December 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

Stock markets are back in rally mode following the US and Italian election results. I believe this is the final "blow off" phase to a market top which could peak at any stage between now and March 2017. Stock market valuations have once again reached an extreme only experienced in 1929, 1972, 1987, 2000 and 2007. Donald Trump's election success has been compared to that of Ronald Reagan who won the race to the White House in November 1980. Following Reagan's win, the S&P 500 rallied +14% in just a few weeks but topped out in November 1980 and then tumbled -22% over the next year. That was when stocks were trading at single digit P/E multiples. Today, they are four times more expensive.

Government bond yields are rising, particularly in the US where Trump's policies will be viewed as potentially quite inflationary. US Treasuries have declined -8% since the US election result. Eurozone government bonds have held up better, falling just -4% during the recent Trump-inspired inflation scare (but -7% since August). Euro government bonds have now reached an oversold extreme and I expect a rally in EU government bond markets to get underway shortly, likely coinciding with a top in equity markets. While the Federal Reserve has backed away from its position as lender of last resort, the ECB continues to buy everything not nailed down and has recently extended its QE programme to December 2017. 

Gold has also declined recently in tandem with other safe haven assets. Despite the recent correction however, gold priced in euros has still rallied +12% year-to-date. Based on my reading of the gold cycles, we are getting very close to the end of the current investor cycle for gold and I expect a turn higher shortly, possibly coinciding with an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve on December 14th.  I remain defensively positioned for now with 20% equities / 40% bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Stock Market Update

Trump's election victory has led to an +4% rally in the USD, an +8% rally in US stocks and an -8% drop in 30-year US Treasuries. 30-year Treasury yields jumped 50 basis points from 2.6% to 3.1% over the last four weeks. More broadly, global stock markets have added +5% in Euros, Eurozone government bonds have declined -4% and gold in euros has fallen -5%. What was initially considered bad news for investors ahead of the US election transformed into good news, literally overnight. The Active Asset Allocator lost -2.2% in November but has returned +8.4% year-to-date. In this Investor Update, I review the short-term impact of the Trump effect on equities, bonds, currencies and precious metals and examine what may be in store for investors in 2017. 

Will a Trump presidency make America great again? He has promised tax cuts, infrastructure spending and regulatory reform, all of which could boost US GDP over the next two years, but at a significant cost of ballooning government debts and budget deficits. His protectionist policies on trade and immigration will negate the aforementioned positives to a certain degree. Of course this is all speculation for now as Trump and his team have yet to execute on their plan. Let's take a closer look at some of Trump's proposed policies and their likely potential impact.

The headline rate of corporation tax in the US is 35%. However, the average tax rate of the largest 50 companies in the S&P 500 is just 24%. So, stock markets may be overestimating the positive impact of Trump's tax reform plan. On infrastructure spending, Trump is planning to spend $100 billion/year on much-needed repairs to America's transportation network. Spending billions of dollars on America's rail infrastructure, roads, bridges and tunnels makes sense and should provide a timely boost to US GDP growth. However, the Trump team must execute. The Obama administration attempted a similar strategy in 2009 in the midst of the Great Financial Crisis. "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" was put in place at a cost of $800 billion to save and create jobs and invest in infrastructure, education, health, and renewable energy. The impact on job creation and GDP growth was considered relatively modest in the following years. Asset prices benefitted handsomely of course but this was largely a result of four rounds of quantitative easing rather than Obama's fiscal policy decisions.

Many are comparing Trump's recent victory to that of Ronald Reagan who won the race to the White House in November 1980. Reagan beat incumbent President Jimmy Carter on a platform of policies quite similar to those now being proposed by Donald Trump. Following Reagan's election victory,  the S&P 500 took off (see chart below) rallying +14% in just a few weeks (compared to just +8% so far since Trump's win). However, that was it for the stock market rally back then. Stocks topped in November 1980 and then dropped -22% over the next 12 months. That was when stock market valuations were trading at single digit P/E multiples. Today, stocks are four times more expensive. 

 
 

Back in 1980, the US national debt amounted to $908 billion and US GDP was $2.86 trillion (32% debt/GDP). Today, the US national debt is $19.6 trillion while US GDP is only $18.7 trillion (105% debt/GDP). It is going to be much more difficult for the Trump administration to grow the US economy by more than 2%/year during his time in Office. So far, the stock market has given Trump the benefit of the doubt, but I can't help but feel that 2017 is shaping up to be quite a different proposition, for reasons I will explain next.

The Dow Jones Industrials Average is a price-weighted index of 30 of America's largest publicly quoted companies including many household names like Disney, JP Morgan, Caterpillar, MacDonalds, Proctor & Gamble, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs. Following the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, the Dow kicked off a new bull market, fueled to a large degree by central bank money printing on a scale never before witnessed. The rise over the next 9 years has been a sight to behold - a triple from those March 2009 lows. Times have changed however. QE has ended in the US, bond yields have rallied 100 basis points and the USD has added +10% versus the Euro since May 2016. US corporations are facing multiple headwinds at a time when corporate earnings are declining.

From a technical perspective, we are now at an interesting juncture. Take a look at the chart below. Multi-year support broke for the first time in 2015 but stocks recovered strongly for the remainder of the year. 2016 started with another sharp 15-20% correction before the bulls regained control once again. The DJIA has now rallied all the way back to the major multi-year support trend line and has broken out to new all time highs this week. Is this the start of a new multi-month rally or a bull trap? Chartists and traders around the world are watching this setup very closely. We should find out shortly.

