Leading Indicator Update: Showing Signs of Fatigue
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At the start of the year, I said that beyond the normal economic data and fund flow data, we’ll be watching two other specific leading indicators:
- Trump’s approval rating, and the
- Semiconductor Index.
As a refresher, we watch Trump’s approval rating because it is an imperfect, but still effective, measure of political capital.
Earlier this year, we said that if his approval rating dips in the weeks and months following Inauguration Day, that won’t be a positive sign for corporate tax cuts (i.e. it will be stock negative). Conversely, if his approval ratings rise following his inauguration, the chances of tax reform will rise (i.e. it will be stock positive).
Turning to the Semiconductor Index (see chart on Pg. 1), we view semiconductors as a destination for incremental capital that comes off the sidelines or out of bonds.
It’s our proxy for money flows, or “chasing” into the US markets.
That reasoning here is based on watching the price action in semis and observing that they handily outperformed post election (implying they were a destination for capital coming off the sidelines), and we continue to believe that is the case.
LI #1: Trump’s Approval Rating Updated. The outlook here hasn’t been that positive, and the movement in the approval rating anecdotally confirms our opinion that the market remains too optimistic regarding corporate tax cuts in 2017.
From a broad standpoint, Trump’s approve/disapprove gap has gotten worse since the inauguration, and we think that represents a slight erosion of political capital.
Last week, we saw a slight bounce following his speech to Congress, but the numbers look to be rolling over again.
I am particularly focused on his raw approval rating numbers (as opposed to just the spread between approve/disapprove). So, while the spread between approve/disapprove has gotten worse, the reason this leading indicator isn’t flashing negative for me is because Trump’s raw approval rating is still about the same as it’s been since the inauguration (about 44%).
However, if that raw number were to drop below 40%, I would view that as a material negative for pro-growth policies… and a potential negative for stocks.
LI #2: Semiconductor Index Updated. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, our loose proxy for incremental money flows out of bonds/other assets and into stocks, has until recently confirmed the 2017 rally.
The SOX rallied 9% from the first of the year till February 22, at which point the index stalled, and it’s traded side-way for nearly two weeks.
Going forward, support at 955.11 now is an important level to watch, as a break of that level would constitute a “lower low” on the charts.
Below that, support at the 20-day moving average at 947.25 has supported this index three times over the past few months. So, that also will be an important level to watch.
Neither of these leading indicators have sent a non-confirmation signal of the rally at this point. Yet after confirming the rally earlier this year, both of these leading indicators are starting to wobble.
Again, we’ll be watching 40 in Trump’s approval rating and 955 and 947 in the SOX. If those levels are broken that will likely prompt us to become more defensive near term for stocks.
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