Housing On Fire – Again

The housing market is absolutely on fire of late. We are hearing tales of bidding wars again. What short memories we have. We had an interesting conversation with some in the core housing supply chains. Their tales are more of woes surrounding supply rationing and trucker shortages. Inflation here we come. The real story is about interest rates and their effect on markets at home and abroad. We have long surmised that it was absurdly low interest rates that were holding back the economy. Our thought process is that with 0% interest rates there is no rush to go out and buy that house, that car or build that factory. Rates are low and will be for some time. Well, now the rush is on to make moves before interest rates run even higher and inflation is entering from stage left. The ironic part is that if the Federal Reserve raises rates further it may push the economy further into overdrive.

If one oversteps the bounds of moderation, the greatest pleasures cease to please. – Epictetus

For a more in depth analysis of where rates may be headed check out this blog post from our friends over at Global Macro Monitor.

As I said, it is all about interest rates. Here is what David Tepper, hedge fund legend and now owner of the Carolina Panthers (who bought the team for a mere $2.2 billion) had to say on about interest rates and the stock market earlier this month.

… a lot of it has to do with interest rates. We’re right on the cusp of breaking out on interest rates at this level around 3%. (the 10 Year closed the week at 3.06%)…But a lot of people don’t think they’re going to break higher – most people are only saying they’re only going to 3.25%. And I think if they only go to 3.25% for the rest of the year then stocks might be up. But too many people are saying that. And when too many people are saying one thing that’s when I start to get worried. So if we break above that, then stocks might have a problem.- David Tepper Appaloosa Management

Now we must deal with the unintended consequences of zero percent interest rates and the unwinding of QE. Because interest rates are headed higher so is the US Dollar. That is having a chilling effect on emerging markets. The iShares Emerging Market ETF is now trading below its 200 DMA and looks like it may be headed for a fall. I remember 1997 and the Asian Crisis very clearly. It was and still is the only time that US stock markets closed early due to trading curbs and the Dow Jones’ 550 point loss that day. We were on the floor that day and it was particularly eerie. The Asian Financial Crisis began in Thailand with the collapse of the Thai Baht and its effects were felt around the globe. Keep an eye on emerging markets like Argentina, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa. Turkey may merit extra attention as inflation in that country just hit 11% and its dictatorial leader is demanding rate cuts!? The economic textbooks would tell you to do the opposite.

Keep an eye on Bitcoin. The crypto currency market seems to be shaping up as a temperature gauge for risk. Bitcoin just made a lower high and there seems to be pressure in the space. As goes bitcoin so goes the market? It is trading at about $8300 as we write. It is very important that the support at $6700 remain steady otherwise bitcoin could see a $2000 fall quite quickly. The S&P closed the week at 2713 or about 50 points above our fulcrum of 2666. It has been 5 full months since we first hit 2666. Remember, we thought that we could spend 9-18 months here. The S&P keeps swinging back and forth between the 100 day moving average and the 200 day. Those lines are sloping upward and so is the market. The bulls have some work to do.

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

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Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

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666 Redux

Rollarcoaster markets. Around and around, up and down and we are back where we started. Hopefully, it didn’t cost you money. Another week and month and we are stuck at 2(666). You can read our thesis on the number 666 in our postings Bitcoin and Warning Shot. The short version is that the market has struggled at 2 times, 3 times and now 4 times the low on the S&P 500 of 666. It’s not magic. Its algorithms. The computers are in charge and for now the trading houses love the volatility but it’s all just churning. We have expected this churning to last 9- 18 months but we are getting closer to taking the under on that bet.

While the pundits are obsessed with Elon Musk’s seeming breakdown we will continue to obsess over the recent ranges of gold, stocks and bonds. It could be a long summer as the doldrums kick in but given our track record it will happen when we are furthest from the office. We have a knack for taking vacations at exactly the right time. For an inside tip look at your August calendar.

