Saturday, October 25, 2014

Don't Think Jim Cramer Can Move the Market? Tell it to Pal Alto Networks

      The stock was up today and then began to sell during his call to sell the stock. He has long been a booster of the company and its stock but now says its time to ring the register. By the end of his call the stock was down $4.50 in after hours.

    I've talked about my love and admiration for Cramer in the past.

    Jon Stewart admonished Cramer a few years ago that he needs him on his show to 'protect me from the hedge fund Jim Cramer.' I disagree-I know it's the 'hedge fund Jim Cramer' who knows how to make real money. So I loved that youtube video that showed him talking like a hedge fund manager.

     I love this Jim Cramer as much as a Jon Stewart hates it.

      At the end of the day the stock market is not a rational adding machine. I don't think it either can or should be made so. 

       More vintage Cramer

        As to the market-I've raised my white flag. I got just one thing to say to the bulls: you win. If you can't beat em join em. I did win on my one short on Amazon and now I'm ready to go long again.

       Of course, this may be a moment of 'famous last words'-the minute I get behind the bulls they fail me and it tanks again. I see that the technical guy, Carter, on Fast Money thinks we're actually at some very difficult technical levels. On a technical basis what he says makes sense. However, I do think on a fundamental basis the fact that we had new Ebola headlines and oil drop and still rally might suggest we're out of the woods-though Cramer himself says that if we go under $80 on oil the market could sell off again.

      Oh well. I got my head lobbed off staying bearish too long, hopefully I haven't time this perfectly wrong again.

       At the very least I can say this. I may be long but I'm in the two safest places to go in the market right now-Apple and Alibaba. I bought 25 shares in BABA and 20 Nov 14  $104 calls in Apple. Even should the market fall 200 points on Monday, I should be pretty insulated. Apple pretty limited down side even during the correction as did Alibaba. Now BABA is finally above it's opening price on its IPO day and Apple has just broken out above long term resistance at $103 after its big earnings beat.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Scott Sumner on What Would Falsify Rational Expectations

     You have to admit that RE is very resilient. No matter what might seem to question it, it always turns out that according at least to its proponents like Sumner or Noahpinion, it turns out to be a feature not a bug. 

    "The EMH is approximately true; indeed it’s almost impossible for me to imagine any other model of financial markets.  But it’s not precisely true, again, just as you’d expect.  After all, if the EMH were perfectly true then no one would have any incentive to estimate fundamental values.  We know people are imperfect and hence that any real world human institution, including markets, will be at least slightly imperfect.

       Smith, who Sumner calls his 'Doppelganger' puts it this way:

       "Now, the analogy between the EMH and Newton’s Laws is far from perfect. Newton’s Laws are wrong in a finite set of ways, under conditions that are predictable and well-known. The EMH, in contrast, is wrong in an infinite number of ways, and the set of the most important ways in which it’s wrong is constantly changing, as old anomalies are traded away and new ones crop up. Also, the EMH is actually a family of hypotheses, since you need a model of risk to specify it properly."

       "But like Newton’s Laws, the EMH is deep and fundamental. If you went through a wormhole and visited an advanced alien civilization, what would they think about financial markets? Chances are, they wouldn’t use the Capital Asset Pricing Model, or the Fama-French 3-Factor Model, or the Shiller CAPE. But I bet they would have some version of the Efficient Market Hypothesis."

       So what could call it into question? Is it unfalsfiable? Sumner says no:

    "Commenters often present me with market anomalies, which supposedly “prove” the efficient markets hypothesis is wrong.    I always respond that they’re just engaging in data mining.  They retort that no theory that can’t be disproved is worth anything.  But the EMH can be disproved.  The tests have been done, and it passes.  Sort of."

     "Finance professors have done many different tests of the EMH, and I’d guess 90% of the published tests (but only 5% of the actual tests) show that the EMH is wrong.  (Yes, I’m pulling these numbers out of thin air, but you get the point.)  They’ve found January effects, small stock effects and value stock effects.  They’ve found the market does better when P/E ratios are low.  They found the market does worse on rainy days (a study published in the AER!).  Of course you’d expect to find 5 anomalies for every 100 tests you do, and for the most part you only get published if you find an anomaly, and finance professors have a lot of computer power, so . ."

