US Strategy Weekly: Monitoring 90% Days

On August 15th (Direct from Dudack “Another 90% Down Day”) we pointed out that the 91% down day on August 5th had been joined by a 94% down day on August 14th. This was not a surprise since 90% down days are a sign of underlying panic and panic days tend to appear in a series. Panic days often occur on heavy volume and as a result the combination usually creates a washed-out market. In sum, panic 90% days represent risk and opportunity. The reversal of panic is typically identified by a 90% up day. And historically, one 90% up day has signaled that the lows have been found and downside risk is minimized.

Long-time investors know that markets have the ability to frustrate and vex. Indicators do as well. On August 16th NYSE upside volume (volume in advancing stocks) was 89% and the downside volume was 10%. Was this good enough to define the bottom? Typically, a reversal day will have a much higher percentage of volume in advancing stocks; but since downside volume was only 10%, we believe that August 16 qualifies as a significant extreme day. In our view the downside risk in the market is limited to the SPX 2800 level, or roughly the low of SPX 2840.60 made on August 14th.

However, this does not mean that the market is about to have a dramatic advance. There are enough cross currents in the global financial world to contain the market in a neutral trading range for the intermediate term. The boundaries of this range are expected to be the recent all-time highs and the recent lows.

Events in Europe such as Brexit (October 31, 2019) and the resignation of Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are major threats to the European Union and these risks are expected to keep investors cautious. Plus, these developments are combined with China’s decelerating economy, Germany’s economy shrinking in the second quarter and the EU growing at a barely positive 0.2%. In our opinion, European risks are greater than the threat of an escalating trade war between the US and China. Neither the Chinese nor the US economy can truly afford a trading war. However, 19 central banks have joined with the Federal Reserve to implement some form of monetary policy in order to stem the potential weaknesses seen around the globe. China recently unveiled interest rate reforms which are expected to lower corporate borrowing costs. Australia’s central bank has cut rates twice and is discussing further stimulus measures. Mexico’s central bank surprised many by cutting rates last week. The Group of Seven summit will be held in France this weekend and the topics will undoubtedly center on trade friction, slowing economies and monetary policy. In addition, investors will focus on this week’s release of July’s FOMC minutes looking for signs of the timing and size of the next rate cut.

Strong Crosscurrents

The confusion and angst seen among equity investors is understandable given the number of strong crosscurrents battering the financial markets. The weakening economies of China and Europe were discussed and these stand in stark contrast to the US economy which has surprised economists in 2019 with its resilience. The GDP growth rates of 3.1% and 2.1% in the first and second quarters of this year were consistently above consensus estimates and most economists, including the FRB and IMF, were looking for growth under 2% in both quarters. However, the push and pull between the US and global economies makes forecasting future growth difficult, particularly in an environment in which political risk (Brexit, Italy, trade) is high.

The pessimism expressed by many economists may be a result of the crosscurrents within the US economy. The dichotomy between a resilient US consumer and a weak manufacturing sector is perplexing. July’s total retail sales rose 3.4% year-over-year (YOY) and were led by nonstore retail sales which soared 17.4% YOY. These robust nonstore results suggest that Amazon Prime Day was strong. Retail strength was broadly based in July with only a few spots of weakness such as sporting goods and hobby stores, vehicle dealers and drug stores. See page 3. Some of the weakness in US manufacturing stems from July’s soft auto sales. See page 4. Motor vehicle and parts production declined 0.2% in July, after two consecutive monthly gains; though this segment of industrial production was 3.7% higher on a year-ago basis. Nevertheless, production in nonauto manufacturing decreased 0.4% in July and was 0.9% lower on a year-ago basis indicating that weak industrial production was not due solely to flat auto sales. Part of July’s industrial production weakness emanated from Hurricane Barry which triggered a sharp decline in oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico.

The dichotomy between US and global economies or the contrast between the US consumer and industrial production does not explain the contradiction between the stock market and the bond market. Equities have been at or near all-time highs, reflecting a strong economy while bond yields have dropped to record lows, predicting a recession. After several intra-day inversions in the Treasury yield curve many analysts have begun to worry about a US recession. In our opinion, low bond yields have several sources, but most of them come from outside the US borders. For example, July inflation data shows headline CPI rising at 1.8% YOY, final demand PPI increasing 1.7% YOY and the personal consumption expenditure deflator rising 1.4% YOY. More importantly, import prices fell 1.8% YOY in July and export prices fell 0.9% YOY suggesting that deflation pressures may be seeping into the US economy from abroad. See page 5. Given these statistics and with inflation well below the Fed’s target of 2%, it is not surprising to see bond yields decline. Equally important, even after the fed funds rate dropped to 2.13% this month, the real yield is a positive 30 basis points and gives the Fed room to lower rates. See page 6.

In our view, it is global bond yields that are driving US Treasury yields lower. The weakness seen in the European economies is creating a flight to safety and the Euro Zone 10-year benchmark yield is currently minus 0.689% in line with the German bund. The Swiss sovereign yield is minus 1.00%, the Japanese 10-year government bond yield is minus 0.243% and the UK 10-year gilt yield is positive 0.45%. In this environment it should not be surprising that the 10-year Treasury bond yield is 1.55%. See page 8. In sum, risks are primarily coming from outside the US and though these risks should not be ignored, it should also be noted that most central banks are taking action to ease monetary policy. This may also explain why the financial media is reporting that President Trump is considering lowering the payroll tax rate.

