Tuesday, April 1, 2014

March 30, 2014

A lackluster first quarter is about to close.

With just one trading day left in the 1st quarter, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is down 1.5%, while the Russell 2000 (small to medium size stocks) is down 1.0%, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ is off 0.5%. The S&P 500 is the only one of the four key indexes I track still positive with a gain of 0.5%. Last week saw some relatively large drops in the NASDAQ (-2.8%) and the Russell 2000 (-3.5%). Two thoughts come to mind. First, this quarter-long pause is not surprising given the strength of the markets last year, and second, the larger pullback by the NASDAQ and Russell 2000 comes after these two indexes posted the largest gains last year. Even with last week’s drops, the NASDAQ (+27.2%) and Russell 2000 (+21.0%) have outperformed the DJIA (+12.0%) and S&P 500 (+18.4%) over the trailing twelve months. From where I sit, I believe investors have been taking some profits from their largest winners in the face of global uncertainty—not unexpected in my opinion.

International markets have moved sideways to start the year much like US markets. The European-heavy STOXX 600 has done relatively well with a 1.6% year-to-date gain while the Asia/Pacific region is the weakest posting a loss of 2.6% due in large part to the Japanese market losing roughly 8%. Emerging markets also are negative so far with a drop of 1.6% despite a 4.1% gain last week.

As I noted in my last Market Update and Commentary, gold has had a strong run this quarter as investors sought out the safety of this precious metal, but in the past two weeks gold has fallen nearly $85 (-6.1%) to close Friday at $1294.30 per ounce. Gold remains up 7.6% for the year, but this latest trend is worth watching. Bonds continue to drift within a range between 2.5% and 2.75% with the yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond closing Friday at 2.72%. The general trend in gold and US Treasuries reflects, in my opinion, a more defensive stance by investors as they digest continued sluggish US growth and fears over the tensions in the Ukraine.

The final revision of the 4th Quarter 2013 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came in last Thursday with a gain of 2.6% and inflation running at an annual rate of 1.6%. I would certainly like to see the GDP closer to 3%; however, I do not consider a 2.6% expansion reason for investors to sell the market off to any significant degree at this time. Additionally, the markets were spooked a bit by Janet Yellen’s (the new Fed Chair) comments last week that the Federal Reserve could begin to raise short-term interest rates as early as May 2015. Ms. Yellen’s comments did not reflect any real change to Ben Bernanke’s earlier pronouncements (except she put a date in her discussion) and she gave herself plenty of room to maneuver around that time frame. I have said many times before that the Federal Reserve must begin to change the face of monetary policy for the health of our economy and I believe she understands this will include raising interest rates to more normal levels at some point in time. What is unknown today is how successful the Federal Reserve will be in this transition to more normal monetary policy. I believe real risks like much higher inflation lay ahead if the Fed gets it wrong.


I believe patience is one of the important attributes to successful investing. This is why I spent so much time with my comments earlier this year discussing the historic volatility of the S&P 500. I want each of you to understand that markets can be jumpy, especially in times of tension. The question in most investors’ minds is how do we know if a correction is part of the normal cycle of the markets or possibly something far more devastating like what happened in 2008? I attempt to answer this question by evaluating a number of data points/technical indicators beyond the normal range of economic statistics. What I see today does not, in my opinion, suggest that a major market correction is around the corner despite the lackluster start to the year.

Let me briefly discuss some of the technical indicators I consider when I make my observation about the markets. DorseyWright & Associates (DWA) provides all of the proprietary data for the indicators I am discussing in this section. Please note that technical indicators are just one tool you should use when evaluating an investment.

New York Stock Exchange Bullish Percent (NYSEBP): this is one of my key indicators of market risk. The NYSEBP looks at every stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange and counts how many are on a buy or sell signal on their individual point and figure chart (if you would like a more detailed discussion on point and figure charting, please give me a call). All the buys are tallied up and divided by the total number of stocks listed (approximately 2800) to get a percentage. This percentage is currently 63.5%--a little high but not extended (over 70% and the markets are considered to be of higher risk of a future pullback).

