Archive for June, 2016

Brexit Bounce Back

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

The common stocks that make up the S&P 500 Index have experienced their second day of recovery as investors now realize that the actual exit in Brexit will not occur for a long time into the future.

SPX 2016-06-29

Double Click on any Image for a Full Sized View

If you look at the graph above, you will see that I’ve drawn some Fibonacci Retracement lines that mark the high before Brexit was announced and the low two days ago.  As of close of market today, we have retraced 62% of the Brexit Breakdown.

Below is the action for today only:

spx today

You can see that the market topped out today about 45 minutes before close and the computers kicked in, sending it lower while the Stochastic was in overbought territory.  This indicates that we could open lower tomorrow as people take profits they’ve made on this short term swing.  It will not impact us because we intend to hold our beta plays until the market gets back to or above 2050 as fits with my stair step lower scenario for the market for the balance of the year.

As far as the purchases go that we have made during the recent drop, the strategy was two pronged:  continue to move money into companies that are primarily domestic in keeping with the turmoil in the rest of the world or to move money into defensive or recession resistant companies that will have less volatility on the downside in keeping with my market scenario for the balance of the year.

The defensive or recession resistant investments did not move up as much as some of the higher beta domestic investments, but that is expected.  Here is a sample of the performance of some of the purchases the past few days:

AT&T up 1.50%

Nvidia up 2.50%

Southwest Airlines up 5.45%

Waste Management up 0.97%

Dominion Resources up 3.21%

United Kingdom ETF up 0.79%

This is on top of the 3.5% we made on the Long Term Treasury ETF we used to hedge against the correction and give us the freedom to capitalize upon the market moves.

I’ll be back with more as the market makes it moves – and I hope you enjoy this Pitbul remake of the classic Rolling Stones song.


Brexit Breaks the Banks

Monday, June 27th, 2016

The common stock of the European Banks is getting crushed in this post Brexit selloff.  Our own S&P 500 is holding up better on a relative basis.

SPX 2016-06-27

Double Click on any Image for Full Sized View

The graph above is the one you have seen here on the blog a few times before.  It shows the S&P 500 Index for the past 18-months and how it has primarily traded in a 4% range during that time.

There are two important points to note on this graph before we look at the banks:  (1) the index has dropped below the bottom of the trading range in a definitive way; and (2) the index is sitting right on two major support levels – (a) the market closed today with the index at 2,000.35, virtually sitting on the psychologically important 2,000 level; and (b) after an intraday low of 1991, the market recovered above the 1998 level of the lower support as defined by the previous month’s trading activity.

With the S&P 500 down about 2% year-to-date, our market is not in a free fall.  If you don’t know what a free fall looks like on a chart, look at Barclays Bank:


And, how about Lloyds of London:


And we can’t ignore Royal Bank of Scotland:


These banks are off double digit percentages each of the past two trading sessions.  They trade for roughly 30% of book value.  This is a BIG warning sign that there is something really wrong in the global banking system.  The British banks are being hit by investors, but if you look at any of the other big European banks you will see that they have also sold off in a significant way, maybe not as bad over the past two days, but over the past year many of the most leveraged ones are down 50%.

The US banking system is far healthier than its European counter-part.  The banks here have significantly more capital and significantly less leverage.  That’s not to say that if there is a European banking crisis and the governments there have to inject capital to keep the banks afloat that it won’t impact our banking system – it will, the world is way to interconnected and most of the big banks are involved in complicated derivative contracts in the Trillions of dollars which are off balance sheet but a contingent liability none the less.  If even one bank goes down and cannot make good on its counter party obligations, the impact will be felt globally (if you haven’t rented the movie The Big Short, you should to get a flavor for what this could potentially look like if not managed correctly by the banks and the European governments).

As always, I have an indicator that has served me well beginning with the 1987 stock market crash which was caused by a disruption in the global financial markets, the TED Spread.  This TED Spread graph plots the difference between US Treasury yields and Eurodollar deposit yields.  As the spread increases, it indicates that investors perceive there is increased risk in dollar denominated deposits in European banks and require a higher return.  Back in 1987, the spread got to over 200 basis points.  During  the 2008 crash, it approached 475 basis points.  Today, it is sitting around 39 basis points, but up from 11 basis point at its low in 2010.


If we start to get a sustained move higher, that will be a sign that there is something seriously at risk in the global financial system – which will be a sign that its time to get very conservative in portfolio management.  For now, the steady trend higher, albeit still at low levels, causes us to keep track of this indicator as a prudent risk management practice.

