May 2018 Investor Letter

Strategy Performance

 
performance table.jpg
 

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for clients. This strategy has returned +10% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
AAA Asset Mix.jpg
 

Gold Trader focuses on capturing the strongest and weakest parts of gold's daily cycle, buying daily cycle lows, selling daily cycle highs and holding for 10-20 trading days, depending on the cycle count. This approach allows me to effectively manage risk. The strategy aims to capture +5%-6% profit per trade while risking 2%-3% each time, has a win rate in excess of 70% and is structured so that profits are TAX FREE for investors.

Executive Summary

This month, I examine a potential buying opportunity for the Active Asset Allocator in European equities and explain how the German stock market will likely trigger a move. I highlight the ongoing dominance of the FAANG stocks, which continue to drive the broad market averages higher and will likely continue to do so for the remainder of this bull market. I also discuss current stock market valuations and some technical indicators that are breaking down. These include an increasing number of stocks making new lows vs those making new highs and an increasing number of stocks trading below their long-term moving averages. 

In bonds, I cover the outlook for government bond yields in the US and Europe, while also discussing the possibility that the Federal Reserve in the US is potentially trapped and unable to raise short-term interest rates without popping the stock and bond market bubbles. I argue there is still some room for EU government bonds to rally in a risk-off move in the stock market, which is why the Active Asset Allocator currently holds a mix of cash, bonds and gold for capital preservation. On to gold, I highlight an upcoming investment opportunity for precious metals and also discuss an excellent research report from the folks at GaveKal - "The Upcoming Monetary War, with Gold as an Arbiter". 

Stock Market Update

Let's start this month's Investor Update with some potentially positive news. European stocks, as measured by the Eurostoxx 600 Index, have traded in very broad range for the last 20 years. The Eurostoxx 600 Index hit a resistance zone of 400-415 in 2000, 2007 and again in 2015, failing to break out on each occasion. We are still below that resistance line today but getting close again. The Index traded at 403 in January 2018 and is back at 392 this week. While there is a negative divergence appearing on the Relative Strength and Momentum indicators, suggesting that the current rally is losing strength, if the Eurostoxx 600 can break out and hold above 405-415, that would be a significant bullish development. In that instance, the Active Asset Allocator would take a long position in European shares, with a closing stop below resistance.

 
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If the Eurostoxx 600 is going to break out to new all-time highs, it will likely be led higher by Germany, the strongest market in the region. The German economy grew by +2.2% in 2017, its fastest pace in over five years while its fiscal surplus reached 1.2 percent of GDP, the most since the country’s reunification. Despite momentum slowing somewhat in the first quarter of 2018 due to a contraction in manufacturing output, expectations for another year of solid growth remain on track. All of this positive news has not been lost on the German stock market, which has already more than doubled since 2012. The Dax could be setting up to break out to new all-time highs, or a head and shoulders topping pattern may be in the process of forming. We will know soon enough. If the Dax can break and hold above 13,597 it will likely coincide with a break out to new all time highs in the Eurostoxx 600 Index. The Active Asset Allocator is on watch.

 
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In another positive for the stock market, the tech giants, which have led from the front for the last 9 years, continue to charge. Apple($985BN), Amazon ($775BN), Microsoft ($760BN), Google ($770BN) and Facebook ($550BN) are the five largest companies by market capitalisation trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Together, they are valued in excess of $3.8 trillion. They are the generals of Wall Street, have led from the front and their performance will drive this bull market until its conclusion. While a few of them stumbled following their 1Q 2018 earnings reports last month, they rallied hard last week and have continued to outperform the S&P 500 to varying degrees. The equity bull market will continue until these giants reverse lower. The FAANG stocks are a very crowded trade, but so far, the longs have been rewarded.

 
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Despite the good news and the appearance of relative strength of the broad market indices, a closer inspection reveals some potential signs of weakness. In a healthy bull market, the majority of stocks rise in a bullish trend, with the majority making new 52-week highs compared to those making new lows. As a bull market ages, the rising trend loses momentum and fewer stocks participate until the end, when the market runs out of steam and new lows start outpacing new highs and the market rolls over. You can see this trend in play in the chart below, which captures the number of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, making new highs minus those making new lows.

As we turned from bull market to bear market in 2007/2008, the trend in stocks making new highs deteriorated versus those making making new lows. The same pattern was evident before the sharp stock market corrections in 2011 and 2015 and the same pattern is evident again today. We do not have to see a stock market collapse from here, but we could. Unless new highs start outpacing new lows again, I expect at least a sharp correction to unfold shortly. I lowered the equity allocation in my Active Asset Allocator strategy from 20% to 0% on 2nd March 2018 and am patiently waiting before I make my next move.

 
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On a similar note, the following chart measures the percentage of stocks in the S&P 100 Index trading above their 200 day moving average. In a bull market, you should expect to see the majority of stocks participate in the advance, but today, just over half the market is in rally mode. This can change. The stock market could simply be pausing for breath before the next move higher, but the weakness is concerning. We are in year ten of this bull market. The previous few ended with a similar drop off in market breadth before price gave way and the broader indices followed lower.

 
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Regular readers will know of my concerns for the stock market given where we are in the current cycle. John Hussman of the Hussman Funds articulates these concerns much better than I ever could and has the data to support his bearish leanings. Hussman has not played the bull market in stocks at all well in recent years, but his analysis is well worth reading. In his latest market comment - Comfort is Not Your Friend - Hussman imparts the following words of wisdom.

Markets peak when investors feel confidence about the economy, are impressed by recent market gains, and are comforted by the perception of safety and resilience that follows an extended market advance. So several features generally go together: 1) extreme optimism about the economy and corporate earnings, 2) depressed risk-premiums, and 3) steep market valuations. Poor subsequent market returns ultimately follow, though not always immediately.

In contrast, markets trough when investors are frightened about the economy, are terrified by recent market losses, and are paralyzed by the perception of risk and fragility that follows an extended market decline. So several features generally go together: 1) extreme pessimism about the economy and corporate earnings, 2) steep risk-premiums, and 3) depressed market valuations. Strong subsequent market returns ultimately follow, though not always immediately.

The chart below illustrates this regularity. The areas shaded in red are rather comfortable periods, featuring an unemployment rate below 5% and within 1% of a 3-year low, an S&P 500 price/revenue ratio above 1.15, typically reflecting a period of strong recent market gains, and an ISM purchasing managers index above 50, reflecting expectations for an expanding economy. Notably these periods of comfort were followed by S&P 500 total returns averaging zero over the following 3-year period, with deep interim losses more often than not.

