Former hedge fund star says this is what will trigger the next bear market.

Much of Wall Street expects easing inflation, but an overshoot could dash hopes of a May rate cut, curtailing the S&P 500’s
SPX
waltz with 5,000, warn some.

Read: Arm’s frenzied stock rally continues as AI chase trumps valuation.

What might take this market down eventually? Our call of the day from former hedge-fund manager Russell Clark points to Japan, an island nation whose central bank is one of the last holdouts of loose monetary policy.

Note, Clark bailed on his perma bear RC Global Fund back in 2021 after wrongly betting against stocks for much of a decade. But he’s got a whole theory on why Japan matters so much.

In his substack post, Clark argues that the real bear-market trigger will come when the Bank of Japan ends quantitative easing. For starters, he argues we’re in a “pro-labor world” where a few things should be playing out: higher wages and lower jobless levels and interest rates higher than expected. Lining up with his expectations, real assets started to surge in late 2023 when the Fed started to go dovish, and the yield curve began to steepen.

From that point, not everything has been matching up so easily. He thought higher short-term rates would siphon off money from speculative assets, but then money flowed into cryptos like Tether and the Nasdaq recovered completely from a 2022 rout.

“I have been toying with the idea that semiconductors are a the new oil – and hence have become a strategic asset. This explains the surge in the Nasdaq and the Nikkei to a degree, but does not really explain tether or bitcoin very well,” he said.

So back to Japan and his not so popular explanation for why financial/speculative assets continue to trade so well.

“The Fed had high interest rates all through the 1990s, and dot-com bubble developed anyway. But during that time, the Bank of Japan only finally raised interest rates in 1999 and then the bubble burst,” he said.

He notes that when Japan began to tighten rates in late 2006, “everything started to unwind,” adding that the BOJ’s brief attempts [to] raise rates in 1996 could be blamed for the Asian Financial Crisis.

In Clark’s view, markets seem to have moved more with the Japan’s bank balance sheet than the Fed’s. The BOJ “invented” quantitative easing in the early 2000s, and the subprime crisis started not long after it removed that liquidity from the market in 2006, he notes.

“For really old investors, loose Japanese monetary policy also explained the bubble economy of the 1980s. BOJ Balance Sheet and S&P 500 have decent correlation in my book,” he said, offering the below chart:


Capital Flows and Asset Markets, Russell Clark.

Clark says that also helps explains why higher bond yields haven’t really hurt assets. “As JGB 10 yields have risen, the BOJ has committed to unlimited purchases to keep it below 1%,” he notes.

The two big takeaways here? “BOJ is the only central bank that matters…and that we need to get bearish the U.S. when the BOJ raises interest rates. Given the moves in bond markets and food inflation, this is a matter of time,” said Clark who says in light of his plans for a new fund, “a bear market would be extremely useful for me.” He’s watching the BOJ closely.

The markets

Pre-data, stock futures
ES00,
-0.41%

NQ00,
-0.80%

are down, while Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
hold steady. Oil
CL.1,
+0.79%

and gold
GC00,
+0.46%

are both higher. The Nikkei 225 index
JP:NIK
tapped 38,000 for the first time since 1990.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

5,021.84

1.60%

4.98%

5.28%

21.38%

Nasdaq Composite

15,942.55

2.21%

6.48%

6.20%

34.06%

10 year Treasury

4.181

7.83

11.45

30.03

42.81

Gold

2,038.10

-0.17%

-0.75%

-1.63%

9.33%

Oil

77.14

5.96%

6.02%

8.15%

-2.55%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points

The buzz

Due at 8:30 a.m., January headline consumer prices are expected to dip to 2.9% for January, down from 3.4% in December and the lowest since March 2021. Monthly inflation is seen at 0.3%.

Biogen
BIIB,
+1.56%

stock is down on disappointing results and a slow launch for its Alzheimer’s treatment. A miss is also hitting Krispy Kreme
DNUT,
+1.99%
,
Coca-Cola
KO,
+0.24%

is up on a revenue rise, with Hasbro
HAS,
+1.38%
,
Molson Coors
TAP,
+3.12%

and Marriott
MAR,
+0.74%

still to come, followed by Airbnb
ABNB,
+4.20%
,
Akamai
AKAM,
-0.13%

and MGM Resorts
MGM,
+0.60%

after the close. Hasbro stock is plunging on an earnings miss.

JetBlue
JBLU,
+2.19%

is surging after billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a near 10% stake and said his firm is discussing possible board representation.