The Dynamic Asset Level Investing Indicator (DALI®): The DALI divides the overall market into six major asset classes: US stocks, International stocks, Bonds, Currencies, Commodities, and Money Market Funds. There are 1079 components representing all of these six major asset categories. These components are put into a matrix (similar to the one I described in my May 16th Update and Commentary) and then ranked by the number of victories each major asset category has. This gives me an idea of where the relative strength is within the market at any given time. US stocks have been the number one ranked major asset category since October 25, 2011, and importantly, has not shown any erosion in strength recently.

Over Bought/Over Sold Percentage (OBOS %): This indicator tracks the last ten weeks of prices for the S&P 500 index and places those prices on a normal statistical bell curve with the middle of the curve marking the ten-week price average. Currently the S&P 500 is just 24% overbought which tells me that the markets are not too expensive at this time. A reading north of 100% is considered to be very overbought while a reading of -100% is considered to be very oversold.

Money Market Fund Score and Ranking: DWA tracks 132 separate individual asset classes each day (not to be confused with the six major asset classes) and assigns a score to each individual asset class. Money Market Funds is one of those 132 individual asset classes. DWA computes a score for each of the individual asset classes based on a proprietary measure to summarize each individual asset class’ strength on a scale of 0 to 6 with 6 being the very best score. In my opinion, this indicator is my “canary in a coal mine” and if I see the money market score and ranking start to rise, my concerns will rise with it. Currently, the Money Market Fund score is 1.68 and the asset class ranks 127th out of 132 asset classes. This tells me that the Money Market asset class is only stronger than five other asset classes. I like to see the Money Market asset class near or at the bottom of the 132 individual asset classes.

Taking these indicators together along with many others, I use a disciplined methodology in determining my take on the markets. At times staying in the market may not “feel” right, however, I have learned over time to trust my data and to stay the course as warranted. I am also prepared to change course if I believe a shift in data suggests this is the proper action. Emotions and gut feeling can, at times, be the worst enemies of investors and lead people to use poor judgment when they manage their investments. Using these tools is not foolproof nor is it a panacea to make investing easy. Investing is not easy. There are going to be times when relative strength might lag markets such as in very choppy sideways markets, however, I do believe that trends appear in markets and understanding the general strength and direction of the market might help you overcome your emotions and may allow you to minimize the negative impact of making emotional decisions.


Even with the lackluster performance so far this year, my guidance remains unchanged. I favor US stocks overall of the six major asset classes I follow. Within US stocks I prefer small and middle capitalization companies over large cap. I also continue to favor the Consumer Discretionary, Health Care, Industrials, and Financials sectors.

The International stock asset class still ranks number two of the six major asset classes. However, the International stock asset class has shown some weakness lately which has made it less attractive for now and I would avoid adding new money at this time. I continue to strongly advise against owning the Emerging Market region for now.

Bonds have shown some life with the pullback in interest rates. A defensive move for sure. I continue to like the High Yield and Floating Rate sectors within this major asset class.

The overall rally in the Commodity asset class continues and is looking slightly more attractive in the short term. While it may be too early fundamentally to add commodities to an allocation, the numbers are improving and are worth watching.

Next Friday’s (April 4th) release of the March Employment Situation report has the potential to be the major financial news story of the week. After a disappointing February report (129,000 increase in jobs), consensus is looking for a rebound to 206,000 new jobs in March. This is considered a key indicator of the vitality of the economy. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is also speaking tomorrow (Monday, March 31st) and her comments always have to possiblity to move markets.

My next Market Update and Commentary will be published around April 17th. I will postpone my review of the NCAA Men’s Basketball bracket analysis until after the Final Four concludes on April 10th. For those of you who do not follow the games closely, the Final Four will be made up of a 1 seed (Florida), a 2 seed (Wisconsin), a 7th seed (Connecticut), and an 8 seed (Kentucky).

Paul L. Merritt, MBA, C(k)P®, AIF®, CRPC®
NTrust Wealth Management

P.S. If you think this type of analysis would be of benefit to anyone you know, please share this communication with them.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and there is no assurance that any forecasts mentioned in this report will be obtained. Technical analysis is just one form of analysis. You may also want to consider quantitative and fundamental analysis before making any investment decisions.

