Weekly Cycle: Market Update 05.29.2018

You can’t do the same things that other people are doing and expect to outperform them. When you do what everyone else does, you’re going to get the same results everyone else gets. But it’s not enough to be different — you also need to be correct

Second-Order Thinking: What Smart People Use to Outperform – Farnam Street Blog

Market Outlook Update for May 29, 2018

Each week, we review the stock market using a specific set of information sources in order to cut through the noise generated by media publishing attention grabbing headlines. Weekly updates give e the opportunity to play trends while not overreacting on a daily basis.

Market Performance

Performance of a handful of macro indexes, as well as index and ETFs on specific sectors of particular interest. 

Observations:

○ Volatility [VIX] has risen considerably in the last week
○ SPY and VTI have dropped slightly over last week, remain positive for last 30 days
○ Financials [VFH] and [MJ] performed worse over past week
○ Homebuilders [XHB] performed strongly over past week

Technical Indicators

Based on data and info from TradingView (Click for 30% off a pro subscription)

Scores based on the cumulative total of positive and negative technical indicators signals over three time horizons on Trading View. Scores are weighted by multiplying total as follows: daily (x 1) weekly (x 2), and monthly (x 3). 

Observations:

○ Indicators for SPY and VTI have dropped and remain positive over longer term
○ QQQ, HACK signals remain very strong
○ Signals for international markets [VEA, VEU] turned significantly worse
○ VIX has turned significantly more positive, which indicates a signal towards increased volatility

OldProf’s Risk Analysis

Each week, at the Dash of Insight blog, OldProf takes a look at a variety of sources to gauge overall market risk on both a short and long-term basis. He tracks a handful of indexes, economic indicators from respected sources, and volatility indicators. His weekly updates include a discussion of events with potential to effect markets, as well as general insight. Highly recommended reading.

This week, OldProf writes that Short-term trading conditions improved dramatically.”

He also writes that this week is a very busy week for economic news this week and believes many will be wondering it it’s still worth listening to. Our typical preference is to ignore headlines about what might happen and instead react to what we see happening.

There is an avalanche of economic news in the shortened week ahead. While this will provide plenty to talk about, I expect many to be asking:

Should investors basically ignore the daily geopolitical news?

The Pundit-in-Chief commented that the market is getting it wrong every day, mistakenly trying to trade every swing in the news flow.

Art Cashin observed that traders seem to be learning a pattern. Aggressive statements by world leaders, including the Trump Administration, followed by more moderate policies. Art sees this understanding as part of the recent reduction in volatility.

StockTrader Recap

Mark Hanna publishes a weekly Market Recap full of charts and insight on news and market trends at StockTrader.

This week, Mark writes that it was “The second week in a row of low volatility which is usually advantage bulls” and goes out to point out positive signs in the Nasdaq.

“Short term: The S&P 500 is consolidating while the NASDAQ tipped its head over this trend line connecting highs of the year.

Long term: Still very positive for the “buy and never sell” crowd.”

Technical Analysis Update

Hacked (subscription-only) publishes a weekly technical update on U.S. indices with a weekly analysis of the S&P 500, NASDAQ, and DJIA, as well as a general market outlook. Other posts include trade recommendations (stocks, crypto & forex markets), worldwide-market updates, ICO analysis, and much more.

This week, Hacked has not yet posted an update.

Articles of note

“Real Bear Markets, “The Big One” we hear so much about today is what produces excruciating, prolonged equity market declines. They have recessions attached. There is no sign of that I can find today. None.”

If You Want To See Bears, Go To The Zoo
Lloyd Clucas Seeking Alpha

“In my view we are experiencing a global economic “dead-cat bounce”. That worked for ’17 and should suffice for 2018. I hope it will be longer. But hope is not an investment strategy. Earnings have turned up and are accelerating again. How long? I have no idea. But you take what is there. [If you don’t, you can have tea with John Hussman or Jeremy Grantham.] And earnings are looking good for 2018. The tax cut for corporations is a big deal for 2018. It pushed up central value for many companies and hiked this year’s earnings estimate growth materially.”
1

“Now, with public and private funding flowing into Chinese start-ups, entrepreneurship has become an appealing alternative for a generation disillusioned with the conveyor-belt career paths of their forebears.”