Tripadvisor stock
TRIP,
+3.04%

is up 10% after the travel-services platform said it was considering a possible sale.

In a first, Russia put Estonia’s prime minister on a “wanted” list. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

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The chart

Deutsche Bank has taken a deep dive into the might of the Magnificent Seven, and why they will continue to matter for investors. One reason? Nearly 40% of the world still doesn’t have internet access as the bank’s chart shows:

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-2.81%
Tesla

NVDA,
+0.16%
Nvidia

ARM,
+29.30%
Arm Holdings

PLTR,
+2.75%
Palantir Technologies

NIO,
+2.53%
Nio

AMC,
+4.11%
AMC Entertainment

AAPL,
-0.90%
Apple

AMZN,
-1.21%
Amazon.com

MARA,
+14.19%
Marathon Digital

TSM,
-1.99%
NIO

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Check out On Watch by MarketWatch, a weekly podcast about the financial news we’re all watching – and how that’s affecting the economy and your wallet.

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Why investors should be wary of New Year ‘head fakes’ for this hot asset class

The first trading day of the New Year looks set to challenge the Santa Rally theory, with Dow futures down over 200 points as bond yields surge. An Apple downgrade may not have helped investor confidence.

This week will bring the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting and important December jobs data.

“Data that comes in too hot will kill the idea of rate cuts starting as soon as March, and data that comes in too cold will kill the idea of a soft landing. It means Goldilocks must return from her Christmas trip to Aruba and appear this week,” says Michael Kramer, founder of Mott Capital Management.

Read: A stock investor’s guide to the first trading days of 2024

Onto our call of the day from MacroTourist blogger Kevin Muir, who sees a rally in small-cap stocks as one big theme for the coming year, though investors should beware of getting in too soon.

In a post, Muir draws on a 2021 observation from Raoul Paul, co-founder and CEO of Real Vision financial media platform, who posted on Twitter now X, at the time about the perils of piling into “head fakes” or new ideas in January.

Paul noted how hedge funds and asset managers start the new year with a clean investment slate, but then two weeks later start moving into so-called consensus Wall Street year-ahead trades. And once the rest of the investment world gets in, the trend reverses or corrects, and those managers get back to flat or have to start over.

Muir says given the Fed’s pivot away from monetary tightening at the end of 2023, small-caps will end up as stock leaders this year. A bull on that asset class, he flagged his readers to buy in early November and December.

After a tough year, the Russell 2000
RUT
rallied late in 2023 as it became clearer that Fed interest rate increases, particularly hard on smaller companies, were drawing to a close.

As per this Russell 2000 chart, Muir says he did get the timing right on that bullish call:

However, Muir says he’s concerned that the rally was mainly from “hedge fund covering,” and not a solid signal that the bear market for those stocks has ended.

One reason, he notes was that the stocks blasting higher at the end of 2023 were the most heavily shorted — he offers the Goldman Sach’s most-shorted index chart here:

MacroTourist

The chart is evidence of how hedge funds that got caught out when the Fed surprisingly guided toward interest rate cuts at the December meeting. Within a few hours of the Fed announcement, the Most-Short index had rallied 15%. But along with that, the ARKK Innovation ETF
ARKK
also shot higher, a red flag for Muir.

That short index is tightly correlated to ARKK and the Russell 2000 small-cap index, he said.

So says it’s possible the small-cap push was “just a hedge fund short-covering rally that will sag back down now that the buying has flamed out.” And based on Raoul Paul’s theory, it makes sense that hedge funds and other investors may be piling into the asset class.

Muir says he stands by his view that small-caps are cheap and deserving of gains. “However, if this small-cap rally is for real, then it can’t be led by crap. We can’t have the GS Rolling Most-Short leading the charge. We need quality small-cap stocks to rally,” he said.

So the correlation between broader small-cap indexes and the most-shorted index (also tightly correlated with ARKK) will have to break down.

“As a proxy for this index, and a hedge against my small-cap long position, I am shorting ARKK. So far, the short covering drove all these smaller capitalized stocks higher, but my bet is that an actual small-cap bull market will see much better differentiation, and that new small-cap leadership will emerge (and it won’t be ARKK),” he says.

