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David Moenning is a the Chief Investment Officer at Heritage Capital Management. Dave is also the proprietor of StateoftheMarkets.com, which provides free and subscription-based portfolio services. Dave began his investment career in 1980 and has been an independent money manager since 1987.... More
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  • Bears Got It Wrong Again (On Bonds)

    Daily State of the Markets
    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    As I may have mentioned a time or twenty, I'm not a big fan of basing investment decisions on one's "macro view." Such an approach would appear to be anchored in logic. The first step is to establish your macro view of the world. In other words, you first decide what is likely to happen to the economy, interest rates, inflation, stocks, currencies, commodities, etc. Simple, right? And then from there, you invest accordingly and wait for your thesis to play out. That's how Paulsen made his billions, right?

    My problem is that I can rarely predict what one market is going to do next week, let along figure out what a slew of markets are going to do over the next year. Sorry, but I'm just not smart enough to pull this off. (And that darn crystal ball of mine is in the shop again!)

    Exhibit A in my argument against average investors utilizing a "macro view" approach would be the current "consensus view" on interest rates.

    Something Everyone Knows...

    The phrase "something everyone knows isn't worth knowing" really applies here.

    Ask yourself, what did just about every analyst on the planet expect interest rates to do in 2014? If you answered, "go up," go ahead and give yourself a gold star because you nailed it. Yep, that's right; most everyone, everywhere expected to see rates rising in 2014. And what have they done so far, you ask? Check the chart below.

    30-Year Treasury Yield - Daily

    Hmmm... the yield of the U.S. Gov't 30-Year Treasury Bond has moved from 3.964% on 12/31/13 to 3.503% as of yesterday's close (which is up from the year's low of 3.454% seen three days ago). This means that the yield on the 30-year has FALLEN 46 basis points - a decline of 11.6% - in less than four months. What gives?

    As my friend and soon-to-be business partner Paul Schatz of Heritage Capital LLC wrote yesterday:

    • IF the employment data are improving…
    • IF retail sales remain strong…
    • IF the Fed is tapering because the economy is doing better…
    • IF consumer sentiment is constructive…
    • IF shipments at Port of LA see largest increase in 7 years…

    Then why is the most economically sensitive bond's yield falling out of bed like something dark is lurking?

    Why indeed, Paul? (And for the record, Mr. Schatz has been bullish on bonds for the majority of 2014 - nice call.)

    Top 10 Reasons Why Yields Have Fooled Investors

    So, if you were a "macro" guy/gal, you were likely tempted to come into 2014 short bonds, because, hey, everybody knows yields are going up. The Fed is tapering, the economy is improving, and this trade is a no-brainer, right?

    But for those of you keeping score at home, the Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury ETF (NYSE: TBT) is down -17.2% year-to-date as of yesterday's close. Oops.

    Here are the top 10 reasons why the macro crowd has gotten it wrong on the bond market in 2014:

