Sideways Action and FOMC Minutes

 

Hello Everyone

May 18, 2016 market action was disappointing, and directly tied to the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes release which appeared to signal a possible rate hike in June.  I say “appeared” because that is the consensus of the financial press, however I am not so convinced that a rate hike will occur.  I encourage readers take a look at a prior post, on March 12, 2015, as almost a year later, I am posting a very similar analysis again.

First, most of the (often a paid subscription is required…) business and financial news sites on the evening of May 18, 2016 are publishing some iteration of “If the economy improves further, rates will go up.”  I don’t know about you, but that reporting does not appear to be very earth-shattering. Unfortunately (why does that word seem to occupy most of my posts this year….?) the market, in recent typical fashion, over-reacted and at one point during the day the Dow was down triple digits.  Fortunately, the indexes calmed down towards the end of the day, with the SP-500 actually closing slightly above its open price.  Lets take a look at the one-day “intraday” chart of the SP-500, again, my default index:

SP-500-05-18-2016-ONEDAY

The violent downward action at the 2PM mark coincides with the FOMC minutes release.  Traders were hitting “sell” and I don’t even think they were reading the release.   However, I did read it (you can too…); allow me to share some views.   Again, these are not unlike my views from 2015.

Let’s observe that since maybe 2014 (and definitely since 2015), the FOMC has set two benchmarks, which both must be met, in order for them to consider raising rates.  The FOMC, and Ms. Yellen (the chairperson), has said these in numerous events, pubic press briefings, and to Congress.  These benchmarks are:

  •  “Maximum Employment” – Unemployment Rate below 6.5% =    desired, the lower the rate, the better, the closer to 6.5%, not so good
  •  Core 12-Month PCE Inflation (minus Food and Energy) Rate:  2%

We indeed have much improved unemployment rates, with the most recent data reflecting a 5% unemployment rate, however this rate is slightly worsened from prior months.   The data for May unemployment will be released on June 3, 2016.   See Image:

UNEMPLOYMENT-RATE-APRIL-2016

As can be seen, our unemployment rates have been mostly steady, since August, however “steady” also means that no huge improvements are happening either.

On to Core PCE Inflation, we are not at 2% yet, and as a matter of fact, it has drifted (slightly) the wrong direction, from 1.7% to 1.6%.   See Image:

CORE-PCE-MARCH2016

If you read the FOMC Minutes, a comment is made that “Over the 12 months ending in March, total consumer prices as measured by the consumer price index (CPI) rose 1 percent, while core CPI inflation was 2-1/4 percent. In light of the CPI data, both total and core PCE price inflation on a 12-month basis appeared to slow a bit in March.

A reference to the desired 2 percent level is also mentioned:

The 12-month change in core PCE prices also continued to run below 2 percent, but it moved up to 1.7 percent in January and February from 1.4 percent at the end of 2015. Despite the recent rise in core inflation, some participants continued to see progress toward the Committee’s 2 percent inflation objective as likely to be gradual….

“…Still, with 12-month PCE inflation continuing to run below the Committee’s 2 percent objective, a number of participants judged that it would be appropriate to proceed cautiously in removing policy accommodation….”

The FOMC discussed many items in the minutes, from housing, to energy prices, to GDP, but if we are to follow the benchmarks above, which the FOMC is already on record as being the requirements prior to a rate hike, then we do indeed have the unemployment benchmark met, but we do not have the Core PCE benchmark met.  

Add in the fact that we are in “election season”, I am not so sure that the President Obama-appointed Fed Chairperson Yellen and also-appointed Vice-Chairperson Fisher want to support a rate hike this summer, June or after.  A rate hike will likely cause some turmoil in the markets (temporary or not, we don’t know) , turmoil which may be remembered at the voting machines.   Not getting into politics, but it is what it is.

Let’s take a quick look at the recent SP-500 chart as we close out this update:

SP-500-05-18-2016

Apparent in the chart is that the sideways action continues, with the 2050 level remaining an important area for the index.   The close on May 18, 2016 was 2047.63, slightly below 2050 but much recovered from its intraday low of 2034.49.  Fortunately things improved in the afternoon.   Nobody said investing (or trading) was easy, and the last few years, say mid-2014 until present, have been especially challenging.