The markets

U.S. stock index futures
ES00,
-0.67%

YM00,
-0.26%

NQ00,
-1.19%

are falling sharply as Treasury yields
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y

BX:TMUBMUSD02Y
climb. Gold
GC00,
+0.32%

is up, and oil
CL.1,
+0.14%

is up 2% after Iran sent warships to the Red Sea after the U.S. Navy sank some Houthi militia-backed boats. The Hang Seng
HK:HSI
fell 1.5% after weak China factory activity.

Key asset performance

Last

5d

1m

YTD

1y

S&P 500

4,769.83

0.32%

3.81%

24.23%

24.23%

Nasdaq Composite

15,011.35

0.12%

4.94%

43.42%

43.42%

10 year Treasury

3.933

3.28

-24.22

5.23

18.77

Gold

2,082.50

0.87%

1.67%

0.52%

13.79%

Oil

72.78

-0.97%

-0.70%

2.03%

-9.60%

Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points.

The buzz

U.S. nonfarm payroll data for December is due Friday, with the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing report and minutes of the Dec. 12-13 Fed meeting both on Wednesday. Construction spending is due at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

Read: Health of U.S. labor market looms large on markets’ radar this coming week

Apple
AAPL,
-2.97%

is down 2% in premarket after Barclays’ analysts cut the iPhone maker to underweight from equal weight, on signs of weak iPhone 15 and other hardware sales.

Voyager Therapeutics stock
VYGR,
+29.74%

is up 32% after the biotech announced a licensing deal with Novartis unit Novartis Pharma
NOVN,
+0.99%
.

Joyy
YY,
-14.65%

is off 11% after Baidu
BIDU,
-3.40%

cancelled a $3.6 billion offer for the Singapore-based live-streaming platform.

Bitcoin
BTCUSD,
+4.23%

is at $45,447, a high not seen since April 2022, on ETF approval hopes.

Tesla
TSLA,
-0.55%

said it delivered 484,507 EVs in the fourth quarter, producing 494,989. Deliveries grew 83% to 1.81 million for 2023 as a whole. Tesla shares are slipping. Meanwhile, China’s BYD
002594,
-2.73%

sold 3.02 million electric vehicles in 2023, eclipsing Tesla a second-straight year.

Japan’s western coast was hit by several heavy earthquakes on New Year’s Day, leaving at least 30 people dead and more quakes could come. A collision between a Japan coast guard plane and a Japan Airlines flight that caught fire on the runway on Tuesday resulted in the deaths of five people.

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The chart

More on small-cap caution from Chris Kimble at See It Market. He points out that investors may be getting greedy as some big resistance levels approach for the Russell 2000:


See It Market

Top tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m.:

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
-0.55%
Tesla

MARA,
+7.47%
Marathon Digital Holdings

NIO,
-5.79%
Nio

NVDA,
-3.27%
Nvidia

GME,
-1.14%
GameStop

AAPL,
-2.97%
Apple

AMC,
AMC Entertainment

COIN,
-2.62%
Coinbase GLobal

MULN,
-4.69%
Mullen Automotive

RIOT,
+5.69%
Riot Platforms

Random reads

New Year’s Eve in a Japanese cat bar.

Woman sues Hershey for $5 million over a faceless Reeses pumpkin.

Viral Burger King worker buys first home after crowdsourcing.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Source link

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India is becoming a hot market for investors, but it risks falling victim to its own success

India is poised to become the world’s most important country in the medium term. It has the world’s largest population (which is still growing), and with a per capita GDP that is just one-quarter that of China’s, its economy has enormous scope for productivity gains.

Moreover, India’s military and geopolitical importance will only grow. It is a vibrant democracy whose cultural diversity will generate soft power to rival the United States and the United Kingdom.

One must credit Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for implementing policies that have modernized India and supported its growth. Specifically, Modi has made massive investments in the single market (including through de-monetization and a major tax reform) and infrastructure (not just roads, electricity, education, and sanitation, but also digital capacity). These investments – together with industrial policies to accelerate manufacturing, a comparative advantage in tech and IT, and a customized digital-based welfare system – have led to robust economic performance following the COVID-19 slump.

These investments — together with industrial policies to accelerate manufacturing, a comparative advantage in tech and IT, and a customized digital-based welfare system — have led to robust economic performance following the COVID-19 slump.

Yet the model that has driven India’s growth now threatens to constrain it. The main risks to India’s development prospects are more micro and structural than macro or cyclical. First, India has moved to an economic model where a few “national champions” — effectively large private oligopolistic conglomerates — control significant parts of the old economy. This resembles Indonesia under Suharto (1967-98), China under Hu Jintao (2002-12), or South Korea in the 1990s under its dominant chaebols.