      1. Blame it on the Weather - Anyone living east of the Mississippi knows that this past winter was brutal. And the bottom line is people don't spend a lot when they are holed up at home trying to stay warm. So... the U.S. economy hit a speed bump/soft patch during the wretched winter months.
      2. China's #GrowthSlowing - If you've been paying attention at all, you know that China's economic growth rate is slowing (GDP growth has fallen from about 8% to 7.4%). The key is this is affecting global growth, which causes investors to stick with conservative stuff like bonds.
      3. The Emerging Markets Currency Mini-Crisis - Frankly, you can't be blamed if you have forgotten about this one already. In short, if you blinked, you missed it as the purported crisis was over before it started. But if the word "crisis" hits the headlines enough, yields WILL fall.
      4. Russia/Crimea/Ukraine - Ditto. Geopolitical tensions equal falling interest rates.
      5. Deflation Worries in Japan - While this isn't exactly new, concerns about deflation in Japan remain a concern.
      6. Deflation Worries in Eurozone - Although the European debt crisis finally ended in 2013, the latest concern has to do with deflation. As such, hopes for new stimulus measures abound. And yes, this causes yields to fall.
      7. More QE in Japan - Word is that Abenomics is getting ready for another round of QE. More bond buying means higher prices and lower yields.
      8. The ECB To Join the QE Party - While "Super Mario" and friends have taken their sweet time, it looks as if the ECB is about to launch a QE program of their own. And what does this do to bond yields? Oh yea, that's right...
      9. Janet Yellen Is Still Janet Yellen - Yes, the Fed is tapering. But at $10 billion a month, it's clearly a "taper lite." And in exchange for the taper of the Fed's QE, Janet Yellen let us know that she's still an uber-dove by extending the period of time before rates are expected to rise. And Ms. Yellen told investors that the "glide path" to higher rates will be VERY shallow.
      10. China Stimulus - Don't look know, but the Chinese are starting to take stimulative measures. And while the PBoC isn't likely to launch any big plans, the weak economy means the central bank must remain supportive. And the key is that economic stimulus is ALWAYS good for bond prices.

    So there you have it; yet another reason why we prefer to use rules and models to guide our investment decisions instead of effectively guessing as to what is going to happen next. While our approach isn't perfect (far from it!) and stumbles from time to time, it also keeps us out the BIG problems that can occur when you get a macro call dead wrong.

    Will rates continue to fall? Will stocks succumb to the meaningful decline that everyone is looking for this year? Frankly, I have no idea. But I can say that we will be ready to take action when/if our models tell us that the odds favor the bears.

    Publishing Note: I have an early meeting on Thursday and will not publish a morning missive.

    Looking for a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis? Check Out My "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. What investors need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets.

    Turning to This Morning...

    PMI data out of China and Europe as well as the continued flow of earnings are in focus this morning. While the HSBC Flash PMI in China did uptick a bit in April, the key is that the indicator reading remains in the contraction zone. Across the pond, the flash PMIs improved in the Eurozone for April. And we will get the data on the U.S. later this morning. Currently U.S. futures are pointing to a flattish open on Wall Street.

    Pre-Game Indicators

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

    Major Foreign Markets:
    - Japan: +1.09%
    - Hong Kong: -0.97%
    - Shanghai: -0.28%
    - London: -0.16%
    - Germany: -0.32%
    - France: -0.41%
    - Italy: -0.48%
    - Spain: +0.15%

    Crude Oil Futures: -$0.13 to $101.62

    Gold: +$6.30 at $1287.50

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

    10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading lower at 2.709%

    Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    - S&P 500: -1.20
    - Dow Jones Industrial Average: +11
    - NASDAQ Composite: -1.10

    Thought For The Day...

    Keep in mind that not every person's opinion is worthy of your attention and/or consideration...

    Positions in stocks mentioned: none

    Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave


    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 and on our website is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report or on our websites 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. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the editors of StateoftheMarkets.com and may not actually come to pass. The opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations of any specific security nor specific investment advice. One should always consult an investment professional before making any investment.

    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.

    The information contained in this report is provided by Ridge Publishing Co. Inc. (Ridge). One of the principals of Ridge, Mr. David Moenning, is also President and majority shareholder of Heritage Capital Management, Inc. (HCM) a Chicago-based money management firm. HCM is registered as an investment adviser. HCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Ridge is a publisher and has not registered as an investment adviser. Neither HCM nor Ridge is registered as a broker-dealer.

    Employees and affiliates of HCM and Ridge 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 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.

    Apr 23 8:04 AM | Link | Comment!
  • The Cycles Say "Beware!" (Or Do They?)

    Daily State of the Markets
    Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Raise your hand if you find yourself longing for the good 'ol days of 2013 right about now. You remember, right? The days when stocks marched merrily higher on the back of an improving economy, record earnings and a Fed that was about as friendly as they have ever been. The days when QE-infinity both here and in the land of the rising sun meant free money for those that could pull off the "carry trade." And the days when the grass definitely looked greener on the other side of the economic fence.

    Unfortunately, those days are apparently over. Unfortunately, reality has set in and a lot of folks think that stocks got ahead of themselves in 2013. Unfortunately all good things (specifically QE and the Fed's ZIRP) must come to an end. And unfortunately, while no one really expected the heady gains of 2013 to continue unabated, admit it; you were secretly hoping they would.

    No, in 2014 investors are focused on the idea that this bull market is aging, that the central bankers of the world will have to stop the printing presses at some point, and that growth rates around the globe just aren't as strong as they have been in the past.

    Oh, and then there is the fact that year two's of the Presidential cycle have been pretty darned crummy. Ughh.

    The Presidential Cycle Says Beware

    Don't look now fans, but it's almost that time of year again. Yep, that's right; there are just 7 more trading days before the month of May begins. And in short, this means that there are just 7 more trading days before the "Sell in May and Go Away" season officially commences.

    Lest you've forgotten, until last year, selling in or around May 1 each year had been a very profitable strategy for many, many years. And given that this year is year number two in the Presidential cycle, a great many analysts have been looking for this trade to be effective once again this year.

    History shows that in year two of a President's term, the S&P 500 has actually fallen by a median of -1.5 percent. However, it is during the second and third quarters of these years that things tend to get ugly as meaningful corrections have had a nasty habit of appearing.

    The Cycle Composite Says Beware

    Given that the four-year Presidential Cycle makes up one-third of the cycle composite we use in our work (the other cycles included in the composite are the 1-year and the 10-year), it isn't exactly surprising to see the composite pointing primarily down over the coming five months.

    In fact, according to the cycle composite, the market should begin going down... wait for it... today. Yep, that's right, the cycles say that the market should peak on April 21 and then move steadily lower - in an annoyingly choppy fashion - until October. Joy.

    Below is an image of the cycle projection from April 21 through September:

    S&P 500 Cycle Projection: April 21 - October 2, 2014

    I know what you're thinking: That surely doesn't look like much fun!

    Couple this with the fact that the cycles have been pretty spot-on for several years running and you've got a reason to run out and start buying some vol (NYSE: VXX), raising some cash, selling some covered-calls, or putting on some hedges with an inverse ETF or two (NYSE: SDS).

    But Wait, There's Good News!

    However, there is one fact that has been almost entirely overlooked by the media.

    You see, while 2014 is indeed year two of the Presidential Cycle, it is also - and this is the good part - the sixth year of the current President's term.

    Why should you care about such things, you ask?

    Although the occurrences are limited, since JFK's Presidency, which began in 1961, the average return for the S&P 500 in the sixth year of a president's term has been 18.3 percent (median 14.6 percent). And last time I checked, +18.3 percent beats the pants off of a decline of -1.5 percent.

    So, while this bull is growing old and the historical odds would seem to favor the bears for the next few months, there is clearly more than one way to look at history. Here's hoping Ms. Market proves the consensus wrong again in 2014!

    Looking for a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis? Check Out My "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. What investors need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets.

    Turning to This Morning...

    M&A deals in the drug sector (aka "drug deals") are in focus on an otherwise quiet morning. Earnings continue to capture traders' attention and there will be some housing data available for review at 10:00 am eastern. European bourses are up nicely while Asian markets were mixed. Futures in the U.S. are pointing to a mixed open at the present time.

    Pre-Game Indicators

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

    Major Foreign Markets:
    - Japan: -0.85%
    - Hong Kong: -0.13%
    - Shanghai: +0.35%
    - London: +0.98%
    - Germany: +1.32%
    - France: +0.91%
    - Italy: +0.65%
    - Spain: +0.89%

    Crude Oil Futures: -$0.48 to $103.89

    Gold: +$1.70 at $1290.20

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

    10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading lower at 2.727%

    Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    - S&P 500: -1.54
    - Dow Jones Industrial Average: -3
    - NASDAQ Composite: +3.65

    Thought For The Day...

    A daughter is one of the most BEAUTIFUL gifts this world has to give. -Laurel Atherton

    Positions in stocks mentioned: none

    Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave


    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 and on our website is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report or on our websites 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. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the editors of StateoftheMarkets.com and may not actually come to pass. The opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations of any specific security nor specific investment advice. One should always consult an investment professional before making any investment.

    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.

    The information contained in this report is provided by Ridge Publishing Co. Inc. (Ridge). One of the principals of Ridge, Mr. David Moenning, is also President and majority shareholder of Heritage Capital Management, Inc. (HCM) a Chicago-based money management firm. HCM is registered as an investment adviser. HCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Ridge is a publisher and has not registered as an investment adviser. Neither HCM nor Ridge is registered as a broker-dealer.

    Employees and affiliates of HCM and Ridge 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 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.

    Apr 22 8:20 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Free Money Trumps Valuations Issues

    Daily State of the Markets
    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    The stock market in 2014 has been challenging (for both sides) to say the least. However, the action of the last two days has been especially crazy. And while this market can and often does turn on a dime, we believe the message that seems to be emanating from all the volatility seen this week may be worth listening to.

    Let's start with Tuesday's roller coaster ride. If one only looked at the closing numbers, they would have assumed that stocks had continued to bounce up from Friday's low. However, living through the day on a minute by minute basis was definitely a trip. Take a look at the chart below.

    S&P 500 1-Minute Chart - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    If you will recall, stocks opened up strong on Tax-Day 2014 on the back of strong earnings from the likes of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). These two bellwethers helped push the Dow higher by about 100 points in just a few minutes.

    Then the headlines out of Ukraine started to come in. Eleven dead in skirmish. Jet fighters engaging. Helicopters firing. And then there was the video. In short, it looked like the Russia/Ukraine crisis was back.

    The Rout Was On

    As the trend-following algos fell all over each other trying to short, cover, and then get short again every half-hour or so, it began to feel like Monday's rebound was failing - miserably. And before you could figure out the spelling of the airport in Ukraine under siege, the S&P was testing Friday's low while the NASDAQ, Smallcaps and Midcaps were collapsing under the weight of renewed selling in the bears' new best friends: Biotech, Internet, and Social Media.

    Just before lunch, the Dow had fallen 200 points from the high and was sporting a triple-digit loss. To be sure, things were looking u-g-l-y.

    But... just about the time CNBC had created a new flashing ticker informing us that the NASDAQ had just entered a "correction" (to which I responded loudly with something akin to "Duh!") there was news out of Japan.

    Weak Data From Japan

    I'm not exactly sure whether the news was an official release or just "trader talk," but the word was that weak economic data from the land of the rising sun was leading to talk of more "Abenomic" stimulus.

    And what does the word "stimulus" mean to big banks and hedge funds? That's right; QE. Free money. And the mother of all carry-trades!

    Boom. The reversal was on. The yen fell. Shorts covered. The algos went the other way. And within a couple hours the Dow had moved up 200 points from the bottom. Why was this happening, you ask? Oh, that's right, because everybody who can borrow money in Japan at 0 percent loves any and all talk of additional stimulus. So, stocks were bought and everyone who owned equities went home happy.

    Wednesday's Edition

    Wednesday started out with a continued pop to the upside (leaving a gap on the chart of the S&P 500). This time it was China's turn to talk about stimulating their economy. China's GDP came in at just 7.4 percent, which represented a pretty significant dip from the 7.7 percent rate seen in the fourth quarter of 2013.

    In response to the weak GDP numbers, Premier Li Keqiang was quoted by state media as saying that China would reduce bank reserve requirement (yep, that's a form of stimulus) for the second time in as many weeks.

