Corporate Credit Signals

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Our Thought Leadership Series on Real Vision is Coming Soon – See our Latest – Debt Jubilee here.
Our Larry McDonald with hall of fame historian Niall Ferguson in Manhattan Friday. The Debt Jubilee, see our latest sit down on Real Vision here .

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Watch Financial Conditions NOT Economic Data
We often tell clients, “credit leads equities.” Even more important, tightening financial conditions (FCIs) drive Federal Reserve policy movements, NOT lagging economic data. Nearly every economist in the U.S. was calling for 2-3 rate hikes back in October / November – even as financial conditions were tightening at the fastest pace since 2015.  By focusing on FCIs, in late Q3 2018, we were able to position clients in a basket of “Fed Pause” trades (emerging markets, energy, gold) – this thesis has played out beautifully.

Inflation, down but NOT Dead

It’s interesting to note just how much financial conditions have eased since the Fed’s hall of fame cave. This speaks to creeping reflation risk, a rate hike probability revival. Gold has been singing this tune over the last week.

Hints of Reflation
The very latest reading of the core PCE index, rose 0.19%, its largest monthly gain since May. Prices for services, more sensitive than goods to domestic labor supply / wages, surged 0.29% – the largest jump in nearly 15 months. It’s also interesting to note how much bonds have rallied with sharply lower yields in U.S. Treasuries, while core PCE inflation is still up meaningfully over the last 18 months and NOT giving up any ground (see the white circle above).

Bonds are Taking a Beating in recent Days
Just when the Street gave up on reflation and the rate cut camp started to overflow – bonds put in the most significant sell-off since Q2 2018 in recent days. It’s looking more and more like China hit the panic button heading into the trade negotiations. They were dealing from a position of weakness with an economy reeling from the sharpest global slowdown in decades. The mountain of fiscal and monetary policy actions they’ve taken is nothing short of remarkable. RRR cuts, tax cuts, infrastructure spending splurge. Looks like an $800B boost to the German economy 🙂 – maybe global synchronized growth will appear on stage after all?

The China Panic Button
Economic boost: This will help Xi’s team sitting across the table from Uncle Bob (U.S. trade hawk) Lighthizer.

Financial Conditions vs. Credit Availability Surveys

We must track true credit conditions, credit availability – follow the leading indicators.

C&I Senior Loan Officer Survey
The CDX IG is the most followed measure of corporate credit conditions in the U.S., we’re looking at the credit spreads on large investment grade companies above.  As you can see, credit conditions tightened dramatically, and then the senior loan officer survey caught up with what the CDX IG was telling us weeks earlier.  The Fed pays close attention to the loan survey data above, unfortunately, it takes forever to compile the STALE data. The survey above is the most recently available, as of January 31, 2019, but the actual engagement with loans officers was compiled in Q4. The white line above is telling you current credit conditions are easing, and easing fast relative to the now “out of date” C&I loan survey data.

Working with our Associate Ed Casey

Our associate Ed Casey points out,  the first time in two years, banks were tightening standards for Commercial and Industrial (C&I) loans in Q4 despite facing increased competition from nonbank lenders.  Although loan growth continues to accelerate +10% YoY, it has tended to lag lending standards by 18 months. Corporate credit spreads typically lead bank lending standards, so we will all be closely monitoring their recovery and changes C&I balances. Fed chair Powell’s cave-athon – or dovish pivot – remains supportive of risk assets and financial conditions in the short run. Pick up our latest report here.

In the hole, December 2018, see our high conviction “get long equities” call here.

Charge-Offs

C&I delinquency and charge-off rates remain close to historical lows, indicating few signs of asset quality stress which is support for risk assets.

Levered Up Economy

Our Ed Casey notes, total US bank credit is equivalent to 70% of GDP, but below 60% as recently as 2014. At $2.3T commercial and industrial (C&I) loans outstanding have doubled since 2007, as their percentage of total bank credit, increased from 15% to 18%. Since mid-2017 smaller banks are increasing their lending at a faster pace than larger institutions.
We continue to monitor the lagged impact of slowing PMI indicators on loan growth and credit spreads. Pick up our latest report here.

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

Fed Cave-athon Driving Stocks Higher for Now

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

“The trade of 2018’s second half will come down to meticulously measuring the “tug of war” between the Federal Reserve and emerging market stress in global financial conditions. The Powell Fed has consistently claimed they’re U.S. data dependent. In obnoxious fashion with a splash of hubris, they’re “NOT concerned” with emerging market stress in financial conditions – we’re going to “stay in our lanes” has been the mantra. We wish we were back in the 80s listening to the Thompson Twins, but we’re NOT, there’s far too much GDP outside the U.S. today, over $60T. With a strong dollar and sky-high Q3-Q4 earnings expectations for the S&P 500, the trade for the next 6-12 months will be found in playing the (catch up) mean reversion between the U.S. and emerging market equities. Each month, as the Powell Fed has tried to stand their ground, day-by-day the beast inside the market is piling more and more pressure on them. Once again, this serpent will break the Fed. Get short (or underweight) U.S. equities and long emerging market equities. Once global credit risk invades America’s shores, pummelled emerging markets (Brazil $EWZ) will lead the way to higher ground.”