 
 

A similar pattern is unfolding on a shorter time-frame in the S&P 500 - a break of support in October 2016 followed by a sharp rally that has just broken out to new all-time highs. In a world dominated by computer-driven algorithmic trading, these chart patterns matter. 

 
 

When the S&P 500 is trading at a P/E multiple of 25 times earnings and those earnings peaked in 2015 and have been declining ever since, the chart patterns matter even more. The last time US corporate earnings were at current levels was almost 10 years ago, back in 2007 when the S&P 500 was trading at 1,500, -32% lower than today's level.

 
 

Margin debt, which measures the extent to which investors borrow to invest in the stock market, also looks like it may have peaked. Notice that margin debt as a percentage of GDP peaked at similar levels in 2000 and 2007 coincident with the previous two stock market bubbles.

 
 

The recent break higher in the stock market has looked convincing and has reversed the sell signal in my technical studies, which triggered in October. Portfolio managers under performance pressure are chasing this move in fear of underperforming benchmarks as we approach the end of the year. I believe the recent breakout will not be sustained and, similar to last year, we will get a sharp reversal at some point between now and March 2017. So I continue to recommend a defensive position in the Active Asset Allocator with an asset mix of 20% global equities / 40% EU bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

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

 
 

US Treasuries have been hit hardest during the recent correction in government bonds. The 10-year Treasury yield rallied 110 basis points from 1.4% in August to 2.5% today, sending Treasury prices falling over -10%. 30-year Treasury yields increased 1% from 2.1% to 3.1%, resulting in a capital decline of -15%. (the Active Asset Allocator strategy has no exposure to US Treasuries).

Eurozone government bonds held up better, falling just -4% during the recent Trump-inspired inflation scare (but -7% since August). Euro government bonds have now reached an oversold extreme and I expect a rally in EU government bond markets to get underway shortly, likely coinciding with a top in equity markets. While the Federal Reserve has backed away from its position as lender of last resort, the ECB continues to buy everything not nailed down and has recently extended its QE programme to December 2017.

Government debt in the Eurozone continues to grow at a faster rate than GDP. The ECB must hold interest rates below the rate of inflation so that these debts can be serviced and inflated away over time. While EU fixed interest rate bonds are approaching the end of their multi-decade bull market, the outlook for Inflation linked bonds (and gold) is brighter. Although fears of deflation continue to reverberate around the world, the echo is starting to fade. We are moving towards an environment of rising inflation. The Active Asset Allocator will continue to transition from fixed interest rate bonds to inflation-linked in 2017.

 
 

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

Despite the recent correction, gold priced in euros has still rallied +12% year-to-date. Based on my reading of the gold cycles, we are now getting very close to the end of the current investor cycle for gold and I expect a turn higher shortly, possibly coinciding with an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve on December 14th. 

 
 

The Federal Reserve last raised interest rates a year ago on December 16th 2015. Gold closed at $1,071 that day. In a shakeout move, gold dropped $20 the following day before then shooting higher by +30% over the next 6 months. I expect something similar this time round. Also, inflation wasn't a concern for the Fed last year but with Trump in the White House in January 2017, the narrative is changing.

 
 

Another difference between then and now is that USD gold looks to be making a higher low for the first time since 2011. A higher low is bull market action and will confirm a change of character for the gold market. If gold can form a low in the $1,100's, the next target will be a higher high in 2017 above $1,378. I think we will get it. A higher low followed by a higher high will get more involved in the precious metals market, a necessary development to drive gold prices higher.

 
 

Gold priced in euros has been holding up reasonably well since June 2016. Euro gold has not made a lower low despite the +7% rally in the USD over the same period. 

 
 

The time has come for gold to show its hand. If the bull market is back, gold should rally sharply over the next 6 months. If gold disappoints, something else is at hand and I will cut back exposure in the Active Asset Allocator

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.

October 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

My Technical Trend Indicator has triggered a Sell Signal for the first time since October 2014. This, at a time when equity valuations are stretched, US corporate earnings are declining and fund managers are fully committed, holding their lowest allocation to cash in over 20 years. The bull market is ageing and stock market leadership is narrowing. Investors also must contend with the fact that 86% of recessions in the United States have occurred either in the year of or the year following an election.

Government bond yields have backed up in recent weeks but I expect the trend lower to resume shortly, particularly if coupled with a bout of selling in equities. Meanwhile gold is consolidating ahead of another big move which I expect will start next month. Gold has returned +19% year-to-date for Euro investors. I expect strong double-digit annual returns for the precious metals over the next 3-5 years. Gold Trader closed out Trade 9 with a small profit this week and will look to enter another long position in 5-15 trading days at the end of the current daily cycle, which should also coincide with the intermediate cycle low (ICL). I remain defensively positioned for now with 20% equities / 40% bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Stock Market Update

The current bull market in stocks, now the third longest in history, has run 7 years and 5 months, from March 2009 to August 2016 (2,193 on S&P 500). In second place is the bull market of the roaring twenties (1921-1929) which lasted 8 years and 2 months. It was followed by a spectacular -88% collapse in the Dow Jones Industrials Average and the Great Depression. The 9 year rally from 1991 to 2000, which culminated in the technology bubble and subsequent bust, with the S&P 500 falling -53% and NASDAQ plunging -83%, remains in top spot and will likely never be surpassed in either duration or valuation terms.