Before I close this recent iteration of my unofficial ongoing two-week cycle of updates, some important calendar dates are as follows:

June 3:  Unemployment Rate Data.  Will it improve or worsen ?

June 6:  FOMC Chairperson Yellen speaks in Philadelphia, and possibly offers a glimpse into the next event:

June 14-15:  FOMC Meeting, possible action to increase interest rates.

As some say, these are “Exciting Times.”   For now, I continue to be 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund in my TSP account.   The market itself remains the ultimate thermometer, not outside news, noise, or events.  If one or two triggers are driving the market, it indeed is important to understand those triggers.   But I am not going to overload you (or myself) with inane economic data or try to use lumber sales at Home Depot to predict the housing cycle.  I just don’t think it is useful or effective.  Lets stick to our bread and butter, and monitor the volume and price action, and keep an eye on the 2050 level.

Thanks for reading and talk to you soon….

-Bill Pritchard

 

May 5 Update – Markets start to Weaken

 

Hello everyone

As we enter the month of May, one of the historically negative months for the Dow Jones Index (only 30 stocks, FYI…), history appears to be repeating itself, as all indexes have performed poorly.  The questions then becomes “Is this time different [and a real bear market underway] ?”  and “Or should I hang in there and not be concerned?”   Before we proceed further, let’s insert a chart of the Dow Jones Index historical monthly performance, as published by the good team over at Stock Traders Almanac:

DOW-JONES-ANNUAL

The May behavior gives some credence to the “Sell in May” strategy, discussed in FAQ #19, which was sent to me by a colleague in a sister agency.   Note that (and this is what I said in my FAQ answer) I follow behavior of the market, and not automatic strategies, however I do find value in historical information and past behavior.   With that said, in answer to the above questions, I am not overly concerned, but I am not over-joyed either by the market’s recent behavior.   I am cognizant that (history is my guide) any chance for a positive gain in May is slim.  So going into May, I already know that this month will not be great.   Using the SP 500 (500 stocks, versus 30…) as my default index, we can see increased distribution on the index, which reflects selling by institutional investors.   This selling began on April 28.   Lets take a look at some charts:

SP500-05-05-16SP500-05-05-16-comments

The above are charts of the SP 500 Index.   Below are charts of the SPY Exchange Traded Fund, which is a proxy to the index.   The SPY ETF is useful for volume analysis.  Let’s take a look below:

SPY-05-05-16SPY-05-05-16-comments

The breakdown is evident on the charts,  which began on April 28.   Major “follow on” selling is obvious on April 29.

While no single event can be associated to this, it arguably could be tied to campaign activity which is firming up, with numerous candidates dropping out. (and this means either party…Hillary becoming a front runner = bad/good, Donald Trump becoming a front runner = bad/good…if you have a crystal ball to accurately predict the upcoming election, please use it and buy both of us Power Ball tickets…).   It could be numerous things, or…..could just be typical, historical, May behavior.    The high volume above does have me a little worried though.

I am keeping an eye on the 2050 level on the SP 500, which appears to be a strong magnet for the index.   Every time that it climbs above 2050, it gets sucked back to that level, causing headaches and frustrations for all.    Friday May 6 is the date of the April “jobs report”, so the markets may improve (or not) pending the results of that report.

In other news, retailer Aeropostale has filed for bankruptcy, which is testimony to my numerous prior posts that old-school shopping malls and big box stores are a thing of the past, replaced by Amazon Prime, online stores, and other forms of shopping.  In addition, many of today’s clothing stores, which you and I likely shopped at circa 1988-1994 (with an Orange Julius in hand, as we walked to the indoor mall movie theater to watch Top Gun), are just not hot anymore, and are having a difficult time attracting today’s Gen-Y customer.   Aeropostale, The Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, I just don’t see much future in those stores anymore.   Since this should be focused on the TSP, and not Retail Fashion analysis, I will stop, but some fundamental changes need to happen in the retail shopping mall industry overall.

In the “Value-Add” column, I want to point out a benefit you have if you are a Blue Cross/Blue Shield member.  I discussed this in 2015 but will refresh it here.  My not-scientific poll reflects that 90% of BCBS members do not know about this, at least not the ones I know.    It is called “Healthways” and provides for $25 gym membership, for each adult member ($25 for you, $25 for your wife, or $50 total) who is entitled to your BCBS benefits (children do not have access to this Healthways program).   The link for additional information is here:

https://www.blue365deals.com/healthways-national-standing-25-monthly-fee-access-network-9000-gyms-nationwide

The site is somewhat difficult to navigate, sometimes it is better to call a real human and talk to them.   The phone number for additional information is 1-888-242-2060.

