Market comments by Hussman of Hussman Funds.
In recent weeks, market conditions have fallen into a cluster of historical instances that have been associated with average market losses approaching -50% at an annualized rate. Of course, such conditions don’t generally persist for more than several weeks – the general outcome is a hard initial decline and then a transition to a less severe average rate of market weakness (the word “average” is important as the individual outcomes certainly aren’t uniformly negative on a week-to-week basis). Last week, our estimates of prospective market return/risk improved slightly, to a level that has historically been associated with market losses at an annualized rate of about -30%. Though that improvement falls into the category of a distinction without a difference, at least we can say that conditions are not the most negative on record.
Over the course of the coming cycle, I expect that we will easily observe conditions among the many favorable clusters in the historical record, where we will not face the syndromes of hostile conditions we’ve seen recently (e.g. overvalued, overbought, overbullish, yields rising). Valuations, though rich, are nowhere near where they were in 2000, and even the tepid valuations of early 2003 provided ample opportunity to accept market risk without the need for significant hedging. Unlike 2009, the next cycle will not unexpectedly present us with the need to capture Depression-era data in our approach (which we’ve addressed). Even without significant undervaluation, there are many combinations of market conditions that have historically been associated with strong subsequent market returns, on average.
So there’s little doubt that market conditions will provide investors with a strong basis to accept risk at various points over the coming market cycle. The difficulty today is not only that valuations are rich, but that on our metrics, present market conditions cluster among those that have produced strikingly negative market outcomes on a blended horizon from 2-weeks to 18-months. Wall Street’s beloved forward-earnings multiples only seem reasonable here because profit margins are the highest in history (largely as a result of steep government deficits and depressed savings rates). Once we normalize for profit margins – which is necessary because stocks are very long-lived assets – valuations are elevated, and are coupled with a variety of historically hostile, overvalued, overbought indicator syndromes. Moreover, while our economic concerns do not significantly feed into our concerns about the equity market, we continue to view the U.S. economy as being in an unrecognized recession that started about mid-year.
Janet Tavakoli on FB. Yes, she is long puts on FB, but this is worth reading. The social media bubble is still imploding….
Will Facebook soon be a $5 stock? Facebook has seen a tsunami of selling by insiders since May 17 when its IPO raised $16 billion for insiders, early investors, and the firm. Its share price nosedived from $38 to $19.52, around half its IPO price, as of close of business on October 15. There will be even stronger downward price pressures on the stock before year-end.Investors who bought when Facebook was still private sold enough shares at the IPO to make many multiples of their original investments: Goldman Sachs, Greylock Partners, and Microsoft combined sold 38.5 million shares for more than $1.4 billion. Peter Theil invested $500 thousand in Facebook; since the IPO he’s sold all but 5.6 million of his original 44 million in stages to cash out around $1 billion. That’s just so far. It looks as if there’s an even larger tsunami of selling coming before year-end as lockups expire on restricted shares. Most belong to Facebook’s employees, and Facebook will have to sell shares to cover employees’ tax bills. CEO Mark Zuckerberg sold $1 billion worth of his shares at the IPO to cover his own tax bill.Facebook’s IPO was 421 million shares. In August, the lock-up for 270 million shares expired (60% additional shares), and Facebook fell 7% to hit what was then an all-time low of $19.88 per share. But the worst is yet to come. Before year-end, the lock-up for more than 1.5 billion shares expires. Look out below.
Hussman of Hussman Funds notes some rather interesting signals in his latest weekly market update.
As of Friday, our estimates of prospective return/risk for the S&P 500 have dropped to the single lowest point we’ve observed in a century of data. There is no way to view this as something other than a warning, but it’s also a warning that I don’t want to overstate. This is an extreme data point, but there has been no abrupt change; no sudden event; no major catalyst. We are no more defensive today than we were a week ago, because conditions have been in the most negative 0.5% of the data for months. This is just the most negative return/risk estimate we’ve seen. It is what it is.
Since we estimate prospective return/risk on a blended horizon of 2-weeks to 18 months, we are not making a statement about the very long-term, but only about intermediate-term horizons (prospective long-termreturns have certainly been worse at some points, such as 2000). As always, our estimates represent theaverage historical outcome that is associated with a given set of conditions, and they don’t ensure that any particular instance will match that average. So while present conditions have been followed by extraordinarily poor market outcomes on average, there’s no assurance that this instance can’t diverge from typical outcomes. Investors should ignore my concerns here if they believe that the proper way to invest is to bet that this time is different.
Guest post by Doug Short.
Here is a follow-up on my monthly valuation updates. When I started including the Crestmont P/E updates in my monthly valuation reporting, I developed a scatter graph to illustrate the correlation between the Crestmont P/E and inflation.
My monthly valuation updates of the P/E10 ratio (Is the Stock Market Cheap?) have not included a comparable scatter graph, so I spent some time today crafting the first chart below. I’ve included some key highlights: 1) the extreme overvaluation of the Tech Bubble, 2) the valuations since the start of last recession, 3) the average P/E10 and 4) where we are today.
Market thoughts by John Hussman of Hussman funds.
For investors who don’t rely much on historical research, evidence, or memory, the exuberance of the market here is undoubtedly enticing, while a strongly defensive position might seem unbearably at odds with prevailing conditions. For investors who do rely on historical research, evidence, and memory, prevailing conditions offer little choice but to maintain a strongly defensive position. Moreover, the evidence is so strong and familiar from a historical perspective that a defensive position should be fairly comfortable despite the near-term enthusiasm of investors.
There are few times in history when the S&P 500 has been within 1% or less of its upper Bollinger band (two standard deviations above the 20-period moving average) on daily, weekly and monthly resolutions; coupled with a Shiller P/E in excess of 18 – the present multiple is actually 22.3; coupled with advisory bullishness above 47% and bearishness below 27% – the actual figures are 51% and 24.5% respectively; with the S&P 500 at a 4-year high and more than 8% above its 52-week moving average; and coupled, for good measure, with decelerating market internals, so that the advance-decline line at least deteriorated relative to its 13-week moving average compared with 6-months prior, or actually broke that average during the preceding month. This set of conditions is observationally equivalent to a variety of other extreme syndromes of overvalued, overbought, overbullish conditions that we’ve reported over time. Once that syndrome becomes extreme – as it has here – and you get any sort of meaningful “divergence” (rising interest rates, deteriorating internals, etc), the result is a virtual Who’s Who of awful times to invest.
With volatility at depressed levels, markets at “delicate” levels and thin trading, we would not get over confident here. Here is Biderman’s thoughts on the market here.
Many bullish Wall Street analysts seem to be expecting decent second half earnings and revenue growth for the stock market as whole and that is their justification for current stock prices. I say there is no way earnings per share and revenues will grow in aggregate over the second half of this year. I do not include financial stocks in this accounting. That’s because big bank stocks’ earnings per share are based upon the same myth that the current stock market valuation is based upon, and that is the Bernanke Put. The Bernanke put says the Fed will print enough money to buy existing loans, and then everyone lives happily ever after. (full reading here).
John Hussman of Hussman Funds shares his latest thoughts on the markets.
The present confidence and enthusiasm of investors about the ability of monetary policy to avoid all negative outcomes mirrors the confidence and enthusiasm that investors had in 2000 about the permanence of technology-driven productivity, and in 2007 about the durability of housing gains and leverage-driven prosperity. Market history is littered with unfounded faith in new economic eras, and hopes that “this time is different.” Those periods can be difficult, at least for a while, for investors who are less willing to abandon evidence and lessons of history, not to mention basic principles of economics and valuation. We endured similar discomfort in periods like 2000 and 2007, before hard reality set in.
The recent market cycle has required two changes to our hedging approach. One was in 2009, when our existing approach was dramatically ahead of the S&P 500, but I insisted on making our methods robust to the worst of Depression era data. The other was earlier this year, when we imposed criteria to restrict the frequency of defensive “staggered strike” option positions in Strategic Growth Fund, requiring not only strongly negative expected returns, but also either unfavorable trend-following measures or the presence of unusually hostile indicator syndromes. There’s little doubt that massive central bank interventions have pushed off economic and market difficulties that might have occurred more quickly. The tighter criteria help adapt to that reality, without foregoing the benefit that defensive option positions would have historically had over the course of the market cycle.
With the markets in bull mood over the past week, accompanied with crazy Algos, many investors are feeling rather confused. The Euromess is still in play, but with major players, except the algos, we are not expecting a break out either way that will last for long. Here is latest by Hussman of Hussman funds.
I’ve never been very popular in late-stage bull markets. Defending against major losses and achieving our investment objectives over the complete bull-bear market cycle (bull-peak to bull-peak, or bear-trough to bear-trough) requires us to maintain an investment exposure that is essentially proportional to the expected return/risk ratio that is associated with each given set of market conditions. When prevailing market conditions are associated with a sharply negative expected return/risk ratio, as they are at present, and either trend-following measures are negative or several hostile indicator syndromes are in place (what we call Aunt Minnies), we will typically be fully-hedged, and will raise the strike prices of our put options toward the level of the market, in order to defend against steep market losses and indiscriminate selling. At present, we expect an average 10-year total return on the S&P 500 of about 4.7% annually in nominal terms, on the basis of rich normalized valuations. Based on a much broader ensemble of evidence, and considering horizons between 2-weeks and 18-months, we estimate the prospective return/risk ratio of the S&P 500 to be in the most negative 0.6% of all historical observations.
Guest post by Doug Short.
Here is a summary of the four market valuation indicators I updated at the beginning of the month.
|● The Crestmont Research P/E Ratio (more)
● The cyclical P/E ratio using the trailing
● The Q Ratio, which is the total price of the
● The relationship of the S&P Composite to
To facilitate comparisons, I’ve adjusted the two P/E ratios and Q Ratio to their arithmetic means and the inflation-adjusted S&P Composite to its exponential regression. Thus the percentages on the vertical axis show the over/undervaluation as a percent above mean value, which I’m using as a surrogate for fair value. Based on the latest S&P 500 monthly data, the market is overvalued somewhere in the range of 27% to 44%, depending on the indicator. This is a modest increase over the previous month’s 25% to 41% range.
I’ve plotted the S&P regression data as an area chart type rather than a line to make the comparisons a bit easier to read. It also reinforces the difference between the line charts — which are simple ratios — and the regression series, which measures the distance from an exponential regression on a log chart.
Guest post by Peter Tchir of TF Market Advisors.
Don’t the Markets NEED QE?
No. While QE has helped support the market and was the main reason the S&P 500 managed to stay above 1,300 in spite of weak data, it isn’t necessary. Taking the most “disruptive” scenarios off the table in Europe is more important. If Europe can stabilize, then the markets could price in a better “multiple”. One thing holding down the PE multiple is the concern that Europe could become a complete disaster. As that get removed, there is the real possibility that investors will get more comfortable with risk and we can see a multiple expansion. If we see over time, some (and I hate the term) “green shoots” in Europe, then we could actually see some increased expectations of earnings. Europe has been a drag on earnings, and pessimism about Europe is keeping earnings forecasts down, but it wouldn’t take much of a turn in Europe to give earnings here a small boost.
So if (and it remains a big if) Europe takes tail risk off the table we could see an increased multiple, and if Europe actually manages to stop the slowdown, then we could see earnings expectations grow, so the market could do well as it shifts from QE to PE.