Recently I wrote an article on gold's fractal dimension showing that it had built to a high level not seen for at least 10 years. Well you may be scratching your head asking "fractal what?" I briefly explained that it is a "high math" way of quantifying any moving object's reversion-to-mean force after it has been in a trendless state for awhile.
For something that can be charted, like a market, there are two dimensions. The fractal dimension at any point is a mathematical summation of something's behavior as either something that can be described with one dimension (a strong, straight-line trend) or by two dimensions (a meandering, chaotic range). Thus the dimension is calculated as being between 1.0 and 2.0 (between one and two dimensions). We typically just take the decimal portion and refer to it like basis points. So a fractal dimension of 1.35 is just called "35". This "line vs chaos" thing in theory happens at all different time scales, minutes, years, what have you, and you have to divide all this rightly for it to mean anything in the scale that's significant to you. The guiding mantra of all fractals is always "same thing, different scale".
This also applies to the geometrical rescaling and repeating that markets tend to do. Back in early February, I wrote an article, "Gold's Bull/Bear Status" on gold's apparent "new" bull market, which is likely just a repetition of a rescaled, typical, and oft repeated bull market fractal that is really all one bull market
Anyway, enough math. After looking at gold, and seeing that it currently has a very unusual fractal condition, I looked at several other key markets and found that there is a similar fractal abnormality in them as well. First, let's look again at gold: (click on image to view)
Since June, gold has moved down from the top of the range shown, but the fractal dimension is still at 55. So gold is still moving in a range, undecided how to dissipate the 55.
Gold is linked to many other markets, so let's take a look at the US dollar with this measure:
Since June, the dollar quickly reversed this formation break back to the upside, reflated the fractal dimension back to 60, and the dollar has been on a tear since, dissipating its fractal dimension down to 45.
Of course gold is also supposed to be an inverse play to the stock market, although I beg to differ with that take as there have been extended periods with both rising gold and stocks, with 2002 to 2007 being a prime example. But historically, and especially lately, gold is inversely related. So let's look at stocks via the Russell 2000, because it is a broad stock market and it is a leading group. Let's calculate some fractal dimensions:
Since June, the Russell has blitzed to the upside, deflating its dimension down to 52. This is still very high for a major index and suggests a lot more upside to come.
Is there something that we could check that could be more suggestive of the direction ?
Consider copper. "Every bull market has a copper top" is ancient wisdom, noting that copper puts in a top somewhere in the late stages of a bull. And it is referred to as Dr. Copper because it has a PhD in economics. It did indeed peak clear back in 2011 before the transports, European banks or any other leader. Copper has put in attempts at bottoming ranges amidst a pronounced decline, and recently it has attracted attention to the $2.00 level as a major line in the sand.
There is the technical read where $2.00 is a Fibonacci level. But then there is the basic fact that the world's biggest trafficker in dangerous derivatives, Deutsche Bank, is highly levered to Glencore, and Glencore is very highly levered to copper staying above $2.00 a pound. An article, from Business Insider recently explained "Barclays: Glencore Is In Big Trouble If Copper Gets $0.30 Cheaper". Copper was $2.34 at the time. The article states at the top:
Glencore is a strange hybrid company, both a commodities trader and a mining company, and it has a complicated balance sheet loaded up with different kinds of debt. There are a lot of different ways to analyze the company but perhaps the best way to think of it is like a bank that's hitting a crisis, like Lehman Brothers ... if the price of copper falls below $2/lb, you begin to get some seriously sweaty palms in Glencore's finance departmentIf this level gives way, it will be a serious debt problem with the banking system. And because $2.00 is also a psychological level, breached only in the March, 2009 and January, 2016 market debacles, it would also involve a confidence shock to all the other markets. In fractal terms, this is how copper looks now:
Since June, copper's dimension continued to build and slammed hard on 60 (the upper peg) and has since gone into a power climb with current dimension at 45 - still a lot of room to power climb.
Oil is in a similar but much less profound state of weakness. It went to an extreme fractal dimension of 60 (monthly) in mid 2014 with oil seemingly stable at around $105. The massive move to $45 in just 6 months that followed sent the fractal dimension to below 40 in a flash. On the weekly scale, the fractal dimension went to 52 in mid 2015 with oil steady at $60, went back down to 30 as oil plummeted to $28, and is swiftly going back up as oil struggles in the $40s. It is a similar plateau and plummet progression as copper, but not nearly as fractally strong, and with the primary down trend in question as oil is trading well above its 200 day moving average.
But there is yet another market index with a once-in-10 year fractal event going on where the direction is probably more clear. Let's take a look at the VIX:
Not that this hasn't happened before. We were cruising into 2007 up until March with the VIX at 10-12 before hardly anyone was worried about housing, or anything. But in our day, this would imply that stock markets will sudden go to a PE of 30, or an unprecedented burst of earnings will suddenly materialize from a weak economy seemingly beyond the resuscitation of monetary policy, the rising debt defaults will suddenly stop from the mountain of shaky loans, interest rates will "normalize", the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and pigs will fly.
Since June, the VIX has stayed pegged about as low as it can go and its dimension is still pegged at 60.
It may not be just your imagination that the global economy, markets, and interest rates are going into some kind of twilight zone. The cold science of fractal analysis backs you up on that.
The collective fractal wisdom is saying buckle your seat belts, and the VIX is saying a big move will either be another big decline in stocks or a sudden trip to nirvana. I guess we could be going to nirvana, but until the evidence is convincing, it may be wise to make some preparation the other way.
Since June, we have gone to nirvana. How long will that last? I don't know, but there is a lot of fractal energy that says enjoy the ride!
If you would like more information on the fractal dimension in markets, you can read the works of Benoit Mandelbrot, who discovered and wrote about this phenomena in all areas of science. He coined the label "fractal" and founded the Chaos Theory approach to analyzing markets. His book The (Mis)Behavior of Markets has been called "the deepest and most realistic finance book ever published". There are a few product offerings that give you an FDI (fractal dimension index or indicator) along with the RSI and other technical indicators. One is from QUANTSHARE Trading
Software. If you are a programmer, there is code written for this calculation by AmiBroker and others. You can also use someone's code at MetaStock with their Indicator Builder feature.