Testing several key theories here real time, it’s been a slow process, but patience is being rewarded.
Firstly, that demographic forces are more powerful than central bank actions. Look what’s happened since 2010 despite QE and ZIRP:
Source: Don Draper
Source: Charlie Bilello
Slow degradation and now all negative. What an expensive mistake:
Is it really a surprise? They actions amounted to entering numbers into a computer, corrupting the money mechanism and then trying to deceive the public with carefully chosen words that all is well with the economy. But that massively increased debt is real, and the plan to withdraw it gradually once the economy is booming again looks to be a pipe dream. So what do they do now? Having spent so much, they can’t admit failure and won’t give up. Expect more action and more unorthodox policies, but based on the evidence they won’t be able to stop demographics.
Secondly, that solar maxima bring about speculative peaks. As we hit the solar max of mid-2014, we saw a wide range of mania attributes in equities: valuations, sentiment, allocations, leverage, and more. What has been missing is the definitive puncture of the mania post solar max. But under the hood there has been a lot of evidence that speculation did indeed peak out then, such as in stocks:bonds, stocks:dollar and financial conditions.
Only if those ratios/indices made new highs since, would invalidation become more compelling. But a year later, they still haven’t and remain in downtrends.
That mid-2014 peak also shows among many more charts, along with a second important peak around May this year. Here, the Dow Jones World stock index (with a strength negative divergence between the two peaks), junk bonds and crude oil.
Next, the NYSE index, with negative divergences in breadth and volatility (inverted) between the two key peaks.
And here, a bunch of major country stock indices from around the world, showing similar twin peaks.
We see mainly a higher secondary peak in nominal prices, but this is not atypical historically. In 2007 we experienced a higher high in October after the first peak in July, with multiple telltale negative divergences between the two.
What’s challenging is that every top is different. The duration between the two peaks in 2014 and 2015 has been a long 10 months, fooling many bears and bulls in the process. In 2000, it was just 5 months between March and August. Yet we see similar hallmarks: degradation in internals, environment and risk appetite between the two.
The situation remains tentative of course. We can’t say for sure that stocks won’t rally back up to new highs. But the sideways price range of 2015 is now breaking to to the downside, and either it has been the arching over of a top, or a pause to refresh the bull. There is a lot of evidence for the former, and very little for the latter.
Thirdly, drawing the first two theories together, that ‘central bank policy trumps all’ has been the mantra rather than the driver for this bull market mania. Just like at all other major tops it has been an excuse for excessively high valuations, but one much more readily embraced than that herd behaviour under the sun’s influence brought about the mania.
Well, if stocks are now in a bear market, and the evidence argues that we likely are since May, the central bank support idea is about to face a tough challenge. Interest rates are zero or negligible and quantitative easing has been shown to have little positive effect on the economy: central banks are at risk of being shown to be totally impotent. This, together with the record leverage deployed in equities, is the recipe for stocks to fall hard. Panic selling lies ahead at some point, and if we think of equities like Wile E Coyote running off a cliff since the solar max of last year, they have been levitating with no support. I maintain the geomagnetic seasonal down period since June-July into October this year remains the likely window for that swift acceleration to occur, meaning this week’s key technical breaks could be kicking it off.