There’s a field in one of our data sets that rarely sees much play, being driven primarily by only the most extreme combination of overvaluation, overbullish sentiment, and overbought conditions we’ve identified across history. It’s one of a variety of such syndromes we track, and I’ve simply labeled it “Bubble,” because with a single exception, this extreme variant has only emerged just before the worst market collapses in the past century. Prior to the advance of recent years, the list of these instances was: August 1929, the week of the market peak; August 1972, after which the S&P 500 would advance about 7% by year-end, and then drop by half; August 1987, the week of the market peak; March 2000, the week of the market peak; and July 2007, within a few points of the final peak in the S&P 500, with a secondary signal in October 2007, the week of that final market peak.
The advancing segment of the current market cycle was different in its response to historic speculative extremes. Air-pockets, panics and crashes had regularly followed these and lesser “overvalued, overbought, overbullish” extremes in every previous market cycle, and our reliance on that fact became our Achilles Heel during the advancing half of this one. In an experiment that will ultimately have disastrous consequences, the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing intentionally encouraged yield-seeking speculation in this cycle far beyond the point where these warning signals emerged. Continue Reading »