I remain 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund.   2050 remains an important support level on the SP 500.    Please note that in the next week or two, I will send out a Poll to all subscribers, as I seek to continue to capture reader preferences and opinion.   The last poll was in April 2015, and almost 2,000 folks replied.   The past poll is here:  http://www.poll-maker.com/results258354x7A08455c-10#tab-2

Thanks everyone, hope everyone has a great weekend and remember to call Mom on Sunday….

-Bill Pritchard

 

Weekly Market Review – C and S Fund Continue

 

Hello Folks

Hope everyone is doing well…you have every reason to be pleased if your TSP Allocation currently reflects any combination of C/S/I-Funds, as all have done very well during the last two weeks.   As a matter of fact, the Dow Jones Index (only 30 large cap stocks, FYI…) just posted its largest weekly gain in over a month.

My decision on March 29 to change my TSP fund allocations and contributions to 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund appears (so far…) to have been the correct decision.  The market declined very slightly immediately after March 29, which invited some “fan mail” regarding my decision to return to the markets.

However this slight decline simply meant that my fund change resulted in a re-entry to the markets at a “cheaper price”.   Observe that my decision on March 29 was based on months of analysis and monitoring the market’s behavior, since August 2015.

On April 13, the SP-500 Index “gapped up” (explained here before, also explained at this link here ), on higher volume than the previous day.  A gap-up, on high volume, is extremely positive and is akin to a huge splash in a small pond when an elephant jumps in.  Lets take a look at that action:

SP500-04-15-2016-BSP500-04-15-2016-B-comments
The index then traded higher the next day on April 14, and hit 2087.84, which is the highest level since December 7, 2015; this is definitely a positive sign.   See longer range chart below:

SP-500-04-15-2016-ATH

To back up my chart analysis, I have consulted other resources and I am pleased to see that the good folks over at Investors Business Daily report that the Accumulation/Distribution grade in the markets are “B” (A is best), which is an improvement over the prior 30-60 days, reflecting that institutions are coming back into the markets.  Volume action is still lower overall, however the price action is trending upward, so for now, I am pleased with the market’s behavior.

A factor behind this uptrend, is rising Crude Oil prices, currently priced in the $40 range, much higher than prior levels, and getting closer to the $50-55 level which most feel is the “sweet spot” for oil companies to be profitable again, yet not so high as to trigger high-priced gasoline for the retail customer (mom and dad) at the pump.  Even $45 would be a good level to seek and stabilize at.  Lets take a look at a chart of Crude Oil:

CRUDE-OIL-04-15-2016

As can be seen, since February, the price has recovered, albeit not without a slight downtrend in late March.

In my opinion, there are no major challenges for the markets at the present time.  We are indeed in earnings season, but I don’t get too wrapped around the axle about “earnings season” because the way I see it, all year is earnings season.  The next FOMC meeting with a public announcement by Chair Janet Yellen will be June 15, a rate hike may or may not be announced or discussed.

In sum, the markets have done very well since my decision to return to stock funds- my TSP reflects 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund.

Thank You and have a great weekend everybody

-Bill Pritchard

 

Return to S-Fund and C-Fund

Hello Folks

I am happy to report that I am exiting the G-Fund and returning to the stock funds, more specifically 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund, via interfund transfer and a contribution allocation reflecting this percentage (FAQ #10).   Small Cap stocks (S-Fund) have performed very well in recent weeks, however it is probable that Large Caps (C-Fund) will also be responding well, thus I am getting some exposure to both funds.

