SEO And Marriage Have More In Common Than You Think

With U.S. stocks now on pace for their worst start to the year since 2000, investors are questioning whether Wall Street is headed for a bona fide bear market. The truth is, many stocks are already there.

U.S. stocks have fallen nearly 4.0 percent so far in 2016, and more than 40 percent of the stocks in the benchmark S&P500 stock index are 20 percent or more off of their highs, the definition of a bear market.

In addition to the 219 stocks in the S&P 500 index that are down 20 percent or more from their 52-week highs, there are 374 stocks off more than 10 percent, said Ryan Detrick, market strategist at Kimble Charting Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“U.S. equity markets are extremely oversold to start this year, so a bounce could happen at anytime. The bigger issue is the deterioration of stocks under the surface,” said Detrick.

It may get worse before it improves: shares still are pricey and investors who say they can’t calibrate geopolitical woes such as weakness in China’s economy and war in the Middle East are sticking to the sidelines for now. There seems little reason for optimism.

But the sluggish start doesn’t necessarily point to a year of losses. January often is a bad month for stocks and all of the recent selling has beaten down some shares low enough to interest selective investors.

The average stock in the S&P 500 is off almost 21.3 percent from its 52-week high, according to Detrick, suggesting there is a wide swath of stocks that have been beaten down and may be able to provide value.

“There are very legitimate reasons for concerns. You could argue the market response has been very rational. At the same time, how much have things really changed? I would argue not much,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial in Waltham, Mass.

“I could make a case that we could may see a number of positive surprises here in the U.S.”, he said.

U.S. stocks still appear to be expensive, with the forward price earnings ratio of the S&P 500 at 16.4, below the 17.4 reached in March but still at highs not seen since 2004.

But those valuations could be exaggerated by a smaller group of stocks that have driven the S&P over the last year and are priced richly. Amazon, part of the so-called “FANG” group of stocks that helped keep the S&P 500 near steady in 2015, has a PE for the next 12 months of 114.3, for example. Netflix is even higher, showing a ratio of 368.5 for the next 12 months. The FANG group includes Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

With the sluggish start to the year for the FANG stocks, the broader market indices have lost a major source of support. The outsized effect of the market leaders last year is illustrated by the performance of a pair of ETF’s. For 2015, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF lost 2.6 percent for the year while the SPDR S&P 500 ETF gained 1.3 percent on a total return basis.

But through Wednesday, that spread had narrowed considerably, with the equal weight ETF down 4.9 percent over the past month while the SPDR ETF was down 4.6 percent.

That doesn’t mean investors should blindly buy any stocks that have lost ground.

“The problem with things that are cheap is that they can always get cheaper,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

The technical picture for stocks has also deteriorated, as losses on Wednesday pushed the S&P 500 below a key support level around the 1,990 mark which could result in a full retest of its August lows near 1,870, according to Jeff Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The lows seen in August 2105 were partly triggered by worries over a slowdown in China’s economic growth, and this remains a concern as reflected in a further slide in the Chinese yuan on Thursday to the lowest level in March 2011.

However, other geopolitical factors are now in play also including tensions between oil producers Saudi Arabia and Iran and a nuclear bomb test by North Korea.

“I don’t know how to handicap the Saudi Arabia and Iran war, an H-bomb in Korea, so I am not doing anything right here,” said Saut.

Goal Is Your Worst Enemy. 9 Ways To Defeat It!

The annual leader’s New Year message from North Korea is always full of bluster and provocation. Jan. 1, 2016 was no exception as Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un told his people and the world, “We will absolutely not accept it if we are bothered by invaders and agitators, even in a minor way. We will respond firmly in the style of a ruthless holy war for justice and unification.”

He must have known full well that he was about to pull the pin on the North’s latest nuclear test – this time of a hydrogen bomb (probably, maybe but maybe not) and the fourth nuclear test since 2006 as well as a significant advance in the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities. The test capped a strange 10 days in the DPRK that began with the reported death of 73-year-old Kim Yang-gon, the senior leader tasked with handling Pyongyang’s fractious, and recently deteriorating, relationship with Seoul, in a car crash. Of course, in a country as secretive as the DPRK and where the last 18 months have seen an almost unprecedented number of deadly purges of other senior leaders (perhaps as many as 75 officials purged) once thought to be close to Kim Jong-un, the rumour mill went into overdrive. However, it’s hard to come up with a reason for purging Kim Yong-gon. There’s been no talk of any failings or disloyalty and sometimes, even in North Korea, a car crash really is just a car crash.

