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Hussman Weekly: Anatomy of a Bear

July 02, 2012

In the first week of March, the U.S. stock market established a set of conditions placing it among the most negative 2.5% of historical observations (see Warning: A New Who’s Who of Awful Times to Invest) – a short list that includes the major peaks of 1972-73, 1987, 2000, and 2007. Since then, we’ve seen an increasing set of indicator syndromes that are associated with historically hostile market outcomes, maintaining us in a hard-defensive stance that is as rare as it is imperative. Last week, the market reconfirmed the “exhaustion syndrome” that I discussed several months ago (see Goat Rodeo). Prior to 2012, there were 112 weeks in post-war U.S. data where our investment strategy would have encouraged a similarly defensive position with that syndrome in place. Following those instances, the S&P 500 plunged at an average annual rate of -47.5%.

The trend-following components of our market action measures remain negative here, but it is important to note that those components are moderately – probably a small number of positive weeks – away from an improvement that could shift us from such a tightly defensive stance. While our outlook would not become bullish by any means, this shift would rein in the “staggered strike” put option hedges we presently hold in Strategic Growth. These positions (which raise the strike prices on the long-put portion of our hedges) substantially improve performance during market plunges, but make us vulnerable to the loss of put option premium during “risk on” advances such as we saw last week. That is uncomfortable even if the puts only represent a very small percentage of assets (as they do here).

Suffice it to say that we are most likely a single number of weeks away from either substantial market losses, or enough stabilization in market action to ease our defensiveness. In any event, we will not maintain our present stance indefinitely.

Read the complete commentary.

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