How China’s Tech Revolution Threatens Silicon Valley
Alec Ash The Atlantic

“The tech revolution in China is ubiquitous in urban life. I use the messaging app WeChat for work calls and vacation bookings. I pay for a cup of coffee or a ride in a car with a scanned QR code on my phone. I go to work at a rented desk in an “experimental life space” called 5Lmeet, built in an old soy-sauce factory, which offers pop-up cuisine, a cashless, staffless convenience store, and an office space, the entrance gate to which uses face-recognition software to let me in. Every time I come out of a subway stop in Beijing, I have to fight through a mass of the cheap, rentable bicycles that have transformed transportation in the city. Dai Wei, the CEO of the leading bike-rental firm, Ofo—reportedly valued at $2 billion—is 27 years old.”
2

“Amazon had lowered prices at Whole Foods by an average of 5% over the last year. ”

Shopping at Whole Foods is finally a good deal—if you have Amazon Prime
Alison Griswold Quartz

“On May 16, Amazon announced that Prime members could get an extra 10% off sale items by downloading the Whole Foods mobile app, signing in with their Amazon account, and scanning a code at checkout. The “member deals” are available now at Whole Foods in Florida and will begin rolling out to the rest of the US this summer, Amazon said”
3

From 4 years ago and still a great read on common knowledge and where to look for big challenges

When Does the Story Break?
Epsilon Theory

” I believe that public markets today are essentially hollow, as what passes for volume and liquidity is primarily machines talking to other machines for portfolio “positioning” or ephemeral arbitrage rather than the human expression of a desire to own a fractional ownership share of a real-world company. I believe that today’s public market price levels primarily reflect the greatest monetary policy accommodation in human history rather than the real-world prospects of real-world companies. I believe that the political risks to both capital market structure and international trade (which are the twin engines of global growth, period, end of story) have not been this great since the 1930’s. Simply put, I believe we are being played like fiddles. That does NOT mean, however, that I think anything has to change next week … or next month … or next year … or next decade. The human animal is a social animal in the biological sense, and as such we are cognitively evolved to maintain our beliefs and behaviors far beyond what is “true” in an objective sense. This is, in fact, the core argument of Epsilon Theory, that there is no such thing as Truth with a capital T when it comes to the institutions and the social organizations that we create. There’s nothing more “natural” about our market behaviors than there is around, say, our fashion behaviors … the way we wear our clothes or the way we cut our hair. For 150 years everyone knew that everyone knew that gentlemen wore wigs. This was the dominant common knowledge of its day in the fashion world, absolutely no different in any way, shape or form than the dominant common knowledge of today in the investing world … everyone knows that everyone knows that it’s central bank policy that determines market outcomes. And this market common knowledge could last for 150 years, too.”
4

“This is ultimately the most important distinction between platforms and aggregators: platforms are powerful because they facilitate a relationship between 3rd-party suppliers and end users; aggregators, on the other hand, intermediate and control it.”

The Bill Gates Line

Ben Thompson Stratechery

“Third — and this is the point of this article — what Yelp seems to want will only serve to make Google stronger”

“it is suggestive of further growth in the year ahead and this should be positive for stocks, all else being equal.”

Only The Good News
David Templeton, CFA The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

“The purpose of this post is to highlight a number of the positive data points that one would expect to see in a strong economic environment like we are in now”

Our Take

Volatility has increased today after a few weeks of relatively low volatility. It’s still best to ignore more headlines as there appears to be more headlines than real changes.

We’re remaining mostly invested and believe there are short term opportunities. Risk has increase greatly from a year ago though no obvious reason for a general market downturn on the horizon, historically speaking.

Is the artisan trend a precursor to a Big Tech backlash?

In the Economist’s 1843 magazine, Ryan Avent writes about the resurgence of the “artisan” culture in Crafting a life:

Before the Industrial Revolution, the craft economy was simply the economy. Clothing, processed food, furniture, wood and iron tools were all made by hand, using simple equipment, one unique batch at a time. Artisans learned their trade through years of observing experts, within the family or in a structured apprenticeship. The quality of both the instruction and the finished products was highly variable. There was virtually no opportunity for mass education in trades, nor a chance for better producers to capture increased market share by scaling up production.

The Atlantic ran a similar piece recently Craft Beer Is the Strangest, Happiest Economic Story in America.

At the same time, the number of public companies has decreased and the “Big 4” tech companies make up 24% of the market cap of $SPY. Some amazing numbers, per Scott Galloway in Esquire:

Over the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—or, as I call them, “the Four”—have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history. Together, they have a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion (the GDP of France), a staggering 24 percent share of the S&P 500 Top 50, close to the value of every stock traded on the Nasdaq in 2001.

