Portfolio Positioning for the Coming Week: Risks and Opportunities
This article is a slightly different version of my weekly "Setting Up for the Opening Bell" series. It combines a review of this week's activity with a preview of next week's, and is supplemented with a thought-provoking sharing of actual positions along with key ideas that are driving our investment decisions.
All week long I've been trumpeting the horn of "political will", arguing that the markets face a heightened level of risk overall largely due to the question surrounding whether or not politicians (and in this, I broadly include all financial officials with policy implication jobs) would do as they say…or not. In colloquial terms: would they 'walk the talk' or not?!
The key to knowing what currency exposure to tolerate in one's portfolio, for example, is now, more than ever, driven by how you assess the likelihood of countries such as Japan, US, China and the EU getting together to multi-laterally deal with what is quickly becoming an all-out currency war of "devaluation-to-deter-deflation".
It was challenging to have these trumpeted sounds resonate while
the world anticipated the NFP data release, being that consensus,
rightly, holds that the problem in the US is about three things:
jobs, jobs and jobs!
And the skittishness of markets was probably most evident on Tuesday when the market soared almost 200 points largely due to a slight uptick in Non-Manufacturing ISM data, an outsized move for a number that is not your usual market moving factoid! That market reaction led me to publish a giant "caveat emptor" within which I had the following graph ( click to enlarge ) that points out just how modest this up-move in Non-Mftg ISM was and therefore just how seemingly absurd was the market's response to it!
Friday's NFP data can be summed up in one word: BAD! Or maybe two words: REALLY BAD!
One could try to find a silver lining, but you'd have to try
very hard. The mere 67k increase in private sector jobs was below
expectations and barely puts a dent in the massive private sector
unemployment situation. The collapse of government jobs, down 159k,
could only partly be explained by the elimination of Census
workers, but more troubling was the 76k component that reflected
state and local government job losses.
click to enlarge
The markets had a funny (or not so funny) reaction to the data…a quick up-trade on futures both here and in European markets, probably on the hope that the weak employment data would spur the Fed to launch QE2 that much sooner. But that mild euphoric reaction didn't last long and markets reversed course heading south into the US open. Then, with the positive news from the ECRI Weekly Leading Index coming out, the markets headed back up with the Dow piercing the 11,000 mark where it flirted most of the day (closing a tad above 11,006).
One has to wonder: Are market participants so giddy with the
prospect of more quantitative easing by the Fed and by other
central banks that they're willing to take stocks higher in an
But if history teaches us anything, it's that wars of any sort are cause for concern…..and we are in the middle of a global currency "devalue-to-deter-deflation" conflagration!
- Have market participants read the plethora of pieces on the debate as to whether QE will work or not?
- Or whether the more effective stimulus would be job-creating fiscal spending?
- Have they thought about Friday's WSJ article that highlighted some notions within the Fed (and elsewhere) that suggest that the best way for the Fed to fight deflation is to over- inflate the economy for some time….drive inflation higher , thereby lowering real interest rates, and thereby discouraging saving and promoting spending?
- How about the pressure that Congress and Geithner are putting on China…will China show up for our USTsy auctions?
These are just some of the all-important questions that investors need to be asking…..and answering!
In addition to that, the markets would be right to focus on the earnings parade that was started on Thursday evening by Alcoa ( AA ) with its earnings beat and optimistic outlook. That's good news. And Friday's ECRI Leading Index is good news. But both should be taken in the context of this week's disappointing ADP private sector job report (down 39k) and Friday's troubling NFP (down 95k).
Furthermore, this weekend's G20/IMF meetings could cause considerable market movements depending on whether "political will" manifests itself in the form of a multi-lateral program for dealing with competitive devaluations or in the form of a free-for-all where open warfare is the effective modus operandi for now. This would not be a weekend to defuse from the market madness of the past week, but rather to stay glued to word coming out of DC.
As for the coming week (Week of Oct 11), the calendar of economic data is chock full of inflation and retail sales indicators, as well as sentiment indicators, most of it back loaded at the end of the week. More in focus is likely to be the steady stream of earnings that will be coming out through the week.