Technical Review

The most important aspect of the market’s technical condition is the 89% up day on August 16 which suggests the worst of the equity decline has been seen. Yet it is also important to note that sentiment indicators never showed excessive bullishness or anything that implied a major top was forming. In fact, the week ended August 7, AAII bullish sentiment fell 10.7% to 27.7% and bearish sentiment rose 24.1% to 48.2%. Bullish sentiment is currently 23.2% and bearish sentiment is 44.8% which is neutral for this indicator. See page 13. On the other hand, the ISE Sentiment Index turned positive in early August – a sign that option traders are defensive. In sum, we remain long-term bullish.




“Overweight”: Overweight relative to S&P Index weighting

“Neutral”: Neutral relative to S&P Index weighting

“Underweight”: Underweight relative to S&P Index weighting

Other Disclosures

This report has been written without regard for the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any specific recipient, and should not be regarded by recipients as a substitute for the exercise of their own judgment.  The report is published solely for informational purposes and is not to be construed as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell securities or related financial instruments.  The securities described herein may not be eligible for sale in all jurisdictions or to certain categories of investors.  The report is based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as being accurate, nor is it a complete statement or summary of the securities, markets or developments referred to in the report.  Any opinions expressed in this report are subject to change without notice and Dudack Research Group division of Wellington Shields & Co. LLC. (DRG/Wellington) is under no obligation to update or keep current the information contained herein.  Options, derivative products, and futures are not suitable for all investors, and trading in these instruments is considered risky.  Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, and yield from securities, if any, may fluctuate as a security’s price or value changes.   Accordingly, an investor may receive back less than originally invested.  Foreign currency rates of exchange may adversely affect the value, price or income of any security or related instrument mentioned in this report.

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Where you’re in… versus whether you’re in.

DJIA:  26,583

Where you’re in  …  versus whether you’re in.  The former has become a bit more confusing, though the bull market seems to roll on.  Last Friday it almost looked as though those cloud/software stocks could blowoff on the upside, only to reverse on Monday—Atlassian (144) up 11 to break out Friday, down 7 Monday.  The patterns here remain intact, but failed breakouts are a sign of buyer exhaustion.  Then, too, two weeks ago within the S&P were the largest number of failed breakouts since January 2018, a real warning back then.  This time, however, not all breakouts have failed—look at the likes of Starbucks (95), Procter & Gamble (117) and, one of our favorites, Twitter (42).  If the micro seems a bit confused, the macro is not.  The Advance/Decline Index is only a few issues from a new high.  Even Wednesday’s debacle saw close to 1,400 advancing shares, not exactly what we think of as a Dow -300 day.

While we sometimes trade like we’re double parked, over the years we’ve become increasingly enamored of long-term charts.  The easiest way to make 50% trading is to trade a stock that’s going to double, that is, trading a stock in a big old uptrend.  This idea holds true of investing as well as trading.  Find a stock that’s been trending higher for five years or so, and there are plenty, it only makes sense they will prove the best investments.  In most cases, it seems clear it’s not what the company does, rather the way they do it—take Procter & Gamble versus Microsoft (138).  If these long-term uptrends seem the easiest way to make money, there is another benefit as well.  Should your entry point prove poor, or should you catch a market downdraft, the stocks bail you out—long term the trend is up.  Aside from PG and MSFT, Church & Dwight (74), McCormick (157), Coke (52), McDonald’s (211), Roper (361), Oracle (56) and many others fit our description of long-term uptrends.

A little different take on long-term charts involves base patterns, or protracted periods of consolidation.  The recent rise in Starbucks has been nothing short of stunning.  The move up is not new, having begun late last year.  It began out of a period of consolidation, a base pattern, which began in late-2015.  This is pretty much textbook stuff—the bigger the base, the bigger the potential move.  The stock pattern here is extended, which is not to say the move is over, but rather, this doesn’t seem a good entry point.  There is, however, a very similar pattern, less extended, and that’s Disney (142).  Disney’s recent strength began this April, following a period of consolidation which, like Starbucks, began in late-2015.  Again, if the duration of the base is a guide, DIS seems to have further upside potential.

Long-time Fed watcher Rod Stewart once observed, “The first cut is the deepest.”  The market seemed to agree—that’s it for easing.  The two “dissenters” also would help markets lean that way.  When the Fed last lowered rates back in 2008, a careful perusal of the minutes—actually we heard it on Bloomberg—revealed a concern about tight financial conditions and concerns about foreign economies.  Now the domestic seems good, the global not so much.  Even here, it’s not so simple.  Domestic is good in terms of the consumer, but not so in terms of business investment.  The latter is about trade, and Powell acknowledged as much.  In our less than humble opinion, rightly so.  No one sees a recession coming, and they are rarely recognized even when in one.  An ounce of prevention and all that.  Meanwhile, remember when the market was all atwitter over the inverted yield curve?  Well, it’s no longer so.  Markets can be hard to please.

If not what it wanted, the market got from the Fed what it expected.  Sure it could have gotten more and sure the Fed could have promised to lower every month.  Give us a break.  If they had given more, then the market could have played the “what do they know game.”  It’s the market that makes the news.  Momentum trumps sentiment, but a look at stocks above their 10-day moving average shows momentum waning.  Days like Wednesday happen when there’s too much complacency, too many on the same side of the boat.  In any event, if it’s more cuts you’re looking for, you may not have to wait long.  This latest tariff proposal, which won’t take effect until September 1, would mean a tariff on everything coming out of China.  The usual suspects like the Semis took a hit Thursday, but this time Retail took a bigger hit.  Depending on your color preference, there’s always Gold and Silver.

Frank D. Gretz

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