Investment Strategy From Jeff Saut

Investment Strategy US RESEARCH | PUBLISHED BY
RAYMOND JAMES & ASSOCIATES

 

Morning Tack - “Road Trip”

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist  (727) 567-2644

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While traveling up and down the west coast of Florida this week, I could not help but recall the famous line from the movie Animal House, “Road Trip!” as well as the old stock market axiom, “When the going gets tough, the tough go on the road!” Clearly, that's what I did this week, and while I was traveling, the stock market was doing some pretty weird things. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I saw the D-J Industrials down over 200 points and the S&P 500 up some 13 points. That's why, when someone asks me about the stock market, I hardly ever refer to the Industrials but, rather, the S&P 500. Leon Tuey does me one better by saying the stock market is not an index, which is why the Advance–Decline Line is a much better indicator of the overall stock market than any index.

"The quote, 'a picture is worth a thousand words' is attributed to Confucius. That may or may not be true. The attendant chart [page 2], however, tells investors much more about 'the market' than what the S&P-obsessed seers have been telling investors. Most on Wall Street always talk about the S&P as it was 'the market' not realizing that it only contains 500 big cap stocks and it is a weighted Index. On any given day, several thousand stocks are traded in the U.S. and that, is 'the market'

For decades, I've been advising those who really want to know what 'the market' is doing to look at the Advance-Decline Lines. Mathematically, it's simply the cumulative differential of Advances and Declines. Each day, sum up the day's Advances to previous days and sum up the declines to previous days and subtract one from the other. Because of the way it is calculated, in a bull market, over time, the Advance-Decline Line should rise and in a bear market, it should be heading in a southeasterly direction. Accordingly, this indicator tells investors more about the health and direction of 'the market' than any market index. Yet pundits keep talking merrily about the S&P. You would think these folks are trading the S&P minis or the S&P futures and not 'the market.'"

I received many emails about the lunch group's comments on inflation, but I want to highlight the following from blast-from-the-past Albert Wojnilower, Ph.D., who became known as Doctor Doom, while Henry Kaufman was Doctor Gloom, as a result of their dire economic predictions of the stagflation 1970s. From his perch at my friend Craig Drill's money management firm, Al wrote this week:

"If so, why have the Fed and many other leading central banks been chronically over-estimating inflation? Two major sources of inflation in the post-World War II period were rising wage rates and oil prices. Technological innovation has curbed them both. Globalization, spurred by advances in communication, travel, and transport (especially containerization), has exposed Western labor to world-wide competition, sapping the political and economic power of industrial labor unions. As for oil prices, the burgeoning of shale and off-shore petroleum resources outside the Middle East has been holding them in check. Moreover, sharp declines in the cost of solar and wind energy, coupled with improvements in storage batteries and the advent of affordable electric cars, are likely to displace fossil fuels. This would fundamentally alter the costs and uses of energy, with far-reaching repercussions around the globe. Textbooks and economic models that treat inflation as a mainly monetary disorder are obsolescent."

Today is option and futures expiration. When equity futures expire, it is usually more difficult to generate an upside squeeze late in the week. That said, the preopening futures are better by some 9 points as I write at 5:10 a.m.

 March 15, 2019

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Morning Tack - “Road Trip”

Monday, Ten Years Ago...

Frist Trust

Monday Morning OUTLOOK

March 11, 2019

Brian S. Wesbury Chief Economist

Robert Stein, CFA Dep. Chief Economist

Strider Elass Senior Economist

It’s March 8, 2009. The market’s down 56% from its all-time high, unemployment is over 8% and hurtling toward 10%, it’s just been reported that real GDP dropped at a 6.2% annual rate in Q4 of 2008, and it feels like the world is coming to an end. You’re tired, exhausted from living through this, and you fall into a deep sleep. So deep, in fact, that you don’t wake up until today, 10 years later.

First thing you do is run to your computer and see the S&P 500 is up 305% since the bottom. You are blown away. No way this could be true! Things were so bad when you fell asleep. Little did you know the S&P 500 bottomed the next day.

So you run over to your friend’s house and knock on the door. Your friend answers, wondering where you’ve been for 10 years! You ask what possibly could have happened to drive the stock market up more than 300%.

Your friend pulls out a list. Let’s call them the "golden geese."

After-tax economy-wide corporate profits are at record highs, up 175% since the bottom, or around 11% annualized growth.

Then your friend tells you about Apple. When you fell asleep, Apple had been selling the iPhone for about a year and a half. Over that period, they sold a record-breaking 17.4 million of them. But since you’ve been asleep, Apple has sold about 1.3 billion of them. Every calendar quarter Apple sells about three times what it sold in that first year and a half.

Then there’s Uber. Your friend tells you how you can press a button on a phone and a few minutes later a car will come by and, before you get in, you know who the driver is, his rating, how much it’ll cost, and how long it will take to get to your destination. All cheaper than a taxi. It seems like science fiction!

You see unemployment is only 3.8% and think it’s a typo, because when you fell asleep it was more than double that.

Your friend shows you a video of a self-driving semi-truck that Budweiser used to carry 51,744 cans of beer from Fort Collins, CO, to Colorado Springs, CO. About 130 miles on I-25 with no driver! Now Amazon is deploying similar trucks.

But what may be most amazing is that that there have been several years over the last 10 that the US has run a trade surplus with OPEC. You wonder how this can be since the US was in an energy crisis when you fell asleep. In fact, oil production had been on a declining trend for about 50 years. Your friend tells you it’s all changed. Since you have been asleep, because of new technology, oil production has more than doubled, from about 5 million barrels per day to around 12.1 million barrels per day. In fact, the US is now the world’s biggest oil producer. Bigger than Russia and Saudi Arabia! The state of Texas, by itself, just surpassed Iran to become the world’s fifth biggest oil producer!

