We think we believe what we know, but we only truly believe what we feel.–Laurence Gonzales,DEEP SURVIVAL Wags among traders say, “If you’re gonna panic, panic first.” Well, its a little late for that if the Wave Principal’s primary forecast … Continue reading →
Not now, but the question being posed to me by fully invested readers today is “When do we sell?” Answer, “I don’t know!”
Trying to decide when to sell based on what the market is doing is an exercise in futility. It’s a given that, if you sell, the market will go up big and leave you at the station. If you hold, it will crash. You know this. It’s a fearful time, But the biggest fear you have is FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. So you think your only option is to hold and grit your teeth when stocks go down in a serious way like yesterday.
There are enough selloffs in a long-term bull market to make “It always comes back” an article of faith to anyone still in. And it’s true until it isn’t, but there are signals that should give you an inkling that you should head for the exits. One is the all-in bullish pronouncements by the banks and brokers. My firm’s weekly report had a gem last week. Analysts are maintaining that, because there have been so few recessions in the last few years, the market is entering a new phase in which the super-high valuations are not a cause for worry because they signal a new era in which the market is deserving of high valuations.
Also yesterday, one of the major banks reportedly begged clients to buy the dip, insisting that periods like these are always buying opportunities.
Harks back to September, 1929. The market had just reached a new high when Yale economist, Irving Fisher jubilantly stated, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Within two years the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 89% of its value, and did not recover fully until 1956.
My approach is to sell when stocks are valued at levels that have historically marked peaks in future returns. Stocks have been in this condition for a while, so I’m not in stocks. My studies of Elliott Wave patterns argue that the next bear market will be a 1929-32 destruction of value, so I will hold 2 year Treasuries until valuations crash to 1932 levels and the all-in bullishness on the part of the financial advisory industry switches to all-out bearishness.
Then I will buy.
You wanna get rich? I’ll show you how to get rich. First, get a million dollars. —Steve Martin
Mania noun 1. mental illness marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, and overactivity “many people suffering from mania do not think anything is wrong”
If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention. Stare at the chart below, then scroll down and, if you’re interested, I’ll tell you what I see.
The peak on the lower left hand corner topped by a circled Roman numeral I marks the top of a Grand Supercycle Bull Market that began in the early 17th century in Amsterdam, peaking in England in 1720. Following that top, a bear market lasting approximately sixty years ended in the 1780s where you see the circled Roman numeral II, giving way to Grand Supercycle Bull Market III, which is ending, I believe, right about now. This is important because, while the amplitude of a bull market is difficult to anticipate, its ultimate retracement is not. All bull market impulse waves retrace in a corrective wave back to the fourth wave of one lesser degree. Wherever Grand Supercycle Wave III ends, it will ultimately give up all the gains since Supercycle wave IV.
Confused? See For yourself: Shift your gaze up and to the right to where you see 377. That was the 1929 peak of Supercycle Wave III, which is one degree of trend below the Grand Supercycle Wave we are presently ending. The Bear Market coming soon will see the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge to a level between the peak at 377, and the bottom of Wave IV, which was 41 in the Dow.
Why, you will ask, does that have to happen? I will give you my mother’s response in situations like these: “Because I said so.” I’ve been at this since 1968 and this is as near a certainty in markets as I’ve ever run across. Long time readers know that calling the ultimate top has eluded me for some time, but I’ve always done so when the data strongly argued for a top. Those tops were only temporary, but the expectation a collapse to below Dow 400 has never changed. The only thing that has been altered is the magnitude of the collapse.
Look at the 1929 top again and see where it bottomed in 1932 and, just to the left you will see the smaller corrective wave IV of Cycle wave III. Careful study of the markets of the world consistently show the same pattern. And if, like every financial advisor presently give advice, you can find reasons that “This time is different,” you are a full-on participant of the mania. There is no escaping visceral bullishness at tops. I could spend hours on the subject. You would nod your head at times, seeming to agree with me, but you would not sell.
I’ll write a bit more in the days ahead in order to flesh out the argument that when this bull market is over the market will not return to wherever it tops in our lifetimes.
