Two Diametrically Opposed Sector Opportunities

The S&P 500 is trading at the same level where it was on July 8. Such a 15-week chop zone is pretty boring, but it doesn’t stop there. The S&P hasn’t made any net progress since May 2015.

When the broad market is stale, it makes sense to look at other opportunities.

The Profit Radar Report always scans various markets and sectors for sentiment extremes or seasonal trades with the potential to provide returns independent of the broad market.

Thus far this year, we’ve found such returns in gold, silver, natural gas, small caps, VIX and the utility sector.

Utilities ETF

The October 12 Profit Radar Report pointed out that every single utility sector stock has been below its 50-day SMA for more than five days. An extremely rare oversold condition.

The October 13 Profit Radar Report observed that: “XLU (Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF) jumped above trend line resistance on strong volume. This increases the odds that some sort of a low is in place. We are buying XLU at 47.80.”

We didn’t want to chase the S&P 500 when it bounced from its 2,120 support level on October 13, but wanted some low-risk exposure to equities.

Being oversold and overhated, XLU fit the bill.

Sometimes there is no particular up side target (as is the case with XLU), but identifying low-risk buying opportunities allows investors to either grab quick gains or hold on and ‘play with house money.’

Bank ETF

The banking sector is approaching a very strong resistance cluster.

The chart of the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) shows price near trend line resistance, 78.6% Fibonacci retracement, and where wave A equals wave C.

Additionally, there was a bearish RSI divergence at the October 27 high.

Seasonality is bearish for the first three weeks of November.

This doesn’t mean that bank stocks will crash, but it certainly indicates that buying KBE right around 35 is a bad idea.

There is no short bank ETF, but traders may consider shorting KBE or buying inverse ETFs like SEF or SKF. This setup may only lead to a short-term correction.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The 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, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

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

S&P Bank ETF Just Erased 18 Months of Gains

Wall Street’s most notorious financial engineers aren’t getting any love from investors lately.

The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE) just slipped to the lower end of an 18-month trading range, again.

My December 29 article pointed out that KBE is traded at key resistance around 34 and warned that: “KBE is at an inflection point. Could KBE become the (sector) tail that wags the (broad market) dog?”

KBE is close to support around 31, but a break to at least 29.5 becomes likely if that fails.

Perhaps more intriguing is the long-term correlation between KBE and its cousin the Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF).

KBE’s recent reversal below its high kept a divergence alive that proved bearish in 2007. More details here: Bearish Financial Sector Divergence Stokes 2007 Crash Memory (don’t allow the bearish title to scare you … at least not yet).

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The 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.

Simon Says: SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) Gnawing on Key Resistance

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLF) has been leaping from one new recovery high to the next.

But its Wall Street cousin, the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE), has been stuck in a 12-month trading range.

The chart below plots KBE against XLF. KBE is back at key resistance around 34.

KBE is at an inflection point. Could KBE become the (sector) tail that wags the (broad market) dog?

The December 21 Profit Radar Report showed two S&P 500 projections (one long-term bullish, one short-term bearish) and stated:

Stocks may hit an inflection point once the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 record new all-time highs. Depending on measures of market breadth at the time, we will either scale down (or protect) our long exposure or add to it.”

The S&P and R2K did hit new all-time highs and are close to their inflection point.

I’m not sure if KBE will be the tail that wags the dog, but KBE confirms that the market should be watched carefully for either acceleration or temporary breakdown.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The 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.

Bearish Financial Sector Divergence Stokes 2007 Crash Memory

Since their inception, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF has almost always confirmed new highs of its cousin, the Select Sector Financial ETF. The only time it didn’t was in 2007 … and today. Here’s what makes this potential repeat intriguing.

For all the Whac-a-Mole bears who’ve been getting clobbered by the omnipresent bull market mallet, there’s finally a faint ray of hope flickering out of the same black hole that caused the last financial meltdown – the financial sector.

True, the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLF) is humming higher, but the SPDR S&P 500 Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE) is not.

To be exact, the KBE bank ETF is trading 6.5% below its March high while the XLF financial ETF has already edged out new recovery highs. That’s unusual.

The chart below shows that since its inception, KBE has confirmed every significant new XLF high (dashed gray lines). Only two exceptions (dashed red lines) created a bearish divergence:

  • May 2007
  • August 2014

Although we don’t need the aid of a chart to remind us of what happened post May 2007, the chart tells us anyway.