But lets take a look at our top graph again, except this time I’ve added two short-term directional indicators to give us an idea of what might happen tomorrow:

SPX 2016-06-27 v2

The bottom two panels of the above image are the Relative Strength Indicator (RSI) and the Stochastics.  Both flash reversal signals when the indicator line drops below the bottom horizontal line.  You can see that the RSI (upper most of the two panels) is sitting right on the line and the Stochastics (bottom of the two panels) is still well above that line and falling.

If both were above the line and falling, it would indicate that we would likely have another down day in the market tomorrow.

If both were below the line it would indicate that the market is getting ready to turn higher – even if for just a short term bounce.

However, with neither one below the line but one sitting on it, you have a less than 50% chance that the market bounces higher tomorrow.

In spite of the odds, I have more than a feeling after having worked with this stuff for 35 years that we could bounce higher tomorrow, particularly since the index ran higher off the lows at the end of the day. The computers kicked in their buy programs when the market hit a triple bottom for the day which was a level that the index bounced higher from the previous two times (below is the chart of just today’s action on the index):

spx today

The overnight news will determine much of how we open tomorrow – it will be day three since the Brexit, so the media are getting tired of reporting on the same thing and will be looking for new news to make.  So absent another day of chicken little news casts, and if we get some stability in prices in Europe over night, our own markets should see some buying and bounce higher.  If there is more bad news, it will likely continue to fall.

Remember, invest what you see and not what you believe is our golden rule here on the blog.  We will see what tomorrow brings us and make investment decisions accordingly.


Brexit Investment Update

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Common stocks are under pressure today due to the Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

spx 2016-06-24Double click on any image for a full sized view

You saw this chart a couple of days ago when I was showing you the 4% sized trading range of the S&P 500 Index over the past 18 months.  Today, I am showing it to you again with the impact of today’s post-Brexit sell-off.

You can see that the index has move down toward the lower boundary of the range (the red bar on the far right of the chart), but that it is still well inside the two blue bars.

There is no reason to get overly aggressive based upon today’s move, but I have made a couple of trades in client accounts that would be classified as opportunistic:

1.  A couple of months ago, I told you that I was adding the Vanguard Long Bond ETF to client accounts as insurance against some unplanned for event.  When the market is near a top, any sort of negative surprise will send the market down and long bonds up.  Today, I sold it for a total return of just under 4% over the past 10 weeks.  This investment performed exactly as expected and gave us a premium performance over the stock market which is up 0.3% year-to-date.  Since this was added as insurance, today was the perfect day to cash it in.  We still have an allocation to intermediate term bonds, including treasury, corporate and mortgage, so there is still insurance in place – but those are more dividend plays until the market corrects more and we have additional need for cash to pick up targeted purchases at better prices.

2.  With the proceeds of the sale above, I added starter positions in two adated beta ETF’s (index ETF’s that mimic a portion of the S&P 500 that I view as being in the sweet spot investment-wise at the moment) just to take advantage of today’s sell-off.  I added the S&P 500 High Quality ETF and the Deep Value ETF to get some additional exposure to the stock market but with holdings that should outperform the broader market during the likely turbulent period ahead.  Both funds feature companies with solid balance sheets, strong dividends, and cash flow.

3.  And with the balance of the sale proceeds I added a short-term position in the ETF that mirrors the London stock market.  It was down more than 10% and we will either hold it for a short-term gain or hold it for an intermediate period depending upon the post-Brexit prospects for the British economy and its corporations.  The British Pound is at its lowest level in 30 years, so the companies headquartered in England should get a significant upward revision in earnings since they will be able to sell their exports significantly cheaper to buyers who have an immediately stronger currency (making the British goods cheaper by comparison).  Plus our buying the ETF at a 10% discount should make for a decent investment.

I have some other trades to make, but will probably sit tight and see what the market tells us before adding additional equity exposure. Over the weekend there could be scare stories hitting the news that will send the wolves to the gate and give us a lower purchase level next week.

Britain’s Brexit Breakdown

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

This Brexit schedule will guide you through the night of vote counting and reporting.  Credit goes to The Guardian for this guide:


10pm (6pm CST)

Polls will close, and on election nights this is normally the moment broadcasters show their exit polls and make their projection for the night ahead.

However, that won’t happen this time as there’s no exit poll for this referendum. Some banks are said to have commissioned private exit poll, but they will be kept for their employees.