What do I recommend? I don’t make recommendations because I have no skin in your game. I only have skin in my game, so I’ll share what I do, expecting you to make up your own mind. Fat Tony, a Brooklyn-born streetwise trader (very successful) sez: “Fugheddabout the tawlk, Rod, whattaya got in yer account.
“The important thing
is not what they have made of you, but what you have made of what they have
made of you.” –Sartre
Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale (ret.) died June 5, 2005. His navy career spanned thirty-seven years. I He was a fighter pilot, a test pilot, and had commands at sea and ashore. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam. He was president of both The Naval War College and The Citadel. He was a warrior, a leader and an educator, but it was his ordeal as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam that defined him. His writings and lectures on the moral philosophy that bore the Americans during their savage imprisonment are a legacy to be cherished and studied.
In 1965, Commander Jim Stockdale was shot down while leading a bombing raid over North Vietnam. He survived, was captured, and spent the next eight years in a Communist prison, where he was the senior American present. The Communists treated Americans as political prisoners, and sought to extort false confessions, and make them “atone” for their “crimes” by making anti-American propaganda statements to the international press. They endured unspeakable conditions. The Communists made every effort to break the will of the Americans. They might have succeeded, had it not been for Stockdale’s leadership.
Early on, Stockdale realized that they were in an impossible situation. The US Military Code of Conduct required that American prisoners of war give name, rank, serial number and date of birth to interrogators, and nothing else. This played into the Communists’ technique of using torture and isolation to destabilize the Americans to break their will.
tortured, a prisoner’s arms were bound from behind with rope tourniquets, which
were tightened until the blood was cut off. His arms were yanked backwards
until they nearly dislocated (and, sometimes did), while his head was jammed
down between his legs as the extortionist stood on his back, causing him to
panic from suffocation, claustrophobia, and pain. Fifteen minutes of this
treatment could squash any man, crumpling him into a sobbing, submissive,
compliant wreck, vomiting and unable to control his bowels. The torture did not
stop until the prisoner spilled his guts, or died. This was called “taking the
torture and confession, the prisoner was isolated from the others, often for
months. During this solitary confinement, the shame of having betrayed his
countrymen consumed him, destroying his self-esteem and, ultimately, his will
to resist. Eventually, the fear of being called to take the ropes for some
minor infraction, combined with his deepening shame, set the prisoner up to
collaborate in exchange for the hope of amnesty.
enduring this despicable regimen, Stockdale devised some basic ethical
guideposts to enable the Americans to resist, fight back as a group, and build
implemented a wall tap communication system to subvert the camp’s rule of
silence between prisoners. Everyone stayed in touch and shared what he was
going through—even those in isolation. By sharing their experiences, the men
could keep their sanity, knowing they had done nothing worse than anyone else.
When a recent arrival was tortured and confessed, his typical reaction was,
“You don’t want to talk to me, I’m a traitor.” The immediate response from the
older guys was, “Hey, don’t beat yourself up! We’ve all done that and worse.”
his own career, Stockdale abrogated The Code of Conduct. In its place, he
ordered that information be given, but not freely. “Make them torture you,
first,” He said. “How much should we take,” they asked? Stockdale agonized, and
said, “Make them give you significant pain, then tell us what you told them.”
was a brilliant decision. It allowed a man to be a combatant again. Self-worth
was restored. Morale soared. It forged the Americans into a cohesive unit. The
Communists were furious because the Americans resisted as one. They couldn’t
winnow out the weak. “You Americans are nothing like the French were,” the
frustrated camp commander muttered, “We could count on them to be reasonable.”
suffered the most torture and privation of all. Time and again, others were
tortured and forced to confirm he was their leader. For this, and other phony
infractions, Stockdale was tortured over twenty times and spent over four years
in solitary. Two of those years were spent in leg irons, often sitting in his
own excrement for days. His leg, broken when he first landed, was never
properly treated. He suffered pain from it every day for eight years. He
stoically accepted it all without yielding, and the men loved him for it.
