That's the headline that's splashed all over the news and it has in fact been a remarkable year for the stock market. Other than a quick sell off at the end of the day on Friday, those gains were held right to the very end of the year. The year has literally finished at the top of its game.
The big number in the news is of course the DOW. With a 16% annual gain that's a very impressive number for the public to see. As we enter the new year everyone feels good about the stock market and as they make their new year's resolutions and make their financial plans there will be many who pour money into the stock market so that they can capture this great bull market of ours. We know the market needs a rest but it was important for smart money to hold the market up into the end of the year for multiple reasons.
From a tax standpoint it was very important to fund managers that they didn't have to sell this year's gains and have to deal with the capital gains tax issues. It's much better to sell in 2007 and worry about capital gains a year from now. Keeping the public bullish is also very important, especially right now. Many fund managers, and I include hedge funds here, would probably like to see an early sell off in the stock market. By selling off early in the year, taking their profits, tucking some away in money market reserve accounts for next year's tax payment and then buying stocks after they've pulled back, they'll have a better chance of capturing additional gains in 2007.
The easiest and most profitable way to unload so much stock is to do it gradually so as not to spook the public. Smart money needs the public to stay excited about the stock market so that Joe Retailer continues to express interest in buying. Holding the market's gains into the end of the year was a critical part of that process. A controlled bleed off of the helium out of this balloon now becomes job #1 for many money managers. Hand off the inventory to the public without scaring them away. Once the public gets scared by a sell off then we run the risk of a no-bid situation where the selling gets carried away because the buyers step back and wait.
So this is what we're probably facing as we head into January. New money (retirement and other funds that typically come in at the beginning of the month) and more people deciding they want to invest more in the stock market this coming year could give us an early lift in January (the January effect) but smart money will probably be using the beginning of January to unload their inventory.
If you look at the price pattern in the techs it appears that that distribution effort has been going on for weeks. Money has been rotating into big caps which is a defensive move as it's a lot easier to sell fast from a big cap than a small cap (without hammering the price lower). But again, if we don't have enough buyers coming in then we could see selling get out of hand, even if for only short periods of time. That's the risk I see as we enter January.
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Projections for 2007
M3 Money Supply, calculated, courtesy nowandfutures.com
This chart is updated as of Friday so it's current for the latest week. The light blue line is the annualized rate of change and it tipped over slightly in the past week. M3 remained flat for the week. The dark black line is calculated M3 whereas the green line is confirmed M3 from actual figures received later. It's way too early to tell what the Fed will do here but if they start to pause in their money creation efforts then we could see the stock market lose another leg of it's stool.
While the Fed continues to worry about inflation, and may hold interest rates steady at least through the summer (if not raise them), they are clearly worried about a slowing economy which has a lot to do with the slowing in the housing market. As discussed many times before, the housing market has a huge influence in our economy, probably more now than ever before. With one out of every three jobs that have been created in the past 5-6 years associated with the housing market (from real estate agents to home builders to furniture and appliance employees), any hit to the housing market will automatically cause pain in the job market.
Any hit to home values will cause more people to feel poorer than any hit to the stock market (due to more people owning homes than stocks and homes being a bigger part of a person's feeling of wealth). And of course if home values are no longer increasing, or worse decreasing, then there will be less money available for home equity withdrawals. Spending would have to slow down in that case. With $600-700B extracted each year from home equity, that's a huge shot in the economic arm of our country. Take that money away and retailers won't be the only ones squealing about poor business.
If people become worried about their finances, especially if they start seeing their friends and family members losing their jobs, and knowing credit is harder to come by, then they'll start saving more. If we get our savings rate out of negative territory, where it's been for almost two years, it would be good for individuals but bad for our economy. If demand for products dries up then businesses slow down, layoffs increase and people become more fearful.
Fearful people are not bullish people and that's why the stock market will take a hit in such a scenario. The bond market, with the inverted yield curve, has been pointing to a likely slowdown, if not recession, for quite some time now. We've received a slew of economic reports in the past month that point to a slowing economy and the Fed is making money at a furious rate to keep the economic pump primed. And while we've seen the housing market getting a little bounce it's not clear it's anything more than a dead cat bounce after a fast decline.
