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I was Wrong…But it Didn?t Matter

Ben Bernanke finally did the deed. He tapered his quantitative easing program, from $85 to $75 billion a month. I thought he would wait until next month for incoming Fed governor Janet Yellen to take the helm, and the responsibility. It was not to be.

The good news for followers of my Trade Alert Service was that it didn?t matter. $85 or $75 billion is really six of one and half dozen of another, almost. As we used to say on the trading desk at Morgan Stanley, just take the difference out of my next paycheck. It is a win-win, which I had expected.

The one certainty today was that the Fed would make a decision. Now that it?s out of the way, stocks can only go up.

Market?s reacted as if there had been no taper at all. Stocks and the dollar rocketed, led by financials, technology, health care, and industrials. Softbank gapped up and is approaching a new high for the year. Bonds, gold, volatility, and the yen collapsed. My model trading portfolio is almost a perfect reflection of what you should be doing with your money.

Big Ben?s incredibly dovish talk we received during the press conference that followed was fantastic news for risk assets everywhere. It means that interest rates will remain lower for longer than most expected. ?Highly accommodative money monetary policy remains appropriate? is still ringing in my ears. This will remain the case until unemployment falls ?well below 6.5%? and inflation returns to 2%. ?The Fed balance sheet will continue to expand.?

What all this does is deliver a ?goldilocks? scenario for the foreseeable future. The potential disasters for January, a Fed taper and a Washington shut down have suddenly gone missing.

Ben?s Christmas present to us all is a printing press to print money in the markets for the next three months.

INDU 12-18-13

SPX 12-18-13

VIX 12-18-13

Money PrintingThat?s Ben! That?s Just What I Wanted!

When Great Minds Think Alike

Exactly 84 years ago from yesterday, the Great 1929 stock market crash occurred. The Dow Average plunged a stunning 30 points to 230, a one-day decline of 12%. The ticker tape lagged the market by two hours, and the newly bankrupt were jumping out of downtown windows. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Well not really.

But a number of friends over the decades lived through that fateful day, and relived it for me, men like Sir John Templeton and Tubby Burnham. My grandfather prided himself on never buying a stock in his life, and was deluged by entreaties from reckless and freshly busted relatives to move into his Bay Ridge, Brooklyn basement.

The S&P 500 came just eight points short of my 2013 target of 1,780 yesterday. By the time you read this, it may already be there.

To refer back to my many pleadings for you to load the boat with US equities, please click here to read ?Why US Stocks Are Dirt Cheap? and ?My 2013 Stock Market Outlook?.

When I made this prediction in January, abuse was hurled upon me. Clearly, the sequester, debt ceiling crisis, taper, sluggish economic growth, a China crash, and a government shutdown were going to collapse the market, taking the (SPX) as low as 300. Gold was the safe place to be, I was told. The only way I could conclude that stocks were headed northward was if I was smoking one of California?s largest agricultural products.

It turns out they were right, but only if you hold your charts upside down.

So it was with some amusement that I listened to the comments of Dr. Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School of Business. He has been one of the most unremittingly bullish commentators all year, to the point of becoming a Wall Street laughing stock. There is only one catch: he has been dead right. And when people are that right, I sit up and take notice.

Dr. Siegel?s view on the economy mirrors my own. The absence of further spending cuts and tax increases should enable US GDP growth to spring from 2% to 3.5%. At that robust rate the Federal Reserve could completely eliminate quantitative easing with no serious market impact. All surprises will be to the upside. Only a ten year Treasury yield falling to 2% would signal that this scenario has run off the rails.

The Federal Reserve will keep interest rates ultra low for longer than most expect because of its mortal fear of deflation. Endemic and structurally falling prices have the effect of increasing the real debts of individuals and corporations. The central bank clearly wants debt loads to move in the other direction.

While major entitlement reform poses some risk, the likelihood is that the committee convened to make recommendations will simply kick the can down the road, well past the 2014-midterm elections. That?s because both parties believe they can then gain the upper hand. Only one of them can be right.

Dr. Siegel observes that November and December have the calendar working for them as historically positive months. There will be an extra tailwind coming from highly favorable Q4 YOY earnings comparisons. Dividends are up a healthy 10%-15% YOY, and will continue to improve. This action should spill into the first half of 2014.