Bear Traps Report, August 21, 2018

Fed Chair Powell and the S&P 500: “Not Concerned” to “Concerned”
Here’s a look at the S&P 500 and Fed Chair Powell’s posture on global financial conditions. With a splash of hubris, we’ve been lectured for nine months that the Fed is going to “stay in our lanes, the U.S. economy.” The latest shift from “Not Concerned” to “Concerned” has global equities moving higher. Since 2010, through all their denials, ultimately global financial conditions (FCIs) have been driving the Fed policy path NOT U.S. economic data, the Fed made a colossal shift this week.

Economic data in recent weeks is sending a message loud and clear. Regional Federal Reserve Bank Factory output readings and global PMIs are making the recent equity and credit market volatility look HIGHLY credible in forecasting future tangible economic weakness. As a result, with a fire hose in hand, Fed Chair Powell spoke this week alongside Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke where we witnessed a further dovish shift from the Fed Chair.  Markets ripped higher in response to the Powell cave-in (capitulation from his Q4 2018 policy path stance). The re-pricing of Fed probabilities in the past four weeks has been on a historic run, from pricing 83% probability of a Fed “tightening” in 2019 to 30% probability of “an ease” has had a dramatic impact on Eurodollar spreads, stock and bond prices and of course interest rates. Let us review.

Regional Federal Reserve Bank Factory Gauges
The Richmond Fed manufacturing survey for December came in exceptionally weak; -8 vs +15 expected. This is the lowest level since June 2016. This is yet another data point showing economic momentum in the U.S. slowing down, which will eventually be helpful in pushing the Fed to back off on rate hikes. The Markit Manufacturing PMI print came in slightly below expectations on Wednesday, however, the ISM Manufacturing PMI  released Thursday morning was a massive miss. Working with our associates at Astor Ridge, we expected the ISM PMI to come in well below expectations and calculated it could be as low as 54.0. Regional PMIs had seen substantial misses in the past two weeks and though the market was pricing in a significant drop from 59.3 to 57.5, it seemed to be overlooking the surprisingly poor regional data prints. Above are listed the Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, and Kansas City Factory gauges, the dotted line is too close for comfort, recession territory.

Recent Highs to Lows in ManufacturingPMIs around the World

China:  52.4 to 49.4
Germany: 63.3 to 51.5
Eurozone: 60.6 to 51.4
Canada: 57.1 to 53.6
United States: 61.3 to 54.1

U.S. Treasuries vs. Average Hourly Earnings in the USA
One thing driving the Federal Reserve and the bond market crazy is the whacky disconnect between U.S. wages (AHE in white above) and the global economy’s downward pressure on bond yields (see the U.S. 10 year yield in yellow above). Bonds are in rally mode with lower yields in part because of a large supply of workers, U.S. labor force slack. There are far too many young people NOT in the labor force to generate sustainable inflation. Friday, the unemployment rate rose to 3.9% from 3.7% because the labor force increased by 419k. That’s real size slack* coming back into the labor force. Per OECD data, the U.S. labor force of 25-54-year-olds is down one million (80m to 79m) workers over the last decade, but the U.S. population is 26m larger. A colossal impact on the bond market is baked inside this data. Pick up our latest report here.

“Particularly with the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves.”

Fed Chair Powell told the American Economic Association in Atlanta this Week

*This does confirm a long-held belief that the U.S. economy during the 2008-2016 period of economic “secular stagnation” pushed far too many (young) eligible workers off to the sidelines. As such, the available (real world) labor “slack” remains much more plentiful than the headline unemployment rate reflects. (We believe Fed Chair Powell has commenced using this slack to justify a softer policy path). Note in December, the labor force participation rate rose above 63.1% for the first time since 2013! Bottom line, look at the whole picture, NOT the unemployment rate when trading gold, bonds, and interest rate sensitive equities.

The Great Powell Balance Sheet Cave In – The Words that Moved Markets – Nasdaq up 4.3% on Friday

Fed Chair Powell on their Current Balance Sheet Reduction at $50B a Month:

“I don’t see us changing that”

December 19, 2018, Fed Meeting

“We wouldn’t hesitate to change balance sheet policy if needed.”

January 4, 2019, Event with Yellen and Bernanke

Fed Capitulation Driving Stocks Higher

Powell’s cave-in comes after the another Regional Fed president capitulated Thursday morning in a Bloomberg Television interview.

“We should NOT take any further action on interest rates until these issues are resolved for better or for worse.”

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, January 3, 2019

Kaplan’s comments were especially important NOT because of the content, but because of his substantial shift in tone since just last October.

“Another two to three interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve will likely put U.S. borrowing costs in “neutral” territory where it is neither stimulating nor restricting economic growth”

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, October 19, 2018.

The Tremor before the Quake and the Fed’s $450B Balance Sheet Reduction
The combination of rate hikes and balance sheet reductions from the Federal Reserve in 2018 sucked up global U.S. dollar liquidity and put emerging markets under immense pressure. Next, the collateral damage forged onto the global economy took U.S. stocks lower in Q4. In our view, so far the Fed’s $400B balance sheet reduction vacuumed $1T out of the banking system. Through 2018, foreign banks – size holders of excess reserves – have been forced to search for other funding sources. The unintended consequences here are all over the floor. Globally, borrowing costs for consumers have surged with short term money market yields. The economic destruction is far more than meets the eye, the Fed is clearly walking in the dark here and they can’t find the light switch.

Emerging Markets, the Global Economy – Both Federal Reserve Balance Sheet Victims in 2018
Emerging market equities were 20-30% lower from February through October, bonds (credit markets) didn’t fare much better (see above), next the S&P played catch up to the downside. This, combined with tariffs from the White House has placed global manufacturing in a significant slowdown that has begun to circle back into the United States. After all, over $60T of global GDP is OUTSIDE the USA.