In contrast, the areas shaded in green are rather uncomfortable periods, featuring an unemployment rate above 5% and within 1% of a 3-year high, an S&P 500 price/revenue ratio below 1.15, typically reflecting a recent period of dull returns or market losses, and an ISM purchasing managers index below 50, reflecting expectations of a contracting economy. Notably, these periods of discomfort were followed by S&P 500 total returns averaging 15.3% annually over the following 3-year period.
— John Hussman, Hussman Funds
 
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I think we've got some green bars to look forward to in the next three years when the US unemployment rate crosses back above 5% (and within 1% of a 3-year high), the S&P 500 Price/Sales ratio falls below 1.15 (from 2.16 times currently) and the ISM Purchasing Managers Index declines to below 50. For the full Hussman Market Comment, please follow the link. However, the stock market has to top first, before those green bars come in to view.

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
bond yields.jpg
 

A chart comparing the relative performance of the S&P 500 to the US 10-year government bond yield suggests that the trend of falling equity prices and rising government bond yields is set to continue (in the US). If the blue support line gives way, this head-and-shoulders top formation should break down and the trend lower should accelerate. This is a significant problem for folks investing in and managing balanced portfolios. Historically, government bonds have acted as a shock absorber whenever stock markets have taken a plunge. With bond yields already on the floor, there is less room for them to fall (and bond prices to rise) when capital flows out of riskier assets. I still think there is some room for EU government bonds to rally in a risk-off move in the stock market, which is why the Active Asset Allocator currently holds a mix of cash, bonds and gold for capital preservation.

 
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The US Federal Reserve Chairman, Jerome Powell, would desperately like to raise short-term interest rates to provide a cushion for the 'next time down'. He can't raise rates too quickly or he will prick the debt and equity bubbles and lead the US economy into recession. He is also hesitant to boost short-term interest rates faster than the market has already discounted because he will invert the yield curve. Inverted yield curves (when 2 year yields > 10 year yields) ALWAYS signal a recession is not far away. If long-term yields continue to rise, Powell has a little more room to raise short-term rates, but not much. Today, 2 year yields in the US have surged to 2.6%, up from just 0.6% 12 months ago, while 10-year yields have reached 3.0%. The spread between 2 and 10-year yields has narrowed to just 43 basis points. Once the yield curve starts to steepen again, recession will be upon us.

 
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Unlike fixed interest rate government bonds where price moves inversely to changes in nominal interest rates, inflation-linked bond (ILB) prices are sensitive to changes in real interest rates, rather than nominal interest rates. This means that inflation linked bonds will rise in price and provide a hedge for investors against unexpected increases in inflation. Interest rates and government bond yields can rise, but as long as inflation rises at a faster rate, inflation linked bonds will increase in value. ILB's are under-owned, yet well placed to protect investors in a rising interest rate and rising inflationary environment. ILB's are playing an increasingly important role in the Active Asset Allocator.

 
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For more information on my bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Medium-term investor cycles (IC's) in the gold market generally last 6 months, though they can run a little shorter (July-December 2017) or a little longer (December 2016-July 2017). Today, gold is approaching the end of its current IC. Investor cycle lows (ICL's) are usually accompanied by heavy selling in the gold market. However, during bull markets, the selling does not have to be that strong. We are approaching a time now where gold should be seeking out a low and if its the start of a new IC, strong gains lie directly ahead. If gold tops early and fails to rally, then the ICL will likely be postponed to early June. The second half of 2018 should be a lucrative time for precious metals investors.

 
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I came across an interesting article from the folks at GaveKal Research entitled "The Upcoming Monetary War, with Gold as an Arbiter". (I posted another article from GaveKal Research last week. Special thanks to Charles Gave who gave permission to share). This is the second article and it is well worth a read. Charles Gave discusses the potential for conflict between the US and China, but he cogently argues that the fight will be less about trade and more about the struggle for dominance between the US dollar and the renmimbi. 

Any currency has three basic functions: it should be a medium of exchange, a unit of account and a store of value. To be elevated to reserve currency status it must also be fully convertible and accessible at any time without constraint. The nation controlling such a currency should control the sea lanes and have the largest financial market, such that in times of stress it can lend money to others. It should be technologically dominant, so that it has the best weapons and runs the highest margin businesses. It should also be a cultural power, such that it educates the children of the global elites. It also helps to be dominant in agriculture. On this score card, the US dollar is starting to face certain problems...
— Charles Gave, GaveKal Research

Gave argues that since the 9/11 attacks, the US has pulled back on allowing unconstrained global access to the USD. The US is exerting its power to freeze assets of certain misbehaving countries (Iran, Russia), while only allowing the well-behaved access to USD reserves. This is a dangerous game the US is playing, particularly given the trajectory of ever-increasing US budget deficits in the years ahead, which will need to be financed. China seems set on de-dollarizing the world according to Gave. China has recently offered renmimbi swap lines to multiple central banks, so as to provide emergency lending in times of crisis. China has also recently launched crude oil (and gold) futures contracts traded in renmimbi. Gave notes that China is planning to become the world's biggest financial market by 2047, when Hong Kong reverts to mainland control, with Singapore playing a complimentary role, just as London has in recent decades to New York.

 
WTI Volume w Yuan.jpg
 

The punchline to the article: 

Now, most people tell me that the renminbi cannot become a global currency as it has a closed capital account. The answer to that objection is simple: China has just to offer a conversion in gold to anybody who has too many renminbi. And indeed it is headed in that direction. In recent years the Chinese have bought all the gold they can lay their hands on, as have the Russians. So, the real economic struggle between the US and China may not be fought out over trade or technology, but end up as a monetary war. In this regard, watch gold as any significant rise in its price versus the US bond market will be a defeat for Washington; any fall in this ratio should be seen as a victory. In recent years we have been in a stalemate. I doubt that this situation will last.
— Charles Gave, GaveKal Research

The performance of gold priced in USD versus US long duration zero coupon bonds suddenly became a lot more interesting. As Charles notes, in recent years, we have been in a stalemate, but he doubts that situation will last much longer. I hold a similar view.

 
Gold vs Zeros.jpg
 

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

At Secure Investments, I advise individual clients on their pension and non-pension fund investment portfolios. To learn more about my Active Asset Allocator and Gold Trader investment strategies, please get in touch at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911. If you are reading this via LinkedIn, why not visit Secure Investments and subscribe to get exclusive content for free. No spam, ever. Just great stuff.

