Posts filed under “Think Tank”
“Goodbye safe havens, hello risky assets.” This was the refrain of investors’ theme song during the past week. Safe-haven assets were out of favor as better-than-feared corporate earnings and signs of a budding economic recovery emboldened investors’ appetite for reflation trades such as equities and commodities.
Investors’ sentiment improved notwithstanding a number of influences that could potentially disturb financial markets. These included a three-day delay in the release of the stress test results of the 19 biggest US banks until May 7, the plight of the beleaguered US automakers with General Motors (GM) proposing a sweeping debt-for-equity restructuring and Chrysler filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and fears of an escalation in the number of swine flu (H1N1) cases.
As to be expected given the countless catalysts, the past week’s trading was bumpy, but the major global stock market indices nevertheless managed to resume their eight-week rally. Further testimony of investors’ zest for risky assets came from the following:
• a solid performance by crude oil, base metal and agricultural commodities (with the exception of pork bellies and lean hogs – despite the fact that humans cannot contract swine flu by eating pig meat)
• tighter credit spreads (especially high-yield corporate bonds)
• a jump in Treasury Note yields to levels last seen in November
• a decline in the US dollar and Japanese yen as traders switched to high-yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar and South African rand (all resource-linked currencies)
The performance of the major asset classes is summarized by the chart below, expanded to now also include Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIP) and investment grade (LQD) and high-yield corporate bonds (HYG).
Marking eight straight weeks of gains, the MSCI World Index advanced by 1.6% (YTD -2.6%) on the week, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index by 2.3% (YTD +16.9%) and the Nasdaq Composite Index by 1.5% (YTD +9.0%) – the Nasdaq’s longest advance since December 1999. After recording declines during the prior week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+1.7%; YTD -6.4%) and the S&P 500 Index (+1.3%; YTD -2.8%) also added to the gains notched up since the rally commenced off the March 9 lows.
Global indices also celebrated solid gains for calendar month April, with the MSCI World Index (+10.9%) recording its top monthly advance since January 1987 and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (+16.3%) its strongest monthly showing since December 1993. The S&P 500 (+9.4%) had its best month since March 2000, placing the Index in the middle of its top 20 monthly gains since 1950.
Click on the table below for a larger image.
Using four-day performances for markets that were closed for the May Day (International Workers’ Day) holiday on Friday, returns around the world ranged from top performers Indonesia (+8.7%), Ireland (+8.4%), Greece (+8.1%), the Czech Republic (+6.9%) and Turkey (+6.7%) to Luxembourg (-4.7%), Bulgaria (-4.0%), Malta (-2.7%), Macedonia (-2.6%) and Oman (-2.5%), which experienced selling pressure. The Mexican Bolsa Index surprised by only declining 3.0% amid swine flu fears. (Click here to access a complete list of global stock market movements, as supplied by Emerginvest.)
By the end of last week, more than 70% of the companies in the S&P 500 Index had reported first-quarter earnings. According to Bespoke, the Index’s annual decline in earnings (Q1 ’09 versus Q1 ’08) on Friday was of 32.3%. This compares with analysts’ estimates of -37.4% at the start of the earnings season. Also, as shown in the graph below, the percentage of companies beating earnings estimates has been rising steadily during the reporting period to 62% on Friday. “With three quarters of companies having already reported, this earnings season is shaping up to be one of the best in years,” said Bespoke.
John Nyaradi (Wall Street Sector Selector) reports that the strongest exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on the week were the Market Vectors Coal (KOL) (+15.1%), iShares MSCI Taiwan Index (EWT) (+13.8%) and Claymore US-1-The Capital Markets Index (UEM) (+11.4%). On the other end of the performance scale the SPDR KBW Bank (KBE) (-6.1%), PowerShares Active US Real Estate (PSR) (-5.8%) and Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury Index (EDV) (-5.7%) performed poorly.
Category: Think Tank
Sell in May and Go Away
May 1, 2009
By John Mauldin
- Sell in May and Go Away?
- The End of the Recession?
- Is the US Consumer Back?
- A Dangerous End Game
- A Few Thoughts on Swine Flu
The old adage that one should “sell in May and walk away” has been around for years. I mentioned that bromide about this time last year, urging readers to head for the sidelines if they had not already done so. I was also suggesting a strategic retreat in August of 2006 (after which the markets went up 20% before plummeting). In this week’s letter we look at the actual data and offer up a fresh viewpoint. Then we turn our eyes to the recent GDP numbers, which were awful, though many took comfort in the apparent rise in consumer spending. Are Americans back to their old ways? It will make for an interesting letter.
Sell in May and Go Away?
My friend and South African business partner Prieur du Plessis recently updated a chart on monthly stock market returns since 1950. It clearly shows that the November through April periods have on average been superior to the May through October half of the year. (To read his very interesting blog you can go to http://www.investmentpostcards.com/)
And the difference is quite significant. As Prieur notes, the “good” six-month period shows an average return of 7.9%, while the “bad” six-month period only shows a return of 2.5%. Of course, selling creates taxable events, which can hurt your returns.
Plus, you never know when the markets are going to go down and when they will be up. There can be a lot of variance from year to year. For instance, in 2007 the markets were up during the summer by 4.52% and down during the “good” period by -9.62%, which is opposite the average pattern. Of course, the markets did go down by 30% after May 1 last year and down another 5% since then. That is what bears markets can do.