What a Coincidence?
All-time highs in U.S. equities just so happen to be perfectly timed with global central bank candy (asset purchases) fleeting into negative territory.  Offshore dollar debts worldwide have ballooned to $12.8T (BIS data). Roughly $4T of contracts outside the US are priced off three-month Libor rates alone, which have doubled over the last year. Rate hikes matter, the Fed balance sheet reduction matters more, pure global economic impact.

Next, The Mester Cave

Loretta Mester is considered one of the most hawkish Fed governors. It’s very important to watch for shifts from the extreme wings inside the Fed. When a hawk shifts to a more dovish posture, it means far more than a Fed dove repeating a long-held view.

*Fed “hawks” favor less market/economy accommodation (further rate hikes, Fed balance sheet reduction). Fed “doves” favor more accommodation (fewer rate hikes, possible hold period or rate cuts; less Fed balance sheet runoff).

A Colossal Shift in just Eight Weeks from the Cleveland Fed President

 *MESTER SEES NO URGENCY TO RAISE RATES NOW GIVEN INFLATION
*MESTER: SHE’S OPEN TO SEEING WHERE ECONOMY GOES ON RATE MOVES
*MESTER: FED ALWAYS LEFT OPEN OPTION OF BALANCE-SHEET CHANGE

*FED POLICY ISN’T AIMED TO PUT PEOPLE OUT OF WORK

“We should take our time and assess. We may be where we need to be (need to stop hiking rates).”

Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said in an interview with Reuters this week.

(Our Larry McDonald had dinner with Loretta Mester in October, spoke to her personally, “one-on-one” for 15 minutes, this is a far different perspective from her in our view, with a meaningful impact on markets).

Two Year Yields vs. Fed Funds Upper Bound
The market is giving the Fed the “Rodney Dangerfield, “No Respect.” The Fed’s ability to hike rates further in 2019 is in doubt above. Not only are U.S. 2 year yields BELOW the upper bound of the Fed Funds rate, but this week futures were pricing in a higher probability of a rate cut than a rate hike in 2019. 

GDX Gold Miners – Simple Way to Bet Against the Fed
There are a number of ways to bet against Fed rate hikes, most efficient is trading EuroDollar futures. One of our best trade ideas issued to clients in the fourth quarter of 2018 was buying Gold and Silver miners. In our view, precious metals are powerful tools to take advantage of a Fed that has been too hawkish. Since October 1st, the probability of ANY Federal Reserve hike has completely caved. Meanwhile, since August, the GDX gold miners ETF is up +23.1% while the SIL Silver Miners ETF is +15.2% higher with the S&P 500 off nearly 15%. Pick up our latest report here.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

One Sky High Junk Bond Maturity Wall

“With a cross-asset view (emerging market currencies, eurodollar/Fed funds, gold, and silver); bets on a “one and done” Fed have dramatically outperformed U.S. equities in Q4 and are all pointing to early signs of a softer Fed policy path. Looking down the road ahead, the U.S. equity market will CRASH in 1987 style if the Fed plays tough guy, it’s that simple. Similar to the March 2016 landscape, the market is about to embarrass the Fed yet again. As we have stressed over the last few months, they will capitulate in our view. As we stressed in September, stay long gold GLD and the gold miners GDX.”

Bear Traps Report, November 15, 2018

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Spending nearly $1T on deficit overloading tax cuts, then lighting it on fire with 8 rate hikes (nine since December 2015) and an experimental $430B of Fed balance sheet reduction, will go down as one of the most destructive policy mistakes in the history of the Republic. From 2010-2016,  central bankers enabled run-away corporate borrowing, now credit markets are telling them they’re pulling away from the steroids far too quickly.

More Rate Hikes?
There have been far more rate hikes than meets the eye. As we can see above, financial conditions are already as tight as found during the 2015-2016 oil credit crisis / China currency devaluation equity market sell-off. Back then, the Fed went on (rate hike) hold for 12 months. Fed fund futures are now pricing in just under 10% probability of just one rate hike in 2019. The Fed and U.S. economists are saying 2-3, high yield (credit markets) market saying zero. Who do you believe?

Credit Risk Veto of the Fed Policy Path

Credit markets are freezing up, recently companies have NOT been able to raise capital through the $1.6T US high-yield bond market. The first full month since November 2008 (just after the failure of Lehman) that not a single junk bond has been able to price in December.

Redemption

Junk bond maturities will soar to $110B in 2019 from $36B  in 2018, according to Moody’s Investors Services. And we expect that number to double to near $200B in 2020. For highly-levered companies who must roll their bonds over when the principal payments come due, a sharp rise in borrowing costs will catch them grossly ill-prepared, it’s a death sentence. When Chair Powell tells you the Fed will hike 2-3 times in 2019, he’s being Pollyannish, to say the least. In the real world, credit market functionality runs Fed policy, NOT backward looking U.S. economic data.  If you give us a colossal debt maturity wall vs. a Fed chair, the wall wins EVERY time.

Junk Bond Maturity Wall

2018: $36B
2019: $108B
2020: $191B
2021: $293B
2022: $385B

*Moody’s data, combined leveraged loan and high yield bond maturities. Two to three more rate hikes? Who are they kidding???

