Crisis Over or Time to Panic?

Subscribers to iSPYETF’s free e-mail newsletter receive a market outlook, usually once a week. The market outlook below was sent out on March 16, 2023. If you’d like to sign up for the free e-newsletter, you may do so here (we will never share your e-mail with anyone, just as we don’t accept advertising).

Three of the biggest US bank failures hit the fan and the popular CNN Fear & Greed Index just fell into ‘extreme fear’ territory.

But, stocks are up today and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen assured congress that the banking system remains sound and Americans can feel confident that their deposits will be there when they need it.

Does that bad news – good news combo mean the crisis is over or that it’s time to panic?

We all know that politicians and heads of in trouble companies and institutions never say the full truth. That’s one reason why I pay more attention to charts and indicators than the news.

In the February 5 Profit Radar Report, I stated that: “IWM reached resistance mentioned in last Wednesday’s PRR. That resistance is comprised of the trend channel, trend line, and equality between 2 of the 3 legs coming off the October low. A reaction at this level is normal. A number of recent studies suggest stocks will ultimately work their way higher, but IWM did reach an inflection zone that at minimum allows for a deeper pullback.”

The updated chart below shows IWM (small cap’s) reaction to triple resistance (red circle). Honestly, the pullback from there was deeper than I expected … but three huge bank failures will do that I guess.

Considering those bank failures, the decline has actually been quite orderly. The worst S&P 500 down days since February were -2.00% (Feb 21) and -1.85% (Mar 9).

The VIX, however, soared 70% from its March low to high. During the worst 3-day span (Thursday – Monday), the daily average VIX gain was 11.65%, the daily average S&P 500 loss was ‘only’ 1.15%. Since the inception of the VIX in 1990, something similar has only happened 6 other times.

The chart below highlights when. None of the dates were particularly nefarious.

In addition to this VIX constellation, I also analyzed overall investor sentiment, market breadth, financial and bank sector charts, and the yield curve to ascertain if it’s time to panic (this analysis was published in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report).

Although I follow the weight of evidence of trusted and time tested indicators, I always monitor new developments and re-run scenarios (such as in yesterday’s ‘deep dive’ update) to see if my base line forecast is still supported by the weight of evidence or needs an adjustment.

My baseline, shared in the last Free Market Outlook, remains the same: Although I don’t know how deep this correction will go, I am fairly certain that stocks will come back later this year. The extent and duration of the comeback will be assessed as it develops.

However, I am never foolish enough to think I’ll be right. The weekly S&P 500 chart shows that the S&P 500 is still in limbo. Now back above the green trend line, but still below the red line … and all of this is happen in a year-long trading range.

If price falls back below the green trend line, it’s time to be cautious and allow the down side to develop.

Regarding gold, I stated the following in the March 8 Profit Radar Report (along with the chart below):

Prior to gold’s (and silver’s) February drop, the negative divergence alerted us of lower prices. We now see a potential positive divergence.

The next day gold started to soar over $100.

If you are considering subscribing to the Profit Radar Report, you may be interested to know that I adhere to what I call intelligent integrity; analyze trusted indicators and interpret them intelligently without bias.

For continued updates and based purely fact based research, sign up for the Profit Radar Report

The Profit Radar Report comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, but fair warning: 90% of users stay on beyond 30 days.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF a “trader with a good track record,” and Investor’s Business Daily writes “Simon says and the market is playing along.”

Subscribers to iSPYETF’s free e-mail newsletter receive a market outlook, usually once a week. The market outlook below was sent out on January 28. If you’d like to sign up for the free e-newsletter, you may do so here (we will never share your e-mail with anyone, just as we don’t accept advertising).

Continued updates and factual out-of-the box analysis are available via the Profit Radar Report

The Profit Radar Report comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, but fair warning: 90% of users stay on beyond 30 days.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF a “trader with a good track record,” and Investor’s Business Daily writes “Simon says and the market is playing along.”

What Triggered the Stock Market Rout? How Long Will it Last?

The S&P 500 has corrected more than 5% and the financial media is quick to pretend that it saw the lousy 2014 start coming. Here’s the media’s real time (embarrassing) assessment of the ‘expected’ rout along with what’s next.

Hindsight is 20/20 and the financial media is quick to point out that the ‘long awaited correction’ has finally arrived (financial tabloids morphed from stock market cheerleader to doomsday sayers in less then a week).