So if anyone tells you they know what’s going to happen at this stage, they’re a chancer, unless they are an eagle-eyed watcher of sterling derivative markets. Sky News has commissioned a survey from YouGov of people previously polled, asking how they voted on the day. This will be released at 10pm, but this is not, repeat not, an exit poll and shouldn’t be treated like one.

If you prefer moving pictures (tsk!) this is the line-up from the broadcasters.

BBC1: David Dimbleby will anchor BBC1’s coverage until the early hours. Emily Maitlis will be presenting as well and Jeremy Vine will have his snazzy graphics. The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, and economics editor, Kamal Ahmed, will do the bulk of the analysis. If you’re not in the UK, you can watch the coverage on BBC World News.

ITV1: Tom Bradby will host the broadcaster’s coverage with the political editor, Robert Peston, and national editor, Allegra Stratton, speaking to politicians and pundits. Julie Etchingham will also present, and there will be live reaction from Brussels with ITV’s Europe editor, James Mates.

Sky News: Adam Boulton hosts, alongside political editor Faisal Islam, boasting a team of 50 correspondents at counts across the country.

CNN International: For international viewers, Richard Quest and Hala Gorani will anchor from CNN’s London bureau, with a touring “Brexit campervan” providing outside coverage. Christiane Amanpour will be with guests and analysts outside the Houses of Parliament, with correspondents contributing from Berlin and Brussels.

12.30am (6:30pm CST)

The voting is done by 380 council areas, not by constituencies, so it will play out slightly differently from election night. Sunderland (always the first in a general election) and Wandsworth are expected to declare first, and we can learn a bit from their results, depending on whether either campaign does better or worse than expected.

Wandsworth should have a very strong remain showing, with Sunderland showing a narrower lead for Brexit, about 55-60%. Anything lower than that for Brexit will be a great start for remain campaigners.

The City of London is expected to be among the first as well, declaring around 12.45am and likely to show a substantial lead for remain. The remain vote is likely to look high in the early hours of the morning. If it doesn’t, that’s a big problem for in campaigners.

Gibraltar and the Isle of Scilly will have high remain votes, but the voter numbers aren’t exactly huge. More telling will be results from Salford and Stockport, which will start to give us a sense of whether Labour’s safe seats in northern England are as pro-leave as has been predicted. That conversation could dominate the punditry for an hour or so.

Another to watch is Swindon, where leave will hope for a win, but a chunk of middle-income voters in their early- to mid-30s in the area – natural David Cameron voters – might push it towards remain.

Hartlepool, a leave heartland, is expected to declare during the hour, as is Merthyr Tydfil, which should also show a lead for leave.

Northern Irish results should start coming in, which will be interesting as there’s been very limited polling in the area. Most areas in Belfast should declare during the hour and instinct would suggest a remain lead, over concerns about the border crossing.

1am (7pm CST)

Gibraltar and the Isle of Scilly will have high remain votes, but the voter numbers aren’t exactly huge. More telling will be results from Salford and Stockport, which will start to give us a sense of whether Labour’s safe seats in northern England are as pro-leave as has been predicted. That conversation could dominate the punditry for an hour or so.

Another to watch is Swindon, where leave will hope for a win, but a chunk of middle-income voters in their early- to mid-30s in the area – natural David Cameron voters – might push it towards remain.

Hartlepool, a leave heartland, is expected to declare during the hour, as is Merthyr Tydfil, which should also show a lead for leave.

Northern Irish results should start coming in, which will be interesting as there’s been very limited polling in the area. Most areas in Belfast should declare during the hour and instinct would suggest a remain lead, over concerns about the border crossing.

2am (8pm CST)

This hour is a good time to start concentrating, so put some coffee on.

Westminster, Wandsworth, Ealing and Oxford may give remain the lead here. These are likely to be very safe areas for a remain vote, with high numbers of graduates and younger voters.

We’ll also start to see a number of Scottish results rolling in, from Shetland, East Ayrshire and Angus. If these show only a weak lead for remain, it might be time for Cameron to worry.

Key Welsh boroughs to watch are Blaenau Gwent and Neath Port Talbot, where the opposite is true: Vote Leave will want a good win here, especially in the area troubled by the steel crisis, which Brexit campaigners have linked to the EU.

Castle Point, a key Eurosceptic area in south Essex, will declare around 2.30am. About 70% of voters are in favour of leaving the EU.