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January 2018 Investor Letter

Strategy Performance

performance table.jpg

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for clients. This strategy has returned +10% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

AAA Asset Mix.jpg

Gold Trader focuses on capturing the strongest and weakest parts of gold's daily cycle, buying daily cycle lows, selling daily cycle highs and holding for 10-20 trading days, depending on the cycle count. This approach allows me to effectively manage risk. The strategy aims to capture +5%-6% profit per trade while risking 2%-3% each time and has a win rate in excess of 70%.

Executive Summary

Happy New Year folks. 2017 closed with the Active Asset Allocator returning a modest +1.2% for the year, Gold Trader +12% (tax free) in a year when gold, priced in euros returned -0.4% and Gold PowerTrader +22% (tax free). We enter 2018 with US equities surging higher, the US dollar accelerating lower, EU government and inflation-linked bonds holding steady and precious metals coming to life. I cover my expectations for each asset class in more detail in this month's Investor Letter. 

US equities may be entering a melt-up phase according to one highly regarded US investment strategist, but with the USD plunging, risks are running high. I outline a possible long entry in European stocks if the correct set up presents and also reiterate my $1,900 price target for gold by 2019. 2018 looks like it will be a very eventful year and I look forward to discussing the markets in detail with you all in the months ahead. For now, the Active Asset Allocator maintains an allocation of 20% global equities / 20% EU government bonds / 15% inflation linked bonds / 5% EU aggregate bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Stock Market Update

I find myself in an interesting position for an investor from the value school. I recognize on one hand that this is one of the highest-priced markets in US history. On the other hand, as a historian of the great equity bubbles, I also recognize that we are currently showing signs of entering the blow-off or melt-up phase of this very long bull market.
— Jeremy Grantham, Co-Founder & Chief Investment Strategist, GMO, 3 January, 2018

Are we entering the 'blow-off' phase of this equity bull market, which could last another year or two? Jeremy Grantham thinks it's a distinct possibility. In his latest 'Viewpoints' entitled "Bracing Yourself for a Possible Near-term Melt-Up", he discusses the potential for a final acceleration higher in equities and also quantifies the possible move - a minimum of +60% over 21 months (from the start of the acceleration point) - based on his study of prior bubbles. Grantham concludes that the S&P 500 could melt-up for another 9 to 18 months to a range of 3,400 to 3,700. Grantham also points out that +60% is a minimum based on past bubbles. Some ran +100% before topping out and then collapsing. Exhibit 1 below highlights Grantham's analysis of past bubbles.

 
Bubbles.jpg
 

The S&P 500 is certainly showing signs of acceleration, particularly since Trump's election in November 2016. Corrections have been shallow with each dip being bought aggressively. This rally has been powerful, triggering record readings in the relative strength and momentum technical indicators. Grantham's analysis is interesting, though I think we are already 14 months into this acceleration phase. Since November 2016, the S&P 500 has rallied +32% in USD terms.

 
$SPX LT.jpg
 

The sharp move higher in US equities has been exacerbated by a -15% plunge in the USD over the same period. The dollar is in trouble. I am of the firm view that the USD formed a multi-year top coincident with Trump's appointment to the White House and is in for some rough sledding in the years ahead. New all time lows lie somewhere in the US dollar's future. I expect 71.33 will be broken on the USD Index (see below chart) as the United States gradually loses its position as holder of the world's reserve currency. (I expect gold will explode higher, delivering bitcoin-like performance when the decline in the USD accelerates, but that is a few steps ahead of us yet.)

 
$USD.jpg
 

Priced in Euros, the performance of the S&P is still positive, but note the diverging relative strength and momentum indicators on the chart below. 

 
$SPX in EUR.jpg
 

It is the same story for the global equity benchmark, the FTSE All World Index; higher highs in price but on falling relative strength and momentum. Either the acceleration picks up strength shortly or a correction begins.

 
$FAW in euros.jpg
 

The VIX Index, a measure of stock market volatility and investor confidence, made a new multi-decade low in November 2017 reaching 8.48 but has since reversed higher. Have we reached peak investor complacency? There is certainly no fear about.

 
$Vix.jpg
 

On the positive side, new highs in the stock market continue to outpace new lows, though the relative trend has weakened over the last 12 months.

 
$NYHL.jpg
 

Also, the percent of NYSE stocks trading above their long-term 200-day moving average remains a very healthy 73%. Significant stock market declines do not generally occur until this percentage falls below 50%. My Technical Trend Indicator also remains in bullish mode. 

 
$NYA200R.jpg
 

In my last Investor Letter, I highlighted a potential low-risk opportunity to invest in European stocks. I discussed the valuation discount that European stocks trade at compared to US companies and highlighted the fact that Eurozone stocks account for just 11% of the global equity index (17% if you include the UK), compared to 55% for the US.

 
$Stoxx600.jpg
 

European stocks, as measured by the Eurostoxx 600 Index, have traded in very broad range for the last 20 years. The Eurostoxx 600 Index hit a resistance zone of 400-415 in 2000, 2007 and again in 2015, failing to break out on each occasion. We are still below that resistance line today but getting close again. The Index traded at 390 in October 2017 and is back at 398 this week. There is a negative divergence appearing on the Relative Strength and Momentum indicators, which is interesting given the strength of stock markets in general. I am watching this closely. If we get Grantham's melt-up in stock markets over the next few months, the Eurostoxx 600 will break out above a 17-year resistance zone, which will be a significant and bullish event.

If the Eurostoxx 600 Index can close at a new all time high and turn resistance into support, the Active Asset Allocator will take a position in European shares. The risk will be modest. Above 400-415 and I am a buyer. A meaningful close back below 400 and I would close out the position. I will let the charts be my guide.

Emerging market equities are also performing well and recently broke out to new all time highs, when priced in Euros. Emerging market equities have historically delivered strong performance in times when the USD has been weak and I expect this trend of USD weakness to continue in 2018 and 2019. 

 
EEM in Euros.jpg
 

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
bond yields.jpg
 

In Germany and the UK, 2, 5 and 10 year yields have edged higher by 10 basis points since my last Investor Letter in October 2017. 30 year yields have remained unchanged in Germany and have actually fallen by 10 bps in the UK. Japanese yields haven't budged in the last three months either. The most significant change has taken place in the United States where 2 and 5 year yields have rallied 50 basis points following recent interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. US 10 year yields are 20 basis points higher than last October, while 30-year yields in the US are unchanged.

