Sunday, August 31, 2014

Achieving Excess Returns Around FOMC Meetings

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices, recently highlighted research results showing excess returns are generated around FOMC meeting dates. The research paper, Stock Returns Over The FOMC Cycle, evaluates the average 5-day return minus the treasury bill rate. The paper shows statistically significant excess returns are generated in the five day period in advance of the FOMC announcement.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

The paper notes the FOMC meeting dates are "quite irregular" and "'even' weeks in FOMC cycle time do not line up with other macro releases that would be influencing returns."

Lastly, the paper looks at the unintended (and intended) information release that comes from the Fed. The report notes, "Overall, it is possible that the bi-weekly patterns in average excess stock returns and fed funds futures volatility result from both subtle intentional and unintentional communication coming from the Fed. The precise mechanism remains a central issue for understanding the economics behind our newly documented asset return patterns and an avenue that we (and hopefully others) will explore."

As S&P's David Blitzer notes in his article title, investors look for short term trading gains might consider to "Sell Just Before, Not After, the FOMC Meets."


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week Ahead Magazine: August 24, 2014

This past week saw the S&P 500 Index set a record closing price of 1,992.37 on Thursday. One article in this week's magazine notes the equity market has gone over 1,020 days without a 10% correction. Investors seem content on buying market "dips". This most recent dip saw the market decline 3.94% from its July 24th closing price down to 1,909.57 on August 7th. The "V-shaped" recovery from August 7th has seen the market advance 4.3% to Friday's close.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

The only major U.S. index that remains negative for the year is the small cap Russell 2000 Index which is down .3%. The leader is the Nasdaq composite index which is up 8.7% followed by the S&P 500 Index, up 7.6%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average remains the laggard and is up 2.6% on the year.

Much of the focus this past week was on Janet Yellen's Jackson Hole presentation. The comments had little market impact with treasury yields rising just slightly across most of the interest rate curve. Most of the economic news last week was fairly positive. As we noted in our earlier post today, manufacturing, leading indicator data and jobs data seem to be supportive of a positive economic climate looking out to year end. From an international perspective, economic data remains mixed and saw weakening in most area's Purchasing Managers Indices.

A number of economic data releases are scheduled to be reported this week. Some of the potential market moving reports are:
  • New home sales (M)
  • Durable Goods Orders (T)
  • GDP and jobless claims (Th)
  • Personal Income and Outlays (F)
The magazine as well as blog posting has been lighter this week as we were visiting out of town clients during the first half of the week. Below is the link to this week's magazine.


Fundamentals Creating A Positive Environment For Equity Markets In Second Half Of Year

Almost two weeks ago we noted the S&P 500 Index appeared to look more attractive from a technical perspective. Since the market reached a near term low of 1,909.57 on August 7th, the S&P 500 Index has rallied 4.13% through Friday to close at 1,988.40. In addition to a positive technical perspective at that time, recent economic and company reports indicate potential strength ahead. In looking at several economic factors, last week's report on The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index showed an increase of .9% in July, which followed a .6% increase in both May and June. On August 15th the Federal Reserve reported the sixth straight monthly increase in industrial production with July's increase of .4%.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

The continued improvement in the LEI Index and industrial production is showing up in the ISM non-manufacturing survey, specifically in new orders. The report noted,
"the New Orders Index registered 64.9 percent, 3.7 percentage points higher than the reading of 61.2 percent registered in June. This represents the highest reading for the New Orders Index since August 2005 when it registered 65.3 percent."
The early August report notes respondents indicating strength in the second half of this year as well. A couple of direct highlights from the report:
  • "Conditions are improving." (Construction)
  • "Slight improvement in the economy, but still experiencing delays in client project start-ups. Expecting some improvement in 4th quarter." (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)
  • "Second half of the year is looking promising for increased orders versus last year." (Information)
  • "Business is still very good. Expecting continued growth in the 2nd half of the year." (Retail Trade)
  • "Business has been strong this summer after a late start due to the poor spring weather." (Wholesale Trade)
From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

Lastly, with the second quarter 2014 earnings season essentially at an end with 486 companies having reported, the year over year growth rate for earnings in the quarter came in at 10.2% (excluding Citigroup (C)). It is not anticipated the remaining companies yet to report will change the 10+% growth rate. Thomson Reuters notes, if this growth rate holds, it will represent the second highest quarterly growth rate since the fourth quarter of 2011. The revenue growth rate recorded so far in Q2 is 4.6% with the health care sector leading the way with revenue growth of 12.2% in Q2.

