THE STOCK MARKET - Technical Forecast and Summary
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(UPDATED NIGHTLY SUNDAY THROUGH THURSDAY)
Although, no official figures exist, it is obvious that much or most of the trading in many markets, including the stock market, is day trading. These are traders who can trade without putting up money so long as they do not hold their securities overnight. (Some brokers may let their good clients go for a few days and even as long as a week.) Since no figures are published as to how much is day trading, it is more obvious in the commodity markets where day trading often is more than 95% of the trades. Likewise it is not unusual in the stock market for a company's entire outstanding shares to be traded in a few days or weeks (more so during bull markets). This can be confirmed by watching the daily volume and compare it to the number of outstanding shares (for a company whose shares are actively traded)..
Also by watching the intra-day charts at gold-eagle.com the activity during the last half hour of trading is disproportionate to the rest of the day - this is because so many day traders must liquidate before the end of the day in order to avoid putting up money. Usually, activity in the last half hour of trading will have a significant influence on whether the market will be up or down that day.
(The remarks below are repeated from comments made before 2005:)
Much consumer wealth was dissipated with recent stock market losses - consumers don't have as much money to spend. Unemployment has been rising as well so there is less money in the economy. Without this money circulating in the economy, and without anything to replace it, it is hard to see where the money will come from to generate an economic recovery.
As history shows, except for some temporary stability, governments have been unable to keep overpriced markets from declining. If the government could do anything, it would have already done so. The market began declining over 3 years ago - the NASDAQ was down close to 70% a year ago, well before the various scandals about Enron, WorldCom and others became public knowledge, yet the government has so far been unable to keep it from falling.
Instead, now, after the fact, Congress recently passed laws outlawing corporate misbehavior, something we thought was already outlawed. We do not remember anytime it was legal for a public company to issue false financial statements. We wonder if these seemingly redundant laws are doing more harm than good because it emphasizes the inability of the government to do something more effective.
Finding scapegoats after the fact is not uncommon. In the 1930's there were many. The then president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, served over 3 years in Sing-Sing prison in the 1930's stemming from activities which occurred years before (click here for the story). During the bull market of the 1920's when so many people seemed to be making money, improper and illegal activities were not scrutinized properly and often overlooked. When the market went bad however, the public and government officials, as now, blamed others, rarely finding fault with themselves.
Even now, investors are encouraged to hold on based on fallacious ideas that the market is a good deal in the long run. Perhaps it might be, but we have never seen any convincing evidence of that, except for lucky speculators who bought and sold at the right time.
Now instead of recognizing what really happened, most reports continue to avoid the truth, namely that stocks remain extremely overvalued.
Many investors signed statements acknowledging that stocks could be risky, yet now blame others for their mistakes in buying high priced stocks.
High Earnings Multiples:
The stock market is now still selling at high earnings multiples, based on improper accounting standards used by some companies to inflate their real earnings. When companies return to more correct accounting, presumably earnings will not be inflated, thus making the price earnings ratio even higher than it already is, making the market even more vulnerable. (We wrote about improper accounting in 2001 before it became the public issue it is now (click here).
The overpriced stock market has been no secret - it was 9 years ago when the Dow Industrials were under 7,000, when the Federal Reserve chairman referred to the activity in the stock market as "irrational exuberance". Yet, the public continued to pour money, including retirement accounts, into an overpriced market.
It is hard to imagine that the necessary investor confidence could be generated to renew another bull market or even to get any kind of significant recovery. Most of the investing public wants to know when their portfolios will recover - they don't seem interested in new investment or minor changes in economic statistics.
The $54 billion loss recently written off by AOL earlier in the year could be just the tip of the iceberg since so many other companies made similar types of acquisitions. During the bull market it was not uncommon for many of America's corporations to borrow money, using the high value of their shares as security, with which to acquire other companies.
Now, with the market weakness of the past 2 years, the value of much of the security has declined, thus putting many of these companies under financial pressure.