Bubbles don't land softly and I continue to believe the housing bubble will suffer the same fate as all other bubbles. I don't have a copy in front of me but I saw a chart of the decline in the Nasdaq in 2000-2002 with a chart of the home builders laid on top of it, matching the peak in home builders in July 2005 with the Nasdaq peak in March 2000. It's uncanny how similar the charts are and of course this just points out the similarities of post-bubble moves. That pattern calls for another year of declines in the home builders.
The stock market has remained out of touch and has its blinders on. People have been feeling bullish, with the help of an overzealous Fed, and that creates a bullish market. If housing turns back down then it's not a stretch of the imagination to believe people will become less bullish and more defensive. Adding to my belief that the housing market is not finished correcting (not by a long shot) is what the bond market did this week. This 30-year yield chart shows an important break out:
TYX.X chart, 30-year yield, Daily
By breaking its downtrend line from July (the same time the stock market started its rally) the jump in yields is potentially telling us the bond market is now worried the Fed will not lower rates and may in fact be forced to raise rates. I've felt for quite some time the Fed has painted itself into the inflation corner (due to the amount of liquidity and excessive credit available) and now can't get out. The drop in the value of the dollar is inflationary and with more countries talking about "diversifying" into euros, including oil money, which will only add to the downward pressure for our greenback and cause more inflationary pressure. If the bond market is getting a whiff of this then we could see much higher rates coming. Higher bond yields will start to attract money out of higher risk stocks into the safety of a guaranteed, and decent, return.
Higher interest rates will cause several problems not the least of which is a credit contraction. While the Fed has been creating money to beat the band and creating a credit expansion (banks can lend out more than 90% of their assets and when you ripple that through several layers of banks and lending institutions credit expands at a parabolic rate), the market may force a credit contraction, regardless of what the Fed is trying to do. A credit contraction is bad for the economy because less available money means less company growth, more layoffs, etc. etc.
Speaking of credit contraction and the housing market, Paul Kasriel, Sr. V.P. and Director of Economic Research at Northern Trust, wrote an article titled "Festivus Flow-of-Funds Stocking Stuffers" in his weekly commentary, "The Econtrarian", which was reprinted in John Mauldin's December 18, 2006 weekly newsletter. He discussed household mortgage debt and it was an eye-opener. This chart shows mortgage-related debt as a percent of disposable personal income (DPI):
Household Mortgage-Related Borrowing, courtesy Paul Kasriel
The light brown line is mortgage-related borrowing as a percent of DPI and shows the huge run-up since 1995 into 2005 and a steep drop in 2006 (coinciding with the peak in the home builders)). The dark blue line shows the year-over-year change and shows a huge drop in 2006, much larger than we've seen in the past. First, the large run up was unsustainable, its own bubble. It shows people getting out of whack with the amount of debt they were taking on. But more importantly is the very sharp decline. This is the kind of credit contraction I'm talking about and it represents the very fast correction that's in progress.
Not shown but going along with the chart Paul Kasriel discussed household liquidity--how much money is available for emergencies in savings accounts and money market funds. That measure dropped to a post-WWII low in Q3, 2006. Many feel that home equity replaced the need for liquid funds but as Kasriel pointed out, with home values now contracting, and home equity availability drying up, people are now more vulnerable than ever to financial shocks. As Kasriel stated, "In sum, households have never been as highly levered as they are now or as illiquid as they are now, and their single largest asset is in danger of actually falling in value. If the Fed had to resume raising interest rates in this environment, it would be 'Katy, bar the door' for household finances!"
Back to the chart above, the significant drop in borrowing means less money available for consumer spending. This Christmas season may have been the last "fling" and now with credit cards maxed out and home equity drained, it'll be time to pay the piper and spending could come to a screeching halt. Two more charts that Kasriel showed that I think are worth passing along:
Household deposits as a percent of liabilities, and liabilities as a percent of assets, courtesy Paul Kasriel
The first chart graphically portrays what Kasriel was talking about when he mentioned household liquidity is a post-WWII lows. The second chart graphically shows how vulnerable we are to any financial shock. With record high levels of debt would it be safe to assume we can just keep borrowing more? Higher interest rates would be very difficult to absorb in this climate.
Higher interest rates would all obviously kill any budding bounce we have in the housing market. We've all heard the stories of how painful it has become for people who have refinanced with aggressive and unscrupulous lenders only to find they have increasing payments and can no longer afford their homes. Sub-prime lenders are going out of business at an alarming rate. Foreclosures are increasing all over the country.
This is not a localized problem--it's on a national scale which we haven't seen in over a hundred years. Almost half of the mortgages in the last couple of years, especially in high-cost areas, have been "creative" loans designed to get people into homes who can't afford those homes. The number of houses that will come onto the market due to foreclosures will put tremendous downward pressure on the home market. Banks which own foreclosed homes are truly motivated sellers since homes on their books gets them a less favorable review by the Fed.
If you're in a home that's your home and you don't intend to move and you don't have an oversized ARM mortgage then you really have nothing to worry about. If your house value drops so does your neighbor's. Yes you lose equity but it was all fluffed up paper money anyway. But if you're forced to sell your home in the above environment (loss of job, divorce, etc.) then you become just another motivated seller who will drop his price in order to sell.
If this housing scenario plays out, and we could see bigger cracks in the foundation if this spring's sales don't meet expectations, then it's not difficult to understand the depressing effect that will have on peoples' psyches. Fearful people are not bullish people and the stock market will suffer.
OK, enough about what my crystal ball is showing for 2007. We ended a very bullish 2006 and those who have been long the stock market deserve a big pat on the back for hanging on for the ride. You rode the momentum wave and you participated in the gains. Unless you were in the DIA or DOW futures you didn't do quite as well as the DOW's 16% since the rest of the market, and individual DOW stocks, did not see those kinds of gains, but nevertheless you did well. So congratulate yourself, throw a party and now do yourself a favor and SELL! :-)
DOW chart, Daily
Not much has changed from yesterday's update so I won't rehash a lot on these charts. For additional info on what I expect to see you can reread Thursday's Wrap. I have an ascending wedge that I'm following and today's pullback is so far just a pullback within the wedge, a pullback I was hoping to see. If I've got the internal Elliott Wave (EW) count correct, we should get another leg up to finish the wedge. A drop below Tuesday's 12337 low negates the wedge pattern and would be a strong indication we've already seen the high for the market. Until that happens watch for another push higher to a Fib projection at 12626, 160 points higher. Whether it gets there, or stops there, who knows but that's what I'll be watching for.
DOW chart, 120-min
This 120-min chart is an update to the one I showed Thursday where I'm watching the development of the ascending wedge. Because this wedge pattern calls for an a-b-c move up for the 5th wave I was looking for a pullback against this week's rally to then be followed by another leg up to finish off the whole thing. I'm not sure if we'll see a little more pullback when the market opens on Wednesday or if we're now set up for the next leg up. My guess is that we're ready for the next leg up (based more on SPX).
SPX chart, Daily
SPX dropped to its 20-dma, 30-min 100-pma (often support and resistance) and near its uptrend line from July (which is at 1416). This should be good support to launch another leg higher and that's what I'm expecting to see on Wednesday. If the DOW pushes up to an upside target of 12626 then we should see SPX make it up to 1434. The big caution for bulls is the continuing bearish divergences on daily charts across the board. This can not be ignored and will result in a top very soon if it hasn't already occurred. If SPX drops below Tuesday's 1410 low then there's a good chance the top is in.
Nasdaq chart, Daily
As I mentioned Thursday, I'm just waiting for the COMP to do something. It's currently in the middle of a very busy 4-lane highway wondering which way to run.
SOX semiconductor index, Daily chart
Ditto my comment on the COMP.
