Which side of the speculating-fence are you on? Are you euphoric with gains from this rally off the low? Thank you dumb money.
Or are you annoyed sitting in cash, position-less, and asking the market why is it not listening to you about this being a bear-market rally? I see you smart money.
I was fortunate to have lost very little thanks to my hedges coming into 2020. Partnered with basic risk management, returns on the year are flat. Not great, but I’ll take the profits off the well timed trades to mitigate losses in the long-term buckets. Bottom line, I missed this rally.
But the major indexes are up 40% off of their seppuku-inducing lows. Are we in for more? Is everything fixed? Will we see new highs and then push on for an additional 30% to 40% more in gains? I want every reader to remember just how great and unusual 2019 was for returns.
You could’ve made 30% in 2019 in your sleep with zero skill and no risk management. We’re going to get back to back years of that? Highly unlikely.
Is this rally legit? Well if you sell and realize gains, then hell yeah! But are we truly in the clear from a bear-market rally and more damage? Who’s to say? Just history.
Have a look at this chart that Macro-Ops put together.
Here’s another chart from BofA. It’s already made the rounds and is dated at just over six weeks old, but have a look at the 3 columns specifically on the right. Have a look at the dates and percentage losses that were still pending to the date of the actual, final low.
The coast may be clear but 2020 has seen the most unusual market action in history. I have no way of knowing if this is a bear market rally or a legit restoration of the bull that I’ve missed so far. But my portfolio’s cash levels clearly mark where I stand. And if the statistics above are not enough history imploring caution, then have a look at this chart near the end of the GFC in 2008/2009.
How many bottom-callers gave away healthy chunks of their stacks during that 6-month rundown?
The most successful, sharpest speculators on the planet are currently telling you outright where they stand on this market and it’s poor risk/reward set-up. That has to make you pause even though the price action is the final arbiter.
People are trained to not fight the Fed, now. Even dumb money is trained. Everyone now “knows” that the tsunami of liquidity washing over the financial and corporate world will support equity prices.
It worked for the last 10 years. It has to work now. Right?
The stock markets are a discounting mechanism. They see the future and the future is bright according to speculators, currently.
But let’s revisit the realities of the pandemic’s effects on spending and thus business earnings as well as viability to continue as ongoing concerns.
Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs regardless of whether it’s a furlough or a permanent termination. How many people who retained their jobs have taken salary cuts of 20% to 30%, possibly permanent? And somehow this is not going to have a long-lasting impact on business conditions?
The current, typical mindset seems to be something like this, “Just write off 2020. It’s a sunk cost. We’ll have vaccines soon. People are social distancing. And the government is propping up everyone. 2021 is definitely going to be a great year, economically, so let’s price stocks accordingly now.”
However, widespread impairments to income will lead to widespread impairments to business operations.
Have a look at the credit downgrades from Q1.
Bankruptcies are going to happen. Capital will be lost. Is that being appropriately discounted right now?
Right in line with the credit downgrades, let’s take a look at the HY option-adjusted spread.
We’re in a recession. The BEA will report this. And yet spreads are diving. Well the Fed is buying HYG and JNK. Don’t fight the Fed.
But let’s look at HY’s default rate versus debt to GDP. You see that wide mouth? It’s going to chomp and the likely path of convergence lies with the default rate moving upwards.
And what about leveraged loans and CLOs? Approximately half of the the leveraged loan market, $600 billion, is securitized via collateralized loan obligations. Between downgrades and further business earnings impairment, wait till CLOs begin acting like 2008 CDOs. Will it be a positive or negative for equity prices?
Let’s keep it simple and return to equities with a final look at the pure concentration of capital in this Q2 rally. Here’s the BofA chart that’s played out by now. It doesn’t seem to matter that capital is concentrated because this time is definitely different.
These stocks support the work-from-home new economy so it’s all good, but let’s take a look at a SentimenTrader chart. After all these years, SentimenTrader continues to generate so much value at such a small cost. Literally, every player subscribes to it; even those that already have Bloomberg terminals and the best info-flow money can buy. Chart is dated 5/13/2020.
Not a pretty picture but we’re almost 2 weeks removed from that signal and the market is up almost another 10%. Not trying to mine the data but I just can’t shake the nagging feeling that a selloff is imminent. And by imminent I mean within weeks if not days, just not tomorrow.
Based on the concentration levels then it would stand to reason that the NASDAQ will truly indicate when a correction is to begin. With the 5 stocks (FAMGA) up above representing 45% of the NASDAQ vs 20% of the S&P 500, look for weakness in the NASDAQ to indicate a trend change.
Once a correction starts, I could see 8200 as a solid support area. This would put the NASDAQ about 13% below from current prices. For those of you that missed this rally, some Puts on the QQQ followed by some jumping into quality long positions once that 8200 level is reached will be a good way to make up lost ground in your P&L for 2020. This would be just above a huge price area of recent purchases, noted below in the chart.
Hard to fight this rally. I know. But if you want to get that mojo back along with some of that lost capital, it might pay to be bold.