In some ways, this concentration of economic power has served India well. Owing to superior financial management, the economy has grown fast, despite investment rates (as a share of GDP) that were much lower than China’s. The implication is that India’s investments have been much more efficient; indeed, many of India’s conglomerates boast world-class levels of productivity and competitiveness.

But the dark side of this system is that these conglomerates have been able to capture policymaking to benefit themselves. This has had two broad, harmful effects: it is stifling innovation and effectively killing early-stage startups and domestic entrants in key industries; and it is changing the government’s “Make in India” program into a counterproductive, protectionist scheme.

We may now be seeing these effects reflected in India’s potential growth, which seems to have declined rather than accelerated recently. Just as the Asian Tigers did well in the 1980s and 1990s with a growth model based on gross exports of manufactured goods, India has done the same with exports of tech services. Make in India was intended to strengthen the economy’s tradable side by fostering the production of goods for export, not just for the Indian market.

Instead, India is moving toward more protectionist import-substitution and domestic production subsidization (with nationalistic overtones), both of which insulate domestic industries and conglomerates from global competition. Its tariff policies are preventing it from becoming more competitive in goods exports, and its resistance to joining regional trade agreements is hampering its full integration into global value and supply chains.

India should be focusing on industries where it has a comparative advantage, such as tech and IT, artificial intelligence, business services, and fintech.

Another problem is that Make in India has evolved to support production in labor-intensive industries such as cars, tractors, locomotives, trains, and so forth. While the labor intensity of production is an important factor in any labor-abundant country, India should be focusing on industries where it has a comparative advantage, such as tech and IT, artificial intelligence, business services, and fintech. It needs fewer scooters, and more Internet of Things startups. Like many of the other successful Asian economies, policymakers should nurture these dynamic sectors by establishing special economic zones. Absent such changes, Make in India will continue to produce suboptimal results.

The recent saga surrounding the Adani Group is symptomatic of a trend that will eventually hurt India’s growth.

Finally, the recent saga surrounding the Adani Group
512599,
-4.98%

is symptomatic of a trend that will eventually hurt India’s growth. It is possible that Adani’s rapid growth was enabled by a system in which the government tends to favor certain large conglomerates and the latter benefit from such closeness while supporting policy goals.

Again, Modi’s policies have deservedly made him one of the most popular political leaders at home and in the world today. He and his advisers are not personally corrupt, and their Bharatiya Janata Party will justifiably win re-election in 2024 regardless of this scandal. But the optics of the Adani story are concerning.

There is a perception that the Adani Group may be, in part, helping to support the state political machinery and finance state and local projects that would otherwise go unfunded, given local fiscal and technocratic constraints. In this sense, the system may be akin to “pork barrel” politics in the US, where certain local projects get earmarked in a legal (if not entirely transparent) congressional vote-buying process.

Supposing that this interpretation is even partly correct, Indian authorities might reply that the system is “necessary” to accelerate infrastructure spending and economic development. Even so, this practice would be toxic, and it would represent a wholly different flavor of realpolitik compared to, say, India’s vast purchases of Russian oil since the start of the Ukraine War.

While those shipments still account for less than one-third of India’s total energy purchases, they have come at a significant discount. Given per capita GDP of around $2,500, it is understandable that India would avail itself of lower-cost energy. Complaints by Western countries that are 20 times richer are simply not credible.

The scandal surrounding the Adani empire does not seem to extend beyond the conglomerate itself, but the case does have macro implications for India’s institutional robustness and global investors’ perceptions of India. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s demonstrated that, over time, the partial capture of economic policy by crony capitalist conglomerates will hurt productivity growth by hampering competition, inhibiting Schumpeterian “creative destruction,” and increasing inequality.

It is thus in Modi’s long-term interest to ensure that India does not go down this path. India’s long-term success ultimately depends on whether it can foster and sustain a growth model that is competitive, dynamic, sustainable, inclusive, and fair.

Nouriel Roubini, professor emeritus of economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business, is chief economist at Atlas Capital Team and the author of “Megathreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Imperil Our Future, and How to Survive Them” (Little, Brown and Company, 2022).

This commentary was published with permission of Project Syndicate —
India at a Crossroads

More: This perfect storm of megathreats is even more dangerous than the 1970s or the 1930s.

Also read: Freeing the U.S. economy from China will create an American industrial renaissance and millions of good-paying jobs

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