You continue through the list and are more and more blown away. It’s been only 10 years and the world is completely different, for the better! You barely recognize it, so many things have happened that you wouldn’t have even dreamt possible.

And notice, you have no idea who is President, what’s been going on with interest rates, Quantitative Easing, China, or North Korea. You’ve never heard of "AOC" and you missed the whole Greek debt crisis. All you know about are these "golden geese." And that’s all you need to know. The entrepreneur, alive and well, has continued to revolutionize the world over the past 10 years. That’s what has been driving economic growth and the stock market.

Imagine where we will be 10 years from now. Our guess is that it will be better than you can think.

************************************

As a side note, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the current recovery and bull market is very satisfying to us.

We believed the Panic of 2008 was made significantly worse (trillions of dollars worse) than it needed to be because of overly strict mark-to-market accounting. Forcing banks and other financial institutions to write the value of assets down to fire sale prices based on frozen markets put the whole financial system at risk.

No amount of money from the Federal Government would have ever stopped it. Private investors stopped investing in banks. Markets stopped trading. All because assets were being written down well below the amount of cash they generated.

Quantitative Easing and TARP were both unnecessary, and useless. QE was started in September of 2008 and TARP was passed in October. During the next five months, the S&P 500 fell an additional 47% and financial stocks declined 70%. There is no evidence (unless you value self-proclaimed victories) that either worked.

The market turned on March 9, 2009, when the House of Representatives decided to push the Financial Accounting Standards Board to reverse the damaging mark-to-market rules. The change wasn’t made until April 2009, but the market knew it was coming. The change allowed banks to use cash flows to value investments. And guess what, private investors came back. They invested in banks and other equities and that was the turning point.

While government will tell you that it saved the economy, it didn’t. Once mark-to-market accounting rules returned to the way they were from the late 1930s through 2007, the economy could recover. And that’s exactly what it did. This recovery and the bull market are based on entrepreneurship. It’s not – and never was - a Sugar High.

TARP would have never been enough to save the system because assets would have continued to be marked down. And QE was unnecessary because the problem wasn’t due to a lack of money in the system.

Some members of the Federal Reserve try to compare 2008/09 to the Great Depression, and argue Milton Friedman would have wanted QE. But in the Great Depression, the money supply was declining. It never declined in 2007 or through September 2008, when QE was started. The problems in the system were capital problems, not liquidity problems.

In fact, it is our belief that without those overly strict mark-to market accounting rules, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WAMU and Wachovia would never had needed to go under.

Thank goodness the rules were changed, allowing the free market and entrepreneurship to once again work the magic that has transformed this great country since its start.

The attached information was developed by First Trust, an independent third party. The opinions of Brian S. Wesbury, Robert Stein and Strider Elass are independent from and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.  All investments are subject to risk. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided in the attached article will prove to be correct. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that's generally considered representative of the U.S. stock market. Keep in mind that individuals cannot invest directly in any index. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was a group of programs created and run by the U.S. Treasury to stabilize the country's financial system, restore economic growth, and mitigate foreclosures in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Morning Tack - “Boeing Crash”

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist | (727) 567-2644 | jeffrey.saut@raymondjames.com

MARCH 12, 2019 | 8:16 AM EDT

"If there is one thing to be gleaned from the futures market this morning, it is this: the Dow Jones Industrial Average is not 'the market'. When one refers to 'the market', think the S&P 500.”

. . . Briefing.com

If I have heard it once, I have heard a million times from stock market guru Leon Tuey. To wit:

"Many persist in believing that the S&P is 'the market' which it is not as it only represents 500 big cap stocks and it is a weighted index. On any given day, however, several thousand stocks are traded in the U.S. and that is 'the market'. Hence, it's much more important and more informative to watch the Advance-Decline Lines as they reveal the true health of the market.

SHORT-TERM: Last week, the short-term oscillators (daily) registered oversold readings pointing to a bounce this week, and the market is rallying right on cue. Pundits, however, point to the 200+-point drop at this morning's opening. Little do they realize that much of the loss was due to a sharp plunge in Boeing and other airline stocks while Advance outnumbered Declines by a margin of more than 2-to-1 both in New York and on the NASDAQ. In other words, most stocks rallied.

INTERMEDIATE-TERM: As mentioned, in the week of February 25, a consolidation/correction was signaled as the market was grossly overbought, momentum and sentiment deteriorated. Short-term rallies notwithstanding, until a grossly oversold condition is reached, momentum and sentiment improve, further consolidation/correction lies ahead. As noted, the correction will prove to be rotational/time rather than magnitude as in December, fearful of a recession and a bear market, investors liquidated their equities ferociously. Consequently, they are grossly under-weighted in equities and are sitting on a mountain of cash. Now, they are starting to realize that given the Fed's dovish posture, there is no recession and as this begins to dawn, investors will scramble to get back in. Hence, the consolidation/correction is nothing more than a normal reaction to an overbought condition within an ongoing bull market which is healthy. After gaining more the 19% from its December low, the bull is just trying to catch its breath, a well-earned rest.

LONG-TERM: The secular bull market which commenced on October 10, 2008, remains firmly intact. Investors are witnessing the second leg of this great bull market that began in February, 2016 which is always the longest and strongest as it is driven by improving economic conditions caused by the monetary stimulation of years past. Since the first leg lasted nearly seven years, despite the black headlines and the widespread fear, the current leg remains relatively early."

And then there was this from our friends at the astute Lowry’s Research Organization:

"On Monday, the DJIA and S&P 500 rallied throughout the day, adding 0.79% and 1.47%, respectively. The lag in the DJIA was the result of extraordinary weakness in one of its largest components – Boeing (BA). Overall, Demand and the breadth behind the gains were strong, with Up Volume at 83% of total NY Up/Down Volume, while Advancing Issues made up 79% or total Advance/Decline Issues. Further support for Monday’s rally was reflected in Buying Power’s 4-point gain and Selling Pressure’s 4-point loss."

Stock Chart’s, John Murphy, went one further by writing:

"1) TECHNOLOGY SECTOR LEADS TODAY'S REBOUND AND HOLDS ITS 200-DAY LINE

2) SEMICONDUCTORS ARE HAVING AN EVEN STRONGER DAY

3) THE NASDAQ AND S&P 500 REGAIN THEIR 200-DAY LINES

4) THE DOW SHRUGS OFF BIG BOEING LOSS

5) AND IS BEING LED HIGHER BY APPLE, INTEL, AND MICROSOFT

6) MICROSOFT NEARS ANOTHER TEST OF ITS DECEMBER HIGH"

As for me, I have always averred the support level for the S&P 500 (SPX 2783.30) was in the 2700–2730 level and that the December 2018 intraday low of 2346 would NOT be retested. Last week’s pullback stopped at 2722.27; GED! Speaking to crude oil, as Cornerstone Analytics’ savvy Mike Rothman writes:

"Fears of an economic slowdown in China have recently weighed heavily on global oil prices. Demand deterioration leading to a drop in demand might sound like straightforward logic, but February’s Chinese oil usage data paints a completely different picture. Year over year crude demand increased by almost 15%, a staggering 1.78 million b/d for the month. Keep in mind that the per capita oil usage in China is at only 2.3 barrels a person – about one-tenth the usage rate of the US. With coal still accounting for 70% of China’s overall energy usage, we continue to have trouble turning bearish on China’s impact on the global oil balances. In the words of Mike, “it’s strange to see such a preponderance of bearish beliefs that keep getting defied by obvious bullish data.”

Yesterday, the SPX rallied 1.2% above its 200-day moving average, suggesting this rally may have upside “legs.” This year, the Federal Reserve has taken a softer tone, concerns regarding a trade war with China have fallen, and recessionary risks have declined. This more benign backdrop creates the potential for multiples to expand despite uninspiring profit trends. This morning, the preopening futures are marginally higher with no real overnight news.

Risk and Disclosure information, as well information on the Raymond James rating system and suitability categories, is available here.

Investment Strategy: “National Treasure, National Treasury, National Debt"

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist | (727) 567-2644 | jeffrey.saut@raymondjames.com

FEBRUARY 25, 2019 | 7:58 AM EST

Dear Clients and friends, please read the entire report!

I was traveling last week seeing portfolio managers and doing gigs for our financial advisors and their clients. I have been doing such events for much of the past six months. The recurring question from clients is, “What about the national debt?” First, I would point out that when everyone is asking the same question it is usually the wrong question. Yet, last week that question hit its zenith as the media trumpeted that the national debt had traversed $22 trillion dollars. With that, I kept getting the same recurring question at events: “Jeff, the debt to GDP is above 100%. Doesn’t that worry you?” My answer has always been:

I don’t think the debt-to-GDP ratio is the right lens to view the debt issue. In a past life I was a fundamental analyst writing stock-specific research on individual companies. When we researched a company we always looked at assets to liabilities. NOBODY looks at America in that way. I don’t know what the Grand Canyon is worth, but it is worth a lot. I don’t know what the Tetons are worth, but they a worth a lot. Now obviously we are not going to sell the Grand Canyon, but the government has many levers to “pull.” A couple of months ago I was driving from San Antonio to the Hill Country to speak at an event. Along the way I drove by an army depot, with nobody there, that had to be 15 miles long. It brought to mind the fact that the government is selling such properties for big bucks. Indeed, the government has many levers it can pull.

Also speaking to this point, our friend, Riverfront Investment Group’s Doug Sandler, in an article titled “National Debt . . . No Time to Worry Yet,” writes this:

In theory, investors should have one less thing to worry about with the passage of the federal spending bill last week, which averted a second government shutdown. However, true to form, investors replaced the fear of too little government spending with new concerns about too much government spending. Given that the bill’s passage coincides with the federal debt surpassing $22 trillion and now exceeding our country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the concern seems justified. In fact, The National Debt Clock personalizes the $22 trillion figure by reminding us that it equates to about $67,000 per US citizen, or roughly $180,000 per US taxpayer.

As scary as the federal debt appears, we are less concerned for two reasons. First, in our opinion, several mitigating factors make the debt load less precarious than what is reported in the headlines. Second, the ‘warning lights’ that would typically flash before a debt crisis remain unlit. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) January 2019 report, roughly $5.5 trillion of the $22 trillion is intergovernmental debt. Intergovernmental debt is the debt that the government owes to itself. For this reason, many economists believe that ‘Federal Debt Held by the Public’, which excludes intergovernmental debt, is the more important measure of the Federal government’s indebtedness. By this measure, the federal debt is expected to grow to $16.6 trillion by year-end. While $16.6 trillion is a big number, it’s 25% smaller than $22 trillion and well below the psychological threshold of exceeding 100% of GDP.

Although it would be highly unlikely, if the U.S. was obligated to put up collateral for its loans, there are plenty of assets it could pledge. A few of the ‘priceless’ assets it controls include prime land (national parks) and buildings, a portfolio of patents, usage rights to digital access, and spectrum and mining rights for energy and minerals.

Lastly and most importantly, the Federal government has the ability to print its own currency, like it did in the years following the Financial Crisis. Since 2008, the Federal government printed over $2 trillion in US dollars and has the ability to print even more. In theory, no country with its debts denominated in its own currency should fail to make good on its debt obligations.

