Thursday, June 12, 2008

Buy the Dips? Sell the Rallies? An "Inflection Day" Rally Update

There is little doubt that many counterbalancing forces are at work in today’s equity markets. The bulls argue that March 17 (“Inflection Day” – see prior blog postings) was the turning point for the longer-term bull market correction that began in earnest last October. The worst is behind us and whatever market action investors are currently experiencing presents a buying opportunity (consolidation range), as the US economy (and, therefore, the world economy) will weather the current economic slowdown. For a testament to this view one need only look at the bottom up earnings numbers generated for confirmation that late 2008 will usher in a return to growth.

The bears would counter that the decline from October 2007 to March 17, 2008 was the first leg of a bear market and the current market action is little more than a distribution range that will end sometime late summer/early fall when the second leg of the bear emerges.

There are many arguments that support both views. Let’s look at a few of them from both a fundamental and technical analysis point of view.

From a fundamental perspective, we have the following items on the plus side of the equation:

• 2Q08 earnings (ex Financials) are likely to be decent (especially in light of today’s retail sales numbers, a point mentioned on this blog weeks ago).
• Valuation is okay with the BMR proprietary Expected Return Valuation Model* at the ever so slightly overvalued point of -2.32% (S&P 500 at 1351, 10 year US Treasury at 4.17%).

From a technical analysis perspective, the following indicators are positive:

• SMIDS, specifically Small and Mid Cap Growth have outperformed the broad market since inflection day (see chart above).
• Shorter-term Momentum has not confirmed the recent lower lows of the market and Slow Stochastics have entered oversold territory.

The major negatives, from a fundamental perspective, are twofold:

• The US economy may experience a rebound this summer as the stimulus package helps the US consumer. However, once the stimulus fades, various forces will drive the US economy into a more meaningful decline beginning 2009.
• The credit crisis is far from over as much toxic paper remains on the banking books and once generous covenants in the high yield arena are lifted (largely beginning in 2009) the odds are that the subprime meltdown will look like a dress rehearsal.

From a technical analysis perspective, the major negatives are:

• Most sectors, styles, regions, and countries have flipped into mega trend declines (Moving Averages Scorecard*)
• MACD, a short-tem indicator, is solidly negative.

Investment Strategy Implications

There are obviously many other factors one can put into the investment strategy mix*. The conclusion I come to is the following:

• The US equity markets are in a range-bound distribution phase.
• Investors can capitalize on both selling the rallies and buying the dips for as long as the range-bound distribution phase is in effect, which should end sometime late summer/early fall as 2009 comes into view.
• 2009 will likely experience a confluence of very negative forces (new administration in the US, economic hangover effects of the stimulus package, and the second, and much larger, wave of the credit crisis into numerous other areas such as credit default swaps on corporate debt).
• Financial institutions will remain at the epicenter of the credit crisis and the direct effects of deleveraging coupled with the negative wealth effects from housing and equities will produce a real economy recession, possibly far greater than only the most pessimistic economists are calling for.
• Stagflation will be a contributing factor to economic difficulties, with the increasing probabilities of significant social unrest throughout the world (something has already begun in various emerging economies)

If one believes, as I do, that equities are in the eighth year of 14+ year secular bear market, then the current environment is an opportunity to trade the range-bound rallies and declines and a time to consider rebalancing one’s portfolio for the much rougher times ahead.

*subscription required

*To download this month's free sample "Sectors and Styles Strategy Report, click here
*To learn more about "Sectors and Styles Strategy Report" and other subscriber benefits, click here

No comments: