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David Moenning is a the proprietor of StateoftheMarkets.com. In addition to providing free and subscription-based portfolios on "State", Dave is a full-time money manager and the President and Chief Investment Strategist of a Chicago-based Registered Investment Advisory firm. Dave... More
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Daily State of the Markets
  • Is China The Source Of The Constant Consternation? 0 comments
    Mar 18, 2014 8:01 AM

    Daily State of the Markets
    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    For the past week or so, the focus of the market has been all about Crimea and what could happen if the geopolitical tensions continued to mount. Would the referendum take place? Would Russia decide to expand into eastern Ukraine? Would the West do anything besides raise a stink? Was there really any risk to the global economy here? Because of these questions and more, traders decided to avoid the potential weekend headline risk and spent the vast majority of last week getting out of the way - presumably just in case the tanks started to roll.

    Well, despite all the sternly worded warnings from the U.S., the U.K. and the Eurozone, the Sunday vote in Crimea took place and the citizens made it very clear (96 percent clear) that they wanted to secede from Ukraine and join Mother Russia. Apparently that 23-year experiment is over.

    In response, all those fast-money types that had been busy putting on short positions late last week scrambled for cover on Monday. Within minutes of the opening bell, the S&P 500 had leapt 18 points as the algos fell all over themselves getting back to the long side. And while the S&P remains about 1 percent from the recent high, the bottom line is that Crimea does not appear to be the stuff that real crises are made of.

    What's Next?

    Does this mean that it's going to be up, up, and away from here? Maybe. But also, maybe not. You see, although the trend has been the bulls' best friend for the better part of the last 18 months, there has been an awful lot of intraday selling pressure happening this year.

    While we have to use all of our fingers and toes for this calculation, of the 51 trading days so far in 2014, only 9 have been lopsidedly positive. In other words, the vast majority of sessions this year have experienced heavy intraday selling. And while the selling hasn't amounted to much (the S&P 500 is up 0.5 percent this year), the market has certainly "felt" heavy on most days.

    Although there is a certain amount of tea-reading and/or voodoo involved here, it certainly seems/feels like there is something bothering this late-stage bull market.

    Is China The Cause?

    If you've been paying attention at all, you likely already know that China's growth rate has been slumping. And while most countries would kill for 7.5 percent economic growth on an annual basis, as the saying goes, China needs to grow at 8 percent just to avoid civil unrest.

    iShares China Large Cap (NYSEARCA:FXI) Weekly

    The real key here is that the #growthslowing theme in China isn't exactly news as investors have been fretting about the slowdown for a couple years now. (The chart above makes this argument pretty clear.)

    iPath Copper (NYSEARCA:JJC) Weekly

    Another tell-tale sign suggesting that all is not well in China is the chart of copper. The story here is simple. When China is booming, copper booms with it. And vice versa.

    S&P 500 Weekly

    Now compare the chart of the China ETF to that of the S&P 500 over the exact same time frame. In short, China's economy may be growing, but it has been a lousy place to invest for quite some time. And investors have obviously preferred the U.S. So what gives?

    Bubbles in China

    In case you are not aware, the bears argue that China has at least a couple of asset bubbles that could prove disastrous if they were to burst. One area of concern is real estate as prices for both commercial and residential real estate have skyrocketed over the past several years.

    In an effort to avoid the mess that occurred in the U.S., Ireland, the U.K., and the Eurozone in response to real estate prices getting out of control, Chinese authorities have been taking steps to curb lending in the real estate markets. So far at least, the efforts appear to be working to some degree. But time will obviously tell.

    The Bear Sterns Moment?

    The other bubbly problem in China is said to be in the credit markets. Those seeing the glass as half-empty argue that there is simply too much debt, that the levels are unsustainable, and that a crisis is just around the corner. Joy.

    In fact, China recorded its first domestic bond default on Friday, March 7 when solar equipment producer Chaori Solar missed an interest payment. At issue here is the fact that in recent years, local Chinese governments had always stepped in to bail out such firms. Thus, some suggest that the default is the tip of the iceberg in China.

    Some are calling the Chaori default the "Bear Sterns moment" in China. The key here is the precedent-setting event means that credit risk may need to be repriced across China. This means that a liquidity crunch is possible and that the banks could be at risk. And we all know what happened to the banks when credit risk in the mortgage market was repriced a few years back, right?

    Others suggest that such an idea is pure folly. However, lest we forget, it took quite some time for the U.S. to reach the tipping point after Bear Sterns and the collapse of Lehman. And with the U.S. market feeling more than a little "heavy" these days, the situation in China's credit markets may bear watching (pun intended).

    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...

    The question of the day in the stock market is whether yesterday's short-covering induced rally will turn the tide back toward the bulls or become a one-day wonder. Although the Crimean situation appears to have calmed down for the moment, traders remain concerned about the state of the economy in places like China and the Eurozone. For example, Germany's ZEW Economic Sentiment Indicator came in well below expectations and there were new concerns about defaults in China overnight. European bourses are mixed in the early going while U.S. futures have been volatile this morning but currently point to a follow-through attempt on Wall Street.

    Pre-Game Indicators

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

    Major Foreign Markets:
    - Japan: +0.93%
    - Hong Kong: +0.51%
    - Shanghai: +0.07%
    - London: +0.01%
    - Germany: -0.14%
    - France: +0.31%
    - Italy: +0.33%
    - Spain: +0.16%

    Crude Oil Futures: +$0.19 to $98.27

    Gold: -$13.00 at $1359.90

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

    10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.693%

    Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    - S&P 500: +7.07
    - Dow Jones Industrial Average: +61
    - NASDAQ Composite: +10.99

    Thought For The Day...

    The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination. -Tommy Lasorda

    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. (NASDAQ: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.

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