including {i}  the success, or lack thereof, of measures being taken to halt the spread of the virus {ii} its pattern and length of its growth cycle. 

As an aside, given the ingenuity and industriousness of the American people, I believe that this crisis will not last as long as the doomsayers predict.  I want to emphasize this point,  Every day, I read accounts of companies and individuals responding to shortages, helping those in need, and working on solving the innumerable problems associated with the virus.  I don’t see much of this being considered when projecting the timelines for a return to normalcy. 

[b] all hands are on deck in fighting the virus.  Global central banks are shoveling money into the financial system to insure its solvency.  Governments are busy dreaming up ways to encourage ‘social distancing’ and, at the same time, combat the negative economic effects of the disease.  The point being that the global powers that be are working hard at curbing the infection/death rates. 

The coronavirus will end the conservative dogma about big government forever (must read).

Still, the economic consequences of virus in terms of lost wages, sales and profits are still largely unknown.  And until they start to be measurable, this will be an uncertainly that is going to hang over the Market.  I have no doubt that some, perhaps all of the ultimate negative consequences are being priced into stocks.  Indeed, it is possible that they are being overly discounted.  But the point is that we just don’t know; and until we do, this factor will likely be a disrupter of valuations.

[c] not helping matters is the current turmoil in the oil patch.  Although, as you know, I believe much of the impact on the industry and the companies has been priced in.

(2)   the resumption of QE by the global central banks.  At the risk of beating a dead horse, I believe that the Fed [global central banks] QE policies have led to excessive speculation and the gross mispricing and misallocation of assets, such as the overleveraging of marginally economically viable companies or marginally profitable trades by hedge funds. 

As you know, this is the issue that keeps me awake at night.  As I repeat ad nauseum, the Fed has created the overleveraging of America by allowing {i} companies to borrow cheap money in order to buy back their stocks at elevated prices, {ii} other companies to avail themselves of very low interest rates to avoid bankruptcy, i.e. servicing current unrepayable debt with additional unrepayable debt, {iii} speculators/hedge funds to use leverage to turn marginally profitable trades into winners and {iv} foreign governments to finance projects/policies that might otherwise have been uneconomic.

In my opinion, this misallocation of assets will ultimately be unwound just as the mortgage financing debacle was in 2009.  But we don’t when or how large/painful the unwind will be.  However, I believe that the liquidity problems currently being experienced in the financial system are directly related to this issue; though I have no idea how the solution will manifest itself.  Until it does, this is a negative like the coronavirus except more unknown.

However, given the indifference of the Markets to the recent massive Fed injections of liquidity, this story may be coming to an end; meaning that if investors are unwilling to support Fed bailout efforts {i.e. invest in the companies/securities being bailed out}, those efforts may not be enough to prevent bankruptcy/insolvency. That is issue number one, i.e. can the Fed prevent/control/manage the unwinding of the misallocation of assets. 

The second issue is, what happens to [a] the Fed’s credibility {i.e. its ability to conduct an effective monetary policy} if it loses {has lost} the faith and confidence of the financial markets and, as a consequence, [b] the pricing of risk.  It is this latter point that most impacts the Markets; that is, if the Fed ‘put’ evaporates, the risk premium applied to security valuation expands.  Meaning that, all other things being equal, P/E’s decline and interest rates go up.

Bottom line:  The current selloff notwithstanding, I still believe that the Averages and certain segments of the Market remain overvalued [as determined by my Valuation Model].  As a result, I believe that the stocks in those parts of the Market will continue under pressure.

            Nonetheless, there are certain segments of the economy/Market that have been punished severely  with the stocks of the companies serving those industries down 30-70%.  As a result, I have been putting cash to work in these beaten up stocks. 
As a reminder, my Portfolio’s cash position didn’t reach its current level as a result of the Valuation Models estimate of Fair Value for the Averages.  Rather I apply it to each stock in my Portfolio and when a stock reaches its Sell Half Range (overvalued), I reduce the size of that holding.  That forces me to recognize a portion of the profit of a successful investment and, just as important, build a reserve to buy stocks cheaply when the inevitable decline occurs.