Although there seems to be a casual attitude towards what some consider a catastrophic loss, the shareholders will pay for these losses (including those who hold the shares through pension or mutual funds). (AOL shares have already lost over 75% of their value)
We enjoyed one of the biggest bull markets in history during the past decade, leaving the stock averages at high prices. The principal issue now is whether or not to live with high stock prices even though they don't make sense investment-wise in the long run.
It is hard to forget that when the Dow was under 7,000 and earnings reports were far better than they are now, it was considered "irrational exuberance". Now that the earnings outlook is much worse than it was then, what can we expect the Dow to do? The answer seems obvious. The market may not go down in a straight line - we will have many rallies on the way down, as we are seeing now - but unless the earnings outlook improves (and we don't see much sign of that yet), we have to believe the market is overvalued.
Poor earnings news is becoming so common, it doesn't get the media attention it once did. The media tends to brush them off by saying that they were or were not close to analyst's estimates, completely irrelevant to anyone who wants to know if earnings are good or not.
Keeping your money safe - Treasury Direct:
For those who do not want to speculate in the market, click on the Federal Reserve TreasuryDirect web site to get more information on keeping your money safe at an account at the government's Federal Reserve bank.
A headline in the "Money" section of USA Today reported on September 9 that "Mutual funds vanishing at record rate" in which it was pointed out that 980 stock mutual funds merged or liquidated since March 2000, a record going back "dozens of years and covers 4.074 stock funds".
What should be an obvious concern is the stability of mutual funds. In fact, the mere absence of any discussion of the potential is suspicious by itself, as if no one wants to call attention to it. In the life time of most of us we have seen many banks, corporations and other financial institutions fail. Yet, so far we have not heard of any major mutual fund failing and not meeting their withdrawals.
Yet mutual funds are run by human beings like other financial institutions and are not immune to mismanagement. Could it be the system is so perfected that mutual funds are not subject to failures? Sooner or later we are bound to see some and of course with a potential snow ball affect, like a run on the banks. We have to believe that the financial community and/or government agencies have cooperated to keep this from happening, but how long can they "keep their finger in the dike".
It has been obvious for years that companies were taking unprecedented liberties in reporting their earnings. All kinds of abstract theories were developed and applied to achieve the desired result. Although it is an obvious exaggeration, one might say they started with the finished product and worked backwards. We have written before about the practice in recent years of accounting and reporting earnings,
Probably the most important factor now which will determine the future of the stock market is the price earnings ratio. In spite of many divergences during bear and bull markets, eventually the main guiding factor in the stock market is earnings.
Earnings were largely ignored during the 1990's since it was thought that whatever earnings are now they were likely to improve, but now more attention is being paid to earnings since improvement cannot be taken for granted in the present economic climate. History shows many periods in which the price earnings ratio became out of line and always in the past these excesses were corrected.
t is hard to take many of the financial statements seriously, particularly since they have invented so many new descriptions to describe their affairs. The initials, EBIDTA have become a word, EBIDTA, which everyone is supposed to know and be concerned with. Terms such as net profit or stockholder equity have taken a back seat to the new terms thought up to keep people's eyes upon the hole, rather than the doughnut itself.
Financial statements are the foundation on which stock is issued to the public. The idea is supposed to be that a company should disclose sufficient information for investors to make a rational decision about whether to invest in that company. Now it is becoming obvious that they cannot be relied upon.
Accounting practices have evolved in the past decade. Accounting firms would generally be the judge of what was acceptable in financial statements and we now realize they sometimes distorted results to achieve certain purposes. There are 5 big accounting firms in the U.S. and big companies tend to use them almost exclusively. Once an accounting firm realizes that one corporation is getting away with using questionable rationales, the word spreads, like bees spreading pollen.
Most likely, the use of questionable accounting practices is more widespread than is generally suspected now.
