Reviewing Market Signals As Warnings Increase

By Lance Roberts | June 12, 2021

In this 06-11-21 issue of “Reviewing Market Signals As Warnings Increase.

  • Reviewing Market Signals
  • Warnings Increase
  • Bonds Say Deflation Is A Risk
  • Portfolio Positioning
  • #MacroView: Rates, Dollar & The 2021 Outlook
  • Sector & Market Analysis
  • 401k Plan Manager

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Are you worried about the potential for a market correction, a surge in inflation, or are you unsure how to invest for your retirement? We can help. If you are not yet a client and would like to discuss your portfolio construction, please schedule a time to meet with one of our advisors below.

Reviewing Market Signals

Over the last several weeks, we discussed evaluating the recent “buy” signal and concerns about a potential summer correction. We will review that bit of history and discuss our reduction of equity exposures this past week. 

May 7th:

“The uptick in money flows did allow us to add some exposure to portfolios in holdings we took profits in previously. Overall, the market trend remains bullish, so there is no need to be overly defensive. Just a regular process of tweaking risk and managing exposures is all that portfolios require for now.”

May 14th – things didn’t work out as planned:

“Well, that follow-through failed to occur. Not only did the “buy signal” not trigger, but the market also broke down through the previous consolidation range. The last exposure we took on is now pressuring the portfolio momentarily, but we should benefit from the turn if we are correct.”

May 21st – the rally gets underway:

“We do expect a counter-trend rally due to the liquidations occurring by institutional investors over the previous few weeks. We will hold exposures at current levels for now. However, instead of looking for a more extended rally into mid-summer, we suspect this rally will be fairly short-lived.”

That week we also began to build the case for a 5-10% correction by mid-summer.

“The risk of a more significant drawdown outweighs the reward longer-term, but we are willing to trade short-term opportunities.”  

Jumping ahead, last week, the signals returned to overbought short-term conditions.

“The good news is that we did indeed get the rally we were expecting. The not-so-good news is that the rally already consumed a majority of the ‘buy signal.’ Such does not mean the market is about to correct; it does suggest that upside remains limited near term.”

Market Struggles At Highs As Signals Peak

While the market did hit all-time highs this week, it was a feeble rally. Both Thursday and Friday saw the market drop into the red intraday only to be saved by end-of-day buying. Unfortunately, as shown, money flows continued to decline until there was “distribution” as the market hit highs. Such is not a sign of confidence the “highs” will stick.

On a weekly chart, the picture improves somewhat with the “buy signal” still intact. However, it is just barely the case, and if we get selling pressure next week, it will trigger a “sell.”

As discussed previously, we set our expectations for a 5-10% correction between mid-June and July. With that window approaching and signals very close to triggering “sells” on both a daily and weekly basis, we used the rally this week to lighten our equity exposure and raise cash levels. (See the portfolio update below.)

For now, the bullish trend remains intact. Therefore, there is no need to get overly defensive at this juncture. However, being excessively complacent and not applying some risk management to portfolios will leave you flat-footed when the correction does come.

Investors are exceedingly exuberant about markets once again, with numerous analysts suggesting nothing but “blue skies” ahead.

Maybe. But there are plenty of warnings that suggest “carrying an umbrella” may come in handy.

Warning Signals Increase

In our “Warning Signs Ahead,” we discussed several concerns of a correction in the coming weeks. Importantly, as noted then, we are only discussing the potential for a short-term correction. As is often the case, some tend to extrapolate such commentary to mean a “crash” is coming. Such is not the case currently, but it does not mean a deeper correction is not possible.

Currently, complacency has reached more extreme levels. As noted last week, the 15-day moving average of VIX, on an inverted scale, suggests a correction is likely.

Warning Signs Correction, Technically Speaking: Warning Signs A Correction Is Ahead

“The market may have one last push higher over the next several weeks. Such will take the VIX even lower and complete the VIX wedge pattern. That pattern has been evident in the last three 10% or greater corrections. By this measure, the correction should begin somewhere around July 21st – August 10th.” – Jim Colquitt

Morgan Stanley‘s market timing indicator is also at levels typically associated with market downturns. Just for reference, the current reading is the most “bearish” on record.

Warning Signs Correction, Technically Speaking: Warning Signs A Correction Is Ahead

We covered several other indicators, all suggesting that risk has become elevated. Moreover, given the length of the current advance without a correction, the risk of such has increased.

More Signs

Furthermore, during the past week, we saw other indicators suggesting that market upside is likely limited short-term. For example, Sentiment Trader made an excellent observation of the recent rotation from large to small-caps.

