#STOCKS – “Trump loves coal…”

The President claims he loves coal and coal miners.

Outside of Florida, he runs most often to West Virginia to rally his supporters.

Evidently, the West Virginia voters have been so poor and uneducated for so long, they will believe anything his says. I’m probably being too harsh on these unfortunate folks but it’s way past time they wised up. To have Trump on your side is to have worse than having no one.

Except for his Russian money-laundering real-estate businesses, this self-described master deal maker and businessman has managed to run through everything he inherited from his dad and a few billion more, bankrupting almost everything he’s touched along the way – casinos, steaks, champagne, a university, and so and so on (to say nothing of his marriages and his money spent to shut up porn stars and playmates).

Without the Russians, he could be going broke right now hawking hot dogs from a cart on a street corner in New York.

But enough of my admiration for greatest con man of all time, let’s get down to the stock market and the coal stocks.

While Trump says he loves coal, as anyone who has bumped into my posts on Trader-Talk over the years knows, there may be no one who loves shorting coal stocks more than me.

I’ve shorted Walter Energy (WLT) off the board. That was a lot of fun as nearly every coal sector analyst kept reiterating “buys” at every price level from $85 a share to $1.50. At $1.50, the analysts finally said sell. Believe it! Hopefully all those fools (or are they liars and thieves?) are out of the securities industry but probably not (Trump is President, after all, no matter what).

Over the years, so many coal companies have gone belly-up, killed by natural gas, environmental activists, and finally the worldwide recognition of climate change, it was almost as if one could throw darts at the sector and whatever the dart hit would die.

Two of the most prominent were Peabody Energy (BTU), “the biggest coal company in the world,” and Arch Coal (ARCH).

Both companies, BTU and ARCH (and also the not-great Cloud Peak Energy), came to the port town where I live in a desperate attempt to ship coal to China where my neighbors, along with everyone on the West Coast, shut them down, a failure that led to both companies filing for bankruptcy and its consequent loss of all shareholder equity. They both reorganized, returned to the big board, and long came Trump to sit down beside them and give them hope…for about a year. Even subsidy plums can’t save a dying fruit tree.

Both companies are now well on their way to burning through all shareholder equity again. I can’t imagine who squanders investments on this dead-end stuff anymore.

See the pitiful charts below. Both stocks, like the market, are so oversold they will probably a bounce here. If so, they are shorts…again.

Once BTU drops below $5 (it closed today at $5.50, down from $30 or so in just the last year), the nails in its coffin will soon follow. ARCH has a lot more price downside (see the second chart below) and it will take some time but it will get to cliff BTU is standing on too.

(click on the charts for a larger view)

#STOCKS – on $AAPL gone parabolic

At the risk of a massive understatement, let’s just say AAPL has gone up…a lot.

In fact one look at its chart below reveals is has gone parabolic.

Let’s define a parabolic move first. Basically, according the website, Prometheos Market Insight, when a stock makes a enough of a move to create three distinct supporting trend lines (see the green lines on the chart below), then accelerates, it is in a parabolic move (the red line on the chart).

There is both good news in that, and bad news.

The good news you own it, the bad news its latest rise is unsustainable. Although one can only guess when and at what level it parabola ends (the way it always is with that phenomenon), but when the inevitable end comes it will likely be violent and the stock could eventually go back to where the parabolic began.

At this point, a rough estimate of where it began in AAPL is around $230.

It’s hard to believe it will ever quit going up as it’s wildly (exuberantly) rising, but I would suggest there is no profit here until one sells.

Also, one other thing to keep in mind, AAPL today, according to Yahoo Finance, has a market cap of 1.377 trillion dollars. That in itself is unprecedented in market history, but it is also nearly $100 billion higher than next highest market cap, MSFT (but that as they say is another story).

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#Stocks – the last bounce of a one-time main-street giant

In the town where I live there sits a unmistakable store front on a main downtown street. It is half a block wide, on top of a basement with its upper stories a solid bricked-in facade. Inside the windows that stretch the length of its first floor there is nothing but empty space. It’s been closed for 30 years, ever since the mall opened on the north side of town. The same or similar buildings stands on some main street in nearly ever city and town in America.

Although often there no longer is a sign, for everyone over the age of thirty, it is instantly recognizable — “that’s the old J.C. Penny store,” people say.

Now, like other main-street icons, Sears, the Bon Marche, Woolworth and maybe some day, Macy’s, it is fading away.

And it is a sad, sad sight today – the relic of a bygone era, the hollow memory now of a time when the country boomed, when optimistic people shopped downtown for its clothing line that was both reliably well-made and economical. In other words, before there were malls.

