Wall of Worry is up High in 2015

We love market skeptics, as they will take any particular piece of news and spin it negatively.  Don’t get me wrong, when there is ‘bad’ stuff happening we must take notice of it and respond accordingly.  But, is there anyone out there who is not spooked after the first week of trading the new year?  Yes we had a couple of strong days midweek but the indices are decidedly negative.

A Wall of Worry is up, and as a contrarian thinker this is where I want to be involved, too many skeptics and the markets can rise.   There are so many uncertainties out there, but that rally we saw was likely caused by a little certainty, where a Fed Governor stated the Fed should not raise rates for at least a year.  Time for an exhale.

We found out this past Friday that wasn’t enough to carry markets away from the edge.  While volume was on the light side the events (terror attack in France, other threats) around the world were enough to cause a modest panic.  The jobs report was pretty strong but wage growth retracted, the one element many were looking for continued gains from November.

Yet, we saw buyers of protection from the start and then the selling waves happened, but on lower turnover than we saw the last couple of days.  There are many things to worry about but will they be enough to disrupt the stock market and the economy?

The catastrophic drop in crude oil is one worry on many minds.  Crude has fallen from a recent high of 106 a barrel in June to the current level of 48 as oil volatility soared, an amazing 54% decline over seven months.  There are many uncertainties as to how this will shape the economy this year – horrid earnings for oil/energy related companies but a positive for the consumer, a net positive for more discretionary income.

That one is a given, but when it will hit the economy is the uncertainty.  Future Fed Policy continues to confound everyone though they have been very consistent in their language – watch the data (and yes, that includes watching the impact of this drop in crude).

How about this strong dollar?  Why are people concerned about a very strong currency?  Relative to other economies around the world the US is growing its GDP at a healthy clip with little impact from inflation.  Larry Kudlow of CNBC reminds us often that ‘king dollar is good for all‘.  A strong currency is a result of solid economic growth, something we will see be a huge benefit to everyone.

The dollar is considered the world’s reserve currency, something that was questioned not long ago.  Many felt the Fed was diluting the currency with their QE program, but that has ended now.   That turned out to be a temporary situation, and now the rest of the world continues global easing of monetary policy.  What is the new excuse?   The dollar strength can now be attributed to strong economic growth – which I suspect will eventually spread around the globe.   Barring any shocks, growth should continue at a solid pace in 2015.

Can the equity and bond markets continue their recent surges?  The last two years brought double digit returns and that completely surprised everyone.  Overall, volatility has declined since Jan 2012 as stocks became disconnected from the overall market.  This is still a great environment for a stock-picker, but we must be willing and able to play both sides of the market.

These are just a few of the worries out there, and in a world of fast moving information and trading, if you are slow afoot you are bound to be left behind or hurt.  Be flexible and willing to change as the winds blow in different directions.  There is opportunity out there, just look for it and act upon it – while the Wall of Worry is still high.

Bob Lang, Senior Market Strategist and trades various option trading newsletter Explosive Options. Check out the updated site and the Explosive Options Pro Chat Room.