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Cam Hui

Cam Hui

Cam Hui has been professionally involved in the financial markets since 1985 in a variety of roles, both as an equity portfolio manager and as a sell-side analyst. He graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia in 1980 and obtained his CFA Charter in 1989. He is left & right brained modeler of quantitative investment systems. Blogs at Humble Student of the Markets.

Articles by Cam Hui

China, paper tiger

December 22, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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Is the market melting up?

December 18, 2019

Mid-week market update: I am leaving on a seasonal family vacation tomorrow, so posting will be lighter than usual. While the usual weekend publications will continue, tactical market interpretations are problematical this time of year when liquidity is low. However, here are some guidelines on how to think about the stock market for the remainder of 2019.
Recently, there have been more voices calling for a market melt-up. Bloomberg reported that BAML strategist Michael Hartnett called for a SPX target of 3,333 by March 3. Marketwatch also cited bullish forecasts by UBS Global Wealth Management Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele, and Morgan Stanley’s Michael Wilson.
The technical pattern is also starting to look like the melt-up and blow-off top that began in late 2017. The SPX

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Factor investing: Theory vs. practice

December 16, 2019

As regular readers know, I have been an advocate of taking an overweight in cyclical exposure in equity portfolios (for the latest update, see Adventures in banking). While I continue to believe that the approach is sound, the reality has been less than fully satisfactory in the US. Among the cyclical groups, the semiconductors are on fire, and homebuilding stocks are weakening but remain in a relative uptrend. However, both industrial and transportation stocks have failed to hold their upside breakouts through relative downtrends, though they are still exhibiting bottoming patterns. 

Here is what I believe is wrong, and it is a lesson between theory and practice in factor investing. 

Pure vs. naive factor exposure
The disappointing returns can mainly be explained by the

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Adventures in banking

December 15, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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Here comes the beta chase

December 11, 2019

Mid-week market update: Notwithstanding any issues traders may have with short-term volatility, the market is setting up for a year-end beta chase Santa Claus rally. After a prolong period of defensive posturing, equity fund flows are turning strongly positive again. 

As the TD-Ameritrade IMX shows, retail positioning is still underweight, and the scope for more buying into year-end and 2020 is still significant. 

Macro Charts also pointed out that hedge funds are now in a FOMO stampede into year-end. CTAs are ramping up their equity betas. 

Global macro hedge funds are also buying. 

While Macro Charts believes that the buying is unsustainable, the historical evidence is mixed as we have seen both the market flatten out and decline after such episodes, and continued

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The market is oversold? Already?

December 10, 2019

I was not at my desk and out at some meetings on Monday. When I returned near the end of the day, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the VIX Index had spiked above its upper Bollinger Band again, indicating an oversold market. 

Is the market oversold? Again? So soon? 

Looking for confirmation
Short-term momentum does not appear to be oversold. In fact, they show a market that was overbought and recycling downwards, which is a short-term sell signal. 

What’s going on?
The answer can be found in the VIX Index, which is designed to measure anticipated one-month volatility, and its term structure. In the past, spikes of the VIX above its upper BB have been accompanied by inversions of the term structure. The middle panel shows the short-term term structure. The ratio of 9-day

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How far can Tariff Man dent the stock market?

December 8, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”

My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price

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Assessing the technical damage

December 4, 2019

Mid-week market update: The stock market weakened on Monday when Trump’s early morning tweet indicated that he was slapping on steel and aluminum tariffs on Argentina and Brazil. The sell-off continued into Tuesday when Trump said in a news conference that he was in no hurry to do a trade deal with China, and he was willing to wait until after the 2020 election. 

The market was already vulnerable to a tumble two weeks ago when it violated a rising trend line. This was followed by a rally to kiss the daily upper Bollinger Band, but it could not rally above the breached trend line.
The SPX gapped down on Tuesday, but formed what appeared to be a reversal candle, which was accompanied by a mild oversold reading on the 5-day RSI. The reversal was confirmed when this morning when equity

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The Achilles Heel of my bull case

December 2, 2019

In response to my last post (see Buy signal confirmed: It’s a global bull), I received an email yesterday from a long-time reader who observed that I was channeling the perennially bullish Chris Ciovacco. While my post yesterday highlighted the monthly MACD buy signal on global stocks, Ciovacco’s latest weekly video referenced the monthly MACD buy signal on the DJIA.
That said, no one could accuse me of being a permabull or permabear. My track record of major market speaks for itself. Most notably, I was correctly cautious in August 2018 ahead of the major top, and turned bullish just after the bottom in January 2019. While I was overly cautious during the summer and I expected a deeper valuation reset, I did turn bullish again after the market’s upside breakout in late October.