       Sumner isn't impressed by Warren Buffett-all those returns are just lucky. Interstingly, both Sumner and Buffett hold a dim view of hedge funds. 

         "Here’s another article showing the efficiency of markets:

Warren Buffett made a friendly bet four years ago that funds that invest in hedge funds for their clients couldn’t beat the stock market over a decade. So far he’s winning.
The 81-year-old Buffett, who is chairman of the holding companyBerkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/A), ended last year neck and neck with the Protégé funds as the Vanguard fund climbed by 2.1 percent and the Protégé hedge funds lost an estimated 3.75 percent.
The first two months of this year pushed the Vanguard fund ahead as stocks returned 9 percent, more than twice the gains of hedge funds.

      "If you do the math the performance gap is around 10%, even larger than four years of the 1.25% annual expense ratio for mutual funds that invest in hedge funds. They’d have been better off throwing darts."

        However, Sumner takes a dim view of Buffett as well. 

        "But before Buffett gets too cocky, he might want to consider the final sentence of the article:

Berkshire Hathaway shares have slumped almost 17 percent since the end of 2007."

    "Ouch! Three years ago I argued that even if markets were perfectly efficient, they would look inefficient. That’s because for every 1,000,000 investors you’d expect one guy to outperform the market for 20 consecutive years. The masses would call that lucky guy a genius, even if he was just an average bloke from Nebraska."

     "I predicted that after the lucky guy became the richest investor on Wall Street, his returns would no longer look so impressive. So far I appear to be right. That doesn’t mean the EMH is precisely true (it’s not), but I’m having more and more trouble finding any useful anti-EMH models for investors."

        So to disprove RE what would Buffett have to do-outperform every single year? Seems like a rather stacked deck. He says that RE could only be approximately true not precisely so or there'd be no incentive to estimate fundamentals. However, if the odds are this long of beating the market where is the incentive? Is it really no different than buying a lottery ticket? I don't buy that. 




Yesterday's Caterpillar Earnings as the Market's Alamo?

     So it looks. I've been bearish during October but and while it worked pretty well for me the first few weeks the wheels came off of the strategy in last week. Listen, I have to give credit where credit is due and give Jim Cramer credit-he has turned out to be exactly right.

       His checklist did hold up very well. True we can't be 100 percent sure the bottom is in as the indexes remain under some key technical levels. We'll see if there's resistance here-there was no resistance at other levels during the rally.

       That's kind of the strange aspect of both this correction and subsequent rally-technical levels didn't give any resistance on the way down-S&P easily fell through 1905, 1875, 1850, all the way under 1820.

       However, it rallied back just as seamlessly. Cramer was right in what he said yesterday regarding Caterpillar. It was the last stand of the bears-I should know as I was short with some puts and-the bears were flushed out.

      As he pointed out, CAT's report may not have been that great-arguably while the bottom line looks impressive-a $.40 cent beat-much of it was done via buybacks and price cutting measures. It wasn't a testament to an improving China picture. Still, the stock rallied because it was oversold. As Cramer pointed out at $110 it might have sold off but at $94 it's a different story.

       So at this point, I don't think you can fight the bulls. Yes, we have a new Ebola scare today with that NYC doctor, Dr. Craig Spencer, contracting it. This hits close to home for me as a New Yorker-though I don't live in the city but Long Island.  So it gets closer and closer. To be sure he contracted it when working with Ebola patients in Guinea.

       From what I've heard so far it seems that NY has handled this pretty well-it was well prepared with a few hospitals reserved for Ebola patients and there hasn't been lots of panic. Certainly it's been better than Texas though this is a low bar.  Dr. Kent Brantly says New York has apparently 'done everything right to contain this case.'

      The market has similarly not panicked too much. The futures are down this morning but only marginally. We do have oil down again so we'll see what impact that might have.