How big are they? Consider that Amazon, with a market cap of $591 billion, is worth more to the stock market than Walmart, Costco, T. J. Maxx, Target, Ross, Best Buy, Ulta, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Saks/Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears combined.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google (now known as Alphabet) are together worth $1.3 trillion. You could merge the world’s top five advertising agencies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu) with five major media companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom) and still need to add five major communications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish) to get only 90 percent of what Google and Facebook are worth together.

And what of Apple? With a market cap of nearly $900 billion, Apple is the most valuable public company. Even more remarkable is that the company registers profit margins of 32 percent, closer to luxury brands Hermès (35 percent) and Ferrari (29 percent) than peers in electronics. In 2016, Apple brought in $46 billion in profits, a haul larger than that of any other American company, including JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo. What’s more, Apple’s profits were greater than the revenues of either Coca- Cola or Facebook. This quarter, it will clock nearly twice the profits that Amazon has produced in its history.

Will the trend of the big getting bigger continue? Or is there enough of a Big Tech backlash to make things start regressing to more normalized levels?

We’re certainly not making a call and will continue to look for further evidence.

 

How Amazon continues to grow

There’s no doubt that Amazon continues to grow their power in the world of ecommerce. Here’s an interesting look at how they continue to grow their role with each additional transaction.

As crowds build on either side of the platform, the middleman becomes ever more indispensable. Oh, sure, a new platform can enter the market—but until it gets access to the 480 million items Amazon sells (often at deep discounts), why should the median consumer defect to it? If I want garbage bags, do I really want to go over to Target.com to re-enter all my credit card details, create a new log-in, read the small print about shipping, and hope that this retailer can negotiate a better deal with Glad? Or do I, ala Sunstein, want a predictive shopping purveyor that intimately knows my past purchase habits, with satisfaction just a click away?

Similarly, the more online buyers and sellers are relying on Amazon to do their bidding or settle their disputes, the less power they have relative to Amazon itself. They are less like arms-length transactors with the company, than they are like subjects of a despot, whose many roles include consumer and anti-fraud protection.

While this may be an argument against the practice, there doesn’t appear to be any change coming. Until there is, there’s no reason to believe Amazon won’t continue to grow.

See the full post From territorial to functional sovereignty: the case of Amazon at openDemocracy.

Disclosure: Long AMZN

Using crypto to pay viewers & other new business models

Jeremy Epstein looks at how Amazon is integrating advertising into their streaming video service, and how it could be applied to crypto-enabled business models of the future:

Let’s leave aside the legitimate fear that now Amazon has even MORE information about you, locked away in proprietary databases, and can manipulate you at will since who cares about that anyway, right?

What Amazon is now doing, better than anyone in the history of TV has ever done, is tie content viewing directly to revenue.

For every show you watch, intro you skip over, episode you quit halfway through…every single click, you are going to earn some sort of crypto-token for it.

That’s right, you will get paid to watch TV. (That’s all we need, right? At least my kids can become revenue generators now.)

Vendors will run AI algorithms on all of the data that you (and others) generate and serve even more relevant ads based on your viewing habits.

You’ll get your content for free and you will get paid to watch it.  Then, you’ll use those crypto-tokens to buy the products that advertisers put in front of you (which is paid for in the same crypto-tokens), all part of the circular economy.

It likely won’t be Amazon that will find a way to pay you, as they’ve shown they are happy to keep your data in exchange for finding ways to sell more, but there are new business models, made possible by crypto and blockchain.

via Amazon Shows How You Will Get Paid in Cryptocurrency to Watch TV at Never Stop Marketing…

Amazon Go and the Future

The economics of Amazon Go define the tech industry; the strategy, though, is uniquely Amazon’s. Most of all, the implications of Amazon Go explain both the challenges and opportunities faced by society broadly by the rise of tech.

via Amazon Go and the Future at Stratechery by Ben Thompson

More…

Keep in mind, most businesses start out in the red: it usually takes financing, often in the form of a loan, to buy everything necessary to even open the business in the first place; a company is not truly profitable until that financing is retired. Of course once everything is paid off a business is not entirely in the clear: physical objects like shelves or refrigeration units or lights break and wear out, and need to be replaced; until that happens, though, money can be made by utilizing what has already been paid for.

