Posted | by David Moenning |
Stocks Catching Cold Or Something Worse? image

You knew it was coming. No, not the Coronavirus. Rather an excuse du jour to create some selling. After an impressive joyride to the upside, which saw the S&P 500 surge +15.3% from the close of October 2, 2019 and the high seen on January 17, 2020, the stock market had become overbought, sentiment had become overly optimistic, the macro theme was well established, and lots of folks thought there was only one way the market could go from here. As in onward and upward in a fashion seen in 2013 and 2017.

In short, bullish complacency had set in.

As is usually the case when the market gets THIS overbought and sentiment becomes THIS bullish, something comes out of the woodwork to cause the fast-money crowd to rediscover their sell programs. In this case, it was the fear of the Coronavirus, the dive in oil, falling interest rates, and, of course, a new take on an old theme - the trade war.

Students of market history recall that stocks stumbled a bit 17 years ago when the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) posed both a health and economic threat to the globe.

Until Friday, the U.S. stock market had basically shrugged off the reports that the Coronavirus was wreaking havoc in China. But now that there are a handful of cases here in the U.S., traders have taken notice.

Stocks Are Worried About...

From the stock market's perspective, the key concern on the Coronavirus front has to do with the potential impact to global economic growth. China's economic growth in particular. Given that the outbreak is occurring during the Lunar New Year, China's equivalent to the Christmas/Hanukkah holiday season, where Chinese traditionally travel to the town of their birth and that serious travel restrictions have been put in place, the thinking is that China's GDP is going to be impacted.

My take is that unless this thing gets scary, the U.S. consumer will likely go on about their business and the U.S. economy won't take much of a hit. The big assumption here is that a meaningful outbreak does not occur in the U.S. However, if we've learned anything since the Financial Crisis, it is that John Q Public can and will stop spending at the drop of a hat if things get scary. So, if the number of cases in the U.S. doesn't explode in the next couple of weeks, the current decline in the stock market will probably be temporary. But if this thing spreads quickly, all bets are off.

Rates and Oil

Then there is the dueling problem of declining rates and oil prices. Market logic suggests both are indications that folks are indeed worried - at least in the short-term - about the economy.

Yet at the same time, it is important to remember that (a) the stock market rally was overdue for a rest and (b) traders may be concerned about headline risk going forward and want to lock in some of January's gains.

Traders Know What To Do

So, if you are a trader, what do you do with this situation? You take profits, that's what. You put some cash on the sidelines. As Paul Tudor Jones told CNBC last week, as a trader, he wouldn't be long the stock market for the next couple of weeks. And from a trading point of view, this certainly makes sense.

Remember, our "Early Warning Board" had been acting like a third grader in the back of the class that knows the answer to the teacher's question and desperately wants to be called on to give it. I.E. Yellow caution flags have been out on the track for some time now. As such, a pullback, a correction, or at the very least, a sloppy period to consolidate some of the market's big gains seen over the last four months is to be expected.

Yet at the same time, my sense is there is a lot of money that needs/wants to get into the stock market. As I mentioned last week, there are lots of folks looking for an opportunity to put money to work but have been sitting on their hands due to the market's relentless march higher.

A New Front in the Trade War?

Finally, while not on anybody's radar this morning, it is important to remember that the White House seems bent on opening a new front in its trade war. This time, they have Europe in their sights. And if tariffs start to be bandied about here, well, we all know what to expect from the stock market.

The combination of all the above appears to be creating a flight to safety, which explains the recent dive in interest rates.

So, my questions of the day include, does the current pullback that began on Friday have legs? Will this bout with a virus cause the stock market to become seriously ill? Or will this turn out to be just a flu bug that runs its course in a matter of days?

We shall see. But for the record, for anyone looking for a "dip" to buy, this is it. Yes, even if things get nasty on the virus front and stocks start to dive in earnest. Remember, there is no such thing as a "healthy/constructive" pullback when it is happening!

Weekly Market Model Review

Since it's the start of a new week, it's now time to put aside my subjective view of the action and to review the "state" of our indicator boards. Each week we do a disciplined, deep dive into our key market indicators and models. The overall goal of this exercise is to (a) remove emotion from the investment process, (b) stay "in tune" with the primary market cycles, and (c) remain cognizant of the risk/reward environment.

The Major Market Models

We start with six of our favorite long-term market models. These models are designed to help determine the "state" of the overall market.

There is one change to report on the Primary Cycle board this week as the Leading Indicator Model upticked from neutral to positive. This board is an important reminder of the market's big-picture backdrop. While things can change quickly in this game, the bottom line is that all of my favorite models designed to help me stay in tune with the primary market cycle are green.


