Weekly Cycle: Curiosity Drives Change

It’s curiosity, not conviction, that drives change. We should be fueled, not by a desire for a quick catharsis or a life hack, but by intrigue.

From Why “Dumb” Questions Are Key to Innovation by Ozan Varol.

Stock Market Outlook 05.21.2018

Each week, I review the market using a specific set of information sources to gauge the stock market rather than relying on headlines from news sources looking to generate attention. Weekly checkups give me the opportunity to spot trends, while not overreacting on a daily basis.

Performance
stock index performance 05.21.2018
  • SPY up slightly over last week and nearly 15% in last year
  • Volatility (VIX) down over 25% in last 3 months
  • HACK up 10% over last 3 months and over 23% in the last year
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). 

stock market technical indicators 05.21.2018

 

  • China Tech (CQQQ) spiked last week after returning to less bullish signals this week
  • Financials (VFH) signals are very bullish
  • SPY and VTI signals remain very positive for the third consecutive week
OldProf’s Risk Analysis

Each week 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 short-term conditions have improved significantly

The overall picture remains positive. Economic strength is reasonable, and inflation is low.


Short-term trading conditions improved dramatically.

He mentioned an increase risk of a recession in the next 9 months, though it remains relatively low.

A notable feature of the chart is that we recently increased the nine-month recession odds to a chance of 25%. While this is significantly higher than it has been during the long stock rally, it does not yet represent a real threat. Instead of thinking of the odds as higher than before, we must keep in mind the continuing evidence that a near-term recession is unlikely. The odds are only slightly higher than the long term average.

As he’s written in the past, he reminds that many financial headline are “noise”, a subject on which Daniel Kahneman discussed in an article linked below.

The current interest rate story is mostly noise. The same sources that criticized the Fed for “punishing savers” with low rates are now worried about the gentle and gradual increase. There are so many who are selling something – and therefore on a mission!

StockTrader Recap

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

This week, Hanna writes that after it was a relatively quiet week with some consolidation and little change to the short and long term outlook.

This was a generally quiet week in the senior indexes, consolidating some of the prior week’s move up.

Short term: The S&P 500 remains above this trend line connecting highs of 2018.

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

Technical 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’s outlook is “Bullish short-term outlook as long as U.S indices remain above their respective 8 EMAs.” They are bearish whenever S&P 500 and NASDAQ break their respective intermediate-term supports.

More info on in the weekly update.

Articles of note
Noise: How to Overcome the High, Hidden Cost of Inconsistent Decision MakingThe Projected Improvement in Life Expectancy

Daniel Kaneman is working on a new book titled Noise. He’s written on the topic previously, including an HBR article in October 2016, where he makes the case for algorithms over human decision making to overcome noise.

Algorithms are also less likely to be useful for judgments or decisions that involve multiple dimensions or depend on negotiation with another party. Even when an algorithmic solution is available in principle, organizational considerations sometimes prevent implementation. The replacement of existing employees by software is a painful process that will encounter resistance unless it frees those employees up for more-enjoyable tasks.


The most radical solution to the noise problem is to replace human judgment with formal rules—known as algorithms—that use the data about a case to produce a prediction or a decision.


It is less well known that the key advantage of algorithms is that they are noise-free: Unlike humans, a formula will always return the same output for any given input. Superior consistency allows even simple and imperfect algorithms to achieve greater accuracy than human professionals. (Of course, there are times when algorithms will be operationally or politically infeasible, as we will discuss.)

Kahneman also spoke on the subject recently with Erik Brynjolfsson, where he described the problem and solution rather succinctly.

What are the bigger risks — human or the algorithmic biases?

Daniel Kahneman: It’s pretty obvious that it would be human biases, because you can trace and analyze algorithms.

….

An algorithm could really do better than humans, because it filters out noise. If you present an algorithm the same problem twice, you’ll get the same output. That’s just not true of people.

The legal sports betting arena is about to get crowded and we’re not ready

Sports betting is coming quickly to many states, and it’s likely to be chaotic, according to Greg Bettinelli, a VC familiiar with the gambling industry.

And if you haven’t been following the case, you probably don’t realize how much is about to change. Short answer: A whole lot, very quickly. And in my opinion, straight out of the gate, it’s not going to be pretty.

