#MarginDebt – the divergence that kills the bull

I been taking note of margin debt, now recorded monthly by FINRA, since last spring with the warning that it was at astronomical levels in relation to itself in 2000 and 2007.

One early post solely on margin debt this spring noted that the market was likely to make new highs while margin debt failed to the do the same (see the charts below). It is difficult to time precisely when this distribution is going to matter since it is always reported a month late. During lag, one can only speculate what it going on it with behind the scenes, so to speak.

Linked here,I called that:

Declining Margin Debt – the bullish scenario

And linked here more recently on October 1, it was suggested this may be the month when debt takes its toll:

Margin Debt – a sign of quiet desperation?

It’s been noted in posts here that even as the market moved up to new highs it appeared during the day that there was selling going on. I guessed that was big players were trying to edge off margin debt. Behind the scenes the advancing stocks were narrowing, the new lows at the bottom of the market were beginning to outpace the new highs at the top. Everywhere there were signs – wackiness was going on all over the place., marijuana stocks became the leading sector, some low priced stocks, like YECO, would go up 500 percent (in a day!); one by one bellwether stocks, FB, NFLX, TSLA, AMZN and finally even AAPL took hits; the housing stocks have been declining all year and finally banking stock have joined them.

In that October post above, I called this late stage the “most bearish bull market” I’ve seen.

But now margin debt is finally the revealed rub.

Each time the levels of margin debt in 2000 and 2007 became unsustainable, the subsequent decline led to bear markets in which the S&P 500 index declined 40% to 50% (see the charts below), and now when it drops it will be dropping from an even higher height.

Can a 40-50% bear market happen again? You can bet half your portfolio on it.

Once margin debt begins to unravel, it will feed on itself — when the margin calls come, it is either put up more money or sell the stock. Selling the stock drives it lower and brings more margin calls. Nothing else will matter, not fundamentals, not news, not hopes, not dreams.

Why is this important? Depends on one’s age. When it happens, it will take years and years – five years? eight years? 13 years? – to recover the prices the indexes are at right now.

It appears, now that we can see the new high in the market and the fact the margin debt did not follow, that process has begun behind the scenes, so to speak.

Of course big bull markets can fool (see 2016 in this one on the charts below), and might try soon since the market is currently deeply oversold and the Christmas season is traditionally bullish, but it can’t fool history forever. History is the best indicator of the fear-greed-time market psychology there is since it repeats and rhymes all through time. In the end history will tell.

(click on the charts for a larger view)

$LVS $WYNN – “No one knows how to bankrupt casinos like I do.”

I made up the quote in the headline on this post but I’d bet the first thought of everyone — EVERYONE — who read it was Donald Trump said that?!

He might as well have (maybe he has sometime in his daily incoherence). Before he got into the money laundering business with the Russian Oligarchs, he owned casinos in Atlantic City. They all went broke.

He doesn’t own any gambling palaces anymore but it appears as President he’d like to help bankrupt those of his friends as well, like a hobby on the side. Both Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are big Trump supports. Or at least they have been. Looking at what’s happening to the shares of their companies, one wonders if they still are. If they are, what’s the matter with them?

This probably has to do with the way Trump has managed to get the Chinese to quit playing games of chance but who knows? Maybe it’s just his “golden touch” in casinos is contagious? Or maybe, a more obviously, it might be, as much as fools wants to tout the supposed merits of a businessman in the White House, every fool needs to remember the last one was Herbert Hoover.

The worst is likely not over for LVS and WYNN, and the down staircases like these here (see the charts below) are likely going to get built soon in a lot of other stocks, and a lot of market sectors (even now take a glance at housing stocks and bank stocks and place bets).

(click on the charts for a larger view)

$SPY – Market breadth takes a toll on a “Big Wednesday”

In surfing lore, there is the myth of “Big Wednesday.”

The myth was immortalized in the 1978 cult film “Big Wednesday,” written and directed by John Milius, who also wrote such movies as “Jeremiah Johnson”, “The Wind and the Lion” and “Apocalypse Now.” It was Milius’ contention elite surfers cannot acquire true greatness, legendary greatness, until they face and overcome the great waves, the legendary waves that rise and surge and rage along the California coast from out of almost nowhere. No one know why they come or when they come but as the movie puts it: “They always come on Wednesdays.” Maybe what Milius had to say about surfers should also be applied to market traders and investors.

