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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Banks, Transports Foreshadow Equities Decline

FN: I've pointed out some of the divergences over the last few weeks that are mentioned in this Bloomberg article.

Banks Falling 23% Since May Foreshadow S&P 500 Slump (Update1): "Declines of more than 20 percent in regional banks and homebuilders and the failure of transportation companies to erase their annual loss may be signs the rally in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is about to fizzle.

Smaller lenders in the gauge lost 23 percent since climbing to a four-month peak on May 8, while builders tumbled 26 percent from May 4, when they reached the highest level since October. Concern that mortgage rates, credit losses and foreclosures are increasing spurred retreats in the companies forecast to be among the biggest beneficiaries of $12.8 trillion in government stimulus spending.

Slumps in bank stocks foreshadowed previous declines in the S&P 500 as investors focused on real-estate losses that curbed lending. Regional banks’ 51 percent plunge over 28 days starting Dec. 8 came a month before the S&P 500 began a 28 percent slump to a 12-year low of 676.53. The lenders’ all-time high in February 2007 occurred seven months before the S&P 500’s record.

FN: I pointed out three times that banks had stalled, rolled over and were threatening to break down in: Financials: Charts Say "Decision Time", Update1, Update2.

“If housing and credit led us into all this, they will have to stabilize,” said Mark Demos, a Minneapolis-based money manager at Fifth Third Asset Management, which oversees $18.7 billion. “There’s a growing concern that they’re not out of the woods. Less bad does not equal good.”

Speculation government spending will end the first global recession since World War II helped push up the S&P 500 by 15 percent since March 31, the biggest quarterly increase since 1998. Financial shares gained the most among the S&P 500’s 10 industry groups, rising 35 percent. Futures on the index rose 0.6 percent to 920.60 at 7:12 a.m. in New York today.

Stocks began to decline three weeks ago as economic reports spurred speculation the U.S. economy isn’t recovering fast enough to justify the S&P 500’s 36 percent advance since March 9. The Federal Reserve said in its June 10 Beige Book business survey that “stringent” loan conditions persist even amid signs the recession is moderating.

“This has been a government-induced rally,” said Jordan Irving, who helps manage more than $110 billion at Delaware Investments in Philadelphia. “We need to see some real positives coming from internal demand, as opposed to government- related demand, and it’s just not there.”

Borrowing costs climbed in the past month, with the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage reaching a six-month high of 5.59 percent on June 11, according to McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac. The rate was 5.42 percent when last reported on June 25. The increase spurred the Mortgage Bankers Association to cut its forecast for mortgage originations in the U.S. by 27 percent on June 22 as fewer people refinance their home.

Marshall & Ilsley Corp., Wisconsin’s largest bank, tumbled 52 percent since May 11, wiping out three-fourths of its rally from March 5. Citigroup Inc. analysts on June 11 predicted loan losses will remain high even after the Milwaukee-based lender raised capital by selling shares.

D.R. Horton Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, is down 31 percent since May 4, the steepest decline among rivals in the S&P 500 since then. The largest U.S. homebuilder posted a worse- than-estimated quarterly loss on May 4.

“The average regional bank out there is going to see increasing net charge-offs and loan loss provisions, and people may say, ‘Gee, do I really want to be in banks?’” said Barry Knapp, head of U.S. equity strategy at Barclays Plc in New York. “That could definitely be a catalyst for a sell-off.”

FN: Dow Theory requires confirmation from "the transports". There has been no such confirmation. I posted twice on this: Transports Diverge, Update1.

"Lagging transportation stocks are another bad omen for the rally, according to strategists at Bank of America Corp. and Raymond James Financial Inc., who say gains in airlines, truckers and railroads usually precede economic rebounds.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average has fallen 8.6 percent this year, led by a 62 percent drop in Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines parent AMR Corp. The 2009 decline exceeds the 3.8 percent retreat in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 companies that are “leaders in their industries,” according to Dow Jones & Co., a unit of News Corp.

Adherents of a century-old stock-picking strategy called “Dow Theory” say the averages must exceed their Jan. 6 intraday highs of 3,737.01 and 9,088.06, respectively, to send a buy signal for stocks, Bank of America’s Mary Ann Bartels said. The measures are more than 7 percent below those levels.

“For cyclicals in general, it’s hard to imagine that they’re going to have very good earnings in the second quarter,” said E. William Stone, who oversees $100 billion as chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. Because the economy probably shrank for the fourth straight period, “you’re flying against the wind.”


Mike Masland said...

I am very skeptical of any argument that concludes with us seeing a substantial sell off in the near future.

I do not think we will see a significant sell off unless bulls clearly see that things are getting worse, not better for years to come. That is simply not happening. Credit markets have improved, companies have scientifically cut costs, and governments worldwide are well aware that coordinated stimulus of the economy is first priority.

And for the record, second derivative improvements ARE improvements. They obviously will turn positive well before first derivatives improve. The job market is not going to shed 600k jobs one week, and instantly turn around and add jobs the next week. That is an extremely unrealistic expectation of a worldwide economy. It takes quite a bit of time to turn the titanic. Losing LESS jobs a week IS a real improvement and points towards an eventual weekly addition to the jobs market in the future. If you are waiting for first derivatives to improve before jumping in the market, you most likely will miss a large amount of gains. The market is representative of future expectations, not current conditions.

Bullish investor mentality continues to be "buy the dip" because the worst is over. It will take a significant negative catalyst to change that mentality. Without this catalyst, bulls will continue saying to themselves “you know what, I missed the 666 bottom on the S&P 500, but I’m not going to miss out on level x, y or z even if it means I take a loss at first.”

In contrast, bearish investor mentality continues to be "short the pops" because things are not getting better or everything is overpriced. First off, I would not make any investment decision based off of current or future P/E multiples. The market clearly does not respect this type of valuation as visibility is limited. I don’t expect P/E to mean anything to investors until we see 3-4 quarters of earnings stability in the market. That point in time is probably months if not years away from occurring.

The more I hear deep conviction in both bull and bear arguments, the more I believe we are going to be stuck in a vicious range bound trade that cause shorts and long to feel maximum pain. Shorts will be stopped out on every rip higher, and longs will be scared into selling on every decline. This will not conclude until every weak hand in the market is slapped away. The good news is, the longer we trade in a range, the larger the breakout move will be.

So, why am I bullish?

I simply can't bet against the human race. We have shown over and over through history that human beings are quite resourceful. We have survived bubble after bubble after bubble. From the tulip main of 1673 to the tech bubble of 1999, world GDP (if it was measured) has increased steadily since society was first born. Why bet against that trend?

As a species, when times get tough, we put our collective heads down, work harder, and deal with the fact that we have to "do more with less." Along the way, we see certain job sectors vanish (horse and buggy - 1900s) while others are created from thin air (cars - 1900s).

I do not claim to know what the catalyst will be that ends this range bound trade, but, in my opinion, the smart money is betting on human ingenuity. Someone or some company will create a new product or service that changes our lives significantly and provides a catalyst for economic growth.

My two cents.


Anonymous said...

Ah, the long-awaited, but never realized, trend change and equities' decline.

Keep hope alive!

Anonymous said...

Something weird happened today.

Stocks are up, dollar is down, gold is up - but weirdly enough, oil and gasoline futures are down.

Usually its just the opposite, as the dollar drops and/or stocks are up, oil and gas usually surge.

Toro said...

I've been watching the banks and the retail stocks particularly. Those have been rolling over.

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