Here’s the media’s actual real time wisdom expressed in five headlines:

Reuters: “Big Year Ends with Wall Street Hopeful for 2014” – December 27, 2013
MarketWatch: “Wall Street Sees S&P 500 rising 10% next Year” – December 27, 2013
Barron’s: “Morgan Stanley’s Adam Parket: 2014 in 2014 for the S&P 500 – December 27, 2013
CNBC: “Jeremy Siegel: Dow Jones to 18,000 in 2014” – December 31, 2013
CNBC: “Dr. Doom Roubini Gets Bullish on Global Economy” – January 2, 2014

It is still possible that the S&P 500 will rise 10% this year. The S&P may even rally to 2,014 as the Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI) climbs to 18,000.

But, nothing goes straight up. A German saying warns that: “Everything’s got an end, only sausages have two” (only Germans can wrap up wisdom and sausages in the same sentence).

Running Out of Fuel

Like a fire, a stock market rally needs fuel in the form of new buyers. Stocks can’t rally without buyers.

The December 20 Profit Radar Report featured the composite sentiment / S&P 500 chart shown below and warned:

The problem with excessive bullishness is that it causes investors to go all in. Based on the above polls, investors are fully invested, or nearly so. A fully invested person can only do one of two things: hold or sell. Neither action buoys prices. Based on current data, it looks like bullish sentiment will catch up with stocks in January. This should cause a deeper correction.”

The January 15 Profit Radar Report stated that: “The S&P 500 is closing in on technical resistance at 1,855 and we are alert for a reversal.

Will the Rout Last?

A number of early indicators suggest that 2014 will be a tough year.

The tough year is just beginning, but the Profit Radar Report’s 2014 Forecast stated that: “A Q1 correction may find support at 1,746 – 1,730,” which is where the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) closed on Monday.

This may spark a counter trend rally, but will likely lead to even lower levels.

From Rout to Bear Market?

Since the mid 1970s the S&P 500 and Dow Jones have precisely adhered to two very reliable long-term cycles. Every cycle has seen a major high or low. For the first time in 14 years, both cycles coincide and project a major high in 2014 (we all know what happened 14 years ago). Here’s a detailed look at the two cycles and their message:

7-and 14-year Cycle Project Major Market Top in 2014

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar ReportThe Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Will the 3 Best Investing Tricks of 2013 also Work in 2014?

The best investment strategy in 2013 was: “Stay long until you are wrong.” This sounds easier than it actually is, but there were 3 specific patterns and tricks that continually kept investors on the right side of the market.

Every dog or cat has its own little personality. Like most animals, every bull market too has its own personality. Sometimes even every individual bull market leg has its own character and features.

Being aware of those idiosyncrasies may make the difference between making and losing money.

For example, the first installment of the QE bull market saw some violent corrections, such as the May 2010 Flash Crash and 21% S&P 500 correction in 2011.

Since 2012 however, the S&P 500 and its other index cousins have been on cruise control with just minor speed bumps.

2013 sported some very clear and repetitive patterns. Those patterns have kept aware investors on the right side of the trade. What were those patterns?

3 Most Predictable Patterns of 2013

1) “Persistence wears down resistance.” This was probably the Profit Radar Report’s most commonly used phrase in 2013.

Persistence around resistance basically means that sideways trading generally serves as a launching pad for the next rally leg. This point was illustrated by the S&P 500 chart below (published by the Profit Radar Report on September 20, 2013).

2) Investors begrudgingly accept the bull market, and vocal bears are driving the bull market higher.

Although a number of sentiment bulls waived a warning sign early in 2013, the Profit Radar Report shared this observation and conclusion previously back in March 2013:

The Dow surpassed its 2007 high and set a new all-time high last week, but investors seem to embrace this rally only begrudgingly and the media is quick to point out the ‘elephant in the room’ – stocks are only up because of the Fed. Below are a few of last week’s headlines:

CNBC: Dow Jones Breaks Record, But Party Unlikely To Last
Washington Post: Dow Hits Record High As Markets Are Undaunted By Tepid Economic Growth, Political Gridlock
The Atlantic: This Is America, Now: The Dow Hits A Record High With Household Income At A Decade Low
CNNMoney: Dow Record? Who Cares? Economy Still Stinks
Reuters: Dow Surges To New Closing High On Economy, Fed’s Help

We know this is a phony rally, but so does everyone else. We know this will probably end badly eventually, but so does everyone else. The market likes to fool as many as possible and it seems that overall further gains would befuddle the greater number. Excessive optimism was worked off by the February correction. Sentiment allows for further gains.”