       Today should start well for me as I finally got a short right-Amazon. I got 7 puts for Amazon at $297.50, October 31 and should be in very good shape. It really couldn't have come at a better time as I had taken some tough losses staying too long in shorts on CAT and Gilead. Knowing when to say when is not one of my talents.

      I had everything in my account on this Amazon move. If I had gotten this wrong I'd be out of the market. Now I have recovered and am close to even again. Amazing how much can ride on one move. That's what I love about the market.

      Once I get out of AMZN this morning I will plow a bunch of cash into Alibaba (BABA). While it is widely seen as ushering in the top of the market before the 10% correction, it has performed very well during the selloff never falling below $84 and then finished at $94 yesterday-which is above where it opened on day of its IPO. After that some Apple calls. It broke out of its long term resistance of $103 yesterday. For awhile the stock seemed stuck in the $97-$102 range following its anticlimactic release of IPhone 6-for the stock it was anticlimactic.

       After its earnings beat on Wednesday and its breakout yesterday I think it should be able to rally at least to $110.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Jim Cramer Declares His Checklist Met and that We've hit an Investable Bottom

     I told you in previous posts that his bearishness the last few weeks kind of validated my own bearishness-it helped my conviction. It's just that Cramer is so rarely bearish so when he makes bearish sounds you have to sit up and listen.

    He had given us a 10 point checklist on Mad Money that had to be met. He's now declared them met or at least mostly met and that we're now at an investable bottom. So as he soldiified my bearish conviction has he now softened it with his declaration that bearishness is over?

    Not really. To be sure-I wasn't bearish because he was, just found it a compelling hint that I might be on the right track. Cramer is a congenital bull-at least since he started his tv show. In the old days at his hedge fund, you know it was different. Remember that time when that video of him talking about deliberately buying up the futures in the premarket then selling it all to drag down the market when it opened? Did Jon Stewart every savage him on that one.

    Here was Cramer on his hedge fund days.

     Let me just be clear: I think Jim got a raw deal there. However, this is why I'm hearing his declaration of victory of all things bullish, I'm not really listening to it.

    Cramer has to be bullish on his show. His post hedge fund personal requires him to be what he himself refers to in the YouTube video above a 'moron Long.' It's the nature of the beast. The public doesn't understand the market too well and the idea of shorting a stock-of making money off it dropping sounds-well, evil. Again, remember the way Stewart spit his righteous indignation all over Cramer's face during that interview.

    So I don't really hold it against him for not telling us everything he knows on Mad Money. Much of what he says on the show is the God's honest Truth. However, if he's committed any sin, it's the sin of omission. Out of necessity.

    Listen, if you notice CNBC, very few like to be bearish publicly on that network. Even Fast Money where we have short term traders who know perfectly well that you can make money just as easily on the short as the long side don't like to talk to much about the short side. The entire network is totally biased to the long side.

    What isn't commonly appreciated about bias, is just because you may be biased doesn't mean you're wrong. That's one answer I have to those who complain about the title of my blog.

     CNBC may be biased but the bias doesn't hurt as much as it could. How much could it hurt? It would hurt a lot more if the network was congenitally bearish-as the fact is that over Keyues' Long Run, the market itself has a very strong bullish bias. Think about it. Since the Nasdaq driven bear market of 2000-2002 after the Internet boom-bubble of the nineties, the Dow and S&P have been up 10 of the last 11 years. Of course, the one down year-2008 was a doozy.

      Still, the market usually goes up, for every 8 years, 5 to 6 of the years will be up years. So bulls have a built in advantage. Permabears then are less reliable than permabulls-they're going to be wrong  more often. I'm no Sumner fan as you know, but he's right in what he's said about those who predicted 10 of the last 7 recessions.

       I try then not to be biased to either the bull or the bear side-though I realize that usually it will be a bull market. I was very bearish in 2008 and made some money buying puts in the financials-of course, I'm not great at knowing when to say when. Since the March, 2009 rally, I haven't bean bearish since. I am still for now.

       Cramer claims that most of his list was met today but he graded with something of a curve. Even the items most plausible like number 1-getting Ebola under control is pretty premature. By under control he means the news flow-as he said on his show tonight, the only way to get control of the disease itself is by developing drugs that will cure it.

