Will We See A Shift Out of High Yield Bonds and Back to Treasury’s?

Since the election last week the markets has been digesting the new set of expectations with regards to where growth is expected to increase (small caps, biotech seeing large pops) or decrease (large cap tech). The same type of movement is also taking place in the bond market with Treasury’s seeing a fair bit of weakness as rates rise. The 10-year Treasury yield is now at its highest level for the year with many bond ETFs seeing their lowest levels. On a relative basis, high yield debt has not been hit as hard as government debt, which is the focus of this post.

Below is a ratio chart comparing the iShares High Yield Corporate Bond ETF ($HYG) vs. the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF ($TLT). As a reminder, when looking at a ratio chart like this, if the line is rising then the numerator, int his case, $HYG, is rising more or falling less than the denominator (i.e. $TLT). This is a great way to be able to analyze two markets and see which one has stronger relative strength. The second half of 2016 has seen a shift to favoring high yield debt over Treasury’s. This increase in relative performance has sent the Relative Strength Index (RSI), a momentum indicator, to a historically high level. In fact, we’ve only see four previous instances where the RSI has been this high for the HYG/TLT pair since 2007.

As shown by the dotted blue lines, when RSI has gotten this high in the past we’ve typically seen a reversal in relative strength. Three of the four prior occurrences (2007, 2010, 2015) were substantial shifts in trend while the instance in 2012 didn’t have a complete about-face in relative performance, we did see TLT pick up a little in relative performance for several weeks before bottoming out and $HYG continuing to lead for the bulk of 2013.

So while the sample size is extremely small, it does appear the trend for high yield debt  leading Treasury’s has come to an impasse. Momentum has become stretched and this elevated reading in the RSI can be resolved in two ways…. through time, which means we could see a consolidation in the $HYG/$TLT ratio or a reversal in trend. However, as we saw in 2013, the magnitude of the trend reversal may not last very long or produce dramatic changes in the overall trend. 



Stock Market Hits New Highs But Lacks Confirmation

While the S&P 500 breaks through 1900 and traders rejoice over the fresh new high, it seems the same level of excitement is not being felt in other parts of the market. There are multiple divergences that are taking place and showing a lack of confirmation. On my blog I’ve discussed multiple times the lack of participation in momentum for the S&P 500, but we can also see divergences in bonds, small caps, and defensive sectors showing leadership. However, the two measures we are seeing excessive risk taking in are the Put/Call Ratios and the Volatility Index which is sitting at historical lows. The other measures I follow appear to be negatively diverging from the overall equity market. Below are some examples.

Below is a chart I referenced earlier this year; it shows relative performance of High Yield Corporate Bonds ($HYG) vs.U.S. 20+ Year Treasury’s ($TLT). In the bottom panel we have the 10-Year Treasury Yield ($TNX). For the bulk of the current bull market we’ve seen these two measurements for the bond market confirm the movements in equity prices. As stocks go up, so does the ratio between HYG and TLT as investors show preference for the more risky high yield market over government debt, and same for the 10-Year Yield which often moves with the stock market. However, that’s now the case today. We have a glaring divergence forming in both measures of risk within the bond market, something we haven’t seen since the 2011 and 2012 highs.

bond divergence

Next we have a chart showing the S&P 500 ($SPX), PowerShares Nasdaq ($QQQ), and the Russell 2000 iShares($IWM). While the S&P hits new highs the Nasdaq and Russell 2000 are off nearly 5% from their 52-week highs. SentimenTrader.com wrote in a recent note that some examples of past instances of this occurring are: 1983, 1987, 1990, 1998, 2000, and 2006. Jason wrote that the eventual ‘reaction’ of this divergence in the S&P 500 varies in length, “from immediately (’83, ‘90’, ’00) to over a year (’06). If traders were feeling more confident in the upswing in stocks, why aren’t they bidding up these higher beta indices?

To keep reading and see the rest of the charts: Stock Market Hits New Highs, But Lack of Confirmation Concerning (See It Market)

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

Weekly Technical Market Outlook 3/3/2014

You think we’ll hear much about Russia this week? Probably. The great aspect of using technical analysis is we don’t need to immerse ourselves in the headlines or know the intimate details of when country is currently invading another country. If the market feels this information is important than it will show up in the price action. It can be easy to get caught up in flashing “breaking news” events and attempting to dissect the impact it will have on price movement. While the situation in Ukraine is important and will affect hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives, we must categorize that in a different part of our thought process and allow our chosen strategy or lens to lead our bias.