According to the financial media, the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) should have tumbled many times in 2013, but it didn’t.

Obviously there were still plenty of bears left to be converted into bulls, a process that drives up prices. It wasn’t until very recently that sentiment has become bullish to a degree that’s worrisome.

The simple investment trick to profit from these patterns has been easy. Stay long until you’re wrong.

When Are the Bulls Wrong?

3) But how do you know when you’re wrong? In other words, how do you maximize gains with the least amount of risk?

Here’s where an evergreen pattern comes into play. This pattern is so powerful, I call it insider trading.

Click here for a fascinating explanation of this insider trading trick along with brief visual trivia and the key ‘insider trading’ level for the Dow Jones. Insider Trading Just Became Legal

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (stocks, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Weekly ETF SPY: XLF – Ticks Away from New 48-Months High

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (SPY) and entire financial sector are quietly closing in on a 48-month high. Buoyed by Bernanke, rising interest rate margins, and technicals, how high can financials fly?

It’s been a little while since we looked at the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF). The March 15, Weekly ETF SPY featured a long-term chart of XLF that showed a broad support/resistance range.

The daily XLF chart below includes the same support/resistance range (red bar). This range halted the XLF rally in March and April 2013 and proved support for the recent correction.

The fact that XLF didn’t drop below the ‘red box’ was one of the reasons I didn’t trust the latest correction. XLF found support where it should have.

As of today, XLF is just ticks away from eclipsing its May 22 high. A spike above would result in the highest reading since September 2008, 48 months ago.

Once the May 22 hurdle is cleared, there is no real resistance until the 50% Fibonacci retracement of the points lost from May 2007 to March 2009 at 22.

What is worrisome and can be indicative of a ‘last hurrah rally’ is the significant lag of RSI since its high watermark in September 2012 (red dot).

The last leg of the big XLF rally started when sentiment surrounding the financial sector reached a significant low (green dot). At that time, on August 5, 2013, the Profit Radar Report wrote:

“Financials account for 14.21% of the S&P 500, which makes them the second biggest sector of the S&P 500 (behind technology) and worth a closer look. The SPDR Financial Sector ETF (XLF) is butting up against minor trend line resistance at 14.90 and the previous June/July highs at 14.85.

Financials are currently under loved (who can blame investors). Of the $900 million invested in Rydex sector funds, only $18 million (2%) are allocated to financials.

With such negative sentiment a technical breakout (close above 14.90) could cause a quick spike in prices.”

A similar bullish sentiment extreme would be a welcome tell tale for a future selling opportunity. Perhaps we’ll see that closer to 22.

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Will The Fiscal Cliff Really Send Stocks Spiraling?

How will the fiscal cliff affect stocks? Investors are preparing for the worst-case scenario, but the stock market rarely delivers on investors’ expectations. What exactly is the fiscal cliff and how should you trade it?

“Fiscal cliff hopes buoy the markets” and “Fiscal cliff concerns drive stocks lower.”

The fiscal cliff is everywhere and thus far I’ve refused to write about. Everyone talks about this cliffhanger, so isn’t it already priced in? Is the fiscal cliff really as bad as it’s hyped up to be? Here’s my 2-cent contribution to the subject.

First off, fiscal cliff is the wrong label. It should be dubbed a fiscal shot in the foot. It’s a self-inflicted problem, or better yet, a problem imposed by incapable politicians upon the American public.

The Fiscal Cliff – A Twofold Problem

Neither the annual deficit nor the even bigger U.S. debt problem are new issues. It’s just that the divisive political climate moves politicians to hang out our dirty financial laundry in plain sight and turn previously discreet negotiations into public spectacles.

The debt ceiling issue came up in July/August 2011. At the time, the United States had reached its $14 trillion debt ceiling. Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a balanced budget, so they simply increased the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion – or 17% – to $16.4 trillion.