Today was a big Wednesday in the stock market.

The Dow was down more than 800 points, the Nasdaq more than 300, the SPY nearly 100 points. Big moves out of, I guess one could say, flat surf on Tuesday.

Actually this was no real surprise.

There have been signs everywhere. The general market indexes have been rising in price to all time new highs for the past month in defiance of long-term breadth as measured by the McClellan Summation Index, the $NYSI (see the declining red dots on chart below). That was rather amazing to watch, particularly the way the NYSI kept falling day after day despite the lingering bullishness on the indexes, and in the end, as always, the NYSI took its toll.

In a head-to-head battle between price and market breadth (the sum of all stocks rising and falling) it may be hard to tell when the battle will end but it will end with breadth winning every time.

Long-term breadth is the most effective indicator of mass market psychology there is.

Even as market appeared to be rising on a few tech stocks alone — AMZN, FB, NFLX, NVDA, GOOGL and most notably AAPL — breadth was saying the bottom was falling out. When those stocks began to crumble (look up charts of FB, NFLX…), this day became all but inevitable.

Signs everywhere. Besides the obvious relentlessness of the NYSI, the economy-sensitive housing stock have been falling for months with the banks beginning to tumble with them (many of the banks broke major price supports today just like in 2007-2008); news low began to outpace new highs in late September and accelerated on October 4th (which also happened in 2007-2008); there were also rare whispers under the surface like the day the Dow made a new high while more than 50% of the SPX stocks were below their 50-day moving averages (last seen at the exact market top in 2007).

So is this the beginning finally of the bear market to come that is just as inevitable? Don’t know yet. The market can plunge farther now (as I write this it is in overnight futures trading); it could even crash. But it won’t be a bear market for sure until it rallies and that rally fails below the previous highs in the price of the major indexes.

I seldom have anything to say about fundamentals, since the technical trumps the fundamental every time, but probably I should mention when one considers what comes next, the here-and-now is a bull market that is ten years old, interest rates are rising, unemployment is at its lowest level in forever, margin debt in stocks is near its high and at an astronomical level; there has been a tulip craze in crypto-currencies, a mania in block-chains, and the strongest sector in the market right now is the weed patch, marijuana stocks.

If this is the death of the bull and the birth of a bear, everything I’ve just mentioned will not be with us much longer.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

Bitcoin and its buddies on the blockchain

If ever there was a bubble that was obvious it was Bitcoin and its buddies – the other cryptocurrencies and finally the blockchain stock mania that lasted what…a week or so?

Every time someone would pump Bitcoin or whatever other Oreocoin someone dreamed up the night before last, I’d ask “Can you buy a snickers bar with that?” I suppose you can somewhere but I’ve yet to find anyone who has.

I thought this pseudo money would crash when it was reported that New Orleans lap dancers were having bar codes tattooed onto their breasts to be able to accept crypto-scans as tips.

Then along came the blockchain stocks (see the wild charts below), which is to say companies like Kodak (KODK) changing its name and tripling overnight, or Riot Blockchain (RIOT) which looked as if it was the brain child of two or three guys smoking weed in Colorado who became multi-millionaires almost as a drugged-out joke. Everyone tells me cryptos may go bye-bye but blockchain technology, stringing together each and every financial transaction, is here to stay. Of course, a million computers all over world grabbing and archiving when someone (say, in Latvia) finally gets to buy a snickers with a Bitcoin.

How much electricity goes into that single candy bar?

And of course, as history would have it (always), the obvious became utterly obvious when it all finally crashed.

These is just a nutty time, typical end-of-a-bull-market craziness. Keep that “end-of” in mind. It takes a while and it’s virtually impossible to pick a market top of significance but bit by bit the history of how it happens keeps showing up. AAPL hit a $1trillon market cap probably because the company has enough cash on hand to buy that prize for itself. Then AMZN hit $1trillion too – for one day.

One of these bellwether stocks — AAPL, AMZN, FB, good heavens GS –is going to take a tumble that matters and actually follow through to the downside while no one is really paying attention.

When that happens a bear will be here. Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe today.

(click on the chart panel for a larger view)

#Bitcoin – Don’t follow this crypto mania much but…

But I took a look today to see what’s going on lately.

Are you kidding me? There are people out there claiming this will replace the dollar? Replace gold?

Can’t anyone spell T-U-L-I-P-S?

