Timing Model Update
Timing attempts to provide market equivalent returns over the long term, with a substantial reduction in variability of returns. The two components of the Timing program are EZ+Macro and Fear/Greed. This system trades rarely and splits its allocations between ETFs tracking the S&P 500, the intermediate-term U.S. Treasuries, and cash.
System recap is presented first this week, followed by extended commentary and charts.
Information is as of the close on August 8, 2008.
My charts are relatively wide, and this site is best viewed at 1280×1024. If the chart is truncated in your browser, click on it to view it in full size.
EZ Trend is still down. About twelve weeks ago, it looked as if the divergence had been reversing, but since then, the difference between the averages has stabilized, then gotten wider. That difference is now even wider than it was in March.
Macro Trend is still bullish for Treasuries - but only barely. This comes into play only if the EZ Trend is not up.
The Fear/Greed model signaled a buy for the U.S. stock market in early November, and a sell in December, as the $VIX relative to actual volatility fell to a historically low level. For most of the last seven months, the current level of sentiment, as measured by the $VIX relative to actual volatility, has been at levels historically associated with complacency. It has only been for several weeks in June and July that the measurement was anywhere close to historical "norms." In the scale of the chart, 80% of the readings since 1990 have been between the red and green lines. The "sell" signals in July were meaningless, since this portion of the portfolio never saw a "buy" signal and remains on the "sell" from December of 2007.
This system is a ways away from signaling any change in position. It's comfortable riding out the volatility with a partial position in stocks and bonds, and a majority in cash.
Based on beginning with a $100,000 portfolio at inception. The portfolio weights are shown behind the ticker symbol, and are rounded to the tenth of a percent.
S&P 500 SPDRs (SPY) 24.3% weight
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Fund (IEF) 24.7% weight
Cash 51.0% weight
Based on beginning with a $100,000 portfolio at inception.
Gain, Last 4 weeks: 1.26%
Gain, Year to Date: -4.47%
Gain, Since Inception on 11/12/2007: -3.20%
These returns include the recent June distribution from IEF of $0.29 per share, and dividends from SPY of $0.67 per share. This system has been approximately 50% allocated to cash since December 21, 2007, and I have not been including gains from cash interest in the returns.
Changes To Model Allocation
There are no changes to the model allocation since the previous message. It is listed below:
S&P 500 SPDRs (SPY) 25.0% weight
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond Fund (IEF) 25.0% weight
Cash 50.0% weight
There are no changes to track.
My overall thesis, that the U.S. stock market has set up for an intermediate-to-long-term bottom, as discussed much earlier, has not changed. It certainly did appear to be in jeopardy as of the previous message. Keep in mind that the Timing system is mechanical, and will be tracked based on the signals it generates. The system went 50/50 stocks/cash on December 21, 2007, and then on January 18, 2008 went to 25/25/50 stocks/bonds/cash.
Reviewing May's summary opinion:
The best risk/return, although highest volatility, entry opportunities have passed; those were at the bottom in January and the retest in March. Today does not present as good an opportunity, because of some short- and medium-term "overbought" conditions. I suspect that the broad movement off of the retest in March will segregate itself by sector, with leadership emerging and some lagging sectors falling below their 50 day moving averages, and the index working off its "overboughtness."
What we've seen since was a move below the previous lows, punctuated by a reversal week on even huger volume than the "week that Jerome wrought" back in January. The general positions marked by the line connecting the January and March lows, and the level of support from the summer of 2006, roughly marked the tail of the reversal candle on the weekly charts, and the index is now trading above the January lows. If the chart is truncated in your browser, click on it to view it in full size.
Last update, I wrote:
The only technicals left as possible encouragement on this chart are: (1) possible support at the lows from the summer of 2006, (2) possible support from the downslope line connecting the January and March 2008 lows, and (3) the high volume which may suggest another (or finally "THE") capitulation.
The good news - if there is any for the longs - is that the breadth of the market is back into historically oversold positions. It's also interesting to note that the breadth is higher at this low than it was at the previous lows in January and March.
That breadth differential shows up very clearly on the weekly charts.
The bullish interpretation is that the lows this time, on better breadth, are more driven by fewer individual stocks in trouble, and the "market" is in better shape than the index would suggest. The bearish interpretation is that there are more stocks waiting to fall!
I've written previously that the bottom and retest, in January and March, were the best buying opportunities, albeit stomach-churning; that's been proven wrong, as even if the overall thesis was correct, the lows were taken out by the retest in July. Many of the sentiment measures I track, such as my Fear/Greed ratio, show complacency in the extreme. However, the market is trading above those January lows as I type this message. The continuously improving market breadth on every retest points to a focus on fewer and fewer stocks driving the extreme negativity in action. There are other sentiment factors, such as historically high investor allocations to money markets, and negative flows of funds from amateur equity investors, that point to a serious bottom shaping up at these levels.
Whether my "the January lows were THE lows" thesis is mildly wrong (i.e. we only traded below them for a few weeks in July), or majorly wrong (i.e. we trade far below them in the future), remains to be seen. My timing commentary is aimed at longer-term traders, as is the Timing model. Players looking for moves on a faster basis should consult either Aggressive or Rotational for ideas.
On a strictly mechanical basis, the Timing model remains half in cash, with the other half split between stocks and bonds, and it's results on a relative benchmark basis -- the proper basis for a timing model -- show it to have been better than buy and hold since inception, even without including any yield from the cash held. It will continue to follow the mechanical systems without deviation, and it looks like it will be some time before the system moves to a higher stock position.
I don't focus on individual "calls" or picks when examining a system outcome, because the performance of a system over multiple years is determined by many different decisions, of which some will be good, some will be bad, some will be very good, and some will be very bad. The systems are backtested over more than a decade for a reason. This is why my systems are generally updated only once a month, with wrap-ups of all four systems every six months or so. As I mentioned in a recent reader correspondence:
There are people who get rich quick, but for every one of them, there are hundreds that get poor quick. Don't try to hit a home run every at bat, it's a 162 game season and you are planning for a long career of many seasons ...
Regardless of outcome, good or bad, you can rest assured that I'll continue posting the complete results here in this space.
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