We continue to be invested because we do not know which way the market will head and time is money. It’s boring and it’s not sexy but look at where you cash, your dry powder, is invested. The differences are staggering and it is well worth your time to pick up 200 basis points. The market continues to struggle and is stuck in the range between 2550-2700 on the S&P 500. The longer it stays in the range the better it is for the bulls and the harder the breakout will be when it comes. We see the market breaking to 2850 and new highs or a trapdoor opening with a swift move to 2400 or lower. The market still struggles with 2666 as we closed the week at 2664 (which is the actual 4 x 666). We are stuck, for now, in a range between the 100 Day Moving Average (DMA) and the 200 DMA and that range is growing tighter each week as the 200 day is trending higher. Something will have to give. Keep an eye on the door. When these ranges break things will change rapidly – but for now we wait.

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

 

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

 

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

Full Swing

One of the most positively anticipated earnings seasons in years is in full swing and most of the news has gone according to plan. As earnings seasons go this has been very good Corporate America. Here is the problem. Markets haven’t budged. That in essence shows how the market is a discount mechanism. Great earnings were widely expected and were priced in months ago. Inflation is the new worry and the statistics that we get next week will most likely show inflation rising above the 2% goal of the Federal Reserve. Next week could signal more rate hikes on the way and a higher 10 Yr Treasury. That could prove negative for stocks.

It seems that we are not the only ones signaling caution as we are seeing that in the positioning of public investors/institutions and sentiment numbers. The key takeaway here is that as investors become more cautious in their positioning it makes it more likely that when we break out of our current range the upside will be exaggerated and the downside could be more limited. Conservative positioning will leave us all with more dry powder and buying power as a group. We are not saying which way it will break but we are trying to decipher which way to lean.

We continue to invest for inflation and anticipate stocks will continue to struggle with their current range. We have low duration with our bond portfolio and continue to add commodities to our asset allocation. The commodity sector is one of the best performing asset classes in 2018. Another focus is our cash and generating for the first time in a decade returns there. Not sexy. Just smart. The market continues to struggle and is stuck in the range between 2550-2700 on the S&P 500. The longer it stays in the range the better it is for the bulls and the harder the breakout will be when it comes. We see the market breaking to 2850 and new highs or a trapdoor opening with a swift move to 2400 or lower. The market still struggles with 2666 as we closed the week at 2669. We are stuck, for now, in a range between the 100 Day Moving Average (DMA) and the 200 DMA and that range is growing tighter each week. Something will have to give. Keep an eye on the door. When these ranges break things will change rapidly – but for now we wait.

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

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A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

Tension Builds

We hope that you enjoyed reading our quarterly letter last week. We got some great feedback from people we admire in the industry and we hope that you found it useful as well. If you haven’t read it yet we would encourage you to. Here is the link to our quarterly letter.

2018 is going to be a huge year for corporate buybacks with an expected $800 billion in buybacks but the rest of April may be a bit sparse. Buybacks have, at times, carried this market. The rest of April could struggle with corporations in blackout periods due to earnings. It is interesting to note that Goldman Sachs suspended their buyback for the rest of this quarter. They are investing the money back into their business. Hmmm…

We can now say that the gap has been filled at 2700 in the S&P 500 but it also seems to be proving to be resistance for the time being. We watch gaps because gaps show us where the emotion lies in the market. A break in emotion whether good or bad creates gaps in charts. A healthy dose of good news and we rocket higher creating a gap. Bad news and we see a break lower. We have seen two major breaks in 2018 and they are both in the bears favor. When we get back to those gaps it is natural resistance (support) for markets.

By way of Arthur Cashin comes a note from his friend Jim Brown at Option Investor. It seems that Brown see that buybacks are escalating while the public steps back from the market.

On the public, Jim wrote: Bank of America said equity ownership in individual accounts has declined to 29% compared to the 41% in January. The 29% is an 18 month low. That can be seen as positive from a contrarian perspective. If the market continues higher, individual investors could begin scrambling to add equities to their portfolio. Since the average individual investor functions in a herd mentality, the surge of new buying a couple weeks from now could be at a market top. I wrote back in January that I expected a market decline in late April, early May once all the major earnings had been released. I was not expecting a February decline but my outlook for May is still cautious.