Equity Trend

Little needs to be said about the current trend of the equity market. It’s still positive as we hit new highs last week in the S&P 500 ($SPX).

equity trend

Equity Breadth

We had a good week in market breadth last week with the Advance-Decline line continuing to head higher. While we saw some consolidation and an eventual new high in the S&P, the Advance-Decline Line, which measures the number of NYSE stocks heading higher vs. those in the red, has almost gone in a straight line up. As expected, the Percentage of Stocks Above their 200-day Moving Average has broken out of its multi-month range as it tries to kiss 75%.  However, there is one measure of breadth that is still concerning….

equity breadthBelow is a chart of net number of stocks making new highs vs. new lows and then taking a 5-day total to show what’s taken place in a single trading week.This chart shows the last 11 years and I’ve drawn trend lines on the breadth measure to show negative divergences. In 2005 and 2006 we saw the net numbers of new highs and new lows kept hitting resistance while price advanced. This lead to breadth making lower highs, diverging from price before a top was set in 2007. We also had a notable divergence of lower highs going into the short bear market in 2011. Last year with the equity market challenging 30% gains, the new highs-lows indicator mimicked the action in ’05/’06 – hitting resistance. However towards the end of 2013 and into the first two months of ’14 we have begun seeing lower highs once again.

While the previously mentioned measures of breadth are showing signs of confirmation for the new high in the S&P, this measure is not. Is this a sign of future weakness to come in to the market?  Maybe. Although its hard to make that argument with the Advance-Decline line showing such strength, which it was not doing going into the 2007 high.

New High Low 5 day

Equity Momentum

The two more traditional forms of momentum, The Relative Strength Index (RSI), and the MACD, are both not confirming new highs. However, the RSI indicator is still rising and could be just ‘late to the party’ before reach ‘overbought’ status and showing confirmation. The Money Flow Index, which incorporates volume into the momentum calculation has reached an ‘overbought’ status, something we haven’t seen since last October.

equity momentum


To keep with the theme of divergences, I want to take a moment and look at the bond market. Below is a chart of the S&P 500 ($SPX) with the ratio between the High Yield Corporate Bond ETF ($HYG) and 20+ Year Treasury ETF ($TLT) in the second panel and the 10-year Treasury Yield ($TNX) in the bottom panel.

It’s often said that the smartest traders are in the bond pits. This may be why we look to bonds to confirm what may be taking place in the equity markets. If the smartest guys (or gals) on The Street are bond traders, then they aren’t showing the same level of excitement as equity traders right now.

One way to measure ‘risk appetite’ is by looking at the relative performance of high yield debt compared to safe-haven Treasury bonds. When this ratio (green line) is rising we know that traders are showing a bias towards high yield bonds which means risk-taking is still in vogue. We also want to see the 10-year yield move with the equity market to help confirm an advance. Right now, neither of these are occurring. It appears bond traders are showing more signs of concern than what’s taking place in equity price action, which raises a yellow flag for the new high we hit last week. Treasury bonds are being favored over high yield and the 10-year yield has been heading lower – both measures diverging from recent equity price action.


60-minute S&P 500

As I mentioned last week, the 50-1hr Moving Average would likely be a good place to look for support on any dips. The divergence that was taking place in the Relative Strength Index was able to be worked off as the RSI indicator broke above 70 with the S&P hitting a new all-time high. The MACD is still showing a divergence on the short-term view, refusing to cooperate with the bulls. I’m writing this on Sunday night and if the futures market is giving us any indication to how trading will be today (Monday), we’ll be cutting right through previous support like a hot knife in butter.

60 min sp500

Last Week’s Sector Performance

Two weeks ago the strongest sectors were health care ($XLV), utilities ($XLU), and energy ($XLE), all of which showed relative weakness during trading last week. The materials sector ($XLB) was the strongest sector last week, with consumer discretionary (cyclicals) ($XLY) and consumer staples ($XLP) rounding out the top three.

week sector perfYear-to-Date Sector Performance

For the first time in 2014, healthcare ($XLV) has pushed its way to the top spot in sector performance, showing a repeat of 2013. Utilities ($XLU) still appears to be a trader favorite as it is the second strongest sector YTD. Consumer staples ($XLP) continues to stray from the pack of low beta sectors, as its the worst relative performer in 2014.

ytd sector perf

Major Events This Week

While Russia invading Ukraine will likely hold as the major headline this week, as we approach Friday the focus will shift to the Non-Farm Payroll report.

Monday: ISM Manufacturing Index and Construction Spending
Tuesday: None
Wednesday: Beige Book
Thursday: Jobless Claims and Factory Orders
Friday: Non-Farm Payroll


Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.