This has resulted in a sharp flattening of the yield curve, generally a precursor to recession. The gap between 2 and 10 year yields has declined to just 55 basis points. Another 50 basis points hike in the Fed Funds rate will tip the yield curve into negative territory. This happened in 2000 and 2007 in advance of the last two recessions. With the Fed Funds rate at just 1.5% today, the Federal Reserve has limited room to cut rates in the event of another recession hitting, which is why they are so keen to hike short-term rates now while they still can. 

 
$YC2YR.jpg
 

I continue to maintain a 20% allocation to long duration government bonds in the Active Asset Allocator. Bonds have held up well to date, despite the risk-on rally in global equities. Should stock markets roll over in the months ahead, safe haven government bonds will likely attract new capital inflows. Alternatively, if we experience a breakout in EU equities to new all time highs, I will reduce the allocation to bonds and cash in favour of equities, at least for a trade.

Inflation-linked bonds also remain in broad multi-year rising trends. UK and US inflation-linked bonds have been impacted by adverse currency movements in recent months. The sharp declines in USD and GBP should lead in time to rising inflationary pressures in both countries, which should feed through to rising prices from inflation-linked bonds. 

 
inflation linked bonds.jpg
 

For more information on my bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Gold ended 2017 at $1,303, +13% for the calendar year in USD terms, but flat when converted back to euros. I expect that to change this year. Gold is waking up from a four year bear market. The USD is in trouble and I expect gold will accelerate higher in 2018. During the last major bear market in the USD (2001-2008), the USD Index fell -43% from 126.21 to 71.33. During that period, Gold rallied over +600% from $250 to $1900. I think the USD started another major bear market in 2016 and has years to run. Trump will run the US like he ran his companies - badly! Debts and deficits as far as the eye can see - both USD bearish. 

Last August, I set out my forecast for the gold price over the next few years. I expected a break above the downward sloping 4-year resistance line, followed by an eventual move to $1,900 by 2019. Gold is starting to gain some momentum now and I see no reason to adjust my price target. Once $1,923 is breached, I think we could see some really wild (bitcoin-like) action in precious metals prices.

 
$gold LT.jpg
 

Silver is a more volatile precious metal than gold and generally rallies and declines at a much faster rate than gold. I see an inverse head and shoulders pattern on the silver chart and I expect a strong break out higher shortly. The Central Fund of Canada currently holds a 63% allocation to gold bullion and a 37% allocation to silver bullion and is ideally placed to take advantage of the move in precious metals that I see unfolding.

 
$Silver.jpg
 

Finally, a note on Gold Trader. While gold priced in euros returned -0.4% in 2017, Gold Trader ended the year +12% and Gold PowerTrader returned +22% for investors, TAX FREE! I have spent the last couple of months reviewing my trades for 2016 and 2017 and have made some refinements to the strategy, which I think will improve performance in 2018. I widened the stop loss from 2% to 3% last year, which resulted in an improved win rate per trade, up from 63% to 75%. I have also noticed that on average, I have entered trades 7 days too early, so I will be exercising more patience on each trade this year.

I entered Trade 19 on 18th December at 1,258 and this trade is still live. Gold closed today at 1,340 and I think we could still have 1-2 weeks of rising prices before the first daily cycle peaks and roles over. Stay tuned.

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

August 2017 Investor Letter

Strategy Performance

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for clients. This strategy has returned +10% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Gold Trader focuses on capturing the strongest and weakest parts of gold's daily cycle, buying daily cycle lows, selling daily cycle highs and holding for 10-20 trading days, depending on the cycle count. This approach allows me to effectively manage risk. The strategy aims to capture +5%-6% profit per trade while risking 2%-3% each time and has a win rate in excess of 70%.

Executive Summary

Since my last report published on 17th May (apologies for the delay in getting this one out), global equities have declined -1.1% in euro terms, Eurozone government bonds have rallied +0.4% and gold priced in euros has fallen -4.8%. Currency moves have negatively impacted Active Asset Allocator returns in recent months with the USD falling -6% and GBP falling 4% versus the Euro during that time. All is not lost however and this month I highlight my bullish expectations for precious metals for the second half of 2017 and beyond. I think gold is on the cusp of a significant move higher.

This month I also review Bob Farrell's 10 rules of investing and discuss how they apply to the markets (particularly the stock market) today. Farrell is a stock market veteran who cut his teeth on Wall Street during the 1950's and experienced many of the equity booms and busts that followed over the next five decades. Farrell crafted his 10 rules of investing based on those experiences and lessons learned.  For now, I remain defensively positioned in the Active Asset Allocator with 20% equities / 40% bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Gold Trader Trade 14 (-2.6%) and Trade 15 (+0.6%) closed in July. Trade 16 is open and +1% so far. Click here to view the August 2017 Investor Letter.

Stock Market Update

I was reminded recently of Bob Farrell and his 10 rules of investing, wisdom he accumulated over an illustrious career on Wall Street spanning five decades. Farrell joined Merrill Lynch in 1957 as a technical analyst after completing a Masters degree at Columbia Business School where he studied under Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, authors of the investment bible 'Security Analysis'. Farrell witnessed many bull and bear markets throughout his career and crafted his 10 rules of investing based on those experiences and lessons learned. This month, I review Farrell's 10 rules and see how they apply to markets today.

1: Markets tend to return to the mean over time. Trends in one direction or another eventually exhaust themselves and price moves back to test the long-term moving average. This generally happens every few years. The epic bull run in stock markets has swung from oversold in 2009 to overbought today. Even in strong bull markets, investors should expect the long-term moving average to be tested every couple of years. Today, the S&P 500 is 20% above its long-term moving average, while the Eurostoxx 600 is 7% above its long-term trend. 

2: Excesses in one direction will lead to an opposite excess in the other direction. Markets that overshoot on the upside will also overshoot on the downside. The New York Stock Exchange publishes data for margin debt at the end of each month. Margin debt represents the extent to which investors borrow to invest in the stock market. Bull markets breed (over)confidence and confident investors borrow to invest in the stock market. Margin debt surged on three occasions since 1995 coinciding with the last three bull market peaks. Today, NYSE margin debt has never been higher. Ever!

3: There are no new eras – excesses are never permanent. There are always hot stocks and sectors of the market that attract speculative capital. Some lead to speculative bubbles but they never last. Today, internet sensations Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google and the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum fall into this category. They are attracting a lot of hot money but chasers will be punished, eventually. It always happens.

4: Exponential rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways. Bullish and bearish trends generally last longer than expected. However once the trends end, they are followed by sharp reversals. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite and Nasdaq 100 indices are two examples of exponentially rising stock markets followed by sharp reversals. In China, this occurred in 2008 and again in 2015. In the US, the Nasdaq bubble popped in 2001 and again in 2008. Another appears not too far away.

5: The public buys the most at the top and the least at the bottom. The average investor is most bullish at market tops and most bearish at market bottoms. When the marginal buyer turns into the marginal seller, a bear market begins and endures until panic sets in, the speculative buyers have been forced to sell and investor sentiment turns pessimistic. This roller coaster of sentiment and emotion is what defines a market. 

6: Fear and greed are stronger than long-term resolve. Human emotion is the enemy when it comes to investing in the stock market. Successful investing requires discipline, patience and a cool head. Sharp declines lead to fear; sharp rallies lead to overconfidence and investor complacency. The Vix index is an excellent barometer that captures fear and greed in the stock market. Low readings in the Vix Index go hand in hand with investor confidence and limited demand for insurance to hedge against stock market declines. Spikes in the Vix Index coincide with periods of sharp selling in the stock market as panic sets in. Today, the Vix index is trading near ALL TIME LOWS.  

 
 

7: Markets are strongest when they are broad and weakest when they narrow to a handful of blue-chip names. Stock market breadth and volume are important indicators of underlying strength of a stock market advance. When participation is broad, stock market rallies have endurance and momentum and are difficult to stop. When participation is confined to just a few large-cap stocks, rallies have less credibility, momentum and strength. Today, stock market breadth remains quite firm. The Advance/Decline line (lower left chart) continues to make new highs, signalling that the majority of stocks remain in an uptrend. However, initial signs of deterioration are showing up in the number of net new highs being made on the NYSE. This occurred just prior to every correction in the past. 

8: Bear markets have three stages – sharp down, reflexive rebound and a drawn-out fundamental downtrend. The typical pattern in a bear market decline involves a sharp sell-off, an equally sharp reversal higher and then a long, slow grind lower until valuations become compelling once again. The reflexive rebound separating each decline is designed to keep the believers invested and encourage 'falling knife' catchers. 

9: When all the experts and forecasts agree – something else is going to happen. If everyone's optimistic, there is nobody left to buy. Excessive bullish sentiment can be damaging to your financial health. If often pays to adopt a contrarian investment strategy and take a more defensive position when the herd becomes overly confident about the market's future prospects. 

10: Bull markets are more fun than bear markets. This is true for most investors and fund managers who have long-only investment mandates and are typically fully invested all the time.

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
 

German 10-year bond yields have rallied 6 basis points since my last report while US 10-year treasury yields have fallen 7 basis points. Bonds continue to hold their own and are preparing for their next leg higher (and lower in yields) as the bull market in equities finally rolls over and a sharp equity bear market begins. The secular low in bond yields still lies somewhere in the future. 

Meanwhile, the trend in inflation-linked bonds remains steadily higher, albeit at a relatively modest pace. Currency has impacted euro-denominated returns in 2017 YTD, as weakness in GBP and USD in particular have not fed through to higher inflation-linked bond prices in local currency terms. A weakening currency will lead to rising input costs, particularly in a country like the US, which is the world's second largest importer of goods and services ($2.7 trillion in 2016). Rising input costs are inflationary. I expect the inflation-linked bond allocation in the Active Asset Allocator to make a more meaningful contribution to performance over the next few years.

 
 

For more information on my bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Gold is setting up for a big move, so let me lay out my expectations for what I believe will happen over the remainder of 2017 and beyond. Gold's first task is to break above $1,300, which I expect will happen in August or September. A break above $1,300 would be significant for a number of reasons. Gold made a series of higher lows in 2017 since the washout decline to $1,124 in December 2016. Gold trading above $1,300 adds support to the view that the bear market in precious metals (2011-2016) has ended and a new bull market has begun confirmed by a rising trend in the gold price.

 
 

A break above $1,300 would also be significant as it would confirm a break out of the longer-term triangle consolidation that has been in place since gold topped at $1,923 in 2011. Once we get a good close above $1,300, I expect a sharp run higher towards $1,400 or $1,500 before the next consolidation. $1,500 represented strong support in 2011 and 2012 before it gave way in 2013, so I expect gold will take some time to get back above that level. After $1,500, I expect gold will challenge and ultimately exceed the all time highs above $1,900, probably in 2019. Once gold clears $1,900, I believe the bubble phase in precious metals will begin and gold will have a monster move higher in an epic bull market that will be a sight to behold..... but let's not get ahead of ourselves. $1,300 in August/September, $1,400-$1,500 by year-end and $1,900 in 2019, which is 50% above today's gold price.

 
 

I expect the bull market in precious metals will go hand in hand with a currency crisis in the world's reserve currency, the US dollar. I have shown the following chart on a number of occasions in previous reports. It is a chart of the USD Index from 1980 to today (red and black line) and USD gold (blue). The USD Index has made a series of lower highs and lower lows over the last 37 years. After it's run higher in 2014/2015, the USD Index appears now to have topped and started another multi-year decline, which should ultimately break to new all time lows in the years ahead. 

 
 

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

August 2016 Investor Letter

Strategy Performance

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for clients. This strategy has returned +11% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Gold Trader and Gold PowerTrader focus on capturing the strongest and weakest parts of gold's daily cycles, buying daily cycle lows, selling daily cycle highs and holding for 10-15 trading days, depending on the cycle count. This approach allows me to effectively manage risk. The strategy aims to capture +5% to 6% profit per trade while risking 2% each time and has a win rate in excess of 70%

Executive Summary

Despite expensive valuations, stock markets remain well bid and my technical trend indicator remains on a 'BUY'. In the short-term, equities are overbought and due for a pause or correction. If the bullish technical setup persists as we navigate past the seasonally difficult August to October period, I will add equity exposure to the Active Asset Allocator. For now, I remain patiently in defensive mode. I also am planning to tilt the regional equity exposure away from the US towards Europe, where stock market valuations are more compelling. Stay tuned. 