There is no doubt that the taper has been delayed. In fact, there are no major uncertainties of any kind until well into next year. Periodically, premature fears of tightening will trigger market setbacks. But they will be of the smaller kind, typically 4%-7%.

Welcome to the Goldilocks market.

The only development that could bring this parade to an end would be a second and more prolonged government shutdown, possibly as early as January. But the Republicans have been severely chastised for their behavior in the opinion polls, so it is highly unlikely we will see a repeat, unless we are about to become a one party state.

Welcome to the Goldilocks market.

SPX 10-29-13

INDU 10-29-13

GoldilocksWelcome to the Goldilocks Market

Japanese Cash Tsunami Hits US

When Japanese central bank governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, announced the most aggressive monetary stimulus program in history last week, he no doubt expected Tokyo share prices to head for the moon. In that, he has succeeded admirably, the yen hedged Japanese equity ETF (DXJ) soaring by 13.4% in the five trading days since he lobbed his bombshell.

What the bespectacled bureaucrat did not anticipate was that his action would send American shares through the roof as well. Both the Dow average and the S&P 500 surged to new all time highs today, much of the move powered by new Japanese cash. Just when American traders were wringing their hands over the potential loss of quantitative easing, they instead were handed a second campaign of ultra monetary easing.

Until last week, the Fed was pumping $85 billion a month into the financial system. From this week, the Fed plus the BOJ monthly total doubles to $170 billion. I don?t have to draw pictures for you to explain what this means for stock prices.

Indeed, the BOJ?s fingerprints could be found daily on securities of almost every imaginable description. What they have been buying is size exchange traded funds of equities (ETF?s) and bonds of every maturity. Imagine the Fed coming in one morning, calling all the major brokers, and placing orders for a billion dollars each of the (SPX) and the (IWM). That is what?s happening in Japan now.

The problem is that domestic investors in Japan have been unloading positions they have been lugging for years to the central bank, and then reinvesting the cash into better quality, higher yielding US stocks. Notice how well the big cap dividend yielders have been trading, favorite targets of foreign investors. Notice, also, that technology appears to be staging a turnaround on the back of the international money, with recent pariah, Apple (AAPL) actually showing signs of life.

It?s easy to see why this is happening. If you were a Japanese investor, would you want to buy a low growth, low yielding stock in a depreciating currency? Or buy a share in a faster growing company with a much higher dividend an appreciating currency. I rest my case. God bless America!

Needless to say, beyond the sunset made a complete hash of my few remaining short positions in the S&P 500, which only had seven days left to run into expiration. Thank you, Mr. Market for my biggest loss of the year.

Fortunately, that hickey was more than generously offset by profits on shorts I harvested last week, in addition to remaining longs in Bank of America (BAC), Apple (AAPL), and hefty shorts in the yen. As of this writing, I am up a breathtaking 37% so far in 2013.

Where does this party end? Now that we have two QE?s, instead of just one, I think it is safe to say that risk assets everywhere are going much higher. How high is anyone?s guess. It also means that the ?RISK OFF? assets of gold (GLD), silver (SLV), and Treasury bonds (TLT) are headed lower. That?s why I added a long in the leverage short Treasury bond ETF (TBT) this week for the first time in years. The punch bowl just got topped up again, and I don?t have to be asked twice to refill my glass.

DXJ 4-10-13

INDU 4-10-13

SPX 4-10-13

XLK 4-10-13

AAPL 4-10-13

Punch Bowl

The Punch Bowl Has Just Been Refilled

Bidding for the Stars

A few years ago, I went to a charity fund raiser at San Francisco?s priciest jewelry store, Shreve & Co., where the well-heeled men bid for dates with the local high society beauties, dripping in diamonds and Channel No. 5. Well fueled with champagne, I jumped into a spirited bidding war over one of the Bay Area?s premier hotties, who shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, she has a sports stadium named after her.

The bids soared to $10,000, $11,000, $12,000. After all, it was for a good cause. But when it hit $12,400, I suddenly developed lockjaw. Later, the sheepish winner with a severe case of buyer?s remorse came to me and offered his date back to me for $12,000.? I said ?no thanks.? $11,000, $10,000, $9,000? I passed.

