Performance Anxiety Could Be The Next Market Driving Force
Now that the Washington, D.C. drama has been placed on the back burner for a couple months, the intraday algorithms appear to have been toned down a bit and traders have turned their attention to more mundane issues.
Issues such as the state of the earnings season, the state of the U.S./Global economy and the question of when the Fed can be expected to begin tapering the stimulus being provided to the economy.
Short Answers to Key Questions
The short answers to the current dilemmas are as follows. First, corporate earnings are expected to finish the year at record highs. As was detailed in this space on Monday, corporate earnings on a GAAP basis for the S&P 500 are expected to come in at $98.28 for calendar 2013, which would be a new high and be roughly double the EPS total seen in 2000. Thus, if earnings can continue to rise, it follows that stocks can continue move up as well.
Next, the economy doesn't appear to be any worse for wear after the recent rumble in Washington. While the government shutdown may shave 0.6 percent or so off of GDP in the fourth quarter, the current thinking is that the consumer will quickly forget about the brinkmanship, finger-pointing, and name-calling seen in D.C. over the past few weeks and start focusing on their holiday shopping.
However, it is probably a good idea to watch the important economic data such as Tuesday morning's Jobs report, as well as reports on Consumer Confidence, Retail Sales etc. for signs of whether or not the "the economy is fine" thesis remains valid.
And finally, given that the politicians are slated to go at it again in January/February, most economists now expect the Fed to begin tapering in March 2014. The thinking here is simple. Since lawmakers don't seem to give a hoot about how their actions affect the economy, the Fed may need to remain stimulative longer than expected - just in case the folks in Washington do something stupid early next year.
What About Stocks?
As for the stock market, the bulls are obviously on a roll at the present time. However, given that (a) the indices are now overbought from both a short- and intermediate-term basis, (b) the sentiment indicators are once again a little too rosy, and (c) there remains a gap on the charts of the S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY), NASDAQ (NASDAQ: QQQ), and Russell 2000 (NYSE: IWM), it would not be at all surprising to see stocks take a break at some point in the near future.
As such, traders will likely be watching each and every piece of economic data closely for clues that the current joyride to the upside is about to end. But with the number of pages on the calendar dwindling rapidly, another factor could quickly become a driving force in the stock market: performance anxiety.
Don't Blow The Bonus!
The concept of "performance anxiety" is based on basic human emotions. In short, fear can play an important role in a fund manager's decision making process at this time of year. Fear of getting fired. Fear of being demoted. And perhaps most importantly, fear of missing that fat performance bonus if one fails keep up with the appropriate benchmark.
The problem here is fairly straightforward. The S&P 500 is up 21.5 percent in 2013. Yet, the Hedge Fund Research Aggregate index is up less than 6 percent (5.57 percent to be exact) on the year through Friday's close.
They Will Be Buying The Dips
Granted, most hedge funds don't compare themselves to the S&P 500. However, the disparity between the performance of stocks and hedge funds has rarely been so wide. So... if stocks continue to move higher, it is a safe bet that the hedgies may decide to jump on the bull band wagon into the end of the year - in order to pump up returns, of course.
Conversely, with so many managers underperforming by such a large margin, there would appear to be an incentive to try and get the indices to "come in" a bit. However, when performance anxiety sets in, history shows that these types of dips are made to be bought.
However... if the economic data starts to stink up the joint, all bets will be off. But understanding the power of performance anxiety can help one make sense of the way the markets tend to perform into the end of the year. So, while there is no guarantee that stocks will rise as 2013 draws to a close, don't be surprised if that's exactly what happens.
Remember, there is nothing more reckless on the buy side than a fund manager with his/her bonus on the line!
Current Market Drivers
We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).
1. The State of the Earnings Season
2. The Outlook for the U.S. Economy
3. The State of Fed Policy
The State of the Trend
We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 3 months, and long-term as 3 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:
Short-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)
Intermediate-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)
Long-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 12 months)
Key Technical Areas:
Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:
- Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 1720-25
- Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): none
The State of the Tape
Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...
- Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator: Positive
- Price Thrust Indicator:Positive
- Volume Thrust Indicator:Neutral
- Breadth Thrust Indicator:Positive
- Bull/Bear Volume Relationship: Moderately Positive
- Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups: Positive
The Early Warning Indicators
Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.
- Overbought/Oversold Condition: The S&P 500 is overbought from a short-term perspective and is moderately overbought from an intermediate-term point of view.
- Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is Negative .
The State of the Market Environment
One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward because different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Markets Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.
Weekly State of the Market Model Reading: Positive
If you are looking for a disciplined, rules-based system to help guide your market exposure, check out The Daily Decision System.
Thought For The Day...
Sometimes the biggest problem is in your head. You've got to believe. -Jack Nicklaus
Looking for Guidance in the Markets?
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Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,
David D. Moenning
Founder and Chief Investment Strategist
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Positions in stocks mentioned: none
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