Here's Hoping Santa Makes The Trip

It was a very busy weekend in St. Louis, visiting our grandson, daughter and son-in-law, so I'm going to keep the subjective side of this report short and let the models and indicators do most of the talking. But first, let me say that watching a two-year old tear into presents is about as much fun as a grandparent can have!

In the spirit of the season, the WSJ has an article about the traditional Santa Claus Rally this morning. To review, the Santa rally spans the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the new calendar year. While we are still a few sessions away from the official starting date, the article points out that the average gain for the seven-day span has been 1.3% for the S&P 500 and that the last time Santa failed to appear at the corner of Broad and Wall was 2015. The problem is the S&P 500 index is currently down 2.8% (however, the "total return" index - which reinvests dividends is currently up 1%). As such, if the bulls hope to push the venerable index back into the black for the year, they've got some work to do.

Our heroes in horns remind us that there are two possible developments that could get the year-end party started this week. First, there is the Fed meeting, which concludes with a Jay Powell presser on Wednesday. The bulls hope that the Fed Chair's comments will be in the spirit of the holidays and take a dovish tilt - as in, a rate hike and then a pause to reflect on the changing economic climate.

The second potential bullish trigger is more of a stretch as a potential government shutdown is slated for 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Both sides are dug in and hopes for a deal are not high as we enter the week. But lest we forget, a week in Washington D.C. is like a year everywhere else. Fingers crossed that a deal gets done.

Looking at the action in the stock market, there is only one word that can be applied to last week: U-G-L-Y. The problem is that all the news is bad, including the most recent economic data on China. (And did we really need an old story about asbestos in baby powder at this time?)

With prices acting the way they are, it would appear that a test of the February lows is now required. And how the market reacts during such a test will hold the key to the near-term trend. If the bulls can make a stand, it follows that Santa could make an appearance. But if the lows break for more than a day or two, all traders and their computers are going to be emboldened to sell.

It is also worth noting that the so-called "wash out" has yet to occur. Traders are looking for a spike above 28 on the VIX, a big increase in volume, extreme readings in sentiment, and then a reversal day. Stay tuned because it doesn't look like we are there yet on any of the above.

I'll leave you with one last thought. An age-old Wall Street saw, which says, "If Santa fails to call, the bears may come to Broad and Wall." According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, if Santa doesn't deliver, it doesn't bode well for stocks in the new year. The last six times the rally didn't happen were followed by three flat years in 1994, 2004, and 2015, two bear markets in 2000 and 2008, and then a downturn that ended in February 2016.

So here's hoping that Mr. Powell & Co. can help Santa make the trek this year.

Now let's turn to the weekly review of my favorite indicators and market models...

The State of the Big-Picture Market Models

I like to start each week with a review of the state of my favorite big-picture market models, which are designed to help me determine which team is in control of the primary trend.


View My Favorite Market Models Online

The Bottom Line:

  • There were two important changes to the Primary Cycle board this week. First, my "Desert Island" model, which has been flip-flopping of late, slipped back into the neutral zone. Second, the "Environment" model moved to negative and issued a sell signal.

    The takeaway from the board this week is things have deteriorated, which increases the odds that a cyclical bear market has taken hold. Note that the historical average return for the S&P 500 given the current board readings is now -3.8%

    Note: We recently added a new model to the Primary Cycle board. Since most big moves in the market tend to be global in scope, we've added a "Global Risk-on/Risk-off" model based on global markets. Unfortunately, this indicator remains negative at this time.

    This week's mean percentage score of my 6 favorite models declined to 47.8 (from 53.6%, 2 weeks ago: 57.9%, 3 weeks ago: 64.5%) while the median fell to 45% (from 55%, 2 weeks ago: 52.5%, 3 weeks ago: 65%).

The State of the Trend

Once I've reviewed the big picture, I then turn to the "state of the trend." These indicators are designed to give us a feel for the overall health of the current short- and intermediate-term trend models.


View Trend Indicator Board Online

The Bottom Line:

  • The Trend board continues to be overwhelmingly negative. This is an indication that a confirmed downtrend is in place. Should the S&P 500 break and hold below the February lows for more than a couple days, the odds that the current corrective phase will morph into a cyclical bear would increase dramatically.

The State of Internal Momentum

Next up are the momentum indicators, which are designed to tell us whether there is any "oomph" behind the current trend.


