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@TheCorner for the week ending January 15th, 2016

CNBC.com Article on Thursday January 7th

“While U.S. stocks are facing a fast and sharp correction, they are still not expected to fall the 20 percent that would signal a bear market, analysts say.” -Excerpt from above article

By: Ken Reinhart

We all need daily comedy – it keeps us healthy!  So for today’s comic relief the above headline is shared with the laughter coming from the sub-title that reflects the long-held Wall Street view of no bear market unless and until main indices are down 20%.  WHAT!??  This is analogous to ignoring smoke coming out of your living room windows and waiting until half the house is burnt down before thinking of calling the fire department!  A lot of comedy comes out of Wall Street but for my part this is one of the funniest long-held views.  “You are losing money, but don’t worry about this because you have not lost 20% yet – hence nothing to be concerned about”!

In the week ending December 11,th  SPX9 went to bear market alert with a message stating it was time to switch the collective mental view of “buy the dips” to “sell the strength.”  The point was to use any upward momentum to either liquidate long positions and/or enter short positions into said strength.  We’ve done this based on a wealth of various data points directing us this was the action to take – notwithstanding the above 20% “rule”.

The essence of the SPX9 signal was the fact that we had a leaderless market.  Of the 9 sectors comprising the S&P 500 (SPX9) – 0 were registering as a leader – i.e. experiencing an on-going uptrend which is the most basic component of a bull market.  Higher highs and higher lows equals an investment vehicle that is moving upward of which none of the 9 SPX sectors were able to lay claim to.  A leaderless market is a significant problem which suggests deterioration and downside issues coming.  With this, turning the bull market mentality of “buy the dips” over to the bear market mentality of “sell strength” was the logical decision until further evidence to the contrary.  We have yet to see evidence contrary to this current bear market mentality/approach.

There is an adage in the market that offers nothing goes up or down in a straight line.  If this becomes a “true” bear market, whereby the sacred point of down 20% or more is attained, the odds are very high this will not occur in a straight downtrend, but rather will be a process of downward moves followed by a less vibrant (on a trend basis) upward move.  This depicts the essence of a downtrend which is a series of lower highs and lower lows.

In its simplest form, how will we know when to change this bear market approach?  Simply speaking, when those series of lower highs and lower lows are broken – i.e. the downtrend is no longer trending down.  Those “lower highs” will be taken out to the upside presenting a trend alert shift.  As these alerts are consistently hit, a bull market alert shift will occur, with a coinciding shifting mentality of back to buying the dips.  With this, an expected and necessary ingredient will be an identifiable leader class within the SPX9 universe.  Simply, there will be sectors that are leading the way to higher highs and higher lows, depicting the basic essence of an uptrend.

As we stand now though, we are in the grasp of a bear market process and will be until the market signals otherwise.  Below is an observation list of some significant market issues that have developed beyond the above described leaderless issues and lack of positive sector trends.  The list below is not comprehensive nor are they listed in any order of importance.  They are a representation of numerous issues the market has evolved to.

  1. The Dow Transport Index has easily and significantly put in a lower low than seen at the bottom of the late August 2015 bottom.  This has been negatively diverging from the Dow Jones Industrial Average through the bulk of 2015 and continues to current day.

  2. The Dow Transport Index, on a weekly basis, now is below is 200 week moving average depicting the depth of its weakness.

  3. The micro cap, small cap, and mid cap indices have put in another new low when placed in a ratio chart versus the S&P 500.  In a healthy, vibrant, bull market climate we would expect to see the opposite.

  4. The NYSE Composite index has put in a new low taking out the previous low point reached in the late summer 2015 bottoming process.  In addition, this too has gone below its 200 week moving average also reflecting the depth of its weakness.

  5. The Retail sector, via the broad based ETF, $XRT, has also put in a new low taking out the late summer 2015 low.  In addition, it has been and remains below (on a trend basis) its 50 week moving average and currently sits just above its 200 week moving average.  These combined reflect tremendous weakness.

  6. The “FANG” stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google – well recognized individual stocks that have performed well and have gotten noticeable attention as a group of leaders in light of so few well performing areas.  These four are now all below their 50 day moving average to different degrees suggesting deterioration.

  7. The long U.S. Treasury bond (via the ETF, $TLT) on a ratio basis, is trending out-performance of the S&P 500.  This “safe haven versus risk asset” measure continues to point in favor of the safe haven.  In addition, using the same ETF and applying it to the High Yield Bond market, we also see the safe haven outperforming on a trend basis.

  8. The S&P 500 and its 9 sectors reflect 8 of the 9 sectors clearly below their 50 week moving average.  The one that is above it ($XLP – Consumer Staples) is challenging to also go below its 50 week average.

  9. An amazing 40% of the 107 Sub-Group Indices making up the S&P 500 sectors have put in a lower low than the bottoming low point of the late summer of 2015.  The vast majority of these did so with such ease that it was as though the expected stabilizing point of that previous low point did not exist at all.  This depicts significant, broad based weakness that should not be seen in a minor market correction environment.  In addition, many of these Sub-Group Indices are for economically sensitive areas and/or areas that are traditionally important to overall stock market health.

The above is not proposing the sky is falling and the stock market will be crashing as much as it is meant to depict the significant deterioration within the markets.  Waiting for a 20% downturn before we get concerned and take action is simply silly in our view.  As shared above, in the front part of December we had shifted to a bear market alert in light of the on-going leaderless problem within the S&P 500 sector universe.  Rather than waiting for half the house to burn down before acting, we believed it prudent to call the fire department in light of the on-going signs of significant smoke if you will.  In so doing, we have been able to sidestep a significant portion of the market’s recent turmoil.  We will continue to employ flexibility in maneuvering through this upcoming year be it up or down.

Ken Reinhart

Director of Market Research & Portfolio Analysis

This commentary is presented only to provide perspectives on investment strategies and opportunities. The material contains opinions of the author, which are subject to markets change without notice. Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions which fluctuate. References to specific securities and issuers are for descriptive purposes only and are not intended to be, and should not be interpreted as, recommendations to purchase or sell such securities. There is no guarantee that any investment strategy will work under all market conditions. Each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long-term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. PERFORMANCE IS NOT GUARANTEED AND LOSSES CAN OCCUR WITH ANY INVESTMENT STRATEGY.

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