Lots of people are still holding on to their shares and mutual funds, not realizing the potential for a decline of historic proportions. A common reaction is - yes, we know the NASDAQ lost 70%, but that was mostly technology stocks. However, the other averages which have so far lost a lot less, are nevertheless still overpriced and do not make sense from an investment point of view. Therefore we believe the loss in the NASDAQ is just the beginning, a sort of warning not unlike the warnings which preceded the 1929 crash.
It is surprising to hear so many people talk of a sustained market recovery. Some investors apparently feel we are owed a recovery, although there is certainly no reason to think so. After all, we have heard time and again about boom and bust cycles, speculative bubbles and the like. Why then do so many people think there is a recovery in sight any time soon.
We do not recall this type of economic gloom in recent years. Even before the 1987 crash, things did not seem to be as bad as now. We can only compare this to the years following the 1929 crash in which layoffs and bankruptcies were widespread with no visible light at the end of the tunnel.
Based on the fundamentals of investment, i.e. potential earnings, dividends, appreciation of investment, etc., (as well as the technical aspect) there is no reason to invest now. None of these basic fundamentals which stimulate investment are present in the market today.
Bull Market is Ended:
Watching the market regularly tends to make one overlook the forest for the trees. We have already experienced one of the biggest bull markets of the century, perhaps in American history, followed by severe declines. (Even though most of the big decline was in the NASDAQ it was enough to damage most stock portfolios, most severely.) This has definitely caused a large loss of confidence in the market.
We cannot understand why, after such an experience, so many analysts are hoping for a renewed bull market. Now in the face of declining earnings (the earnings of the S&P 500 Index less than half that of a year ago) there is no reason to expect the market to stay at these high levels.
How long to recovery?
As the market declines, more and more people will recognize that the bear market is not over and will gradually recognize that a fast recovery is not in the cards. While some people are guessing it might take a year or two for the market to recover, others are guessing 5 or 10 years. If history and common sense have anything to do with it, it is likely to be another generation or so, because the present generation is coming to realize that the stock market can be vulnerable, and will be more reluctant in the future to invest their money in overpriced stocks.
Although we have not seen too many crashes of this sort in the past century, the bear market following the 1929 crash did not find bottom until June 1932, almost 3 years later. The market could go through up and down periods, or slowly deteriorate. There is no reason to think that this crash is anywhere near bottom now - we probably still have a long way to go!
We have already seen the speculative bubble burst, and hopes that we may see another one anytime soon are unfounded and more hope than reality.
The selling pressure is likely to reemerge. The fundamentals which tend to support the stock market, namely (1) the ability and willingness of potential investors to invest and (2) bright future for corporate earnings, are not there now. It will be hard to persuade investors to forget about their present losses and just continue investing.
The future for the stock market is still bleak. To have a better look and put the recent rally into a better context, click on the following weekly charts : NASDAQ - Weekly Chart S&P Index-Weekly Chart Dow Industrials-Weekly Chart (Click the "back" button on your browser to return to this site.)
Looking at these charts will help provide graphic evidence that nothing has changed in the bear market - the May rally was about the same as we have seen throughout the bear market of the past year, and looks like no more than another rally, now failing.
The Past Being Repeated:
Some are hoping for better earnings during the last half of the year, but there is certainly no reason to think it might improve. There is no reason to expect the last half of this year to be better. We are reminded of a well known quote from the publication of the Harvard Economic Society on November 15, 1930:
"The outlook is for the end of the decline in business during the early part of 1931, and steady...revival for the remainder of the year"
This prediction was followed by more than a year and a half of declining markets and a decade of depression. It may sound familiar because it is similar to what we are hearing now. We have no idea on what basis such predictions are made, except unfounded hopes. The truth is that no one knows what to expect for the remainder of the year anymore then Harvard scholars knew back then.
Fed Lowering Interest Rates Did Not Help (these comments were made in 2002):
It is very unlikely that the recent Fed action in lowering rates will help the stock market because if it were so easy we would never have a recession or depression as we have had in the past.