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Buy signal confirmed: It’s a global bull

December 1, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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Short-term risks are rising

November 27, 2019

Mid-week market update: Even though I remain constructive on the intermediate term market outlook, short-term risks are rising. The VIX Index fell below its lower Bollinger Band on Monday, which is an indication of an overbought market. In addition, the index is flashing a negative divergence on its 5-day RSI. 

Historical study
Here is the historical study of what happens when the VIX falls below its lower BB. Returns are subpar and bottom out about four days after the signal. If you wait until the signal recycles, or the VIX to rise back above its lower BB, returns are immediately negative, and the market falls and flattens out for 4-5 days. 

Sentiment stretched
As well, short-term market based sentiment look very complacent. Four of the five sentiment indicators that I

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Is a trade deal imminent?

November 25, 2019

On Friday, Trump said that a trade deal with China was “potentially very close” (via CNBC):

President Donald Trump on Friday said that a long-negotiated trade deal with China is “potentially very close” following reports that an agreement might not be reached until next year.
Trump was speaking on one of his favorite television programs, “Fox and Friends,” the morning after House Democrats wrapped up a second week of public impeachment hearings.
“The bottom line is, we have a very good chance to make a deal,” Trump said.
Over the weekend, CNBC further reported “China plans stronger protections for intellectual property rights”. In addition, Chinese official media said that both sides are “very close to a phase one deal”. Are these signs that the logjam is broken? Are we on the verge of

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Cyclical global recovery: Easy come, easy go?

November 24, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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A pause in the melt-up?

November 20, 2019

Mid-week market update: Is the market about to pause in its run-up? The latest development from Hong Kong may serve as a catalyst. In the wake of the passage of the Senate bill affirming support for the Hong Kong protesters, the bill will have to be reconciled with a similar House version, where it will arrive on President Trump`s desk for signature. China has already denounced the bill as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs. There is a chance that Trump will view it as leverage in the latest round of “Phase One” negotiations. No wonder the PredictIt odds of a Trump-Xi meeting, which is a proxy for a deal, is tanking. 

A more liquid contract, the offshore yuan, has also been weakening. This is another indication that the market’s expectations of a “Phase One” deal is

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Could this FOMO surge be a mirage?

November 17, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

Read More »

A correction in price, or time?

November 13, 2019

Mid-week market update: What to make of today’s market? It is obviously overbought. The 14-day RSI is skirting the 70 level, which defines an overbought condition and that has been the reading at which past advances have temporarily stalled. Arguably, the 5-day RSI is flashing a series of “good overbought” conditions indicating strong price momentum, though it did signal a minor bearish divergence. 

Neither Trump’s speech yesterday nor Powell’s testimony today revealed much new information to move the stock market. However, the market did hit a minor air pocket today over a WSJ report that the trade talks hit a snag over agricultural purchases, but the weakness has been only a blip and can hardly be described as catastrophic.

Trade talks between the U.S. and China have hit a snag

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The biggest risk to the cyclical recovery

November 11, 2019

Evidence is piling up that the economy is undergoing a cyclical recovery after a soft patch. The technical picture confirms the cyclical rebound narrative. The market relative performance of cyclical sectors and industries are all turning up. Semiconductors are now the market leaders, though they look a little extended short-term. 

Here is the latest bottom-up update from The Transcript, which is a digest from earnings calls:

Succinct Summary: The US consumer is alive and well. The return of low rates has helped give the economy a boost, especially housing. It’s not a boom but an extension of the long bull market.
Macro Outlook:The consumer is alive and well“…strong demand environment that once again proved that the consumer, especially the North American consumer, is alive and

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How far can stock prices rise?

November 10, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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Market nearing the stall zone

November 6, 2019

Mid-week market update: Don’t get me wrong, I am still bullish. The Wilshire 5000 flashed an important MACD buy signal on the monthly chart at the end of October. While MACD sell signals have been hit-and-miss, buy signals have historically resolved themselves in strong gains with minimal drawdowns. 

The MSCI World xUS Index also flashed an interim monthly buy signal, assuming that it stays at these levels by the end of November. 

These are all unequivocally bullish signals for stock prices in the longer term, but short-term conditions suggest that the market is nearing a stall zone. 

Minor stall ahead?
Tactically, there are a number of signs that it may not be wise to add to long positions here. The SPX traced out a doji candle on Monday on a gap up, which can be a sign of

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Buy the breakout, recession risk limited

November 3, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

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Any more precautionary cuts?

October 30, 2019

Mid-week market update: Now that the Fed has cut rates a third time, and the upside breakout in the SPX and NDX are holding, what’s next? 

Are the series of precautionary cuts over? 

Dissecting the rate cut
Now that Brexit risks have subsided, and trade tensions are receding as the US and China have more or less had a “phase one” trade deal in place, does the Fed need to cut further? To be sure, Chile announced this morning that it was pulling out of hosting the APEC summit because of ongoing street protests, so Trump and Xi won’t be able to sign any “phase one” agreement on the sidelines, but if there is a deal, both sides will find a way for the agreement to be signed.
Arguably, inflation pressures are moderate but steady. Today’s release of quarterly core PCE prices, which is

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Scary Halloween story: How a weak USD could hand China a major victory

October 29, 2019

I have written before how a strong USD can be a negative for global financial stability. There are  many EM borrowers who have borrowed in the offshore USD market, and a rising USD puts a strain on their finances.
In addition, FactSet reported that companies with foreign domestic exposure have exhibited worse sales growth than companies with domestic exposure. 

The USD Index staged an upside breakout out of a multi-year cup and saucer pattern with bullish implications, which was bearish for global risk appetite. More recently, it fell below the breakout line, which should be bullish for global assets. Indeed, the bottom panel shows that the relative performance of EM stocks is making a broad based bottom, just as the USD weakened. 

Here is the scary Halloween story to be told

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The Art of the Deal, Phase One edition

October 28, 2019

The markets began to take on a risk-on tone on Friday when the news that American and Chinese negotiators had “made headway on specific issues and the two sides are close to finalizing some sections of the agreement”. Bloomberg went on to report today that the text of the “phase one” agreement is basically done, and the agreement will be signed when Trump meets Xi at the APEC summit in Chile in mid-November:

China said parts of the text for the first phase of a trade deal with the U.S. are “basically completed” as the two sides reached a consensus in areas including standards used by agricultural regulators.
The Saturday comments followed a call Friday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The trade

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An upcoming seismic shift in factor returns

October 27, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

Read More »

SPX 3000 round number-itis

October 23, 2019

Mid-week market update: At week ago, I identified two technical triangle formations to watch (see Why small caps are lagging (and what it means)). Since then, both the SPX and NDX have struggled at key resistance levels despite a generally positive news background of earnings beats, and now they have moved sideways through a rising trend line. The obvious short-term downside target are the gaps to be filled below (shown in grey). 

The market seems to be afflicted with a case of SPX round number-itis, where the index advance stalls when it reaches a round number. 

Weakening NASDAQ
Notwithstanding the all-time high exhibited by AAPL, most of the weakness is attributable to the lagging performance exhibited by the high octane go-go stocks, such as internet, social media, and IPOs.

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The stealth decoupling sneaking up on portfolios

October 20, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Asset Allocation Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is

Read More »

Why small caps are lagging (and what it means)

October 16, 2019

Mid-week market update: One of the investing puzzles that has appeared in the last few months is the mystery of small cap underperformings. The USD Index has been strong over the last three months, which should create an earnings headwind for large cap multi-nationals with foreign operations. Instead, the relative performance of megacaps have been flat to up over this period, while mid and small cap stocks have lagged. 

I unravel performance at a sector level, and discovered some unexpected insights about possible market direction.
A review of large and small cap sectors reveals that much of the difference in performance can be attributable to large cap FAANG stocks. In addition, the relative performance of small cap sectors shows some bullish green shoots. The cyclically sensitive

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A moment of truth for the stock market

October 14, 2019

No, the “moment of truth” in the title has nothing to do with the preliminary trade deal announced by Trump last Friday. I have been showing concerns for some time about the market`s valuation. Based on Friday`s close, the market was trading at a forward P/E ratio of 16.9, which is above its 5-year average of 16.6 and 10-year average of 14.9. 

If stock prices were to advance from current levels, the E in the P/E ratio has to improve. Earnings Season starts in earnest this week as the big banks begin reporting tomorrow. That’s the “moment of truth” for stock prices. 

Are expectations too low?
Brian Gilmartin, who has been monitoring market earnings at Fundamentalis, thinks that “expectations seem far too subdued and pessimistic” after companies guided EPS estimates lower for Q3.

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A market beating Trend Model, and what it’s saying now

October 13, 2019

Preface: Explaining our market timing modelsWe maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The “Ultimate Market Timing Model” is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.
The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, “Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?”
My inner trader uses a trading model, which is a blend of price momentum (is the Trend Model

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Time to buy Yom Kippur?

October 9, 2019

Mid-week market update: There is a trader’s adage, “Sell Rosh Hashanah, Buy Yom Kippur”. As many in the Wall Street community are Jewish, staying out of the stock market during the Jewish high holidays may make some sense. Jewish traders and investors wind down at rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and return after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is today.
Indeed, this year’s market weakness began just around Rosh Hashanah. Moreover, the market’s decline was halted yesterday right at trend line support, and rallied today. 

Is it time to buy Yom Kippur. 

An orderly decline
Here is what’s bothering me about the “Sell Rosh, Buy Yom” narrative. The market has been undergoing an orderly decline. As a consequence, neither market internals nor sentiment has reached panic washout

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