thought always about unity over self. “No amnesty—either we all leave or we all
stay.” “Don’t ask for anything, don’t accept anything–unless it is for
everyone.” “Negotiate for all, or not at all.”
men responded with love for him and care for each other. A new man once tapped,
“What should I value in here to keep myself going?” Stockdale tapped back, “The
guy in the next cell. Treasure him. He is precious. Love him. He is your only
link to our civilization in here.” Much later, Stockdale wrote, “From this
eight year experience, I distilled one all-purpose idea…That idea is that you
are your brother’s keeper.”
this way, the warriors… “Built a civilization of Americans behind walls that
had the courage to rule itself responsibly without contact with the parent
country for eight years.”
this way, a gritty American helped 500 of his countrymen prevail and come home.
On a crisp February morning in 1973, the first of those warriors stepped off
the plane at Travis Air Force Base, just north of San Francisco.
It was glorious to see-if your heart were iron And you could keep from grieving at all the pain
bless you, Jim Stockdale.
Philosopher, Alan Watts, observes that we worry about whether we have enough
and are secure enough to be happy. Paradoxically, the greatest opportunity for
happiness lies in being selfless. Jim Stockdale did more than survive his
terrible ordeal. In thinking about and caring about others more than he thought
about and cared about himself, he achieved serenity and peace of mind. When he
came home, and for the rest of his life, he would say that the best part of his
life was his imprisonment in Viet
If you chase after money and security, Your heart will never unclench. —Lao Tsu
The mind wants to know all the world, all eternity, even God. The mind’s sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy.
—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
If you are on my distribution list, you got an e-mail from me in May telling you that the new high in the Dow Jones Industrial Average I was anticipating may not be the ultimate top. Rather, a new high within the next couple of months has more of a look of part of a massive correction formation-an expanded diagonal triangle-that should lead to a severe drop to below the low established last Christmas Eve to complete a corrective 4th wave. The correction should be followed by a final impulse wave to greater highs with a likely final top in the Grand Supercycle Bull Market that began in the 1780s. At this point, the probability is that the final high should occur sometime in 2021. Here’s a look at a diagram of the pattern:
The close this week at new highs satisfies the pattern. Anything can happen from here, I suppose, including the high we just reached being the final high. It is a very low probability because the decline from the October high was not impulsive. Best bet is that the market goes down violently into a low somewhere below the Christmas Eve low, and then rally in a final impulse wave, probably ending within the next 15-18 months.
The period ahead should be very difficult for fully invested stock investors. E waves typically are crashes, causing enormous stress, and a fair amount of liquidation. The final rally will bring regret, and even have some get back in. It will be a major whipsaw, with no winners at the end.
I won’t be tempted to do anything other than to continue rolling forward 2 year Treasury bonds until markets reach a bottom in the bear market. My best wishes to all my family and friends. I hope you are able to go through this period safely.
The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality: yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.
My goal as an investor is to pay a lot of taxes. Boatloads of taxes. When I file my tax return after selling my stocks I want to back a Brinks truck up to my door, load it up until it’s groaning under the weight of the cash to pay my tax liability, and send it on to Washington.
To get to do this, I first have to make a ton of money in the market. That is hard. I have to wait patiently, usually for years, for a good shot at getting in. And when stocks finally get cheap, it’s for sure I’ll be terrified of buying because the economy will be in shreds, unemployment will be sky high, and corporate bankruptcies will litter the landscape. Early on, holding onto the stuff will be tough because the business news will be terrible. Eventually, as the market rises, I’ll get more comfortable with my holdings. Then comes the really sickening part: I’ll have to sell my stocks when the economic news has long since turned rosy: unemployment is at record lows, corporate profits are soaring, and the stock market makes new highs every week. Obviously, I will be loathe to leave the party. The emotional demands of succeeding in the market are onerous. Actually doing the right thing at the right time always makes me want to puke.
