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Friday, March 27, 2020

Market Action

U.S. markets closed lower for the 5th time over the past 6 Friday’s after three strong sessions that had, at one point, witness the Dow and S&P bounce 20% from their lows from the start of the week. Despite the pullback, and brief relief from bear market territory, the major indexes had a very strong week as the $2.2 trillion stimulus plan to combat the fallout from the coronavirus was approved ahead of the closing bell.

On the bearish side, volatility settled higher and remains extremely elevated but has traded in a tighter range over the past 3 sessions. Another cautious signal are the death-crosses forming with the 50-day moving averages falling below the 200-day moving averages. This technical development occurred on the Dow earlier in the week with the S&P 500 at a 3-point difference before a death-cross forms following Friday’s action.

The Russell 2000 fell 4.1% following the first half pullback to 1,125. Current and upper support at 1,125-1,110 was breached but held with a move below the latter reopening risk towards 1,100-1,085.

The Dow was also down 4.1% after testing an intraday low of 21,469. Prior and upper support at 21,500-21,250 was tripped but held with a close below the latter signaling additional weakness towards 21,000-20,750.

The S&P 500 declined 3.4% with the opening low tapping 2,520. Near-term and upper support at 2,525-2,500 was breached but held with a move below the latter keeping downside risk towards 2,475-2,450 in play.

The Nasdaq gave back 3.8% following the backtest to 7,491 shortly after the open. New and upper support at 7,500-7,450 was punctured but held with a drop below the latter signaling additional risk towards 7,400-7,350.

For the week, the Dow zoomed 12.8% and the S&P 500 jumped 10.3%. The Russell 2000 rallied 10.1% and Nasdaq soared 9.1%.

Utilities and Real,Estate showed sector strength after rising 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively. Energy was the weakest sector after sinking 6.8% while Technology and Industrials were lower by 4.5% and 4.2%, respectively.

Over the past 5 sessions, Energy (18.7%), Utilities (16.4%), Industrials (14.6%) and Consumer Discretionary (12.1%) were the best performing sectors. There were no sectors that closed lower.

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The official start of 1Q earnings season is just a few weeks away although a number of bellwether companies with fiscal quarters in February have started reporting already. Coming into 2020, the market looked forward to earnings growth resuming in a meaningful way and accelerating into 2021. This was to follow the sluggish showing in 2019 that reflected tough comparisons to the tax-cut driven earnings boost in 2018.

Estimates have come down sharply as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with 2020 earnings now expected to suffer a modest decline. Given the very hard-to-quantify impact of this pandemic at this stage, it is reasonable to expect estimates to come down more in the coming days and weeks.

Moreover, a staggering amount of companies are also pulling full-year guidance. With many companies simply withdrawing their previously issued guidance in response to the pandemic, it is possible the market sees an unusually busier pre-announcements period after companies officially close their books on their March-quarter reporting period.

Earnings growth is now expected to be firmly negative in the first 2 quarters of 2020, with growth currently expected to be roughly flat in Q3 and modestly positive in the last quarter of the year.

Total Q1 earnings or aggregate net income for the S&P 500 index are currently expected to be down -4.1% from the same period last year. This is down from nearly 4% growth expected in early January. This is a bigger decline than the market has seen in the comparable periods in recent quarters.

Q1 earnings are expected to be below the year-earlier level for a number of sectors, with double-digit declines in Autos (-57.5% earnings decline), Aerospace (-34.2%), Energy (-32.1%), Basic Materials (-26.4%), Transportation (-21.9%), Industrial Products (-14.5%), Conglomerates (-11.8%) and Consumer Discretionary (-11.5%).

Sectors with positive earnings growth in Q1 include Technology (3.1% earnings growth), Construction (7%), Business Services (7.5%), and Medical (3.3%).

For full-year 2020, total earnings for the S&P 500 index are currently expected to be down -0.9% on 1.4% higher revenues. This is down from close to 8% at the start of the year.

Global Economy

European markets closed lower to end the week after EU lawmakers failed to agree on a coronavirus rescue package and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing he has been infected.

UK's FTSE 100 sank 5.3% and the Belgium20 tumbled 4.7%. France’s CAC 40 tanked 4.2% and Germany's DAX 30 was off 3.7%. The Stoxx 600 fell 3.3%.

Asian markets settled mostly higher despite disappointing economic news out of China.

Japan’s Nikkei jumped 3.9% and South Korea’s Kospi rallied 1.9%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.6% and China's Shanghai climbed 0.3%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 stumbled 5.3%.

China Industrial Output and Sales fell 13.5% and 17.7%, respectively, during the first two months of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the economy. Industrial profits dropped 38.3% from a year earlier to 410.7 billion yuan ($58.15 billion), worsening from a 6.3% fall seen in December last year.