 

So, unless the current bull market is set to break records, it is probably in its final inning or may have already topped out. Stock market performance in US election years has tended to be positive (2000 and 2008 being notable exceptions). Post-election years however, have not been kind to investors. 9 of the last 14 recessions in the United States for example, have started in the year following an election, with 3 others beginning during an election year. Taken together, 86% of all recessions in the United States over the last century have started either in the year of or the year following an election. Adding fuel to the fire, my Technical Trend Indicator has just triggered a Sell Signal for the first time since October 2014.

 
 

This, at a time when equity valuations are stretched, US corporate earnings are declining and fund managers are fully committed, holding their lowest allocation to cash in over 20 years.

 
 

There is a growing complacency that Hillary Clinton will win the race to the White House on November 8th (Paddy Power has already paid out on a Clinton victory). Odds are against Trump, but if he causes an upset, expect a post-Brexit type reaction in equity, bond and currency markets. Irrespective of who wins the Presidential Race, 2017 should be quite a challenging year for investors. The Active Asset Allocator will look to navigate volatile markets and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. However, today I remain in defensive mode with an asset mix of 20% global equities / 40% EU bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

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 US budget deficit increased by $150 billion from $440 billion to $590 billion in the year ending September 30th 2016. Over the same period, the total gross federal debt of the United States increased by $1.4 trillion. The trend is similar in Europe, the UK, Japan and China. Despite record government debt-to-GDP ratios across the developed world, calls for fiscal stimulus are growing to replace the increasingly ineffectual monetary policy madness that has become the norm in recent years. Fiscal stimulus means more debt, higher taxes and slower GDP growth. This should drive interest rates and government bond yields lower, not higher in the months ahead. So, while bond yields have moved higher in recent weeks, particularly in the US and UK, following a near vertical plunge in 2016, I expect the trend lower in bond yields to resume shortly. I don't think the bond bull is dead yet.

In the Eurozone, the ECB is running out of government bonds to buy and will likely relax its minimum purchase requirements next month. There is still plenty of demand for EU bonds, which should keep a lid on EU government bond yields for the foreseeable future. The Active Asset Allocator currently holds a 20% allocation in fixed interest government bonds along with 15% in inflation linked bonds and 5% in EU aggregate bonds. The 20% allocation is the most sensitive to interest rates changes and one I am most focused on near-term. I expect government bonds to rally on the next stock market decline.

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 looks like it still has some work to do before making its next big move higher. Gold Trader avoided the $70 drop in gold earlier this month and entered a long position at $1,260 with the expectation of capturing the start of a new medium-term investor cycle. The rally never really got going, so Trade 9 was closed this week at $1,267, booking a small profit. Gold Trader will look to enter another long position in 5-15 trading days at the end of the current daily cycle, which should also coincide with the intermediate cycle low (ICL). Gold should finish the year with a strong move higher and deliver another solid performance in 2017 as the bull market reignites.

 
 

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

September 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

Central banks continue to dominate the headlines. The Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan both announced no change in interest rates today but threatened more QE if and when required. The Bank of Japan also announced a new monetary policy framework called "Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing with Yield Curve Control", basically translated as "when in doubt, print more money". On equities, while there are plenty of reasons to be bearish, my Technical Trend Indicator (TTI) remains on a 'BUY'. The trend has started to fade, however, so buyers will need to step up shortly or we will be back to defensive mode for the first time since October 2014.

Turning to the bond markets, this month I note an interesting and potentially concerning development where a divergence is appearing in the technical indicators. The end of the multi-decade bull market in bonds may not be too far away now. I am paying close attention. The outlook for inflation linked bonds is certainly more favourable. Finally on gold this month I highlight the top physically backed gold ETF's on the market and note recent flows into the various funds on a regional basis. I remain defensively positioned for now with 20% equities / 40% bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

Stock Market Update

Stock markets are in a holding pattern ahead of the Federal Reserve's FOMC press conference this evening (Wednesday 21st September) at 19.30 Irish time. Markets are pricing in a 20% probability of a 0.25% interest rate hike. Janet Yellen does not like surprises so I expect lots of talk about what-if's and maybes but little action from the Fed President. The Bank of Japan also met last night (Tuesday 20th September) and agreed a new framework for strengthening monetary easing called "Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing with Yield Curve Control", basically translated as "when in doubt, print more money". The Japanese central bank is now accumulating 3% of the Japanese equity market on an annual basis with money created out of thin air. The Swiss central bank is pursuing a similar strategy and now holds $120 billion in publicly traded stocks, including $1.4 billion in Apple shares, $1.2 billion in Google and $1.0 billion in Microsoft. When confidence in central bank policy is finally lost, there will be hell to pay but that is a conversation for another day.

In the meantime, despite the growing central bank footprint on global equity markets and the perception that the Fed, ECB, BoE and BoJ are still in control, volatility is on the rise. I expect this trend to continue as we move towards the US Presidential election on 8th November and into 2017. The market reaction to the news in the weeks ahead will determine what changes, if any, are made to the Active Asset Allocator

 
 

The buy signal generated by my Technical Trend Indicator (TTI) in April 2016 is still in place today, albeit the trend has started to fade. Buyers of stocks will need to step up soon or the TTI will flip back to a 'Sell' for the first time since October 2014. A week or two of additional selling will tip the scales back to defensive mode. So, a potentially important inflection point for the stock market is now at hand.

 
 

Perhaps markets have started to discount a deteriorating growth outlook for the US economy. The recent ISM Purchasing Managers Index dropped below 50 in August, signalling a contracting manufacturing sector in the US. The ISM Services Sector, which represents two thirds of the US economy, also experienced a sharp decline in August to reach its lowest level since 2010.

