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It's About Oil, And Junk, And... image

What a difference a week can make in this game, eh? What's interesting here is that things are traditionally kinda quiet at this time of year. However, while I spent last week running from meeting to meeting, the stock market appears to have embarked on a course correction that just might turn out to be meaningful.

At this stage of the game, I am not completely sure which is the more important focal point in the market. However, it is clear that traders were able to find a handful of reasons to do some hand-wringing last week.

First, there was the resumption of the decline in oil. As we've discussed a time or two lately, oil is viewed by traders (and their computers) as a proxy for global growth. And from a big picture standpoint, the fact that China's economy is slowing faster than expected and the economies of both the Eurozone and Japan continue to struggle, a decline in oil is to be expected.

However, as the chart below shows, this does not appear to be your run-of-the-mill pullback in oil/commodities.

United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) - Weekly

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No, this decline has become monumental. To put things in perspective, the chart shows that oil fell about 50% during the second half of 2014. And then the price of "Texas Tea" has fallen nearly 50% again from the summer highs seen in 2015.

To be sure, concerns over the state of the global economy - aka the demand for oil - is in play here. But a decline of more than 70% over 18 months suggests that there is more at work than China's GDP growth rate falling from 8% to 6.5%.

Another factor that has historically been considered in the price of oil has been the U.S. dollar. Since oil is priced in dollars around the world, a rising dollar is usually a problem for crude. However, take a look at the chart below. Given that the dollar actually fell last week, we can't blame the action in the greenback for the renewed plunge in oil.

PowerShares US Dollar ETF (NYSE: UUP) - Daily

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Traders focused on the oil pits also spend a fair amount of time looking at oil supplies around the world. So, the fact that there were reports of a worsening oil glut probably didn't help pricing last week.

And then there is OPEC. Cutting to the chase, with no production cut coming out of the most recent OPEC meeting, it wasn't surprising to see crude futures take it on the chin.

Although the cartel itself has lost most of its teeth over the last decade or so, folks do continue to listen intently to what the Saudis have to say. And the bottom line here is that the world's largest producer of oil appears to be on a mission to cement their market share.

It is important to note that this is not the first time the Saudis have made such a play. The idea is to drive prices down in order to knock out the competition. Yes, it is actually that simple.

Fallout in Junk Bonds

Whenever a market moves to the degree that oil has over the last year and a half, there is always fallout from the move. And another major concern in the stock market at the present time is the action in the high yield/junk bond arena.

I have managed money in the high yield bond market since 1993. Two of the biggest lessons to learn about managing the cycles of this market are: (1) junk bonds are really "stocks in drag" and (2) these bonds trade primarily on credit risk - i.e. the risk of default.

So, with oil prices having been crushed and something like 40% of all junk bond issuance over the last few years coming from energy companies (think the Bakkan shale boom) the risk of default in this market has skyrocketed of late. And what does that mean to the junk bond market, you ask? In short, nothing good!

The trade here is simple. With oil breaking down to new lows last week, the price of the junk bond funds/ETFs went the same direction.

iShares IBOXX High Yield (NYSE: HYG) - Daily

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The picture is even worse when you back it up a bit and look at the price of the HYG on a weekly basis.

iShares IBOXX High Yield (NYSE: HYG) - Weekly

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Another key to the puzzle in the junk market is the fact that a couple funds announced last week that they were no longer accepting redemptions. Make no mistake about it folks, this is what happens when things get really bad in a market. Funds start to blow up. And then the risk of contagion comes into play.

According to Carl Ichan, "the meltdown in High Yield is just beginning." And the bottom line here is that investors are voting with their feet. BofA/Merrill Lynch says that outflows from junk bond fund totaled $3.8 billion last week, which was the highest amount seen in the last 15 weeks.

The problem here is that this situation causes liquidity to shrink - dramatically. And what happens to a market when there are more sellers than buyers? Oh, that's right...

Why Do Stock Market Investors Care?

The end result of the trash job in oil and junk was a losing week for the major stock market indices as well. Stocks wound up falling four of the five trading days. And then, perhaps more importantly, the S&P 500, midcaps, and smallcaps all broke down through important support levels on a chart basis.

S&P 500 - Daily

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The question, of course, is whether or not the price action seen in the S&P is meaningful, or simply another fine example of algo-induced hysterical trading.

So tomorrow, we will take a look at the indicators to see if there are any clues...

Today's Pre-Game Indicators

Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...

Major Foreign Markets:
    Japan: -1.81%
    Hong Kong: -0.72%
    Shanghai: +2.52%
    London: -0.06%
    Germany: -0.84%
    France: -0.34%
    Italy: -0.90%
    Spain: -0.64%

Crude Oil Futures: -$0.89 to $34.73

Gold: -$8.30 at $1067.40

Dollar: higher against the yen and pound, lower vs. euro

10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.147%

Stock Indices in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    S&P 500: -5.15
    Dow Jones Industrial Average: -43
    NASDAQ Composite: -8.45

Thought For The Day:

"Don't forget, ego is the real enemy in this game" -- Yours Truly

Here's wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

David D. Moenning
Founder and Chief Investment Strategist
Heritage Capital Research

Current Market Drivers

We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).