To get around my natural instincts, I employ a series of studies that let me know when it is time for me to do the exact opposite of what I dearly want to do, or not do. Elliott Wave Principal, investor sentiment, and valuation are my tools. They do not pinpoint the exact day to buy or sell, but they give me a good idea when the market provides a low risk entry, and when the odds of making and keeping money are poor.
Long time readers know I’ve discussed Elliott Wave for some time. The analysis indicates a major top in the market either occurred on October 4th, or will after another inconsequential new high. I’ve also pointed out that investor sentiment is again setting records for bullishness. At extremes, the most likely next big move will be the opposite of what investors and their advisors expect. In sync with the Elliott forecast, sentiment figures today are screaming big crash coming.
Valuation is in accordance, too. Stare at the chart below:
Stocks are once again in an extreme bubble like they were in 1929. PE ratios were higher in 2000. Could they go higher? I don’t know, but the aggregate of my three forms of analysis is bearish in the extreme, so I don’t want to tempt fate here.
I was prompted to write this piece by a remark a friend made a couple of days ago. “Yeah, Rod, I agree the market is overdone, but I don’t want to sell because I don’t want to pay the taxes.”
No problem. That’s my view. He can hold a while, let the market come down until selling won’t be a tax issue at all. Might even give him a loss to write off.
Dear family and friends, you know that I don’t write these essays to tell you what to do. I write them to remind myself that I don’t want to be a sucker in uncertainty. As uncertain as the future is, my studies persuade me that holding 2 year Treasury notes will beat stocks for a long time.
There is no guarantee, no ultimate formula for success. It all comes down to intelligently and relentlessly seeking solutions that will increase your chances of prevailing. When you do that, the score will take care of itself.
—Bill Walsh, former Coach of the San Francisco 49ers
Bob Prechter’s report, The Elliott Wave Theorist published on Friday, March 15, made the case for a turn back down to resume the bear market within the next two trading days. His analysis included the following observations:
Provided the rally since December 24th stops and reverses now, the form and time analogy from the presumed start of the current bear market, the drop into the first low, and the duration of the recovery move to an interim top matches the same form and sequence of the 1968 bear market: 84 days from the top to the first bottom, and 79 days to the reaction top, a total of 163 days, top to top.
Several market indexes, including the S&P 500, the Major Market Index, and the New York Stock Exchange Composite have returned to their upper trendlines, which have provided strong resistance to further advance in the past.
While long term sentiment figures have been extremely overbought for some time, short term sentiment among S&P futures traders have reached bullish extremes that are usually seen at important tops.
I note that not only have futures traders turned bullish, stock investors this past week flipped suddenly from being on balance sellers to recording one of the biggest net buying weeks in the last six months.
I also note that, at precisely the same time, I turned bullish myself, emailing my readers that I was altering my position, terming the advance since Christmas Eve an impulse wave will take the market to new highs:
So here I am, trained in the art of contrary opinion, joining the always-wrong-at-important-junctures crowd!
I would tell you that I’m embarrassed, but I’m not. It’s just hard to stick to your guns when the market is making you look like a fool. Now, it’s true that if the market does not turn down pretty soon, my change of opinion may turn out to be right. But, at the moment, I’m very uncomfortable to find myself in the company of the majority.
It was the clearest of signals in that first week of October 2018. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all could be labeled as having five complete waves at multiple degrees of trend, signaling the top of a 200 year bull market.
The importance of the signal is that, if the labeling is correct, this top, unlike the tops in 2000 and 2007, is far more serious and portends a much deeper, longer lasting bear market than anything anyone alive today has experienced. It should be a degree of magnitude greater than the Supercycle Bear Market of 1929-32. This one is expected to be a Grand Supercycle Bear Market. The previous one began in 1720 and the effects lasted nearly fifty years.
This bear market began right on schedule, dropping in two crashes with an intervening countertrend rally into a low on Christmas Eve. What should have followed was another upward reaction, followed by a further drop into a low of around DJIA 15,000 to complete the first leg down in a drop that is expected to get below 4,000. Then, after a retracement that could last a couple of years, another impulse wave taking the Dow down below 1,000 to a final low, probably 10-15 years from now.