       It's not impossible that he's right and that we've gotten control of the news flow now. Obama gave a great 'fireside chat' with Chris Mathews Thursday night and has now named an 'Ebola Czar.' Still, it could be that we've gotten control of the headlines but it also could be that we haven't .The trouble is that we're already dealing with an Ebola crisis. By the WHO failing to contain it in a few African villages as it did in the past, this means that a simple quarantine will not solve the problem. We have an epidemic in 3 West African countries and it needs to be defeated there. With such stakes, how can we be so certain that there will be no more terrible headlines to jar the market? There was a health professional on CNBC Thursday morning who seems to think that while we won't have an epidemic in the US we will have the spectre of /30 or 40 cases in a major city'-if that's the case there will certainly be more headlines that will cause everyone to panic.

    Arguably number 2 has come to fruition: we did see all stocks get hit on Wednesday-all the bulls including Cramer are calling this the 'whoosh' moment. I remember in 2008 there were many days that it was believed we had the 'whoosh' moment only to see that there would be others.

    Number 3 is plausible-we did have 'specs' hit hard with Netflix losing 25% of it's value on it's disappointing subscription levels. Still, there could still be more. What about Amazon going lower? What about Google getting hit? The trouble here is the trouble in all of his list: many of his items have shown some progress but he seems a little premature declaring victory. I mean take number 4-oil has to find its footing.

    On Thursday after touching $80, oil rallied a little. Cramer now declares it stabilized but , again, surely he's heard of a dead cat bounce. Indeed, oil actually weakened considerably today after rallying early to basically flat. How then can we be so sure that it's found a footing? Yet he declares that if oil is sold off again it will find a buyer. It just seems too early and with very little to declare this footing: I mean one rally of a dollar followed by a day it ended basically unchanged?

    Nowhere is his case weaker though than on technicals. stabilizing. His case rested on the Vix falling sharply, It did fall $3.21 though that was a $1.60 above it's low for the day. I mean one day down in the Vix is enough to declare the technicals benign?

    To me there are a lot of things that suggest otherwise. Again, look at how weak oil was today. Bond yields again fell today after rallying of it's dip beneath 2 percent on Wednesday. Also the small caps fell of again today after rallying all week. A lot of bulls have been arguing this shows we're at a bottom and that the small caps are the place to be, but it could just as soon be a relief rally which today suggests it was as the Russell lagged today. It seems to me these bulls are forgetting that we're at the wrong part of the economic and market cycle for the small caps-this is at the beginning of a recovery and a new bull market. Our bull market is 5 years old.

     Then you have what is in many ways the worst performance of all: the S&P. For weeks the bulls had been prophesying that the S&P would bottom at it's 100 day moving average of 1905 and then bounce up like a jack in the box. I had my doubts, but even I was shocked in how the S&P fell right through the floor of 1905 with no bounce at all. It fell through that floor early in the week and never looked back. It then breached the next support level of 1875 without a look back and at the bottom on Wednesday was only about 17 points away from 1800  Even after today's 'biggest rally of the year'-the S&P never came close to threatening 1905-it never even got to 1900-and it finished at 1884-which is puts it another huge rally just to get to 1905.

    That's a terrible technical performance which suggests that 1905 is probably resistance now already. It's quite plausible that the S&P will test 1800 again before it tests 1905.

    Then we have the worst indicator of all: this was the biggest rally of 2014. Remember: the biggest rallies are always in bear markets.

    UPDATE: Any discussion of Cramer is remiss without his great 'They know nothing' rant.

     It's right up there with the Rick Santelli rant-that started the Tea Party. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

After Seeing the House Ebola Hearings, I Can See Why GOP is Favored in 2014

      It''s now obvious that all important problems in the world wouldn't be here if it weren't for Obama. I sure hope the polls that show a GOP Senate next year are right! You really want the same people running the House running the Senate .