Recent market action reflects a growing uptrend, on lackluster volume, however the market volume picked up the afternoon of 03-29-16, after FOMC Chairwoman Yellen spoke regarding her assessments of the economy.  In addition, the SP-500 futures trading during the evening hours of 03-29-16, broke to a new recent All-Time-High, reflecting positive sentiment in the evening hours.  See chart:

SP-500-FUTURES-03-29-16

This return to stock funds is a welcome event, nobody enjoys sitting on the beach while everyone else is out in the ocean playing in the waves and enjoying their surfboards.  However I believe the continued position in G-Fund will cause me to miss future gains, and that the market environment is indeed much less risky than 60-90 days ago.   At some point, we can’t “risk assess” ourselves out of existence, at some point we have to get out of bed, and go out into the world and face whatever obstacles come across our path.  There are only so many factors one can control, or influence.  Based on my review of the chart action, the improving volume action, and the Accumulation/Distribution activity in the indexes, I feel that the threat level is much reduced, and a return to stock funds is justified.   Just FYI that things may go south, depending on how the elections go.  Let’s stay alert and aware.

Again, I will be 50% S-Fund and 50% C-Fund.   Any TSP changes submitted by COB on Wednesday should take effect by Friday evening.  If the market dips slightly over the next few days, that is fine, you are entering while it is slightly down.   Remember, we are looking at long-term behavior (note that I have been in G-Fund since August) in the markets, not one-day or even one-week cycles.   This serves as partial explanation as to why I only post every week to two weeks.

Thank you for reading, hope everyone is doing well.   Have a great week

-Bill Pritchard

G-Fund Continues / Confirmation Bias

 

Hello Everybody

Thank you for the various messages and emails, let me say that if anyone wants to be out of G-Fund, it is me.  However for a variety of reasons, I remain 100% G-Fund.   Allow me to explain.

Since the apparent finding-of-support on Feb-11 at 1810 area by the SP-500 Index (see chart), the index has climbed upward, almost on a daily basis.  “Let’s get back in, we are missing gains” is often mentioned (typically via strongly phrased email!)   Well, while technically correct, yes the indexes have gone up, getting back in carries additional risk of being creamed if the markets go south, as the volume levels since Feb-11 have not been anything (in my opinion) to help protect against downside moves.   Let’s look at a chart, as pictures are worth a thousand words, and sometimes my words are clear as mud.

SP500-03-15-2016-comments

As can be seen, volumes are below average, with the exception of Friday March 4, which was slightly above average, and which was discussed in my post dated Monday March 7, in which I shared my observations regarding the prior week.    If you take a look at the red box, above, this reflects volume action since my March 7 post, you can see that it is below average.

In my self-assessment, I determined that in our hunger for an uptrend, in our desperation to exit the G-Fund, that confirmation bias is happening, and the financial media is suffering from this also.  Confirmation Bias describes our tendency to seek out and trust information that confirms what we already think or believe or want to believe, and to avoid or discount information that goes against what we believe or want to believe.  Imagine driving down a strange road at night, and your co-pilot (possibly a spouse) has reminded you numerous times that you indeed seem lost and unable to find the correct street.  Your IQ, vision, and decision to even get married have been mentioned by your co-pilot, as you haplessly navigate the dark neighborhood.  Soon, your headlights illuminate a green street reflective street sign, and, surprise, you activate the turn signal and announce that “this is the street.”   Sadly, it was not the correct street, and your spouse is even more vocal.   Another example is the airplane pilot, attempting to land at night on a foggy runway, he sees streetlights and starts to descend to land, only to crash the airplane due to mistaking the street for the runway.

Folks, I don’t want to fall victim to this, and continue to remain in G-Fund.  I sheepishly admit that I partially indeed had some confimation bias, but a little cold water on my face and “stepping back” and disconnecting from all the stimuli has put a stop to it.  You and I both want to be out of G-Fund, but me personally, not yet.    I believe that the FOMC Meeting, due to conclude on March-16, and Crude Oil prices, are the market’s challenges right now.   Crude Oil, previously close to $39, has backed away from that, returning to the $36 area.  See chart:

CRUDE-03-15-2016

In addition, the good folks over at Investors Business Daily are reporting five (5) Distribution Days on the NASDAQ index.   Research has shown that four to seven Distribution Days within multiple weeks is a negative sign and typically will put a stop to any new uptrends.

As anyone who is not living in a cave knows, the evening of March 15 witnessed the results of the most recent voting.  I won’t get into politics here, but the below chart reflect the SP-500 futures (which trade overnight) and their reaction once the results were in, regarding the voting (they reversed).

