The Double-Edged Sword of Financial Fear
By: Clif Droke
Tuesday, 6 July 2010
Worries over the fragility of the economic recovery continues to haunt investors and dominate the new headlines. The latest headlines point to a widespread expectation of a double-dip recession by later this year. The latest round of worries are focused on potential European debt troubles, soft unemployment numbers and the latest round of U.S. economic numbers that proved to be disappointing to investors.
To give you an idea of the tone of last week’s market, the word “fear” led the front page headlines of the Wall Street Journal at least twice last week. Last week saw asset prices across the board hit by panic surrounding Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, among other concerns.
Acting against the market recently has been the seasonal tendency for volume to dry up as participation diminishes in the historically slow summer vacation period. A further impediment to the market’s continued progress since last year’s recovery began is the fact that this the “down” year in the alternate, or 2-year, cycle. And how can we forget that we’re in the final years of the 40-year and 60-year cycles. As these cycles enter their respective “hard down” phases it tends to create a drag against the stock market when there isn’t a strong counteracting force to create the necessary momentum for stocks, and to some extent commodities, to fight against the cyclical headwinds.
We experienced a strong counteracting force in 2009 with a combination of cyclical and monetary forces that were unleashed simultaneously. The bottoming of the Kress 6-year cycle in late 2008 followed by the peaking of the 10-year cycle in 2009 was partly responsible. Central bank and federal government intervention only added to the forward momentum and propelled stock and commodity prices to vertiginous heights relative to the credit crash lows. This confluence of forces unleashed the second most impressive recovery in over a generation as the S&P 500 Index rallied over 60% from March 2009 until May 2010.
The momentum, both externally and internally, has definitely slowed since this spring and the summer seasonal tendency of low volume has worked against the financial market in recent weeks. The resultant lack of buying pressure combined with negative internal momentum has been sufficient to send the market to lower levels. The downside internal momentum reflected in the NYSE internal momentum indicator series (HILMO) shown below, if it becomes established and if not reversed in the coming weeks, is apt to create a situation not unlike that of the summer of 2007. At that time the dominant long-term and intermediate-term internal momentum indicators established downtrends even as the S&P was making a new all-time high. This internally negative divergence set up the beginning of the last bear market. We’ll therefore need to watch the important long-term and interim momentum indicators during the next market rally for signs of a reversal.