* Source: Ned Davis Research (NDR) as of the date of publication. Historical returns are hypothetical average annual performances calculated by NDR. Past performances do not guarantee future results or profitability - NOT INDIVIDUAL INVESTMENT ADVICE.
View My Favorite Market Models Online

The State of the Fundamental Backdrop

Next, we review the market's fundamental factors in the areas of interest rates, the economy, inflation, and valuations.

Once again, there was no movement on the Fundamental Factors board. Sure, the Coronavirus could be a game changer if it causes global growth to slow. But for now, rates are low, the economy is looking Goldilocks-like, earnings are rising, and inflation isn't a concern. As for valuation, well, in my experience, they don't matter until they do - and THEN they matter a lot. So, unless there is a reason to question the growth theme, the Fundamental board suggest we continue to buy the dips and give the bulls the benefit of any doubt.


* Source: Ned Davis Research (NDR) as of the date of publication. Historical returns are hypothetical average annual performances calculated by NDR. Past performances do not guarantee future results or profitability - NOT INDIVIDUAL INVESTMENT ADVICE.
View Fundamental Indicator Board Online

The State of the Trend

After looking at the big-picture models and the fundamental backdrop, I like to look at the state of the trend. This board of indicators is designed to tell us about the overall technical health of the current trend.

With a couple of fresh worries causing traders to lock in gains and/or stand aside until more is known about the health threat, it isn't surprising to see stocks come off their highs. At the present time, the state of the tape remains positive from the intermediate- and longer-term perspectives. Obviously, we will have to monitor the action closely in the coming days/weeks and monitor important support zones.


NOT INDIVIDUAL INVESTMENT ADVICE.
View Trend Indicator Board Online

The State of Internal Momentum

Next, we analyze the "oomph" behind the current trend via our group of market momentum indicators/models.

Not surprisingly, the Momentum board deterioration this week. One indicator - the Short-Term Trend & Breadth Confirm Model - downticked from positive to negative. And the the Intermediate-Term Breadth Thrust Indicators slipped back to neutral from positive. My stance is that unless we start to see weakness in the intermediate-term indicators, that the current pullback is likely to remain in the "garden variety pullback" (3% - 5%) category.


* Source: Ned Davis Research (NDR) as of the date of publication. Historical returns are hypothetical average annual performances calculated by NDR. Past performances do not guarantee future results or profitability - NOT INDIVIDUAL INVESTMENT ADVICE.
View Momentum Indicator Board Online

Early Warning Signals

Once we have identified the current environment, the state of the trend, and the degree of momentum behind the move, we then review the potential for a counter-trend move to begin. This batch of indicators is designed to suggest when the table is set for the trend to "go the other way."

The Early Warning board did a nice job alerting us to the fact that the table had been set up for the bears to enjoy some time in the spotlight. As I wrote last week, "Although the bulls are clearly large and in charge here, a few days of sloppy action - including a scary down day or two - would go a long way towards making the current bull leg sustainable. As such, dip buyers should continue to stand at the ready with their shopping lists in hand." I think this stance continues to make sense.


* Source: Ned Davis Research (NDR) as of the date of publication. Historical returns are hypothetical average annual performances calculated by NDR. Past performances do not guarantee future results or profitability - NOT INDIVIDUAL INVESTMENT ADVICE.
View Early Warning Indicator Board Online

Thought For The Day:

Truth will out. - William Shakespeare

Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

David D. Moenning
Founder, Chief Investment Officer
Heritage Capital Research

Disclosures

At the time of publication, Mr. Moenning held long positions in the following securities mentioned: None - Note that positions may change at any time.


Leading Indicators Model: A group of indicators that have historically shown tendencies to lead the market at major turning points.

Intermediate-Term Market Model: A composite model (model of models) focused on trend and momentum indicators which has been designed to provide identify intermediate-term trading opportunities.

Risk/Reward Model: A model-of-models intended to provide an overall view of the state of the risk/reward environment. The model includes tape, monetary, and sentiment indicators as well as 7 big-picture market model readings.

Desert Island Model: If I was stranded on a desert island with access to only one market model to manage money with, this would be the model. The model is a comprehensive model-of-models comprised of trend, momentum, mean reversion, economic, monetary, sentiment, and factor-based indicators/models.

External Factors Model: A model-of-models designed to provide a reading on the "macro state" of the market environment. The model is comprised of indicators/models in the areas of various index yields, industrial production, investors sentiment, and historic volatility.

Short-Term Trend-and-Breadth Signal 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 NDR's 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.