This month, I added 5% to UK index linked gilts and 5% to US inflation linked bonds in the Active Asset Allocator, lowering the cash position from 20% to 10%. The bond market is pricing in almost no inflation in our future and I believe that is a mistake. The Active Asset Allocator continues to hold a 20% allocation to fixed interest rate bonds but the clock is ticking on this trade and I have one eye on the exit door. On precious metals, the World Gold Council published its Q2 2016 update on Gold Demand Trends and noted a +141% year/year increase in investment demand. it's a bull market folks. I also closed out Trade 7 for Gold Trader on Friday at breakeven. I remain defensively positioned for now with 20% equities / 40% bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Stock Market Update

My technical studies triggered a buy signal for the stock market on 15th April 2016 and it  remains in place today. Since this trigger, global stock markets have rallied +4% in aggregate. US equities have gained +4%, European stocks are unchanged while emerging market equities have added +8%. (EU bonds and gold have also rallied over the same period with bonds +4% and gold +9%). I have been reluctant to follow the buy signal for equities to date, largely due to valuation concerns. Today, the S&P 500 trades at 25 times reported earnings. The S&P 500 has traded at a valuation above 24 times reported earnings only 9% of the time since 1928. If we exclude the tech bubble and 2008 financial crisis, when corporate earnings all but disappeared, that number drops to just 2%! We are also entering the historically difficult August to October period where stock markets have suffered significant declines in the past.

 
 

However, despite expensive valuations, the market's technical picture has recently improved. The number of stocks making new lows has evaporated while the number of stocks breaking out to new highs continues to increase (lower left chart). This is a prerequisite for another leg higher to develop in what is a maturing equity bull market. Central banks around the world continue to add fuel to the fire with the Bank of Japan, ECB, Swiss National Bank and People's Bank of China being particularly active in 2016 YTD (lower right chart). 

The next chart is quite revealing and one to which I am paying close attention. It shows the performance of consumer cyclical versus consumer staple stocks. Consumer cyclical stocks rely heavily on the business cycle and include industries such as retail, automotive, housing and entertainment. Consumer staples tend to perform better during recessionary periods and include non-cyclical industries such as food, telecom, utilities and healthcare. So when the trend is rising, Cyclicals are outperforming Staples, and stock markets tend to do quite well. When the trend reverses and Staples outperform Cyclicals, markets tend to struggle. The chart took a sharp decline in late 2015 signalling that all was not well for stock markets and true to form, they have struggled so far in 2016. However, Consumer Cyclicals have started to show some relative strength in recent months and may be about to break out above the down-trending 50WMA. This would be quite a bullish development and allow me to become more constructive on the outlook for equities.

 
 

In another positive development, a significant 78% of stocks on the NYSE are now trading above their long-term 200DMA, signifying broad participation in this recent stock market rally.

 
 

In the short-term, equities are overbought and due for a pause or correction. If stock markets can hold firm over the next couple of months and my technical studies remain favourable, I will increase the equity allocation in the Active Asset Allocator. I also am planning to tilt the regional equity exposure away from the US towards Europe, where stock market valuations are more compelling. Stay tuned. 

 
 

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

This month, I added a 5% allocation to UK index linked gilts and a 5% allocation to US inflation linked bonds, lowering the cash position in the Active Asset Allocator from 20% to 10% to fund the purchases. The bond market is pricing in almost no inflation in our future and I believe that is a mistake. Printing money always leads to inflation, eventually. We have experienced 7 years of asset price inflation (rising equity and property prices) and are starting to see increasing signs of wage inflation this year. In the United States, while inflation linked bonds continue to underperform Treasuries, technical signs of a change in trend are at hand. Relative strength (RSI) and momentum (MACD) indicators are improving in favour of inflation-linked bonds and price should follow suit later this year.

 
 

Inflation linked bonds are also rallying in the United Kingdom and the recent 15% drop in GBP should accelerate this trend. Falling unemployment, wage inflation and continued loose monetary policy by the Bank of England should provide an additional tailwind.

 
 

Central banks have already driven government bond yields to zero or below and are now examining alternative ways to distribute a continuing flow of newly printed money. Accelerated fiscal spending and/or direct payouts to the public (helicopter money) are potentially on the cards. Trends in wage inflation have also started to rise in the US recently. I expect the bond market to start pricing in a more inflationary outlook and inflation linked bonds should be a beneficiary. 

The 35+year bull market in fixed interest rate (rather than inflation-linked) bonds is in its final innings. We could be entering the final blow-off phase, which, when it ends, will unleash pain and chaos across multiple asset markets, but we are not there yet. Rising bond yields, when they do come, will lead to significantly lower prices for long duration fixed interest bonds and equities alike. (Stocks are simply a claim on a future stream of cash flows, discounted at the prevailing market rate. When that interest rate goes up, the present value of a stream of cash flows declines. it is simple mathematics). The Active Asset Allocator continues to hold a 20% allocation in fixed interest rate bonds but the clock is ticking on this trade and I have one eye on the exit door.

To learn more about the full range of investment services available at Secure Investments, please contact Brian by email at brian.delaney@secureinvest.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

The World Gold Council has published its quarterly report on gold demand trends for Q2 2016 with some interesting highlights. The report details a 15% increase in overall gold demand year/year driven by a +141% increase in investment demand. The main buyers continue to come from India and China, though US investor demand is also on the rise. Gold supply increased +10% with total mine supply +5% year/year.

The increasing appetite for gold is evident in the next chart where you can see that gold is rising at a faster rate than either of the prior two times when gold broke out above its long-term 20-month MA. Investors want in and are increasingly happy to pay higher prices to get their bullion.

 
 

Gold outperformed stocks from 2000 to 2011 before entering a bear market that ended last year. Gold has started to outperform the S&P 500 once again this year, a trend that I expect will remain in force for at least the next 2-3 years and perhaps quite a bit longer.

 
 

The gold miners are leveraged plays on the price of gold. The index of gold and silver miners has already rallied +192% since the low made on 19th January 2016. The miners are a notoriously volatile sector of the market but for those with patience and an iron stomach, fortunes will be made in this sector before the bull market ends.

 
 

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.

April 2016 Investor Letter

Strategy Performance

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for clients. This strategy has returned +11% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Gold Trader and Gold PowerTrader focus on capturing the strongest and weakest parts of gold's daily cycles, buying daily cycle lows, selling daily cycle highs and holding for 10-15 trading days, depending on the cycle count. This approach allows me to effectively manage risk. The strategy aims to capture +5% to 6% profit per trade while risking just 1.5% each time and has a win rate in excess of 70%.

Executive Summary

Following the worst start to the year for equities in recorded history, we have just experienced one of the sharpest recoveries off the lows since records began. This rally has been so strong in fact that my technical studies have just triggered a buy signal for the stock market for the first time since September 2013. This month, I review the recent improvement in the stock market's technical setup and outline my plan of attack for the weeks ahead. For now, the Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned, 20% equities / 30% bonds / 30% PM's / 20% cash.

This month I also explain why I remain bullish on bonds and expect an additional 15-20% upside for the 10 year duration bond ETF I hold in the Active Asset Allocator and provide a brief update on the ongoing bullish developments in the precious metals sector as this bull market shifts into gear.

Stock Market Update

My technical studies have just triggered a buy signal for the stock market for the first time since September 2013. Equity valuations today are approaching an extreme only witnessed near prior stock market peaks and US corporate earnings are now in a declining trend. Despite these cautionary flags, continuous central bank intervention has created the perception that stock market investing is a low risk endeavor and a buy-the-dip mentality on every correction has taken hold. This will not end well. In the interim, price trumps opinion. My Technical Trend Indicator (TTI) is smarter than I am and keeps me on the right side of the prevailing stock market trend. In this monthly update, I consider my plan of attack for the weeks ahead.

 
 
Based on valuation measures having the strongest correlation with actual subsequent market returns across history, equity valuations have approached present levels in only a handful of instances: 1901 (followed by a -46% market retreat over the following 3-year period), 1906 (followed by a -45% retreat over the following year), 1929 (followed by a -89% collapse over the following 3 years), 1937 (followed by a -48% loss over the following year), 2000 (followed by a -49% market loss over the following 2 years), and 2007 (followed by a -57% market loss over the following 2 years). A few lesser extremes occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s, followed by market losses in the -35% to -48% range.
— John Hussman, Hussman Funds, 18th April 2016.

In this long-term chart of the S&P 500, I have highlighted the prior instances in 2000 and 2007 when the stock market topped and rolled over, followed shortly thereafter by a bearish cross of the 50WMA below the 100WMA. This coincided with the onset of a bear market in equities and a declining trend in US corporate earnings. In 2016 YTD, we have already experienced a sharp -14% drop in stocks followed by an equally sharp +16% rally. However, there has been no bearish cross yet of the 50WMA below the 100WMA and the S&P 500 currently trades above both trend lines. Meanwhile, US corporate earnings have begun to slide, highlighted in the lower section of the chart below. This should be expected and is consistent with the maturing phase of an ageing equity bull market, which is now over seven years old.

 
 

Margin debt, a measure of the degree of speculation evident in the stock market, also appears to have peaked and rolled over. Prior peaks in margin debt have coincided with past peaks in the stock market. So today, we have a combination of stocks that are trading at expensive valuations, a weakening trend in US corporate earnings and a declining trend in margin debt. That's the bad news.

 
 

Despite this backdrop, equities have powered ahead in recent weeks. In February 2016, only 15% of stocks on the NYSE were trading above their 200DMA. Today, this figure has jumped to a much healthier 69%. If stock markets can consolidate their recent gains over the next couple of weeks while a majority of stocks continue to trade above the 200DMA, the bulls will remain in control.

 
 

In another positive development, the NYSE Advance/Decline Line (lower left chart), which captures the trend of rising stocks versus declining stocks over time, has recently broken out to new all time highs. This suggests that price should follow suit shortly. Volume flowing into advancing versus declining stocks is lagging however and has yet to break out (lower right chart) to new highs. So, we still have some mixed signals here (click on charts to enlarge).

As markets have rallied, stocks making new lows have also all but disappeared, which is another requirement before a bull market can resume.

So from a technical perspective, the outlook for equities has improved, but there are still many reasons for caution. Remember, 2016 started with the worst negative stock market performance in history, so it's only natural that the first rally following this correction should be powerful. The markets are overbought in the short-term and a correction of some degree should now be expected. The extent of the correction will determine when and by how much I will increase the equity allocation in the Active Asset Allocator. Stay tuned, we should find out soon enough.

 
 

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or at 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
 

The ECB is attempting to stimulate economic growth and generate inflation in the order of 2% annually by printing money, buying bonds, funding some EU country deficits and potentially using some form of "helicopter money" for EU citizens. The road ahead is concerning but we have not yet reached an inflection point where ECB policies trigger an acceleration in the rate of inflation and a path towards higher government bond yields. Draghi has committed to doing "whatever it takes" which means he is willing to drive 10-year EU government bond yields into negative territory. 

 
 

The Active Asset Allocator currently holds a 20% allocation in EU government bonds (IEGZ). The regional split of this bond fund is 32% France, 27% Italy, 19% Germany, 17% Spain, 5% Netherlands. The fund has a yield of 1.4% and a duration of 10 years. If ECB policies are successful, the yield on IEGZ should reach zero or negative implying 15-20% upside return potential from here. I plan to increase the allocation to inflation linked bonds (IBCI) and reduce the allocation to fixed interest rate bonds (IEGZ) later in 2016. Of course, the overall allocation to bonds will reduce if/when I increase the allocation to equities in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned.

For more information on my bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Gold closed above the 20-month moving average (20MMA) in February 2016, confirming a new bull market had begun. As long as gold continues to trade above the 20MMA, bull market rules will apply - we buy and hold and do not get shaken out of our position. The 20MMA closed on Friday at $1,170 and should start trending higher shortly.

 
 

Silver's bull market kicked off a month later, as this more volatile precious metal closed above its 20MMA in March 2016. Silver's 20MMA closed on Friday at $15.60, so above this price, bull market rules should also apply. 

 
 

The one fly in the ointment for both precious metals (silver in particular) is the extent of the speculative long position that has been accumulated by hedge funds and those betting on higher prices for the precious metals. The latest Commitment of Traders report shows an all time record net long position by speculators in the silver market.

 
 

Commercial traders (the mining companies and bullion banks) take the opposite side to the speculators and are always net short the metals to varying degrees, depending on price, to hedge their production. The Commercials are often referred to as the "smart money" as they are able to manage the gold and silver price in the short-term, knocking down the price and covering their short trades when the speculators get overly stretched on the long side. We are potentially at this point now, particularly in the silver market. The Commercials do not always win and have been forced to cover at much higher prices in the past. As always, I will be guided by the price action as it unfolds. Above the 20MMA, it's a bull market.

I expect the precious metals bull  market to benefit from an overall declining trend in the US dollar over the next 3-5 years. The USD has been perceived as a safe haven currency since the 2008 financial crisis and has benefited handsomely from significant inflows into various US growth assets, driving price and valuation to extreme levels. As valuations normalize, I expect the USD to decline on a trade weighted basis.