Investment Grade Debt Maturity Wall also in the Ugly Category

“In the US, investment grade debt outstanding has grown from $2.3T in 2007 to $6.1T heading into 2019. In the next 3 years, a large load of $1.3T is coming due, which is 3.5x greater than what we faced in 2007. ” With our associate Ed Casey.

*U.S. LOAN FUNDS SEE RECORD $3.53B WEEKLY OUTFLOW: LIPPER

Mr. Powell, are you listening to Leveraged Loans?
Credit spread contagion on stage here, the beast inside the market keeps moving from one victim to the next. Price discovery in the loan market found religion last week. For most of Q4, while investment grade bonds (see LQD above) suffered a bloody nose, secured bank loans were seen as a safe haven – then prices collapsed after the Fed meeting. Leverage is a very dangerous beast, the larger it becomes the more perfection it demands in capital markets functionality (the ability of HIGHLY leveraged companies and countries to sell investors more bonds, debt obligations). Leveraged loan sales in November dropped to $21B, while there was just $5.1B of high-yield bond issuance. That’s the lowest combined volume of speculative-grade debt supply since February 2016, according to LCD, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence.  And that was BEFORE the Fed rate hike. December’s new issuance is close to zero, “the betting window is closed, Sir.”

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

The True Cost of  Rate Hikes, a Fed Smoking in the Dynamite Shed

The global debt markets – especially US credit – have ballooned in size since the financial crisis. If you think of the reasons behind a rate hike (besides reloading the stimulus quiver), they basically boil down to the Fed’s ability to reprice assets and slow capital formation to stave off inflation. The repricing of assets is first felt in the debt markets. The fact that these markets are now substantially larger than they have ever been (having grown at a double-digit clip in corporate credit and even faster in government-issued bonds), makes the impact of even a modest hike exponentially more powerful than ever before! With this fact in mind, Why are U.S. economists sooooo focused on domestic economic data? Their eyes should be on credit risk. This is a major flaw in our view – in the post-Lehman era credit risk has been driving the Fed policy path bus.

It is not hard to calculate the amount of monetary value being repriced by a mere 25 basis point hike and see that it is far more powerful than ever before. The term duration refers to the percentage of gain or loss in bond prices for a given shift in interest rates, usually 100b basis points. So, for instance, a  pool of bonds with a duration of 2.5 would have about a 2.5% gain in value for a 100 basis point cut in rates and about a 2.5% loss in value for a 100 basis point hike in rates.

Colossal Losses, Impact of Fed Rate Hike in the Market

One of the most popular bond indices, the Barclay’s U.S. Aggregate, has a market value of $20.9 trillion today. This compares to a market value of $8.3 trillion at the time of the last rate hiking cycle kick-off on June 29, 2006. A look around the world is an eye opener; the Barclay’s Global Aggregate has a market value of $46.2 trillion versus $21.9 trillion on June 29, 2006. Some of this is already priced in of course, but the quick and dirty calculation tells you that for the U.S. Agg, a 25bps hike has 2.53x the impact of a 2006 era move and for the Global Agg, the impact is around 2.36x a 2006 era move in terms of the value of immediately repriced assets. This gives the adage “interest rates up, bond prices down” profound new meaning.

Put another way, the amount of losses by global bond investors in percentage terms for a given hike in rates is around 2.5x as powerful as it was the last time the Fed hiked rates over nine years ago. So might 25bps act a bit more like 62.5bps? Over the last few months, credit markets have been screaming this fact, are you listening?

Economic Data Still Strong?We must keep in mind, there are public and private economists who actively try and sell investors on economic modeling and follow-on equity market impact. Well, this crowd has been embarrassed in recent months. In November, ISM Manufacturing PMI came in with a healthy 59 handle. During the 2015-2016 equity market sell-off, she printed down at 48. There was NO warning for U.S. equities here. Bottom line, listen to credit markets, not economists.

Recession in 2019 or Does that Even Matter?

A 2019 recession will be more than an inconvenience for companies who rely on an easy money gravy train, or access to capital markets to stay afloat. Rolling over the debt during an economic downturn is no fun, especially when rates for high-yield paper shoot up, only adding to the pain of keeping debt on their already stretched balance sheets. “What blows my mind are the U.S. economists who are so focused on backward-looking economic data. With leverage this high, you need perfectly functioning capital markets period. Credit markets ALWAYS trump economic forecasting” said Larry McDonald, founder of the Bear Traps Report. Think of it this way, the St. Louis Fed and Goldman Sachs are both calling for 2.5-2.6% Q4 GDP growth, but does that even matter while companies cannot roll-over sky-high piles of debt?

Interest Coverage Ratio High Yield Junk Bonds

2018: 3.20x
2017: 3.50x
2016: 3.80x
2015: 4.50x
2014: 4.70x
2013: 4.75x

Bloomberg data, with leverage like this, there’s little room for error.

Colossal Losses, Impact of Fed Rate Hike in the Market

One of the most popular bond indices, the Barclay’s U.S. Aggregate, has a market value of $20.9 trillion today. This compares to a market value of $8.3 trillion at the time of the Fed rate hiked rates during the last credit cycle on June 29, 2006. A look around the world is an eye opener; the Barclay’s Global Aggregate has a market value of $49.2 trillion versus $21.9 trillion on June 29, 2006. Some of this is already priced in of course, but the quick and dirty calculation tells you that for the U.S. Agg, a 25bps hike has 2.53x the impact of a 2006 era move and for the Global Agg, the impact is around 2.36x a 2006 era move in terms of the value of immediately repriced assets. This gives the adage “interest rates up, bond prices down” profound new meaning.