BIX banking index, Daily chart
Of all the charts I reviewed for the weekend, this is one of the more bearish as far as the sell signal I'm getting from this one. After running up to the top of its parallel up-channel, in a clean 5-wave up from November, it sold off sharply and RSI has taken a dump. It dropped straight through its 10-dma which has supported the month-long rally. On an intraday basis it looks ready for a bounce but I'm thinking the banks have already topped out. If the broader market averages manage to push to a new high next week but are unaccompanied by the banks to a new high then I'd say the bearish non-confirmation is the kind of signal a bear wants to see and I'd be adding to my longer term short position.
U.S. Home Construction Index chart, DJUSHB, Daily
The home builders currently leave me wondering what's next for the short term. It looks ready for another bounce but I can't be sure enough of that to feel bullish here. But it's not looking bearish either. I'm holding off short term judgment for the moment even though longer term I fully expect to see this roll over and head for new lows.
Oil chart, January contract, Daily
Oil continues to pound $60 support. It should start its bounce higher now, and higher oil might be one of the contributing factors behind a topping stock market. A drop in the US dollar may also contribute to rising commodity prices, including oil and gold. Higher commodity prices will only add to inflationary problems which I should have mentioned above as far as what I'm expecting to see in 2007. If oil bounces a little here and then breaks below $60 I still see the high $50's as support but it might consolidate at this level for quite a bit longer before making a move.
Oil Index chart, Daily
Oil stocks rallied a little this week but were rejected at the 20-dma (green MA) and as long as that continues then this will likely roll back over towards new lows. If stochastics flattens out here (indicating a downtrend in progress) then RSI has a ways to go before it reaches oversold.
Transportation Index chart, TRAN, Daily
Stochastics flattening out in oversold (downtrend in progress), RSI turning back down and price rejected at its retest of the broken 200-dma. Looks like a recipe for a continuation lower.
U.S. Dollar chart, Daily
The US dollar looks ready to continue lower.
Gold chart, February contract, Daily
Gold has made it up through resistance from its moving averages and should be able to continue higher. Next resistance level is at its November high near 655.
Next week's economic reports include the following:
There are no pre-market reports so we'll get to see how the cash market reacts to some potentially market-moving reports at 10:00 on Wednesday. Construction spending and ISM will be scrutinized carefully for signs of growth or slowing. How the market reacts to that news is always a guess since we don't know if bad economic news will still be bullish (hoping for a Fed rate decrease) but I suspect most participants are starting to give up on the idea of a rate reduction soon.
Therefore bad numbers here could jolt the market to the downside. Watch the head fake move though--it could be an opportunity for the market to get jammed to the upside in order to get that bear fuel (short covering) to launch the next leg up. Then in the afternoon the FOMC minutes could move the market if there are any surprises (or rate reduction disappointments).
There are many people expecting a sell off in January to take profits and the bears are probably already positioned for it. If it doesn't happen right away, like it did in 2005 after rallying in December 2004 (a pattern the bears are hoping to see repeated) then I suspect many will jump out of their short positions and wait yet again for the next top. Any early sell off though could accelerate as people take profits/short the market in preparation for another January like 2005.
But we know what happens when too many expect something so beware any early selling that gets a quick reversal--it could carry quite a bit to the upside. The reverse is also true of course. Using January 2005 as an example, the day started bullishly and rallied nearly 90 points to match the December high before selling off sharply to end the day down -54 points. If nothing else, watch for potential volatility.
The SPX weekly chart, with the closing candle, shows price just hanging near its high with the threat of the oscillators rolling over. There's nothing bearish yet but by the same token I sure wouldn't want to buy this chart no matter what the time frame.
SPX chart, Weekly, More Immediately Bearish
And that's it. That wraps up a great year for the stock market and I wish I could say I see the same possibility for 2007. It's so much easier being bullish than bearish. I'm an optimistic person by nature and being bearish this market has me tagged as being a pessimist. Nothing could be further from the truth. I try to read the tea leaves and trade unemotionally and without a care as to which way the market goes. I can trade the short side as easily as the long side.