The nuclear test was more expected. North Korea’s state media warned that preparations for a fourth nuclear test were underway last October and that it would be an advanced weapon. There were plenty of reasons to expect a test early in the year – not least that it’s Kim Jong-un’s 33rd birthday on Friday and something spectacular is not uncommon to coincide with the Supreme Leader’s birthday. Additionally the Seventh Congress of the ruling Korean Workers Party is slated for May. The Party doesn’t hold them often – the sixth was in 1980. It is expected that Kim Jong-un will use the congress to firmly establish his rule and control of the party after all the recent purging. The domestic boost of a successful test and what may come from that would help consolidate his position.

So what does he expect to happen now? Kim may feel internally secure at the moment — he both rules and reigns securely as one analyst put it — but he would like the much-stalled Six Party Talks to resume. Not least because restarting them usually means a resumption of aid shipments. And he needs the aid.

Last year was a tough one for North Korea’s economy and people. With world attention focussed on the Syrian crisis the UN reported that aid donations to the North were 50 percent down on previous years. Not just food but also fuel, fertilizer and pharmaceuticals. Keeping the lights on and people fed has been tough. After the last nuclear test in 2013 Pyongyang called for a resumption of the Six Party Talks, but it never happened. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, on a visit to Beijing, agreed with the Chinese that talks should be resumed, though this may be interpreted as a reward for bad behavior on Pyongyang’s part. Traditionally the resumption of the talks has been matched with resumed higher levels of aid shipments. Hungry people are unhappy people and probably the biggest single potential threat to Kim Jong-un’s regime. Resumed and increased food aid shipments would ameliorate this threat somewhat.

So Kim Jong-un’s bomb – whether it turns out to be an H-Bomb or not – has got our attention. The United Nations will meet to consider new sanctions against the DPRK but it’s hard to see what new sanctions they can impose. It’s equally hard to see a stubborn Pyongyang caring. The more interesting part of the equation after this test is China. President Xi Jinping has noticeably not had that much to say about North Korea and, though the North often ignores Beijing, it doesn’t like being ignored by the bigger neighboring one-party state. China consistently, and again today, says it wants a “stable” North Korea. Beijing analysts have been watching the mass of Syrian refugees trudging across Eastern Europe towards Germany with some alarm. It does not want an unstable or totally collapsed regime in North Korea sending millions across the Yalu River seeking sanctuary in northeast China. Beijing is quite open about not wanting a refugee crisis on its borders.

Genghis Khan’s Guide To Lead Generation Excellence

The next big move in the price of oil will be up. For now, OPEC producers are flooding the market with cheap crude. But low-cost OPEC producers will win the hydrocarbon price war because they can fight harder for longer. And when they win, the price of oil will rise.

Brent crude has fallen about 40 percent over the last year to less than $40 a barrel as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has sought to defend its market share by pumping record volumes of oil and driving profit out of higher-cost production. Shale oil drillers in America and offshore operators in areas such as the UK’s North Sea are among the most vulnerable. Improving wellhead efficiency has softened the blows thus far. But these gains will be harder to repeat in 2016.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects shale oil production in the United States to shrink by more than 600,000 barrels per day next year if current low oil prices persist. At that rate, daily U.S. shale production would soon fall below 5 million barrels per day.

Lower prices will accelerate shutdowns in areas like the North Sea too. Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie reckons that over a third of the area’s 330 fields could be threatened by early closure if prices remain below $85 per barrel for an extended period.

Like shale, the North Sea was once seen as a serious rival to OPEC’s cheap oil but now it looks like its first victim. Wood Mackenzie reckons that at least 1.5 million barrels of daily global production are uneconomic at $40. Those volumes make up no more than a couple of percent of supply. But the global oil market is finely balanced. Small changes can lead to big shifts.

As more high-cost production is either shut down or slowed down, OPEC’s pricing power will come to the fore. The IEA says oil prices will swill around the bottom of the barrel until 2018. If demand for oil rises with a global economic growth spurt – fuelled perhaps by the low cost of energy – the oil prices will move up sooner than that.

The precise price to be seen at any moment in 2016 is unpredictable. But elemental oil market forces suggest that a barrel of black stuff will revert back towards its 10-year mean above $80.