........Or perhaps stock market investors are balking at paying a record multiple of earnings for shares of US companies. The S&P 500 today trades at 27 times the average of the last 10 years' reported earnings, adjusted for inflation, a peak only surpassed in 1929 and 2000. The average 'Shiller P/E' over the last 135 years is closer to 17 times reported earnings, and that is just the average. Often times, the P/E multiple has dropped to 10 times earnings, or below.

.......This is at a time when corporate earnings in the United States are actually in decline. S&P 500 GAAP earnings peaked in 2015 and have been falling over the last five quarters. Last time US corporate earnings were at today's levels was in 2007 when the S&P 500 was trading at 1,500, approximately 30% below today's price.

 
 

So, the majority of evidence suggests that equities are overpriced today and due a correction at a minimum.  However, continued interference by central banks has clouded the picture, which is why I place such a strong emphasis on my understanding of the primary trend of the market. My Technical Trend Indicator has proven to be an excellent navigational tool for would-be investors. Theoretically, there is no limit to the amount of money central banks can print and invest in the stock market. In theory, this could lead to substantially higher prices for stocks at some point in the future, as valuation concerns are trumped by a wall of liquidity flowing into markets from central banks. I do not believe for one second that this outcome is likely, but I can't rule it out for certain. So the TTI leads the way.

I came across a recent study from the folks at Evergreen GaveKal that touched on the issue of central bank intervention and the potential unintended consequences that may arise. The good people at Evergreen GaveKal highlighted the potential impact of negative interest rates on stock market valuations as follows. 

A negative yield on the U.S. 10-year treasury note will be a much bigger problem for managers to worry about than a Shiller P/E of 27 on the S&P 500 Index..... The effect of persistently negative rates on equities’ valuations is almost incomprehensible: with a negative discount rate, any cash flow producing equity is theoretically worth infinity. The chart below shows the net present value of 2,000-year stream of $5 dividends at different discount rates. At a negative discount rate of -3%, this $5 dividend stock would be worth 47,684 trillion trillions. Welcome to the new crazy!
— Evergreen Gavekal
 
 

Now there is something to ponder! For now though, the Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned with 20% global equities / 25% fixed interest rate bonds / 15% inflation linked bonds / 30% precious metals / 10% cash.

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

 
 

An interesting dynamic is unfolding across government bond markets in 2016. While government bond prices continue to make new highs, a divergence is appearing in the technical indicators. The Relative Strength Index and Momentum Index specifically are making lower highs and not confirming the bullish trend. Is this a temporary pause before another surge higher in bond prices and lower in yields or is the bond market signalling that the multi-decade trend of lower rates is finally coming to an end? 

 
 

US 10-year and 30-year government bond yields are exhibiting similar characteristics to Eurozone government bonds. Bond yields are still making lower lows but selling pressure has eased and relative strength is improving. If bond yields continue to rise over the rest of 2016 and into 2017, the longer-term trend will turn from down to up, which will be meaningful. Is the market be signalling that the central banks are starting to lose control?

The Active Asset Allocator currently holds a 20% allocation in fixed interest government bonds along with 15% in inflation linked bonds and 5% in EU aggregate bonds. The 20% allocation is the most sensitive to interest rates changes and one I am most focused on near-term. I expect government bonds to rally on the next stock market decline. If they do not, I will sell the 20% allocation to fixed interest government bonds and book profits on that trade.

Unlike fixed interest government bonds, inflation linked bonds (ILB's) can rally in a rising interest rate environment, so long as inflation expectations increase at a faster rate than central bankers increase interest rates and government bond yields rise. Central banks want inflation and they will get it. The Active Asset Allocator is poised to benefit and the allocation to ILB's will increase in the months ahead.

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

According to The World Gold Council latest report, the total amount of gold held in the world's top 73 gold ETF's reached 2,297 tonnes at 31 August 2016, up 27 tonnes from the previous month. European gold fund ETF's added 33 tonnes, offsetting the 8 tonne decline in North America. Slow and persistent accumulation is characteristic of a bull market.

 
 

The top 15 physically-backed gold gold ETF's by assets in tonnes are summarised in the following table. The Sprott Physical Gold Trust and Central Fund of Canada, 9 and 10 on the list, are the ETF's used in the Active Asset Allocator to provide our precious metals exposure.

 
 

The precious metals bull market rumbles on. Gold priced in euros has outperformed gold priced in US dollars since 2015 due to relative currency moves over the period. Gold will rise in all currencies over time. I expect gold to break out to new all time highs in the next 1-2 years. Bull market QED.

 
 

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

June 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

Chaotic trading overnight following the UK referendum decision to leave the EU is feeding through to US markets this afternoon. The Active Asset Allocator is earning its stripes today with an 80% allocation to bonds, cash and gold. Gold rallied +$100 overnight. For equities, buying the dip works in a bull market. However, we may now have transitioned from bull to bear, so I continue to advise caution here and avoid the temptation to catch a falling knife.

Stock Market Update

The results of the Brexit Referendum are in and the UK has voted to leave the European Union, leading to chaotic trading overnight. Equity and currency markets have experienced dramatic declines as investors scramble to re-position portfolios. A LOT of capital is invested in equity exchange traded funds (ETF's) that trade in Europe and in the United States and I expect additional waves of selling this afternoon once the NYSE opens for business. The Active Asset Allocator is earning its stripes today and benefiting from the heightened market turmoil with an 80% allocation to safe haven assets. Gold rallied +$100 overnight.

