“You become. It takes a long time.”
That’s a quote from one of the best children’s books I have ever read to my kids, The Velveteen Rabbit. It was also cited in Brene Brown’s recent #behavioral book, Daring Greatly (pages 110).
“Real isn’t how you are made… it’s a thing that happens to you.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up – or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time.”
While that resonates with me as a husband, Dad, hockey coach, etc., it really hits the nail on the head in becoming a Velveteen Bear on the US stock market. I haven’t been this bearish since the fall of 2007. Getting really bearish is a process. It takes time.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
After Europe moved back into crisis mode (easing, printing, praying) and we received the worst US jobs report in 7 months, you just have to buy the all-time-bubble high in SPY on that, right? Right. Maybe with other people’s money.
After almost (I reiterate, almost!) having its first-four-down-days in a row of 2014 on Friday, the SP500 rallied from down to up on the day, to close up a whopping +0.2% on the week. That’s 5 consecutive “up” weeks. #hooray
In other news, the Russell 2000 (which derives 80% of its revenues from the US) flashed yet another bearish divergence, closing down -0.4% on the week to pretty much flat for 2014 YTD.
To give US equity bulls credit, this is what I liked about last week:
- After the ECB torched the Euro, the US Dollar (vs. the Euro) was up another +1.4% on the week
- The US 10yr Treasury Yield rose +12 basis points on the week to 2.46%
- The Yield Spread (10yr minus 2yr) widened +10bps on the week to +195bps
Not only was that something to like last week, it was something I loved all of last year. Dollar Up, Rates Up – that’s what should drive a US growth bear insane.
Other than the Russell 2000, what I don’t like in 2014 is that a key component of the Dollar Up, Rates Up storyline is missing - rates are down, hard, in 2014:
- Inclusive of last week’s bounce to lower-highs, the 10yr yield is -19% (or -57bps) YTD
- For 2014 YTD the Yield Spread (10yr minus 2yr) is still crashing (-26%) or down -70bps
In conjunction with these classic early cycle slow-down macro signals (which most European growth bulls said weren’t growth slowing signals until the ECB reminded them how fast things were slowing), you’ve seen:
- Early Cycle Stocks (Housing, Consumer Cyclicals, Regional Banks, the Russell, etc.) underperform
- Slow-growth #YieldChasing Stocks (Utilities, REITS, Big Cap Dividend Stocks, etc.) outperform
In case you aren’t long something like Argentina (stock market up another +6.1% last week to +93.2% YTD) whose economy still sucks, and you’ve stayed with the long #YieldChasing thing:
- Utilities (XLU) were up another +0.8% last week to +14.9% YTD
- REITS (MSCI index) were up another +1.0% last week to +19.6% YTD
Seriously. Who needs to be long the spoos when you can be long the good stuff!
While Ocham’s Razor (boil it down, simplify) is a really sexy concept, you can’t over-simplify. While a stronger Dollar (burning Euro) has toned down some of the commodity #InflationAccelerating that we saw in the first half of 2014, at some point you have to ask yourself if it’s going to be incremental enough to stop an early cycle US slowdown that’s already in motion?
To contextualize that key risk management question, don’t forget that the US is 63 months into this economic expansion. And the jobs market (both ADP slowing for 2 consecutive months and last week’s jobs report), which is a classic late-cycle indicator that strengthened, well, at the end of the cycle… is starting to hint that the bond market has #Q3Slowing nailed.
If US jobs and housing data slows, at the same time, what do you think Janet is going to do next? That’s right. She’ll do A) what Draghi just did and B) the Japanese are going to keep trying – moarrr incremental easing… That’s bullish for bonds and anything stocks that looks like a bond. And that’s all your cuddly Velveteen US Growth Bear has to say about that.
Our immediate-term Global Macro Risk Ranges are now:
UST 10yr yield 2.32-2.46%
Best of luck out there this week,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer