What it Will Take to Get Commodities Moving

I keep seeing headlines about the “imminent” re-emergence of commodities as a viable investment as an asset class.  And as I wrote about here, I mostly agree wholeheartedly that “the worn will turn” at some point in the years ahead, as commodities are historically far undervalued relative to stocks.

The timing of all of this is another story.  Fortunately, it is a fairly short and simple story.  In a nutshell, it goes like this:

*As long as the U.S. Dollar remains strong, don’t bet heavy on commodities.

The End

Well not exactly.

The 2019 Anomaly

The Year 2019 was something of an anomaly as both the U.S. Dollar and precious metals such as gold and silver rallied.  This type of action is most unusual.  Historically gold and silver have had a highly inverse correlation to the dollar.  So, the idea that both the U.S. Dollar AND commodities (including those beyond just precious metals) will continue to rise is not likely correct.

Commodities as an Asset Class

When we are talking “commodities as an asset class” we are talking about more than just metals.  We are also talking about more than just energy products.

The most popular commodity ETFs are DBC and GSG as they are more heavily traded than most others.  And they are fine trading vehicles.  One thing to note is that both (and most other “me too” commodity ETFs) have a heavy concentration in energies.  This is not inappropriate given the reality that most of the industrialized world (despite all the talk of climate change) still runs on traditional fossil fuel-based energy.

But to get a broader picture of “commodities as an asset class” I focus on ticker RJI (ELEMENTS Linked to the Rogers International Commodity Index – Total Return) which diversifies roughly as follows:

Agriculture          40.90%

Energy               24.36%

Industrial Metals 16.67%

Precious Metals    14.23%

Livestock               3.85%

Note that these allocations can change over time, but the point is that RJI has much more exposure beyond the energy class of assets than alot of other commodity ETFs.

RJI vs. the Dollar

As a proxy for the U.S. Dollar we will use ticker UUP (Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund).  Figure 1 displays the % gain/loss for UUP (blue line) versus RJI (orange line) since mid-2008.

Figure 1 – UUP versus RJI; Cumulative Return using weekly closing prices; May-2008-Sep-2019

*Since May of 2008 UUP has gained +17.2%

*Since May of 2008 RJI has lost -60%

The correlation in price action between these two ETFs since 2008 is -0.76 (a correlation of -1.00 means they are perfectly inverse), so clearly there is (typically) a high degree of inverse correlation between the U.S. dollar and “commodities”.

Next, we will apply an indicator that I have dubbed “MACD4010501” (Note to myself: come up with a better name).  The calculations for this indicator will appear at the end of the article (but it is basically a 40-period exponential average minus a 105-period exponential average).  In Figure 2 we see a weekly chart of ticker UUP with this MACD indicator in the top clip and a weekly chart of ticker RJI in the bottom clip.

Figure 2 – UUP with Jay’s MACD Indicator versus ticker RJI (courtesy WinWayCharts )

Interpretation is simple:

*when the MACD indicator applied to UUP is declining, this is bullish for RJI

*when the MACD indicator applied to UUP is rising, this is bearish for RJI.

Figure 3 displays the growth of equity achieved by holding RJI (using weekly closing price data) when the UUP MACD Indicator is declining (i.e., RJI is bullish blue line in Figure 3) versus when the UUP MACD Indicator is rising (i.e., RJI is bearish orange line in Figure 3).

Figure 3 – RJI cumulative performance based on whether MACD indicator for ticker UUP is falling (bullish for RJI) of rising (bearish for RJI)

In sum:

*RJI gained +45.8% when the UUP MACD indicator was falling

*RJI lost -72.3% when the UUP MACD indicator was rising

The bottom line is that RJI rarely makes much upside headway when the UUP MACD Indicator is rising (i.e., is bearish for RJI).

Summary

Commodities as an asset class are extremely undervalued on a historical basis compared to stocks.  However, the important thing to remember is that “the worm is unlikely to turn” as long as the U.S. Dollar remains strong.