Obviously, it would be premature to bunker up and batten down the hatches based on a sample size of one.

Even if the 2007 scenario is playing out again, it’s too early to pencil in a market crash in your 2014 trading calendar. Why?

  1. There’s a grace period between the XLF high and the final S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) high. In 2007, the S&P 500 rally continued five months after XLF topped and the market didn’t enter free fall territory until a year after XLFs all-time high.
  2. XLF just saw a technical breakout. This looks bullish on the chart until proven otherwise. However, the breakout mimics a prior pattern that failed (see “XLF Breaks above Resistance to New 6-year High” for more details).

A small detail many have already forgotten is that the S&P 500 dropped nearly 12% in July/August 2007 just before shooting to its final October hurray.

A similar pullback now would certainly make this financial sector divergence even more intriguing.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The 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.

Federal Reserve ‘Financed’ 17% of all U.S. Stock Purchases

At one point or another over the last few years we’ve all heard about the bursting Federal Reserve Balance sheet (it’s still growing by the way). However, how big is the Fed’s balance sheet in correlation to the total U.S. stock market? It’s big!

A billion used to be a big number, but ‘billions’ today are outdated like Myspace.

Today we (and with ‘we’ I mean the Federal Reserve) talk in trillions.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is about $3.7 trillion. As recently as July 2008 the Fed’s balance sheet was below $900 billion.

Since then the Fed embarked on a little shopping spree (about $3 trillion worth). As it turns out, when the Fed goes shopping, Wall Street goes shopping.

According to the World Bank, the total market capitalization of the U.S. stock market in 2012 was $18.67 trillion (2013 estimate around $21.4 trillion).

Based on preliminary 2013 figures, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet could have bought 17% of all U.S. traded stocks.

The chart below provides a visual as it plots the total annual U.S. stock market capitalization against the S&P 500. According to Standard & Poor’s, there is over $5.14 trillion benchmarked to the S&P 500 index (NYSEArca: SPY).

We know that the Federal Reserve doesn’t directly buy equities (other central banks do), but it may as well have.

The Federal Reserve is pumping about $85 billion of fresh money (about $110 billion total since maturing funds are reinvested) into the ‘economy.’

‘Economy’ sounds better than big banks and financial institutions (the Fed calls them primary dealers, there are 21 such primary dealers, most of them U.S.-based), but that’s where the money is going.

Big banks on the other hand turn around and buy stocks and ETFs – which may include Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF), or SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE), and of course Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (not Myspace).

Aha Moment

We’ve all heard how big the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is before and have gotten used to (and desensitized) to the number.

However, when viewed in comparison to the total market capitalization of all U.S. traded stocks, it becomes obvious just how big a player the Federal Reserve really is.

If you – like me – are fascinated with large numbers, you’ll like this little piece of trivia:

Is it possible to put a price tag on all the assets held in the entire United States of America? Yes it is. In fact, we’ve done this right here (based on Federal Reserve data): How Much is The Entire United States of America Worth?

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE Newsletter.

Hank Paulson Warns of Another Financial Crisis

First the Federal Reserve, now former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is warning of a financial ‘firestorm.’ Paulson’s list of worries is long and includes banks, derivatives, shadow banking and Fannie Mae. The dollar stats are truly staggering.

Remember Hank Paulsen? He was the United States Secretary of the Treasury during the financial crisis.

We don’t hear much about him domestically, but he just shared his concerns about another financial crisis with the German finance/economy newspaper Handelsblatt.

Literally translated, Paulson warns of another financial ‘firestorm’ sparked by one of the following factors:

Too big too fail banks, the ballooning derivatives market, hardly regulated but rapidly growing shadow banks, and the growing influence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could trigger another ‘firestorm’ at any moment.

Below are some staggering stats and numbers (source: Handelsblatt newspaper):

Too Big to Fail

The five biggest US banks have amassed $8.3 trillion in assets. That’s $2.5 trillion more than in 2007. The chart below compares the assets the five biggest banks held in 2007 with today. JPMorgan Chase is 74% bigger today than in 2007, BofA 44%, Wells Fargo 177%, and US Bancorp 66%. Only Citigroup has shrunk.

The problem of too big to fail is that any one big bank (NYSEArca: KBE) can light up the entire financial house of cards.

Handelsplatt reports plans of a corporate ‘last will and testament’, where banks have to outline how they can be wound down most efficiently during times of crisis.