SP500-futures-03-15-16 SP500-futures-03-15-16-comments

The reader will be pleased to know that my oft-unintelligible rantings are about to conclude.   In summary, the volume just is not there, and we are in a dangerous situation because volume is the legs that keep the table off the floor.   Weak legs and the table can topple over.  I hesitate to jump back onto the table yet.   100% G-Fund for me until further advised.   Watch that confirmation bias.   And always bring a GPS.

Talk to you soon…

-Bill Pritchard

 

Impressive Market Performance – “Out of the Holster”

 

Hello Folks

I am happy to report that the markets did pretty darn well last week, with the SP 500 breaking the important 1950 level.   However, volume could have been stronger, but was not weak, per-se.   I however would prefer some additional volume above its average volume, just as a confirmation sign that “the move” (the price movement of the index) is indeed real.   Lets look at some charts:

SP-500-03-04-2016SP-500-03-04-2016-comments

March 4 volume indeed was above average, but very slightly.

Unfortunately, the markets remain married to the price of Crude Oil, which is now trading at $36 per barrel, depicted on the chart below:

CRUDE-OIL-03-06-2016

I say “unfortunately” because right now, whatever Crude does, the stock market will do, which means our TSP stock funds and the US stock market is unfortunately at the mercy of oil ministers in the middle east, and will respond to whatever public comments those oil ministers decide to make for radio and TV broadcast.  In US-based news, on Friday March-4, the “Jobs Report” was released by the Department of Labor, reflecting a 4.9% unemployment rate in February.   This rate is very good, which could prompt a return to “Good News is Bad News” thinking, as a strengthening economy, reflected by numerous indicators (the Jobs Report is one), may signal to the FOMC that interest rate hikes should continue on schedule.  Rate hikes tend to dampen stock markets.   However, by all appearances, the markets “liked” the Jobs Report and rallied higher.

Some important events will happen this month, on March 10 the European Central Bank (ECB) will have a meeting to discuss their fiscal stimulus efforts in the region.  Any plans for additional stimulus will likely be positive for the markets, at least in the short term.  Additionally, there is an FOMC Meeting on March 15-16, no doubt that rate hikes will be at least discussed, whether rates are actioned-on is another story.

In summary, we have 1950 penetrated, but I would like the volume to improve.  No, I am not going to wait ten more years for the volume.   I remain 100% G-Fund, however to put this into language we all understand, last week’s action has caused me to come out of the holster, and into a ready position, with my finger resting near the S/C Fund trigger guard.

Thank you for reading and talk to you soon…

-Bill Pritchard

1950 Breached on weak Volume

 

Hello Everyone

On Feb-25, the SP-500 broke the previously discussed 1950 level, hitting 1951.83, before closing at 1951.70, however volume was lackluster… below the average trading volume and less than the prior day’s volume.   As many readers know, volume is the horsepower behind the move.   Please see charts:

SP-500-2-25-16SP-500-2-25-16-comments

While I celebrate the fact that we broke thru 1950, I am less than celebratory regarding the volume.  As such, I remain cautious and will not be making any moves out of G-Fund until I see volume pick up.  As discussed in my prior post, we need to break above 1950 (we did that), and we need volume (we don’t have that), to sustain any new trend change.

All of this, (surprise) is tied to crude oil movement.   I heard someone the other day mention that whether we know it or not, we are all “oil traders” now.  I agree with that assessment, as every time that crude oil makes a move, the stock investor is affected.   Another factor (yet another shocker) is that reports of a slowing Global economy, and slowdown in China, are impacting our markets.

Let’s continue to monitor things, volume in particular.   To demonstrate what “strong volume” looks like, take a look at the below March 2003 chart of the SP-500, in which the NASDAQ-bear market (2000-2003) finally reversed itself.  Compare this chart to the above charts:

SP-500-2003-comments

Clearly the above 2003 volume is not what we are seeing right now.  The catalyst and trigger event for this volume was the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by US military forces.   Yes, a pretty big catalyst.  The above 2003 chart, when I saw that, I couldn’t get out of G-Fund fast enough.  Back then, this site did not exist, and my TSP analysis was via a Yahoo email list, sent to about 20 of my co-workers. 

Back to the future, or at least to the present.  Right now, I am 100% G-Fund and still sitting tight.   Everybody have a great weekend and talk to you in a week or two, as we continue to watch things.  Thank you for reading !

