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s&p500 (6)

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When The SEC Investigates Market Failures

This week, the SEC gave us a belated Christmas present.  But what does it actually portend?

The present in question is an 88-page "Research Note" from the SEC's Division of Trading and Markets titled "Equity Market Volatility on August 24, 2015." It's an innocuous-enough title, but for us market-structure wonks, it's kind of a big deal.

The conclusions of the piece are purely factual, and include dozens of pages of juicy charts and tables (be still my nerdy heart!). There's little or no conjecture, and there's absolutely no policy recommendations.

It outlines the facts of that fateful trading day, discussing what went wrong, and which classes of securities were affected. It's a gold mine for folks who want to dig in and understand what happens when things break, and, for any investor, it's worth reading at least the first…

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Intellectually I knew there were two forms of market participants already: price-sensitive “investors” and price-insensitive “traders”.  The former buys low and sells high, and has a process for determining why they are doing so.  The latter sells low and covers lower, or buys high and sells higher.  Both are entirely legitimate ways to make returns in any market, but it’s important to distinguish between them; who you listen to and surround yourself with will inform your market view and trading positions.  When the stock market opened for its “Black Monday” on August 24th, those selling were “traders”, whether they want to admit it or not.  They didn’t care what level prices were at, just that they were going down. “Get…

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Energy Contagion - The Big Unknown

Indeed, I've read much concern over this area as oil collapsed so it does merit a warning.  From ZeroHedge:

The S&P 500 Energy sector stocks are down over 12% year-to-date, tumbling over 3% today to fresh 20-month lows. The spread (or risk) of high-yield energy credits surged again today, breaking above 850bps for the first time... The overall high-yield credit market is being dragged wider by this contagion as hedgers try to contain the collapse that is possible. For now,…

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Are Profit Margins Sustainable: RBC

Stock markets have enjoyed a banner half-decade, forcefully reclaiming the ground lost to the financial crisis, and then some. This vigorous performance has occurred thanks, above all else, to two key enablers: surging earnings and recovering valuations. On the surface, there is nothing especially questionable about either. Earnings naturally rise as economies grow, and valuations recover as risk aversion fades.

However, a closer examination reveals a significant vulnerability within this cozy equation. Corporate earnings growth has been, in a sense, too good – persistently outpacing both revenues and the economy. This has driven profit margins to multi-decade highs.

Worryingly, profit margins have long been assumed to be mean-reverting, arguing that these juicy gains may…

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Looking Back At The Market

The ECB left its key lending rates at record low levels, and the four-week moving average for initial claims is at an eight-year low.  That sounds like a pretty good setup for a stock market that worries about earnings prospects tied to a stronger dollar, loves the thought of central bank policy rates holding near the zero bound, and is anxious to see evidence the U.S. economy is gaining momentum.

Despite the setup, it has been a swing and a miss so far for the stock market, which has once again been greeted with steady, and broad-based, selling pressure.

ECB President Mario Draghi is getting a lot of blame for the disappointing price action based on reports that his presentation regarding the ECB's asset-backed securities purchase program was lacking and the…

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Countries Which Are Overvalued or Undervalued

Ask 10 different money managers what metric they use to determine if a stock (or particular market) is overvalued, and you'll more than likely receive 10 different responses.  Of course buying at "the bottom" is easier said than done, as we all know so I submit to you this perspective.

Kyle Caldwell, personal finance reporter at the Daily Telegraph, determined whether stock markets were undervalued or overvalued. Caldwell used three…

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