Sports betting is a very low-margin business. The take rate of sports wagering is around 5 percent, while it’s closer to 20 percent in horse racing. And in unregulated markets (which will occur somewhere in U.S.), the price of the product is going to get close to zero. It’s going to be hard to make any money, and customer loyalty will be basically nonexistent without pricing power.

Bettinelli also names a handful of businesses that may look to capitalize on the new opportunities.

In addition to all the sports leagues like MLB, MLS, NCAA, NFL, NHL and the PGA, keep an eye on media companies like AT&T (DirecTV), CBS, Comcast (Golf Channel), Disney (ESPN), Fox, Time Warner (Turner), Verizon (Oath) and Action Network/Barstool Sports (with the backing of the Chernin, Kerns and Jacobs dream team). Don’t be shocked if StubHub and even Ticketmaster figure out a way to get in the game, as they know the customers with high propensity to bet on sports

The Finance To Value Framework

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote on the subject of how much startups should raise. In the post, he lays out his philosophies of valuing businesses that are yet to turn profitable.

The first thing you need to know is how your business will be valued by a buyer or the public markets when it is a scaled business. I like to use EBITDA and Revenue multiples for this work. And the best place to get them is from bankers who work in your sector and/or investors who are active in your sector. The key point is these multiples are what you are going to be valued at upon exit or IPO, not currently.

Revenue multiples work better for this than EBITDA because very few companies have positive EBITDA during their growth phases.

I’ve always been impressed with his commitment to investing for the long-term and how he manages to look at startups with a framework more similar to value investing than most startup investing.

“Do People Really Downsize?”

Bill McBride pulled some quotes from a post by economist Josh Lehner, at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis on the topic.

In fact it is less common today than in decades past. However, among those that do move in their 60s and 70s, they downsize. Given the large Baby Boomer generation continues to age into their retirement years, the absolute number of such moves is expected to rise, even if it remains a relatively small share of the housing market overall.

The original study did not include state by state data. My guess is there are very few intrastate moves in California, due to tax laws that tie tax values to the purchase price, thus adding a cost even when downsizing to those that purchased homes at prices far below today’s values.

Do Long-Term Investors Need Bonds?

Ben Carlson answers a reader’s question on bonds, saying they have underperformed stocks in all but three eras. He believes they are important for investors looking for more stability:

Investing 100% of your retirement assets in stocks may seem like the right thing to do on paper but very few investors have the intestinal fortitude to pull it off in the real world. Investing all of your money in stocks sounds great until you actually have to live with seeing bone-crushing losses and volatility in your life savings.

I tend to believe bonds are not worthwhile for a relatively active investor given the small upside.

Sheep Logic – Epsilon Theory

A long, winding post on the behavior of sheeps, and what we can learn about humans, herds and investing.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned about sheep over the years. They are never out of sight of each other, and their decision making is entirely driven by what they see happening to others, not to themselves. They are extremely intelligent in this other-regarding way.

It’s not what the crowd believes. It’s what the crowd believes that the crowd believes. The power of a crowd seeing a crowd is one of the most awesome forces in human society. It topples governments. It launches Crusades. It builds cathedrals. And it darn sure moves markets.

This type of observational decision making seen from herds leads to common knowledge.

Common knowledge is information, public or private, that everyone believes is shared by everyone else.

The power source of the Common Knowledge Game is the crowd seeing the crowd, and the dynamic structure of the Common Knowledge Game is the dynamic structure of the flock.

Final Thoughts

Nothing much has changed in the short-term and we are remaining fully-invested, letting curiosity lead to new opportunities.

 

Weekly Cycle: Calm before rapids?

Stock Market Outlook 04.30.2018

Each week, I review the market using my own set of information sources to gauge the market. While I’d prefer to be long-term investors and check the markets less frequently, I believe my skills in selecting enduring businesses for long-term success are lacking those of great investors. Instead, I use a trend following strategy with periodic checkups. A weekly outlook gives us some relief from worrying about day-to-day fluctuations, while still allowing for relative short term opportunities and trends.