The current altitude of the stock market reminds me of that evening. If you rode gold (GLD) from $800 to $1,920, oil, from $35 to $149, and the (DIG) from $20 to $60, why sweat trying to eke out a few more basis points, especially when the risk/reward ratio sucks so badly, as it does now?

I realize that many of you are not hedge fund managers, and that running a prop desk, mutual fund, 401k, pension fund, or day trading account has its own demands. But let me quote what my favorite Chinese general, Deng Xiaoping, once told me: ?There is a time to fish, and a time to hang your nets out to dry.?

At least then I?ll have plenty of dry powder for when the window of opportunity reopens for business. So while I?m mending my nets, I?ll be building new lists of trades for you to strap on when the sun, moon, and stars align once again. And no, I never did find out what happened to that date.

INDU 3-18-13

GOLD 3-18-13

See Any Similarity?

 

Fishing Nets

Time to Mend the Nets

 

Why the Stock Market is Still Going Up

I have had an extremely hot hand this year, pushing the 2013 performance of my Trade Alert Service above a stellar 30%. So I am going out on a limb here and predict that the S&P 500 is about to grind up to a new all time high.

Since 2009, Federal Reserve governor, Ben Bernanke, has clearly made our central bank?s top priority jobs and growth, at the eventual expense of a higher inflation rate. The higher stock and home prices, a vast monetary expansion enabled, has also created a huge wealth effect. This is spurring newly emboldened investors to pour more money into risk assets everywhere, save commodities and precious metals. This creates more consumption, and, in the end, finally, more jobs.

Thanks to Ben?s efforts, stock prices have financially reached what most traditional analysts consider ?fair value? after a long four-year slog. The historic 50 year range for price earnings multiples is 9-22, and here we sit today, dead center at 15.5, assuming S&P 500 earnings of $100/share.

But this time, it?s different. Ten year Treasury yields at 2.05% today, are about 400-500 basis points lower than seen during past stock market peaks. Even after the $85 billion sequestration hit, Washington is still pumping $800 billion a year into the economy, even though the recovery is four years old. And Ben Bernanke shows no sign of taking the punch bowl away anytime soon.

This is why, having failed to break 1,485 of the downside on the heels of the Italian election disappointment on February 25, the index has little choice but to gun for the upside target of 1,585.

Health of this market top is vastly more robust than previous ones. Currently, 85% of the stocks in the (SPX) are trading above their 200 day moving averages, compared to only 50% when markets peaked in 2007, when the market actions was far more concentrated in a handful of stocks.

Such a broad base suggests that a lot of managers are still underinvested, and that the pain trade is to the upside. This is why the February correction that everyone was waiting for never came, and why we saw an incredibly bullish ?time? correction instead of a ?price? one. I was expecting as much.

Indeed, the technical outlook for the market is becoming increasingly positive as is obvious from the charts below. We have seen several successive new highs for the Dow transports for many weeks now, an index of a much more economically sensitive group of stocks.

Look at an equal weighted index of the S&P 500, like the (RSP), and it has already hit a new all time high, a huge plus. Finally, the NASDAQ (QQQ) looks like it is, at long last, putting its lost decade behind it by breaking to new ten-year highs.

Still, there are some qualifications here. The Dow needs to stay above 14,198 for the rest of March for this breakout to be valid. So far, so good. The capitalization weighted (SPX) is also approaching its high in the most overbought condition since 2007, with RSI?s well into the 70 territory. That means a round of profit taking will hit once we do hit a new high.

Another development that has technical analysts extremely excited is that many leadership stocks are catapulting off of bases that took 10-12 years to form. The number of new decade highs greatly exceeds the new lows. This has many chartists calling for a further move in the main indexes up another 10% from here.

Every bull market ends in overvaluation, often an extreme one, and sitting here at fair value, we are not even close for this cycle. Not a day goes by now that I don’t get emails from readers asking what to do with cash here. I think the safer bet will be to go with high quality, high growing names where a hefty dividend gives you a cushion against any short-term volatility.