This, though, is why the activity that is accounted for in R&D is so important to tech company profitability: while digital infrastructure obviously needs to be maintained, by-and-large the investment reaps dividends far longer than the purchase of any physical good. Amazon Go is a perfect example: the massive expense that went into developing the underlying system powering cashier-less purchasing does not need to be spent again; moreover, unlike shelving or refrigerators, the output of that expense can be duplicated infinitely without incurring any additional cost.

As always from Stratechery, a great analysis of what Amazon Go means for the future.

 

Tough to Please

From A Bull Market Should Make Investors Happy:

Generally, this far into a bull market, euphoria kicks in. In 1929, shoeshine boys were doling out stock tips. In 1999, people were quitting their jobs to trade technology stocks from their living rooms.

These days, each successive stock market record seems to spur more hand-wringing than cheerleading. There is anxiety about overhyped shares, about the possibility of central banks withdrawing their support for global economies, even about markets simply being worryingly quiescent, as evidenced by the historically low readings of the volatility index known as the VIX.

This is from Landon Thomas Jr. in the New York Times. He includes the following numbers, which really puts the relative small size of crypto in perspective:

Since early 2009, the market capitalizations of Amazon and Apple, have soared from $26 billion and $74 billion to $532 billion and $872 billion.

By definition, it seems there are a number of people happily putting more into the market.

Mr. Bernstein argued that investors should care the economic and corporate fundamentals — not the remote chance that a calamity will strike.

“You cannot invest successfully,” he said, “when you are crouched under your desk in a fetal position.”

Amazon’s growing competitor list may be a problem

From Michael Coren at Quartz on the history of competing with so many companies, as Amazon does:

Perhaps no other company in history has sold so many different products (354 million) while competing against so many other companies (hundreds). In the past, that power hasn’t lasted. Amazon is betting it will be different.

On how it’s worked in the past:

General Electric (GE) fell into this trap after World War II. As GE brought hundreds of industries under its roof, the company’s stock began to track US booms and busts. Today, analysts compare GE’s portfolio of business from jet engines to oil-field safety valves to an actively managed mutual fund—and one that doesn’t beat the market. Since the mid-1940s, the $181 billion conglomerate has barely outperformed the S&P 500. Almost all of its standout performance came during the 20-year tenure of CEO Jack Welch in the 1980s and 1990s–a management feat that hasn’t been repeated.

Amazon has a nearly unprecedented advantage and that may be damaging in the long-term:

Modern antitrust theory, rooted in the ideas of “consumer harm” from monopolists’ high prices, misses the threat posed by Amazon, Khan argues. The structural advantages Amazon wields over competitors gives its the ability to price products below cost and restrict access to customers. Over time, Amazon’s stranglehold on the market may degrade product quality, variety, and innovation, and enable exploitive pricing after competitors are eliminated.

While they don’t fit the classic definition of a monopoly, Amazon is aware trouble may lie ahead and is prepared:

The company’s lobbying budget ballooned to $11.4 million in 2016, a six-fold increase over 2011, reports the Washington Business Journal. Amazon now retains at least 77 lobbyists, two of them former heads of the Department of Justice Antitrust Division during the Obama and George W. Bush Administrations, brought on to help ensure the Whole Foods acquisition.

Maybe it’s different this time, or perhaps Amazon will someday be unseated by the likes of OpenBazaar or another blockchain enabled marketplace.

 

Has the Bitcoin bubble already burst?

JC at AllStarCharts asks whether the Bitcoin bubble has already burst and that it’s now performing similar to other assets after a crash. He even makes the case that Bitcoin is underperforming the likes of Nvidia and Amazon.

I think a lot of people are asking the wrong question. To me, it’s not whether or not Bitcoin is in a bubble? It’s whether or not the bubble in Bitcoin already popped?

What we care about when it comes to supply and demand dynamics is how the asset has performed since the bubble popped. In the case of Bitcoin, to me it’s crystal clear that a bubble popped in 2013. Again, it’s not that I’m suggesting it was “the” bubble, but an 86% crash from high to low? Yes, that is the definition of a bubble popping. The bitcoin enthusiasts argue that there were plenty of crashes prior to that, which is fine. Moving forward, from any sort of structural perspective, this 2013-2015 crash is our point of reference. Crashes prior to that led to that run up we saw into 2013.

It certainly seems reasonable to believe after reading this post.