So, keep an eye on the U.S. Dollar for signs of weakness.  That will be your sign that the time may be coming for commodities.

FYI: Code for Jay’s MACD4010501 Indicator (WinWayCharts TradingExpert EDS)

The indicator is essentially a 40-period exponential average minus a 105-period exponential average as shown below:

Define ss3 40.

Define L3 105.

ShortMACDMA3 is expavg([Close],ss3)*100.

LongMACDMA3 is expavg([Close],L3)*100.

MACD4010501 is ShortMACDMA3-LongMACDMA3.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer: The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and are based on research conducted and presented solely by the author.  The information presented does not represent the views of the author only and does not constitute a complete description of any investment service.  In addition, nothing presented herein should be construed as investment advice, as an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or as an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While the data is believed to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  International investments are subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, political instability and the potential for illiquid markets.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  There is risk of loss in all trading.  Back tested performance does not represent actual performance and should not be interpreted as an indication of such performance.  Also, back tested performance results have certain inherent limitations and differs from actual performance because it is achieved with the benefit of hindsight.

Keep a Close Eye on the U.S. Dollar

As the primary currency recognized around the globe, the U.S. Dollar is pretty important.  And the trend of the dollar is pretty important also.  While a strong dollar is good in terms of attracting capital to U.S. shores, it makes it more difficult for U.S. firms that export goods.  One might argue that a “steady” dollar is generally preferable to a very strong or very weak dollar.

Speaking of the trend of the dollar, a lot of things move inversely to the dollar.  In fact, one can typically argue that as long as the dollar is strong, certain “assets” will struggle to make major advances.  These include – commodities in general, metals specifically, foreign currencies (obviously) and international bonds (strongly).

Let’s first take a look at the state of the dollar.

Ticker UUP

For our purposes we will use the ETF ticker UUP ( Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund) to track the U.S. Dollar.  Figure 1 displays a monthly chart and suggests that UUP just ran into – and reversed at least for now – in a significant zone of resistance.

Figure 1 – UUP Monthly (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

Figure 2 displays a weekly chart which suggests the possibility that UUP has completed a 5-wave advance.

Figure 2 – UUP Weekly (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

Figure 3 displays a daily chart and paints a more potentially bullish picture, looking for a 5th Wave up.

Figure 3 – UUP Daily (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

Which way will things go?  It beats me.  But I for one will be keeping a close eye on UUP versus the resistance levels highlighted in Figures 1 and 2.  So will traders of numerous other securities.

Inverse to the Buck

Figure 4 displays the 4-year weekly correlation for 5 ETFs to ticker UUP (a correlation of 1000 means they trade exactly the same a UUP and a correlation of -1000 means they trade exactly inversely to UUP).

Figure 4 – 4-Year Correlation to ticker UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

In the following charts, note the inverse relationship between the dollar (UUP on the bottom) and the security in the top chart. When the dollar goes way down they tend to go way up – and vice versa.

Note also that in the last year several of these securities went up at the same time the dollar did. This is a historical anomaly and should not be expected to continue indefinitely.

Figure 5 – Ticker DBC (Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund) vs. UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Figure 6 – Ticker SLV (iShares Silver Trust) vs. UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Figure 7 – Ticker GLD (SPDR Gold Shares) vs. UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Figure 8 – Ticker BWX (SPDR Bloomberg Barclays International Treasury Bond) vs. UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Figure 9 – Ticker IBND (SPDR Bloomberg Barclays International Corporate Bond) vs. UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Figure 10 – Ticker FXE (Invesco CurrencyShares Euro Currency Trust) vs UUP (Courtesy WInWayCharts)

Summary

If the dollar fails to break out of it’s recent resistance area and actually begins to decline then commodities, currencies, metals and international stocks and bonds will gain a favorable headwind. How it all actually plays out, however, remains to be seen.