View Momentum Indicator Board Online

The Bottom Line:

  • In case the deterioration seen in the Primary Cycle board and the extreme negative readings in the Price Trend board don't make the situation obvious, the unanimous negative readings seen in the Momentum board should cement the fact that conditions are extremely weak. The good news is that this type of condition tends to lead to countertrend rallies. The bad news is the severity of the damage done usually takes time to recover and suggests that the lows will need to be tested and retested before a true rebound can take hold.

The State of the "Trade"

We also focus each week on the "early warning" board, which is designed to indicate when traders might start to "go the other way" -- for a trade.


View Early Warning Indicator Board Online

The Bottom Line:

  • From a shorter-term perspective, the "Early Warning" board is now sending a clear signal that a countertrend rally could begin at any time. However, longer-term, the VIX and sentiment readings are NOT high enough to provide a "washed out" reading.

The State of the Macro Picture

Now let's move on to the market's "environmental factors" - the indicators designed to tell us the state of the big-picture market drivers including monetary conditions, the economy, inflation, and valuations.


View Environment Indicator Board Online

The Bottom Line:

  • There is an important improvement in External Factors board this week. While the Monetary and Valuation factors continue to be a problem, the Inflation Composite has improved to positive, joining the economic and earnings components in the green zone.

Thought For The Day:

Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. -Dolly Parton

Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

David D. Moenning
Founder, Chief Investment Officer
Heritage Capital Research


HCR Focuses on a Risk-Managed Approach to Investing
What Risk Management Can and Cannot Do

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HCR Awarded Top Honors in 2018 NAAIM Shark Tank Portfolio Strategy Competition

Each year, NAAIM (National Association of Active Investment Managers) hosts a competition to identify the best actively managed investment strategies. In April, HCR's Dave Moenning took home first place for his flagship risk management strategy.

PRESS RELEASE

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Disclosures

At the time of publication, Mr. Moenning held long positions in the following securities mentioned: none - Note that positions may change at any time.

Indicators Explained

Short-Term Trend-and-Breadth Signal Explained: History shows the most reliable market moves tend to occur when the breadth indices are in gear with the major market averages. When the breadth measures diverge, investors should take note that a trend reversal may be at hand. This indicator incorporates NDR's All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 5-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 25-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +32.5% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost +23.6% per year.

Channel Breakout System Explained: The short-term and intermediate-term Channel Breakout Systems are modified versions of the Donchian Channel indicator. According to Wikipedia, "The Donchian channel is an indicator used in market trading developed by Richard Donchian. It is formed by taking the highest high and the lowest low of the last n periods. The area between the high and the low is the channel for the period chosen."

Intermediate-Term Trend-and-Breadth Signal Explained: This indicator incorporates NDR's All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 45-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 45-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +17.6% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +6.5% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost -1.3% per year.

Cycle Composite Projections: The cycle composite combines the 1-year Seasonal, 4-year Presidential, and 10-year Decennial cycles. The indicator reading shown uses the cycle projection for the upcoming week.

Trading Mode Indicator: This indicator attempts to identify whether the current trading environment is "trending" or "mean reverting." The indicator takes the composite reading of the Efficiency Ratio, the Average Correlation Coefficient, and Trend Strength models.

Volume Relationship Models: These models review the relationship between "supply" and "demand" volume over the short- and intermediate-term time frames.

Price Thrust Model Explained: This indicator measures the 3-day rate of change of the Value Line Composite relative to the standard deviation of the 30-day average. When the Value Line's 3-day rate of change have moved above 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day average ROC, a "thrust" occurs and since 2000, the Value Line Composite has gained ground at a rate of +20.6% per year. When the indicator is below 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day, the Value Line has lost ground at a rate of -10.0% per year. And when neutral, the Value Line has gained at a rate of +5.9% per year.

Volume Thrust Model Explained: This indicator uses NASDAQ volume data to indicate bullish and bearish conditions for the NASDAQ Composite Index. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of NASDAQ daily advancing volume (i.e., the total volume traded in stocks which rose in price each day) to the 10-day total of daily declining volume (volume traded in stocks which fell each day). This ratio indicates when advancing stocks are attracting the majority of the volume (readings above 1.0) and when declining stocks are seeing the heaviest trading (readings below 1.0). This indicator thus supports the case that a rising market supported by heavier volume in the advancing issues tends to be the most bullish condition, while a declining market with downside volume dominating confirms bearish conditions. When in a positive mode, the NASDAQ Composite has gained at a rate of +38.3% per year, When neutral, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when negative, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -12.15% per year.