I thought this would end when lap dancers in New Orleans started putting bar-code tattoos on their boobs to collect bitcoin tips.

Now that the drug dealers and money launderers have made a market a few notable institutions (like Microsoft for heavens sake!) had gotten sucked into, and computer nerds in bedrooms with potato chips are “mining” in their spare time, and even more than a few suburban crazies have gone crazy over, what is the real future for this crap? It is in market history (duh, the tulips), and it is not good.

Does anyone actually want to put their savings in this for a buy-and-hold overnight?

That this stuff is priced in U.S. Dollars should tell everyone everything that needs to be told.

(click to enlarge)

#MarketTiming the second biggest mountain in the stock market range

Great article and charts from Visual Capitalist:

VISUALIZING THE LONGEST BULL MARKETS IN THE MODERN ERA

If this current bull market can hold for two more months, it will become the longest bull market in the modern era, topping the dot-come bubble.

Uh, did I slip and say “bubble”?

The question, as always, is what comes next and when.

What comes next is obvious – what goes up also goes down. The “when” is the tricky part but it would seem the when is getting closer by the day. I find it hard to believe in percentage gain it can top the dot-com mania but it is possible. If it does, it’s likely the higher it goes, the farther it falls.

One of the most famous quotes in investing history is from Bernard Baruch: “I made my money by selling too soon.”

Might want to keep Baruch in mind as each market pundit, each brokerage analyst, each brokerage, continues to say invest now, invest for the long term, while staring at the second highest mountain in the great rocky stock market range.

(click on link or this chart for a larger view)

#HousingStocks and the three little bears…

It is nearly impossible to call a market top before it becomes obvious it has already happened but the housing stocks have come closest in the past to doing it.

Which is why I keep an eye on LEN, KBH, DHI, MDC, NVR, TOL, PHM AND TOL. If all is not quite well with the market (and the economy for that matter), they are often the first to show the strain.

As far back as December of last year I posted an entry here at what I suspected might the first warning sign:

Gonna Huff and Puff and Blow Your House Down

And again in early February of this year, as the SPY began to break down, being led by the housing sector, I posted a warning here to also watch the banking stocks:

Housing stocks – the tails that wag the banking dogs

And finally this last April 24th, another post looking back at the history of these tell-tale stocks:

Housing stocks – Remembering 2008

Which bring us to today.

The ten-year bond rate went through 3% for the first time since 2011, with no sign of turning back, and it appears (obviously) the housing sector did not like it (see the chart panel below).

In 2007, this sector had a long sideways to up move after the initial hard break that had all the stock pundits (on CNBC and elsewhere) proclaiming the market pull back was over. The banks were even making new highs at the time (they are not now).

Then the plunge began into 2008.

The hard break in this sector this year has many of these same housing stocks down 20% already. And they have moved generally sideways — some with a downward bias — since mid-February before today’s four and five percent drops as it appears they are breaking down from their months-long consolidations just like last time.

On the chart panel below, see LEN, DHI, TOL and HOV particularly.

Is this the sign the bears have noticed this Goldilocks bull market has been eating their porridge and sleeping in their bed for far too long? There is a chance they are about to chase her out of the house running for her life into the deep dark forest of the time to come. And if so, the banking stocks will scurry after…

(click on the chart for a larger view)

Declining Margin Debt – the bullish scenario

Margin debt, money borrowed to leverage the market, has for now topped and is in decline. Before the top in February it had reached levels far beyond the surges in 2000 and 2007, which could be an ominous indication of what is to come when and if margin debt continues to unravel.

See the chart below and the charts in the link.

Does the fact that it is coming down as major players try to ease out of their leveraged positions mean the market, measured by the S&P 500 stock index (SPX), has also topped? For the time being it would appear it has but history would say that’s not necessarily so.

MARGIN DEBT AND THE MARKET

From the link:

“The first chart shows the two series in real terms — adjusted for inflation to today’s dollar using the Consumer Price Index as the deflator. At the 1997 start date, we were well into the Boomer Bull Market that began in 1982 and approaching the start of the Tech Bubble that shaped investor sentiment during the second half of the decade. The astonishing surge in leverage in late 1999 peaked in March 2000, the same month that the S&P 500 hit its all-time daily high, although the highest monthly close for that year was five months later in August. A similar surge began in 2006, peaking in July 2007, three months before the market peak.”

