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Market Correction Could Be Larger Than Expected


Now is the time to assume a defensive position.

Last week, caution crept back into investors' vocabularies for the first time in more than 3 months as they faced up to President Barack Obama's plan to reform the US financial market regulations, weighed the prospects of a global economic recovery and whether the "green shoots" needed more monetary water, and also started pondering the second-quarter earnings season.

As risk-taking moderated, profit-taking on equities and commodities set in after a colossal advance since early March. Government bonds rallied further, high-yield corporate bonds met selling pressure, spreads on credit derivative indices widened, and the US dollar marked time. "We could be seeing one of those occasional 'all-change signals' in short-term trends," said Fullermoney editor David Fuller from across the pond.

From his new abode at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, David Rosenberg said: "Post-credit collapse and asset deflation cycles are always gripped with fragility; the intermittent beta trades and flashy rallies only serve to tell us that nothing moves in a straight line. In the meantime, the incoming data do suggest that recession pressures are subsiding, but it is difficult to see what the sources of recovery are going to be outside of government spending."

The week's performance of the major asset classes is summarized by the chart below. Not shown, the entire precious metals complex was again out of favor with investors, with gold bullion's (-0.5%) high-beta cousins -- platinum (-3.7%) and silver (-4.1%) -- being sold off by cautious investors.

The US dollar ended the week virtually unchanged after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a regional summit on Tuesday that new reserve currencies, in addition to the dollar, were needed to stabilize the global financial situation. Meanwhile Brazil, Russia, India, and China went on the biggest dollar-buying binge in 8 months during May, adding $60 billion to their reserves, as cited by MoneyNews (via Bloomberg).

Many stock markets on Monday registered their worst single-session losses in a month. Mature markets perked up towards the end of the week, but emerging markets, in a number of instances, were down for all 5 trading days. After a 4-week winning streak, the MSCI World Index (-3.0%) and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (-5.0%) closed the week at their lowest levels since the last week of May.

Facing lackluster volume, the major US indices all ended the week in the red, but less so than most European and emerging bourses, as seen from the movements of the indices: S&P 500 Index (-2.6%, YTD +2.0%), Dow Jones Industrial Index (-2.9%, YTD -2.7%), NASDAQ Composite Index (-1.7%, YTD +15.9%) and Russell 2000 Index (-2.7%, YTD +2.7%).

To put the decline in context, the biggest pullback in the S&P 500 since the March 9 low happened in late March when the Index dropped by 5.9% over the course of 2 days. The most recent decline took the Index down by 5.0% between May 8-15. The S&P 500 is currently a more modest 2.7% off its high of June 12.

After climbing into the black for the year to date in the prior week, the Dow fell back to -2.7% last week -- the only major US index in the red for 2009 -- and, along with the FTSE 100 Index (-2.0%), one of the few global indices in this unenviable position.

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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