Instead, an advance began on December 26th that has gone beyond a normal retracement, so the pattern is now something other than an impulse wave.
From here, I believe there are two possibilities. The bear market may continue irregularly in the way that the decline from 1986 to 1970 occurred. The problem with that scenario is that the 1986 drop was not a major bear market and it only dropped 37% before coming back to new highs. The second possibility is that this first drop is another pause in a continuing bull market which would mean new highs are ahead. The next phase of decline should give us a clue, and it shouldn’t take long to get underway, as the market is very overbought now.
How does an investor handle the situation? I look at the market now in terms of risk. It is the same as it was last October. It is extremely overvalued. Most investors have no real idea what they own, and are numbly complacent about it. A rational study of the present market condition clearly indicates that the risk, in historical perspective, has never been higher. Unfortunately, investors are never rational at market tops. They unconsciously cling to their stocks, driven by FOMO (Fear-Of-Missing-Out). It’s a hard emotion to beat.
The investment advisory industry is similarly bullish. Surveys of economists consistently indicate they are nearly unanimously optimistic. As counter intuitive as it may sound, major market turns always take place when the majority thinks a trend will continue.
In the futures market, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitment of Traders Report on futures on stock indexes indicates a record long (bullish) position on the part of speculators, and a correspondingly record short (bearish) position on the part of the commercials. When extremes like these are reported, it is always the commercials that are right.
As long time readers know, I do not make recommendations. How you handle this information is your business. But I will tell you that my recommendation to Cindy is that she remain in 2 year Treasury Notes, even if the market were to go to another high. History tells us that you can’t make money in an expensive market and the risk today, in my opinion, is extraordinary.
Posted inUncategorized|Comments Off on Dealing With Market Ambiguity
“…What is involuntary human nature.” This “involuntary” is very true, very beautiful, very well observed, and this observation is new.
Today is Saturday, and a gorgeous day. After the gloom and rain and cold last week, the thing to do was to wheel his Harley out of the garage and head for the Interstate to blow the carbon out of the carburetors and the cobwebs out of his head. “Most motorcycle fatalities happen when the rider is not wearing a helmet.” he said. “I’m going to start wearing one, but not today.”
Why not today? would the risk be any less today than next Thursday? Leave aside it’s the consequences, not the probabilities of a careful biker crashing that matter. Once would be enough.
Ah, but it hasn’t happened yet. Context takes precedence over logic when making decisions in matters of uncertainty. Until he has that first crash, he cannot imagine it actually happening to him.
The same is true with investors. I discussed the market condition with a fellow this week. We both read a piece about the characteristics of market tops. High levels of low quality debt, for one. For the third time since 2000, Liars Loans, loans that are made by lenders to borrowers for whom the credit application is fudged if not outright falsified are back with a vengeance in record amounts throughout the financial system. And there’s more, but I’ve run the numbers ad nauseum in earlier essays. “It’s very scary,” he tells me. Not scary enough, apparently. He remains fully invested.
We humans are equipped with terrific instincts for getting the hell out of the way when a lion comes out of the woods to eat us. For avoiding the destructive effects of a bear market on stock and bond portfolios, not so much. If the main thing for an investor is to avoid being a sucker in uncertainty, it should not take much research for anyone to discover that, by every historical metric, the stock and bond markets are more risky now than ever in history. The paradox, due to our peculiar response to the moment, is that until we start taking serious gas in our 401k, we are more dominated by the unreasonable fear that if we get out now the market will go straight up, making rich people out of everyone else but us. It will take some pain to make investors start treating a bear market the way they do a man-eating lion.
Actually, it may be starting to happen. At a meeting this morning, a woman told me she lost money in the market last year. Right, Treasury Bills outperformed both stocks and bonds in 2018. Made her mad. She told the guy that advises employees in her company to get her out of things with market risk. She’s an early adopter. No surprise to me, I’ve always given women the edge on decision making. Men have to be beaten up before they pay attention.