Which caused me to wonder. The last 59 years have seen two significant secular bull markets (roughly 1950-1966 and 1982-1999) and two secular bear markets (1966-1982 and 2000-??? — the one we are in now). I wondered if the pattern changed during the bear cycles, so I shot a late-night note off to Prieur and came in the next morning and had my answer.
It made a significant difference. May through October in secular bear cycles has been ugly. Look at this graph:
And just for fun, let’s look at the monthly numbers since the present secular bear market began in 2000. So far, this has been a lot worse than the 1966-82 cycle, although we have not yet had the recovery phase from the current doldrums, which will likely make the overall numbers look better in 4-5 years.
As noted above, these graphs simply give us past trends and not an absolute forecast. But they do provide food for thought. There are times when you should be cautious and times when you should
throw caution to the wind. I think this is the former. While some pundits are talking about green shoots and the second derivative of growth, this economy may be worse than their rosy forecasts of the end of the recession, as we will see in a few paragraphs.
Category: Think Tank
Jim Welsh of Welsh Money Management has been publishing his monthly investment letter, “The Financial Commentator”, since 1985. His analysis focuses on Federal Reserve monetary policy, and how policy affects the economy and the financial markets.
Investment letter – April 23, 2009
Perspective – A way of regarding facts and judging their relative importance.
There are a number of data series that evaluate economic conditions using a diffusion index. A diffusion index will have a value above 50, when a plurality of respondents are positive, and below 50 when a majority are negative. If a diffusion index increases from 35 to 38, it represents a gain of 8.6%, while a rise to 46 from 45 is only a gain of 2.2%. It is natural to think of the larger percentage gain to be more noteworthy. However, the smaller gain is actually more significant, since it will only require a small further improvement, before actual economic growth is achieved. In recent weeks, many economists and market strategists have heralded the end of the recession and the arrival of spring, after spotting a few ‘green shoots’ of improvement. In most cases, the ‘green shoot’ was a modest up tick, from a multi-decade low! For instance, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index edged up to 26.0 in March, from 25.3 in February, the lowest reading since records began in 1967.
In February, new home sales were up 4.7% to 337,000, and after that robust increase, were only down 75.7% from their July 2005 peak. In the last three years, housing starts have plunged from 1,823,000 to 358,000, or 80.4%. At the February sales rate, it will take 12.2 months to clear the inventory of new homes for sale, versus 5 months in a healthy market. In the past year, the median price of a new home has fallen from $251,000 to $200,900, a drop of 20%. After retail sales collapsed in the fourth quarter, the inventory-to-sales ratio soared from 1.25 to 1.45, or 16%. Companies were forced to cut production drastically in the first quarter, so bloated inventories could be whittled down. Although the ratio dipped to 1.43 in February, production levels will remain low, until the ratio falls further. The large decline in production will contribute to a fairly weak first quarter, and depress second quarter GDP too.
As noted last month, there is a good chance that GDP will post a positive print in the fourth quarter of this year, and maybe in the third quarter. Most of the ‘gain’ will be statistical nonsense, but that won’t deter most economists from getting excited. In the last 2 years, the 80% plunge in housing starts has subtracted about .9% from GDP each quarter. If housing starts stabilize near February’s level in coming months, the .9% hit to GDP will become 0%. If inventories are brought down by the fourth quarter and are in line with sales, the decline of 1% to 2% to GDP from production cuts in the first and second quarter could also improve to 0%. In the fourth quarter last year, personal consumption fell an extraordinary -2.99%, as consumers turned into Grinches.
But consumer spending improved in the first quarter, as government income transfers of $127 billion offset the decline in wages and salaries of $89 billion. In the second quarter, social security recipients will receive a onetime $250 payment in May. Tax refunds are up 11% from last year, and the decline in gasoline prices is also providing a boost to incomes. Consumers will use the extra disposable income to pay down debt, and increase savings and spending. All of these factors should help swing personal consumption to a positive for GDP in coming quarters.
The final April U of M confidence # was a better than expected 65.1, up from 61.9 in the preliminary reading and 57.3 in March. Since the final figure consists of 40% of the preliminary reading, it implies that confidence improved noticeably in just the last two weeks but most of that gain was in…Read More
With China the most important country in the world right now IMO, April China PMI rose to 53.5 from 52.4 and is at the highest level since May ’08. This data point reflects economic activity among state owned businesses and is different than the CLSA mfr’g PMI that comes out next week that is private…Read More
As we begin a new month with the S&P’s sitting 31% off its lows, here’s a quick view of the factors that got us here to help give us clues about where we’re going. Slowing deterioration in economic activity, with a modest bounceback in consumer spending and a huge drawdown in inventories giving hope of…Read More
> Coming in Monday’s missive – Is this a new bull market? If so, or not, what is the evidence? Stay tuned. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Is the recession ending? Looking at Continuing Jobless Claims, which hit a new record this week, (data series commenced in 1967) there is no sign of stabilization. In the…Read More
Category: Think Tank
Good Evening: After blasting off and reaching breakout altitudes this morning, U.S. stocks fell back to earth in the afternoon. That most of the major averages finished Thursday just about where Wednesday left off could easily be attributed to noise and random motion. But before we dismiss today’s action with a casual shrug, it may…Read More
Joining the less bad party that other regional surveys have experienced, the April Chicago PMI was 5 pts better than expected at 40.1, up from 31.4 in March, which was the worst since 1980. 50 is the breakeven between expansion and contraction so we are still clearly in recession territory but the slowing pace of…Read More