The Fed began lowering rates in January 2001 - at that time the NASDAQ was trading around 2,600. Now it is approaching 1,000. Certainly lowering interest rates did not help the stock market.
Governments have tried everything possible to head off the "bust" part of the "boom and bust" cycle but have had little or no success in the past. Once the speculative bubble has burst, like Humpty Dumpty, none of the King's men are able to put it back together again.
Professionals Try to Avoid Grim Reality:
The last time we saw a loss of over 70% in a major average was between 1929 and 1932 when the market (the Dow Industrials) lost 90% and it took another generation for the market to recover.
We are seeing many professionals in the industry continue to try to be optimistic and to parrot the same old baseless and boring platitudes and old clichés, repeated time and again. We hear the market is undervalued, but no explanation, such as Price Earnings ratios, dividends, or other reasons to think the market is undervalued. The market remains OVERVALUED.
We are seeing desperate moves by the brokerage industry. As the market was declining, at least two major firms circulated commercials in which high level officials encourage investors not to be nervous, that the bear market is all part of the game. What they don't mention is that a loss of over 70% in the NASDAQ has not happened in a major average since Depression times.
One of the most neglected point of views while so many people are looking for a bottom is that the market decline may be just beginning. While so many are blaming the NASDAQ and think the decline is limited to internet and technology stocks, the other averages, the Dow and the S&P are just beginning to slip.
Further, when the market does finally find a bottom, it does not mean it will turn around and go back up. It could stay at the bottom for a long time, perhaps years, interrupted by occasional rallies.
CONFIDENCE IN THE STOCK MARKET IS GREATLY SHAKEN. Who is there now to buy stocks except traders covering their short positions? If the Dow is to go back up we will need buyers who will create the demand. Investors are discouraged by the big decline and the unreliability of the market. Most are reluctant to make any further commitment. IT COULD VERY WELL BE ANOTHER GENERATION OR MORE BEFORE CONFIDENCE IN THE MARKET IS RESTORED as was the case in previous declines, notably the 1929-1932 decline.
Stocks still remain overpriced. Although present price earnings ratios may seem low to new investors who are used to seeing P/E's of 25 or 30 (much more in the NASDAQ), they still remain very high by historical standards.
We are providing links to another (unrelated) web site which provides charts and computer generated technical indicators so that visitors can get a second opinion (updated every evening). Click on the following links, then scroll down under the chart to read the computer generated technical analysis: NASDAQ S&P 500 Dow Industrials (Click the "back:" button on your browser to return to this site.)
Don't forget, that less than a decade ago the NASDAQ was only about 500. Only about 6 years ago the Dow was under 7,000 when those high prices were then considered "irrational exuberance". Is there any reason they should continue at their present still high levels, especially in the face of so many bad earnings reports and an uncertain future ahead?
In the long run, stock prices depend on earnings and the earnings are just not there.
If anyone looks at their stock portfolios, hardly anyone will find they are making good returns. They are holding stocks, not as investment, but as speculation that someone will take if off their hands at higher prices, regardless of earnings, interest rates, or common sense.
The stock market during most of the 1990's was one big pyramid scheme, something many people were arrested for in the past, and if the past is any example we would not be surprised to see many people also put into jail for fraud. During bad times, it is not uncommon to find scapegoats, even if they were just doing what everyone else was doing.
Will Mutual Funds Get in Trouble?
We would not be surprised to see a mutual fund in trouble as is common during declines of this magnitude. If the market is hit with this type of news, particularly a market as nervous as we have now, we can almost certainly expect the "fur to fly". After all, we have heard of many bank failures in the past and we can only wonder why we have not yet heard of a failing mutual fund, unable to meet its redemptions.
The worst thing is that we may see a traditional "crash" because a lot of negative publicity has been given to recent drops and more and more people are likely to withdraw their money from the stock market. We have heard reports that this withdrawal activity is accelerating.