To make their failure and the new debt ceiling increase more palatable (and to give the public hope that the next round of negotiations will be different), both parties agreed on automatic spending cuts and tax increases. Those spending cuts are slated to take effect January 1, 2013 (called sequestration).

The cuts/hikes one two punch is one component of the fiscal cliff. That the new $16.4 trillion deficit ceiling is no longer adequate is the second. The fact that the U.S. deficit increased 17% in 18 months should be the third (but it’s ignored for now).

Will Washington Get it Done?

The token deal of August 2011 came last minute and obviously just postponed the inevitable. It even made things worse.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating because the (2011) budget debate showed that: “American’s governance and policymaking is becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed” (quote from Standard and Poor’s).

We are already hearing statements like “the cuts/hikes don’t take immediate effect” or “congress can change laws retroactively,” so an early or even timely solution seems unlikely.

Is the Fiscal Cliff Really that Bad?

Can stocks fall off the fiscal cliff? They sure can. The image below explains the financial impact of the tax cuts.

Any fallout should be cushioned by bullish seasonality. The 2011 deficit negotiations and S&P downgrade happened during one of the weakest periods of the year. The 2012 negotiations occurred during one of the strongest times of the year.

Other factors to consider are how much of the worst-case scenario is already priced in? Fear over an increase of dividend taxes appears to have driven the post election sell off (the SPDR S&P 500 ETFSPY – fell 9% from its September high).

Lets not kid ourselves, higher taxes and lower government spending – and any combination thereof – is bad for the economy. There will be consequences and the stock market will react.

But right now the reaction is expected. The stock market likes to prey on unsuspecting investors (not prepared ones). The stock market may wait for a more “opportune” time to douse investors.

Here’s how I approach the fiscal cliff: I don’t know if the negotiations will be fruitful or embarassing. I don’t know how much of the bad news is already priced in. But I do know that a move above resistance will unlock more up side, just as a move below support will lead to increased selling. With strong December seasonality the up side deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

I rather be guided by price action around support/resistance than by politicians. Key support and trigger levels along with a multi-month forecast is outlined in the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.

What’s Killing Stocks and What May Resurrect them?

It’s better to be out of stocks wishing you were in, than in wishing you were out. But it’s best to be short stocks when stocks are down. The short trade has worked well, but how much more down side is there?

Every kid knows you better eat your ice cream before it melts. Investors should know to lock in profits before they disappear.

The recent 8.6% drop in the S&P 500 and 12.6% fall in the Nasdaq-100 has certainly done some technical damage and erased a fair amount of profits.

What has caused the market’s sell off and how much worse can it get?

There’s never just one event that triggers a market sell off, but as far as the recent sell off is concerned there’s one reason that weighs heavier than any other: Apple.

Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

Apple had an incredible run, soaring from $80 in 2009 to $705 in September 2012. Apple became the most valuable company in the world and in the process controlled 20% of the Nasdaq-100 and 5% of the S&P 500.

Apple was like a “dictator of the financial market.” As Apple goes, so goes the market. But that relationship is a two-edged sword, because when Apple sneezes the market will get a cold.

So how was Apple’s health?

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Wall Street analysts are increasingly bullish as Apple hits fresh highs” (August 27, 2012) and MarketWatch wrote “Apple seen as trillion dollar baby” (August 21, 2012).

In contrast, the August 22 Profit Radar Report warned: “The new iPhone will hit the stores soon, a mini iPad is in the pipeline, Apple TV will be in many living rooms near you soon and the holiday season is coming up. Based on fundamentals there’s no reason Apple stock shouldn’t rally, but technicals suggest that a top may be just around the corner.”

This warning was followed up by a specific trade recommendation via the September 12 Profit Radar Report: “Aggressive investors may short Apple (or buy puts or sell calls) above 700 or with a close below 660. Obviously, there is no short Apple ETF and if you don’t have a margin account set up, you may consider using the Short QQQ ProShares (PSQ), which aims to deliver the inverse performance of the Nasdaq-100 (Apple accounts for 20% of the Nasdaq-100).”

Apple has fallen over 25% from its September high and dragged every major U.S. index with it. If you’re looking for a scapegoat, look no further than Apple.

How Low Can Stocks Go?

The S&P started to tread on “thin ice” in late October. Why thin ice? Because it was trading perilously close to key support around 1,400 (see trend lines in the chart below). The thin ice finally broke when the S&P fell through key support at 1,396.