On the US economic front , Briefing.com offers the following:
Week of October 11 - October 15
|Oct 12||14:00||Minutes of FOMC Meeting||9/21|
|Oct 13||07:00||MBA Mortgage Applications||10/08||NA||NA||-0.2%|
|Oct 13||08:30||Export Prices ex-ag.||Sep||NA||NA||0.5%|
|Oct 13||08:30||Import Prices ex-oil||Sep||NA||NA||0.3%|
|Oct 13||10:30||Crude Inventories||10/09||NA||NA||3.09M|
|Oct 13||14:00||Treasury Budget||Sep||NA||-$59.5B||-$90.5B|
|Oct 14||08:30||Initial Claims||10/09||NA||NA||445K|
|Oct 14||08:30||Continuing Claims||10/02||NA||NA||4462K|
|Oct 14||08:30||Core PPI||Sep||NA||0.2%||0.1%|
|Oct 14||08:30||Trade Balance||Aug||NA||-$44.5B||-$42.8B|
|Oct 15||08:30||Core CPI||Sep||NA||0.1%||0.1%|
|Oct 15||08:30||Retail Sales||Sep||NA||0.3%||0.4%|
|Oct 15||08:30||Retail Sales ex-auto||Sep||NA||0.4%||0.6%|
|Oct 15||08:30||NY Fed - Empire Manufacturing Survey||Oct||NA||7.0||4.10|
|Oct 15||09:55||Mich Sentiment||Oct||NA||67.0||68.2|
|Oct 15||10:00||Business Inventories||Aug||NA||0.6%||1.0%|
And on the earnings front , it's worth a visit to Briefing.com's earnings calendar to see the lineup and expectations.
(BEAR IN MIND: this is NOT in any way meant to be investment advice! It is merely some food for thought. Each investor is responsible for his/her own investment decisions and should not take what is in this article as advice as to what is appropriate for their unique situation. The comments in this section reflect positions in accounts that we manage for our clients. Our client accounts are tailor made for each investor based his/her unique financial profile and risk tolerance. Please read the disclaimer at the end of this article and remember that opinions expressed here can change without notice):
- Beware of the market overall . The market's love-fest this week with otherwise uninspiring data is troubling. Too much seems to be made of the likely effectiveness of QE2 should it happen. And rallying the US stock market as a result of higher commodity prices that are driven by a weaker USD, seems to us to have the 'causal effect' going the wrong way. I'd feel much better if strong US growth led to strong equities which in turn drove commodities higher…but that doesn't seem to be the situation. That said, frequent readers will know that I've been adding to my equity exposure on market dips, focusing my buying on global companies who have meaningful amounts of their business in Emerging Markets and in developed countries around the world, such as Caterpillar ( CAT ) and Deere & Co. (DE.) I also own Australia, Asia ex-Japan, Brazil, Germany, China and the BRICs ETFs. In addition I have some direct exposure such as Telefonica ( TEF ), Vodafone ( VOD ), Teva ( TEVA ) and Petroleo Brasileiro ( PBR ). My cash position, which is still rather large, is being patiently placed on the sidelines with the hope of taking advantage of any market pullbacks that we expect to face, especially given how choppy rather than trendy the markets have been.
- Beware of banks . The "mortgage foreclosure fiasco" could snowball into something awful for banks. Pelosi's call for the Justice Department's investigation into big names such as Bank of America ( BAC ) and JP Morgan ( JPM ) could keep them and others under pressure. I am long (very) Citigroup ( C ) despite these concerns, though, as I anticipate that government ownership is coming to an end, and many signs point to the 'bad bank' component delivering on their mission of ridding C of its toxic assets.
- On my "wish I owned" and "wish I owned more of" lists, I have names such as FedEx ( FDX ), Cummins ( CMI ), 3M ( MMM ) and Posco ( PKX ). I'm watching each closely and determining appropriate entry levels. The market waters have gotten choppy...very choppy. Navigating them successfully is going to require a broader, more global view.
Disclosure: Long: C, MMM, CAT, DE, EWZ, EWG, TEF, VOD, TEVA, PBR, EWA, FXI, BRXX, GMF. Could trade any of these and others mentioned in the article soon
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See also China's Counter-Deflation Bet Pays Off Big on seekingalpha.com