That list would include KKR Financial (KKR) (7.4%), Atlas Pipeline (APL) (7.7%), Linn Energy (LINE) (7.7%), and Transocean (RIG) (4.2%). You could also do worse than American Express (AXP), (1.30%), and Bristol Myers-Squib (BMY) (3.80%).

Party on!

INDU 3-7-13

SPX 3-7-13

OEX 3-7-13

RSP 3-7-13

COMPQ 3-7-13ICSA 3-4-13

EMSPAY 3-1-13

Party

Party On!

Suddenly Those Italian Lessons Are Paying Off

Welcome to the first black swan of 2013!

You couldn?t mistake the meaning of the cries of topless female protesters as they flung themselves at police guarding Italian polling stations on Monday. Basta! Basta! Enough! Enough! The purpose of their demonstration was visibly scrawled in large letters across their nubile bodies in black ink for all to see. Mille grazie Profesoressa Francesca for being my Rosetta Stone!

Global equity investors could well be screaming enough, enough as well. Right when it became clear that the Italian election was not going according to script, the major indexes rolled over from substantial gains to even more impressive losses. The Volatility Index (VIX) blasted 35% to the upside, the biggest move since November, 2011, the last time the Land of Julius Caesar threatened a meltdown. The Italian Index ETF (EWI) really got decimated, posting an intraday fall of 18%, while the Euro (FXE), (EUO) took a two and a half cent dive against the greenback.

Up until today, the smart money was betting on a win by socialist Pier Luigi Bersani and some continuation of the recent reformist policies. What we got was a much stronger than expected showing by Silvio Berlusconi, who is using his billions of Euros to get elected to avoid going to prison. His platform is to undo all of the reforms of recent years, and basically send Europe back to the crisis days of 2010, when the European currency traded as low as the $1.17 handle. Note to self: the smart money isn?t always right.

Of course, I have been warning anyone who would listen that something like this was headed our way (click here for ?Is the Party Over? ). I was even so precise in my predictions that I said the trigger might come from the next leg of the European financial crisis.

To see the exact levels where major support kicks in on the charts for this selloff, please follow the link above. For the Legions who follow my market beating Trade Alert Service, take solace in the fact that our entire portfolio expires in just 13 trading days, and these levels only need to hold until then. After that, we want everything to go to zero, where we can buy them cheap.

INDU2-25-13

SPX 2-25-13

FXE 2-25-13

EWI 2-25-13

ProtesterUnhappy Italian Voter

Black Swan

Long Time No See

 

 

 

 

How This Bull Market Will Die

The universal question in the market today was ?Why is it down? when all the news was good? The weekly jobless claims dropped 5,000 to 366,000, near a five-year low, confirming that the jobs recovery is still on track. Activist shareholder, David Einkorn?s, lawsuit against Apple (AAPL) to unfreeze its cash mountain should have boosted the market?s major buzz kill.

Sure, ECB president said that European growth would continue to slow. No news there, and certainly not enough to prompt a triple digit decline in the Dow.

The harsh truth is that after the near parabolic move we have seen since the beginning of the year, you don?t need a news event to trigger a market sell off. The mere altitude of the (SPX) at 1,515 should, alone, be enough to do it, a mere 3.8% off the all time high.

The fact is that almost every manager has seen the best start to his track record in decades. Prudence requires that one book some profit, deleverage, reduce risk, and take some money off the table at these euphoric highs.

That especially applies to myself. If I make any more than the 22% I have clocked so far in 2013, nobody will believe it anyway. So why risk everything I?ve made just to make another 20%. Who wants to start over again if the wheels suddenly fall off the market?

That is what prompted my flurry of Trade Alerts at the Thursday morning opening, which saw me bail on my most aggressive positions in the (SPY) and the (IWM), taking profits on my nearest money strikes. I did maintain the bulk of my portfolio, which is still in much farther out-of-the-money strikes, and in short positions in the Japanese yen. I also added to my short positions, buying out-of-the-money bear put spreads on the (SPY), betting that even if we continue up, it won?t be in the ballistic, devil may care fashion that we saw in January.

There are, in fact, real reasons out there for the market to fall. You need look no further than the calendar, which I eloquently outlined the dangers of, in my piece ?February is the Cruelest Month? (click here).