A break of key support is generally a precursor of lower prices, that’s why the November 7 Profit Radar Report stated that: “A move below 1,396 will be a signal to go short with a stop-loss around 1,405.”

The chart below was originally published in Sunday’s (Nov. 11) Profit Radar Report, which included the forecast for the week ahead. Below are a few excerpts from Sunday’s PRR.

“We are short with the S&P’s drop below 1,396. How low can stocks go?

The chart below shows two important levels: 1,371 and 1,346 (updated chart shown below).

Since there’s a good chance of an extended down move, I’m inclined to just let our short position run and see where it takes us. 1,371 is the first hurdle to be overcome to look lower.”

The S&P sliced through 1,371 on Wednesday, and Friday’s trade drew prices as low as 1,343. Since our weekly target has been met we’ve sold half of our short positions.

This doesn’t preclude lower prices, but a bounce is possible and it’s smart money management to eat your ice cream before it melts, or take some profits before they disappear. Continuous target prices and buy/sell levels will be provided by the Profit Radar Report.

Apple Becomes Second Most Valuable Brand in the World, But Traders Get Scared

Apple is the most valuable company in the world. Now it is also the second most valuable brand in the world. Nevertheless, traders are concerned about Apple stocks which is reflected in the price of options.

According to brand consultancy firm Interbrand, Apple’s brand value increased 129% to $76.57 billion last year. This makes Apple the new #2 on Interbrand’s list of the top 100 brands.

Apple is followed by IBM ($75.53 b), Google ($69.72 b) and Microsoft ($57.85 b). #1 and the only non-tech company in the top 5 is Coca Cola with a brand value of $77.83 billion. The chart below shows the top 28 brands.

Apple’s growth outpaced even Google’s steep growth trajectory. Apple and Google surpassed Microsoft for the first time ever.

Interbrand’s key valuation aspects are the financial performance of the branded products or services, the role of the band in the purchase decision process and the strength of the brand.

Traders Become Skeptic

As of recent Apple has hit some speed bumps. It didn’t sell as many iPhones as expected and basically had to admit that Apple maps is inferior to Google maps.

More importantly, Apple’s stock (AAPL) became too overbought. Even before the iPhone went live and Apple maps draw criticism, the September 12 Profit Radar Report recommended to: “Short Apple (or buy puts or sell calls) above 700.”

With Apple trading about $35 below its all-time high, option traders have become unusual bearish. Bloomberg reports that bearish Apple options are the most expensive relative to bullish options since late 2011. This seems like an overreaction considering a moderate drop of only 5%.

Newsletter writers that cover major stock market indexes like the S&P 500 saw a similar sentiment movement. The percentage of bullish advisors polled by Investors Intelligence dropped from 54.20% on September 18 to 46.80% on October 2. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) lost less than 2% during that time.

The S&P 500 continues to trade within a parallel trend channel and support for Apple is at 660, 650 and around 635. It seems that the immediate down side for stocks and Apple is limited.

S&P 500 vs. Investors – Are Retail Investors Really the “Dumb Money?”

Retail investors have many choices to buy and sell stocks: Mutual funds and ETFs are just two of them. Regardless of the options, investors are often considered the “dumb money.” Is the dumb money really dumb?

Wall Street geniuses and the financial media often consider retail investors the “dumb money.” That’s ironic, because Wall Street and the media are notorious for dishing out group think advice that’s getting many of the small guys burned.

There’s plenty of data that shows that a plain index investing or index ETF investing approach (the real “dumb” buy and hold a basket of stocks approach) handily beats the returns achieved by Ivy League educated mutual fund managers that engage in actively buying and selling.

If you’ve read my articles before you know that I like to pick on Wall Street and the financial media, but today we’ll talk about the investing prowess of retail investors – the “dumb money.” Is the dumb money really dumb?

Is the Dumb Money Really Dumb?

One of the best measures of retail investor’s appetite for stock is the asset allocation poll conducted by the American Association for Individual Investors (AAII).

The chart below plots the S&P 500 Index (SPY) against investors’ portfolio allocation to stocks. Investors’ stock allocation pretty much waxes and wanes with the performance of the S&P and almost plots a mirror image of the S&P.

Unfortunately, the cliché is true; retail investors buy when stocks are high and sell when stocks are low. I believe this is due to crowd behavior and the forces of investing peer pressure rather than stupidity, as the term dumb money implies.