-Bill Pritchard

 

Positive Signs shown in Indexes

Hello Everybody

Well, for the first time, in a long time, the indexes are showing some signs of life, and a desire to establish a new direction.   Unfortunately volume is “not there yet” but it indeed is trying.  This action was fueled by two things, a slight rise in Crude Oil prices, now at $33 per barrel, off its prior lows of sub-$30.  This rise was fueled (no pun intended) by news that some OPEC nations will not increase production, and this resulted in a price increase.  In my opinion this price rise is temporary, and we may see a return to $30 or sub-$30 in the near future.  In addition, the January 26-27 FOMC Meeting minutes were released, the notes are reflective of an FOMC that is wary of raising interest rates.  I personally believe (my opinion…) this could be called “FOMC in an election year”, however the language and phraseology will obviously reflect economic reasons, not political, for hitting pause on further rate hikes.   Again, my opinion.   I think (and many others do also…) that the time has come to resume slight interest rate hikes, as the economic data indeed is much improved since as recent as 12 months ago.

Lets take a look at some charts, first without notations, then one with notations.   Observe we are concerned with the SP 500 Index, and need to keep an eye on the 1950 overhead resistance level, which is determined by me to be important.   The most recent touching of this level was on Jan-13, in which the index hit 1950.33, and then again it came close, on Feb-01, reaching 1947.20.

SP-500-02-17-16SP-500-02-17-16-comments

As can be seen on the charts, for the last three trading sessions, the index has closed higher than the price day, on rising volume.   However, as also can be seen, volume is still basically “average” and not the desired “clear and convincing power and strength” which would be witnessed with volume 25% or more above the average volume.  Trading volume on Feb-17 was slightly above average.  However in light of recent market turmoil, I desire much more powerful volume.

Note that a sudden reversal and positive climb thru 1950, does not automatically mean we have blue skies ahead.   I am cautiously optimistic, if we get both, a penetration of 1950, on strong volume, that would be potential trigger to leave the G-Fund.

I remain 100% G-Fund.   Thank you for reading and talk to you soon.

-Bill Pritchard

 

Feb 11 AM Update – Dow Jones Futures down 300 points

Good Morning

FYI that Dow Jones Futures are trading lower 300 points, largely triggered by a new low price of Crude Oil, now trading at $27.   G-Fund remains an excellent safe haven…I remain 100% G-Fund.

I will submit another post in the near future.  Observe that the US stock markets will be closed on Monday Feb-15.

Thank You

February Starts off Poorly – 100% G-Fund continues

 

Hello Folks

Thanks for the emails, yes I am still here (and always will be….), however I try not to push out email traffic or site updates unless clearly warranted and when something worthwhile needs reporting.   A constant barrage of depressing emails tends to push folks away, so I have held back.  I am trying to allow the New Year to bring something positive to report.  However, we are now into the second month of the year, and February has not started off very well.   The last trading day of January, Jan-29, ended with the Dow positive almost 400 points.   The subsequent high-fives and “we are out of the woods” chanter and applause trickled out of various websites and financial television networks, however one wonders if such chanting is like witchcraft, as the markets reversed lower again.  January TSP fund data reflects that the S-Fund and I-Fund had the worst Year to Date performance.  

My current assessment of things has not changed at all, from my Jan-14 post.

I would like to re-mention that the revolutionary idea (to some) to be in G-Fund to protect your balance is not an idea invented by me, and thus is not something I can trademark, patent, or copyright.   That use of the G-Fund is mentioned by both me (on this website) and on TSP’s own official site, so take a look at my Jan-14 post for additional discussion on that.   “Stay invested” / “keep buying” / “don’t move your money” / “think long term” [what is long term, age 150 years?] is in my opinion a theory pushed out by some money managers (along with their own fancy math and “explanation”) who want your money to stay under their management.  Observe that you will find no such idea anywhere on the official TSP website.   Investment decisions (when I move my funds over to G-Fund, that is a decision) can make or break your retirement.  The Dallas Police and Fire Pension system (a pension plan run by money managers), is suffering bad decisions, what Dallas PD Chief Brown calls:

“….The pension fund is a very serious problem,” he said Tuesday, referring to what Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings calls “the billion-dollar hole” in the middle of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System that pays the city’s retired rescue workers. It’s actually a $1.4-billion-sized hole following years of bad investments and poor management, and the pension fund is in danger of going broke by 2030….”

