Monday, May 5, 2014

Risk Appetite Indicator Not Confirming Recent Market Move

Along with several other indicators, I use the ratio of high-yield "junk" bonds (HYG) to TLT to help gauge the risk appetite of investors, i.e. is the current market environment risk-on or risk-off? When the HYG:TLT ratio is trending down, it infers a risk-off bias is taking hold and is generally bearish for equities.


The chart above shows the S&P 500 in the upper inset and the HYG:TLT ratio in the lower inset. Note that with the market's recent attempts to make new highs, the HYG:TLT line has not confirmed this move, instead continuing to head south. 

Such a non-confirmation or divergence has proven to be something worth keeping in mind. Bearish divergences in 2007, 2010 and 2011 were quite timely as the HYG:TLT ratio did not confirm the trend in the S&P 500. Also, the bullish divergence in late 2008 / early 2009 suggested that the stock market's vicious decline was coming to an end, with the HYG:TLT bottoming in December 2008 and making a higher low in March 2009.

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