Put another way, the amount of losses by global bond investors in percentage terms for a given hike in rates is around 2.5x as powerful as it was the last time the Fed hiked rates over nine years ago. So might 25bps act a bit more like 62.5bps? Recent price action in the stock and corporate bond markets are screaming this fact at us today.

Credit Leads Equities
From late October to late November, U.S. equities were flat, but junk bond credit spreads over U.S. Treasuries were nearly 50bps wider, or higher in yield. Credit was telling you, there’s more pain ahead for U.S. equities. Goldman Sachs just shaved its growth forecast for the first half of next year, from 2.50% to 2.00%, once again credit markets have been two steps ahead here. Listen to credit risk, NOT economists.

Unintended Consequences

Junk bond companies trying to refinance their hefty debt load, also have to deal with the tax bill passed through Congress and signed by President Trump a year ago. The new legislation raised the cap on how much an issuer could deduct in interest payments from their profits. As a result, highly levered companies, who no longer qualify for the tax loophole, will have less cash to pay back the interest on their bonds. “Diminished ability of highly leveraged companies to service high-interest costs would worsen their refinancing opportunities,” warned analysts at Moody’s Investors Service.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

Dow Theory Signals

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

“The global political risk surge has dramatically altered the Risk-Reward in U.S. equities. Our focus is on the risk connections across the EU, Germany, Italy, Sweden, China (trade) and the United Kingdom (Brexit). Our analysis of the financial path forward centers around a number of catalysts, and their impact on global markets and central bank promises. Bottom line: Look for stress in emerging markets (trade) and Europe to dramatically alter the Fed’s policy path. To us, 2018 looks a lot more like 2011 (Grexit) or 2015 (China Currency Devaluation) than 2017’s “risk on” (low equity market volatility) party. U.S. equities will move 10-15% lower, the beast inside the market will break the Fed over its knees. Once again, credit risk is about to veto the Fed’s policy path (far fewer rate hikes than the Street expects). “

Bear Traps Report, July 2, 2018 – “Credit Risk Veto”

How does one spot the end of a great bull market and the birth of a bear’s mauling? We can start with the Dow Theory.

The Dow theory asserts that major market trends are composed of three phases: an accumulation phase, a public participation (or absorption) phase, and a distribution phase. Bottom line; it’s a classic indicator of real selling. Just before the genesis of a bear market, the weak hands are flushed out. Fast money investors without deep investing commitments run for the hills first.  In July, we did a solid job for clients in getting them out of the FAANGs (shorts as well), another classic, fast money hang-out. To us, what makes this indicator so important is meticulously measuring signs of real money selling. In many instances historically, the real selling doesn’t begin until there’s a Dow Theory signal. Beware, we may have touched a trigger Friday, just as the Fed continues to pursue their beloved rate hikes.  Pick up our latest report here. 

The Dow Theory on stock price movement is a form of technical analysis that includes some aspects of sector rotation. The theory was derived from Wall Street Journal editorials written by Charles H. Dow (1851–1902), journalist, founder and first editor of The Wall Street Journal and co-founder of Dow Jones and Company.

Since the Mid-September US Equity Market Highs

Brazil EWZ: +24%
Utilities IDU: +6%
Gold GLD: +4%
China FXI: +3%
Consumer Staples XLP: +2%
US Treasuries TLT: +2%
Emerging Markets EEM: -2%
UK EWU: -10%
Dow Industrials: -10%
S&P 500 SPY: -11%
Italy EWI: -12%
Biotechs IBB: -12%
Germany EWG: -13%
Consumer Discretionary XLY: -14%
Eurozone Financials EUFN: -14%
Dow Transports: -18%
Russell IWM: -19%
Energy XLE: -20%
Retail XRT: -20%

Regional Banks KRE: -24%
Apple AAPL: -27%
Oil USO: -27%

*Deeply embedded in a bear market: Eurozone banks EUFN are 35% off their 2014 highs, German equities EWG are 30% off their January highs, Italian equities EWI are 32% off their 2014 highs, UK equities EWU are 32% off their 2014 highs. US retailers are on course for their biggest quarterly sell-off since the financial crisis. It’s important to note, US economically sensitive sectors (transports, regional banks, home construction, consumer discretionary) dramatically underperforming above. Credit markets are freezing up. This month companies have NOT been able to raise capital through the $1.2tn US high-yield bond market. This would mark, the first full month since November 2008 (just after the failure of Lehman Brothers) that not a single junk bond was able to price.

Dow Theory’s Ambassador

Over the years the Dow Theory had many ambassadors, none more prominent than Richard Russell. He was born in New York, the son of Hortense (Lion) Russell, a novelist, and Henry Harold Russell, a civil engineer. He began publishing a newsletter called the Dow Theory Letters in 1958. The Letters covered his views on the stock market and the precious metal markets.

Ahead of the Trend

Some say the Dow Theory has been ahead of the market for nearly a century. One academic study from the 1990s calculated the theory’s track record over the prior seven decades, back to when it was created in the early part of the last century; the study found that the Dow Theory beat the broader market by an average of 4.6% points a year.

Risk Indicators and Economic Philosophy 

People conflate the Dow Theory sell signal and the philosophy behind it. The overarching idea is that transports fall before industrials because the timing of their business cycles is different. But that isn’t the same as the Dow Theory sell signal. It’s the underlying theory supporting the Dow theory sell signal and buy signal. Dow theory should not be confused with Dow Theory signal.