The importance of good decisions is paramount in regards to our retirement, and each TSP participant should look at himself as their own fund manager, and approach their balance with that mindset.  With that said, lets look at a chart of the SP 500.  Take a look at the horizontal lines I have placed on the chart, our recent overhead resistance and support levels are going to be 1950 (Overhead) and 1870 (Support).

SP500-02-07-16

The indexes have witnessed numerous Distribution Days, with the NASDAQ having four (4) days recently.  Four to Six days will typically send the markets into a resumed downtrend.   Interesting to note is that the folks at Investors Business Daily (I am a paid subscriber) proclaimed that a “Follow-Through Day” (FTD) occurred on Jan-26, long story short, this type of day is symbolic of a potential reversal of a downtrend, and such a declaration could result in some people returning to the stock market and investing their money.    As a paid subscriber, and customer, the customer is always right, and I advised them of my discord:

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 2.57.34 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-07 at 3.02.22 PM

Note that IBD has an excellent reputation overall, but their recent “market calls” have been questionable.  I don’t hesitate to share my opinion with them, via various means, when I disagree.

The challenges remain the same, Crude Oil, China, and Interest Rates, or sub-challenges derived out of those categories.   It should be noted that the most recent Unemployment Rate data reflects the lowest rate in 8 years, 4.9%.   It is my opinion that the FOMC will continue to raise interest rates this year, and not “push pause on additional hikes” as some on Wall Street desire.   This would invite (especially in an election year) criticism that the FOMC, a purported independent body, to be in bed with Wall Street:  FOMC Chairwoman Yellen is a Presidential nominee, and with the fact that one female candidate from the same party is currently facing allegations of highly paid speeches and her own alleged close ties to Wall Street, long story short, interest rate hikes will continue in 2016.   Plus the “data” supports it, great unemployment numbersalong with recent PCE Inflation data reflecting very slight improvement towards the FOMC target of 2%.   Again, in my opinion, interest rate hikes will continue in 2016.

Regarding China, fund manager and multi-billionaire George Soros made some comments on Bloomberg, on Jan-7, strikingly similar to mine (however my TSP balance is a little smaller than Soros’ accounts…), made on Nov-15:

Soros / Jan-7-2016:

“China has a major adjustment problem,” Soros said. “I would say it amounts to a crisis. When I look at the financial markets there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.

Pritchard / Nov-15-2015:

“One big worry I have is “China”- my opinion is China today, is what USA was in 2007.  My opinion is the economic situation in China is very similar to our Sub-Prime mortgage crisis of 2007-2009.  In addition to China’s housing situation, their GDP has slowed to 6.9%, which is below the desired 7% rate, the first time it has been below that level since 2009.”

Crude Oil continues to be a challenge, however it is somewhat married to the other challenges.   A slowing economy in China will result in lower oil consumption, and interest rate hikes (in theory) could result in reduced spending and a desire to increase efficiencies by major corporations.  Don’t let “cheap gas” fool you into thinking that airlines, trucking companies, etc suddenly don’t look at fuel expenses.   These sectors will always seek to maximize fuel savings and are constantly seeking new engine technology, and new strategies, in regards to fuel expenses.

So, are we in a recession yet ?   No, however my opinion is the market is a leading, not lagging indicator, of economic conditions.  As discussed on this site before, go to other sources and listen to other trusted financial experts, all whom believe, like I do, that the stock market is indeed a leading indicator, such as Charles SchwabNew York NYU Stern Business School, Chicago Booth School of Business and the American Institute for Economic Research.

It it is possible that in late 2016, our economy could be declared to be entering a recession.  That word, similar to “fire” in the Movie Theater industry, or the word “sink” in the Cruise Ship industry, is a pretty powerful word, folks in political circles and leadership roles in the financial industry will do everything they can to avoid saying that word.   Just keep in mind that the markets don’t lie, and they always lead.  We may hear that word mentioned in late 2016.  With that said, let’s monitor the 1950/1870 levels on the SP 500.  I remain 100% G-Fund until further advised.

Thank you and talk to you soon.   Please continue to share this site with your friends and coworkers.  Thank you !

-Bill Pritchard