Investors and strategist may be viewing the coming end of QE as a brick wall for the economy. However, current economic reports and company reports are suggesting the economy may be able to function without outside stimulus. I have not touched on the improvement in the job market, but this is another positive as well. I will highlight some of these items in our Week Ahead Magazine post, but several market moving reports in the coming week include the second reading on Q2 GDP and jobless claims on Thursday.


Disclosure: No position in C


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week Ahead Magazine For August 17, 2014

After the market's close this past Tuesday we wrote a post discussing how the market technicals had turned more positive and the market did not disappoint. For this past week the equity market did turn higher with the major U.S. indices posting weekly gains. The standout was the Nasdaq Composite Index returning 2.2% and now up 6.9% on the year. The much watched small cap index, the Russell 2000, managed to generate a gain of .9%; however, the index remains down 1.9% year to date. Last week's news was dominated by geopolitical issues, e.g., the Ukraine/Russia conflict. The issues taking place on the European continent seem to be impacting economic and consumer sentiment in the Euro Zone. As Econoday noted in their weekly recap,
"Numbers for second quarter GDP for France, Germany, and the EU fell below expectations—including a negative number for German GDP, largely damped by Ukraine concern. It was more current news that lifted stocks after President Vladimir Putin said Russia will work to stop the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Equities were mixed Friday on a report that Ukraine government forces attacked an armed convoy from Russia—allegedly carrying humanitarian aid."
The highlight for this week may be commentary from the Fed Symposium at Jackson Hole. This event has taken place since 1978 and this year's topic will be "Re-Evaluating Labor Market Dynamics." In the interim, potential market moving economic reports for the coming week include:
  • Consumer Price Index and Housing Starts (M)
  • FOMC Minutes (W)
  • Jobless Claims, Philadelphia Fed Survey and Existing Homes Sales (Th)
Articles of interest can be found in this week's magazine with the link provided below.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Market Technicals Turn More Positive

Short term technicals for the S&P 500 Index have turned more positive after the market's recent pullback. As the below chart shows, the 100 day moving average has served as important support for the market over the past year and a half. Each time the market has experienced a pullback, the market has managed to bounce off of the 100 day moving average line. Additionally, the full stochastic oscillator has begun to turn higher from an oversold level. The vertical dotted lines on the chart display areas where this indicator began to turn higher and where the S&P 500 Index bounced off of its 100 day moving average. The money flow index (MFI) declined to a level near where an oversold market would be indicated (< 20) and may be bottoming and attempting to turn higher. The MFI incorporates volume and is another version of the relative strength index. With volume included in the calculation, some believe volume leads price; therefore, increasing volume at a time the market is turning higher can be indicative of a market move higher.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

From a fundamental perspective, earnings in the second quarter are expected to increase by 8.2%. When looking at earnings that exclude Citigroup's (C) earnings report, Q2 earnings are expected to be higher by 10%. We have not seen double digit earnings growth (ex Citigroup) since 2011. Third quarter earnings growth expectations equal 9.3% and fourth quarter growth expectations equal 12.2%. With strong earnings reports from companies and a market that seems to have worked off oversold conditions, higher prices may be realized if not just in the second half of August, but through the balance of the year. Of course, geopolitical issues are a wild card as well as the mid term election in the U.S. in November.

Disclosure: No position in C


Monday, August 11, 2014

Week Ahead Magazine For August 10, 2014

Last week saw the market's trading action gravitate from positive to negative during the week until Friday. The chart to the right shows the daily changes in various market indices with Friday's sharp bounce back. A question for this week will be whether last Friday's trading bounce signals a bottom in the market's recent decline.

Today pre-market futures are indicating a positive start to the trading week. This comes on the heals of positive market performance in global markets on Monday. One article link in the Week Ahead Magazine covers some technical data that is suggestive of a potential market bottom. Additionally, another article notes the decline in investor bullish sentiment, as well as investors continued appetite for bonds. Below is the link to this week's magazine.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bond Funds Continue To See Inflows

Last week's mostly negative market, until the sharp recovery on Friday, continues to negatively influence investor's market sentiment. Last week's American Association of Individual Investors reported bullish investor sentiment fell slightly to 30.9%. This bullishness level is nearly nine percentage points below the long term average of 39%.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors
Source: AAII

An interesting factor reported in the Sentiment Survey was the 7.1% increase in bearish sentiment to 38.2%. Much of the recent commentary seems centered around the fact the market (S&P 500 Index) has not experienced a 10%+ market correction in over 30 months. Factor in the number of geopolitical issues around the globe and the Fed's reduction of QE, it is no wonder investors have a less than favorable view of the market.