The FTSE All World Index, the global equity benchmark, fell -4% this morning. The decline is barely visible on the chart. Suffice to say, there is plenty of room for additional selling. Buying the dip works in a bull market. However, we may now have transitioned from bull to bear, so I continue to advise caution here. The relative strength of the stock market rally in recent weeks is now deteriorating as measured by the relative strength index (RSI) in the top section of the chart below, while price has been unable to break out to new highs. My own technical studies, which turned bullish in April 2016, have also deteriorated in recent weeks. If stocks turn lower from here, my Technical Trend Indicator (TTI) will trigger another 'Sell' signal shortly.

 
 

Volatility is accelerating higher just when the stock market appears to be running out of steam. The Vix Index jumped from 14 to 22 over the last four weeks (this chart does not include this morning's surge in volatility). Investors are getting nervous, tension is rising and speculators are starting to pay up for portfolio insurance. Volatility spikes go hand in hand with stock market corrections and another may be just around the corner.

 
 

Sterling rallied +4% versus the euro in the run up to the Brexit vote but has given it all back and more today. The longer-term trend remains down for GBP versus EUR and I expect we will see £0.90/€1.00 later this year.

 
 

I am more focused on the outlook for the US dollar than sterling over the next three to five years. The USD is the world's reserve currency and large moves in USD have significant implications for the performance of global equity, bond and commodity markets. I continue to believe that the trade-weighted USD Index has put in a medium-term top and will trend lower over 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

 
 

Despite an increasing percentage trading at negative yields, government bonds continue to attract capital as part of the flight-to-safety trade. And why not? The ECB is buying EU government bonds at a rate of €80 billion per month and is actually set to run out of bonds to buy under the current programme in less than two years (and in one year's time for German bunds). As long as the ECB stands as the buyer of last resort, yields will continue to compress. Potential fractures to the Union will place increasing pressure on ECB President Mario Draghi and we my begin to see bond yields rise in the weaker Eurozone peripheral countries, but for now, the bull market lives on.

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

It's a bull market folks. There is nothing to do but sit tight and avoid getting shaken out of your position. I received 20 different updates from investment managers this morning on Brexit, the potential risks and advice for investors. Not a single one mentions gold as a suitable investment. That will change, probably at much higher precious metals prices. In the meantime, the Active Asset Allocator is well positioned to take advantage of what I expect will be a very powerful bull market over the next 3-5 years.

 
gold.jpg
 

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

May 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.

 
AAA Asset Allocation.jpg
 

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

The Active Asset Allocator has returned +6.3% YTD versus +0.0% for the average multi-asset fund. My Technical Trend Indicator has triggered a buy signal, yet stocks have not made much progress since. I remain defensively positioned for now with 20% equities / 30% bonds / 30% precious metals / 20% cash. Over 40% of equities on the NYSE have already declined -20% or more, classic early bear market behaviour, though the large-cap indices appear unconcerned for now. This standoff should resolve itself shortly.

Meanwhile, bonds continue to rally while yields head towards zero or lower. This month I explain why I think we are finally approaching an inflection point in fixed income and the potential end to the 35+ year bull market in bonds. Calls for helicopter money are getting louder and investor confidence in central bank policy is about to be tested. I also discuss the World Gold Council's latest report on trends in the sector including a +122% increase in investment demand for gold year/year.

Stock Market Update

In 2016 year-to-date, global equities have returned -0.3%, EU government bonds +5.2%, EU corporate bonds +2.7%, gold +11.3% and silver +14.4% in euro terms. Over that period, the Active Asset Allocator has delivered a positive return of +6.3%, with just 20% invested in equities and 20% still held in cash, versus 0.0% for the average multi-asset fund. Last month, I noted that my technical studies triggered a buy signal for the stock market for the first time since September 2013 and that buy signal remains in place today. Price hasn't made much progress since the buy signal triggered and I continue to maintain a defensive position for now in the Active Asset Allocator

 
 

Today, over 40% of stocks trading on the NYSE are already down 20% or more (56% of small caps, 30% of mid-caps and 16% of large-caps) - classic early bear market behaviour. This fact has been disguised by the continued strong performance of a handful of names in the market-cap weighted S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrials, which are driving those indices back towards their old 52-week highs. Volume has also been lacklustre on the recent rally in stocks. While the S&P 500 is not too far off breaking out to new highs, volume does not look like it will confirm the move higher. 

 
 

Last month, I highlighted the prior instances in 2000 and 2007 when the S&P 500 peaked and turned lower, 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. At the time of writing my April Investor Letter, the 50WMA had not crossed below the 100WMA. That has changed with the bearish cross now in effect, though price is still holding above both long-term moving averages. A sustained break below 2,024 on the S&P 500 in the weeks ahead will increase the odds that a bear market in stocks has arrived. Conversely, if the stock market can consolidate recent gains despite the bearish cross, it should clear the way for higher prices later this year and I will adjust the Active Asset Allocator accordingly. For now, I remain patient.

 
 

Volatility is on the rise and there is no shortage of events this year that could drive equity volatility significantly higher including the Brexit vote next month, a potential hard landing in China, political and economic chaos in Brazil and Venezuela and of course the possibility of Donald Trump in the White House. The Vix Index below captures the trend in volatility of the stock market and this trend is on the rise. The multi-year basing pattern is similar to that experienced in the lead up to the last bear market in stocks and reinforces my belief that the stock market is in the process of topping.

 
 

It will be interesting to gauge the reaction of the Federal Reserve, ECB, Bank of England and Bank of Japan if a bear market in stocks gets going later this year. I believe they will panic and react by doing things that will appear increasingly crazy to many people, like helicopter money or some version of fiscal or monetary stimulation. I believe this will precipitate a crisis of confidence in paper currency, which is why the Active Asset Allocator continues to hold a 30% allocation to precious metals.