“Over the past few weeks, there has been a remarkable rotation under the surface. On May 12, only 31% of stocks in the Russell 2000 were holding above their 50-day moving averages. In the Info-Tech sector, only 25% of stocks were above their averages. Both have seen participation more than double since then, while the S&P 500 has stagnated internally, as pointed out by the esteemed Liz Ann Sonders.”

As noted above, one of the common themes has been numerous bullish commentators suggesting the market is about to run to new highs. However, given the confluence of warning signals and “stagnation” of the advance, the bearish view is such action usually appears near market peaks. Sentiment Trader provided some historical evidence.

“Looking at available history, bears have the more compelling evidence on their side, depending on the index and the time frame. The table below shows the S&P 500’s future returns when its percentage of members above the 50-day average rises less than 12.5% over a multi-week period while the percentage of members above their averages in Small-Caps and Tech rises more than 25%.”

Again, given the more extreme conditions seen in not only our current short-term “money-flow” signals but numerous other indications, the risk of a short-term correction seems a realistic probability.

Does such mean that a “correction” must occur? No. However, as noted last week, we prefer to err to the side of our analysis and discipline. By the time a correction appears, it is often too late to mitigate the damage effectively.

Bonds Say Deflation Is The Risk

Despite a sharp year-over-year increase in the latest CPI report, the bond market suggests deflation remains the more considerable risk. As shown in the chart below, the latest CPI and “Core CPI” surged sharply. I also included a “consumer inflation gauge,” which excludes healthcare and home prices. (For most individuals, these two costs are fixed by a mortgage payment and health insurance.)

Interestingly, the “bond market” continues to suggest deflation is the more significant threat as we are currently at the largest deviation between annual CPI and rates since 1980.

This model suggests the market agrees with the Fed’s view that inflation is transitory and is pricing in sub-2% inflation and economic growth. Furthermore, over the next two quarters, the year-over-year rate of change will slow (the “base effect”) as the economic “shutdown” is removed from the calculation.

As discussed in Friday’s #MacroView report “The Dollar, Rates & 2021 Outlook,” deflation is set to return.

“Contrary to the conventional wisdom, disinflation is more likely than accelerating inflation. Since prices deflated in the second quarter of 2020, the annual inflation rate will move transitorily higher. Once these base effects are exhausted, cyclical, structural, and monetary considerations suggest that the inflation rate will moderate lower by year-end and will undershoot the Fed Reserve’s target of 2%. The inflationary psychosis that has gripped the bond market will fade away in the face of such persistent disinflation.” – Dr. Lacy Hunt

Furthermore, given real wages are not keeping up with the actual “cost of living” increases, the “stimulus” effect is fading, and the pull-forward of consumption is mostly complete, we most likely have seen the peak of economic and earnings growth.

We remained concerned about a repricing of risk over the next few months.

Portfolio Update

On Thursday, we did begin reducing our exposures slightly in 60/40 equity and ETF portfolios. (Chart via

As shown, we are still 53% long equity exposure but are down from nearly 70% from the recent market lows. Part of the cash exposure comes from our bond portfolio due to shortening duration to offset short-term interest rate risk. We did begin increasing bond duration a couple of weeks ago.

The reason for showing you the allocation is that you don’t assume that just because we are warning of a potential correction, we are not sitting 100% in cash. I suggest that with our “sell signals” approaching, it is time to start taking some action essential to portfolio risk management.

  • Trim back winning positions to original portfolio weights: Investment Rule: Let Winners Run
  • Sell positions that simply are not working (if the position was not working in a rising market, it likely won’t in a declining market.) Investment Rule: Cut Losers Short
  • Hold the cash raised from these activities until the next buying opportunity occurs. Investment Rule: Buy Low

We may very well be a little early in our actions which could equate to short-term portfolio underperformance. However, there is minimal risk in “risk management.” In the long term, the results of avoiding periods of severe capital loss will outweigh missed short-term gains.

If you need help or have questions, we are always glad to help. Just email me.

See You Next Week

By Lance Roberts, CIO

Market & Sector Analysis

Analysis & Stock Screens Exclusively For RIAPro Members

S&P 500 Tear Sheet

Performance Analysis

Technical Composite

The technical overbought/sold gauge comprises several price indicators (RSI, Williams %R, etc.), measured using “weekly” closing price data.  Readings above “80” are considered overbought, and below “20” are oversold. The current reading is 92.88 out of a possible 100.

Portfolio Positioning “Fear / Greed” Gauge

The “Fear/Greed” gauge is how individual and professional investors are “positioning” themselves in the market based on their equity exposure. From a contrarian position, the higher the allocation to equities, to more likely the market is closer to a correction than not. The gauge uses weekly closing data.