We have been calling for the market to struggle for 9-18 months since we hit 2666 and we continue to trade within 130 points of that number.  We are stuck, for now, in a range between the 100 Day Moving Average (DMA) and the 200 DMA. The 200 DMA is the number most watched by the momentum crowd. If we break below the 200 DMA there are very large funds that will go from 100% long to 100% short. The range that we are building also builds tension. When that tension is released the market will move in conjunction with how much pressure has built. Gold and the 10 Yr Treasury have been stuck in a range for a year. Keep an eye on the door. When these ranges break out things will change rapidly – but for now we wait.

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I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

 

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

 

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

Blackthorn Quarterly Letter April 2018

 Roaring

For some time we have been warning about a melt up in the markets. The stage had been set for asset prices to roar higher. Well, 2018 came roaring in like a lion with, what appears to be, the late stages of a market melt up.  At its zenith the S&P 500 was up almost 7.5% for the month! The incredible start to 2018 was clearly unsustainable and it was obvious that some sort of correction in 2018 was likely. February was clearly much different than January, in that, the S&P 500 that we had come to enjoy over the last 13 months had now turned south.  The volatility quake of February was just what the market needed to wake it from its relentless sleep walk higher. While we have enjoyed the last 9 quarters of positive pricing it was just a matter of time before markets reverted closer to their historical glide path

While we have made note in our letters of historically elevated valuation metrics we see further anecdotal evidence of that elevated pricing in legendary investor Warren Buffett’s latest Annual Letter. Buffett is well known to be constantly on the search for deals in the marketplace. His job is to allocate capital and he does that in buying stocks in companies or preferably entire companies as he adds to his portfolio. One of the main challenges in running Berkshire Hathaway is consistently putting newly acquired capital to work as it is a capital generating machine. In his latest annual address he notes that prices for assets are challenging. He described that finding a deal ata sensible purchase price” has become a challenge”.Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letter 2/26/2018

Why are prices so elevated? As you know from our writings, it is our opinion that elevated prices are directly related to central bank policy around the globe. A policy that, if even spoken of in polite circles a decade ago, would have gotten you laughed out of a room of economists. This past decade has been filled with rising asset prices due to the fire hose of central bank policy. Historically low interest rates, growing balance sheets, and low volatility all combined in excel spreadsheets to justify higher valuations for assets.

This never before attempted policy is now being seen by central bankers as being long in the tooth. Central bankers are now enacting tighter policy if only to have “bullets in the gun”. There is always another crisis and policymakers know they will be expected to respond. Policy maker’s response to the next crisis would be limited in scope if interest rates are along the zero bound and they hold an inordinately large balance sheet. Federal Reserve officials have been more overt in their recent communications that they are concerned about having the capacity to respond to a crisis in the future.

“Long-term risks include reduced capacity of both fiscal and monetary policy to act against downturns. Eric Rosengren Boston Fed President speech 4/13/18

What Changed?

What has changed is the tax cut. The tax plan really started in the middle of September and that’s when you saw the bond market reacting. …At that point, the market had shifted from its disinflationary mindset to a moderate inflation mindset. And that’s the repricing that has been taking place. Jeff  Sherman CIO Doubleline Funds

Central bankers are right to be concerned as the market perceives a change in mindset. Change can create volatility. Volatility can create fear. Fear can manifest itself in a lack of faith in the Fed to maintain stability. Instability creates lower asset prices.  Investors are seeing inflation on the horizon for the first time in a decade and that necessitates a rotation into a different investment game plan. Currently, investors are walking a tightrope between investing for inflation and investing for deflation. A deflationary game plan includes investing in longer term bonds and buying stocks when central bankers inject capital. An inflationary game plan includes commodities, low duration bonds and equities when inflation is controlled. We are walking a tightrope of investing options as the two outcomes are polar opposites.

“We have to deal with the possibility that at one point the Fed and other central banks may have to take more drastic action than they currently anticipate” and rates “may go higher and faster than people expect.” – JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon Annual Letter 2018

Ironically, the next crisis will probably be caused by the central banker’s actions (or inactions) as they try to pare down their balance sheets and normalize interest rates.