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

From 1952 to 2000, it took $1.70 of non-financial borrowing to generate a dollar of GDP growth. By 2015, that number had more than doubled to $3.46. At the margin, an additional dollar of borrowing is losing its impact. Total debt to GDP across much of the developed world has now reached mind-boggling levels: 370% in the United States, 615% in Japan, 350% in China and 457% in the Eurozone. Meanwhile, GDP growth is decelerating. 

Central banks, in their capacity as lenders of last resort (and buyers of last resort of government bonds), have supported the explosion higher in debt in recent years and central bank policy will be responsible for the eventual debt bust. It is just a question of timing. I believe we are approaching an inflection point, potentially in the next 12 months, where markets will call central bankers' collective bluff... and then central bankers will panic.

What could be the catalyst? Perhaps wide scale debt forgiveness by the Japanese Central Bank, the largest owner of Japanese government debt or the Federal Reserve swapping Treasuries for 100 or 200 year bonds paying a 0.05% or 0.10% coupon or perhaps the introduction of helicopter money by one or more central banks. 

In fact, calls for 'helicopter money' are already on the rise today. Former Fed Chair, Ben Bernanke and more recently Bill Gross, fixed income manager at Janus Capital, have both touted helicopter money as a legitimate monetary policy tool still available to central banks in times of crisis. A search for "helicopter money" on Google Trends also confirms a growing interest from the public in this most unorthodox form of central bank intervention.

 
 

Experiments with helicopter money do not end well. The risks are high and consequences severe if badly managed. James Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer sums it up best:

Does the deployment of helicopter money not entail some meaningful risk of the loss of confidence in a currency that is, after all, undefined, uncollateralized and infinitely replicable at exactly zero cost? Might trust be shattered by the visible act of infusing the government with invisible monetary pixels and by the subsequent exchange of those images for real goods and services? ......To us, it is the great question. Pondering it, as we say, we are bearish on the money of overextended governments. We are bullish on the alternatives enumerated in the Periodic table. It would be nice to know when the rest of the world will come around to the gold-friendly view that central bankers have lost their marbles. We have no such timetable. The road to confetti is long and winding.
— James Grant, Grant's Interest Rate Observer

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

So long as gold and silver hold above their respective long-term 20 month moving averages, it is safe to assume the bull market in precious metals has returned. The key numbers today are $1,173 for gold and $15.60 for silver. YTD, gold is +11% and silver is +14% for euro investors.

I expect a declining US dollar will provide a nice tailwind for the next leg higher in the precious metals bull market. The US Dollar Index looks to have formed a multi-year top. The last time this occurred was in 2002 and coincided with the start of the gold bull market. I expect an equally powerful move higher in gold and lower in USD once the trends are set in motion.

 
 

The World Gold Council has published its first quarter 2016 report on demand trends in the industry and highlights some interesting developments in the sector this quarter. Overall, gold demand grew +21% in Q1 2016 to 1,290 tonnes, the strongest first quarter advance on record. While jewelry demand declined -19% due in large part to the recent surge in gold prices, investment demand more than doubled surging +122% year/year.

Inflows into precious metals ETF's accounted for 364 tonnes, the highest since Q1 2009. Also, of note, central banks continue to accumulate gold and added 109 tonnes during the most recent quarter. They are less vocal about their gold accumulation policy but are consistently one of the largest acquirers of gold each quarter.

The United States remains the top holder of gold bullion based on the World Gold Council's latest reported data with in excess of 8,000 tonnes, followed by Germany, the IMF, Italy and France. China reported 1,798 tonnes of gold reserves at 31st March 2016. 

 
 

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.

February 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

The Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned with euros, bonds and precious metals accounting for 80% of the asset mix. The strategy has returned +2% YTD in a very challenging environment where global equities have fallen -14% and the average multi-asset fund has declined -9%. With stocks now in a confirmed bear market, volatility is creeping higher while margin debt has peaked and is rolling over. There is room for equities to rally in the short-term but I expect bear market forces to take hold later this year. 

Bonds continue to defy the top callers and with JP Morgan recently forecasting that ECB rates on bank deposits could be cut from minus 0.3% to minus 4.5%, there is certainly more room for bond yields to fall and prices to rise. Finally, I touch on some exciting developments in the gold market, which may, finally, be waking up from a four year slumber. If that proves to be the case, there are exciting times ahead for precious metals investors.

Stock Market Update

The Active Asset Allocator remains defensively positioned with euros, bonds and precious metals accounting for 80% of the asset mix. The strategy has returned +2.2% YTD in a very challenging environment where global equities have fallen -14% and the average multi-asset fund has declined -9% in the first six weeks of the year. 

From a technical standpoint, global stock markets are in a confirmed bear market with many trading 20%+ below their recent highs. The majority of volume traded on the New York Stock Exchange each day is flowing into declining shares. Evident in the following chart, when the majority of volume is flowing into declining relative to advancing stocks, the S&P follows the trend lower, and sometimes in a meaningful way. The trend can turn at any stage and I continue to watch for signs of a reversal. However, for now, I remain defensively positioned.

 
 

When stock markets decline, volatility tends to spike higher and the Vix Index captures this trend. At prior meaningful lows in the stock market, the Vix Index has spiked to a level of 45 or above, as investors rush for the exits together, creating the oversold conditions necessary to lay the foundations for the next market advance. The next chart shows that, while volatility has increased in the first six weeks of the year, we have yet to experience any real sense of panic selling in the stock market. The Vix Index closed out last week at 25. Despite the double digit stock market declines YTD, investors remain in confident mood.

