January 2016 – Monthly S&P Market Strategy Update


Welcome to 2016!

And what a start it was. All negative of course, as you know.

In the first day of trading in 2016 the Chinese market sold off 7% and their regulators closed the market. And all this occurred before the opening bell on European and North American markets for 2016. China giving its version of Adele’s “Hello It’s Me” to the rest of the world.

And so everyone, globally, hitting the sell button for the rest of the week…save for Friday…giving us a day of rest not knowing what to expect in the following weeks.

Being in the financial business I hate and bored by the hundreds of financial predictions that will occur for the forward-looking calendar year. Back in the old days, when financial news was very hard to come by, predictions from ‘old sages’ (Bob Farrell and the like) seemed to have good value and laced ‘nuggets of gold’ giving myself a good reason to endure ink stained fingers for a day or two. Now I have to hear millennials giving predictions based on regressed data that has as much nutrients as a fast food meal.

The only prediction I can make is that the financials markets will be open this coming year and stuff will happen. And the market will telegraph whether the economic fundamentals will be improving or getting worst. Yes, that’s right. The market will tell you what’s going on…and it communicates through Model Price Theory [MPT] and all we; as users of MPT, have to do is observe. Prediction is easy however it occurs all year round and not just at the end of December/beginning of January.

The other observation I will make is we are entering the 7th year, marked by March 9, 2009 S&P 500 market bottom, of the financial crisis. Central banks, including the US Federal Reserve, have been experimenting with monetary policy trying to get the global economy back on track of pre-financial crisis global aggregate demand. The preferred policy tool of choice has been printing money or quantitative easing (QE). Asset prices have been boosted including equity valuations and real estate. And I have to admit this is a good thing. The business press is filled with what I call the ‘liguidationists’, who would like asset prices to fall to some 1930s level, so a very small minority, could benefit. This policy response would certainly skew income inequality even more than it is today.

As the US Federal Reserve increased interest rates in December, the market seemed to take this policy action in stride. The financial press and the man on the street was focused, of course, on the 25 basis points increase in Fed Funds. What they don’t see, and is critical, is the ‘reverse repro’ financial mechanism that was introduced at the same time. The New York Fed has been testing this financial instrument for the last two years. Not to get too technical but the Fed through this new instrument will start to drawdown the excess reserves sitting on the banks balance sheets. Estimates range from $3.5 to $2.5 trillion of excess reserves the Fed pumped into the banking system during the financial crisis, that the banks, collectively, have been sitting on and the Fed wants to take some of this back. Of course, they will start slowly at first, say $300 billion or so, but the important thing is the Fed is starting this process.

So over the last year or so, the US Federal Reserve has stopped QE and are in the process of withdrawing excess bank reserves. This is healthy and signs of the US economy returning to normal. Yes, good news…but you won’t hear this anywhere else.

So let’s look at our Model Price Chart of the S&P 500 Index.

sp500.n234

S&P 500 Index with weekly price bars and EBV Lines

As a reminder we aggregate all companies in the S&P 500 Index into one chart on a market capitalized basis (like the S&P 500 Index itself), so we can see where the market – S&P 500 – is trading relative to its EBV lines.

As you can observe the US equity market, as defined by the S&P 500 closed Thursday, January 7th at 1943.06. If the market rallied to EBV+4 (2208) this would represent a gain of some 14%. If the market corrected back to EBV+3 (1766) investors would be suffering Index losses of almost 9%.

For people new to Model Price Theory [MPT] the index value or equity price can move within an EBV zone with no real consequence. However when a transit occurs – index value or equity price crosses one of our parallel lines – our EBV line, either positive or negative this gives Model Price users a signal that fundamentals are improving or deteriorating, respectively.

What is our Model Price chart saying?

Simple, we are in the zone between EBV+3 and EBV+4, as we have been for a year and a half, and nothing much as changed. Yes, within the S&P 500 Index itself, stocks are winning and losing, based on their top line and earnings growth estimates. And this has occurred, cyclical and secular rotations, since public markets were invented.

As I have said previously we could trade down to EBV+3 some 9% lower. But would this be the end of the world? Not according to Model Price Theory. It would suggest, if we were to go there, more upside potential than downside and obviously a good reward/risk scenario for investors.

Is there anything in our Model Price chart that is worrisome? Not that I can see. As you can see the S&P 500 fell to 1867 back in the last week of August 2015. And by the end of October we were within 4% of an all time high!

Obviously the world is focused on China right now. For the last thirty years China has been nothing short of a major economic miracle. From a poor fourth world economy to a $60 trillion dollar economic behemoth and will soon rival the US for economic supremacy. Their next stage of economic development is to transition their economy from an investment lead economy to one of a middle class and consumption. In the history of the world this has not happened to any nation without a deep recession/depression. However, China is doing this transition with large amounts of foreign reserves and the best economic brainpower on the planet. As Bank of England head, Mark Carney said to Charlie Rose in an interview several years ago, it’s in everyone’s interest, globally, that this transition happen without economic repercussions for the rest of the world and every central bank is willing to help China with this transition.

The reason I mention this China has a big decision to make in relation to their currency. They have been pegged to the US dollar and have been feasting or reaping the economic benefits as the US dollar has been low compared to other currencies especially the Japanese Yen over the last few decades. However the US dollar has been rallying because, as I have said previously, the US is emerging from the financial crisis and their currency is appreciating against all other currencies worldwide. So what is China to do here? Because of the currency peg the renembi (RMB) is stronger than most of their competitors (i.e., Japan, South Korea and the like) and putting downward economic pressure on their economy.

The Chinese have been trying to devalue their currency slowly and intermittently against the US dollar over the last few months and this is causing everyone concern. Thus your seeing panic selling in the Chinese markets with ripples out to the rest of the world. For if China devalued the RMB, say 30 to 40% against the US dollar, this would send a wave of deflation out to the rest of the world as China’s manufacture goods would be competitively priced compared to other exporting countries.

And what if the US dollar rallies higher from these current levels? As readers will know I’m predicting a large and secular rally for the US dollar against all global currencies over the longer term 5-7 years. If China is having a tough time at these present levels…what happens if the US dollar rallies substantially higher?

So you can see why there is cause for concern by global investors and they are re-pricing asset prices/valuations in case things go badly.

Conclusion

As last Friday’s job numbers have pointed out the US is finally emerging out of the financial crisis that started nearly seven years ago. The problem at this particular time is much of the global economic world is monetarily out of sync and is either losing their economic strength (China and the emerging economies) or have been mired in very slow growth (Europe) over the last several years. These ‘macro’ considerations have taken over the narrative in global financial markets leaving all participants to be cautious and worried.

Hopefully this ‘marco’ narrative changes in the coming weeks as US companies start reporting their 4th quarter financial results with guidance for the rest of 2016.

Yes, the market could fall to EBV+3. And, yes the S&P 500 Index could rally up to EBV+4 and make all-time highs for the S&P Index. Good companies, will show their stuff in the coming weeks and we will see how the market reacts to possible forward fundamentals.

 

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