Until Something Breaks

And if you respect financial history, what the Fed has always done is hike until something breaks. We definitely had the debt build up. Looking at debt to GDP, people talk a lot about a bond bubble. But it’s not in the treasury market and it’s not in the housing market. It’s in Corporate America – Jeff Sherman CIO Doubleline Funds

What could break? We surmise that it may be the corporate debt market. Currently the 2 year US Treasury is the highest it has been since 2008 and if interest rates continue to rise there is concern that corporations may not be able to refinance debt that is coming due in the next two years. The artificially low interest rate regime that has prevailed since the GFC has given rise to zombie companies. Zombie companies are corporations that would have otherwise, with normalized interest rates, not been able to refinance their debt and stay alive. Those companies may not be able to stay afloat with rising interest rates and with less access to capital. That could create a significant drag on the economy as they close their doors. An additional concern is the rising share of the US budget that is being outlaid to interest payments. If rates were to normalize then the US budget is in danger of becoming a slave to its interest payments. That is the cross for the Federal Reserve to bear. How much is tightening is too much? How much can they tighten before something breaks?

Asset prices, which have risen on the back of loose central bank policy, should now, theoretically, reverse given central bankers current goal of tightening monetary policy. Central bankers are walking a fine line when trying to reverse their experimental policy. The trick here is for central bankers strike a balance where they are able to rein in policy without collapsing asset prices.

One of the biggest keys to success in this environment will be how the Fed responds to the markets’ response to any change in policy. If the market falls into a bear market a key driver will be how the Federal Reserve responds to any market correction. That response is likely to determine how long and how deep any correction might be. Our first clues may not come from the equity market as to markets overall response but from the bond market. Bond yields may be the risk temperature gauge for markets. Rising/falling bond yields or a continued flattening of the yield curve may portend equity market action.

“Spreads between corporate bonds and 10-yr Treasuries has fallen to relatively low levels, notes studies have showing investor confidence that generates low credit spreads often precedes subsequent economic reversals.” – Eric Rosengren Boston Fed President

The rising specter of inflation may have been the initial culprit of the recent sell off in February but that is normal for this late in the cycle. Pundits are saying “but the economy is doing so well”. The reason markets sell off when the economy is doing well is due to the central bank and its efforts to maintain a balance between prices and a strong economy. If the economy is doing well central banks will raise rates to slow the economy as inflation begins to rise. The reverse is true as well. If deflation arises and the economy is performing poorly central banks will lower rates to stir the economy and its concerns about inflation go on the back burner.

Then the acceleration of demand into capacity constraints and rise in prices and profits causes interest rates to rise and central banks to tighten monetary policy, which causes stock and other asset prices to fall because all assets are priced as the present value of their future cash flows and interest rates are the discount rate used to calculate present values. That is why it is not unusual to see strong economies accompanied by falling stock and other asset prices, which is curious to people who wonder why stocks go down when the economy is strong and don’t understand how this dynamic works. -Ray Dalio Bridgewater Associates

We continue to believe that central bank purchases will dictate asset pricing and while we can try and predict when asset flows will turn negative we cannot predict when markets will react to that reversal in flow. Buy the dip may have turned into sell the rip. The 3% level on the 10 year is the key. Equity markets continue to tumble whenever bond yields rise and bond yields fall whenever equity markets stumble. We are stuck in a loop. Markets may be stuck in neutral until central bankers either stop tightening or tighten too much.

 What’s Next

For one thing, I’m convinced the easy money has been made.  … the one thing we can say for sure is that the current prospects for making money in U.S. equities aren’t what they were half a dozen years ago.  And if that’s the case, isn’t it appropriate to take less risk in equities than one took six years ago? – Howard Marks Co-Chairman Oaktree Capital 1/23/2018

The lack of volatility in recent years has led to a one way market – up. So far in 2018 we have seen the return of volatility that has been missing from market advances in recent years. As we see a rise in the fear gauge we expect a repricing of assets and, with that, markets are going to be increasingly volatile and move in two ways- both up and down- rather than what we have seen over the last 9 quarters. While it may become more difficult to make money in this environment we feel that opportunities will present themselves to readjust asset allocations to our benefit. In the past 25 sessions, as we write, we have seen the Dow move triple digits in 21 of those sessions. While that may offer opportunities it also may indicate that something is not quite right under the surface. How do we position ourselves at the current time when it comes to equities? Here is some advice from Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett’s mentor.

