Renown wild man and physicist Richard Feynman said, “Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.”
Traditionally woven by hand on a loom, a tapestry comprises innumerable threads that, though individually hidden in the completed work, aggregate to establish whatever pattern or theme the artisan had in mind.
On its own, each thread remains indiscernible. Insignificant. Together, however, these threads convey a bigger picture. Capturing the imagination through its color, complexity, character and creativity. Adding up to a visual narrative that cannot be ignored.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average trimmed earlier losses Friday afternoon. Propelling the index to its seventh consecutive weekly gain. A sign of the stock market’s resilience. Even in the face of heightened uncertainty.
The index surged in the final 10 minutes of the session to secure a 0.2 percent gain for the week — its longest winning streak since November 2017 when the market rose for eight straight weeks.
Stocks came under pressure earlier in the day amid growing unease about shaky eurozone economic data, renewed trade uncertainty and concerns about weakening corporate earnings.
For Q1, companies in the S&P 500 are expected to post their first year-over-year profit decline in nearly three years.
In ancient China, a respected military strategist wrote a book in which he infused his lifetime of expertise. General Sun Tzu’s Art of War became a manual on aligning aspirations with capabilities. The strategist set forth principles, selected for their validity across space and time, and then connected them to practices, bound by time and space. The Art of War, therefore, became a compilation of precepts, procedures — and categorical claims.
General Sun’s treatise was written sometime between 771 and 476 BC. Giving the Chinese roughly 2600 years to perfect his art of strategic dominance. Of course, the Chinese always played the long game. Believing that, given their history, size and geographic positioning, they would always have a chance to be at or near the center of the earthly universe, if only they played their cards correctly.
“The nature of water is that it avoids heights and hastens to the lowlands…
If you attack your enemy where he least expects it — if you avoid his strength
and strike his emptiness — then, like water, none can oppose you.” Continue reading
Stocks behaved like sinners in church last week. Anxious. Sweaty. And panic prone. Continuing their downward skid as investors responded negatively to disappointing economic data from China and the Eurozone, a slight increase in interest rates and rising global trade tensions. All being viewed against a backdrop of concerns over the White House. Which may or may not be in discord amid multiple political and legal fronts.
The S&P 500 fell -1.22 percent last week. An unfortunate follow-up to the prior week’s -4.6 percent debacle. With only two weeks left in 2018, the index lounges nervously in negative territory for the year, down -2.8 percent.
“There must certainly be a vast fund of stupidity in human nature, else men would not be caught as they are, a thousand times over, by the same snare; and while they yet remember their past misfortunes, go on to court and encourage the causes to which they were owing, and which will again produce them.”
-Cato’s Letters, January 1721
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Since the dawn of civilization, mankind has on occasion caught a fever so rife with speculative euphoria so as to have become the period’s defining event. Nor has mankind ever become inoculated against such conditions.
Yet mankind remains a slow learner, at best.
In the Dutch Republic of the 1630s, such conditions were omnipotent. Simply screaming for an outburst of speculative mania. Amid a period of rising commercial optimism. The fading specter of war following the defeat of the Spanish Armada. And a booming Dutch textile trade. Seemingly a rising tide that would lift all boats. Continue reading
U.S. stocks rallied Wednesday. The most they’ve leapt in eight months. The dollar fell. Emerging-market assets surged. Responding like Pavlov’s dog to the dovish tone from Fed chairman Powell. One that fueled speculation that the central bank is closer than thought to pausing rate hikes.
Stocks that had fallen the most during the six-week slump led the gains. Aggressively responding to Powell’s comments that rates are “just below” a neutral-policy range. Potentially removing one of the markets biggest drags.
Powell added that the economic outlook remains “solid.” Which underscored expectations for a December rate hike. But he added that the effects of higher rates take time to show up in data. Which led investors to surmise that the Fed is likely to reduce the number of hikes, if not outright pause them, next year.
Remember: the last midterm election after which the market was lower 12 months later occurred on November 5, 1946.
Ultimately, Tuesday’s election followed the most probably route (for a change). With the GOP losing the House, making gains in the Senate, and maintaining a slim edge in Gubernatorial offices as Democrats managed a small net gain.
The most interesting aspect of the night? The Democratic conquest of the House. And it’s worth a closer look. As we believe the GOP House defeat had three primary causes.
First, the unique aspects of the 2018 electoral landscape that saw Republicans had to defend 41 open House seats. Of which eight were in districts carried by Secretary Clinton in 2016. Seven went to Democrats. Another 10 were suburban districts where Trump won only by single digits in 2016. Eight of those went Democratic. In at least three districts, GOP incumbents who had declined to identify with Trump — and Mike Coffman of Colorado, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, and Carlos Curbelo of Florida — were sent to defeat.
Rough month for global equity indices. Yet, we remain above the March lows. At which time the S&P 500 fell to 2,588. three percent beneath today’s level. For now, the primary uptrend remains higher. Though pragmatic market observers must recognize that the trendline could be in jeopardy should this month end with lower lows.
This places investors in a waiting game. As we believe the current bout of volatility to be like the many others incurred throughout this bull market. Providing, in the end, to be a healthy, “Scare-all-the-weak-hands” correction. Separating the wheat from the chaff. So long as indices reverse course — then the current fireworks simply set the stage for the next run higher. Just when such a move is least expected.
Of course, that just happens to be how Mr. Market operates. One minute? Your best friend. The next? A stone-cold killer. Continue reading