Ballooning Derivatives Market

The derivatives market, which sparked the 2007 firestorm, has grown from $586 trillion in 2007 to almost $633 trillion today and is largely unregulated.

Regulators would like to funnel derivatives transactions through clearinghouses in an effort to increase transparency. Clearinghouses are also supposed to take the hit if any of the involved parties bites the dust. This, however only shifts the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it.

Shadow Banks

With assets of $67 trillion (growing rapidly), the shadow banking sector is already half as big as the ‘regulated’ (if you can call it that) banking sector.

Unlike regulated banks, shadow banks (hedge funds, private equity funds, money market fund) are not subject to capital requirements. This is attractive if you’re greedy. That’s why many players leave the regulated market place in favor of more convenient shadow banking.

A positive; G20 members agreed at the recent summit in St. Petersburg to figure out a way to control shadow banking by 2015. Note the wording. Not to control, but find out how to control.

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Are Growing

Not only are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac government controlled, they are more dominant then ever before. 90% of US mortgages are currently guaranteed by the government.

This means that the government, not the free market, determines the price, terms and conditions of mortgages. The lack of free market forces (such as supply and demand) exposes the mortgage/real estate market to renewed excesses.

Hank Paulson observed that every financial crisis is the result of failed political measures, which lead to economic/financial bubbles.

The whole financial leverage subject is a mind over matter issue. Investors don’t mind until it matters.

Investors at large were blindsided by the 2007 financial debacle. Excess leveraged mattered only after the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and Nasdaq started to tumble and not a moment before.

Bernie Madoff’s investors got bamboozled for years before it mattered. The scam was there all along, but it didn’t blow up until Wall Street got hit.

Bear markets are the best auditors. They reveal things first. The media follows thereafter.

When will the above excesses start to matter again?

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLF) sports a pretty clear pattern and a specific break down point that – once triggered – should get investors (and the media’s) attention and lead to much lower prices and a more critical examination of banking/financial excesses.

A detailed analysis of the financial sector can be found here: The XLF Financial ETF Chart Looks Ominously Bearish

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report.

Follow Simon on Twitter or sign up for the FREE Newsletter.

 

Dow Jones Component Reshuffle is Bearish for Stocks

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is about to undergo the most significant changes in a decade. The featured chart shows that S&P Dow Jones Indexes usually gets the timing of its changes wrong. Furthermore, the ‘New Dow’ will be subject to the whims of the most vulnerable sector of the US economy.

Good-bye Hewlett-Packard, Bank of America, and Alcoa. Hello Nike, Goldman Sachs, and Visa.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is undergoing its most dramatic facelift in a decade and will morph into a much more financial sector focused average. The changes will go into effect September 20, 2013.

I see the following risks short and long-term:

Short-term Reshuffling Risks

In recent years reshuffling components was followed by temporary corrections. The weekly DJIA chart below chronicles changes and the effect on the Dow since February 2008 (there was no change from November 2005 – February 2008).

The short-term performance immediately following the shuffle was generally negative, although the losses were limited. Long-term was in line with random.

Long-term Reshuffling Risks

S&P Dow Jones Indexes, a subsidy of McGraw-Hill (which is also the parent company of Standard & Poor’s and J.D. Power and Associates), dropped one financial name (BofA) from the mighty Dow and added two (Goldman Sachs and Visa).

But the exposure to financials is more significant than even the two for one swith suggests. Why?

The Dow Jones (NYSEArca: DIA) is a price-weighted gauge, that’s why it’s called an average not an index. Price-weighted simply means that the stock with the biggest price tag carries the most weight. Currently that’s IBM. At $190 a share IBM accounts for 9.43% of the DJIA and is the unquestioned VIP (Chevron, the ‘runner up,’ trades at $123).

Soon to be deleted Bank of America trades at $14.50 and accounts for 0.74% of the index (keep in mind that the index has only 30 components). That means that BAC would have to move 13 times as much as IBM to match IBM’s effect on the average.

Currently financials are the fifth biggest sector of the DJIA and account for only 11.39%. Here’s where it gets interesting:

Visa trades at $186 and Goldman Sachs at $165. The top three holdings of the Dow Jones will be IBM, Visa and Goldman Sachs. Based on a quick thumbnail assessment, financials will soon be the biggest sub-sector of the Dow with an allocation around 25%.

We shouldn’t forget that the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLF) and SPDR S&P Bank ETF (NYSEArca: KBE) lost 85% from 2007 to 2009, significantly underperforming the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY), which was down ‘only’ 57%.