Trannies Don’t Lie
Dow Theory Triggers: Above you can see three lower lows in the (yellow) Dow Jones Industrial Average, -10.3% off her September highs and two lower lows in the (white) Dow Transportation Average, -18.3% off her September high.

“With a cross-asset view (emerging market currencies, eurodollar/Fed funds, gold, and silver); bets on a “one and done” Fed have dramatically outperformed U.S. equities in Q4 and are all pointing to early signs of a softer Fed policy path. Looking down the road ahead, the U.S. equity market will CRASH in 1987 style if the Fed plays tough guy, it’s that simple. Similar to the March 2016 landscape, the market is about to embarrass the Fed yet again. As we have stressed over the last few months, they will capitulate (call off future rate hikes) in our view.”

Bear Traps Report, November 15, 2018

The Flush to Come

There have been significant tops that Dow Theory sell signals did not catch. So paying attention to the philosophy may prove more important than catching a classic signal.  Market participants need to review the theory at this point, there’s too much on the line. Friday,  we closed right at major support on the industrials. A flush from here would bring colossal real money selling, and confirm the beginning of a new bear market in our view.  What we found particularly troubling about yesterday was that we had good news on China and the market still flopped.

Bullish Signals for US Equities
One important risk indicator we use is the Index of NYSE stocks % above their 200-day moving average. On Friday, she touched 23%. In the Post-Lehman era, this level has only been breached three times; 2011, 2015 and 2016. US equities as measured by the S&P 500 bounced 31%, 16% and 21% in the six months following these HIGH capitulation levels.

Triggered or Not?

Some argue the Dow theory isn’t triggered until the averages (Dow and Dow Transports) go to a new high and the other DOES NOT.  The idea being you have an UNCONFIRMED new high FOLLOWED by CONFIRMED new lows. To our eye that has not happened.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

A Wall St. Legend Leaves Us with Timeless Lessons

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

A Wall St. Legend Leaves Us with Timeless Lessons

Larry McCarthy 1964-2013

Wall St. lost a legend five years ago this week.  Over the last two decades, Larry McCarthy was probably most respected junk bond trader, a man with fearless resolve.  He was one of a kind and touched so many people in positive ways. The only thing that outshined Larry’s inspiration to others was found in his generosity.

Stories of Larry’s passing have been widely read.  Over the last week, his profile was the most viewed globally across the Bloomberg terminal.  He will be missed by many, the man left a mark.

Authors Patrick Robinson (left), Larry McDonald (right) and Larry McCarthy (middle).

Best known for New York Times #1 Bestseller “Lone Survivor,” Patrick Robinson joined Larry McCarthy and Larry McDonald at speaking events across the U.S. in the summer of 2009.

 

McCarthy’s Legend Lives On

He’s best known as the former Lehman Brothers’ executive who predicted that credit-default-swap traders were “working on bringing down the whole world.”   McCarthy placed over $1.5 billion of bets against Countrywide Financial and Beazer Homes, he was a trader with unique market insticts, true vision.  Before the crash, he wisely left the doomed firm in 2007, and made his fateful declaration to a large audience at his retirement party.   It’s the stuff legends are made of.

 

“The debtors’ conduct, on its face, is suspect.”

Larry McCarthy

 

Classic Lessons

Hidden below, are some classic trading lessons that have more to do with psychology and attitude than anything else, virtues McCarthy mastered.

 As a tribute to Larry, this is an excerpt from the New York Times bestseller “A Colossal Failure of Common Sense.”

It was the Fall of 2005, the one person in all of Lehman Brothers who believed implicitly that analyst Jane Castle was correct, was Larry McCarthy. One of the most fearless traders ever to work on Wall Street, he would hear no word against her assessment of the Delta situation, and indeed had, working in concert with Joe Beggans and I, bought $750 million worth of the airline’s bonds during the company’s bankruptcy. He was keenly aware that it may be months before the price climbed to the levels Jane predicted. But he was sure of our position. And like all true gamblers, he was sure that his luck was running.

As a matter of fact he kept buying all through the next month, whenever an opportunity came up.  In truth, the situation at Delta itself did not really improve. Unrest in the Middle East continued, and the pilots were threatening to strike, which would blow Delta’s normal operations asunder, and cut off their cash-flow, which was, at this stage, their life blood. Larry was, however, adamant.

“It’s what Jane says. Those bonds are worth a lot more than 12 cents on the dollar. They got damn Boeings, hundreds of ‘em, parked all over Georgia.” (A year later the bonds traded at 65.)

It’s difficult to grasp the size of the gamble Larry was involved in, just as it’s difficult to grasp the type of man Larry was – it’s difficult to gauge his astuteness, the speed of his calculations, and the depth of his nerve. You’ll have to take my word for it, there was nothing ordinary about him. Larry McCarthy had stepped straight out of a scene from the Cincinatti Kid.

 

“Are you long because you like it, or do you like it because you’re long?”

Larry McCarthy

 

Hall of Fame Junk Bond Trader

He was world-class at both blackjack and stud poker. He was our very own Lehman Kid, cards or stocks, he had nerves of sprung steel, and a radar for those moments when Lady Luck was with him. He had a nose for victory, and an instinct for trouble. And when he scented the former, there was no shaking him off.

