This week's analysis, while nuanced as discussed below, shows near-term conditions only getting worse.
Here's last week's chart character and volume snapshot (right 2 columns): click any insert below to enlarge...
Here's this week's:
Unlike the previous week, however, overall ETF flows to U.S. equities didn't confirm the ugly volume trends depicted in this week's charts, as U.S. ETFs, in the aggregate, saw net inflow.
Although, zeroing in sector by sector, last week's fund flows indeed confirm most of what the present charts indicate (right column is weekly flow):
On a positive note, per the above, retail and financial stocks, while experiencing net outflows on the week, saw strong reversals (one-day net inflows) on Friday (center column).
Bucking the weekly negative trend were communication services and industrials:
Long-dated treasuries saw investors screaming toward the exits:
I'm near-term bearish, intermediate-term neutral, long-term bullish on tech:
As I've been reporting the past several weeks, the internals for tech have been growing more and more suspect. Plus, my intermediate-term macro thesis does not allow for tech to continue the strong leadership it exhibited last year, and so far in 2018; with or without a protracted trade war. Per last week's action, it looks as though the "smart" money is beginning to agree. I.e., last week's drubbing of the tech sector (tech down 2.2%, vs financials, industrials and materials; up 1.6%, 0.68% and down 0.5% respectively) made perfect sense to me.
While headline data suggest that the U.S. economy has remained immune to tariff effects thus far, our deeper analysis suggests otherwise, per my macro notes following the excerpts below.
I sympathize with the following published yesterday by Bloomberg: emphasis mine...
Global manufacturing is growing at the weakest pace in almost two years and exports shrank last month for the first time since 2016. “The U.S. may be booming but the global economy is starting to slow,” said Janet Henry, chief economist at HSBC Holdings in London.
The trade war is raising the biggest red flag. In the past few weeks alone Panasonic Corp., Ford Motor Co. and BP Plc have all highlighted the dangers of the escalating tensions, and those worries are starting to filter through into the broader economy.
Emerging market stresses from Argentina to Turkey, political uncertainty in the U.K. and Italy, and rising oil prices are among the other threats. While there’s no sense of growth coming to a halt, the crystallization of risks means the synchronized expansion of last year is a fading memory.
HSBC this week lopped its forecasts for 2019 world growth, mainly prompted by a downgrade for emerging nations struggling with the rising dollar.
“About 50 percent of the value added that’s in Chinese exports to the U.S. comes from the rest of Asia,” said Fabiana Fedeli, global head of fundamental equities at Robeco. “Clearly other countries will also be impacted if the trade war continued to escalate.”
The confluence of factors may be enough for the IMF to trim the forecasts it’s maintained so far this year for the world economy to expand 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019. The fund will update its World Economic Outlook from Bali on Oct. 9. It hasn’t revised projections down for a year ahead since October 2016.
.... even the U.S. may not be immune. Recent data showed the trade skirmish shaping up as a clear drag on growth last quarter, prompting economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Amherst Pierpont Securities to pare their estimates for expansion.Macro Readings:
Our PWA [Macro] Index sank 9.53 points to a yearly low of 28.57. The financial markets subindex was the culprit; plunging 41.61 points to a net score of -9.53, with the following 8 (of 23) data points deteriorating on the week:
- Individual Investor Bullish Sentiment sprang to 45.7% (we consider 50+ to be dangerously optimistic on the part of the predominantly untutored, emotional, reactionary and inexperienced individual investor community).
- The VIX Curve moved from positive to neutral as volatility spiked markedly during the second half of last week.
- The Put/Call ratio (option trader sentiment reading) sprang 20 bps to 0.84.
- The consumers staples/discretionary ratio turned notably in favor of consumer staples.
- Overall breadth plunged (accounting for 4 of the 8 lower readings), with the S&P 500's advance/decline line rolling over, its % of members trading above their 50-day moving average falling below 50% (49.2), and sector readings showed marked deterioration among the cyclicals (save for energy).
On the bright side, the economic subindex actually gained 4 points, as auto sales improved in September (moving to neutral on our chart, from negative), the chemical activity index, after flattening for a stretch, resumed its positive trajectory, rail traffic turned higher in similar fashion, and the Citi U.S. economic surprise index moved into neutral territory (from negative). Two readings detracted from the subindex's overall score; they were, Global PMI falling for the 4th straight month to a still expansionary 52.8 (moving from positive to neutral), and Citi's Japan economic surprise index moving from neutral into negative territory.
Presently the market is facing headwinds from multiple fronts:
1. While Q3 earnings reports will reflect the strong profits that come with strong business conditions, I expect that they will be marred notably by uncertain outlooks due primarily to global trade concerns, which will exacerbate the otherwise typical inflation concerns that accompany a mid/late-stage economic expansion.
2. Rising inflation, as noted in #1.
3. An appropriately hawkish Fed (read rising interest rates).
4. Iran sanctions taking effect on November 4th, thus hampering the distribution of the world's fourth largest store of oil reserves. I.e., higher prices at the pump are likely during the coming holiday shopping season.
5. Uncertainty over mid-term elections.
6. Coming to terms with a slowing global economy and the inevitability/realization that the U.S. is in no way immune to the conditions impacting the other 96% of the world's population.
7. The real potential for further deterioration in U.S./China trade relations.
All of the above said, while our macro index is plumbing new 2018 lows, it still presents a scenario where odds favor continued expansion over recession going forward. Presently 49% of its components read positive, 20% negative and 31% neutral; with 53% of this week's negative readings occurring within the financial markets subindex. I..e., recent equity market volatility -- as opposed to current economic weakness -- has much to do with the overall index hitting this year's low.
The begging question -- for the experienced long-term investor -- of course being, will a near-term uncertain investing environment ultimately drag the economy into a recessionary state, or will generally strong economic conditions ultimately pull the market further into all-time high territory?
The receding conditions illustrated by our macro index that have prevailed since its peak on January 15 have (until, as noted above [and last week], very recently) had little to do with stock market conditions, and lots to do with the rising headwind against global trade flows. It appears as though, finally, investors are taking note of those risks; which is what we've suggested from the get-go is needed to inspire all sides to come to the table with the aim of hashing out a legitimate, working "solution".
Our analysis says that there remains ample time (ample conditions, that is) for a treaty to be fashioned and for stocks to resume their bull market march, which, therefore, dictates that we stay the course with our generally growthy sector weightings for the time being.
Just how long conditions will support such a thesis, as well as our present allocation strategy, of course remains to be seen. Which is why we perform our analyses religiously, week in and week out, and remain open to all possibilities.