Simply put, that would mean there is at least another new high coming in the new few months (the summer rally?) before any significant bearish behavior in the stocks.

The heads up is to say those highs, if they come, will be opportunities to sell, or at least tighten stops on long-term investments. A second look at the chart shows that the SPX, coming off highs in margin debt, declines close to 50%. Those were real bear markets. The next one could be worse. Regardless, no matter how low it goes, it is best to be avoided.

There are two possibilities it could be somewhat different this time. One, margin debt itself could surge to another new high along with a strong months-long market rally (see the jingle-jangle in 2015 on the chart); or two, the top is already in and the next leg down (given how astronomically high the margin debt is beyond 2000 and 2007) could be a dead bull dropping right out of the sky (they can not fly forever).

(click on the chart for larger view)

#HousingStocks – Remembering 2008…

At the advent of the 2008 bear market, the housing stocks died first, then the banks came apart, and then everything…

So witness $TOL $DHI $HOV $KBH $LEN $MDC $NVR $PHM and then ponder the banks and then ponder…

Not much more to say except to paraphrase Yogi Berra again: “It’s beginning to look like deja vu all over again.”

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – What a “long” glorious week!

This is an update of this post in this link, made last weekend:

#MarketTiming – Time for a bounce…

Wow! The predicted “bounce” has turned out to have been an understatement to what happened in the market this week.

Remember the 1961 movie “The Absent-Minded Professor” with Fred MacMurray, which introduced the world to flubber? Well, this week was a FLUBBER OF A BOUNCE, and since today it turned long-term breadth positive it is a bounce that has likely turned into a rally.

If I had to guess, instead of just following along, I suspect the pause begins tomorrow. If it gaps up, the rest of the day will likely be flat as the monthly options expiration plays out. If it gaps down or opens flat, there’s a good chance it rises again to the close and starts the pause there.

Just guessing this stuff…

Regardless, it has been a truly glorious week for swing traders – among the leveraged index ETFs TQQQ is up 15.8%, TNA up 12.1%, UPRO up 10.7%, even SVXY in the blistered VIX complex is up 15.3%. The at-the-money monthly SPY 263 call from Monday’s open, expiring tomorrow, is up 179%. Among the bellwether stocks AAPL is up 9.2% (that is a heavy market-cap lift in an awfully short time), BIDU up 13%, NFLX up 11.2%. I’m going to update my bellwether stocks later but suffice it to say here all twelve as of the close today are in the black for the week.

Now for a few cautionary notes.

If there is any trouble with this, it is that it has been a straight up move since last Friday. All the major indexes and most of the sector ETFs are up five days in a row. Much of the market is wildly overbought on short-term basis. This up move has been crazy. It is easily three standard deviations of an average advance and done in five consecutive days! (See the histogram on the Nasdaq Composite chart below.) I can’t even remember the last time anything like that happened, and obviously not in the last six months of this huge bull market. Forty-seven of the stocks on my nifty-50 stock list are on buys with 31 overbought (see the swing trading signals below), and yet we are not at new highs. This is going to have to have a pause, some backing and filling, then a resumption of the upswing before one can be sure it is yet another bullish rally in the on-going bull market.

The trouble with rallies out of hard drops, like the one the market took before this bounce, is that by the time they are obvious, they are sometimes over.

In addition, if the fierce sell-off that has preceded this bounce was a shot across the bow of the bull market, it is possible the buying this week is the last leap into the market by those long-ago left behind — if so, and if this rally fizzles before new highs (or even at marginal new highs) then this could be an advance before a mighty, mighty big flop.

Whenever this ends, we are going to have one of the biggest bear markets in history. If you don’t think so, you must not know history or you think “it’s different this time.” History says it is never different this time.

Even flubber bounces had to come back to earth.

SWING TRADING SIGNALS:

LONG-TERM BREADTH: Buy (Day 1).

PRICE: Buy. (Day 5).
SHORT-TERM BREADTH: Buy. (Day 5).
VOLATILITY: Buy, (Day 5).

CONTEXT:

SPY CLOSE – 273.03
QQQ CLOSE – 165.70
CNN MONEY’S FEAR AND GREED INDEX: 11, falling, extreme fear level).
NIFTY-50 STOCK LIST: 47 Buys; 31 Overbought, 0 Oversold, 1 new buys today, 1 new sells.

(click on the chart for a larger view)