I like to start each week by reviewing (A) my key market indicators and (B) the macro picture of the current market environment. As such, my Monday morning market missive is intended to cover both.
Let's start by taking a quick survey of the damage the stock market's decline has inflicted. Despite the fact that the dance to downside is just two weeks old, the S&P 500 closed Friday down -8.8% from its January 26 all-time high. So, the good news is that the longest period in history without a -0.6% and/or a -3% drop has ended. And the second longest stretch in history without a -5% pullback is also over. Oh, and since the market was off -10.16% as of Thursday's close, we can also put a check mark next to the "correction" box as well.
From an indicator standpoint, it will suffice to say that the current dive has displayed far more violence than almost anyone other than the perma-bears had expected. And because of the extreme volatility, the market's internals have taken a hit.
Gone are all the bright green boxes our indicator boards were sporting just a few weeks back. No, today there is a lot more yellow and even a fair amount of red. To be sure, change happens fast in Ms. Market's game.
A New Signal To Consider
The biggest change seen last week was the sell signal flashed on Wednesday by our recently upgraded "State of the Tape" model. This is a model-of-models designed to indicate the technical health of the stock market and covers everything from the technical state of the S&P's 100+ industries, to the slope and deviation of the trend, to internal market momentum, and some pretty nifty reversal analysis.
Although I don't like to use any single indicator or model in a vacuum, this one is pretty important in my work as it is also one of the components of my "Desert Island" model (so named because if I was stranded on a deserted island and had to manage money with just one model, it would be this one). And while all market indicators/models flash false signals from time to time, it was the "Desert Island" model that caused the latest iteration of my tactical risk-managed portfolios to be less-than fully invested when the current correction began. And to me, this is what managing the risk of the environment is all about.
Speaking of risk management, I have been saying for some time now that risk factors in the market had become elevated. I opined on multiple occasions that I believed it was time to remove the turbochargers from your portfolio and to perhaps "coast" for a while. And while I most definitely did NOT "call" a correction of this magnitude or a pullback displaying the degree of volatility seen over the past two weeks, I am pleased to have provided ample warning that the odds of a correction were rising in a meaningful way.
What About The Fundamentals?
The trick now is to try and determine where we go from here. And for me, this is where a review of the fundamental picture comes in.
From a macro point of view, I don't see any signs that this correction has been triggered by economic fundamentals. The economy is growing. Inflation remains low by historical standards. The chances of recession are small. Earnings are rising. And all of the above can be said about the global economies as well.
In my opinion, other than the swift rise in interest rates, there really isn't much about the stock market's corrective action that is fundamental in nature.
The Macro View: It's About Rates
Yet at the same time, we must recognize that at least some part of this move can be tied to the spike in interest rates. And the key to the rate issue appears to be the massive increase in supply on the horizon coupled with what is likely to be a distinct reduction in demand.
My friend over at Forecast Capital Management, Mr. Jason Hilliard, summed up the situation nicely in his most recent missive. Jason writes:
If you look at supply and demand dynamics, we think U.S. Treasuries are at risk, especially in the long end of the curve. In 2018, the two largest marginal buyers of duration, the Fed and foreign capital (China in particular), will be selling or be buying less, while at the same time issuance out of the Treasury is moving substantially higher. The decrease in demand couldn't come at a worse time. Last week the Treasury disclosed that it plans to sell significantly more government bonds (over $600 million) in the first half of this year, which is more than it issued in all of 2017. The Treasury's net issuance in 2017 was $550 million. The Treasury's net new issuance in 2018 is...$1.42 trillion. That's nearly 3 times more than last year! ...what could go wrong?
So, this is the part of the macro equation that must be monitored going forward. And from the looks of things, 3% on the 10-year could very well be the next stop.
In sum, I'm of the opinion that the majority of this decline can be attributed to technically-based, algorithm-driven, computerized selling that tends to feed upon itself. Then when you toss in the forced selling from the short-vol trade blowing up, well things got out of hand fairly quickly.
However, rates also play a part in the macro view. So, don't forget to monitor the movement in the bond pits this week - especially when economic data is released (note that CPI is out on Tuesday).
As for where we go from here, I am fond of the phrase, what the algos giveth, the algos can taketh away. Therefore, this thing can and likely will reverse another time or three before the emotional ride runs its course.
Thought For The Day:
Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough. -Mark Twain