What else can we learn from this chart aside from the fact that retail investors tend to buy high and sell low?

The average allocation to stocks since the inception of the survey in 1987 is 60.9% (dashed red line). The S&P currently trades near a 52-month high, yet investors’ allocation to stocks is below average (60.5% as of August). This is unusual.

In fact, in the 21st century there’ve only been a couple of instances where investors’ stock allocation was below average when the S&P was near a 3+ year high. Those instances are marked with a red arrow. In August 2006 stocks went on to rally. In March 2012 stocks declined first and rallied later.

Lessons Learned

The lesson for investors is A) not to follow the crowd and B) not to follow Wall Street or the financial media.

The mission of the Profit Radar Report is to keep investors on the right side of the trade. A composition of indicators used identified the March 2009 and October 2011 lows as investable lows and got investors out of stocks at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 highs.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.

With Stocks at Multi-Year Highs – QE3 May Be Overkill

The Federal Reserve is the most powerful financial institution in the world. It manipulates the world’s stock market seemingly at will, yet there are reasons to conclude QE3 is farther away than many expect.

Skunks are best known for their ability to spray a liquid with a strong, foul odor. The smell, a combination likened to rotten eggs, garlic, and burnt rubber, can be detected by the human nose up to a mile downwind. Smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness.

The skunks reputation is well known, that’s why it roams around by day in the open and fears neither dog nor man. Skunks rarely ever have to use their “weapon” since just the threat of getting sprayed keeps predators at a safe distance.

The Fed, a unique financial animal, possesses a similar defense mechanism – it’s called QE .Like skunks, the Fed has established a reputation to use it when needed. This keeps “enemies” – such as market pessimists, realists, and particularly short sellers – at a safe distance. The Federal Reserve doesn’t necessarliy have to spray QE to get the effect of QE, just the threat is often enough.

Why Change a Winning Strategy?

Ben Bernanke is well aware of this fact. Essentially since the end of QE2 (June 2011), which resulted in a 20% stock market meltdown, Bernanke has been telling investors that the “Fed is ready to spray more QE when needed.” That’s been more than enough to keep stocks from collapsing. In fact, just the threat of spraying QE3 has lifted the S&P 500 Index (SPY) to a 51-month high and the Nasdaq-100 (QQQ) to a 12 1/2 year high.

Another animal analogy comes to mind. As long as you keep the carrot dangling the rabbit keeps running.

Why would Bernanke change a winning strategy (that of bluffing to spray or dangling the carrot) if stocks are already trading near multi-year highs? What, the economy is bad you say? The Fed’s past actions tell us that the economy may not be Bernanke’s primary concern. It seems easier to downplay millions of Americans being out of work than big losses of financial institutions on Wall Street.

QE Side Effects

Fortunately for the free market, there’s one asset class that keeps Bernanke and his inkjets honest. Oil. QE is inflationary. Like water in the bathtub that buoys rubber duckies along with all other toys, QE inflates the price of all assets (aside from those that have an inverse relationship).

Higher stock, gold, and silver prices are good for investors, but higher oil prices suffucate the economy. Oil around $110 a barrel coincided with stock market tops in April 2011 and March 2012. Oil at $85 in Apirl 2012 was enough to contribute to a 17% decline in the S&P 500.

With crude oil already trading near $100 a barrel, QE3 now or in the near future could be a double-edge sword with little net benefit for stocks and the economy (see chart below).

More About Skunks and QE

Skunks are reluctant to use their weapon, as they carry just enough of the chemical for five or six uses. The Fed has sprayed outright QE twice since 2008. This doesn’t include covert maneuvers like Operation Twist, currency swaps or low interest rates. How many more sprays of QE-like substances is the Federal Reserve good for? It seems to be running out of bullets.

Ironically, skunks have poor vision. This makes it harder for the stinky little mammal to decide who and when to spray. Bernanke’s “eye sight” (ability to foresee side effects of his actions) is similarly poor (click here for Bernanke’s bloopers). The Federal Reserve failed to see the 2008 financial debacle, or what’s been dubbed the “perfect storm,” brewing and has been playing catch up ever since.

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, but that’s a tough concept to grasp for a blind financial “animal” with a potent weapon.


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