Sneaky Suspicion

Today, tomorrow, and Monday.  That’s all we have left of the 2018 year in equities.  This bipolar market has even the professionals pulling their hair out; Monday’s despair vs. Wednesday’s relief.

Here’s how I think the S&P500 plays out to end 2018 and you can take advantage whether you’re a short-term trader or a long-term investor.  These are just gut-guesses that also influence my own decision-making process.

Thursday (12/27/2018) – I suspect we’ll get a flattish (up 0.25% to 0.50%) day.  But the pros are smart and they’re going to harvest their tax losses and perhaps perform some year-end window dressing

Friday (12/28/2018) – Down between 1.25% and 2.8%.  This will freak out entrants who will feel they waded back in too early.

Monday (12/31/2018) – Down 3.5% to 4.9% and we erase Wednesday’s recovery.

I can easily see the skilled timers across all genres of the investor universe using the unskilled timers for lipstick-on-pig returns to dress up their 2018 performance against the damage of Q4. 

Then get ready for a great H1 2019.

Another Bounce or Not

Hmmmm.  What to do in a market like this?

For your long portfolios, my advice would be to sit tight.  The odds are strong that we’re in a multi-week bounce before another little shakeout.

SPX Thru 2018 Holidays (Nov. 2018)

I’d suggest getting long after the next move downward.  Market behavior suggests a rally into 2019.  It could be the start of the final leg of the melt-up as “late-cycle” keeps getting bandied about out there.  Over the past few years, the drill seems to be a quick move down followed by the exhaustion-bounce followed by another move downward before regaining the up-trend (weekly charts).

For the contrarians, it’s hard not to look at China and energy as two obvious areas for medium-term plays.  If you play in the markets at all, I don’t need to throw up charts to illustrate the performance of both sectors of late.  Tencent and JD could be easy moneymakers.  And the energy toll roads can provide a nice yield along with cap. gains on an oil bounce over the ensuing months.

EPD has the infrastructure footprint and financial efficiencies that begs for yield-starved investors who’ve been waiting for a better opportunity for entry.  However, the company’s price remains quite steady in the $20 to $30 range.

Oil’s price action looks exhaustive.  Fundamentals appear to bear out an inexplicable magnitude of this sell-off.  If institutional traders on the wrong side are able to quickly offload positions, then there may be enough support by energy bulls to resume an up-trend without extreme volatility.  I remind energy traders of what we saw in H2 of 2016.

I liked the Starbucks story, but it quickly got white-hot before I could position with my long portfolios.

SBUX Retrace (Nov. 2018)

Based on the trajectory over the last several weeks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a retrace down to the $56 – $58 range.  That’s a good spot to get positioned if you’ve been eyeballing this world-class caffeinator.

In the quasi-cash-equivalent area, muni-CEFs have presented recent value with their widened NAV discounts.  The discounts have come off a few points as investors have taken advantage of the historically free money and positioned accordingly.  The big question mark is interest rates.

Does the Fed raise rates next month?  If so, that could renew selling action in muni-CEFs and widen discounts again.

Interest rate tape reading has rates looking a little toppy.  Not like they’re going to topple over as we know the Fed will raise rates which will force support.  But still, I like interest rate-sensitive funds here to drive a little yield for a bit in place of sitting on excess cash.

          IIM Current NAV Discount (Nov. 2018)

          JPS Current NAV Discount (Nov. 2018)

Remember, these aren’t long-term investments.  We’re talking about using them as cash-equivalents, but their volatility makes them decidedly un-cash-equivalent.  We’re speculating on additional points on your money earned relatively conservatively.  Mind your stops.  Protection first.

Really? You Didn’t Know?

Come on.  Who didn’t know that at some point when you make virtually everything about your life freely available to the public, or at least approved “friends”, that the data shared would eventually be misused?

Any rational person knew that.  It was inevitable.  But do the majority of Facebook (“FB”) users actually care?

There are so many different types of users of FB.  I would wager that there are vastly more users who care so much more about maintaining their public status and perception, than incursions into their personal freedoms.  Mind-blowing, right?

Which means that FB will continue to be a cash-flow gold mine, despite account closures and losses of ad sponsors from corporate partners.  Mr. Market will tell us the answer before 2018 is over; maybe a lot earlier.

The stock has taken a quick, hard thrashing since the last week of January.  Intra-week losses (Hi to Lo) are at 23% since that final week in January, with a chunky 10% during the week before last.

image

Don’t expect the Senate or Congress to actually take action.  FB lobbies, and I don’t know if you knew this, but FB pays taxes, too.  A lot of’em.  My guess about this whole Cambridge Analytica-thing, “This too shall pass.”

Look For The Wick

I have come to utilize charting techniques less and less as their ability to help handicap asset price movements continues to wither away.

You’re either trading algorithmically in front of the market or you’re a trading loser.  Every single chart pattern and set of indicators in every conceivable combination has already been mathematically expressed by people smarter than technical analysts, and easy profits have been completely arbitraged out of the market from visual chart cues.

There will always be pockets of sheer luck.  There are always exceptions.  But earning consistent profits on price/indicator pictures…get real.

I have come to rely more and more on fundamental analysis, experience (see “gut”), and semi-quantitative tools to manage the risks of trading capital.  Like a degenerate heroine addict, I still chart.  I’ll never give it up, but it’s just another input.  Mostly noise.  Sometimes valued signal.

Despite all that, here’s one visual cue I think a lot of professionals are probably waiting for and that is a second long-stem on the S&P 500.  It could potentially indicate that risk appetites have returned.  If the HFTs see this then we could see a “schooling” move upward, like fish or a flock of birds, as the programs feed on each other’s momentum calls.

Take a look to better understand.  We are looking for a 2% to 3% wick below the weekly closing price.  That’s it.

Everybody's Waiting for a Stem - SPX (3-28-2018)

That might be all it takes to re-engage risk taking.  Not without increased volatility, of course, because liquidity is draining and conditions are tightening.

Flat or Bumpy: Choose Your Own Adventure

                                                                     The Abominable Volatility

Last week’s “whopping” 1.8% selloff on Wednesday shocked market players but was also blown way out of proportion.  The selloff also presented a nice little set-up to possibly scalp a few bucks out of the market over the next week or two.

Was Wednesday’s price action a precursor to some further weakness?  Or was it a one-inch pothole in the continued advance of this bull?

You choose the trade.  For you children of the 80’s, remember these books?  Hours of time wasted flipping back and forth as the protagonist.  The book reference is a good metaphor for the current state of the US stock markets.

                                            Volatility Hunter                 Don't Bother Trading

As I see it, the price action is saying we’re in for another little move downward.  I suspect no more than 5% down to around 2,260 on the S&P 500.  In the chart below, I’ve circled and described what I think can happen.

SPX Weekly (5-19-2017)

The recovery on Thursday and Friday are just small snapback moves for the real players and market makers to close out certain positions with a more positive effect on P&Ls.  Then the rug get’s pulled out from the crowd in a panic-inducing 5% “real” selloff.

This is just what the price action is telling me.  I’ve arbitrarily assigned a probability and bet (regional banks) and hedged (volatility) accordingly based on nothing but my hunch.

Incidentally, my old friend in the credit department thinks there’s room for a little further downside in the larger market.  Below is the chart of the action of what the credit-friend thinks.  Notice the tight correlation between the S&P 500 and my credit-friend.  It’s only over 90% positive, so maybe it’s nothing.

Friend in Credit (5-19-2017)

Besides my friend in credit, there is the alarming increase in vol shorts.  Or maybe the crowd is right.

VIX Shorts - ZH (5-21-2017)

To scalp or not to scalp?  You choose your own trading adventure the next couple of weeks.