Fund flow data seems to be supportive of the fact investors are not overly bullish. The below chart shows fund flow data through June. Every month except for January of this year has seen positive investor flows into bond and income funds. June of this year witnessed the first outflow from equity mutual funds in over a year. This equity fund outflow continued in July as noted in the table following the monthly fund flow chart below.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

In spite of what seems like a near uninterrupted advance in the equity markets since the end of of the Great Recession, fund flow data does not suggest investors have reallocated out of bonds into stocks in any significant way. In looking at the below chart, it seems apparent the cumulative flow of funds into bond and income funds still far out weighs any recent positive flows into equity funds. As noted earlier, and this can be seen on the below chart, positive flows have returned to bond funds this year.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

Generally, market tops do not get realized until a capitulation, "all-in" type positive inflow into stocks occurs.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Currency Adjusted Returns Matter When Investing In Foreign Markets

Almost a year and a half ago the Bank of Japan stated it would embark on a massive stimulus plan, i.e., quantitative easing, that would amount to the equivalent of $107 billion US dollars. Many strategists have taken a positive view of this effort by Japan to stimulate the country's economy. The near term, immediate impact to Japan's stock market at that time, the Nikkei 225 Index, was a dramatic move to the upside. As the below chart shows (two year time frame), the Nikkei was up over 80% from August 2012 through May of 2013 and the S&P 500 Index was up only 20%. However, when the Nikkei returns are converted back to the US Dollar, the Nikkei returns equal about 35%.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

Fast forward to the end of 2013 from August 2013 and the Nikkei continued to outperform the S&P 500 Index; however, when converting the Nikkei returns to US Dollars (blue line in the below chart), the Nikkei has underperformed.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

Many investors gain exposure to foreign markets via mutual funds or ETFs. For investors then, it is important to understand the currency hedging strategies being employed within a particular fund. If a fund had not been hedging its currency exposure in the Nikkei for a US domiciled investor, returns would have been significantly impaired.

The currency hedging issue has always been important, maybe more so today given central bank interventions. The central bank stimulus programs have resulted in weakening the currency of the central bank's country. In the case of Japan, the weaker YEN (stronger US Dollar) has negatively impacted US Dollar returns.

Also, recent media reports are touting the strong returns in "frontier" markets. For investors, they need to analyze the currency hedging strategy in the fund(s) they intend to invest in. A strong dollar relative to other currencies can significantly reduce any return advantage these non-U.S. markets may generate in their respective home country currency.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Why To Invest In Stocks

I wrote an article this past weekend that provided a link to an interview with Jason Trennert conduct by Consuelo Mack of WealthTrack. The theme of the interview and the post is the belief there currently is no alternative for investors other than stocks. My article was republished on Seeking Alpha and a reader responded with several comments and questions. I responded to his questions and the reader thought the response was worthy of an article of its own. Below are the reader's questions/comments and my response.
  1. Why is the shrinking number of listed companies important?
  2. The total market cap is at an all-time high, and the ratio of total market cap to GDP is near an all time high.
  3. Is there any rigorous study that shows that currently low interest rates have a strong correlation with 'future' stock market returns?
The shrinking number of listed companies is important from the standpoint of supply and demand. If demand for stocks remains the same and the supply of available stock declines, then prices will gravitate higher, all else being equal. In the video referenced in my earlier article, I believe Jason Trennert provides pretty good commentary behind the decline in company stock listings. Certainly some companies have gone out of business since the dot.com bust. However, Trennert notes an increasing number of companies lack the desire to go public due to the regulatory and legal cost. Some of what is occurring is companies will sell themselves to private equity firms.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

Additionally, the current environment has witnessed a pick up in M&A activity and this was cited in a recent report by Jeremy Grantham of GMO as well. The M&A activity results in reducing stock supply. Increased M&A historically is an early, late business cycle activity. Grantham and others believe we are in the middle innings of M&A in this cycle. When public companies deploy excess cash in an acquisition, the balance sheet cash that is earning virtually zero percent interest then results in the acquisition being accretive to corporate earnings.

