About Me

Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 40 years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stock Market -- Technical

The $SPX is at a critical level regarding the cyclical uptrend in place since 3/09. It is important to
note that the trendline up has not had to be redrawn since the intermediate low of late 06/10 and a
successful test of that new line just last month. However, with the down move this week, the
trend is once again to be tested in the days ahead. Now, a sharp break below today's closing low
of 1292 would not necessarily signal  the end of the curent cyclical bull. But it would mark clearly
the end of the second upleg of the market and would clearly suggest that another upleg, should we get
one, is likely to involve a less positive trajectory.

As fate would have it, it seems like a good time to test this market. The US Gov. stands in disgrace
as It toys with raising the debt limit to avoid default, and a slow US economic recovery is not just
more vulnerable to shocks, but is showing only ever so scant evidence that it could be setting up to
do better.  Remember as well, adding significant fiscal drag over the next 12 months to appease the
deficit hawks via spending cuts could hurt substantially.

I have linked to the weekly $SPX chart below. Please note some interesting observations:
RSI: It is in a marked downtrend. It is currently at a weakish 47, with the more powerful and
defining rallies on the weekly chart coming at below 35.

MACD: As you would expect, it being a bull market, MACD has been above the zero line most of the
time. It is mildly negative now -- an indicator a break of trend could be at hand -- but it is also close
to a testing  its trend.

ADX: +D-1 is about 16 now. The stronger rallies have come when +D-1 is down around the 10 or
below area.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Debt Limit: It's Showtime (Part 2)

The latest numbing fiasco involving the raising of the debt limit for the Treasury merely extends
the damage done to the US economy and society since the beginning of the new century. The US is
on a course of eventual economic destabilization and social dissolution and it is up to Obama to
try to stem the descent even at the cost of his presidency. Issues ahead:

A US Default
The president needs to veto any and all riders to a bill authorizing an increase in the debt limit
which does not run for a minimum of 18 months and / or mandates large cuts in federal spending
and / or tax increases which would commence prior to 2013, earliest. If necessary, the president
should be prepared to unilaterally authorize the Treasury to issue additional debt to finance already
appropriated spending levels so the Treasury is not in violation of its responsibility to provide
such financing. Impeachable offense? Could be, but that's what might be needed in the worse

Credit Rating Downgrade
Official Washington should wave off this issue even if the rating agencies are prepared to
downgrade US debt. It is far from clear that the US economic recovery can sustain itself without
fiscal / monetary support. Fundamental improvement toward growth sustainability is underway
but the process is so slow that large cuts in federal spending or major tax increases which come
too quickly will significantly undermine potential for further recovery.

Fiscal Restraint 
Reliance on accomodative monetary policy, including even a new round of QE, is likely no
substitute for maintaining a high level of fiscal support at this delicate point in the recovery

Spend More & Tax More
Not a chance of this in the current environment, but I would look contructively at raising
taxes on high income earners and using the proceeds to fund direct job creation if the private
sector is unwilling to step up hiring. If job creation can be accelerated by tax reform or tax
credit programs, I would add that to the mix.

At this juncture, it is absolutely imperative for the US government to begin the long and hard
process of reclaiming the trust of its citizens. Further fracturing of this compact will speed up
the burn time on a fuse of discontent already lit. Never forget the law of unintended consequences.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stock Market -- Short Term Fundamentals

My weekly cyclical fundamental indicator turned up sharply at the end of Aug. 2010, rising by
30% through early Apr. 2011. Over much of the same time frame, the SP 500 rose by 28% to a
new closing cyclical high of 1364 through Apr. 29. Both the market and the indicator have
weakened somewhat since the spring, although the market has held up better. Stocks have
essentially rallied during periods when the weekly indicator suggested the economy was gaining
momentum. The stock market has also moved closely with the intervals of QE by the Fed, and
when you look at the three measures it is clear that the market and economic confidence have
benefited from having the Fed's QE tailwind as support. Note as well even though QE did not
wind up until the last week or so, the Fed has described the end of the recent round for several

Interestingly, both non-QE related financial liquidity and my weekly coincident economic
indicator have been inching ahead recently, but some key indicators I use in the weekly market
indicator such as sensitive materials prices, initial unemployment insurance claims and the 2 yr.
Treasury yield have not been behaving in support of a higher market. Since the latter indicators
grab more of the headlines, investors have been awaiting  some of these more popular measures
to suggest that the economy is regaining positive momentum.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stock Market -- Weekly Chart

There was a nickel / dime long side trade this week, but I have wound up today with no positions
in the market. The short term trajectory of the market is positive, but unpersuasive. The failure of
the $SPX this week to take out the 1344 closing high of two weeks prior decisively despite a bounce
is a disappointment. I have long side profits for the past month or so in tow, but now I am neutral,
and that is how I read the weekly chart. $SPX

If the market continues within the evident range bound pattern, I may do some more trades, but
for major trades, we need to see the market exit the current trading range in a decisive fashion. As
matters now appear, I am stuck in neutral and will be looking for direction from the market rather
than try to anticipate the next move.

From my perspective, we remain in a cyclical bull market. Much of the substantial intermediate
term overbought we saw earlier in the year has been wiped out by the sideways move in the $SPX.
So there is not a compelling need to be defensive from a technical point of view.

If you look over the stock market posts since early Jan. of 2011, you'll see that I've had a decent
handle on direction because there have been ok signposts to work with along the way. Not so
now by my work.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

European Union

In my view, the EU, as unwieldy as it is, was worth a try, and I still feel that way. Let's see what
it brings over the long run, as long as most people in it want to keep it. Perhaps inexcusably, I have
been very relaxed about the financial crisis the EU is facing, figuring if there is a will there is a
way for the EU to get past this current struggle. What's worse, I have a little investment banker in
my nature and believe in sensible creative financing to meet pressing financial need, if you can gin
up people's confidence sufficiently to go along with it. The EU can always be unraveled and the
lights can always be turned out on the financially weak countries within it. All fodder for future
historians who would be called upon to document and explain the sequences of disorder and
destruction that would follow. But, this is a huge and fascinating socioeconomic experiment, and
it appears the EU, by again stepping up financial rescue and stabilization efforts, desires to press
on. More power to them, especially when you consider that the 100 years of Europe's history prior
to the founding of the EU was among the most deadly and destructive the world has ever known.

The challenges ahead are huge. The PIIGS and Belgium have dire financial problems, the ECB is
broke and the banking system is way short of needed capital. There will be strains for years, but
Europe has been rebuilt stunningly before and this time it is only the bankers and insurance
companies which are bombed out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gold Price

I still have gold as being in a price bubble with a top in the neighborhood of $1500 oz. I have
looked at all the arguments in favor of a continuation of the bull run in gold, but I do not have
an imagination strong enough to rationalize these inputs into a higher price, much less the
$1500 level. I just do not posses that golden vision. I continue to short gold periodically as I
have been doing since last Oct. I have a 27% profit via DZZ using a small amount of capital.

Gold is overbought now on RSI, but not on the important MACD measure or on the basis of
premium to the 200 day m/a. 3Yr. Gold Chart. I have no position in the gold market as of now,
but since we have had a mini blow off run, I would be tempted to short it via DZZ if the gold's
5 day m/a were to break below the 10 day m/a. $Gold

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stock Market -- Short Term Technical

As prior discussed, I had a good long side trade in June. I got out at SPX 1340 on the way up
because the trajectory was too steep. Now I think the market is right about where it should be
if the rally is to regenerate properly and carry out of the trading range. So, I am looking for an
additional long side opportunity. However, my trading style being what it is, suggests if the
market does not move smartly ahead over this week, it is not likely to over the next few either.
Make or break time for the June rally. $SPX.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Debt Limit: It's Showtime

