29 September 2010

The magnificent 7 and equity markets - Review 9

In my previous review (10th August), I concluded: The 15% correction seems to have just been a pause in a bull market ... I stick to my no tightening by the FED expectation … and the ECB any time soon despite the rhetoric. This will be supportive to equity markets and a major tailwind.”
I have not changed my view of no double dip and the FED QE2 (USD 1 trillion dollar additional liquidity) if confirmed will fuel asset prices.
After a low reached late August on the S&P 500 at 1050, the market has since regained 100 points and is trading around its 200 days moving average which has been flat since the beginning of the summer (watch if it is turning down). The S&P500 is at the same level as in January and has yet to pass the 1200 mark again which I expect to be done by the end of the year.
Economic news from the US continue to point towards a slower GDP growth and still high unemployment, but no double dip; Europe has also showed recent signs of better growth, mainly due to German exports. Fast growing economies in the rest of the world do not show signs of weakeness.
One interesting indicator is the Commercial and Industrial Loans at All Commercial Banks in the US released Monday: it displayed the 3rd consecutive month of growth, the first time since October 2008; whilst at an extremely slow pace (USD 4 billion increase over the 3 months compared to USD 404 billion decrease between October 2008 and June 2010), it shows that banks are again net lenders to the economy and the sector is healing.
S&P 500 Banks index: the index has traded range bound for a year and has yet to decisively to breach the 165 level; there is no sign this happening any time soon and, conversely, there is no sign of a deterioration either. In my opinion, the level comes from a continuing reappraisal of the future profitability of banks with new rule domestically and new capital ratio to be adopted at the next G20 summit in Seoul in November versus their ability to pass on additional costs to customers. Positive.
Global 1200 financial index: Since July 2009, the world financial is trapped within a 20% range, 800 representing a solid floor and 1000 a ceiling difficult to pass. Reasons are equivalent to the US: new domestic/regional rules and new BIS capital ratios. However, in Asia, banks are slightly under pressure due to persisting questions about the magnitude of non-performing loans in China in a booming economic environment, whilst in Europe fears about the health of Eurozone banks regularly comes back to the forefront together with problems in Greece and Ireland in an economic environment lifeless. The index continues trading around its 200 days moving average which turned negative during the summer. Positive.
TED spread (LIBOR USD 3 mth - US 3 mth T-bills): the spread is now well below its 20 years average. OIS (displays the same pattern. The interbank market shows no stress thanks to massive QE and balance sheet repair. Positive
USD bank BBB 10 yr - US 10 yr yield: The spread continues to evolve above historical average but at stabilized in the 3% region i.e. the pre-Lheman crisis level. No sign of deterioration. Positive.
OEX volatility: OEX volatility is in the low 20% but still above its pre-August 2007 crisis. We need this indicator to stay at or below 20%. Positive.
S&P Case Shiller house price index: The latest data (July) published Tuesday continue to show improvement in the price of US home values which are back to the levels where they were in late 2003. Although home prices increased in most markets in July versus June, both Composites saw these monthly rates moderate in July.
The unadjusted data continue to be positive (2009 numbers in bracket):
Composite-10: July 2010: m/m +0.79%; y/y +4.05% (m/m +1.70%; y/y -12.70%)
Composite-20: July 2010: m/m +0.65%; y/y +3.18% (m/m +1.66%; y/y -13.25%)
As the report comments:
“While we could still see some residual support from the homebuyers’ tax credit, which covers purchases closing through September 30th, anyone looking for home price to return to the lofty 2005-2006 might be
Disappointed. Judging from the recent behavior of the housing market, stable prices seem more likely.”
“… the monthly rates also seem to be weakening. The next few months may give us an idea of the true strength of the housing market, as the temporary economic stimuli will have ended. Housing starts, sales and inventory data reported for August do not show signs of a robust market, and foreclosures continue.”
Signs are mixed and do not point towards a rapid recovery. Average.
Oil price: The oil prices continue to be trade in a $70-82/b tight range. Not much happening on the energy front. In the US natural gas prices trade well below $4/btu from $6 I January. Uranium went up $3 to $48 since our last review early August, level where it was in October 2009, still 3 times below its peak in June 2007 at $138: Positive.
Conclusion: All these indicators are positive but for the housing market. The 15% pre-summer correction seems to have just been a pause in a bull market having recouped over 50% of the losses. The magnificent 7 are telling us that equity market continue to be resilient with no sign of turning negative (do not forget, this is a trend view not a trading view).

The corporate results season for Q3 will soon start and should be supportive; I however do not anticipate anything more than a slow increase in equity markets over the next few quarters.

Continue investing in high yielding equities / net cash companies with strong franchise and selected stocks in fast growth economies.
Despite the strong showing of some financial stocks, I continue to stay clear.