Crawley in West Sussex, a bellwether seat in the general election and also likely to be pretty evenly split at the referendum, is also due to declare, as is South Norfolk, where the split should also be telling.

According to JPMorgan’s analysis, commissioned for investors, even if leave ultimately ends up victorious, the remain camp is likely to be in the lead until about 3am. If leave has a total vote share of about 40-45% at this stage, Stronger In will be celebrating.

But if that percentage for leave is more like 45-50%, it will be a very close run thing. Anything higher than that is an indication of a good night to come for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Still, pundits are unlikely to call the race this early.

3am (9pm CST)

Boston in Lincolnshire, where 68% of voters are predicted to be in favour of Brexit, is likely to declare now. Cambridge, one of the strongest remain cities in the country, will declare here, though surrounding Cambridgeshire is very much out-land. Jeremy Corbyn’s distinctly Europhile constituency, Islington, will also declare during the hour.

Look out here for West Oxfordshire, home to David Cameron’s Witney constituency, so the result will be symbolic of something or other.

4am (10pm CST)

Time to hear from Tendring – home of Ukip’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, who represents Clacton – which is unsurprisingly one of the most Euroskecptic areas of the country. Great Yarmouth and Blackpool, both Brexit heartlands, could also bump up the leave share of the vote during the hour.

Harrogate, one of the most affluent areas of North Yorkshire, will be an interesting result to watch, especially if the leave campaign does better than expected.

Once South Staffordshire, Havering and Gravesham, all strong leave areas, are counted, the running tally should give a pretty fair idea of how the overall result will look, percentage-wise. Broadcasters may start officially calling the result from now.

5am (11pm CST)

Manchester will declare by 5am, almost certainly for remain. However, by this time, about 80% of authorities are expected to have made a declaration, and it would be a huge surprise indeed if the final percentages differed greatly from the running tally at this hour.

Bristol, one of remain’s strongest areas and also the country’s slowest counter, will declare by about 6am, but it’s unlikely to make a massive difference.

7am (1am CST)

The official result should be in by now – unless there are substantial recounts needed and it is close – and Jenny Watson, who chairs the Electoral Commission, will announce the final tallies in Manchester.


Stock Market Trading Range

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Today’s chart shows the S&P 50o Index in a Trading Range with the RSI indicator and Volume by Price overlays for the common stock in the indices.

SPX 2016-06-21Double click on any image for a full sized view

The graph above shows the action in the S&P 500 Index over the past 18 months.

You can see that we have a really well defined trading range with the upper boundary being the all-time high of roughly 2,135 and 2,040 (roughly 4.5% below the high).

There are two very obvious corrections out of the trading range that dropped to a level of 10% below the 200-day moving average (for those of you who are long-time readers of the blog, you know how important the range of 10% above and below the 200-day moving average is for the S&P 500 – 10% above acts as a solid resistance and 10% below is a solid support level – or in other words, when index is trading 10% above the 200-day moving average you consider selling and when its 10% below the 200-day moving average you consider buying).

But our case today is not that cut and dried.  This trading range has become a significant obstacle to investing.  It is clear that investors do not have the confidence in the economy to push the index to new highs.  Who can blame them?  Corporate earnings have been falling for the past 18-months – check out the same graph above except I’ve added GAAP Earnings (the green line) which drops each quarter over the 18-month time frame:

 SPX 2016-06-21 EPS

If a company’s stock price is just the present value of its future earnings, and the index is made up of individual companies, the only way for stock prices to go up at a time when earnings are falling is for investors to place an ever-higher valuation on those earnings.  That can be justified to a certain extent by the low interest rates we have, but given they have been stuck at current levels for seven years that justification eventually runs its course at a certain level of valuation.

Without some catalyst to drive the market higher, like a change in governmental fiscal policy, a change in the tax code, or some macro event that jump starts production, an ever-growing valuation is not likely.  The market will have to correct sometime to fix the over-valued levels we are currently experiencing.  However, this sideways trading within the range can go on for a long time – a lot longer than anyone believes – before the index breaks out of the range.

I am sticking with our defensive asset mix for the present time.  If the market were to fall and correct some of the over-valuation or if something were to cause it to move to a new high and remain above that level for at least three trading days, then I would get more aggressive and put some of the money to work we have reserved for that purpose.  But until we break out of the trading range and the index gives us a buy signal, right here, right now, the current strategy of defensive holdings, cash and fixed income is the right place to be.