Breadth Thrust Model Explained: This indicator uses the number of NASDAQ-listed stocks advancing and declining to indicate bullish or bearish breadth conditions for the NASDAQ Composite. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of the number of stocks rising on the NASDAQ each day to the 10-day total of the number of stocks declining each day. Using 10-day totals smooths the random daily fluctuations and gives indications on an intermediate-term basis. As expected, the NASDAQ Composite performs much better when the 10-day A/D ratio is high (strong breadth) and worse when the indicator is in its lower mode (weak breadth). The most bullish conditions for the NASDAQ when the 10-day A/D indicator is not only high, but has recently posted an extreme high reading and thus indicated a thrust of upside momentum. Bearish conditions are confirmed when the indicator is low and has recently signaled a downside breadth thrust. In positive mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +22.1% per year since 1981. In a neutral mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +14.5% per year. And when in a negative mode, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -6.4% per year.

Short-Term Overbought/sold Indicator: This indicator is the current reading of the 14,1,3 stochastic oscillator. When the oscillator is above 80 and the %K is above the %D, the indicator gives an overbought reading. Conversely, when the oscillator is below 20 and %K is below its %D, the indicator is oversold.

Intermediate-Term Overbought/sold Indicator: This indicator is a 40-day RSI reading. When above 57.5, the indicator is considered overbought and when below 45 it is oversold.

Mean Reversion Model: This is a diffusion model consisting of five indicators that can produce buy and sell signals based on overbought/sold conditions.

VIX Indicator: This indicator looks at the current reading of the VIX relative to standard deviation bands. When the indicator reaches an extreme reading in either direction, it is an indication that a market trend could reverse in the near-term.

Short-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 18 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from a short-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Intermediate-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 7 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from an intermediate-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Long-Term Sentiment Indicator: This is a model-of-models composed of 6 independent sentiment indicators designed to indicate when market sentiment has reached an extreme from a long-term perspective. Historical analysis indicates that the stock market's best gains come after an environment has become extremely negative from a sentiment standpoint. Conversely, when sentiment becomes extremely positive, market returns have been subpar.

Absolute Monetary Model Explained: The popular cliché, "Don't fight the Fed" is really a testament to the profound impact that interest rates and Fed policy have on the market. It is a proven fact that monetary conditions are one of the most powerful influences on the direction of stock prices. The Absolute Monetary Model looks at the current level of interest rates relative to historical levels and Fed policy.

Relative Monetary Model Explained: The "relative" monetary model looks at monetary indicators relative to recent levels as well as rates of change and Fed Policy.

Economic Model Explained: During the middle of bull and bear markets, understanding the overall health of the economy and how it impacts the stock market is one of the few truly logical aspects of the stock market. When our Economic model sports a "positive" reading, history (beginning in 1965) shows that stocks enjoy returns in excess of 21% per year. Yet, when the model's reading falls into the "negative" zone, the S&P has lost nearly -25% per year. However, it is vital to understand that there are times when good economic news is actually bad for stocks and vice versa. Thus, the Economic model can help investors stay in tune with where we are in the overall economic cycle.

Inflation Model Explained: They say that "the tape tells all." However, one of the best "big picture" indicators of what the market is expected to do next is inflation. Simply put, since 1962, when the model indicates that inflationary pressures are strong, stocks have lost ground. Yet, when inflationary pressures are low, the S&P 500 has gained ground at a rate in excess of 13%. The bottom line is inflation is one of the primary drivers of stock market returns.

Valuation Model Explained: If you want to get analysts really riled up, you need only to begin a discussion of market valuation. While the question of whether stocks are overvalued or undervalued appears to be a simple one, the subject is extremely complex. To simplify the subject dramatically, investors must first determine if they should focus on relative valuation (which include the current level of interest rates) or absolute valuation measures (the more traditional readings of Price/Earnings, Price/Dividend, and Price/Book Value). We believe that it is important to recognize that environments change. And as such, the market's focus and corresponding view of valuations are likely to change as well. Thus, we depend on our Valuation Models to help us keep our eye on the ball.

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Disclosures

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 is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program.

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.

Mr. Moenning may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Positions may change at any time.

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.

Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.

Posted to Daily State of the Markets on Dec 17, 2018 — 9:12 AM

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