Successful politicians share a special skill -- they excel in counting votes correctly. The debt
limit / deficit reduction issue poses a difficult challenge. Voters are primarily concerned about
the state of the economy, jobs and whether they can keep their homes. US budget deficit reduction
is an issue of interest, but is not a high priority now. So, the politicos willl use as much of the
remaining time between now and Aug. 2 -- D-day according to Tim Geithner -- to try and glean
the best way to finesse the issue in their favor. Since the markets have been quiet so far, they are in
no hurry to make decisions. They can use the intervening time to gather more intelligence from
voter attitudes and  perhaps force the opposition to "blink" or make a concession or two in their

The GOP has as its prime objective bringing down the Obama presidency. From their perspective,
the best deal would be to get spending  cuts in 2012 of sufficient magnitude to slow the economy
and boost chances to unseat Obama. The president, in turn, would like to look every bit the prudent
fiduciary, but keep any concessions on spending from being put into place until 2013. There are
many other issues in the mix, but I see the matter of the size and timing of spending cuts as the
crucial ones.

There are a number of new and unseasoned GOP members of the House who have far stronger
demands in place if they are to vote to raise the debt limit. Here is where the main risk is
as it is not clear that Speaker Boehner can really control these folks. That risk doubles because
not only are they pressing an extreme position, but they are trying to extort concessions from
the president, that being a politically dangerous thing to do.

It's showtime!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Financial System Liquidity & Monetary Policy

Measured yr/yr, my broad measure of financial system liquidity has reached its strongest point
since late 2008, with this measure up 5.4% through 6/30. Moreover, liquidity categories beyond
the direct beneficiaries of the QE programs are expanding. My proxy for private sector credit
demand is up at a 5.0% annual rate for Half 1' 11, and the short term business credit supply /
demand pressure gauge has improved from a post great Depression low of -19.0 set early last
year to a -4.1 reading currently.

Private sector credit demand is recovering save for the large real estate segment, which is still
in a bottoming process. The banking system has boosted on balance sheet liquid reserves by nearly
48% or $550 bil. since 2008. Total system lending is flat with 2009 levels, but has started to inch
up. The banks' collective loan book has finally dropped down to the long term growth trendline
following the remarkable ballooning of the book from 2005 - 2008. Loan loss reserves remain
very high, but are gradually winding down.

In sum, private sector credit demand and the banking system are recovering from near death experiences, but improvement remains in an early, tentative stage. Thus it is that the Fed
must keep its options open on monetary policy: An improving system is still on shaky ground
but is inching closer to benchmarks that would suggest the FOMC should firm up policy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stock Market

The weekly coincident fundamental indicator took a substantial dip from early Apr. through mid
May, but has been essentially flat or stable since. The spring correction of the market trailed
the dip in the weekly indicator by several weeks, and has regained much of the ground lost in
the past two weeks as the weekly fundamental indicator continued to stabilize. The market has thus
started to run ahead of the weekly indicator. This is not an uncommon occurrence, although progress
of the stock market is likely to be modest without positive follow through on the fundamentals side.

We are in a confirmed shorter term uptrend that remains moderately overbought and which is still
on a short term trajectory that is too steep for comfort. Interestingly enough, the $SPX once again
pulled back into the trading band this past week. See here.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Economic Indicators / Analysis

Starting With Japan
Japan's production fell over 15% in 3/11 in the wake of the monster quake / tsunami combo. This
dramatic plunge created substantial supply chain disruptions which negatively affected output in
other major economies to varying degrees. Over the past two months, Japan's industrial output has
increased by nearly 7.5%, and it is widely expected that Japan boosted output by another 5.5% in
June. So, the parts and goods pipelines are being refilled, which will benefit global output over
the final six months of 2011.

US Leading Economic Indicators
The weekly and monthly leading indicators remain in positive territory, but momentum has eased
substantially reflecting a sharp contraction in the breadth measure of new orders for business, more
sluggish sensitive materials prices and a higher level of initial unemployment insurance claims than
seen earlier in the year. Breadth of new business orders in Feb.'11 rose to the highest level seen
since late 2003, and was in rare company with readings observed only during the early rebound
years of an expansion. The slowdown since Feb. is nothing out of the ordinary.

Coincident Economic Indicators
As a result of huge gains in the SP 500 index as well as in sensitive materials prices, the leading
indicators have overstated the case for actual recovery. What's more, although output and sales
data beyond the troubled construction industry have been very solid, employment and wage data
have been very muted. Since consumers have been trying to save more and borrow less and have
also had to contend with rising fuel prices, the coincident indicator data sets have been sluggish.

The weekly coincident activity index I use is nearly 7% above the 2009 cycle low, but remains a
full 8.0% below the prior cycle expansion peak. Not for nothing that so many Americans see the
US as still mired in recession.

Long Term Leading Indicators
There remains ample slack in the US economy both in terms of physical and financial capital.
We should be sitting back and looking confidently at a long period of economic expansion ahead,
including an eventual recovery in the construction markets. Instead, there are significant negatives
and uncertainties to contend with. Despite recent weakness, oil and petrol prices remain in
powerful uptrends which create inflationary pressure that undercuts the real wage and profit
margins of businesses that are net consumers of fuel. This is coming at a time when senior
managements are using a weak labor market to screw down wages and pay themselves ever so
handsomely. Real incomes of most workers are being punished and growing income disparity
is slowly working to destabilize the economy. As well, monetary liquidity growth is set to
decelerate markedly from admittedly high levels at a time when the credit markets are thawing
out ever so slowly. Finally, there is now talk in Wash. DC that a grand, longer term budget deficit
reduction program is being cobbled together around the issue of raising the debt limit. Should such occur, it could put significant fiscal drag on an economic recovery that has yet to prove clearly
that it can sustain itself without continuing heavy monetary and fiscal accomodation.

Right now, my indicators say no easy riding here, but a wearying grind instead.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Cyclicals -- Relative Strength

The relarive strength of the cyclical stocks is a very helpful, but certainly not infallible guide
regarding how investors see the outlook for the economy, corporate profits and the stock market.
The cyclicals have recently regained favor vs. the general market and are now in a clear relative
strength uptrend. However, the relative performance of the cyclicals so far this year has been at
its shakiest since the economic recovery / cyclical bull market began. $CYC relative strength

The relative performance of the cyclicals has been in a downtrend most of this year. The top of
the downtrend channel is being tested right now, and it could be disappointing for the broader
market if the the cyclicals -- the bull market sector leader -- fail to continue to progress above
the very evident down channel in place over the next couple of weeks.

The upcoming slew of earnings reports may throw more light on the issue.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Stock Market -- Short Term Technical

For several weeks, I have been contending there was a nice, tradeable upmove in store for stocks.
(See 6/06 and 6/10 posts.) Well, we have it and I have been targeting a range of 1335 - 1360 as
an appropriate level for the SP 500.

This week's quick trip on the up escalator has brought the market to a moderate short term over-
bought. The move has eclipsed recent prior overboughts, and this is a healthy sign. The move
came after a double closing low, another healthy sign. The trajectory of the advance is of course
too rapid to be sustained, so there will be a pullback before long. Today's action confirms the
uptrend for the short run.

I have to confess that I do not have a strong view as to whether this rally marks the beginning of
a new and sustainable upleg which could run for a good several months. I am now seeing the market
in an extended trading range, although how I am marking it as not classical but as more nearly
conjectural. $SPX daily.

My reasoning for introducing the hurdle of a range bound market has to do with the top the SPX
made in early May. This does not look to me to be a top of consequence compared to the two
prior ones made earlier in the year. That so-far cyclical top I characterize with the decidedly
non-technical term "wuss top." I want to see if the market can clear that 1350 - 1360  area
with some authority.

Since I went long near the recent lows, I cleared out my position today but may well re-enter
on the long side when the market forms a more sensible trajectory.

I think many players were caught flat footed on this rally because of the arduously slow way in
which the selling pressure dried up ahead of it. Nice to see that again in an age of volatility
and bombastic commentary.