Moving to the mall could not save it and in these times it is ravaged by on-line shopping.

What to do with the building now has more than one city or town stymied. It’s is too small to be a Walmart and too big for nearly anything else. In my town, there is a developer who would like to renovate it into apartments by adding two more stories to it, and making the the basement into a parking garage and leaving the street-level as retail space, but he wants the city government to subsidize the project so he has no risk. My son, an urban planner, would like to turn it into the city’s much-needed new library. But neither of those plans are moving forward.

JCP – a look at its stock chart below is a picture worth a million words, showing the long steady fall in the past 10 years. There’s that high on the chart at seventy-six dollars and the recent low at 62 cents. It has doubled off that penny-stock low (no pun intended) but that is not some hope springing eternal. That is most likely the familiar sign of last of the shorts closing out their holds. After they are gone there will no buyers left.

And that will be another nail in the coffin of a once-great American commercial era.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

Divergences don’t matter…until they do…

Over and over again, especially in bull markets, prices keep going higher despite divergences on internal indicators, but when a tumble comes, a “pull back”, even a crash and one looks back at its beginning there is usually a divergence there.

Or a cluster of divergences.

So as of today, we have one in CNN Money’s “Fear And Greed” Index. That index has been wildly over bought as prices have surged on most major indexes (in the SPY ETF surrogate for the S&P 500). It is back off, risen again and as of today put in its divergence by making a lower low while SPY has hugged its high (see the chart below). It is not infallible but if history do tell, it is a reliable context (not the red lines on the chart and subsequent market drops).

And wonder of wonders, the FINRA Margin Debt reading for October came out today (see the second chart below). It is a monthly and always a month behind so there’s always some guess work to be done in real time, but this reading is, indeed, ominous.

Besides having risen way beyond the debt levels of both 2000 and 2007 before those bear markets arrived, it has now been carving out a ledge pattern on its chart (sometimes called a bear flag) for the past few months as the market keeps rising into thinner and thinner air.

Why ominous?

Note it’s the same pattern that was in place as the market was making highs last time and, when it finally fell apart, it was the precursor of the bear markets in both 2000, and 2008. Is it different this time? Is it ever different this time?

History, history, history.

This is to say nothing of the divergences on the McCellan Oscillator (the NYMO) with its Summation Index (the NYSI) declining for the past 10 days even as the market as advanced.

Does this mean we’re about enter a bear market?

Maybe not, divergence don’t always matter. But if a bear comes roaring now there is a good chance when we look back to this day this cluster of divergences will have mattered.

(FEAR AND GREED – CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

(FINRA MARGIN DEBET – CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

#MarijuanaStocks – the wither in the weed patch…

At one point last year, the marijuana stock sector was the leading sector in the entire market.

Everywhere analysts were hailing it as the next great growth sector, especially after Canada joined several states in the U.S. to legalize weed, both medically and for recreational use. Made sense, and before anyone could say “don’t Bogart that joint” there were cannabis shops practically fighting Starbucks for retail space.

#MarijuanaStocks – gains are high in the weed patch

At one point, the founder and CEO of TLRY, because he owned so much stock in his heralded IPO, was something like the fourth richest man in the world…for a day. But now that day is done.

The chart panel below tells the rest of the story and there is not much more to say about that.

(click on the charts for a larger view)

Margin Debt – setting up a S&P 50% plunge?

FINRA margin debt is a long-term indicator and always reported a month late.

So now we have the August numbers, down 6% month over month, as reported by Advisor Perspectives Monday (see the chart below). But it’s not the margin number that is concerning, it’s the chart pattern for the long term.

In the 1990s margin debt chugged along in a reasonable bullish fashion before finally going ballistic in 2000 just before the dot-com bubble burst. Then again, coming out of the 2003 bear market, it moved up gradually before going ballistic again in 2007 on a bubble in housing, fueled by excessively low interest rates for too long a time, and we had the financial crisis of 2008/2009. And now in 2018 margin debt has pushed higher than ever before on deregulation and tax breaks to corporations fueling stock buy backs, and some would say on a lot of hot air.

It the fall of last year it topped and has not gone higher this year. That is ominous for long-term investors.

Consider the pattern on the chart below.

Note that in both 2000 and 2007 the market made a new high after margin debt topped and fell. Each time on the chart, the debt numbers formed a plateau lower than the peak as the market made those new highs.

What comes next?

That is always the most important question in the stock market.

In 2000, the S&P plunged 50% (the Nasdaq, 78%), and in 2008 the S&P plunged again down 56%. Note the pattern in place on the chart now. Same old same old.