Doug’s conclusion is that warning lights are not flashing. Obviously I agree with Doug, having used the same points as Doug’s 2 and 3. I must admit, however, I have never heard about the intergovernmental debt discussed in point 1, but it is a pretty important point. So, I hope this missive allays concerns about the debt-to-GDP question that I keep getting asked.

Turning to the equity markets, last week the D-J Industrial Average (INDU/26031.81) notched its eighth consecutive weekly gain for the longest weekly upside skein since May 1995. According to our friends at Bespoke:

"Despite lots of economic data weakness both in the US and around the world, earnings have been coming in at a respectably strong pace in the US, and asset markets from Asia to Latin America have been rallying steadily. Whether the explanation is still-cheap valuations, less hawkish central banks, the hopes of positive effects from credit stimulus in China, or possible winding down of trade tensions, there’s plenty of explanations for the ongoing equity rally."

Meanwhile, the Advance-Decline Line for the S&P 500 continues to trade to new all-time highs and as Leon Tuey points out, “The A/D Line is a much better indicator of the strength of the equity markets than any index.” Other breadth metrics are equally as strong. The eight-week rally has caused AAII’s bullish sentiment to rise to 39.32%, which is not all that extreme. However, bearish sentiment has fallen to 25.39%, which is somewhat extreme. The strong rally continues to leave all of the overbought indicators I follow at extreme overbought levels, as well credit spreads are somewhat elevated vis-a-vis credit, which could be a red flag for stocks in the short term (chart 1 below). Interestingly, given all the recession talk, Dr. Copper, one of the best economic indicators, has broken out to the upside in the charts (chart 2 on page 3). And don’t look now, but crude oil has broken out in the charts to the upside (chart 3); buy the midstream MLPs.

The call for this week: Over the weekend Jim Paulsen said, “Last year to be successful you had to find a way to stay appropriately cautious in the face of nothing but optimism. This year you must stay bullish in the face of nothing but pessimism on fears of slowing earnings growth, trade wars, and other threats.” Speaking to earnings, so far of companies reporting 4Q18 earnings 63.8% have beaten the estimates, while 60.1% have bettered revenue estimates. That is not as strong as the past four quarters, but it still is not bad. My indicators that were looking for an energy polarity peak have reversed with the mild stall we have seen and currently are configured again to the upside. I did not expect that, but in this business you take what they give you. As one of my mentors used to say, “It is no disgrace to guess wrong, the mistake is to stay wrong!” My indicators now reflect an upside move without much of a pullback. The pace of the rally should slow, however, following this extraordinary December upside run. This morning the preopening S&P 500 futures are better by some 13 points as I write at 5:17 a.m. because the president has delayed the implementation of further tariffs of Chinese goods.

“For charts associated with this article, please click this link”

https://raymondjames.bluematrix.com/sellside/EmailDocViewer?encrypt=f255d9a7-4262-4744-8bc5-bbfe7851ce50&mime=pdf&co=raymondjames&id=matt.goodrich@raymondjames.com&source=mail

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Morning Tack - “Supply Versus Demand”

Investment Strategy US RESEARCH | PUBLISHED BY
RAYMOND JAMES & ASSOCIATES

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist  (727) 567-2644

“Hey Jeff, you mentioned this morning that the equity market’s rise currently may be more about an absence of supply rather than a pickup in demand. Is it also fair to say December low was the opposite? Just want to make sure I am interpreting things correctly. Thanks.”

. . . A financial advisor

 

I received a number of emails yesterday about this statement in yesterday’s Morning Tack. Most of them read like this:


“Hey Jeff, you mentioned this morning that the equity market’s rise currently may be more about an absence of supply rather than a pickup in demand. Is it also fair to say December was the opposite? Just want to make sure I am interpreting things correctly. Thanks.”


I guess I need to further explain that comment. The selling climax low that ended on December 24, 2018 was one of the worst I have ever seen. It left the equity markets about as deeply oversold as they have ever been. I have explained the reasons for said selling (hedge fund liquidation, mutual fund redemptions, ETFs being sold, tax loss selling, etc.). The selling squall exhausted the sellers (read: no more “supply”). Consequently, even with little in “demand” (read: buyers) the slightest pick-up in potential “buyers” overwhelmed the reduced “sellers (read: supply of stocks). The subsequent rebound rally has been intense, with January being the best January performance in about 30 years. The rally has lifted the S&P 500 (SPX/2737.70) back above its 50-day moving average (DMA) of 2611.66 and is now challenging its 200-DMA of 2741.77. Clearly, the SPX has overshot my near-term trading target of 2600- 2650. However, as we have written earlier this week:


Despite the overbought condition, our work suggests the equity markets can trade higher into mid-February’s energy peak often referenced in these reports. Despite that outlook, we do not trust the overbought condition the equity markets have currently worked themselves into and continue to advise caution on a short-term trading basis. That said, there is now plenty of internal energy in the equity markets to continue the move.


In yesterday’s missive I expanded on that comment by noting:


The equity markets are consolidating to the upside, which is pretty consistent with what my indicators have been telegraphing even though I remain concerned with the overbought conditions of the equity markets. That upside consolidation should be followed by yet another breakout to the upside with a secondary trading target of 2800 – 2820, which should stall into the mid-February energy peak timing zone.


