Lombardi: Stock Market Commentary & Forecasts, Financial & Economic Analysis Since 1986

Key Stock Indices

Key stock indices are the main barometers of the market’s health. The key stock indices are the ones that most investors pay attention to when trying to understand where the market stands. For the U.S., the key stock indices include the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. But the key stock indices can also include sub-groups that are crucial to a healthy market, such as the Dow Jones Transportation Index. In every country, there are key stock indices that one can follow to better understand the health of that country’s market.

What the Fear Index Is Telling Us About Stocks Now

By for Profit Confidential

Why This Stock Market Rout Is Here to StayOver the past few months, I warned my readers the stock market had become a risky place to be. While I also suggested euphoria could bring the market higher than most thought possible—to the point of irrationality—the bubble has now burst. Key stock indices are falling and fear among investors is rising quickly.

Please look at the chart below of the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX). This index is often referred to as the “fear index” for key stock indices. If this index rises, it means investors fear a market sell-off. If it declines, investors are complacent and not worried about the stock market falling.

Volatility Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

In just the last 18 trading days (between September 19 and October 15), the VIX has jumped 122% and now stands at the highest level since mid-2012. It has also moved way beyond its 50-day and 200-day moving averages, which shows strength and momentum to the upside from a technical perspective.

Sadly, the VIX isn’t the only indicator telling us that investors don’t want to be in the stock market. Below you’ll find the NAAIM Exposure Index chart, a measure of equity exposure of active money managers (the so-called smart money).

NAAM Exposuer Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Active money managers continue to reduce their exposure to equities as key stock indices fall. On September 2, 82% of their collective portfolios were exposed to the stock market. Now, it’s only 33%. This represents a decline of 60% in their equity market exposure.

On the fundamental front, the stock market is constrained as well. Each day, we are seeing deteriorating economic data … Read More

Why Stock Prices Will Continue to Fall

By for Profit Confidential

Stock Prices Will Continue to FallNow that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 1,035 points (six percent) from its mid-September peak, the question investors are asking is “how far will she go?” For small-cap investors, the drama is greater, as the Russell 2000 Index has fallen 12.5% from its July peak.

Since 2009, every market pullback presented investors with an opportunity to get back into stocks at discounted prices. Even some editors here at Lombardi Publishing Corporation see the recent pullback in stocks as an opportunity.

But what happens if it is different this time? How about if stocks just keep falling?

If you have been a long-term follower of my column, you know I have been adamant about an economic slowdown in the global economy.

And let’s face it: the American stock markets have been addicted to the easy money policies of the Federal Reserve, namely money printing and record-low interest rates. But that is all coming to an end now. The Fed will be out of the money printing business soon and it has warned us on several occasions that interest rates will need to rise.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now (or should I say, is finally) warning about an economic slowdown in the global economy. In its most recent global growth forecast, the IMF said, “With weaker-than-expected global growth for the first half of 2014 and increased downside risks, the projected pickup in growth may again fail to materialize or fall short of expectation.” The IMF also said the global economy may never see the kind of expansion it experienced prior to the financial crisis. (Source: “IMF says economic … Read More

Why Stock Buybacks Will End Up Being a Terrible Investment for Companies

By for Profit Confidential

Great Stock Buyback MirageIn these pages, I have been very critical about stock buybacks by companies on the key stock indices. I see them as nothing more than a form of financial engineering used to manipulate per-share corporate earnings…and a bad investment for the companies buying their stocks back.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg and the S&P Dow Jones Indices, companies on the key stock indices are expected to spend $914 billion on share buybacks and dividends this year. Looking at it from their corporate earnings perspective, public companies will be paying out 95% of what they earn. (Source: Bloomberg, October 6, 2014.) Look at it this way: for every $100.00 of corporate earnings, they are paying out $95.00.

Almost $2.0 trillion has been spent by public companies on stock buybacks since 2009.

When companies increase buybacks, all else unchanged, they show an increase in their per-share corporate earnings. Some of the biggest names in key stock indices are doing this. FedEx Corporation (NYSE/FDX) was able to increase its per-share corporate earnings by seven percent, almost all directly related to its stock buyback program (reducing the amount of shares it has outstanding).

Why do I think stock buybacks are bad?

Over the past few years, companies on the key stock indices, by buying their own shares back and removing them from the market, have created a mirage that business is good because their stock prices are rising.

But business isn’t better. If the S&P 500 companies are spending 95% of their corporate earnings on share buybacks and dividends, it means they are spending very few dollars on growing their business.

According to … Read More

What the Smart Money Is Doing Now

By for Profit Confidential

Smart MoneyAccording to the Investment Company Institute, assets in institutional money market funds increased $17.19 billion to $1.69 trillion for the week ended on September 24, 2014. This was the biggest weekly increase in these money market funds in the last five months. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed October 1, 2014.)

This is critical: when institutional investors sense the risk of a stock market sell-off in key stock indices, they tend to move their assets into highly liquid money market funds.

The sudden rush of institutional money into money market funds correlates with the National Association of Active Investment Mangers (NAAIM) Exposure Index below. It shows a clear decline in the amount of stocks active investment managers are holding in their portfolios.

NAAIM Exposure Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

Since late 2014, we’ve seen investment managers reducing their exposure to key stock indices. While they were fully invested in early 2014, we see investment managers are only 59.76% invested in stocks right now. Is it just an anomaly they are selling stocks when money market funds are seeing an influx of cash? I hardly think so.

Finally, let’s look at small-cap stocks, as they are facing severe scrutiny. Key stock indices like the Russell 2000 that track the performance of small-caps are plunging. The Russell 2000 is now down more than 10% since it made new highs in March of 2014. This small-cap index has now broken down below its long-term uptrend, as illustrated in the chart below.

Russell 2000 Small Cap Index Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

(Let’s remember that the trend is your friend—until it’s broken.)

Dear reader, all of this should be nothing new … Read More

Stock Market: Four New Warning Signs Emerge

By for Profit Confidential

New Warning Signs EmergeAccording to the Investment Company Institute, investors have been taking money out of U.S. equity funds since April of this year.

Between April and July of 2014, investors pulled $32.0 billion from long-term stock market mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks. While August’s monthly figures are not available, looking at weekly data, it appears investors ran away from the stock market in August as well. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed September 16, 2014.)

How does a stock market rise when investors are selling? Well, there is a bigger anomaly in the stock market you need to be aware of.

Another indicator is suggesting investors are scared about the stock market. The yields on long-term U.S. bonds have been declining since March despite the Federal Reserve’s prediction that interest rates are to rise sharply next year and in 2016.

30-Year T-Bond Yield Chart

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

As the chart above shows, yields on long-term U.S. bonds continue to go lower. Again, this is on the backdrop of the Fed getting out of the money printing business (and warning investors that interest rates are going to rise).

U.S. bonds have historically gone down when the Fed has told us interest rates are going to rise. But the fear of higher rates (and lower bond prices) is overwhelmed by the strong demand for U.S. bonds, as scared stock market investors jump into U.S. bonds—where they believe their money will be safe.

There are definite cracks starting to show in the stock market. While we hear and read about the main indices moving higher, there are fewer and fewer companies reaching new price … Read More

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