We can urge that in general the investor should not have more than one half in equities unless he has strong confidence in the soundness of his stock position and is sure that he could view a market decline of the 1969-70 type with equanimity. It is hard for us to see how strong confidence can be justified at the levels existing in early 1972. Thus, we would counsel against a greater than 50% apportionment to common stocks at this time. -Benjamin Graham The Intelligent Investor

 From Graham’s perspective he saw a massive run higher in the Dow Jones from 1942 -66 and, subsequently, saw markets struggle in 1969-70 period. The move lower from 1969-70 totaled a 35% loss in equities. That is the kind of loss Graham is talking about. Graham’s lack of confidence in 1972 was well founded as a massive bear market would take place from 1972-74.

We wholeheartedly agree with Graham as to strategy. We also think that Graham would agree with us on the market’s current position and the highly elevated valuations that we see today. We are not saying that a massive bear market is around the corner. What we are saying is that equities are at historical valuations. Is it not prudent to take less risk in equities than one took 6 years ago? The current markets may consolidate and then move higher still but we are not willing to bet the farm on that. We expect a long period of consolidation and a move higher or a shorter period of consolidation and a move lower. We must position accordingly.

Emotional Capital

We have spent a good deal of time lately talking to clients about emotional capital. When cycles reach a more mature stage it is prudent to sell some winners and build a cash (and emotional) cushion with which to buy future bargains. That way when market losses come you are keenly aware that you prepared for this moment and this money was set aside to buy assets at bargain prices. If you are holding too much in the way of assets when they begin to fall you will be tempted to start selling. It is then that you will be managing your money from an emotional point of view.

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First, widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases. Second, personal fear is your enemy. – Warren Buffett

As investors, our job is NOT making the case for why markets will go up. Making the case for why markets will rise is a pointless endeavor because we are already invested. If the markets rise, terrific. We all made money, and we are the better for it. However, that is not our job. Our job, is to analyze, understand, measure, and prepare for what will reduce the value of our invested capital. –Lance Roberts

 

 

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein CEO of Goldman Sachs

 

Moreover, the years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines – even panics – that will affect virtually all stocks…During such scary periods, you should never forget two things: First, widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases. Second, personal fear is your enemy. It will also be unwarranted. Investors who avoid high and unnecessary costs and simply sit for an extended period with a collection of large, conservatively-financed American businesses will almost certainly do well.Warren Buffett

 

5845 Ettington Drive

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678-696-1087

Terry@BlackthornAsset.com

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: According to SEC Custody Rule 206(4)-(a)(2), Blackthorn urges you to compare statements/reports initiated by your Blackthorn with the Account Statement from the custodian of your account for data consistency. To that end, if you find any discrepancy between these reports and the statement(s) that you received from your account’s custodian, please contact your Advisor or custodian. Also, please notify your Advisor promptly if you do not receive a statement(s) from your custodian on at least a quarterly basis.

Blackthorn is an investment adviser registered in the state of Georgia. Blackthorn is primarily engaged in providing discretionary investment advisory services for high net worth individuals.

All information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as a recommendation to buy or sell securities. All investments involve risk including the loss of principal. This transmission is confidential and may not be redistributed without the express written consent of Blackthorn Asset Management LLC and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or investment product. Any such offer or solicitation may only be made by means of delivery of an approved confidential offering memorandum.