Channel Breakout System Explained: The short-term and intermediate-term Channel Breakout Systems are modified versions of the Donchian Channel indicator. According to Wikipedia, "The Donchian channel is an indicator used in market trading developed by Richard Donchian. It is formed by taking the highest high and the lowest low of the last n periods. The area between the high and the low is the channel for the period chosen."

Intermediate-Term Trend-and-Breadth Signal Explained: This indicator incorporates NDR's All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 45-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 45-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +17.6% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +6.5% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost -1.3% per year.

Cycle Composite Projections: The cycle composite combines the 1-year Seasonal, 4-year Presidential, and 10-year Decennial cycles. The indicator reading shown uses the cycle projection for the upcoming week.

Trading Mode Indicator: This indicator attempts to identify whether the current trading environment is "trending" or "mean reverting." The indicator takes the composite reading of the Efficiency Ratio, the Average Correlation Coefficient, and Trend Strength models.

Volume Relationship Models: These models review the relationship between "supply" and "demand" volume over the short- and intermediate-term time frames.

Price Thrust Model 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 Model 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 -14.279% per year.

Breadth Thrust Model 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.

Short-Term Overbought/sold Indicator: This indicator is the current reading of the 14,1,3 stochastic oscillator. When the oscillator is above 80 and the %K is above the %D, the indicator gives an overbought reading. Conversely, when the oscillator is below 20 and %K is below its %D, the indicator is oversold.

Intermediate-Term Overbought/sold Indicator: This indicator is a 40-day RSI reading. When above 57.5, the indicator is considered overbought and wnen below 45 it is oversold.

Mean Reversion Model: This is a diffusion model consisting of five indicators that can produce buy and sell signals based on overbought/sold conditions.

VIX Indicator: This indicators looks at the current reading of the VIX relative to standard deviation bands. When the indicator reaches an extreme reading in either direction, it is an indication that a market trend could reverse in the near-term.

Short-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 18 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from a short-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Intermediate-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 7 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from a intermediate-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Long-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 6 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from a long-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Absolute Monetary Model Explained: The popular cliche, "Don't fight the Fed" is really a testament to the profound impact that interest rates and Fed policy have on the market. It is a proven fact that monetary conditions are one of the most powerful influences on the direction of stock prices. The Absolute Monetary Model looks at the current level of interest rates relative to historical levels and Fed policy.

Relative Monetary Model Explained: The "relative" monetary model looks at monetary indicators relative to recent levels as well as rates of change and Fed Policy.

Economic Model Explained: During the middle of bull and bear markets, understanding the overall health of the economy and how it impacts the stock market is one of the few truly logical aspects of the stock market. When our Economic model sports a "positive" reading, history (beginning in 1965) shows that stocks enjoy returns in excess of 21% per year. Yet, when the model's reading falls into the "negative" zone, the S&P has lost nearly -25% per year. However, it is vital to understand that there are times when good economic news is actually bad for stocks and vice versa. Thus, the Economic model can help investors stay in tune with where we are in the overall economic cycle.

Inflation Model Explained: They say that "the tape tells all." However, one of the best "big picture" indicators of what the market is expected to do next is inflation. Simply put, since 1962, when the model indicates that inflationary pressures are strong, stocks have lost ground. Yet, when inflationary pressures are low, the S&P 500 has gained ground at a rate in excess of 13%. The bottom line is inflation is one of the primary drivers of stock market returns.

Valuation Model Explained: If you want to get analysts really riled up, you need only to begin a discussion of market valuation. While the question of whether stocks are overvalued or undervalued appears to be a simple one, the subject is actually extremely complex. To simplify the subject dramatically, investors must first determine if they should focus on relative valuation (which include the current level of interest rates) or absolute valuation measures (the more traditional readings of Price/Earnings, Price/Dividend, and Price/Book Value). We believe that it is important to recognize that environments change. And as such, the market's focus and corresponding view of valuations are likely to change as well. Thus, we depend on our Valuation Models to help us keep our eye on the ball.


Disclosures

NOT INVESTMENT ADVICE. The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and Heritage Capital Research and may not actually come to pass. The 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 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.

Mr. Moenning of Heritage Capital Research is an investment adviser representative of Eastsound Capital Advisors, LLC, a registered investment advisor. The adviser may not transact business in states where it is not appropriately registered, excluded or exempted from registration. Individualized responses to persons that involve either the effecting of transaction in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made without registration or exemption.

Mr. Moenning and Heritage Capital Research may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Positions may change at any time.

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.

The author neither endorses nor warrants the content of this site, any embedded advertisement, or any linked resource. The author or his managed funds may hold either long or short positions in the referenced securities. Republication rights must be expressly granted by author in writing.

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.