I've been way off on my call for a market top but I know I'm in good (bad?) company when I read a lot of market analysts I've come to respect over the years for calling it as they see it. One look at that shot up on the weekly chart from July says "blow-off top". And we know blow-off moves are irrational--lasting far longer than we can remain solvent trying to fight the move. It was a pure momentum play for those who stuck with the long side, helped by the Fed and their rapid increase in the money supply.
The question for 2007 is what happens next and I laid out as best I can why I think the bears will rule 2007. Trading the short side is more difficult than the long side because the buying spikes are much more difficult to deal with than selling spikes in a bull market. Volatility increases (with a higher VIX) and stop management becomes disproportionately more difficult. But we'll do the best we can here to help guide you through the mine fields. I hope you stick with us in 2007 as I see some very good money-making opportunities.
Happy New Year to everyone. Enjoy friends and family, don't drink and drive and we'll see you here next week. I'll see some of you on the Market Monitor on Wednesday where we'll try to catch the next move, and back here on Thursday when we'll hopefully be a step closer to identifying where that top might be. Have a great weekend.
New Long Plays
New Short Plays
Long Play Updates
AllState - ALL - close: 65.11 change: -0.81 stop: 63.49
ALL got hit with some stronger selling on Friday, starting with a gap down. ALL is overbought so we could see a pullback but hopefully the 20-dma at $64.83 or uptrend line from August at $64.60 will provide support. We remain bullish on the stock as long it remains above its uptrend line. While our stop remains at $63.49 (now just below the rising 50-dma at $63.59) more aggressive traders may want to exit with a break of the uptrend line from August. The ascending wedge pattern drawn on the daily chart should get another push higher at which time we would look to take profits. We currently have an upside target in the $69.00-70.00 range but may exit earlier if another new high is accompanied by more bearish divergences.
Picked on December 15 at $65.25
ONEOK Inc. - OKE - close: 43.12 change: -0.40 stop: 42.25
OKE looks like it could be ready to work off its overbought condition and may pull back to its uptrend line from May and 50-dma, both located at $42.35. Price level support is just below that at $42.15 and if you'd like to give yourself a little more staying power in this trade you can lower your stop to $42.09 but we'll keep it just below the uptrend line/50-dma. We expect to see another higher after this pullback and that's when we'll be setting an exit target. Considering the bearish divergence on daily RSI and weekly overbought we think this rally is probably close to a longer term top.
Picked on November 28 at $42.25
Raytheon - RTN - close: 52.80 change: -0.41 stop: 51.99
RTN experienced sharper selling today after breaking its uptrend line from November but stopped at its 20-dma at $52.81. We remain somewhat cautious given the overbought oscillators that have now rolled over so we are not suggesting new positions. We'll probably get a larger pullback that could offer additional opportunities for a long play. There were no bearish divergences at the last high which leads us to believe there should be a continuation higher after this pullback. We're leaving our stop just below the low on 12/11/06 but more aggressive traders can consider raising the stop closer to the 20-dma and take yourself out on a further drop next week. The 50-dma, now at $51.09, is just above our original entry point.
Picked on November 29 at $51.05
St.Paul Travelers - STA - close: 53.69 change: -0.46 stop: 51.95
After shooting higher at the open on Thursday, STA sold off the past two days and closed on its 10-dma at $53.69. With the daily oscillators rolling over after the bearish divergence at the last high we do not recommend any new plays in this stock. The current stop at $51.95 keeps it below the 20-dma and uptrend line from August, both currently at $52.97 and is now close to the rising 50-dma at $51.86. Our target is the $57.50 level. The P&F chart is bullish with a $76 target.