Trapdoor

The bears won last week as any and all moves by the bulls were rebuffed. The bounces that are coming are of the bear market variety. They are large bounces on light volume as buy interest wanes. The gaps continue to remain unfilled at 2850 and 2700. The bear case is being validated. The 200 Day Moving Average (DMA) is what the entire street will be watching this week. The 200 DMA is a widely used gauge for investors as it is used as a barometer as to whether we are in a bear market or a bull market. We closed the week practically sitting on it. We have not been below the 200 DMA in almost two years since June of 2016. When we violated the 200 DMA in September of 2015 the market struggled for 10 months. We have been calling for the market to struggle for 9-18 months since we hit 2666 on the S&P 500 in December of 2017. We are now 5 months into that struggle. I can hear the question. Why not then just get out of the market? The market can do three things. Go Up, Go Down, or Go Sideways. By being invested you make money in two of those three scenarios. We don’t know that the market is going to go down. We have made some sales at these elevated valuations and with those proceeds we are prepared to makes purchases at lower prices.

If the 200 DMA is violated by a close this week we could see trapdoor selling. By that I mean that bids will be pulled and those who were once buyers become sellers.  Trump made noise again last week on the tariff issue but markets sensed something different in his tone. He tweeted that he would accept a stock market drop because it was up so much already and that trade tariffs are in the best interest of American long term. He might get some push back on that thought, especially, from the bulls.

April, which is historically the best month for the Dow, is off to a very bad start. New money for the month did not help tip the scales in favor of the bulls. The bulls do not have a lot of conviction and if the 200 DMA is violated momentum funds will become sellers further driving the market lower. We expected the market to test 2550 and we did see 2555. Close enough for government work. We now expect the 200 DMA to be tested and for Wall Street to fail that test. We did not see the market bounce into the 2700-2750 area and that gives more power to the bears. The stock market is primed and ready for a drop.

A short one today as we tee up our quarterly letter for next week. I think we will have plenty to talk about.

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

 

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

 

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

FANG’s Lay an Egg

The attack on the FANG’s is the second attack of 2018. The first was the short volatility trade that blew up in February. Each attack has a lasting effect on the market. The short vol trade suppressed the price of volatility which helped elevate stock prices. The dismantling of this trade is still reverberating through markets. The next break down is what we call the shooting of the Generals. The leaders of the market have been producing an outsized portion of the gains and those leaders are now being questioned by the market. The move lower in the FANG’s has the market on its heels and investors are nervous. Where will the new market leadership come from? When will it arrive? This is a tough blow for stocks. New leadership cannot come quickly enough and large enough to steady the market. Tech is 25% of the S&P 500 with Apple, Amazon , Google, Microsoft and Facebook making up 14% of the S&P 500. You can see how weakness in just those five stocks will have an outsized negative effect on the S&P 500. The Generals of the market are the leaders. Those leaders, when shot, need to be replaced before the market loses confidence. The market is growing increasingly rudderless. There will be a third shoe to drop.

The FANG’s (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, NetFlix, Google)moved even lower this week as the bears took full control. They are oversold and due for a bounce as is the market. Unfortunately, the bounces that are coming are of the bear market variety. They are very large bounces on light volume. Bear market rallies rise sharply and die in low volume.

The longer the gaps stay unfilled at 2850 and 2700 the more they are validated. The 200 DMA is the key as the market has used it as support but the bulls just can’t get lift off especially as the FANG’s are taking such a pounding. April is, historically, the best month for the Dow. Unfortunately, that number dips in midterm election years. New money for the new month could help but if it doesn’t – watch out. We still anticipate a move to at least touch and test 2550. We do not think the street has studied for the test and may fail. But first, we should see some bounce to test 2700-2750 at the very least. If we don’t retest then that is another win for the bears.

A short one today as it is Easter Sunday. We will also have an abbreviated note next week as we tee up our quarterly letter.

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I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

 

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

 

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

Monday’s Blueprint for Markets

Here is our Blueprint for Monday and beyond. Since the election of Donald Trump we have been building an investing scenario that looked much like 1987. We were calling for a 1987 style melt up and then, a smack down.