Regarding interest rate movement and stock prices when rates rise from a low level. JP Morgan has an interesting chart showing when rates rise from a low level, below 5%, stocks have a positive correlation to the direction of the rate move. Intuitively, this might make sense in that the Fed is simply moving rates back to a neutral level in order to have fire power in the event it is needed. When rates are increased at levels above 5%, this is generally a sign the Fed is attempting to slow down the economy. Maybe inflation is beginning to become an issue, tight capacity, higher wage growth, etc. In this situation, the rate rise, when above 5%, likely would result in slowing economic activity and as such slowing earnings growth which then leads to lower stock prices.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors
Source: JP Morgan GTM
 
Lastly, regarding equity values and GDP, Scott Grannis of the Calafia Beach Pundit website has a good article discussing this valuation measure. The article is a worthwhile read. In short he notes valuations by this measure are at levels similar to the early 1960s. He notes in the article the early 1960s was an environment "when inflation was low and stable and U.S. interest rates were low and stable, much as they are today." Below is the valuation chart he included in the article.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

From a contrarian standpoint, I must say the amount of bearish commentary mentioned over the past several weeks seems to be dominating the headlines. The below chart highlights the increase in Google (GOOGL) search activity for the phrase " stock market correction." Historically, market corrections do not occur when everyone expects them. Having said this, this is a seasonally weak period for equities.
From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors
Source: Google Trends

Disclosure: Long GOOGL and GOOG


Monday, August 04, 2014

Massive Bearish Put Volume On Friday May Have Been An Error

Over the weekend we noted the big spike in the put/call ratio to 1.04. Generally, when the put/call ratio exceeds 1.0, from a contrarian perspective, this overly bearish activity can be a positive for stock prices. Was the increased volume an error?

Reuters is reporting the trades could be an error. In the article lead in they note, "A barrage of bearish options contracts costing an estimated $8 million and set to expire worthless in a few hours were purchased across multiple stocks Friday afternoon in a move that traders said made no sense." If these trades are an error, maybe bearish sentiment is not has elevated as the data suggested.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Dividend Payers Underperformed In July

Much is made by some investment managers that dividend payers hold up well in market downturns. Generally, we would agree that is the case; however, this performance advantage does not always bear out and one must look at the underlying cash flow of individual companies. A case in point is the performance of the payers in July.

As the below table shows the average performance of the payers underperformed the non-payers by almost two full percentage points. On a year to date basis the average return of the payers is also lagging the return for the non-payers. As the below performance table shows, most S&P 500 companies do pay a dividend. The difficulty with the safety trade in July was the fact some of the defensive sectors underperformed the overall S&P 500 Index. The staples sector is one of those defensive sectors and the relative performance versus the S&P 500 Index is noted below as well. In that chart, if the line is declining, the noted sector is underperforming the broader S&P 500 Index.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

One sector that performed well versus the overall S&P 500 Index was technology. At HORAN we do believe this sector continues to offer opportunities for investors.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors


Week Ahead Magazine: August 3, 2014

With July in the books, investors experienced the negatives of what tends to be a weak seasonal period for the equity markets. The worst performing segment of the U.S. market continued to be the pullback in small company stocks as represented by the Russell 2000 index. Small caps declined 7.3% in July while the larger cap stocks represented by the S&P 500 Index fell 2.8%. Small caps are now down 4.2% year to date while the S&P 500 Index remains higher by 4.2%.

For the most part economic news this past week was positive. Probably the most positive report was the first read on second quarter real GDP that was reported at 4.0%. For many, including us at HORAN Capital Advisors, there seems to have been a bounce back in economic activity from the weakness experienced in the first quarter due to the extreme cold weather conditions across the U.S. at that time. We do expect, however, this snap back was not significant enough to expect this level of growth through the balance of the year. One article in our magazine covers some of the underlying concerns with the recent GDP report.

Lastly, economic reports for the coming week will be relatively light. Additionally, the pace of earnings reports slows with a number of the reports coming from companies less optimistic about growth prospects. As we have noted in several reports on our blog this week, much technical damage was done to the market this past week. The magazine highlights several indicators that indicate the market is at least oversold on a short term basis which could result in a market bounce this week. The key will be whether or not the bounce can carry forward to a continuation of this bull market.