So keep an eye on the buck. Alot is riding on it – whichever way it goes.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Yes, the Stock Market is at a Critical Juncture (and What to Do About It)

As usual, you can pretty much see whatever you want to see in today’s stock market.  Consider the major indexes in Figure 1, displayed along with their respective 200-day moving averages.

Figure 1 – Major Indexes (Courtesy WinWayCharts.com)

If you “want to” be bullish, you can focus on the fact that all 4 of these major indexes are presently above their respective 200-day moving averages.  This essentially defines an “uptrend”; hence you can make a bullish argument.

If you want to be “bearish”, you can focus on the “choppy” nature of the market’s performance and the fact that very little headway has been made since the highs in early 2018.  This “looks like” a classic “topping pattern” (i.e., a lot of “churning”), hence you can make a bearish argument.

To add more intrigue, consider the 4 “market bellwethers” displayed in Figure 2.

Figure 2 – Jay’s Market Bellwethers (Courtesy WinWayCharts.com)

(NOTE: Previously I had Sotheby’s Holdings – ticker BID – as one my bellwethers.  As they are being bought out, I have replaced it with the Value Line Arithmetic Index, which has a history of topping and bottoming prior to the major indexes)

The action here is much more mixed and muddled.

*SMH – for any “early warning” sign keep a close eye on the semiconductors.  If they breakout to a new high they could lead the overall market higher. If they breakdown from a double top the market will likely be spooked.

*TRAN – The Dow Transports topped out over a year ago and have been flopping around aimlessly in a narrowing range.  Not exactly a bullish sign, but deemed OK as long as price holds above the 200-day moving average.

*ZIV – Inverse VIX is presently below it’s 200-day moving average, so this one qualifies as “bearish” at the moment.

*VAL-I – The Value Line Index is comprised of 1,675 stocks and gives each stock equal weight, so is a good measure of the “overall” market.  It presently sits right at its 200-day moving average, however – as you can see in Figure 3 – it is presently telling a different story than the S&P 500 Index.

Figure 3 – S&P 500 trending slightly higher, Value Line unweighted index trending lower (Courtesy WinWayCharts.com)

The Bottom Line

OK, now here is where a skilled market analyst would launch into an argument regarding which side will actually “win”, accompanied by roughly 5 to 50 “compelling charts” that “clearly show” why the analysts’ said opinion was sure to work out correctly.  Alas, there is no one here like that.

If the question is, “will the stock market break out to the upside and run to sharply higher new highs or will it break down without breaking out to new highs?”, I sadly must default to my standard answer of, “It beats me.”

Here is what I can tell you though.  Instead of relying on “somebody’s opinion or prediction” a much better bet is to formulate and follow an investment plan that spells out:

*What you will (and will not) invest in?

*How much capital you will allocate to each position?

*How much risk you are willing to take with each position?

*What will cause you to exit with a profit?

*What will cause you to exit with a loss?

*Will you have some overarching “trigger” to cause you to reduce overall exposure?

*And so on and so forth

If you have specific answers for the questions above (you DO have specific answers, don’t you?) then the correct thing to do is to go ahead and follow your plan and ignore the myriad prognostications that attempt to sway you one way or the other.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Where We Are

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was this: “Don’t tell the market what it’s supposed to do, let the market tell you what you’re supposed to do.”

That is profound.  And it really makes me wish I could remember the name of the guy who said it.  Sorry dude.  Anyway, whoever and wherever you are, thank you Sir.

Think about it for a moment.  Consider all the “forecasts”, “predictions” and “guides” to “what is next for the stock market” that you have heard during the time that you’ve followed the financial markets.  Now consider how many of those actually turned out to be correct.  Chances are the percentage is fairly low.

So how do you “let the market tell you what to do?”  Well, like everything else, there are lots of different ways to do it.  Let’s consider a small sampling.

Basic Trend-Following

Figure 1 displays the Dow Industrials, the Nasdaq 100, the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 clockwise form the upper left.  Each displays a 200-day moving average and an overhead resistance point.

