In this issue of, “Tending The Portfolio Garden As Winter Approaches”
Are you a strong advisor who wants to grow your practice? We are needing partners we can work with to manage our lead flow. If you are ready to move your practice forward, we would love to talk.
The bulls accomplished their task this week of pushing the S&P 500 index back to “all-time” highs.
“The S&P 500 set a new record high this week for the first time since Feb. 19, surging an eye-popping 51% from its March 23 closing low of 2,237 to a closing high of 3,389 on Tuesday. This represents the shortest bear market and third fastest bear-market recovery ever.” – Yahoo
As we discuss in more detail in this week’s #MacroView, the claim is a bit of faulty as March was not a bear market, but only a correction in the ongoing bull trend.
Nonetheless, in “Close, But No Cigar,” we suspected “new highs” were likely:
“With options expiring next week, the bulls are going to attempt to push markets up. A breakout to all-time highs is entirely possible. However, the question is whether they will be able to maintain it?”
The question of maintaining record highs is going to be the challenge over the next few weeks. Historically, the months prior to an election tend to be volatile, but with the market very overbought there is a risk of a normal correction.
“With the markets overbought on several measures, there is a downside risk heading into the end of the month. These risks come from several fronts we will discuss momentarily. However, from a technical perspective, the downside risk is about 5.6% to the 50-dma and 9.4% to the 200-dma.
Importantly, earnings season is now behind us and economic data is showing signs of deterioration along with the internals of the market. As we will discuss momentarily, after having been long-biased over the last couple of months, it is now likely time to “tend to the garden”
But first, let’s review some of the factors suggesting the “season may be changing.”
One of our primary concerns relating to the current elevation in the market has been extremely narrow participation. As Bob Farrell once quipped:
“Markets are strongest when broad, and weakest when narrow.”
There is little doubt that markets reek of “bad breadth.” As shown below, the market has achieved new highs with only a small percentage of the S&P 500 index participating.
This “narrowness” is a result of the “passive indexing” effect on the markets which I explained in “Bulls Chant Into A Megaphone:”
“Currently, the top-5 S&P stocks by market capitalization (AAPL, AMZN, GOOG, FB, and MSFT) make up the same amount of the S&P 500 as the bottom 394 stocks. Those same five also comprise 26% of the index alone.”
“What investors are missing is that the top-5 stocks are distorting the movements in the overall index.
For each $1 put into each of those top-5 stocks, the impact on the index is the same as putting $1 into each of the bottom 394 stocks. Such is clearly not a true representation of either the market or the economy.”
The two charts below show the problem a bit more clearly. Currently, the “Top-5” and “Top-10” stocks by market capitalization, are now near the largest percentage share since 1980. This far eclipses the “Dot.com” era.
Furthermore, the “Top-50” stocks owned by hedge funds (which include all of the Top-10 largest), are trading at astronomical values based on 2-YEAR forward estimates. This is occurring at a time where the advance-decline breadth on the Nasdaq stock market is deteriorating sharply.
These are just some of the participation concerns. Investor exuberance has also reached extremes.
The RIAPro sentiment gauge, which is based on actual investor positioning, is back to more extreme levels. This gauge is different from the CNN gauge. The RIAPro gauge is based on how investors are “positioning” themselves in the market. In other words, rather than it being based on how investors “feel,” it is what they are “doing” in the market.
However, it isn’t just positioning that is at extremes. The RIAPro Technical Gauge (a weekly composite of technical measures) is also back to extreme levels. Such levels are historically coincident with short-term market corrections.
I also pulled a few charts from Sentiment Trader which are showing more extreme levels of optimism.
(Click to enlarge. Clockwise from top left: 1) Medium-term risk indicators, 2) Dumb money confidence, 3) Large call-option buyers, and 4) Small call-option buyers.
Historically, each of these indicators tends to align with short-term market corrections, or worse.
Given a large number of confirming indicators, this is why we have decided its time to “harvest” before “winter” approaches.
The biggest mistake that investors make over time is failing to manage investment risk. I have found over the years, the concept of “gardening” tends to resonate with individuals when it comes to portfolios management.
Investing has a lot of similarities to gardening. In the “Spring,” it is time to till the soil and plant your seeds for your summer crops. Of course, the ground must be watered and fertilized, and weeds pulled, otherwise the garden won’t grow. As the “Spring turns into Summer” it’s time to harvest the bounty the garden has produced and begin to rotate crops for the “Fall” cycle. Eventually, even those crops need to be harvested before the “Winter” snows set in.
Therefore, in order to have a successful and bountiful garden we must:
Just like all things in life, everything has a “season” and a “cycle.” When it comes to the markets, the seasons are dictated by the “technical constructs” and the “cycles” are dictated by “valuations.”
Currently, as noted above, the “technical constructs” are warning us we are late into the “Fall” and “Winter” is approaching. This is why we are taking actions to “tend to our garden” now so that we will be prepared for the first “cold snap” of winter.
Step 1) Clean Up Your Portfolio
Step 2) Compare Your Portfolio Allocation To The Model Allocation.
(Note: the primary rule of investing that should NEVER be broken is: “Never invest money without knowing where you are going to sell if you are wrong, and if you are right.”)
Step 3) Have positions ready to execute accordingly given the proper market set up. In this case, we are looking for positions that have either a “value” tilt or have pulled back to support and provide a lower-risk entry opportunity.
Taking these actions has TWO specific benefits depending on what happens in the market next.
No one knows for sure where markets are headed in the next week, much less the next month, quarter, year, or five years. What we do know is not managing “risk” to hedge against a decline is more detrimental to the achievement of long-term investment goals.
With the analogy of gardening in mind, we have started to “tend to our garden” by harvesting some of the crops. The primary reason was the triggering of our “money flow” sell signal combined with longer-term overbought conditions. I discuss the concept in the video below.
(We publish “3-Minutes” Monday-Thursday. Click here to subscribe to our YouTube channel for email notification of all of our video postings and live-streams.)
In addition, a report we produce each week for our RIAPro Subscribers is a ” Risk Range” report which shows which sectors and markets are trading outside of their normal ranges, and are extremely deviated from short and long-term moving averages.
Consequently, given the more extreme short-term overbought conditions and deviations, the risk of a short-term reversion has risen. Therefore, we spent this past week harvesting some of our gains and planting a few seeds for our “Fall” garden.
Importantly, this does not mean we sold everything and went to cash. We continue to maintain our equity exposure to the markets. We are just reducing risk by “hedging around the edges,” adjusting our bond duration, and adding more “defensive” names to our equity allocation. Our analyst Nick Lane recently evaluated one of the recent positions we are slowly building exposure to.
Once the first “cold snap” washes across the markets, we will likely get more defensive and increase cash positions further.
In the short-term we certainly remain “bullish” on the markets as momentum is still in play. However, just as any farmer is keenly aware of the signs “Winter” is approaching, we are just taking some precautionary actions. If you wait for the “blizzard” to hit, it will be too late to make much difference.
If you need help or have questions, we are always glad to help. Just email me.
See You Next Week
By Lance Roberts, CIO
This is what our RIAPRO.NET subscribers are reading right now! Risk-Free For 30-Day Trial.
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 should not be relied on for any reason. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Use at your own risk and peril.
As an RIA PRO subscriber (You get your first 30-days free) you have access to our live 401k plan manager.
Compare your current 401k allocation, to our recommendation for your company-specific plan as well as our on 401k model allocation.
You can also track performance, estimate future values based on your savings and expected returns, and dig down into your sector and market allocations.
If you would like to offer our service to your employees at a deeply discounted corporate rate, please contact me.