 
 

Confirming the bull market in precious metals, the gold and silver miners are rocketing higher. The gold and silver mining index is already +111% from their recent lows. The miners are notoriously volatile. However, for those willing to close their eyes and hold on, I expect BIG rewards here. The miners are too volatile for the Active Asset Allocator but are confirming my bullish view on the sector.

 
 

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.

March 2016 Investor Letter

Active Asset Allocator Performance

Investment Philosophy and Approach

The Active Asset Allocator investment strategy is designed to deliver a consistent level of positive returns over time with a strong focus on capital preservation. I follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. I always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, I manage the market risk for my clients. My strategy has returned +11% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. My active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Executive Summary

Equity bull market or bear? The moment of truth has arrived. Following a -21% decline from the May 2015 top to the January 2016 low, stocks have staged a rally back to the now down-sloping 50-week moving average (50WMA). What was once support is now resistance. This month, I examine price action, volume and volatility trends to examine whether stocks have the required strength to break out to new highs or whether new lows are around the corner. 

Bonds are off to another good start in 2016, despite 30% of all global government bonds now sporting a negative yield. I examine the bullish case and highlight my key concerns for fixed income investors. I also provide an update on the unfolding bull market in precious metals. The Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned with euros, bonds and precious metals accounting for 80% of the asset mix.

Finally, a note on 29 Trades, a new investment strategy at Secure Investments. I have been following the short-term (daily) and medium-term (investor) cycles of the gold market for over 10 years and have identified specific patterns, a rhythm, to the market that repeats with regularity as the daily and investor cycles ebb and flow. 29 Trades has emerged from many hours of analysis and has the potential to deliver exceptional returns over time for investors in a risk controlled way. Please get in touch for more information.

Stock Market Update

The moment of truth has arrived for the stock market. Either the top is in and this bear-market rally is about to roll over, or the past 10 months have been nothing more than a sharp correction in an ongoing bull market. We should find out soon enough. The Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned for now with an asset mix of 20% equities, 30% bonds, 30% gold, 20% cash.

We began 2016 with a waterfall decline in the stock market, the worst start to the year in recorded history. At the January 2016 low, stocks had declined -21% from their May 2015 peak. The market then experienced a powerful and impressive rally over the last 4 weeks, back to the now down-sloping 50-week moving average (50WMA). The FTSE All World Index, the global stock market barometer, closed the week just 6 points below the 50WMA.

 
 

In the United States, the Nasdaq Composite, Russell 2000 Small Cap Index and Value Line Geometric Index continue to trade below their long-term MA's. However, in a bullish development this month, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrials, Transports and Utilities Indices have all recaptured the 50WMA.

On another positive note, new highs on the NYSE are now outpacing new lows for the first time in almost a year (lower left chart) while 51% of NYSE stocks are now trading above the 200DMA compared with just 16% at the beginning of 2016 (lower right chart). Both are requirements for a sustained stock market rally to take hold. It is too early to tell whether the recent buying power has been driven by aggressive short-covering or large institutional players taking new positions. The stock market should reveal its hand shortly.

Volume flowing into advancing stocks relative to declining stocks has picked up in March but not yet to a significant degree. The recent turn is notable. If this trend in rising volume persists and follows price to new highs in the months ahead, the bulls will have regained control and I will move to a fully invested position in the Active Asset Allocator. Stay tuned.

 
 

Volatility is also rising and tracing out a pattern of higher highs and higher lows. The VIX Index surged to 32 in January 2016, a new high for the move, before declining back to 14 this month, a higher low. The pattern of higher highs and higher lows is signalling a increase in investor concern and demand for portfolio insurance. If volatility picks up in the next few weeks, it should coincide with lower stock prices. Conversely, a break to new lows for the VIX will signal the all clear for stock markets as we head into the summer months.

 
 

For more information on my stock market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.

Bond Market Update

 
 

Over 60% of global government bonds today yield less than 1% and almost 30% of global government bonds now have negative yields. While difficult to comprehend, it makes some sense given that global economic growth expectations are deteriorating, inflation is benign, and central banks have cut short-term rates to zero or below.

 
 

In January 2016, the Japanese central bank announced an interest rate cut to -0.1%. In March, the ECB followed suit with a rate cut to -0.4%. A couple of weeks later, the Federal Reserve lowered market expectations for further interest rate increases this year due to a weaker global growth outlook and volatile market conditions. 

As long as central banks continue to drive short-term rates lower and use newly printed money to buy government bonds, the bull market in bonds should continue. A period of stock market volatility should also provide an additional source of demand. I see two key risks for fixed income investors: (i) a policy change by key central banks to step back from quantitative easing, and (ii) an unanticipated rise in inflation. I rate the probability of a central bank policy reversal as near zero. An inflation scare is a potentially higher probability event given the trillions of dollars of newly printed money that has been pumped into the system and the law of unintended consequences. I am watching closely for signs. In fact, inflation-linked bonds have started to rally in the US, UK and EU, coincident with the recent bottom in commodity markets. If this trend persists, I will increase the allocation to inflation-linked bonds in the Active Asset Allocator from 5% to 10% and reduce the allocation to fixed interest rate bonds from 20% to 15%. 

 
 

For more information on my bond market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.

Gold Market Update

Last month, I noted that gold crossed bullishly above its long-term 20 month moving average for the first time since topping out at $1,923 in 2011. Gold has continued to trade above the 20MMA and is about to be joined by silver this month. Silver holds both precious metal and industrial properties. Silver is considerably more volatile than gold, but also offers more upside and a good degree of inflation protection in a world gone mad with central bankers threatening money printing ad infinitum. 

Last month, I also noted the recent strong performance of the gold mining stocks. Over the last four weeks, the miners have rallied another +20%. Fortunes will be made in this sector over the course of the bull market in precious metals.

 
 

The bull market in precious metals has historically coincided with periods of USD weakness. This time may be different as central banks across the world are all working towards the same goal as they attempt to destroy the value of their own currency relative to other to gain a competitive edge. Trillions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen have been created out of thin air. I expect USD weakness to drive the gold bull market in the years ahead, but potentially not to the same degree as prior episodes as the Fed has more competition this time. Gold will be the last currency standing when this game finally ends.

 
 

For more information on my gold market analysis, please get in touch. You can reach me at brian@secureinvestments.ie or 086 821 5911.