So the heavy financial weighting of the Dow can be a negative.

In fact, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson mentioned in a guest contribution for a German finance and economy newspaper that he fears yet another financial ‘firestorm’ (firestorm is the term he used).

According to Paulson the financial sector is quite vulnerable. This article explains in detail the problem Paulson warns of: Hank Paulson Warns of Another Financial Crisis.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report.

Follow Simon on Twitter

Trusted German Newspaper Asks: “Will the Financial System Collapse?”

A reputable German newspaper asks the question forgotten by many domestic media sources: With or without tapering, will the financial system collapse? The answer may be surprising to many.

Have you ever gotten tired of the same old financial news coverage dispensed by the likes of CNBC, Fox, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, and other US media outlets?

I’m not saying it’s bad information, but like eating the same meal over and over again, the same slant on financial developments could become a bit stale.

In my last trip to Germany I made a conscious effort to pick up and read a number of reputable German finance/economy magazines.

I’ll write more about interesting tidbits discussed in the German financial media in the coming days, but here’s more detail about a headline that caught my attention?

“Is A Financial Collapse Approaching?” 

This question was featured on the front page of the September 4 edition of the Focus Money magazine.

As a contrarian investor, my first thoughts were that prominently discussing the odds of a financial collapse minimizes the chances of just such an event. But this changed after I read the article.

Focus magazine asked legendary emerging markets investor Mark Mobius for his feedback on various investment themes. The MIT educated Mobius is 77 years old and heads the emerging markets team for Franklin Templeton.

Tapering Yes – Collapse No

Mobius expects Bernanke to start tapering, but says that this will have virtually no effect on stocks (NYSEArca: VTI) as liquidity remains in the system (although he admits QE’s role in driving up stock prices).

Mobius asserts that banks (NYSEArca: KBE) have cleaned up their balance sheets and will funnel more money in the real economy. “The fear of tapering is overdone – it will barely affect stocks,” he says.

Mobius believes that QE by the Bank of Japan will be successful and ultimately affect world markets (NYSEArca: EFA). In fact, liquidity provided by the BOJ will make up for the liquidity withdrawn by the Federal Reserve.

Time to Buy US Stocks?

Focus magazine: “As an emerging markets (NYSEArca: EEM) specialist, would you recommend buying US stocks?”

Mobius: “Diversification is important and investors shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, but it’s certainly a good idea to buy US stocks.”

A Bear in Bull’s Clothing

The financial collapse headline and Mobius’ views struck a cord with me as I see the odds of a major market top forming around current prices greater than 50%.

After reading the Focus Money article it became clear that – according to Mobius – there is no risk of a financial collapse. From a contrarian point of view that’s more bearish than bullish.

Mobius has strong opinions about other emerging markets issues, such as:

1) China’s government completely (as in 100%) controls its banks and has the ability to successfully implement any and all financial policies.

2) The most attractive place to invest is Africa, in particular Nigeria.

I don’t agree with Mr. Mobius’ outlook, but he does offer a perspective not available to many US investors.

Another somewhat shocking forecast is featured in Germany’s Handelsblatt, the German economy and finance newspaper.

The front page of an August edition touts another gold rush caused by China.

For more information read: According to Reputable German Newspaper, New Gold Rush Lies Ahead

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report.

Follow Simon on Twitter

 

How The Federal Reserve Gives Insider Trading Tips to Big Banks

Investors have no clue what goes on behind closed doors at Wall Street banks and the Federal Reserve. But once and a while a juicy piece of information (probably overlooked by censors) provides a glimpse of Wall Street’s carefully guarded secrets.

The New York/Washington Banksters do a good job of keeping internals hidden, but once in a while a juicy nugget escapes. Those kinds of nuggets make investors lose faith in everything Wall Street, that’s why Banksters like to keep them secret to begin with.

Insider Tips from the Federal Reserve?

On August 17, 2007, the Federal Reserve cut the discount rate from 6.25% to 5.75%. The Fed is quite careful about changing the discount rate, and when it does it’s usually only tweaked by 0.25%. The 0.5% cut on August 17 was ‘unexpectedly’ drastic.

The Fed regularly releases transcripts of its policy meetings with a 5-year lag. Courtesy of such a release we are now getting a glimpse of what happened leading up to the August 17, 2007 meeting.

In an August 16 video conference call, Timothy Geithner (back then president of the New York Fed) said banks “obviously don’t have any idea that we’re contemplating a change in policy.”