 
 

That may be about to change however. Margin debt represents borrowed money, or leverage, used by investors to speculate in the stock market. One glance at the next chart shows the risk seeking nature of investors in recent years as margin debt as a percent of nominal GDP has surged back to the prior bubble peaks of 2000 and 2007. Margin debt has a tendency to peak with the stock market and that now looks to be the case. Importantly, this chart does not yet reflect the high volume selling that has taken place in recent weeks. The next update later this month will show a sharper decline in margin debt. If this trend continues, we will certainly get a spike in the VIX towards 45 as investors scramble to close out highly geared positions in a declining market. In the meantime, I continue to wait patiently for a low risk place to turn more constructive on equities.

 
 

Despite the 2% rally in global stock markets on Friday and some follow through buying on Monday this week, the path of least resistance remains down for the FTSE All World Index, the global stock market benchmark.

 
 

There is a glimmer of hope for the bulls and I am watching closely to see if a meaningful reversal can take hold. At each prior major low in the stock market, the S&P 500 experienced heavy selling, rallied and then went on to make a lower low shortly thereafter, but the Relative Strength Index (RSI) failed to confirm this lower low in the price index. The higher low in the RSI signaled that selling pressure was easing despite the stock market decline, thereby laying the foundation for a market reversal.  We have a similar condition unfolding today in the S&P 500 (red dotted support lines on RHS of the next chart). However, this set up is only evident in the S&P 500 Index. The other major US and European indices have no such divergence in place, leading me to believe that the S&P 500 will follow the many other indices breaking down shortly. Also, the S&P's long-term 50 week moving average (WMA) is about to cross bearishly below the 100 WMA for the first time since 2008 (point (IV) on the chart below), as this bear market takes hold, with serious potential consequences for stock market investors.

 
 

As noted above, there is no divergence in place between price and relative strength for the Russell 2000 Small Cap Index or the Euro Stoxx 600 Index of European shares or many other charts that I have reviewed but not included here. 

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

 
bond yields.jpg
 

Mario Draghi of the ECB said recently there would be “no limit” to how low Euroland yields could be pushed. Janet Yellen at the Fed has already stepped back from her plan to increase interest rates after a mere 25 basis point tightening (the likelihood of a March 2016 rate increase has fallen from over 60% to around 10%). Meanwhile Haruhiko Kuroda of the Bank of Japan is trying hard to lead his country down a path of negative interest rates and destroy the JPY in the process. JP Morgan also recently reported that the ECB could cut the rate it charges on bank deposits to minus 4.5% compared to minus 0.3% today. These policies do not work yet Draghi, Yellen and Kuroda continue to print, pushing on a string and hoping that their combined efforts will stimulate demand. 

This backdrop continues to be favourable for bonds. We are certainly in uncharted territory, yet if the ECB cuts the rate it charges on bank deposits from -0.3% to -4.5%, EU government bonds yields can certainly continue to fall.... and that is exactly what is happening. The bull market in bonds rumbles on. The Active Asset Allocator continues to maintain a 30% allocation to EU fixed interest, corporate and inflation linked bonds.

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

The gold bull is waking up. Gold is on track to close above its long-term 20 month moving average this month for the first time since topping out at $1,923 in 2011.  A close above $1,175 should do it. The gold mining stocks have reacted strongly to the recent surge in the price of gold, confirming this move could be the real deal. I need to see more bullish confirmation in price unfold before being confident that the bear market is in fact behind us but so far, this move looks good.

 
 

Many of the gold mining stocks have rallied 40-60% in recent weeks, but they have been so unmercifully and so aggressively sold over the past four years that the YTD rally is hardly noticeable on a long-term chart. If the gold bear market is over and the bull market is about to resume, the miners will shoot the lights out over the next few years.

 
 

I have noted before that gold tends to move in 7-8 year cycles and right on cue, gold is waking up and a new eight year cycle is about to begin.

 
 

Following the sharp declines of 2012 and 2013, gold has spent the past two years consolidating in a more bullish fashion. Now we are seeing bullion break out higher in all currencies as the next leg of this bull market kicks off. For those patient enough to handle the swings and stay invested, it will be a sight to behold.

 
 

If you know of any colleagues or friends who may have an interest in my investment approach, please do share my contact details. All new business leads are very much welcomed! Thanks for stopping by and sincere thanks again to all of you who have already signed up as a Secure Investments client or who are still thinking about it!

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

January 2016 Investor Letter

Active Asset Allocator 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. We follow a multi-asset investment approach, actively allocating between global equities, bonds, precious metals, currencies and cash. We always invest with the primary trend of the market and do not follow a benchmark. Instead, we manage the market risk for our clients. Our strategy has returned +11% per annum net of fees since inception with a lower level of risk than the average multi-asset fund. Our active asset allocation approach is best illustrated in the following chart.

 
 

Executive Summary

Global stock markets are under increasing pressure. The S&P 500 has fallen -8% in the first three weeks of 2016, while technology stocks are -10% and small cap stocks -11% YTD. The internal structure of the market has also deteriorated with the number of stocks on the NYSE making new lows increasing significantly in recent weeks. In contrast, the Euro, bonds and gold have acted better and are showing positive returns YTD. Together, these account for 80% of the Active Asset Allocator, which has started 2016 +6% ahead of benchmark.