On March 1, the sequestration cuts hit. The 2% increase in payroll taxes has yet to be reflected in slower consumer spending. Federal income taxes have already gone up on those earning over $450,000 a year. This is important, as the top 20% of income earnings account for 40% of consumer spending, and consumer spending delivers 70% of all consumption.

Although it has been postponed by three months, we have a debt ceiling crisis looming that will have to result in spending cuts across the board. My favorite stealth drag on the economy, the paring back of major tax deductions, will be the next big issue to be fought over publicly (the oil depletion allowance versus alternative energy tax credits, and so on, and so on).

All of this adds up to a 1.5% reduction in US GDP growth this year. When you are starting with a feeble, tepid, and flaccid 2% rate, that does not leave much for us to live on. This is how disappointments turn into recession. IT is no empty threat, as many US corporations are seeing earnings slow, and could well disappoint with the next quarter?s results.

This is why I predicted an ?M? shaped year in my ?2013 Annual Asset Class Review? which I am still standing by (click here). We are already well into the heady run up to construct the left leg of the ?M?. Next comes the heart rending ?V? in the middle. Some analysts are amazed that we have gone this far in front of such daunting challenges and haven?t already collapsed. I think that is going to be April or May business, given the humongous cash flows we have witnessed.

SPX 2-6-13

INDU 2-6-13

SSEC 2-5-13

QQQ 2-6-13

DJUSAU 2-6-13

Bull

This Bull May Not Have Long to Live

Goldilocks Delivers a Nonfarm Payroll

Does it get any better than this? First, the hometown San Francisco Giants win the World Series in a four game sweep. Then the San Francisco 49er?s play in the Super Bowl. Finally, I win the World Series/Super Bowl of investing by capturing an absolutely pyrotechnic 21% year to date performance, boosting me once again the top ranks of the hedge fund industry. Hey, two out of three is not bad. 31-34, ouch! Life is good.

Back in the real world, traders were humming the rhythms of Lauren Hill?s Doo Wop on Friday, the top selling hit of 1998. That was the last time that a January posted such a virile stock market performance. In London they were humming Donna Summer?s This Time I Know It?s for Real, who led the charts with this tune in 1989, the previous time the FTSE 100 delivered such robust numbers.

No, this is not a compilation of Golden Oldies. Not too hot, not too cold. That was the conclusion of the equity markets on Friday when the Dow blasted over 14,000 for the first time in 5 years. With many researchers expecting a January nonfarm payroll over 200,000, you would think traders would have dumped shares on a 157,000 print. The headline unemployment rate remained etched in stone at 7.9%. Instead, stocks gapped up at the opening and never looked back, closing at the highs, up 147.

The phone lines between Wall street and San Francisco burned up with portfolio managers and investment advisors trying to figure out why. It appears that the number was strong enough to maintain a tepid 2% GDP growth rate. But is was not so expansionary as to prompt the Federal Reserve to abandon is quantitative easing policy any time soon, on which risk assets everywhere have been richly feasting.

I can see a particular psychology taking hold on Wall Street. Good data is proof that our buying of shares with reckless abandon is justified. Bad data is written off as a backward looking, one time only, statistical anomaly, as we saw with the incredibly weak Q4, 2012 GDP report of -0.1%.

In this scenario, the market either goes up, or goes up more. A new, all time high for the Dow this week looks like a done deal. We could hit my 2013 target of a Standard and Poor?s (SPX) of 1,600 by March. Like my friend, hedge fund giant, David Tepper, says ?When there?s a bubble, act bubbly.?

Our Course, I warned you all this was coming as far back as October (click here for ?My 2012-2013 Stock Market Forecast? ). I followed up with my ambitious ?Why My Shorts are Missing? in December, pressing the point home (click here ). Then, I really went out on a limb in my ?2013 Annual Asset Review? (click here), arguing that we would see an unprecedented market multiple expansion in the face of weak earnings growth. That is exactly what we got.

It is a good thing that I put my money where my mouth was. That has earned followers of my Trade Alert Service a blistering year to date performance of 21%. If the latecomers, short coverers, and lemmings keep pouring into this market, I could double that by April.