NOTE: The Fear/Greed Index measures risk from 0-100. It is a rarity that it reaches levels above 90.  The current reading is 86.42 out of a possible 100.

Sector Model Analysis & Risk Ranges

How To Read This Table

  • The table compares each sector and market to the S&P 500 index on relative performance.
  • “MA XVER” is determined by whether the short-term weekly moving average crosses positively or negatively with the long-term weekly moving average.
  • The risk range is a function of the month-end closing price and the “beta” of the sector or market.
  • Table shows the price deviation above and below the weekly moving averages.

Weekly Stock Screens

Currently, there are four different stock screens for you to review. The first is S&P 500 based companies with a “Growth” focus, the second is a “Value” screen on the entire universe of stocks, and the last are stocks that are “Technically” strong and breaking above their respective 50-dma.

We have provided the yield of each security and a Piotroski Score ranking to help you find fundamentally strong companies on each screen. (For more on the Piotroski Score – read this report.)

S&P 500 Growth Screen

 Low P/B, High-Value Score, High Dividend Screen

Fundamental Growth Screen

Aggressive Growth Strategy

Portfolio / Client Update

This past week, the daily “buy signal” continued to get more oversold, with the weekly signal very close to triggering a “sell” signal. Consequently, we are taking some pre-emptive actions to reduce portfolio risk by rebalancing holdings across the models.

We still expect a mild correction of 5% or so during the summer, which will “feel worse” than it is. However, the goal will be to use that correction to rebalance equity risk back to target levels for the remainder of the year. Notably, the current rebalancing gives us increased cash levels to make opportunistic buys during the next corrective phase.

As noted in the main body of this week’s missive, the inflation surge seen this past week is a function of the “base effect” from the “shutdown” last year. As a result, we expect to see inflation and economic growth numbers fade over the next quarter as the base effect gets removed from the calculation.

This roll-off of the base effect will also lead to a surge in deflationary headwinds leading to weaker earnings growth into year-end. We expect to see a resurgence of the “deflation” trade as that occurs, which will benefit Technology, Healthcare, Staples, and Utilities. You will notice we have already started making adjustments in these areas.

However, at the moment, there are no “big red flags” that suggest we become significantly more active. But, should they appear, we assure you we will take action as needed.

Portfolio Changes

During the past week, we made minor changes to portfolios. In addition, we post all trades in real-time at RIAPRO.NET.

*** Trading Update – Equity and Sector Models ***

“As discussed over the last few weeks in our weekly newsletter, we are coming upon the confluence of daily and weekly signals turning negative for a wide swath of sectors, stocks, and broad indexes. As such, we are reducing our net exposure by 3.5% to 53% in both models. At the same time, we are adding to a few sectors/stocks that have positive technical outlooks.” – 06/10/21

Equity Model:

  • AAPL – reduce by 1/2%
  • ABBV – increase by 1% 
  • ADBE – reduce by 1/2% 
  • ALB – reduce 1 1/2% 
  • FANG – reduce 1/2% 
  • CVS – increase by 1/2% 
  • GOLD – increase by +1 
  • JNJ – increase by 1/2% 
  • MSFT – reduce by 1/2% 
  • PSA – reduce by 1/2% 
  • RTX – reduce by 1/2%
  • UNP – sell 100% of the position.
  • UPS – increase by 1% 
  • V – reduce by 1/2% 

Sector Model:

  • XLV – increase by 2% of the portfolio. 
  • XLK – reduce by 2.5% 
  • LIT – decrease by 1% 
  • IYT – reduce by 1/2% 
  • XLB – reduce by 1/2% 
  • XLE – reduce by 1/2% 
  • XLF – decrease by 1% 
  • XLI – reduce by 1/2% 
  • XLU – increase by 1% 

As always, our short-term concern remains the protection of your portfolio. Accordingly, we have shifted our focus from the election back to the economic recovery and where we go from here.

Lance Roberts



A Conservative Strategy For Long-Term Investors

If you need help after reading the alert, do not hesitate to contact me.

Model performance is a two-asset model of stocks and bonds relative to the weighting changes made each week in the newsletter. Such is strictly for informational and educational purposes only, and one should not rely on it for any reason. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Use at your own risk and peril.  

Have a great week!

Talk with an Advisor & Planner Today!


Lance Roberts is a Chief Portfolio Strategist/Economist for RIA Advisors. He is also the host of “The Lance Roberts Podcast” and Chief Editor of the “Real Investment Advice” website and author of “Real Investment Daily” blog and “Real Investment Report“. Follow Lance on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and YouTube
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