Connecting the Dots

Not Yet Time to Celebrate a Market Turnaround

November 11, 2014

The Wall Street crowd liked what they heard last week and pushed the Dow Jones to a new high. In particular, the trio of the Republican landslide victory, an overall positive Q3 earning season, and a good jobs report that showed unemployment dropping to 5.8% was behind the rally.

And what a rally it was. Since the start of earnings season on October 8, the S&P 500 has increased by 3% and has bounced by an eye-popping 9.1% from the October 15 low.

Many of my peers have already popped the champagne and drunkenly declared a coast-is-clear resumption of the great bull market.

Not so fast. There was a trio of negative news pieces last week that tells me there is more to be worried about than there is to celebrate.

“V” Is for Vulnerable… Not Victory

You shouldn’t trust “V”-shaped bottoms.

Instead of being encouraged by the 9% moonshot since the October 15 low, I am even more skeptical. The S&P 500 shot up by 220 points in just three weeks, which tells me that the rubber band of stock market psychology is overstretched.

The stock market’s massive mood swing from fear to greed can change just as quickly to the other direction. Sharp trend reversals followed by sharp rebounds is not a kind of bottom building behavior.

The rally has been accomplished with low trading volume—a classic definition of an unsustainable bounce because it shows that the rally was more from a lack of sellers rather than an abundance of buyers.

And don’t forget about the drastic underperformance of small stocks. The Russell 2000 is up less than 1% for the year compared to 11% for the Nasdaq and 10% for the S&P 500.

Earnings: Look Ahead, Not Behind

Overall, corporate America had an impressive third quarter. 88% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported their third-quarter earnings; of those, 66% exceeded Wall Street expectations.

Impressive, right? Not so fast!

When it comes to earnings, you need to be looking through the front-view windshield and not the rear-view mirror.

Even the perpetually bullish analytical community is getting worried. The average estimates for Q4 earnings as well as Q1 2015 are being downwardly adjusted. Since October 1:

  • Q4 earnings growth have been lowered from 11.1% to 7.6%;and
  • Q1 2015 earnings growth has been chopped from 11.5% to 8.8%.

Don’t give Wall Street too much credit for being rational. Those downward revisions are largely based on the cautious outlook given the corporate America itself. The ratio of negative outlooks to positive outlooks is 3.9 to 1!

Both Wall Street and corporate America are concerned, and so should you be.

Don’t Ignore Central Bankers’ Warnings

Many of the world’s central bankers gathered in Paris last week to figure out how to keep the world’s leaky financial boat from sinking, as well as spending more of their taxpayers’ money on fine wine, cuisine, and luxury hotels.

All those central bankers are eager to keep their economies afloat, but judging from the comments, they’re worried that they are running out of monetary bullets.

“Normalization could lead to some heightened financial volatility,” warned Janet Yellen.

“This shift in policy will undoubtedly be accompanied by some degree of market turbulence,” said William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“The transition could be bumpy … potential for financial market disruption,” cautioned Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.

“Paramount risk of very low interest rates is to entertain the illusion that governments can continue to borrow rather than make difficult and yet necessary choices and indefinitely put off the implementation of structural reforms,” admitted Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer.

“The bottom line is there is a very good question about whether more stimulus is the answer,” said Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan.

Perhaps the most honest and telling statement from Malaysian central banker Zeti Akhtar Aziz: “In this highly connected world, you would be kindest to your neighbors when your keep your own house in order.”

That’s a whole lot of central banker warnings—and it’s always a mistake to ignore the people who control the world’s printing presses.

Tony Sagami
Tony Sagami

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