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Figure 1 – Dow/NDX/SPX/RUT (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

The goal is to move back above the resistance points and extend the bull market.  But the real key is for them to remain in an “uptrend”, i.e.,:

*Price above 200-day MA = GOOD

*Price below 200-day MA = BAD

Here is the tricky part.  As you can see, a simple cross of the 200-day moving average for any index may or may not be a harbinger of trouble.  That is, there is nothing “magic” about any moving average.  In a perfect world we would state that: “A warning sign occurs when the majority of indexes drop below their respective 200-day moving average.”

Yet in both October 2018 and May 2019 all four indexes dropped below their MA’s and still the world did not fall apart, and we did not plunge into a major bear market.  And as we sit, all four indexes are now back above their MA’s.  So, what’s the moral of the story?  Simple – two things:

  1. The fact remains that major bear markets (i.e., the 1 to 3 year -30% or more variety) unfold with all the major averages below their 200-day moving averages.  So, it is important to continue to pay attention.
  2. Whipsaws are a fact of life when it comes to moving averages.

The problem then is that #2 causes a lot of investors to forget or simply dismiss #1.

Here is my advice: Don’t be one of those people.  While a drop below a specific moving average by most or all the indexes may not mean “SELL EVERYTHING” now, it will ultimately mean “SEEK SHELTER” eventually as the next major bear market unfolds.  That is not a “prediction”, that is simply math.

The Bellwethers

I have written in the past about several tickers that I like to track for “clues” about the overall market.  Once again, nothing “magic” about these tickers, but they do have a history of topping out before the major averages prior to bear markets.  So, what are they saying?  See Figure 2.

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Figure 2 – SMH/Dow Transports/ZIV/BID (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

The bellwethers don’t look great overall.

SMH (semiconductor ETF): Experienced a false breakout to new highs in April, then plunged.  Typically, not a good sign, but it has stabilized for now and is now back above its 200-day MA.

Dow Transports: On a “classic” technical analysis basis, this is an “ugly chart.” Major overhead resistance, not even an attempt to test that resistance since the top last September and price currently below the 200-day MA.

ZIV (inverse VIX ETF): Well below it’s all-time high (albeit well above its key support level), slightly above it’s 200-day MA and sort of seems to be trapped in a range.  Doesn’t necessarily scream “SELL”, but the point is it is not suggesting bullish things for the market at the moment.

BID (Sotheby’s – which holds high-end auctions): Just ugly until a buyout offer just appeared.  Looks like this bellwether will be going away.

No one should take any action based solely on the action of these bellwethers.  But the main thing to note is that these “key” (at least in my market-addled mind) things is that they are intended to be a “look behind the curtain”:

*If the bellwethers are exuding strength overall = GOOD

*If the bellwethers are not exuding strength overall = BAD (or at least not “GOOD”)

A Longer-Term Trend-Following Method

In this article I detailed a longer-term trend-following method that was inspired by an article written by famed investor and Forbes columnist Ken Fisher.  The gist is that a top is not formed until the S&P 500 Index goes three calendar months without making a new high.  It made a new high in May, so the earliest this method could trigger an “alert” would be the end of August (assuming the S&P 500 Index does NOT trade above it’s May high in the interim.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Trend-Following in One Minute a Month (A Quick Update)

This article is intended to be a quick update to this article.  The original idea is based on the theory propounded by Ken Fischer that suggests that one should not worry about a “top” in the stock market until after the market goes at least 3 months without making a new high.

Three things to note:

*Like all trend-following methods the one detailed in the linked article will experience an occasional whipsaw, i.e., a sell signal at one price followed some time later by a new buy signal with the market at a higher price.

*Like any good trend-following method the real purpose is to help you avoid some significant portion of any major longer-term bear market, i.e., 1973-74, 2000-2002, 2007-2009).

*The secondary purpose is to relieve an investor of that constant “Is this the top, wait, what about this this, this looks like the top, OK never mind, but this, this time it definitely has to be the top” syndrome.