    As you might suspect, this gave the bulls something to cheer about and stocks opened higher on Wednesday. However, almost like clockwork, the sell algos kicked in after 3 minutes and once again, it looked like the bears meant business.

    Then Came Yellen

    Then Janet Yellen started talking. First she said that inflation isn't going to be a problem for a while. Then she said that it would take another two years for employment levels to recover. Next, she said that the economy would continue to need some help for a considerable length of time. And finally, she blamed the recent economic weakness on the weather.

    The key here was the Fed Chairwoman did not produce any surprises. Nope, she reaffirmed the idea that ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) was going to stick around for some time yet. Which, of course, means more free money for the big banks and hedge funds to play their carry trade games. Party on Wayne!

    What It Means

    Again, we need to understand that the algos are in control of the game these days - especially these days. However, let's review what we've heard over the past two days.

    But over the last two days, we heard that Japan may be talking about more QE. We heard that China is starting to lean toward stimulative measures. And we heard that the U.S. Fed is staying dovish.

    What does it all mean? It's simple, really. Unless some new issue crops up like a shiny object to distract the A.D.D.-afflicted algos (and to be fair, earnings from Google and IBM may do just that), ZIRP and QE trump concerns about overvaluation in the mo-mo names - especially after the internet, biotech, and social media stocks have already taken it on the chin.

    In closing, let me reiterate that this market is more than a little nutty right now. There is little memory from one day to the next. There is a ton of volatility. And as such, trying to maneuver is difficult to say the least.

    But for quite some time, the stock market game has been all about the free money provided by the central banks of the world. So, the message to take away from the hysterical moves of the last 48 hours is that until the bears can come up with a really meaningful move to the downside on the Dow and S&P 500, buying the dips may be the way to go. Or not. Which, of course means that you'd best pay close attention to the price action in the coming week or so. Remember, the damage done to the former leaders is significant and may not be over. So let's be careful out there.

    Publishing Note: I am traveling on Monday and will not publish a morning report. Here's wishing everyone a Happy Easter.

    Looking for a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis? Check Out My "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. What investors need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets.

    Turning to This Morning...

    Once again, tensions in Ukraine, which appear to be escalating, dominated the overnight news flow. However, traders appear to be more focused on earnings from the likes of IBM and Google (which weren't great after the close) as well as the results from GE, DuPont, and Goldman Sachs (which were largely better than expected) this morning. Overseas markets were fractionally mixed and U.S. futures are pointing to a modest decline at the open on Wall Street.

    Pre-Game Indicators

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

    Major Foreign Markets:
    - Japan: +0.00%
    - Hong Kong: +0.28%
    - Shanghai: -0.29%
    - London: +0.06%
    - Germany: -0.06%
    - France: +0.08%
    - Italy: -0.42%
    - Spain: -0.17%

    Crude Oil Futures: -$0.02 to $103.74

    Gold: +$0.50 at $1304.00

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

    10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading lower at 2.645%

    Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    - S&P 500: -3.56
    - Dow Jones Industrial Average: -36
    - NASDAQ Composite: -17.75

    Thought For The Day...

    Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come. -Chinese Proverb

    Positions in stocks mentioned: none

    Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave


    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 and on our website is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report or on our websites 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. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the editors of StateoftheMarkets.com and may not actually come to pass. The opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations of any specific security nor specific investment advice. One should always consult an investment professional before making any investment.

    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.

    The information contained in this report is provided by Ridge Publishing Co. Inc. (Ridge). One of the principals of Ridge, Mr. David Moenning, is also President and majority shareholder of Heritage Capital Management, Inc. (HCM) a Chicago-based money management firm. HCM is registered as an investment adviser. HCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Ridge is a publisher and has not registered as an investment adviser. Neither HCM nor Ridge is registered as a broker-dealer.

    Employees and affiliates of HCM and Ridge 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 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.

    Apr 17 8:08 AM | Link | Comment!
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