He and I used to go off gambling together. I suppose it was in our blood, and there’s a lot of guys like that on Wall Street, cold and determined with the firm’s cash, but addicted to the chase, calculating the odds, the risk reward ratio. I guess we’re all junkies for the thrill of being right, of winning, always winning.

Summer of 2013

“In trading, the pain and fear you feel is in direct proportion to the size of the opportunity.”

Larry McCarthy

One Unforgettable Night

I’ll tell you just one story about McCarthy, and then you’ll know precisely what manner of man held those Delta bonds. It was around that time in the year, as I said the Fall of 2005, and we had decided to have a couple of days up at Mohegan Sun, the spectacular Indian reservation casino in the deep woods of Connecticut on the banks of the Thames River.

These were days of immense prosperity for the investment banks and we were entertaining some heavy-hitting clients. After dinner at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, we headed for the tables for some high-rolling blackjack.

I settled into a modest corner where the stakes were around $50-$100. McCarthy went to $100-$500, a spot he had occupied many, many times before. But by any standards you’d have to say the cards were not running for him. He slogged it out, going head to head with the dealer, but nothing could change his luck. After two hours he’d blown a very large hole in $75,000. An hour later he’d lost $100,000. The dealer was pulling seven-card 21’s, and never busting.

I saw him three times double down on a 10, and then pull a 10; only for the dealer to hit 21 again, and then again. The pressure was relentless. The shocking bad luck apparently endless. But McCarthy never flickered, never stopped smiling, never stopped wisecracking his way through the evening. Never once did he lose his cool, laughing cheerfully with the pit bosses, and the dealers, who knew, to a man, the cards had turned against him, before he even started.

After four hours he had blown out $165,000. Nothing had gone right, nothing had been even reasonable. Lady Luck had sure as hell cashed her Delta bonds. But Larry stayed positive, once handing the cocktail waitress a $500 tip. Finally, I found it impossible, even if he could go on taking this financial bashing. I took him aside and told him, “Come on, Buddy, this is a disaster. I’ve calculated your losses. You’re $165,000 down. Let’s call it a night.”

I’ll never forget his reply. He stared at me hard, and he said, “This is all about positive staying power, old pal.  Most people quit in life when they’re just three feet from the gold. But you got to be there with the big bucks, for the turn. Because it always turns. Remember that. Everyone has good luck. Everyone has bad. Just don’t stampede for the f…ing exit when there’s a minor setback. Because it’s gonna turn. Trust me, it’s gonna turn, and that’s when you want to be there.”

 

“Always take a long look around the table for the sucker – if you can’t find him – it’s probably you.”

Larry McCarthy

 

Table Max

I just shook my head, at the sheer guts of the man. And he told me to call the pit-boss and get another $100,000. He was playing on, and his credit was good.

Both on the trading floor and in the casinos, most guys run for the hills when things aren’t going their way. Bad negative attitudes, whiners and complainers. But not Larry. On the trading floor and at the tables, he was always Captain Cool, waiting patiently, lying in wait for his moment.

He asked us to give him a little room. Then he collected his $100,000 and took over the whole table, all six slots. They roped off the area, except for him and me, and he started with $2,500 on each hand, that’s $15,000 on each round against the dealer. That gave him a very slight advantage, because there was no one else playing, catching the good hand. I watched him win a few, then lose a few. And then, suddenly, the dealer, ‘busted’ two hands in a row for the first time in close to five hours. Larry hauled back $15,000. Then he pulled something which was nothing less than a mind-blower.

He gestured to the pit-boss and requested permission to up the table-max from $5,000 a hand, $30,000 a table. “Let’s get this baby up to $10,000,” he said. “$60,000 a table.”

The pit-boss nodded, and came back with a new sign which read, “Table Max $10,000 a hand.” Larry proceeded to pile on his $1,000 chips, ten of them on all six slots. But the cards were not pretty. His best was a 16, but the dealer’s cards were worse.

There was a six, but when the second card turned, it was the dreaded five, and this meant if she drew a face-card she had 21, and Larry was down another $60,000.

The dealer, still under 17, had to go again. Almost 30 people crammed outside the ropes, watching this fight to the finish, holding their breath. The dealer turned the card. It was a three, which made 14. Larry never blinked. The dealer turned again, an ace, for 15. Larry stared straight ahead. And the dealer turned again, and pulled yet another ace. That was still only 16. This was sensational. But the dealer had to turn again. And it was as if the heartbeat of the entire casino had come to a halt. The pit-bosses had moved in and were standing watch with the crowd. Cocktail waitresses stopped serving, and a kind of telepathy swept around the gaming room. It was as if everyone was aware of the titanic struggle between the casino’s ace dealer, and Larry McCarthy from Wall Street, with $70,000 riding on the turn of a card.

I watched the dealer gasp, and then reach for the ‘shoe,’ selecting the card. For a split second, the hand that covered that card paused, and then spun it over, to reveal the Queen of Spades. Dealer’s bust – 26.

After five hours, Larry’s luck had finally turned, and he leapt at me, tackled both of us right off our stools, into the velvet ropes and on to the floor in front of all the spectators, both of us laughing fit to When we finally climbed back to our feet, Larry just said, “Okay, guys, let’s play some cards.” He swapped the $1,000 orange chips, the ‘pumpkins,’ for the $5,000 ‘Grey Ladies,’ and placed two of them on each spot, a $60,000 hand. And when the cards came up they were devastating – for the dealer. Four blackjacks and two 20’s for Larry ! Against the dealer’s pitiful 17.

