We take a moment to honor the passing of George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States, who earned respect across aisles and left a legacy of dignity, achievement and service.
Markets are closed today in Presidential honor, perhaps fortuitously, though it won’t surprise us if stocks surge back, confounding pundits. A CNBC headline at 4:24pm ET yesterday said, “Dow plunges nearly 800 points on fears of cooling economy.”
The article said the slide steepened when Jeffrey Gundlach of Doubleline Capital told Reuters the yield-curve inversion (three-year Treasury notes now pay more than five-year notes) signals that the economy is “poised to weaken.” A drubbing in Financials (weren’t we told higher rates help banks?) and strength for Utilities were said to support that fear.
Yet Sector Insights (I’ll explain in a moment!) for Financials show the rally last week came on Active Investment – rational people buying Financials. In a spate of schizophrenia, did Active money seize a truncheon and bludgeon away its gains in a day? Possible, maybe. But improbable.
Utilities have been strong all year (see Figure 1). Market Structure Sentiment™ for Utilities from Jan 3-Dec 3, 2018 is 5.4/10.0 – solidly GARP (sectors trade between 4 and 7 generally). Utilities haven’t dipped below 4.0 since late June.
If strength in Utilities signals economic fear, did it commence in January (or March, when they soared after the market corrected)?
What if it’s market structure? Did anyone ask? Add up the week-over-week change in the two behaviors driving Utilities highe
r the past week and what we call internally “behavioral volatility” was massive – 22%. Daily behavioral change is routinely 2% total!
We’ve long said that behavioral volatility precedes price-volatility. Last Friday, daily behavioral volatility in the entire market was a breathtaking 19.6% (5.4% jump in Active Investment, sizzling 14.2% skyhook from Fast Traders) at month-end window-dressing. On Thu, Nov 29, it was 20%, driven by Passive Investment and Risk Mgmt, a behavioral combination signaling ETF creations and redemptions.
On Monday Dec 3, ETF basket-moves drove another 15% surge. Think about it: 20%, 20%, 15%. Picture a boat rocking as people rush from one side to the other, and the momentum builds until the boat tips over.
Economic fear exists. And the yield curve has predicted – what’s the economics joke? – five of the last three recessions.
But the curve could as well trace to selling by the Fed of $350 billion of Treasurys and mortgage securities while the Treasury gorges on short-term paper to fund deficits.
Most see the market as a ticking chronometer of rational thought. It’s not, any more than your share-price is a daily reflection of investors’ views of your management’s credibility. It is sometimes. Data say about 12% of the time.
If pundits think it’s economics when it’s a structural flaw in the market, the advice and actions are wrong. And we could be caught unprepared.
Don’t people move money into and out of index funds or ETFs too in reaction to economics? Sure. But not daily. We just had this discussion with our financial advisors and we like most allocating assets plan in long swaths on risk and exposure.
And I’ll say it till everyone gets it: ETFs do not form capital or buy or sell stocks. They are continually created and redeemed by parties swapping collateral (stocks and cash) back and forth to profit on spreads between that underlying collateral and the frenzy of arbitrage in ETF shares traded in the stock market.
It’s those people and machines in the market who rush back and forth and rock the boat, arbitragers trying to profit on different prices for the same thing.
Especially if they’ve borrowed collateral or leveraged into expected short-term moves. They’ve tipped the market over three times now just since early October.
You can see it in patterns. Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s driving your sector the next time the CEO says, “Why is our stock down while our peers are up?”
To that end, we’re delighted to announce our latest innovation at ModernIR: Sector Insights. Now you can compare the trading and investment behaviors behind your stock and your sector.
We classify every company by GICS industry and sector. Algorithms can then cluster a variety of data points from investment and trading behaviors, to shorting, and intraday volatility and Market Structure Sentiment™, providing unprecedented clarity into sector trends and drivers.
If you’re interested in seeing your Sector Insights alongside your Market Structure Report, send a note to Mike Machado here. (Clients, you can see a three-minute overview of how to use Sector Insights in concert with your Market Structure Reports here.)
Meanwhile, buckle up. December could further provide a wild ride to investors – and you’ll see it in Sector Insights if it’s coming. We’ll be here to help you help your executives and board directors understand what’s driving equity values.