Ladies and gentlemen, if we are going to get a pullback it should come from that energy peak. However, to reiterate my comments since the second 90% upside day of January 3, 2019, we continue to think the December lows will not be retested. As the acute John Murphy, famed technical analyst and author, writes as a headline for a recent blog entry:


WHAT TO MAKE OF THE 2019 REBOUND -- BEAR MARKET RALLY OR START OF A NEW UPLEG? -- S&P 500 NEARS TEST OF 200-DAY AVERAGE AND MAYBE ITS DECEMBER HIGH -- WEEKLY CHARTS ALSO SHOW IMPROVEMENT -- MONTHLY CHARTS, HOWEVER, SUGGEST MORE CAUTION AS BULL MARKET NEARS ITS TENTH ANNIVERSARY.


Obviously, I continue to embrace the secular bull market theme. As my pal Leon Tuey writes:


Many continue to hold the view that a bear market had commenced or that a "cyclical bear market" is in progress. Clearly, they have no understanding of the market’s logic and they confuse the various market indices with "the market." As mentioned, what investors saw was nothing more than a normal reaction to an overbought condition registered in the August/September period. The plunge in the averages was caused by the drop in the heavyweights; the various Advance-Decline Lines, however, just went through a garden variety correction, one of the mildest in this great bull market. Since the seers (and most investors) only pay attention to the market averages and not to “the market," the plunge in the market averages caused widespread fear.


Since Powell backtracked and the People's Bank of China stepped up liquidity injections, global money supply has round-tripped to March 18 levels. Forget earnings or macro. This is why markets have rallied. History shows that buying stocks at or near all-time highs, with stretched valuations, because the Fed is easy while the economy begins an ebbing cycle is a path to ruin (See 1999-2000, 2007-2008). U.S. stocks are extremely overbought on a trading basis and short-term basis. A spirited retreat can appear at any time. However, for the foreseeable future, most traders will continue to buy any and all dips because the Fed Put has been reinstated.

This should end with the mid-February energy peak, but I do not believe the December low will be retested. This morning futures are flat . . .

 

February 6, 2019

 

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2008 Myth and Reality

First Trust Monday Morning Outlook

February 4, 2019

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist

Robert Stein, CFA – Dep. Chief Economist

Strider Elass – Senior Economist

We’ve written about it over and over, and while many advisors seem to understand, the media, politicians, and many analysts don’t…or won’t. So, we thought we’d try again to explain why so many people don’t understand the nearly ten-year long bull market in U.S. equity values.

Conventional Wisdom places the blame for the 2008 Financial Panic at the feet of Wall Street, and heaps praise on QE, TARP, and bank stress tests for saving the world. It has been repeated so often that even many conservative/libertarian analysts have succumbed to thinking the crises was papered-over by government money and that any day now the “sugar high” will come to an end.

This is why “corrections,” like the US stock markets experienced late last year generate so much fear. There is a cadre of traders, media-types, and just plain old hangers on who can’t wait to be the next Nouriel Roubini and make one great call in a row.

What makes it worse is that the truth is there for the taking, but the conventional wisdom simply ignores it. In Peter Wallison’s book “Hidden in Plain Sight,” he very clearly shows it was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who pushed the subprime loan space. Congress and HUD urged mandated that Fannie and Freddie buy more subprime paper, and by 2007 - along with the federal government - they owned 76% of it. Yes, Wall Street is culpable too, but government drove the marketplace. Wall Street simply wouldn’t have been issuing these bonds without Fannie and Freddie’s voracious appetites.

Even Ben Bernanke has argued that subprime loans themselves weren’t large enough to take down the system. He blames derivatives, undercapitalization, and interconnected banks. By his verdict, the government gets off scot-free.

But this completely ignores the role that FASB 157, otherwise known as mark-to-market accounting, played. Mark-to-market accounting forces banks to take a few bids from the marketplace and use those bids to value assets. Cash flow doesn’t matter, underlying asset values don’t matter. And what happened was a disaster. The market for loans froze, and even assets that were still paying on time sold at fire-sale prices.

If a bank owned a pool of 1000 mortgages and 300 of them defaulted (which given the collapse in underwriting standards by Fannie and Freddie wasn’t impossible to expect), then that pool still payed 70 cents on the dollar. But, because the market was frozen, bids fell into the teens for an asset paying 70 cents in cash. FASB 157 forced banks to take the “bid,” push it through their income statement, and subtract the losses from capital. This, in turn, created the bigger problems. There was no willingness to invest in banks when, at any time, they could be wiped out by mark-to-market losses. The fire became an inferno.

This was a capital problem, not a liquidity problem. But, the Federal Reserve started Quantitative Easing anyway in September 2008. Hank Paulson pushed the $700 billion TARP bill through that October. Nonetheless, the market kept falling. The S&P 500 fell an additional 40% after TARP – bank stocks fell 73%. QE and TARP weren’t the cure.

It was March 9, 2009, when Barney Frank’s Financial Services Committee announced a hearing with FASB on this really dumb accounting rule, that the market turned around. Yes, it’s true that the actual rule wasn’t reversed until April, but on March 9th the financial markets realized the change was coming.

What happened after that is recorded for history. The market is up 300%, banks healed, asset values rose, and a “normal recovery” began. New technology – fracking, apps, 3D printing, the cloud, smartphones – lifted productivity and profits, and stocks responded. It was not QE that lifted the stock market; TARP didn’t save the banks.

Unfortunately, because so many Republicans back the government-led version of history, many younger Americans have come to believe that free markets fail, and governments can engineer growth. No wonder there are so many fine young thinkers who seem to back socialism these days. After all, even Republicans support government intervention. President George W. Bush defended TARP by saying we had to “violate free market principles in order to save the free market.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Either you believe in free markets, or you don’t. The Bush administration and its supporters bowed to the popular, but false, narrative. They have yet to find a way to explain their positions. As a result, socialist tendencies are rising in America.

Consensus forecasts come from Bloomberg. This report was prepared by First Trust Advisors L. P., and reflects the current opinion of the authors. It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.

No Sign of Recession

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist

Robert Stein, CFA – Dep. Chief Economist

Strider Elass – Senior Economist

Talk about destroying a narrative. On Friday, the Labor Department reported 312,000 new jobs in December, with an additional 58,000 from upward revisions to prior months. Recession talk got crushed. The Pouting Pundits of Pessimism claim jobs are a lagging indicator, but the pace of payroll growth starts declining well before a recession starts. In the twelve months ending in June 1989 nonfarm payrolls increased a robust 225,000 per month. In the next twelve months payrolls rose a softer 153,000 per month and then a recession officially started in July 1990. A similar pattern happened before the next two recessions, as well. In the twelve months ending in February 2000, payrolls rose 250,000 per month before decelerating to 137,000 per month in the next twelve months. A recession started in March 2001.

“Click HERE to read more”

This information was developed by First Trust, an independent third party. The opinions of Brian S. Wesbury, Robert Stein and Strider Elass are independent from and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Forward looking data is subject to change at any time and there is no assurance that projections will be realized. All investments are subject to risk. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided in the attached article will prove to be correct. Individual investor's results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results .

Dow 28750, S&P 3100

12/31/2018

Brian S. Wesbury Chief Economist

Robert Stein, CFA Dep. Chief Economist

Strider Elass Senior Economist

Early in 2018 we said the US economy has gone from being a Plow Horse to Kevlar.  Nothing that has been thrown at the economy since – neither trade conflicts nor tweets, not higher short-term interest rates nor the correction in stocks – is likely to pierce that armor.   

 A year ago the economic consensus was that real GDP would grow 2.5% in 2018.  And yes, that was after the tax cuts were passed.  By contrast, we were more optimistic, projecting that real GDP would be up 3.0% in 2018.  If we plug in our forecast for 2.0% real GDP growth in the fourth quarter, the economy will have grown 2.9% for the year.  If, instead, we use the Atlanta Fed’s estimate of 2.7% for Q4, we’d get 3.1% for the year.  Either way, we just about nailed it.

 Now, the same consensus that a year ago suggested the economy would only grow 2.5% in 2018 with the tax cuts is saying the economy is going to slow down to a pace of 2.3% in 2019, in part because of the supposed reduction in stimulus related to those very same tax cuts.  

 Once again, we’re not buying it.  The benefits to growth from having a lower tax rate on corporate profits and less regulation are going to take years to play out.  Companies and investors around the world have only begun to react to the US being a more attractive place to operate.  As a result, we’re forecasting another year of 3.0% economic growth.        

 Further, we expect the unemployment rate to keep gradually falling, as continued job growth offsets an expanding labor force to push the jobless rate down to 3.3%, the lowest since the early 1950s.  Last year the consensus predicted the jobless rate would decline to 3.8% in 2018; we predicted 3.7%.  Right now it’s already 3.7% and we think a drop to 3.6% is likely for December when that report comes out January 4.       

 On inflation, it looks like we’ll finish this year with the Consumer Price Index up about 2.0%, although it would have been higher were it not for what we think is a temporary downdraft in oil prices.  The consensus had projected 2.1% and we had been forecasting 2.5%.  Look for a rebound in oil prices and ample monetary liquidity to help push the CPI gain to 2.5% in 2019, which would be the largest gain since 2011.  

 The tricky part is what to expect from the Federal Reserve in 2019.  Based on our economic projections, and if the economy were the Fed’s only consideration, we could get as many as four rate hikes in 2019.  After all, nominal GDP growth – real GDP growth plus inflation – is up 5.5% in the past year and up at a 4.8% annual rate in the past two years.  Raising rates four times in 2019, which is more than any Fed decision-maker projected at the last meeting in December, would only take the top of the range for the federal funds rate to 3.5%, still well below the trend in nominal GDP growth. 

 But we think the Fed will have a two-part test for rate hikes in 2019.  First, as we just explained, the economy itself.  Second, the yield curve.  We think the Fed will be very reluctant to see the federal funds rate go above the yield on the 10-year Treasury Note and will strive to avoid either an active or passive inversion of the yield curve.  An active inversion would be the Fed directly raising the federal funds rate above the 10-year yield; a passive inversion would be raising the federal funds rate so close to the 10-year yield that normal market volatility could send the 10-year lower than the funds rate.  

 As a result, we think the Fed will want to leave a “buffer zone” between the 10-year and the funds rate of about 40 basis points.  So, for example, if the 10-year yield stays near its current level throughout all of 2019, we could end up with no rate hikes at all in spite of economic conditions.

 Our projection, though, is that the 10-year yield moves higher to reflect more strength and resilience than the consensus now expects.  If the 10-year yield finishes 2019 at 3.40%, as we expect, that would leave room for two rate hikes, maybe three.               

 For the stock market, we expect a soaring bull market, with the S&P 500 reaching the 3100 we projected for 2018 a year ago.  Yes, we know that sounds bold, but our Capitalized Profits Model is screaming BUY. 

 The model takes the government’s measure of profits from the GDP reports divided by interest rates to measure fair value for stocks.  Our traditional measure, using a current 10year Treasury yield of about 2.75% suggests the S&P 500 is still massively undervalued.  

 But if we use our forecast of 3.40% for the 10-year yield, the model says fair value for the S&P 500 is 3100.  And that leaves room for equities to go even higher if, as we think, profits move higher next year, as well.  The model needs a 10year yield of about 4.35% to conclude that the S&P 500 is already at fair value, with current profits.

 The bottom line is that we’re calling for the S&P 500 to finish at 3,100 or higher next year, which would represent a nearly 25% gain from Friday’s close.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average should end the year at 28,750.