Information in this update has been obtained from and is based upon sources that NTrust Wealth Management (NTWM) believes to be reliable; however, NTWM does not guarantee its accuracy. All opinions and estimates constitute NTWM's judgment as of the date the update was created and are subject to change without notice. This update is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of a security. Any decision to purchase securities must take into account existing public information on such security or any registered prospectus.
Emerging market investments involve higher risks than investments from developed countries and involve increased risks due to differences in accounting methods, foreign taxation, political instability, and currency fluctuation. The main risks of international investing are currency fluctuations, differences in accounting methods, foreign taxation, economic, political, or financial instability, and lack of timely or reliable information or unfavorable political or legal developments.

The commodities industries can be significantly affected by commodity prices, world events, import controls, worldwide competition, government regulations, and economic conditions. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. These investments may not be suitable for all investors, and there is no guarantee that any investment will be able to sell for a profit in the future. The Dow Jones UBS Commodities Index is composed of futures contracts on physical commodities. This index aims to provide a broadly diversified representation of commodity markets as an asset class. The index represents 19 commodities, which are weighted to account for economic significance and market liquidity. This index cannot be traded directly. The CBOE Volatility Index - more commonly referred to as "VIX" - is an up-to-the-minute market estimate of expected volatility that is calculated by using real-time S&P 500® Index (SPX) option bid/ask quotes. VIX uses nearby and second nearby options with at least 8 days left to expiration and then weights them to yield a constant, 30-day measure of the expected volatility of the S&P 500 Index.
TIPS are U.S. government securities designed to protect investors and the future value of their fixed-income investments from the adverse effects of inflation. Using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a guide, the value of the bond's principal is adjusted upward to keep pace with inflation. Increase in real interest rates can cause the price of inflation-protected debt securities to decrease. Interest payments on inflation-protected debt securities can be unpredictable.
The NYCE US Dollar Index is a measure that calculates the value of the US dollar through a basket of six currencies, the Euro, the Japanese Yen, the British Pound, the Canadian Dollar, the Swedish Krona, and the Swiss franc. The Euro is the predominant currency making up about 57% of the basket.

Currencies and futures generally are volatile and are not suitable for all investors. Investment in foreign exchange related products is subject to many factors that contribute to or increase volatility, such as national debt levels and trade deficits, changes in domestic and foreign interest rates, and investors’ expectations concerning interest rates, currency exchange rates and global or regional political, economic or financial events and situations.

Corporate bonds contain elements of both interest rate risk and credit risk. Treasury bills are guaranteed by the U.S. government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, and if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value. U.S. Treasury bills do not eliminate market risk. The purchase of bonds is subject to availability and market conditions. There is an inverse relationship between the price of bonds and the yield: when price goes up, yield goes down, and vice versa. Market risk is a consideration if sold or redeemed prior to maturity. Some bonds have call features that may affect income.

The bullish percent indicator (BPI) is a market breath indicator. The indicator is calculated by taking the total number of issues in an index or industry that are generating point and figure buy signals and dividing it by the total number of stocks in that group. The basic rule for using the bullish percent index is that when the BPI is above 70%, the market is overbought, and conversely when the indicator is below 30%, the market is oversold. The most popular BPI is the NYSE Bullish Percent Index, which is the tool of choice for famed point and figure analyst, Thomas Dorsey.

All indices are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment by the public. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The S&P 500 is based on the average performance of the 500 industrial stocks monitored by Standard & Poors and is a capitalization-weighted index meaning the larger companies have a larger weighting of the index. The S&P 500 Equal Weighted Index is determined by giving each company in the index an equal weighting to each of the 500 companies that comprise the index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is based on the average performance of 30 large U.S. companies monitored by Dow Jones & Company. The Russell 2000 Index Is comprised of the 2000 smallest companies of the Russell 3000 Index, which is comprised of the 3000 biggest companies in the US. The NASDAQ Composite Index (NASDAQ) is an index representing the securities traded on the NASDAQ stock market and is comprised of over 3000 issues. It has a heavy bias towards technology and growth stocks. The STOXX® Europe 600 is derived from the STOXX Europe Total Market Index (TMI) and is a subset of the STOXX Global 1800 Index. With a fixed number of 600 components, the STOXX Europe 600 represents large, mid, and small capitalization countries of the European region. The Dow Jones Global ex-US index represents 77 countries and covers more than 98% of the world's market capitalization. A full complement of subindices, measuring both sectors and stock-size segments, are calculated for each country and region.