The Rules

For a full explanation of the rules please read the linked article.  In general, though:

*A “Sell alert” occurs when the market makes a 6-month high, then goes 3 full calendar months without piercing that high

*The “trigger” price is the lowest low for the 3 months following the previous high

*A “Sell signal” occurs at the end of the month IF the “trigger” price is pierced to the downside during the current month

*The “trigger” is no longer valid if the S&P 500 makes a high above the high for the previous 6 months prior to an actual “Sell signal”

*If a “Sell signal” occurs then a new “Buy signal” occurs when the S&P 500 makes a high above the high for the previous 6 months

Sounds complicated, but its’s not.  Figure 1 displays the signals and alerts and trigger prices since 2005.

Green Arrows = Buy Signal

Red Arrows = Sell Signal

Red horizontal lines = Sell trigger price

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Figure 1 – One Minute a Month Trend-Following Alerts, Trigger prices and Signals (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

Note that actual sell signals occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2015.  The signal in 2008 was a life-saver, while the signals in 2011 and 2015 resulted in small whipsaws.  Sorry folks, that’s just the nature of the beast.

Interestingly, there have been two “Sell alerts” in the last year.  The first occurred at the end of April 2018, however, that alert was invalidated at the end of August 2018 when the S&P 500 pierced the previous 6-month high.  Another alert occurred at the end of December 2018.  The “Trigger price” is the December 2018 low of 2346.58.  That trigger is still active but could be invalidated if the month of May 2019 makes a high above whatever the high for April 2019 turns out to be.

The key point here is that despite the volatility and painful sell-offs in October and December of 2018, the “system” has remained on a buy signal.

Where to from here?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Utilities at the Crossroads

A lot of eyes are firmly fixed on Utilities at the moment.  And for good reason.  As you can see in Figure 1, the Dow Jones Utilities Average is presently facing a key resistance level.  If it breaks out above the likelihood of a good seasonal rally (more in a moment) increases significantly.

 

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Figure 1 – Utilities and resistance (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

One concern may be the fact that a 5-wave Elliott Wave advance appears to possibly have about run its course (according to the algorithmically drawn wave count from ProfitSource by HUBB which I use).  See Figure 2.

 

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Figure 2 – Utilities and Elliott Wave (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

For what it is worth, the March through July timeframe is “typically” favorable for utilities.  Figure 3 displays the growth of $1,000 invested in the Fidelity Select Sector Utilities fund (ticker FSUTX) ONLY during the months of March through July each year starting in 1982.

 

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Figure 3 – Growth of $1,000 invested in ticker FSUTX Mar-Jul every year (1982-2018)

For the record:

*# times UP = 29 (78%)

*# times DOWN = 8 (22%)

*Average UP = +9.3%

*Average DOWN = (-5.8%)

*Largest UP = +21.1% (1989)

*Largest DOWN = (-25.8%) (2002)

*Solid performance but obviously by no means nowhere close to “a sure thing”.

*It should be noted that several of the “Down” years occurred when the S&P 500 was already in a pretty clearly established downtrend (2001, 2002 and 2008), i.e., below its 10-month moving average.  See Figure 4.

 

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Figure 4 – S&P 500 Index w/10-month moving average (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

Summary

Utilities are flirting with new all-time highs and March through July is a “seasonally bullish” period for utilities.  Does that mean “happy days are here again, and we should all be piling into utilities?  Yeah, isn’t that always the thing about the markets?  There is rarely a 100% clear indication for anything.

As always, my “prediction” about what will happen next in utilities is irrelevant and I am NOT pounding the table urging you to pile in.  But I can tell you what I am watching closely at the moment:

*The S&P 500 Index is flirting right around its 10-month moving average (roughly 2,752 on the S&P 500 Index).  If it starts to break down from there then perhaps 2019 may not pan out so well for utilities.

*The Dow Jones Utility Average is facing a serious test of resistance and may run out of steam (according to Elliott Wave).

*But a breakout to the upside could well clear the decks for utilities to be a market leader for the next several months

Focus people, focus.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.