 Yes, this is likely to be one of the most optimistic forecasts you see, if not the most optimistic one of all.  But, in the end, we do best by our readers when we tell them exactly what we think is going to happen, without altering our projections so we can run with the safety of the herd.  Grit your teeth if you have to; those who stay invested in the year ahead should earn substantial rewards.    

“Click HERE to read more”  

 Consensus forecasts come from Bloomberg.  This report was prepared by First Trust Advisors L. P., and reflects the current opinion of the authors.  It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable.  Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice.  This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.                      

No Deal In Sight To Reopen The Government

With neither side showing any sign of compromise, the partial shutdown could extend until January, says Washington Policy Analyst Ed Mills.

December 31 , 2018

The government is shut down; the Treasury Secretary is holding a meeting of the “plunge protection team”; press reports provide conflicting accounts related to President Trump’s discussion to fire the Chairman of the Fed; the departure of the Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, has been moved up to January 1; and the State Department’s special envoy to combat ISIS, Brett McGurk, is following Mattis out the door.

Government Shutdown

Parts of the U.S. Government – including the Department of Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, and Department of Interior – remain closed following a missed deadline to agree on funding the border wall with Mexico. No deal is in sight and Congress is adjourned through December 27. This shutdown could easily stretch into January as the new Congress convenes January 3. The normal pressure on the personal lives of members of Congress and the president did not produce a deal, and neither side shows any real sign of compromise. There are multiple paths forward but no consensus yet on the most likely resolution. We believe an increase in funding above the $1.3 billion for the construction of metal fencing could give the president enough of a victory to accept the deal.

Plunge Protection Team

Secretary Mnuchin is set to convene the president’s working group on financial markets, a committee that was created in the Reagan administration to monitor the stock market. The meeting comes after Mnuchin held calls with the CEOs of the top six U.S. banks over the weekend. Following these phone calls, he reported that all banks have adequate liquidity and the markets are functioning properly. These actions, while appropriate given the recent sell-off, seem to raise more questions than answers – especially as no one had seemed to raise any concerns related to these issues about which Mnuchin is seeking to reassure the market.

Fed Chair

The Secretary of the Treasury and the president’s Chief of Staff issued statements this weekend that the president will not fire/does not believe he has the authority to fire the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell. There is a debate about the ability of the president to "fire" the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, with question related to the ability to designate and/or appoint a new Chair. The Senate would need to confirm the president’s pick, and indications from the Senate is that there is no support for such an act. The longest-serving Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Richard Shelby (R-AL), was critical of these reports over the weekend and supports the Fed’s independence. There are also reports that the president’s staff is discussing a potential Trump-Powell meeting. We do not believe the Senate would support any decision of the president to fire Powell, but the uncertainty created by these stories will add to the volatility surrounding each of the Fed’s decisions.

National Security Personnel Changes

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over as acting secretary for departing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on January 1, two months before his announced departure. Shanahan is a former Boeing executive and has been seen as a supporter of the Pentagon’s focus on procurement during the first two years of the Trump Presidency. It is unusual to have an acting secretary at the Defense Department, as the tradition is for the current secretary to stay on until his replacement is announced and confirmed by the Senate. Adding to the negative national security headlines, the State Department’s special envoy to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk, also resigned. He is not a household name, but was well-respected in D.C. and his departure raises questions about other potential national security departures in the coming weeks.

February/March Likely Volatile Policy Months

The deadline on China trade is March 1, the Treasury is expected to begin emergency measures to manage the debt limit in March, and the Mueller investigation is expect to release its report in mid-to-late February. We will be monitoring these events to see how much they potentially weigh on the markets.

Legislative and regulatory agendas are subject to change at the discretion of leadership or as dictated by events.

Morning Tack - “Dow Theory Redux”

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist | (727) 567-2644 | jeffrey.saut@raymondjames.com December 14 2018 | 7:45 AM EST

Forgive me, but I am sick of answering questions about Dow Theory since there are FAR too many pundits that have not studied Dow Theory and, therefore, do not understand the concept put forth by Charles Dow, expanded on by Robert Rhea, William Hamilton, and our dear departed friend Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters, which I have read since I began in this business in 1971 (I actually wrote an epitaph about him a few years ago). Yesterday’s questions were summed up in this composite letter from a Raymond James’ client:

“Can you explain why you are using the March 2018 lows of the D-J Industrials for a Dow Theory sell-signal instead of lows made since the new confirmed highs were made.”

So this is the last time I am doing this. First, the new all-time highs by the D-J Transports were made in September of this year along with new all-time highs from the D-J Industrials. Since then, both of those major indices have been on the skids. While it is true the Transports have broken below their closing low of the past 12 months, the Industrials have not. The trailing 12-month closing low for the Industrials was made on March 23, 2018 at 23533.20. By the method of interpreting Dow Theory that I was taught by my father, and after extensive readings of Charles Dow, Rhea, Hamilton, and Russell, THAT is the closing low that should be used as a confirmation by the Industrials of the breakdown by the Trannies, QED!

“Can you explain why you are using the March 2018 lows of the DJ Industrials for a Dow Theory sell-signal instead of the lows made since new confirmed highs were made?”

. . . A Raymond James client

“To view graph click HERE

. Source: FactSet. Data as of 12/14/18 6:57 a.m.

So yesterday’s Dow Theory questions were prompted by the slide in the Transports from their December 3, 2018 intraday high of 11044.67, into yesterday’s intraday low of 9604.23, for a 10-day pullback of some 13%. The culprits of yesterday’s decline seemed to be the airline stocks, which surrendered roughly 5% for the session on warnings about future revenue growth. Why revenue growth is in question is a mystery to us, since we fly roughly 200,000 air miles a year and are ALWAYS on full planes, but there you have it.

Then there was this from savvy seer Jason Goepfert (SentimenTrader):

"CFOs are pessimistic. A survey of 500 corporate CFOs shows that, during the recent quarter, they have become the least optimistic on the U.S. economy’s prospects in 7 years. Mom & pop are, too. The latest survey from the American Association of Individual Investors showed a big drop in optimism. The Bull Ratio dropped to 30%, the lowest since February 2016. Bank blahs. Several of the largest banks in the U.S. are down at least 7 days in a row and trading at 52-week lows. For the 2nd largest bank, BAC, it’s the first time since 2011. It’s happened 6 times in 25 years, leading to rebounds three weeks later 4 times."

The Industrials were again unable to hold their early gains, leaving yesterday’s declining issues at 64% of total Advancing to Declining issues. Downside volume also dominated with 60% of total Up/Down Volume coming on the downside. This morning, Theresa May’s bid to rescue the Brexit deal is rejected by the EU, the National Enquirer newspaper says it will share all of the information it has on the President (this is a big deal), and very weak economic reports out of China and Europe have left the preopening S&P 500 futures down some 22 points as we write at 5:20 Friday morning. If that holds into the opening bell, it means the S&P 500 (SPX/2650.54) is going to test the 2580-2600 level again. Good grief . . .

Please read domestic and foreign disclosure/risk information beginning on page 2 and Analyst Certification on page 2. INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS: THE RAYMOND JAMES FINANCIAL CENTER | 880 CARILLON PARKWAY | ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA 33716

“To view graphs and to read more click HERE

Morning Tack - Persistent Selling

Jeffrey D. Saut, Chief Investment Strategist | (727) 567-2644 | jeffrey.saut@raymondjames.com December 12 2018 | 8:02 AM EST

Yesterday, someone sent us this tweet from stock market guru Ralph Acampora that read, “Monday's intraday activity and its closes on the leading market indexes were impressive: it's called a ‘key reversal-day’ on a bar chart and a ‘hammer’ pattern on a candlestick chart. They suggest that an important near-term low was made.” Now, for nontechnical folks, a hammer formation in the candlestick charts is defined as follows:

“A hammer is a type of bullish reversal candlestick pattern, made up of just one candle, found in price charts of financial assets. The candle looks like a hammer, as it has a long lower wick and a short body at the top of the candlestick with little or no upper wick (see chart 1, page 2).”

Also suggestive that a bottom was made on Monday was what our deceased friend Ralph Block used to term a multi-swinging session. To wit, “Ralph was a huge fan of a crater opening, multi-swinging session that ends near the high of the day. Looks like it was just what he would have wanted!” We would add that the McClellan Oscillator is pretty oversold on a short-term basis (chart 2, page 2). Likewise, the Russell 2000 is some 10% below its 200-day moving average and, therefore, oversold (chart 3, page 3). And, don’t look now, but the energy complex is very oversold (also has a hammer chart formation – see chart 4, page 4) with the anecdotal evidence that a bottom is near with three large energy-centric hedge funds closing their doors.

"Monday's intraday activity and its closes on the leading market indexes were impressive: it's called a ‘key reversal-day’ on a bar chart and a ‘hammer’ pattern on a candlestick chart. They suggest that an important near-term low was made.”

. . . A tweet from stock market guru Ralph Acampora yesterday

“To view graphs and read more click HERE

.. Source: FactSet. Data as of 12/12/18 7:40 a.m.

As for the questions about a Dow Theory “sell signal” that are being trumpeted by some on the Street of Dreams, by our method of interpreting Dow Theory, there has been no “sell signal.” The problem is these folks are using the November closing low for the Industrials, which is the wrong reaction closing low to use. While it is true the D-J Transports notched a new reaction low last Friday, the D-J Industrials have not violated their March 2018 closing low (the right closing low to use). As such, what we have, according to Dow Theory by our method of interpretation, is a downside non-confirmation, which should be interpreted bullishly.

As for all of the questions about the “persistent selling” we are experiencing, it is due to the algos, tax loss selling, and hedge fund liquidation. Recall that many hedge funds only give their investors one time a year to pull their money from said funds. Those letters from the hedge funds tend to go out on November 15 with a “window” to pull your investment funds extending into December 31. Clearly, the hedge funds have had a really difficult year in 2018, and it is not being helped in the typically ebullient month of December. Remember, “If Santa fails to call, the bears will roam on Broad and Wall.” And then there was this from the sagacious Jason Goepfert of SentimenTrader fame, “It’s not just Financials, Energy stocks have been faltering, too, with more than 40% at a new low. And fewer than 5% of them are above their 10-, 50-, and 200-day moving averages. There have been 23 days since 1990 when selling was this widespread.” If that sounds like capitulation, it should! So, unless we are into another “selling stampede” (this would be session six in what typically is a 17–25 session stampede), there should be a near-term bottom at hand. Yesterday, NYSE breadth diverged negatively after the NYSE opening. Apparently traders and algos bought the incessantly recurring US-China trade deal hype, but large institutions did not. On a positive note, President Trump says he would intervene in the U.S. case against Huawei’s CFO if it would secure national security interests, or help close a trade deal, with China. As Sophocles said, “Not knowing anything is the sweetest life.” This morning, the preopening futures are sharply higher on the president's statement that he would intervene in the Huawei CFO incident if it will help with a Chinese trade deal.

Please read domestic and foreign disclosure/risk information beginning on page 5 and Analyst Certification on page 5. INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS: THE RAYMOND JAMES FINANCIAL CENTER | 880 CARILLON PARKWAY | ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA 33716