So is another 50% bear market imminent? It’s likely because although they always say it’s different this time it never is, even though it sometimes takes a long slow time to get it done.

This is a bit tricky at the moment because of the late reporting. One has to guess what is happening with margin debt behind the monthly market moves. Since the August drop in price is reflected in the margin debt drop (big professional players lightening up, maybe desperately lightening up), and since the market has rallied so far this month, one can guess margin debt may move up a bit here in September but not a enough to head off what is to come.

And since the market likes to fool everyone into complacency at the last possible moment, a new high here would probably be just enough to lock long-term investors in when they should be at least shuffling, if not running, to the exit.

If by chance it doesn’t move up, October could become an October of old, which is to say…uh, crash… crash… crash.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – “a gift for the bears”…

I expect the market to go down tomorrow.

Really? Why?

Long-term breadth, as measured by the McClellan Summation Index (the $NYSI) is declining, and today short-term breadth, as measured by the McClellan Oscillator (the $NYMO) turned down after basically a four-day bounce in the market, but more importantly, timing-wise, this NYMO pattern is more than the usual turn down.

In this case it is a “high below a high below the zero line.”

And whenever this happens I believe it is a gift for the bears.

Take a look at the blue vertical lines on the chart below, which mark each time this pattern has repeated in the past six months. Focus on what happens next. It is always what happens next in the market that matters — not many indicators are consistent as this one – a sell off every time and usually hard downs the next day (tomorrow).

In addition, the SPX and Nasdaq Comp both clicked down today (to state the simply obvious, every dip or swing or slide or whatever the market wants to do to the downside has to begin with one down day), and VIX, after four days down, clicked up, giving its own first-day sell signal. Furthermore, my nifty-50 stock list which has 41 stocks on sells a week ago Wednesday rallied to 42 on buys yesterday before clicking down to 39 on buys today. CNN Money’s “Fear and Greed Index” is at a “greed” level trying to diverge with the rally highs. AAPL, by far the most important stock in the market and one capable of triggering a sell off all by itself, gaped up today on top of a five consecutive days up, but then sold off below its open (putting a black candle of indecision at a high on its chart).

But more important than any of that in my expectation is high below the high below the zero line, the gift for the bears, a gift in bull markets let alone in what may now be a bear market.

Okay, what if it doesn’t sell down? Well, that will be particularly bullish and I’ll take that up when and if it goes that way. As Trader Vic Sperandeo would say “if the market doesn’t do what’s expected, it usually does the opposite twice as much.”

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarginDebt – The Reckoning has arrived…

You know those recaps that begin each new episode of TV shows with words like “Previously on Mad Men…Previously on Shameless…” or most appropriately in this case “Previously on Breaking Bad”?

For a year I’ve been watching for the end of this bull bubble and chronicled it’s slow rollover in the links in this link so let’s call this recap “Previously on Margin Debt”:

Margin Debt – the divergence that kills the bull

As has been noted before the trouble with this gauge from FINRA (it used to be from the NYSE) is that it is calculated and released always a month late. So during any given month one pretty much has to guess from price action what’s going on with the margin debt. Given how over extended it was, my guess October’s price action was probably finally killing the bull market (see the link above), and November would probably be the confirmation that the bear was out of it’s nine-year cave. Indeed, it was confirmation and the bear did emerge.

If one stares at the chart below for a while, it’s clear if history is any guide (at least based on the 2000 and 2007 bull bubbles) when margin debt comes apart it does not quit feeding on itself until the SPX declines 40 to 50 percent.

Ai-yi-yi, long-term holders!

But can this time be different? Of course it can. Margin Debt this time is coming down from higher levels than even 2000 and 2007. What if different turns out to be the same as 1929-1932? Talk about a “Presidential cycle” – the last “businessman” to be President was Herbert Hoover who presided over the worst bear market in history.

Different is never really different. It really means all things must change so that all can return to being the same.

America has had magnificent prosperity from 1945 to… Picking a time depends where one sits on the income inequality scale but I suppose for the vast majority of Americans the time was the 1980s when prosperity began to fray, the American dream began to fade. Read an telling opinion piece on this just yesterday – American Capitalism Isn’t Working. Needless to say it can be fixed but the fix is going to take a lot of year now. It’s going to be long climb back and we’ve not even hit bottom.

I could be wrong about this, of course, since market psychology can run amok even in the face of time and all sorts of fundamental foolishness.

In the meantime, as J.P. Morgan so famously put it “the market will fluctuate.” There will continue to be plunges to buy and bounces to sell. For those of us who actively play this game, that’s all that matters to make money.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#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)