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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bear Market Rally Defies Fundamentals


“Is this the real thing, or just another Bear Market rally? So far, we’ve had 4 runs of about 20% each.” –The Big Picture, Bear Market Rally?

FN: Even as the market moved higher, the Put / Call Ratio has started moving in favor of puts. When coming off extreme levels such as these, this can signal an intermediate turning point.

83.57% of stocks on the NYSE are now above their 50 day moving averages. This is a truly ridiculous level for a Bear market and has always resulted in significant pull backs.

Read the following very carefully… notice the ‘leaders’ of this rally.

Russell 2000 Rising 36% Flashes Warning for S&P Rally (Update1):The Russell 2000 Index’s record one-month gain is sending danger signals to investors who remember how similar rallies in U.S. stocks came to an end.

The gauge of companies with a median value of $301 million is beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, where stocks have an average market value of $6.5 billion, by 9.8 percentage points. Gains in the Russell 2000 are being led by an 11-fold jump in Spansion Inc., a bankrupt chipmaker, and a sevenfold rise for Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., a wheel manufacturer that hasn’t had a profit since 2006.

While small-caps tend to lead the way out of bear markets, when they have outpaced larger stocks by this much, both indexes erased gains and fell, according to data compiled by Birinyi Associates Inc. Increased trading and ratios of advancing to falling stocks have also risen to levels that preceded declines, boosting investor concerns that the S&P 500’s 27 percent advance since March 9 will end the same way as the 24 percent rally that fizzled in January.

This move is too explosive to be sustainable,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based Harris Private Bank, which oversees $60 billion. “None of the structural underpinnings of the market have really changed. It’s going to be a multiyear healing process.”

Profit Slump

Bank losses approaching $1.3 trillion spurred the first simultaneous recessions in the U.S., Europe and Japan since World War II last year, pushing the benchmark gauge for U.S. equities down as much as 57 percent from its October 2007 record. Profits among S&P 500 companies have dropped for six straight quarters and are forecast to decline for three more, the longest streak since the Great Depression, according to data from S&P and estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Mistaking a temporary jump for a sustained bull market can be costly. In 41 so-called bear market rallies since 1928 -- gains of more than 10 percent that are later wiped out -- equities fell an average 25 percent after peaking, according to Birinyi, the Westport, Connecticut-based money-management and research firm founded by Laszlo Birinyi.

Soros Fund Management LLC’s George Soros and BlackRock Inc.’s Dan Chamby also say investors should be wary of the S&P 500’s rise. The surge between March 9 and April 9 ranks as the steepest 23-day advance since 1933, according to data from Howard Silverblatt, an S&P analyst based in New York.

Steeper jumps for small-cap stocks one month into a rally are signs of indiscriminate buying and usually come before equities fall, said Cleve Rueckert, a Birinyi analyst. The Russell 2000’s 36 percent climb since March 9 is its steepest since the index began in 1979, according to Bloomberg data.

No Reason

“It’s unusual for a new cycle to start with such an abrupt gain,” Rueckert said. “Bear market rallies are broad. Everything goes up really sharp, really fast and not necessarily for a particular reason.”

None of the bull markets tracked by Birinyi included small- caps outperforming after a month by the rate they are now. On average, smaller stocks are tied with the S&P 500 at this stage of a lasting recovery, the data show.

Small-caps were beating larger stocks before the end of the advance in January. The Russell 2000 increased 34 percent from Nov. 20 to Jan. 6, a stretch in which the S&P 500 index added 24 percent. The S&P 500 fell to a 12-year low two months later.

We’re not convinced that this rally will be sustained,” Chamby, who helps run the $23.5 billion BlackRock Global Allocation Fund, said on April 7 in an interview from New York. “We’re defensively positioned, so we are underweight equities.”

2009 Losses

The S&P 500 added 1.7 percent last week, extending its rebound since March 9 to 27 percent. For 2009, the index is down 5.2 percent, compared with a 6.3 percent retreat for the Russell 2000. S&P 500 futures lost 0.7 percent today.

Unprecedented stimulus measures may mean history is no guide for handicapping stocks, because the government’s $12.8 trillion of spending to revive the economy will lift earnings and keep stocks from retesting their March lows, said John Wilson of Morgan Keegan & Co. in Memphis, Tennessee. President Barack Obama has proposed a $3.6 trillion budget blueprint that he says will bring tax relief for most working Americans while making investments in energy infrastructure and education.

“I don’t think just because we’ve had a sharp move in the small-caps that it means it’s a bear-market rally,” said Wilson, who helps oversee $120 billion as co-director of equity strategy. “I don’t think you can throw caution to the wind, but you can be cautiously optimistic.”

Six-Year Low

Just 58 companies in the Russell 2000 have dropped since the index reached a six-year low on March 9. Sunnyvale, California-based Spansion and Hayes Lemmerz in Northville, Michigan, led the rebound.

The balance of rising shares is another sign stocks may fall, Birinyi data show. From March 9 to April 9, companies on the New York Stock Exchange posted almost 17,000 more single-day advances than declines, a record compared with past equity market rallies. So-called contrarian investors argue that too widespread a recovery shows investors aren’t paying attention to fundamentals such as earnings and economic growth.

U.S. stocks posted the broadest increase since at least July 2004 on March 23, when 21 companies rose for each that fell on the NYSE, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We’ve run pretty far, pretty fast,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Cleveland-based Key Private Bank, which manages $22 billion. “We would be looking more for an indication of a market that claws its way off the bottom in somewhat slower moves.”

Normally Bullish

Another normally bullish sign that’s increasing investor concerns is the rise in trading volume, Birinyi’s data indicate. Since March 9, the number of shares traded on the NYSE has been about 23 percent higher than in the preceding 200 days. That compares with an average 13 percent climb during the first month of bull markets.

Companies in the S&P 500 may report a 38 percent decline in first-quarter earnings and those in the S&P SmallCap 600 will post a 46 percent slump, based on analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg and New York-based Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. More than 30 S&P 500 companies and at least 90 in the Russell 2000 are scheduled to release results this week.

The American economy contracted at a 6.3 percent rate in the three months ending in December and is forecast to decline 5 percent in the first quarter and 1.9 percent in the next, based on a Bloomberg survey of economists.

“It’s a bear-market rally because we have not yet turned the economy around,” Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who made money last year while most peers suffered losses, said in an April 6 Bloomberg Television interview in New York. “This isn’t a financial crisis like all the other financial crises that we have experienced in our lifetime.”

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