Jeffrey Lacker, head of the Richmond Fed, questioned Geithner’s statement and asked: “Did you say that they are unaware of what we’re considering or what we might be doing with the discount rate?”

What reason did Lacker have to question Geithner? The transcript continues: “I (Lacker) spoke with Ken Lewis, president and CEO of Bank of America, this afternoon, and he said that he appreciated what Tim Geithner was arranging by way of changes in the discount facility.”

In a statement provided to Reuters last Friday, Lacker reiterates: “From conversations I had prior to the video conference call on August 16, 2007, I was aware of discussions among a few large banks about borrowing from their discount windows to support the asset backed commercial paper market.  My understanding was that (New York Fed) President Geithner had discussed a reduction in the discount rate with these banks in connection with these initiatives.”

What’s the Difference?

What difference does this make you may wonder. The chart below provides a nice visual. The Fed hasn’t had a chance to lower rates in years, but right before the financial crisis interest rate announcements sparked anticipation like nothing else.

At 2pm on August 16 (a day before the official announcement), stocks started to soar for no apparent reason. The S&P 500 jumped 45 points within a matter of hours and recorded its best gain in 4 ½ years.

Financial ETFs like the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) soared as much as 16.95% that day.

The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) gained as much as 7.26% that day.

Over the next few weeks, the S&P 500 continued to rally more than 200-points. It went as high as 1,576.09. The rest is history with still much mystery.

Although with a more than 5-year time-lag, we now find out that the Federal Reserve kindly gave the big banks a friendly heads up.

The Treasury declined to make Geithner available to comment. Spokesmen for the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, the New York Fed, Bank of America, and Ken Lewis all declined to comment.

Why Financial Sector Earnings Are a Deceptive Farce

Because of a slew of earnings reports, this has been called “the week of truth” for the financial sector. However, a deeper look at the sector shows that big bank earnings reports are at best symbolic. One could even say that the whole ritual is utterly deceptive.

Earnings season is in full swing and most financial heavy weights are due to report this week.

Yahoo!Finance writes that: “It’s a make or break week for the financial sector with five of six of the nation’s largest banks (JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley) scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings results” this week.

Earnings are directly related to stock market valuations, but big bank earnings releases are nothing more than a ritualistic farce. Why?

There’s no simple answer, but the next few minutes will be well worth your time. Warning! Knowledge about banks’ (corresponding ETF: SPDR S&P Bank ETF – KBE) accounting standards will result in loss of faith in the financial sector’s worth.

From Mark-to-Market to Mark-to-Make-Believe

There was a time when banks loved the Mark-to-Market accounting model, because it allowed them to showcase truly miraculous real time profits. By 2006/07 the financial sector accounted for over 40% of S&P 500 earnings.

Things changed in 2007/08. Mark-to market was unpopular with banks because it would have shown enormous real time losses. Bankers preferred to hide their balance sheets, along with the Federal Reserve and Congress too.

Bankers lobbied the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change the fair market accounting rule – rule 157 – but the FASB resisted. Changing fair market or Mark-to-Market was a free pass that practically required no write-downs ever.

However, via the Emergency Economy Stabilization Act of 2008, Congress gave the SEC the authority to suspend Mark-to Market accounting. FASB rule 157 was suspended on April 2, 2009.

FASB 157 – What Does it Mean?

Since April 2, 2009, banks are basically free to value their toxic assets as they please. This example illustrates how the financial engineering formula works in real life.

Bank ABC holds mortgage-backed assets originally valued at $1,000. After running some proprietary and non-verifiable models the bank determines it will eventually sell the asset for $950. The loss, termed credit loss, is only $50.

However, because of MBS bad rep, the banks portfolio is currently worth only $500. The actual current value ($500) minus the credit loss ($50) is called noncredit loss ($450).

The $450 noncredit loss is recorded on the balance sheet under “comprehensive income,” but is not run through the income statement. Those losses don’t affect earnings, and are excluded from banks’ regulatory capital calculation.

Extreme Financials

The chart below (courtesy of Yardeni Research) illustrates the effect of financials. The worst recession since the Great Depression caused five quarters of extreme earnings contraction followed by eight quarters of extreme earnings growth (yearly growth rates were capped at +100% and -100% due to extreme values).

Was the miraculous earnings recovery due to a fundamentally strengthening financial sector (corresponding ETF: Select Sector Financial SPDR – XLF) or accounting tricks?