A 30% run from the lows before Election Day, much like 1987, …would put us squarely in bubble territory as the S&P 500 would approach the 2750 area. A subsequent 30% retreat would bring us back to the 2000 area. (The S&P 500 was at 2360 as we wrote.) Witches’ Brew Blackthorn Quarterly Letter April 2017

We may have missed the top by 100 points on the S&P 500. Last month we backed off of the 1987 style melt down part of this scenario in light of everyone jumping on the 1987 bandwagon. We have begun to expect a more drawn out solution but you must be prepared for either in this environment.

This is what we had to say in our blog post Warning Shot Across the Bow published 2/4/18.

Our new scenario calls for a more drawn out selloff. First, we may see a drawdown in the magnitude of 5-15% followed by a retracement back to the old highs. From there (You Are Now Here) we should see a selloff of a larger magnitude leading to a bear market over the next 18-24 months. It’s not voodoo. Valuations show that historically we will see limited upside from these levels. Markets are high. Rates are rising. The yield curve is flattening. Markets tend to struggle in the second year of a Presidency as midterm elections approach. It’s not rocket science. It’s the study of psychology and history. We have seen the warning shot across the bow.  Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Watch the central bank balance sheets. If they stop tightening all bets are off.

As far back as October of 2017 we were warning about the 2666 level on the S&P 500 and a struggling market for 18-24 months.

We felt that the market would struggle for 18-24 months when it hit 2666 on the S&P 500. The market has spent time at each multiple of the 666 low in the S&P. 2664 is 4x the 666 level. You must remember we are dealing with algorithms written by humans. Levels like 666 and 2x, 3x and 4x are just levels in a computer program. Be careful of computers. They only do what they are told. As computer use has created a wondrous cycle of upward movement so we can have the vicious spiral downwards.

Market structure could exacerbate may any selloff. We have warned about market structure in the past and here is where you can do further reading from our blog posts – My Name is MarioParadox and Caution Flags.

The market is flawed in its design as its automated structure puts the momentum players, the market makers and algorithms in control. While it is pleasurable to see it go up every day it will be much quicker and painful when the market goes down in a one way fashion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Blog Post “My Name is Mario” 10/28/2017

We mentioned on Twitter on Thursday morning that gaps at 2850 and 2700 would lead technicians to project a measured move lower to 2550. That was 4% lower as we wrote. We realized that a move of that magnitude would take the S&P down to test the lows from February’s vol quake. What we didn’t realize was how quickly we would get to that number. For next week the old school playbook is for a rough Monday and a chance for the bulls to turn things around Tuesday afternoon. We have a feeling that Wall Street didn’t study for this test. Market is very oversold and due for a bounce. How it reacts to the prior low (2550) will tell us a lot.

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I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

Where Are We? – Emotional Capital City

Where are we? Markets are about cycles. We see them repeat over time. The question now is where are we in the cycle? One important reason why we need to be aware of cycles is because investing is an emotional roller coaster.  If we jump out of the market too soon we risk under performance and client angst. If we are too late clients may feel over invested and lack the courage to buy when others are selling. It is then that we run the risk of permanent capital loss. Our job as financial advisors is really about contingency planning, trying to anticipate what happens next and how to respond. An underappreciated part of investment management is how we, as advisors, react to our client’s emotional response. Our ability to respond to market cycles is directly influenced by where our clients are emotionally – their emotional capital.

We have spent a good deal of time lately talking to clients about emotional capital. When cycles reach a more mature stage it is prudent to sell some winners and build a cash (and emotional) cushion with which to buy future bargains. That way when market losses come you are keenly aware that you prepared for this moment and this money was set aside to buy assets at bargain prices. If you are holding too much in the way of assets when they begin to fall you will be tempted to start selling. It is then that you will be managing your money from an emotional point of view. We all know that losses hurt far more than gains feel good. Much as Joseph stored the grain in Egypt during the 7 years of plenty it is time to store some cash to prepare emotionally for when the lean times arrive. Leaving some gains on the table will make you a better investor over the long haul.

Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34“Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. 35“Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. 36“Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.” -Genesis 41:34

We caution that we are not seeing anything imminent. We just know that trees don’t grow to the sky and bull markets end. We know that we are in the midst of one of the longest bull markets on record influenced by historical central bank largesse. We don’t know when but we are due for leaner years. We need to store some cash and build emotional capital. The people in the industry whose opinions we respect are advocating caution. Hopefully, it will only be a minor disruption but it is imperative that one is not “all in” when it arrives and we are emotionally prepared to purchase bargains. A recession is the big worry and that still seems some time away. 

The market is still struggling to supplant 2800 on the S&P 500. Bond yields are struggling with rising above 3% on the 10 year. Gold cannot seem to break out and hold above $1350.  The yield curve is flattening. The key takeaway here is that the pressure is building. We are at a crossroads. Bonds. Commodities and equities. We are all waiting.

The bears pushed back this week but we give a slight edge here to the bulls. Stocks are slightly oversold and bonds slightly overbought. The big option expiration came and went without incident. Next week, hopefully, will tell us more but we could just see the tension build. The bulls still need to get over the 2850 gap to really convince us but if they do things will progress quickly. Be on your toes.

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I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

 

The Ides of March

“Beware the Ides of March.” As we know from Plutarch, a Greek biographer, a seer had prophesied to Julius Caesar that harm would come to him by the Ides of March. He would, in fact, be assassinated on that day. Wall Street is a superstitious lot but it’s the bears that may feel they got assassinated last week. Some of the feedback that we received on our blog last week was that we were a touch bleak. We don’t feel that it is our job to talk about sunshine and roses. Our job is to be the cynic. Our job is to find the risk and avoid it or profit from it. We are not bleak on the market. We are just looking to manage risk and get the best risk return ratio for our clients. We are still heavily invested in stocks for clients but just underweight them as we feel that the risk reward here is turning against investors. In what is probably the best investing book ever written Benjamin Graham, of whom Warren Buffett is a disciple, outlines how to allocate your investment portfolio.

We can urge that in general the investor should not have more than one half in equities unless he has strong confidence in the soundness of his stock position and is sure that he could view a market decline of the 1969-70 type with equanimity. It is hard for us to see how strong confidence can be justified at the levels existing in early 1972. Thus, we would counsel against a greater than 50% apportionment to common stocks at this time. -Benjamin Graham The Intelligent Investor 

We wholeheartedly agree with Graham as to strategy but we also think that Graham would agree with us on the market’s current position and how to allocate in 2018. After seeing a massive run in the Dow Jones from 1942 -66 markets were struggling in 1969-70 period. The move lower from 1968-70 totaled a 35% loss in equities. That is the kind of loss Graham is talking about. Graham’s lack of confidence in 1972 was well founded as a massive bear market would take place from 1972-74. 

Markets tend to go higher over time and the majority of annual returns in stocks are positive. We don’t need to tell you that stocks are a very good investment over the long haul. Our job is to look at risk/return ratios and know when to back off. You wouldn’t bet on Secretariat to win if a $5 bet would return $1. The metrics on stock valuations are historically elevated right now and history tells us that equity returns from here could be subpar. There is nothing wrong with rebalancing, taking profits and taking down risk. We are not out of the market just underweight stocks. 50% in and 50% out. We can find a reason to be happy whatever Monday brings. The key to what Graham is saying is can you weather the storm? If you are overweight and you get a discount in prices you either cannot buy because you are already all in or will not buy because you lack the psychological and emotional will. You should never be all out and never all in. That way, when Mr. Market offers you a ridiculous price on a stock that you have always wanted to buy you are financially and emotionally ready to take advantage. Not gloom and doom. Just proper risk management.

The Ides of March were known in ancient Rome as a time to settle debts. It looks like the bulls settled one with the bears a week early. Last week we said that the line on the bull/bear game was a push. We thought that with the market a touch oversold the bulls had a slight advantage but that neither the bulls nor the bears really had the upper hand. Well, the bulls made it clear they are not ready to go away yet and shrugged off potential trade wars and another high profile resignation from the White House. The bulls had an outstanding week and let the bears know who is really in charge. The bulls now have the gap at 2850 on the S&P 500 clearly in their sights.

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

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A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

 

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.