Government bonds continue to attract safe haven capital flows as stock market volatility persists. I expect gold to also step up as a safe haven asset in 2016 and outline a few more bullish developments this month for the metal, including a +27% increase in investment demand in the third quarter of 2015 and a +62% year/year increase in US consumer demand as recently reported by the World Gold Council.

Stock Market Update

2016 is off to a difficult start for investors. The S&P 500 has delivered its worst January month-to-date performance since its inception in 1923. The S&P 500, NYSE Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average have all declined -8% in the first 10 trading days of 2016. Global equities in euro terms are -9% YTD. US Transportation (-11%), Technology (-10%), and Small Cap stocks (-11%) have fared even worse, increasing the likelihood that a full-scale bear market may now be in force. In contrast, the Euro, bonds and gold have each acted better and are showing positive returns YTD. Together, these positions account for 80% of the Active Asset Allocator. The S&P 500 closed Friday at 1,880, just 13 points above the October 2015 lows. The Index reached an intra-day lower low of 1,857 but stocks rallied into the close to end another difficult week. A lot of technical damage has occurred and it is now all for the bulls to prove.

 
 

Back in 2008, when the S&P 500 broke decisively below its 50 week moving average (50WMA), stocks sold off sharply but then rallied one final time to test the underside of the 50WMA before the real damage was done. This time around, we have already had one test of the 50WMA from below. We may get another shortly to reset sentiment, which has turned quite bearish in recent weeks (it looks like that this Tuesday morning), or we could just accelerate lower from here. For a rally to occur, the S&P 500 must hold 1,867. If the stock market spends too much time below 1,867, we could be in for trouble. The 50WMA is currently +9% above where the S&P closed on Friday. (US markets are closed on Monday 18th January in observance of Martin Luther King Day).

Outside of US large cap stocks, a lot of technical damage has already occurred. The Value Line Index (lower left chart), an equally weighted index of 1,700 US companies, formed a bull market top in April 2015 and has already declined -22%. The Russell 2000 Index (lower right chart) of US small cap stocks topped out two months later in June 2015 and has also fallen -22% in the intervening period.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJTA), the oldest running stock index in the US (created in 1884 by Charles Dow), comprises 20 stocks in the transportation sector and is an excellent barometer of the health of the US economy. The DJTA has now fallen -28% since topping out in November 2014. The declining transport stocks and collapsing price of crude oil are discounting much weaker trading conditions in the US in the months/years ahead.

 
 

In my October 2015 Investor Letter, I noted that the number of stocks making new highs minus those making new lows had turned positive for the first time in many months and a consistent positive trend would allow me to become more constructive on the stock market. However, I needed to see more data before making that call. Over the following three months, the internal structure of the market deteriorated and the number of stocks on the NYSE making new lows increased significantly. I need to see new highs outpacing new lows before I can turn bullish on equities. In the meantime, I continue to recommend a defensive position in the Active Asset Allocator.

 
 

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

Bond Market Update

 
 

Government bonds continue to attract safe haven capital flows as stock market volatility persists. German 10-year bund yields have fallen -10 bps in 2016 YTD and have almost halved since peaking in June 2015 at 0.98%. Japanese 10-year bond yields have fully retraced their 2015 move, while UK and US 10-year government bond yields have also started trending lower again. If stock market weakness persists over the next couple of months, pressure will come on central banks to restart quantitative easing (printing money, buying bonds) and government bond markets may now be discounting this increasing probability.

German 10-year bund yield

Japanese 10-year bond yield

UK 10-year bond yield

US Treasury 10-year bond yield

High yield bonds continue to fall and are now -14% off their 2014 highs. Last year's divergence relative to equities provided a timely warning for investors that the market's risk profile was changing. Default rates across high yield bonds should spike before this move lower is done and we are not there yet. I expect more pain to come for high yield fixed income investors.

 
 

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

Gold Market Update

Gold in euros returned -0.8% in 2015. A mix of bearish sentiment and apathy continues to surround the sector. The stage is set for the gold bull market to return and there are many positive catalysts, but at the moment, Nobody Cares (This light-hearted presentation by Grant Williams, saved in the Research section of our website, does a very good job of outlining the bullish case for gold and is well worth 28 minutes of your time). I am expecting a trend change in 2016.

 
 

In his presentation, Williams refers to the Q3 2015 World Gold Council report on demand trends in the sector. The report highlighted a +27% increase year/year in overall investment demand for gold in the third quarter of 2015, a +33% increase year/year in bar and coin demand and a +62% year/year increase in consumer demand for gold in the United States in the same period. These are very significant numbers and if this trend continues, it won't take long for the bull market in precious metals to return.

US retail investment demand jumped to 32.7 tonnes generating growth of more than 200% year-on-year. This signaled both a level of interest in gold investment not seen since the global financial crisis, and a level of price awareness on a par with that of Indian and Chinese retail investors. Nowhere was this more clearly demonstrated than in the US, where the US Mint reported rocketing sales of gold eagle coins. Demand for gold was the highest for more than five years: in volume terms, sales hit 397,000oz.
— World Gold Council, Demand Trends Q3 2015

The +33% year/year increase in gold bar and coin demand is shown on a regional basis in the next table. China and the United States stepped up their purchases significantly in Q3 2015.

Physical bullion ETF's lost additional ounces (-4%) in 3Q 2015 but the trend has slowed significantly since the start of last year. Once investors start accumulating ounces in the main gold ETF's once again, the gold bear market will have finally ended. I am monitoring this situation closely.

For more information on our gold market analysis, please contact Brian Delaney at 086 821 5911 or brian.delaney@secureinvest.ie.