This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on April 26 at 8:05 a.m. EDT.
In February 2009, a few weeks before the markets hit a
, I created a
, which was helpful in gauging the timing of the eventual market bottom during the first week of March last year.
Late last month, nearly 13 months later and 550
points higher, I created a
that might possibly help in signaling a market top and a reversal of investors' good fortunes. The checklist is mostly serious (though two items were tongue in cheek), but by no means is it meant as a comprehensive and exhaustive list; I will leave that to Wall Street's strategists.
Here is an updated status (in italics) of my checklist, which, with eight Market Positives, four Market Negatives and eight Market Neutrals, concludes that there is not yet a definitive top signal.
Interest Rates: The yield on the 10-year U.S. note might climb to over 4% (now at 3.85%). A 4.00% to 4.25% yield would likely provide a tipping point for increased competition to equities and produce an interest (mortgage) rate headwind to the nascent housing recovery at a time when stock dividend yields have nearly halved and when a large phantom inventory of unsold homes is about to begin to enter the residential for-sale market. Interest rates are behaving, and the yield on the 10-year U.S. note has settled in at about 3.80%. Market Positive.
Jobs / Economy: A more sluggish-than-expected expansion in new jobs and the weight of higher taxes in 2011 might translate to a downturn in consumer confidence, reduced business fixed investment and a more shallow domestic economic recovery in the second half of this year. While jobless claims have recently been elevated, last month's jobs report was in line to slightly better than consensus. Market Positive.
Retail: Cautious forward comp guidance in retail could reverse the February-March strength. Retail comps continue to come in at above consensus. Market Positive.
Europe: There could be growing signs of weakness in the European economies. Signs are mixed in Europe. Market Neutral.
Credit: Over there, we might witness evidence of more sovereign (Spain?) crises, and, over here, we could see more U.S. municipal -- the universe is large! -- financial woes. Forced austerity measures would likely produce lower growth. Greece and the other credit-extended and fiscally challenged critters remain wobbly and so are the fiscal headwinds facing our state and local governments. Market Negative.
Credit (Part Deux): Credit spreads might widen. Credit spreads are improving and some securitizations are even beginning to take place. Market Positive.
Geopolitical: We could see a possible rise in geopolitical tensions or even another terrorist act on our shore. Nothing new on this front. Market Neutral.
Monetary Policy: We might have a less dovish Fed in words (jawboning) and in action (through an increase in the federal funds rate). While asset sales are being telegraphed, the Fed remains dovish. Market Positive.
Tightening Abroad: It is likely that central banks around the world will begin to clench their monetary fist, especially in China. India has tightened, China is placing some credit curbs on property acquisitions, and Canada indicated its intention to tighten. Market Neutral.
Protectionism, Trade and Currency Wars: Things might get ugly, especially on the U.S. / China front. Nothing to date, though some threats have been made. Market Neutral.
Housing: A renewed leg down in home prices is possible as the spring selling season could fail to appear. (It hasn't gotten off to a great start.) While my channel checks> have indicated a still weak housing market, home sales have heated up into the termination of the housing tax credit. Market Neutral.
Sentiment: We could witness the birth of a 5x to 10x levered bullish ETF, a burst in bullish investor sentiment, an expansion in hedge fund net long positions, a further drawdown in mutual fund cash positions, a meaningful increase in retail mutual fund equity inflows and massive outflows out of Rydex bear funds. As I have recently written, sentiment and institutional equity exposure are at levels that have historically led to market corrections. Market Negative.
Technical: Stocks could fail to respond to good news, suggesting that the sharp corporate profit recovery has been baked into prices. A breakdown in financials and/or transports could occur. Overseas markets might fail to make new highs, or we could see a further contraction in NYSE / Nasdaq exchange volume. Most technical indicators that gauge breadth and momentum are still bullish. Market Positive.
Deflation: Industrial commodity prices could weaken. Commodity prices are strengthening. Market Positive.
Speculation: We might see an increasingly speculative market for low-price issues. Junk is leading quality; it has for a while. Market Negative.
Underwritings: The emergence of a record syndicate calendar is possible. Supply has increased geometrically, and it's being absorbed adequately. Market Neutral.
Wall Street: A substantial increase in Wall Street industry hirings could be announced. Wall Street job placement firms I speak to are more active but not materially so. Market Neutral.
Dr. Doom vs. the Sunshine Boys: Dr. Nouriel Roubini could see green shoots, causing bullish strategists and money managers to demonstrate even more swagger. Reminiscent of late 1998, a sell-side analyst (perhaps the new Henry Blodgett) might raise his 12-month Apple price target to $375 a share, leading another analyst to top that target and move to $400 a share a week later. Dr. Roubini has been keeping it on the down low, but, on the heels of a terrific earnings report, analysts covering Apple are substantially raising price targets. Market Neutral.
The Media: CNBC could throw another celebratory party. Time magazine might declare the death of the bear market on its cover or run a cover story offering a new bullish economic and/or stock market paradigm. Sir Larry Kudlow could have trouble finding a single bear to appear on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report." Record ratings might induce the management of CNBC to expand "Squawk Box" from three hours to four hours (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) and add an additional anchor to join Joe, Becky and Carl. CNBC is increasingly giddy, and talking heads (strategists and money managers) are almost unanimously bullish (and glib). "Fast Money's" midday report usually asks the panelists whether to buy or sell into the market's close, but late last week, Melissa Lee started asking what stock to buy to make money on the next day (on the assumption that an upward trajectory in share prices has been firmly in place for eight weeks). Market Negative.
Dougie: Maybe I turn bullish. No way! Market Positive.
Doug Kass writes daily for
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At the time of publication, Kass and/or his funds had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although holdings can change at any time.
Doug Kass is the general partner Seabreeze Partners Long/Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Long/Short Offshore LP. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security.