The short term LAMPP is slightly in red territory, but the market keeps rising. What’s up with that?
The LAMPP didn’t change much last week, remaining red for the short term and still green on the long-term indicator. The red signal for the short term is not an exact timing indicator. It does tell us, however, that the market is ripe for a decline. For the time being, liquidity flowing from other sources, such as foreign capital inflows, continue to drive stock price inflation.
That is a common feature of the late stages of a bull run. I call it residual momentum. We have been indoctrinated to buy dips and chase rallies. There’s never a price to be paid for that behavior. So we keep buying until the cash runs out.
That could happen soon. A huge amount of new Treasury debt will hit the market this month. In fact, $40 billion in net new supply was issued on Friday and another $8 billion is being issued on Monday. That has caused some indigestion in the bond market. But stock buyers covered their eyes and sing “Tra-la-la” at the top of their lungs. They don’t want to hear any bad news.
This kind of denial is a hallmark of an end stage bull market.
Furthermore the supply problem will only get worse throughout October. The Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) forecast calls for around $140 billion in new supply to hit the market this month. The actual total may vary because the committee got a head start on lifting the debt ceiling with the deal coming early in September. But supply should still be gargantuan. That will suck a lot of cash out of the pool of money that drives demand for both stocks and bonds.
That will keep the Short Term LAMPP on red and push the Long Term LAMPP toward red.
The Short Term LAMPP could appear to be wrong for awhile, but do not be seduced by the fact that the market is still going up. The Fed is no longer supporting this market.
And rule number one of investing is, “Don’t fight the Fed!”
Starting this month, the Fed will no longer be there to help absorb new supply. It will now all be up to private investors.
The Primary Dealers Are Going on a “Starvation Diet” Soon
The Fed’s program of “normalization,” which is a euphemism for getting rid of assets and siphoning funds from the banking system, starts very slowly. Its effects will probably be too small to be materially bearish for the first 3 months, while stock market players are still drinking the Kool Aid.
But the Fed will ratchet up its withdrawals. They withdraw $10 billion per month for the first 3 months. Then they increase that by $10 billion a month every quarter until the Fed is withdrawing $50 billion per month from the banking system. That’s an annual rate of $600 billion. It reminds me of the old joke. Another hundred billion and pretty soon we’ll be talking real money.
Well, the Fed will be killing real money, and that will take a toll. Stock and bond prices will get crushed with that much money being pulled out of the pool of cash that fuels investment and speculative demand.
Consider this. Under QE, the Fed was buying enough Treasuries and MBS to fund virtually all new Treasury issuance. Of course there were other buyers too, so there was plenty of cash left over for the dealers to buy stock inventory, mark it up and distribute it to their customers. Most of their customers are hedge funds and institutions, and some of them are us, retail customers.
In 2015 the Fed stopped buying Treasuries, but it continued to buy $40-45 billion of MBS per month from the Primary Dealers. At that point, the dealers were still getting enough cash from the Fed to absorb half of the net new Treasury supply every month. And of course there were other buyers. So the dealers were getting plenty of money to keep bond prices high, with enough left over to fund the stock market bubble.
The amount of MBS purchases dropped to around $25 billion per month over the past year. Don’t anybody look now, but the fact is that bond prices topped and yields bottomed out in 2012. They’ve never been able to do better since. The amount of funding from the Fed was no longer sufficient to push bond yields below where they were in 2012.
Consider that the 10 year yield ended last week at 2.3%. Briefly in 2016 it was as low as 1.40. But $25 billion a month is no longer enough to keep bond prices rallying and bond yields falling.
Yet, the CNBC talking heads and the Wall Street PR merchants are still talking about the secular bond bull market.
So what happens next? Soon the Fed will fund zero of net new Treasury issuance. It won’t happen right away. They’ll cross that Rubicon either in January or next April. In January the Fed will reduce its monthly purchases of new MBS to around $15 billion. At the same time, it will redeem $12 billion in Treasuries every month.
Without getting into the nitty gritty, that means that the Fed will be sending just $3 billion per month to the Primary Dealers. That’s down from $25 billion a month now and $40-45 billion a year ago. And lest we forget, under QE at various times between 2009 and 2014, the Fed was cashing out the Primary Dealers to the tune of $100-150 billion a month!
The Fed will now put the Primary Dealers on a starvation diet. The dealers won’t have enough cash to absorb any new Treasury supply at all.
Then, in the middle of next year and again in the fall, the Fed will tighten the screws even more. The dealers will not only lack the cash to support the bond market, they also won’t have enough cash to speculate in equities inventories, which the dealers mark up for sale to their customers.
Here’s their problem. The Primary Dealers are REQUIRED to participate in the Treasury auctions. They must buy some of the issuance. If they don’t have sufficient cash to absorb new inventory, then they’ll need to raise cash to do so.
That is a big problem for stocks.
The dealers will be forced to liquidate both bonds and stocks to raise enough cash to absorb weekly Treasury issuance. Bond prices will fall. Bond yields will rise. Bill rates will rise. And stock prices will fall. There will be bear markets in both stocks and bonds.
Don’t Be Brainwashed – Keep Building Your Cash Cushion
A big issue for investors, as always, is timing. It’s the biggest issue for traders. For traders, the short term LAMPP looks early here, because the public has been brainwashed to just keep buying. Technical indicators of the market reflect that. They still point to higher prices. That could change at any moment, but it hasn’t yet.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street propaganda machine is going full blast. The pundits and Wall Street PR merchants on CNBC and in the Wall Street Journal tout, “Don’t worry, the market will go up for at least another year..” Meanwhile, the firms they represent will be selling, and some will be selling short, preying on the investing public that they are marketing to. They will be selling their inventories to you, knowing full well that their marketing pitches are setting you up for the kill.
Don’t be their victims.
History tells us that bull markets take time to top out. Rounding top patterns often take a year to a year and a half to roll over. First they struggle to make new highs. Then six to nine months down the road, there’s a rally that fails to make a new high. That’s when it’s time to be out of the market, if not completely, substantially so. Because the next decline will break the lows of prior corrections, and the bear will begin to take his pound of flesh.
Even though my technical work says that stocks look like they are targeting 2550-2600 over the next month or two, I am sticking to my guns. I continue to recommend raising cash systematically on rallies now, and over the next several months until you have built up a substantial cash cushion.
It does not need to be done all at once. Sell a small fixed percentage of your portfolio each month until you reach your cash percentage goal. Mine is 60-70%. Yours will differ depending on your circumstances.
As for profiting from selling the market short, we’re not quite there yet, but that time is coming. I’ll have some suggestions for you when I think the upside risks have played themselves out. You can see some of my initial thoughts on profit recommendations here.
Meanwhile, the LAMPP is signaling that the Fed has turned from friend of the market to foe.
So I repeat Rule Number One.
Don’t fight the Fed.