In 35 minutes, Larry had come back from the dead to be $25,000 in front. “Remember this,” he said, “You’ve seen for the past four hours the best part of this game, trading and the very best part of life.  When you think things can’t get any worse, they always do, and when they can’t get any better, they always do.”

And what he said was true. I’d watched this man, beaten and beaten, and in the next two hours I watched him ride his luck, all the way back. When we walked out of there, he was $475,000 in front. I saw it with my own eyes. I think for the first time, I finally understood why Larry McCarthy was a full-blooded Legend of Wall Street, and his name would live for a long time.

On the way out, he told me one more truth, as applicable in the market as it had been at the table. “Never blow your powder too early,” he said. “Start nice and slow, nice and low. Get the feel of the market, get centered, make sure you got a ton of ammunition, and don’t quit too early. Never do that. When they’re running against you, keep going, because they’re gonna turn. And in the split-second they make that turn, hit it, buddy, hit it real hard. Because that’s when you’re gonna WIN.”

Larry McDonald is creator and editor of the Bear Traps Report, a weekly independent investment letter focusing on global political and systemic risk with actionable trade ideas. Larry serves as a political policy risk consultant to hedge funds, family offices, asset managers and high net worth investors. Larry was former Head of US Macro Strategy at Societe Generale, and frequent guest contributor on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, Fox Business, and the BBC. Larry is a NY Times bestselling author, his book “Colossal Failure of Common Sense” is now translated into 12 languages. He ran a $500 million proprietary trading book at Lehman Brothers, made over $75 million betting against the subprime mortgage crisis and was consistently one of the most profitable traders in the firm. His “Bear Traps” letter is one of the most highly regarded on Wall St. He’s participated in 3 major financial crisis documentaries: Sony Pictures, Academy Award winning documentary the “Inside Job,” BBC‘s “The Love of Money” and CBC‘s “House of Cards.” He’s delivered over 125 keynote speeches in 17 different countries, at Banks, Investment Firms, Conferences, Law Firms, Insurance Companies and Universities.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

US Nominal GDP, Breakout

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

Year over year, US nominal GDP grew at a rate of 5.5% in Q3, the highest rate since Q3 2006. After almost 10 years of anemic GDP growth, the US economy is finally coming out of secular stagnation trap, the 2nd quarter in a row with pre-GFC GDP growth.

Breaking Out of Long Lunge Lower
The U.S. economy is chugging along. Gross domestic product climbed a better-than-expected 3.5 percent in the third quarter on strong consumer and business spending, according to Commerce Department figures released Friday. The annualized rate of gains marks the best back-to-back quarters of growth since 2014.

Moving Out of the Dead Zone
 The GDP picture is loaded with inventory, consumption and government spending, BUT light on investment. The capex (capital spending by companies) boost from tax cuts has been drowned out by tariff / trade headwinds.

  • Strong headline. That 3.5% third-quarter advance was better-than-expected, Bloomberg noted.
  • Robust consumers. They’re two-thirds of the economy, and they’re firing on all cylinders, with a 4% consumption pickup
  • Subdued prices. The core price gauge rose 1.6%
  • Lots of government spending. It increased at a 3.3% rate, adding 0.56 percentage point to growth
  • Savings rate slip. It eased to 6.4% from 6.8%
  • Trade drag. It was the most in three decades.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

The Herd is Running into Consumer Staples, Value Stocks

Join our Larry McDonald on CNBC’s Trading Nation, Wednesday at 3:05pm ET

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here

A Structural Shift in Equity Markets

Since the financial crisis a decade ago, S&P 500 growth stocks have massively outperformed S&P value and defensive stocks.  Earlier this month something happened that took investors by surprise.

The outperformance of the SGX (S&P 500 Growth Index) vs. the SVX (S&P 500 Value Index) was right near the highest ratio ever recorded. The last time growth outperformed value to this extent was during the dot-com bubble, almost twenty years ago. Then it happened.

S&P Value vs. S&P Growth RatioBefore stocks began to sell-off last week, the ratio of S&P 500 growth vs. value nearly touched its all-time high set during the dot-com bubble. We are confident this structural market shift will continue and are bullish on the value (defensive stocks, consumer staples) vs. growth rotation.

Defensive Names Laying a Beating on Growth

With a plunge in global equities, this ratio has begun a powerful reversal.  We continue to see repeated signs of value and defensive outperformance, we believe this a structural shift and expect a continuation of capital inflows.

On October 24, the S&P 500 was beaten down -3.03%. Yet the QQQ, which is filled with high growth technology stocks, plummeted significantly further and closed off nearly 5%. Equities across the globe saw investors flee. Where did they go?  Capital had to flow somewhere, today the XLP consumer staples ETF closed higher by 42 basis points and was at one point 1.8% higher during intraday trading.

Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR XLP  ETF vs. SPY S&P 500 ETFA significant divergence began between the S&P 500 and staple equities this week. Capital has to flow somewhere.

We believe a comeback in defensive stocks is just beginning and this is an area we have been overweight in positioning.

In mid-September our Larry McDonald gave the keynote speech at asset management conference in Toronto, speaking about this dynamic. Make sure to review our Toronto Presentation slides, here.

Pick up our latest report here:

Don’t miss our next trade idea. Get on the Bear Traps Report Today, click here
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail

Facebooktwitterrssyoutube

Investment Newsletter

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons