Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Will Expanding Euro Crisis Continue to Benefit U.S. Stocks?

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

The euro has fallen to levels last seen in May 2009, trading as low as 133.01. A downgrade of Portugal's sovereign debt from AA to AA- by rating agency Fitch has created new weakness for the euro zone currency, as a solution to the Greek crisis still remains elusive.  The British pound, the Swiss Franc and Swedish Krona all traded down more than a percent at one point on the news. Money continues to flow out of Europe in general, not just the euro zone. This has been going on since early December. The U.S. dollar has been the beneficiary, as have U.S. stocks.

The stock rally since last March has actually had two distinct phases, although this may not be immediately obvious by looking at the charts. Both phases are connected to actions in currencies. The U.S. trade-weighted dollar sold off between March and December 2009 and U.S. stocks rallied strongly during this period. This pattern has actually been common since the early 2000s. It makes sense because when a currency devalues, stock market caps in that currency need to rise assuming the real value of a company's assets remain unchanged. This drove the first phase of the rally. The driving force then shifted gears in December with capital fleeing Europe and looking for a home elsewhere. A lot of it wound up in dollar-based assets.

The U.S. stock market rally is not healthy however. The recent rally has been on low volume. Trading volume in the Dow Jones actually peaked last March during the market low and has generally declined since then throughout the entire rally. It's gotten even worse lately. Declining volume in a trend is a strong technical negative. The VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500, has gotten as low as 16.17 - and this is a very low  (it reached the 90 level during the market sell off in 2008). It can go lower though and traded around 10 during the placid days of 2005 and 2006. The current investment environment is not exactly placid however. The VIX is a contrary indicator and low values are a negative for future stock prices, although it can bottom months before the market falls apart. Moreover, it is not even clear that the VIX has hit bottom.

Precious metal investors should keep in the mind that the price of gold and the euro tend to move together. This is also true of oil, but to a lesser extent. The euro has strong chart support in the 1.30 area and very strong support around 1.25, the low during the Credit Crisis. The trend indicators on the daily chart indicate a new sell off has begun, so a fall to 1.30 is very likely. If that doesn't hold, a test of 1.25 will take place. If the 1.25 level breaks, investors should assume that another major crisis is unfolding in the global financial system and that it could be as bad as the one that occurred in the fall of 2008.

Disclosure: None

NEXT: CFTC's March 25th Hearings on the Metal Markets

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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