Picked on December 17 at $53.56
Short Play Updates
Cheesecake Factory - CAKE - close: 24.60 chg: -0.25 stop: 27.01
CAKE continues to be pressured lower by its downtrend line from the end of November (currently at $24.70) and its 10-dma (at $25.08). This bodes well for our short play and the stop at $27.01 is above the 20-dma at $25.80. Use a bounce to the 10-dma or $25.70 to initiate a new play. Our downside target is the $22.25-22.00 range. We do expect some support near $24.00 but given the bearish technicals on the weekly chart we think any bounce at $24 would be temporary. The P&F chart currently points to a $4.00 target. FYI: The most recent (November) data puts short interest at 11.8% of CAKE's 73.7 million-share float. That is relatively high short interest and could raise the risk of a short-squeeze if CAKE manages to rally.
on December 18 at $25.65
Colonial Prop. - CLP - close: 46.88 change: +0.18 stop: 48.26
CLP rallied all week and looks like it's going to push up to its 20-dma at $47.18. It has additional resistance at prior support near $47.20 and then its downtrend line from October located at $47.60. There is then layered resistance up to the declining 50-dma at $48.27 where our stop is located which is also above the 200-dma. This bounce is another opportunity for a short entry with the same stop level as noted above. Our target is the May 2006 low at $42.68 but we will plan to exit at $42.75. We do not want to hold over the late January earnings. FYI: Traders should know that in the past few months CLP has been noted as a potential takeover/acquisition target in the real estate sector. If a deal is announced it could be very painful for shorts but we haven't heard anything further on the subject. Meanwhile short interest is about 3% of the 43.4 million-share float.
Picked on December 17 at $46.71
New Century - NEW - close: 31.59 change: -0.50 stop: 35.70
On Friday NEW dropped below the trend line along the lows since June and is approaching the October 2005 low near $30.25. The stop is above the 20-dma and downtrend line from August at $35.40. More aggressive traders can lower their stop to just above Tuesday's high of $35.07. We remain bearish on NEW with a downside target in the $31.00-30.00 range. FYI: The most recent (November) data put short interest at 22% of the company's 50 million-share float. That is a very high degree of short interest and it does raise the risk of a short squeeze if NEW reverses sharply higher.
Picked on December 10 at $34.47
21st Century - TCHC - close: 23.75 change: -0.20 stop: 25.01
TCHC is working its way higher, pushed above its 10-dma at $23.76 but then closed on it. Its 20-dma is at $24.67 and could get tagged if this pushes a little higher. The downtrend line from November (ignoring the price spike up in October) is just above the 20-dma, currently at $24.80 so there's layered resistance to much more of a push higher. Volume was very light this week but picked up on today's decline so that's a good sign for our bearish play. Our downside target is the $21.50-20.00 range. The most recent (November) data puts short interest at over 6% of TCHC's 6.4% float. That's a very small float so 6% might be enough short interest to really increase the risk of a short squeeze should TCHC reverse higher.
Picked on December 10 at $24.84
Cognos - COGN - close: 42.46 change: +0.54 stop: 42.31
The short play in this stock has not been triggered yet as we're still waiting for it to drop through its 50-dma, currently at $40.08, to trigger our entry at $39.60. Price action on the daily charts looks like it's just consolidating so we like our entry price and will patiently wait for it to get hit. We might raise our trigger price if this pushes a little higher in the coming week. Our downside target price is $35.00 which is just above its 200-dma and at previous price level resistance now potential support.
Picked on December 21 at $40.19 (waiting for trigger at $39.60)
Citrix Sys. - CTXS - close: 27.05 change: -0.16 stop: 28.80
After dropping below support at $27.60, which is a potential H&S neckline for price action since August, CTXS has been consolidating. We are now hoping to see CTXS head for its H&S price objective of $18 which is the same as the current P&F price objective. Aggressive traders can aim for that target while a short term downside target is a little less aggressive at $24.60 which is based on the 200 weekly average and a gap fill from October 2005 ($24.47 closing price on 10/24/05). An additional entry opportunity can be found if CTXS bounces back up to resistance at $27.60.
Picked on December 22 at $27.45
Closed Long Plays
Closed Short Plays
Today's Newsletter Notes: Market Wrap by Keene H. Little and all other plays and content by the Option Investor staff.
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