First it was Doctor Copper. Now it is Lumber.
In an article I recently wrote, "
Are Weak Commodity Prices Signaling Deflation
", the focal point was on copper, its historical relationship with
the health of the overall world economy, and its currently bearish
chart pattern. The takeaway was that copper has been
declining since 2011, suggesting an economic slowdown and
potentially deflationary scenario.
Commodities (NYSEARCA:GSG) are in the midst of a
five-year slump. Energy related commodities, industrial
metals (NYSEARCA:JJM), along with wheat all peaked in
price in 2008, but have yet to revisit those levels.
A Better Leading Indicator?
Copper used to be considered the leading indicator for the world's
economy, but since 2011 its price has fallen even as world stock
markets (NYSEARCA:VTI) climb.
Which will prove correct: copper or the equities market?
Perhaps stocks (NYSEARCA:DIA) are disconnected with reality, or
perhaps fundamentals are better than copper is suggesting.
Either way, mixed signals abound.
Another leading indicator, lumber, is known as the barometer for
the housing market. When lumber prices are in an uptrend,
typically so are housing builds, home prices, etc. Lumber
prices have been very strong over the last five years, having
turned up in price in early 2009 and making new highs
recently. This has helped buoy the homebuilder equities
(NYSEARCA:XHB) as well.
But that all changed in March.
What about lumber?
If you believe the media headlines, then all is good with the
The latest confidence data shows a big rise from April to
May. But this, along with most fundamental data, is more a
coincidence than leading indicator. It also should be noted
that homebuilder confidence came in at 44, which suggests negative
sentiment (any reading below 50 is considered negative). Oh,
by the way, the last time homebuilder confidence was actually above
50 was April 2006.
We prefer using leading indicators, not coincidental ones.
Lumber has had an extremely strong correlation with housing stocks
as the chart below shows. With a correlation of .90, lumber
prices and homebuilder stocks rise and fall similarly day in and
This extremely correlated relationship likely makes it the better
leading indicator for the homebuilders and equities markets.
There are warning signs now showing up in the lumber market.
Lumber has taken a cue from copper, precious metals
(NYSEARCA:GLTR), and the other commodities, falling over 20% the
last two months. Is this a sign that homebuilders, the
housing market, and the equities market as a whole are finally
about to roll over?
Looking at the last few months shows the collapse in prices of
lumber. Meanwhile, homebuilder stocks continue upward.
The last time these two highly correlated markets became this
disconnected preceded the 2011 market top that sent stocks down
over 20%. How long will this disconnect last?
Ways to Take Advantage
One market which is closely connected to both commodities and
equities is the U.S. dollar, which has actually shown strength
since the 2008 market lows and more recently since the recent
commodities peak in March.
we were able to take advantage of a rising dollar as commodities
warned of deflation, while dollar sentiment was reaching
bearish levels. Just as the technicals were setting up a high
probability trading opportunity, we wrote to subscribers on Feb.10:
"The U.S. Dollar has already broken out of its downtrend
channel and provides a buy signal in the PowerShares DB Bullish
Fund (NYSEARCA:UUP) or in the PowerShares DB 3x Levered long
How did it work out? That trade was good for a 10% gain in UUPT.
And just when you thought the best was over, another dollar
opportunity outlined in our latest Technical Forecast may again be
on our doorstep.
Lumber may turn out to be the new copper in our consumer and
housing driven economy.
Given lumber's steep decline over the last two months combined with
the many other warning signs we follow, it may be time to get out
of homebuilder stocks as they likely won't stay this disconnected
from lumber prices for long.
The ETF Profit Strategy Newsletter follows lumber and other
commodities using technical, fundamental, and sentiment analysis
along with common sense to see what is really going on and find
ways to capitalize in the stock, bond, forex, and commodity
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