Confidence Greatly Diminished:
AN IMPORTANT THING TO RECOGNIZE IS THAT WHEN THE MARKET TURNS BAD, MOST STOCKS DECLINE, EVEN GOOD SOLID COMPANIES. We have heard many "experts" tell us to stick with good companies. It is rare to see even the shares of good companies stay stable when the rest of the market is declining. This is obvious now in AT&T, Microsoft, Lucent, Eastman Kodak, IBM, Coca-Cola, Xerox and so many other "good" companies. Just because a company is a good company does not mean that money can be made by buying or holding on to shares in that company.
An important note: For those who want to get out of the market, be careful about putting your money into money market funds which also have stock mutual funds. When times get bad, we never know what surprises might emerge. If a company with stock mutual funds fails, there is a good chance their money market funds may also be in trouble. Play it safe and keep your money in the Federal Reserve (click here for more info) or in FDIC insured banks or CD's.
Not many people need this site to tell them what is happening to the stock market. We are going through one of the most traumatic financial periods in U.S. history, the bursting of a speculative bubble. Between 1929 and 1932, the Dow lost 90% of its value, and at the rate we are going now, we are not too far behind. After all, how much difference is there in a market which lost over 70% and one losing 90% - both can be considered to be a crash.
We are seeing a form of mass hysteria, where many people are persuaded to hold on to their shares and ignore common sense, as though share prices had nothing to do with corporate earnings. People are ignoring the fact the speculative bubble has burst and hoping against hope that some kind of miracle will happen which will get their money back for them.
As a result, instead of realizing their loss, they are frozen, unable to move, influenced by professionals who are mainly thinking of themselves without regard for their customers. It is rare to find an honest financial professional who will admit they were peddling stocks and mutual funds against common sense, even now that it has become obvious.
With only little exception, most economic reports released in the past few months or so have been very discouraging, confirming we are in some sort of economic slowdown. It is not too far out of line to wonder if we are undergoing a recession, perhaps another depression. After all, this is what usually follows the bursting of a speculative bubble and there is no reason to expect anything different now.
Another negative development during the past decade or so is that companies have gradually changed their methods of accounting and reporting earnings, some trying to disguise earning results and/or attract investment. (Click on above link to learn more about the state of corporate earnings reporting.)
It is just another symptom of greed - we are not the first generation to experience this mass hysteria - it has happened many times throughout history, and it is on this basis, that we can confidently forecast that it is likely to happen again.
Those who own stock should look to protect themselves.
If anyone has any real statistical evidence that holding stock mutual funds in the long term is more profitable than buying Federal Reserve T-Bills or Treasury Bonds, we would appreciate seeing it. In decades of trying to find proof we have never been able to justify stock as a permanent long term investment. (Of course, some individual stocks have done well, but there are at least as many or more that haven't - also stocks bought at low PE multiples are likely to perform better than stocks bought at high prices in a bull market.) If you have some evidence it would be greatly appreciated if you contact us.
Stock holders who want to protect themselves against loss, or speculators who want to take advantage of what is happening in the market have lots of opportunity to do so, either in stock or commodity accounts. There are many ways to take advantage of a declining market, by selling Calls, buying Puts, selling futures on stock indexes, selling stocks or stock indexes or any combination of them. (Only those who know how to deal with these should attempt it.)
We are likely to see continued declines ahead until the averages either reach some sort of support levels or we have a final washout - very large and disproportionate declines with lots of volume which have accompanied the end of declining periods in the past.
CLICK ON LINKS BELOW FOR MORE:
Important: Please read our Disclaimer
There is a lot more to say about the market:
How to keep your money safe at the Federal Reserve TreasuryDirect
Long Term Technical Indicators (written at the beginning of the bear market)
Bull or Bear Market? (written at the beginning of the bear market)
Note to regular visitors: Because the factors behind the stock market movements remain the same for long periods, many of the remarks are repeated. Most of the new remarks are included in the first few paragraphs, although we sometimes change the contents of the rest of the page as well.