Stock jitters, Gold and JPY still compressed

Gold and the yen each worked still lower this week on highly depressed sentiment readings. Each of these has had a negative relationship with the “risk trade” lately, falling as stocks have rebounded from their oversold and overbearish condition of mid-November. Now, stock sentiment has recovered to neutral territory, and traders are afraid of these sometime “safety trades.”

Trader opinion gold has been very low since late October, a full eight weeks ago. Every similar instance in the past several years has been followed by a substantial multi-week rally. That said, if the bull markets in precious metals and the yen are indeed over, we should expect downtrends to become more protracted, with sentiment remaining low for longer.

Here’s a 1-year daily chart of gold:

1-year daily JPYUSD:

I’m holding to a thesis that the risk trade is topping out here as the US slides into a recession that remains largely unrecognised. Tops are rarely sharp peaks, but consist of several months of choppy sideways action during which sentiment deteriorates from giddy to nervous and the VIX picks up even before prices have fallen substantially. I view the rebound since mid-November with that context, akin to the action of April-July 2011 or pretty much all of 2007. ¬†Last nights mini flash crash in stock futures fits into that context of a increasingly jittery market.

We’re three months from the 4-year birthday of the (presumably) cyclical bull market. It is now older than most cyclical bulls within secular bears, though the last bull phase lasted from March 2003 to October 2007, 4.5 years.

Another cyclical bear and a recession and drop in corporate earnings may finally compress multiples to the investable levels required to build a solid base for another bear market. I don’t expect this to happen quickly, though, since prices have a long way to go before we see anything that can be called historically cheap. I wouldn’t be surprised to see stocks hold at or beneath current levels for the rest of this decade as inflation creeps in towards the end and boosts earnings, as happened during the latter stages of the last three secular bear markets (roughly the 1910s, ’30s, ’70s).

Who wants coffee?

Not many traders, apparently. Sentiment has been low for most of 2012, never even once reaching 50% bulls according to DSI. The latest slump has made futures traders extremely bearish on the beans for three weeks now, but in the first half of 2012 we saw this condition sustained for longer than I’ve ever witnessed on a contract. Despite a preponderance of bears, the price continued to slide, even at an accelerated pace, before a small rally this summer. Prices and sentiment have since returned to their lows.

Daily close, cents per pound:
coffee 2010-2012

Despite all of this bearishness and a 50% decline, coffee is still not particularly cheap by historical standards. It has been working off a mania that resulted in a parabolic doubling in 10 months from summer 2010 to spring 2011. I can’t publish the data, but picture bullishness alternating from medium-high to very high for the duration of that rally. This probably goes a long ways towards explaining the steady decline and bearishness. Prices have now returned to the base of that ramp, but if we look at a long-term chart, we can see that the spike was the final blowoff of a bull market coinciding with the general commodity boom, and that today’s price is still triple the 2001 lows. Commodities are cyclical and tend to swing from extreme to extreme, adjusted for inflation, so coffee wouldn’t be historically cheap today unless it were under $1.00/lb.

Monthly close (through Oct):
coffee 1982-2012
Indexmundi.com

I don’t see any great opportunity in coffee either way at present. It just makes an interesting study in herding behavior.

BTW, has anyone else noticed that retail bean prices at fancy grocery stores increased from the $7-10 range to the $10-13 range a couple of years ago? This coincided with the futures spike, but the correction hasn’t been passed on to consumers. Some players in the supply chain are likely enjoying fatter than usual margins.

Rumors of dollar’s death greatly exaggerated

Sentiment is still very anti-dollar (though not as extreme as last February-April), but the index is no lower than a few months ago, nor even a few years ago. Despite all of the dollar-crash and hyperinflation hysteria in recent years, early 2008 still marks the bottom.

MACD and RSI also seem to back up the case that the next big move is more likely up than down:

3 year daily chart:

stockcharts.com

5-year weekly chart:

bigcharts.com

10-year monthly:

futures.tradingcharts.com

The 10-year chart says it all: the dollar has already crashed, and as is typical in the financial markets, few noticed or attempted to take action until the move was already over.

Relief rally coming?

We’ve got a clear divergence on RSI now, as each impulse lower over this week has been weaker than the last. This is a sign to tighten up stops or close shorts. You could make a decent case for a quick long trade here with a stop just under the lows, but on a wider time frame market risk is still very high.

Here’s a chart of SPX futures:

TD Ameritrade

Swiss franc and euro look long-term weak, but extremely oversold.

Note the lack of divergence in RSI this time around, compared to late ’08 to early ’09 when CHF and EUR were preparing to rally¬†(see my red arrows on the bottom of this chart).

This suggests that any rally that develops here (and I suspect that one will soon, since they are very oversold on several weeks of dismal trader sentiment) will not be as strong as what we saw in 2009, and that King Dollar is going to reign for a long time yet. Click the chart to enlarge:

TD Ameritrade

Double top in Gold, like July-March ’08?

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Very high sentiment readings last week, up to 20:1 bulls:bears. Quite a change from a few weeks ago, when traders were bearish by 4 or 5 to 1.

If the tide is turning back to the deflation trade, expect a rout in commodities like the second half of 2008. Yes, gold rose as stocks and other commodities fell last week, but it did the same thing when it first broke $1000 in early 2008 as stocks fell into the Bear Stearns crisis. The corellation with stocks could easily switch positive again as it did in ’08.