      The House GOP has solved the Ebola threat: a travel ban. That is the only thing we need to do based on their questions to the medical professionals today. Never mind what the disease is, how it's caught, and what we need to do to tamp down on it. Let's just ban people from Africa from coming to the US. The Ebola problem will be solved.

       They predictably don't much care about the humanitarian crisis in West Africa. Who cares about that? The GOP cares about Ebola for two reasons.
      1). As applies to every question. the main interest is to the extent that somehow Ebola's very existence is all Obama's fault

      2). As a bonus, the content of this fault is that he won't ban all planes from West Africa.
      I mean the GOP has always wanted an excuse to ban any more blacks in this country and now they have a ready made excuse.

       Listen, I'm not saying that there isn't some concern that's legitimate about flights from these countries though I doubt a total restriction is the answer but, I am struck watching this hearing-how little interest there was in anything but flight bans from House Republicans. I see why everyone thinks things will be better when they take over the Senate, if they do it.

       As for Ebola itself, the worry is that this is different than previous cases of Ebola. Then it was always relegated to a few villages where they could be quarantined and the disease killed off. This time it's now reached epidemic levels in 3 West African countries.

      The CDC understandably doesn't want to be alarmist and create a panic, but understating the threat too much is counterproductive. A medical expert on CNBC this morning, .Scott Gottlick, suggested that while we certainly won't have an Ebola epidemic in America, we could see 30 or 40 cases in one country. If this is the case the CDC needs to be careful not to squander it's credibility by being overly sanguine.

       P.S. No, Ebola is not going to define Obama's presidency. Talk about GOP wishful thinking.

        Seriously, how can anyone want conservatives in charge when they say things like this?

Unemployment Claims Fall to 264,000, Lowest Since April, 2000; Markets Tank

     To me that says it all about this market. Have no doubt about this: this is a great Macro number. There was just an economist, Richard Bernstein, on CNBC who complained that this was a great number and a leading indicator to boot which shows that some very good things are coming.

     As an economist he knows what he's talking about and he is right that it's a great number and that claims are considered a leading indicator. However, what he doesn't get is that this doesn't matter for the market right now. He said that the number clearly shows that the economy is getting better and that's all the market cares about.

     He knows his economics but not necessarily his markets. The market doesn't care about that right now. It's not looking to weekly jobless claims. It's no surprise to me that it sold this. It ultimately sold 245,000 new jobs on nonfarm payrolls after initially rising.

      The market is worried about global growth-everything but the US economy. It's the drop in oil and the rest of the commodities, a Europe in danger of a triple dip and a slower China and disappointing Japan.

     It also doesn't help that this is the best number since April, 2000-as that was at the start of a sharp 2 year bear market correction after the Internet bubble. This is now the second time we've heard about a number being the best since 2000. Sumner was citing some such stat last week. Actually it looks like he may right:

     "The 4-week moving average of layoffs came out today at 287,750.  Total civilian employment in September was 146,600,000.  The ratio of the two, i.e. the chance of being laid [off---ouch that might have been my most embarrassing mistake ever] during a given week if you had a job, was below 2 in 1000.  That’s only happened once before in all of American history–April 2000.  (We don’t have data going all the way back, but the ratio was considerably higher in the booming 1960s, and I’m confident layoffs were much more common in earlier decades for which we don’t have data.  (“Gilded Age” bosses could lay off workers whenever they wanted.) And it seems very likely that we will soon break the April 2000 record, maybe this month."

     He'll love that. However even if he's right-this number may have pushed the moving average beneath that, April 2000 is not a great reference point. That was the beginning of a sharp 3 year bear market. Dennis Cartman thinks this is the start of a prolonged bear market-defined as a drop of at least 20% from a market peak. Currently we're getting close to a S&P 'correction'-a 10% drop from the top. Cartman:

      "The selloff in global markets is set to continue as a bear market takes hold "for a long period of time," according to widely followed investor Dennis Gartman, who warned investors not to go long on stocks."