U.S. Economy

Personal Income climbed 0.6% in February, with spending rising 0.2% versus January gains of 0.6% and 0.2%, respectively. Compensation increased 0.5% last month, as it did in January. Wages and salaries were up 0.5% as well, versus the prior 0.5% rise. Disposable income also increased 0.5% after the 0.6% January pop. The savings rate rose to 8.2% from 7.9% and is the highest since March 2019. The chain price index rose 0.1%, the same as in January. The core rate was up 0.2% after a 0.2% prior gain. On a 12-month basis, the headline was steady at 1.8% year-over-year, while the core rate accelerated slightly to 1.8% year-over-year versus 1.7%.

Consumer Confidence for March was revised down sharply to 89.1 versus the 95.9 preliminary print, and has dropped 11.9 points versus the 101 reading from February. The current conditions index declined to 103.7 (112.5 preliminary March) from February's 114.8. The expectations component dropped to 79.7 (85.3 preliminary March) versus 92.1 last month. The 12-month inflation gauge slowed to 2.2% (2.3% preliminary) compared to February's 2.4% print. The 5-year March inflation rate was steady at 2.3% (2.3% preliminary), as in February, though it was at a 2.5% pace in January.

Baker-Hughes reported the U.S. rig count was down 44 rigs to 728, with oil rigs lower by 40 to 624, gas rigs declining 4 to 102, and miscellaneous rigs unchanged at 2. The U.S. Rig Count is down 278 rigs from last year's count of 1,006, with oil rigs off 192, gas rigs down 88, and miscellaneous rigs up 2 to 2. The U.S. Offshore Rig Count is down 1 to 18 and down 5 year-over-year.

Market Sentiment

Dallas Fed Robert Kaplan said all the bills, packages, and actions are for relief but he is not sure how inflationary this will be since it's not really stimulus. He is not really worried about inflation and is more concerned the outcome of the coronavirus will be more deflationary.

Kaplan expects a substantial contraction in Q2. On an annualized basis, he thinks the unemployment rate might peak in the low to mid teens, but should quickly decline to about 7%-8% by the end of the year. He added a lot of this is too soon to gauge, but analysts will climb out of this. As for oil, which is big in his district, he now suspects production from the Permian Basin will shrink, rather than just slow.

The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) was up for the 2nd-straight session and is showing signs of another breakout after testing a high of $168.25. Prior and lower resistance from earlier in the month at $168-$168.50 was cleared but held. Continued closes above the $170 level would be a more bullish signal for higher highs with additional momentum towards $172.50-$175.

Near-term and rising support is at $167.50-$167 with backup help at $165-$164.50. A close back below the latter would signal a false attempt of another breakout with additional weakness towards $162.50-$162.

RSI is curling higher after clearing key resistance at 60. Continued closes above this level would signal additional strength towards 65-70. Support is at 55-50.

Volatility Index

The S&P 500 Volatility Index ($VIX) was up for the 3rd time in 4 sessions

with the intraday high reaching 69.10. Key resistance at 70 was challenged but held for the 3rd-straight session. A close above this level would be a bearish signal for a retest towards 75-80.

Current support has moved up to 62.50-60. A close below the 57.50 level to start the week would be a bullish signal for additional weakness towards 55-50.

Last week’s intraday plunge towards the 50-day moving average and low of 36.24 was an anomaly but an area that ultimately needs to be recovered before “normal” can possibly be considered - as far as volatility goes.

RSI has been flatlining with resistance at 60. Continued closes above this level would signal additional strength towards 65-70. Support is at 55-50 with a move below the 45 level being a more bullish signal for continued market strength.

Market Analysis

The S&P 400 Mid Cap Index ($MID) had its 3-session winning streak snapped following the intraday fade to 1,403. Mid-month and prior support at 1,400-1,375 was challenged but held. A close below the latter would signal additional weakness towards 1,350-1,325.

Near-term resistance is at 1,450-1,475. Continued closes above the latter and the prior session high of 1,472 would be an ongoing bullish development of a bottom with additional hurdles at 1,500-1,525.

RSI is back in a slight downtrend with support at 40. A close below this level would signal a retest towards 35-30. Resistance is at 45-50.


The Spiders S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) fell for the 1st time in 4 sessions with the intraday low kissing $30.05. Current but shaky support at $30.25-$30 was breached but held. A close below the latter would signal additional weakness with backtest potential towards $28.50-$28.

Near-term resistance is at $31-$31.25. A close above the $31.50 level would signal additional upside towards $31.75-$32 with last Thursday’s peak at $32.06. The 50-day moving average has crossed below the 200-day moving average to form a death cross. This is typically a bearish signal for lower lows down the road.

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RSI is showing signs of rolling over with support at 35-30. Key resistance is at 40 with a move above this level signaling a run towards 45-50 and the highs from earlier this month.

The percentage of S&P 500 stocks trading above the 200-day moving average closed at 5.94% on Friday, down 2.37%, and the session low. Upper support at 7.5%-5% was challenged but held with the latter representing the late 2008 and early 2009 low. Resistance is at 10%.

The percentage of Nasdaq 100 stocks trading above the 50-day moving average average settled at 3.88%, down 4.85%, and the session low. Upper support at 5%-2.5% was breached and failed to hold. The percentage remains near 0% and represents the August and December 2015 bottoms. Resistance remains at 7.5%-10%.

All the best,

Roger Scott