The Sound Of Silence

Includes: DIA, IWM, QQQ, SPY
by: Jeff Miller


Most pundits change indicators to suit their fancy.

Several recent worries have abated.

Investors could profit by thinking about how the "wall of worry" leads them astray.

The insightful investor develops solid indicators and then follows the data.

This may seem obvious, but instead…

Many pundits start with the conclusion and then search for evidence.

[For complete appreciation of today's post, follow the links for the relevant music.]

There are a number of interesting current examples. In various prior posts I have suggested that these were not really important leading indicators, so I am not flip-flopping by drawing inferences from improved conditions. Others will do that via their silence. I suggest that you recall the scary recent warnings on these themes - now all showing improvement - and note the sound of silence:

  1. Margin debt. Remember how you were supposed to be scared witless (TM OldProf) by this event? It appeared at the same time as prior market tops. There was no evidence that it reflected borrowing for long trades rather than short ones. There was no evidence that it was a leading indicator. Those who scared you with these charts are not likely to inform you that margin debt has declined. (See WSJ).
  2. Divergences. Remember how this signaled that the market was about to crash? Before that, the small cap rally was frothy. Today's market action put the Bomp back into biotech and the small caps. This means that the worrisome divergences (shown as not so worrisome here) have been reduced. This means that some will revert to the "frothy" argument while most of us should just ignore the whole matter.
  3. Sentiment. Remember when you saw weekly chart updates on how bullish sentiment was? That was a contrarian indicator since it supposedly showed that no one was left to buy. This was always a stupid uninformed argument since data consistently showed that most investors were 50% in cash - scared witless. I wrote about this a year ago, and the post is worth revisiting. It explains why you should focus on fundamentals of risk and reward.

This list could be longer and suggestions are most welcome. There are always market worries (remember the "cockroach theory" about Europe? The Cyprus "crisis"? How a single small country (Belarus) was going to destroy the European recovery by voting against a reform?) The insightful investor embraces the opportunity presented. (More detail on the concept in this post, which some have graciously suggested was my most helpful. At the time I wrote this, many commenters thought I was crazy).

A Fearless Forecast

As you read your investment news tomorrow, you will not hear about the positive changes noted above. Expect instead to see the stories shift to some new source of concern, something that will generate advertising revenue. One of the Tyler Durdens will find a new omen or something to worry about. And, of course, there are the reliable mainstays of bashing the Fed about money printing and how it will all end badly. It is time for someone to develop an algorithm on that one, since it reliably shows a lack of anything meaningful for pundits to discuss!

If you really want to achieve investment success, you need a forward-looking approach, you need to "See Clearly Now".

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.