Index Technical Indicator & Recent Performance Summary

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

  • Scoring has been updated this week to give a more granular look at each index on my list. Scoring is now based on the net count of positive and negative technical indicators signals over three time horizons (daily, weekly and monthly)
  • Volatility index (VIX) showed most movement of any on list over last week, dropping by 2.5%.
  • VNQ (Vanguard REIT ETF) performed best, though still showing negative signals on weekly and monthly basis.
  • China Tech stocks (CQQQ) up nearly 30% over past year
  • Cybersecurity ETF (HACK) has performed well over last year and gets top score on technical signals
  • VEA (developed markets ETF) slightly behind in technical signal score and shows good results over last year
  • Overall, technical signals look great on a monthly basis, good on weekly basis, and show a lot more volatility and randomness on daily basis.

stock market outlook 04.30.3018

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). 

OldProf’s Risk Analysis

Each week 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 doesn’t see much change from last week, with things largely remaining neutral in the short-term and looking bullish in the long run.

 

Short-term trading conditions remain in the neutral zone.

The long-term fundamentals and outlook are little changed. The long-term technical health is back to strongly bullish.

Similar to another article linked to below, he mentioned an article in Morningstar on the overuse of  declaring  “bubbles” in markets:

Many bubbles are proclaimed, but few arrive. The word is not useful; rather than signal something extraordinary, it has come to mean “securities I don’t like because they strike me as being too expensive.”

StockTrader Recap

StockTrader publishes a weekly Market Recap full of charts and insight on overall market trends.

This week, StockTrader says conditions have weakened on a short term basis. Despite strong earnings, markets haven’t reacted overly bullish, which may be a cause for concern. Nothing has changed in the long-term.

Earnings season remains strong – as anticipated – and while individual companies have been rewarded, it has not led to a broad rally of any sort as much of this was forecast.

Short term: A lot of consolidation at lower levels. That is a concern for bulls.

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

Technical 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’s outlook is “Neutral with a bearish bias.” There’s concern that a general downward trend is possible. More info on support levels in the weekly update.

 While breaks of the intermediate-term supports are likely, outlook is not outright bearish until confirmation is received.

Short- and long-term bearish if S&P 500 and NASDAQ break their respective intermediate-term supports.

S&P 500 and NASDAQ need to hold their intermediate-term supports and break above the orange resistances for outlook to shift to bullish, at least in the short-term.

Articles of notes
Stop calling bubbles

Morgan Housel wrote a great post on the aforementioned topic on the rising trend in calling bubbles.

Since there’s no definition, anyone can classify anything they want as a bubble and no one can prove them wrong. What began as a serious topic among economists has become a job-security loophole for pundits.

Alas, he gives his own take on the true quality of a bubble:

It’s only a bubble if return prospects don’t improve after prices fall.

Canada to rise as for tech entrepreneurs

Brad Feld makes the case that Canada has a great opportunity – and even advantage over the US to rise as a home to tech entrepreneurs and startups due to immigration-policies put into place under Trump.

From a Bloomberg article on the topic:

A big reason for the shortfall is that the year-old program has been constantly under assault since the election of President Donald Trump…

…No one has been granted a visa, and Homeland Security said last year that it’s working on a plan to kill the rule entirely

Feld, as a venture capitalist, writes about his first-hand knowledge:

The Toronto/Waterloo startup community is on fire. Many companies I’m involved in are exploring offices in Canada, especially Vancouver (for the Seattle folks) and Toronto (for the east coast folks) since it’s so difficult to get work visas in the US for employees. Other entrepreneurs from around the world are simply opting to start the company in Canada rather than the US because of all the uncertainty around visa status.

There is a window in time where Canada has a massive strategic geographic advantage over the US.

Lindzon on Solar and Consumer Product Goods

Howard Lindzon, always transparent with his investments, wrote positively on solar and consumer products goods this week.

I’m noet yet familiar with this company specifically, though are long $RUN and $SEDG. He credits Charlie Bilello for the tip on First Solar.

At Stocktoberfest, my friend Charlie got a ‘perfect 10’ score for his ‘chart battle’ take on being long First Solar.

Regarding CPG, he writes about how $PG has been getting beat up due to the rise of microbrands.

