Monday, December 12, 2011

Hussman Weekly Market Comment: Hard-Negative

With the exception of extreme market conditions (see Warning- Examine All Risk Exposures , and Extreme Conditions and Typical Outcomes ), I try not to wave my arms around about near-term market risks, but I think it's important to cut straight to the chase here. The present market environment warrants unusual concern, in my view. Based on a wide variety of evidence and its typical market implications over an ensemble of dozens of subsets of historical data, the expected return/risk profile of the stock market has shifted to hard-negative. This places us in a tightly defensive position. This isn't really a forecast in the sense that shifts in the evidence even over a period of a few weeks could move us to adjust our investment stance, but here and now we observe conditions that have often produced abrupt crash-like plunges. This combination of evidence includes elevated valuations, overbullish sentiment, market internals best characterized as a "whipsaw trap" on the basis of typical follow-through, heightened credit strains, and clear evidence (on reliable forward-looking indicators) of oncoming recession, among other factors.

As always, we try to align our investment positions with the evidence we observe. If the evidence softens, our hedges will soften. While the quickest route to a modest exposure to market fluctuations (perhaps 20-30%) would be a clear improvement in market internals - which could justify a less defensive stance even in the face of recession risks and rich valuations - the most likely route to a significant investment exposure would be a decline to much lower prices and correspondingly higher prospective returns. Presently, avoidance of major market losses takes precedence in our analysis.