I hold the view that a Grand Supercycle Bear Market began in the US market on October 4, 2018. It began with the same profile as the Supercycle Bear market of 1929. The model aborted at the lows on Christmas Eve, and has been in a countertrend rally since then. In the February issue of Elliott Wave Financial Forecast out yesterday, the analysts confirmed that the bear market is very much in force and that when this countertrend move ends, the primary downtrend will resume.
“Is there anything I can do
to make myself enlightened?”
“As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”
“Then of what use are the spiritual
exercises you prescribe?”
“To make sure you are not asleep
when the sun begins to rise.”
–Zen master to his disciple
The US stock market continues to track the start of the previous Supercycle Bear Market, which occurred in the final two months of 1929. Looking ahead, I expect more high volatility in both directions until the first wave of primary degree of trend bottoms at around 15,000 in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which should come in by mid January.
Now would be a good time to get a handle on why I was able to accurately convey the forecast for a severe collapse in the market when virtually every analyst in the financial services industry was bullish in the extreme. It was certainly not brilliance on my part. Rather, I rely on a method that, while challenging in it’s application, provides a genuine result because it is based on what influences investment behavior. Conventional market analysts attempt to assign exogenous causes for the direction of markets and are consistently wrong at major turning points. The result is that, sooner or later, they wreak havoc on the investment community by insisting on using bad science in their approach.
The primary task in investing is to avoid being a sucker in uncertainty. We don’t know what is going to happen next in the market, so we seek the advice of “experts.” We do not, as a matter of rule, bother to check the error rate of an advisor’s method. The fellow wears a good suit, sounds plausible and, most importantly, we want to invest or we wouldn’t be in his office to start with.
There is a reason we want to invest: social mood is elevated. The more elevated, the more eager we are to invest without doing much in the way of due diligence. If the market has been going up for a few years the advisor’s results are good and his clients have no trouble recommending him when a friend inquires.
When the market turns, everyone, especially the advisor, is shocked. That’s the situation today. What will follow is an attempt on everyone’s part to justify not selling and to hang on until the losses get too much to bear. eventually the crowd sells and most will never want to invest again.
The long term forecast given by the Socionomic Theory of Finance is for the US stock market to whipsaw through several large swings over the next twenty years or so. When the first swing down bottoms, most likely in January 2019, a good, tradable countertrend rally should recover some of the loss and top some time in late spring or early summer. After the countertrend rally, a long, devastating resumption of the bear market should take the market down to an incredible low with the Dow bottoming around 3,000 sometime in 2021-21. From that point, a huge rally that may take stocks up as much as fifty to seventy percent of the total loss will provide us with the best opportunity those of us alive today will ever have to make money in stocks, because after that advance the market should turn back down to its ultimately low below Dow 1,000.
The next twenty years in the market will be bewildering to most advisors. They were exceedingly optimistic at the top we just past. They are now becoming bearish. When we hit the next low in a few weeks they will have turned very bearish just when Socionomics offers a good short term trade. Then, come summer, we will be selling our trading position just when they shift back to the bullish side, quite possibly even more bullish than they were at the all time top, only to be whipsawed again as the next most devastating decline completely destroys values.
To survive and thrive in the market between now and the time you hang it up as an investor you are going to need to separate yourself from conventional thinking. I had to do this fifty years ago. I suffered a great deal and so did my clients in the late sixties and early seventies when I was a young broker during a bear market of much smaller degree of trend than the one now underway.
An investor should take ownership of his own destiny by understanding how markets work and following the probabilistic forecasts of practitioners of the Socionomic Theory of Finance. The very best socionomists, in my view, are the developers of the theory, Robert Prechter and his associates at Elliott Wave International.
I began writing essays some time ago to provide my family and some friends a resource for their decision making. I will continue to do this, but I’ll be eighty in April. I don’t yet feel like I’ve lived past my sell-by date yet, but you never know. The best, and only advice I can give is that you give the folks at Elliott Wave International a call (800-336-1618) and get yourself a subscription to The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast.
A year or so ago I wrote an essay about the theory and its development. The folks at EWI edited it so I know I’m giving you good information. To read it, click on the link below.