      1. The State of Oil's Dive
      2. The State of Global Central Bank Policy
      3. The State of Global Growth

The State of the Trend

We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 6 months, and long-term as 6 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:

Short-Term Trend: Moderately Negative
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)

Intermediate-Term Trend: Neutral
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)

Long-Term Trend: Moderately Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 2 years)

Key Technical Areas:

Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:

  • Key Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 2020, 1990
  • Key Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): 2135

The State of the Tape

Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...

  • Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator (Short-Term): Negative
  • Price Thrust Indicator: Negative
  • Volume Thrust Indicator(NASDAQ): Negative
  • Breadth Thrust Indicator (NASDAQ): Negative
  • Short-Term Volume Relationship: Negative
  • Technical Health of 100+ Industry Groups: Moderately Negative

The Early Warning Indicators

Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.

  • S&P 500 Overbought/Oversold Conditions:
          - Short-Term: Oversold
          - Intermediate-Term: Moderately Oversold
  • Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is Negative

The State of the Market Environment

One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward.

  • Weekly Market Environment Model Reading: Neutral

Indicator Explanations

Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator (Short-Term) Explained: History shows the most reliable market moves tend to occur when the breadth indices are in gear with the major market averages. When the breadth measures diverge, investors should take note that a trend reversal may be at hand. This indicator incorporates an All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 5-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 25-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +32.5% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost +23.6% per year.

Price Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator measures the 3-day rate of change of the Value Line Composite relative to the standard deviation of the 30-day average. When the Value Line's 3-day rate of change have moved above 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day average ROC, a "thrust" occurs and since 2000, the Value Line Composite has gained ground at a rate of +20.6% per year. When the indicator is below 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day, the Value Line has lost ground at a rate of -10.0% per year. And when neutral, the Value Line has gained at a rate of +5.9% per year.

Volume Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses NASDAQ volume data to indicate bullish and bearish conditions for the NASDAQ Composite Index. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of NASDAQ daily advancing volume (i.e., the total volume traded in stocks which rose in price each day) to the 10-day total of daily declining volume (volume traded in stocks which fell each day). This ratio indicates when advancing stocks are attracting the majority of the volume (readings above 1.0) and when declining stocks are seeing the heaviest trading (readings below 1.0). This indicator thus supports the case that a rising market supported by heavier volume in the advancing issues tends to be the most bullish condition, while a declining market with downside volume dominating confirms bearish conditions. When in a positive mode, the NASDAQ Composite has gained at a rate of +38.3% per year, When neutral, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when negative, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -8.5% per year.

Breadth Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses the number of NASDAQ-listed stocks advancing and declining to indicate bullish or bearish breadth conditions for the NASDAQ Composite. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of the number of stocks rising on the NASDAQ each day to the 10-day total of the number of stocks declining each day. Using 10-day totals smooths the random daily fluctuations and gives indications on an intermediate-term basis. As expected, the NASDAQ Composite performs much better when the 10-day A/D ratio is high (strong breadth) and worse when the indicator is in its lower mode (weak breadth). The most bullish conditions for the NASDAQ when the 10-day A/D indicator is not only high, but has recently posted an extreme high reading and thus indicated a thrust of upside momentum. Bearish conditions are confirmed when the indicator is low and has recently signaled a downside breadth thrust. In positive mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +22.1% per year since 1981. In a neutral mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +14.5% per year. And when in a negative mode, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -6.4% per year.

Bull/Bear Volume Relationship Explained: This indicator plots both "supply" and "demand" volume lines. When the Demand Volume line is above the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bullish. From 1981, the stock market has gained at an average annual rate of +11.7% per year when in a bullish mode. When the Demand Volume line is below the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bearish. When the indicator has been bearish, the market has lost ground at a rate of -6.1% per year.

Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups Explained: Designed to provide a reading on the technical health of the overall market, this indicator takes the technical temperature of more than 100 industry sectors each week. Looking back to early 1980, when the model is rated as "positive," the S&P has averaged returns in excess of 23% per year. When the model carries a "neutral" reading, the S&P has returned over 11% per year. But when the model is rated "negative," stocks fall by more than -13% a year on average.

Weekly State of the Market Model Reading Explained:Different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Market Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.


Disclosures

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Moenning's opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations. The analysis and information in this report is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed nor any Portfolio constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program.

Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her investment adviser. Do NOT ever purchase any security without doing sufficient research. There is no guarantee that the investment objectives outlined will actually come to pass. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Neither the editor, employees, nor any of their affiliates shall have any liability for any loss sustained by anyone who has relied on the information provided.

The analysis provided is based on both technical and fundamental research and is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Although the information contained is derived from sources which are believed to be reliable, they cannot be guaranteed.

David D. Moenning is the owner of Heritage Capital Management (HCM) a registered investment adviser. Advisory services are offered through Heritage Capital Management, Inc. For a complete description of investment risks, fees and services review the HCM firm brochure (ADV Part 2) which is available from your Investment Representative or by contacting HeritageHCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Neither HCM or Heritage is registered as a broker-dealer.

Employees and affiliates of Heritage and HCM may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Editors will indicate whether they or Heritage/HCM has a position in stocks or other securities mentioned in any publication. The disclosures will be accurate as of the time of publication and may change thereafter without notice.

Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.