     "This is the start of a bear market," Gartman, the founder of the closely watched Gartman Letter, told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. 
      "You stay in cash and you stay in short term bonds and you don't move out, this is a very difficult period of time and I'm afraid - and I don't like to think about it – but this might be the very beginnings of a bear market that could last some period of time," he warned.
      I''m not going to predict how long this correction lasts. My sense is that it's going to go on at least for now-probably at least the rest of October as all the funds have their years finish October 31. Some argue that the market won't bottom until the election. I don't know if Cartman is right or wrong. I know that over the last 5 years the permabears have been permawrong. Still sometimes to quote Rogoff and Reinhart 'it's different this time.'
     I think we have to admit that bulls have become pretty spoiled. We had a terrible bear market in 2008 that saw the market drop from 14,000 on the Dow in November, 2007 to 6500 in March 2009. Yet, overall, since the 3 year bear market of 2000-2002, the market has been up 11 of the last 12 years since. Yet the minute we have 3 weeks of rough selling the bulls act like this is an absurd overreaction.
     However, I won't try to predict this .That's because I'm really not sure. I mean I take Bernstein's point. That claim number was great. Still is it a leading indicator? The last time we had a number like this-in April, 2000-it wasn't a leading but a lagging indicator. Right now the numbers show a preitty good US economy with a weakening global economy. I guess we again get a test of 'bifurcaton'-how long can we have a decent economy surrounded by a troubled world economy?
   Maybe we can continue. Maybe in time we can even save the world economy as has been hoped. On the other hand the US economy is hardly living in a vacuum these days. A weakened Europe and Asia hurts nultinationals which is a sizable part of the US economy. If oil keeps dropping maybe that kills of that nascent fracking industry-though you can argue that all the oil suddenly found in the US enables is a good supply side story that will bring down prices for good reasons-an oil price cut is said to be a 'tax cut.' 
    Time will tell. I know that for now if you're trying to make money, it's on the down side. My only bullish position is now in Alibaba. I believe in Jack Ma. I think this stock has performed very well. It's IPO may be sited as a top, maybe rightly, but just the same, it's performed very well itself since then falling just 7% from it's opening price. My guess is when the market does come back-could be a month, could be three months, could be six months, this will be something you'll be happy to be in. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

If the Fundamentals of the US Economy are Strong Why Has the Market Dropped 430 Points?

     I don't mean this sarcastically-it might seem that my point is that of course they aren't strong in view of this move but that's not necessarily my point. The fundamentals of the US economy may well be strong-unlike when John McCain said this during the election in 2008.

     What we can say clearly is that if the fundamentals of the US economy are strong the technicals of the US stock market are very weak. Today the S&P just fell through 1850 with little argument today. After the huge drop early in the day it did rally a little to about 1854 but it has since fallen even further now at 1827.

    The trouble for the market is that the fundamentals of the US economy don't matter anymore, not right now. The thing that has to be understood is that there is a difference between a rising bull market and a falling bear market. This market is not technically in a bear market yet-defined as a 20% drop from the highs-but it has certainly has acted like a bear market in the last few weeks.

   On CNBC a lot of fund managers come on and declare that 'you should be buying when there is blood in the streets.' It makes me think of Keynes scornful dismissal of talk of how in the long run everything will be fine.

    There will be a bottom but is it yet? There is reason for doubts. I note that Jim Cramer is bearish-that's as big a bearish sign as I need. The fund managers always point out that the fundamentals of the US economy are fine failing to note that this is not why the market is selling off-it's about the global slowdown-the slowdown in Europe, the weakness in Germany, the toll the Russian sanctions are taking on Europe-both on Russia but also Europe. Meanwhile, China is not nearly as strong as it was in 2008.

     Today you had everything tanking-the S&P new lows, oil under $80, the 10 Year Treasury seeing it's yield fall under 2%.  So when you hear about the US economy being decent, the selloff is not about the US economy. I don't know what will happen long term. Just right now this is where the market is. There will be a buyable bottom but I don't think we're there yet.

      One question is whether or not you can have a bear market in equities but no recession.

        It seems that in 1987 we definitely did. Right now the US economy does look pretty good. However, there are even here some worries. What about what slower worldwide growth does the the multinationals, what about the bite of a strong dollar, etc.