Bear markets need a “hook”—some sort of misdirection that keeps the majority hoping. Our work suggests a primary bear market is underway, and we fear oil is this bear’s hook…but the problems run deeper than oil.
As quantitative investors, the disciplines of the numbers trump stories—even our own. But we’re struck that the stories depicted by our Major Trend Index and other market tools over the past two years are entirely logical and sequential. Unfortunately these stories rhyme with those of past market cycles.
There’s an old trader’s adage which holds that “the most powerful sell signal is a failed buy signal.” Last fall we noted that European equities and Small Cap Value had triggered BUY signals on our Very Long Term (VLT) Momentum algorithm.
Valuations are high. Market internals are weak. And the MTI is negative. But for those seeking some truly authoritative evidence that there’s stock market danger ahead, consider the accompanying cycle chart unearthed from a gossip column in a 1958 issue of the Minneapolis Star.
Last month we wrote that we had no interest in playing even an “oversold bounce” in the precious metals, and our view hasn’t changed. Crude oil has already fallen to its long-term, inflation-adjusted mean; if gold does the same, its downside extends below 700.
The Russell 2000 is about five points ahead of Large Caps YTD, and is approaching its April 2011 long-term relative peak. We view this outperformance as their leadership’s last gasp and not a new cycle.