Amazon does not want to kill Procter & Gamble…at least quickly. There are a lot of advertising and promotional dollars Amazon would like to extract from them marketing inside/on Amazon.

Over the next 10 years, the Company can also buy 1,000 rising microbrands and go directly to the customers themselves.

The whole CPG (Consumer Product Goods) sector is going to see explosive deal action and volatility for the forseeable future

Value of judgement to rise as a complement to AI

Coming to us via a post at Kottke.org on AI is an article at McKinsey titled The economics of artificial intelligence. Guest editor Patrick Tanguay surmises, and quotes from the original article:

The very interesting twist is here, where he mentions the trope of “data is the new oil” but instead presents judgment as the other complement which will gain in value.

“So as the value of human prediction falls, the value of human judgment goes up because AI doesn’t do judgment—it can only make predictions and then hand them off to a human to use his or her judgment to determine what to do with those predictions.

Investing in cannabis as a healthcare play

Todd Harrison and Loren DeFalco, who run CB1 Capital, makes the case for cannabis as a healthcare investment in this video from Stocktoberfest.

DeFalco, who runs CB1 Capital with Harrison, took notice in Cannabis-based products because of a seizure he had. His treatments did not help, and in certain cases worsened his health. He found real treatment in cannabinoid wellness.

 

Final Thoughts

I’ve been reading Kevin Fedarko’s book The Emerald Mile about the fastest ride ever down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. He provides fascinating details on the history of the Canyon, including how the Canyon was formed seemingly slowly over a long period, yet most change came in short bursts.

Up through the first half of the twentieth century, most tourists who contemplated the walls of the Grand Canyon assumed that this landscape was shaped slowly and gradually over tens of millions of years. This is true, but only in the broadest sense—which is to say, by stretching the process out on the scale of deep time. In the 1950s and 1960s, however, the geologic credo was further refined and scientists began to appreciate that the steady march of geomorphic change is punctuated by catastrophic bursts: brief moments of exceptionally brutal violence in which things happen very quickly indeed. In the canyon, these bursts take the form of debris flows.

Fedarko, Kevin. The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon (p. 118). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

Nature’s patterns have a way of playing out in other aspects of life, including markets and technology, and this seems a fitting reminder.

Predicting where the stock market will go is futile

Good perspective on how to view the stock market from Vitaliy Katsenelson. This was written a few weeks ago after the “correction” early in February:

Nobody but nobody knows what the stock market will do tomorrow, next week or next year. Stock market behavior in the short term is completely random. Completely! You’ll have a better luck predicting the next card at a black jack table than guessing what the stock market will do next.

What will the stock market do next? It’s the wrong question. It’s the question that should never be asked, and if asked should never be answered. Asking this question shows that you believe there is some kind of order to this random madness. There is not. And if you answer with any answer other than “I don’t know,” you’re a liar.

via What will the stock market do next? at Vitaliy Katsenelson Contrarian Edge

On the benefits of trend following investing

The consistency of a trend following strategy’s relative performance vs a 60/40 portfolio (impacting the ability for investors to stick with trend following) is the basis of an argument that’s taken place offline (yes, I also argue offline) with a FinTwit friend who is a huge proponent of buy and hold. It’s progressed to the point that we’ve discussed making a mini (very mini) Buffett style bet related to whether trend following or a 60% US Stock / 40% Bond allocation will outperform over the next five years (with money going to the winner’s charity of choice).

via The Behavioral and Performance Benefits of Trend Following at

Value index funds have underallocated tech

Michael Batnick looks at why value indexes have performed poorly over the last decade and finds a simple explanation, essentially it’s an allocation issue.

Value has 23% more exposure to financials and 29% less exposure to tech. This is the primary driver of the gap in performance over the last ten years. Over this time, tech stocks have gained 255% while financials have gained just 61%!

 

via What’s Wrong With Value? at The Irrelevant Investor

Momentum works because it’s the natural evolution of creative destruction

momentum works for a fundamental reason – it’s the natural evolution of creative destruction. You could say that all market cap weighted index funds are momentum funds because they more or less reflect the process by which corporations succeed and fail.

via Why Does Momentum Investing Work? – Pragmatic Capitalism at Pragmatic Capitalism