ISCA1-28-13

The Trend is Your Friend in Weekly Jobless Claims

EMSPAY 2-1-13

Ten Years of Nonfarm Payroll

INDU 2-1-13

INDU 2-1-13a

SPX 2-1-13

French Maid

Looks Like It?s Rising to Me

Where?s the Crash?

That was the questions traders were scratching their heads and asking this morning in the wake of this morning?s shocking Q4, 2012 GDP figure.

While most analysis were expecting the government to report a more robust 1%-2% number we got negative -0.1%, the worst since 2009. With growth flipping from a positive 3.1% figure in Q3 many thought that a Dow down 500 points was in the cards. Instead we pared back a modest 44 points. What gives?

Ahhh, the devil is in the details. The main culprit was in defense spending, down a mind numbing 22.2%, the worst since the wind down of the Vietnam War in 1972. I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, government spending was weak across the board as a quasi shut down in advance of the fiscal cliff brought spending to a grinding halt.

In the end, the fiscal cliff never happened. But the downshift shows you how severe such a slowdown would be, if we ever go over the cliff sometime in the future.

There were other one off factors. Hurricane Sandy put a dent into the economies of the US east coast, especially in the transportation sector. The effects of last summer?s drought, which triggered a serious shrinkage in a broad swath of the agricultural sector, were also felt.

What traders instead decided to focus on were the impressive strength of the private sector. Business investment rocketed 8.4%, while consumer spending jumped by 2.2%. It all confirms my theory that the passage of the presidential election broke the dam for private economy, and got people off their behinds once all the negativity and uncertainty was gone. Businesses suddenly began investing and hiring, while consumers stepped up consuming.

What this data tells us is that there will be a sizable postponement of growth from Q4 into Q1, 2013. The Pentagon will ramp up spending once again in the knowledge their budget is secure, at least for the time being. In the meantime, the private sector continues on fire. Q1 could well turn out to be a monster quarter. This is what the unremitting rise in share prices is shouting at us.

In the end, traders don?t really care what the GDP is. In fact, most can?t even spell it. The focus of the street is on the future, not the past. And the data promises to improve.

This morning we saw private sector job growth of 182,000 from the ADP. If Thursday morning delivers another five year low in jobless claims, the market will be primed for a hot January nonfarm payroll on Friday. It?s become ?a glass is half full, glass three quarters full? kind of market. Is either goes up, or up more.

INDU 1-30-13SPY 1-30-13

IWM 1-30-13

Headline

Not Happening Here, Baby

SPX 1,600, Here We Come!

Take a look at the chart below for the S&P 500, and it is clear that we are gunning for an all time high between 1,550 and 1,600. With the debt ceiling crisis now cancelled, you really have to look hard to find any near term reasons to sell stocks, so we could hit those lofty numbers as early as March.

A perusal of the short-term charts certainly demands one to conclude that we are overbought. The Relative Strength Indicator has just hit 70%, normally a signal that we are reaching an interim top. However, the RSI can stay elevated for an extended period of time and trade as high as 80 before the downside risks show their ugly face. That could be months off.

In the meantime, we could see some sort of correction. But it is more likely to be a time correction, not a price one. That has the market moving sideways in an agonizing, tortuous, narrowing range on declining volume for a while before launching on another leg up.

This year?s rally occurred so quickly that a lot of money was left on the sidelines, especially with the largest managers. That is why we have seen no meaningful corrections so far. This condition could remain all the way out until April.

It is likely that traders are going to keep ramping up this market until the January month end book closing. That sets up a quiet February. The deep-in-the-money options that I have been recommending to readers are ideally suited for this falling volatility environment. They reach their maximum point of profitability, whether the market goes up, sideways, or down small.

You see confirmation of this analysis everywhere you look. Treasury bonds (TLT) can?t catch a bid, and are clearly threatening to break out above the 1.90% yield band that has prevailed for the past year. The Volatility Index (VIX) hit another new five year low today at $12.40. Oil (USO) just hit a multi month high. It all points to stock prices that will remain on an upward path for the foreseeable future.

I think I?ll buy more stocks and then go drive my new Tesla around the mountain.

SPX 1-23-13

SPX 1-23-13a

INDU 1-23-13

TNX 1-23-13

VIX 1-23-13

TESLA
A Tesla S-1 Performance