Is the Stock Market Rigged? … and a More Important Question

Is the stock market rigged? Many believe it is … and rightfully so.

However, there are more interesting and pertinent questions, such as:

  • To what extent is the market rigged, and how does it affect me?
  • Why do allegations of a rigged market sprout up right now?

Different Ways to Rig the Market

There are different ways to ‘rig’ the market, and there are different entities to do so.

  • High frequency traders attempt to gain a time advantage.
  • Inside traders try to get information ahead of the crowd.
  • The Federal Reserve and central banks around the globe aim to prop up equity markets via various types of quantitative easing or low interest rates. The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the actual QE liquidity flow to illustrate the correlation (or lack thereof, may the reader judge) between stocks and QE.

Regardless of the exact correlation between QE and stocks, even the Federal Reserve’s own research admitted that FOMC meetings drove the S&P 55% above fair value (more details here).

But none of the above is new or shocking.

Why Now?

Perhaps more interesting than who and how is why now?

Isn’t it curious that articles and charts (like below) about central bank liquidity driving up stocks are popping up just as the S&P 500 is breaking to new all-time highs?

There were no such claims last August or early this year when the S&P traded below 1,900. Seems like investors (and fund mangers) are fishing for excuses.

As the chart below shows, investors and fund managers were clearly under-invested at the recent lows. 3 out of 4 large cap fund managers got beaten by the S&P 500 in 2015. How to explain such dismal performance?

Central bank liquidity is a welcome scapegoat. Fund managers could (and do) essential argue: “Our research suggested lower prices, but central banks stepped in and unexpectedly buoyed stocks.”

Boycotting Yourself Out of Profits

This is the most hated stock market rally ever, that’s why it’s gone on for so long.

Today’s market hater is tomorrow’s buyer (disgruntled, but ‘better late than never’). As long as this cycle perpetuates, there’s more up side. We observed this back in 2013: QE Haters are Driving Stocks Higher

Boycotting the market by avoiding stocks may feel like the ethical thing to do, but it hurts the portfolio.

There is no question the market is rigged to some degree, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage for open-minded investors.

Rigged or not, the stock market has responded reasonably well to time-tested indicators. A number of them pointed to a strong stock market rally.

The key question is not whether the market is rigged, it’s how do you handle a rigged market? Now is the time to be the best informed investor you know.

The latest indicator-based S&P 500 forecast is available here: Stock Market Melt-Up Alert?

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.

 

What Does the Junk Bond Meltdown Mean for Stocks?

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

In the land of low interest rates (ZIRP), high yield junk bonds are king. Never mind the additional risk. At least that’s how it used to be.

But reality has a tendency to make unexpected appearances, and it certainly made its presence known to yield hungry and risk ignorant junk bond investors.

Starting in June 2014, junk bonds turned sour.

The Profit Radar Report doesn’t often touch on junk bonds, but the July 5, 2015 Profit Radar Report mentioned junk bonds’ role in a developing bear market:

The Greek drama is fueling a fair amount of crisis talk. We anticipate an equity correction soon and a full-blown bear market eventually (2016?), but that doesn’t mean other asset classes can’t turn down sooner.

Economic recessions are a diffuse process, not a sudden all-encompassing event. Investors with money in high yield funds should watch support levels and exercise appropriate risk management.

The SPDR Barclays High Yield Junk Bond ETF (JNK) is trading near support at 38.21. A break below support should be a warning for junk bond investors.”

JNK lost 20% since June 2014, and 13% since violating support at 38.21.

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It looks like junk bonds have entered a bear market already.

JNK may catch a bid around support at 33.30, but there are no bullish divergences. A move above the lower trend channel line is the minimum requirement to pause the selling for more than a week or two.

The junk bond decline has robbed investors (particularly retirees) of yet another income source.

Yes, economic recessions are a diffuse process, and junk bonds may be one of the first asset classes to drift into a new bear market.

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 and 17.59% in 2014.

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