More weakness

 Intraday Analysis  Comments Off
May 312012
 

S&P500 daily at 12:26 EDT

We continue selling-off after Tuesday’s “breakout”.  It seems fairly safe to call Tuesday’s strength nothing more than a short-squeeze.  Imagine the pain all the bears who were shaken-out as we broke above the consolidation or the bulls who bought the “breakout” are feeling today as the market reversed course.  If there is one overriding truth we can count on is the market’s propensity toward humiliating as many people as it can at any one time.  And more often than not, it crushes and humbles both bears and bulls before finally revealing its hand.

The market testing 1300 as we push toward the lower end of the recent consolidation.  Will we bounce off of the recent lows?  Will we plummet in a cascade of selling?  For those in cash it really doesn’t matter.  In fact, the lower the better because irrational selling creates more upside potential.  But for those trying to play the short side, it helps to have profit targets.

Tomorrow we’ll get the monthly employment report.  Expectations have been dramatically lowered after the last couple misses and the deceleration in hiring we’ve seen in recent results.  Will this trend continue, or will the lowered bar make it easier to surprise to the upside?  While employment numbers were a big driver in 2009 and 2010, they have become less of a market moving data point recently.  No doubt it will make waves, but as long as the number isn’t too shocking in either direction, the effect will be short-lived as the market quickly returns to its obsession over Greece and the Euro zone. But one thing to consider is we are still holding above the lows of the recent consolidation, meaning the current rally attempt is still alive and a strong employment number could trigger a follow through day tomorrow if we have a 1.4% pop on strong volume.

While there are a lot of IBD50 stocks holding up during this correction, the thing to note is the difference in names between this week’s IBD50 and those form March.  Many of the favorite stocks of the Q1 rally have completely fallen off the list.  Often the higher they rise, the harder they fall. Most of IBD’s top groups are defensive, coming from the medical and banking industries.  Are these stocks showing potential as the next big thing, or are they simply hiding places for long-only mutual funds trying to lose the least amount of money in a market correction?

Stay safe

 Posted by at 12:28 pm on May 31, 2012
May 302012
 

S&P500 daily @ 12:43 EDT

Stocks opened lower, giving back all of yesterday’s gains and then some.  Good news one day, bad news the next, typical action for a consolidation.  The interesting thing to watch is if this consolidation is the bottom of the range, or if it is a pause halfway down as part of a three wave correction.  As I shared earlier, I expect at the very least we’ll retest the lows of the range and more likely than not make new lows before this is all said and done.  The question is if the lows will be 1290, 1280, 1257, or lower.

For the time being the market is reading too much into each headline coming out of Europe or China.  One day the market is excited and the next it is dejected.  No doubt the news will go both ways for a while and as a result the market will get whipped around. One thing to put all of this in perspective is no matter what the economy is doing, there will always be both good and bad headlines at any given time.  What really matters is how the market responds given what the masses are inclined to gravitate toward.  Is the market optimistic, pessimistic, or confused?  Right now we are in a choppy consolidation because the market is swing back and forth between bullish and bearish biases.  While it seems like the market is chaining its mind on a daily basis, what is really going on is neither the bulls nor bears have the strength to sustain a breakout and after a flurry of bull or bear activity, it quickly fizzles and the market swings back the other direction.

Breaking the upper side of the recent consolidation shook out many bears and tempted premature breakout traders to go long.  But this was nothing more than highly speculative buying and there is no substance to these traders as they come and go with the prevailing wind.  To sustain a move higher we’re going to need buyers with conviction that are willing to hold for extended periods of time.  With all the headline risk facing the markets, many of these longer-term traders are waiting out the uncertainty before committing more capital to the markets.  Many of these savvy traders have the view they would rather buy several percent higher and forgo those profits if it means they have less risk of the market reversing on them. And this is why each breakout fails to gather the critical mass it needs to continue higher.

CRUS daily @ 12.43 EDT

CRUS is trimming yesterday’s strong breakout gains.  This demonstrates the risks associated with buying even the strongest stocks during a correction where very few stocks can overpower a declining market.  And even the best performing stocks only notch modest gains during a correction, giving a very low risk to reward.  As pointed out during our monthly IBD meetup, if WON makes all his portfolio managers hold cash during a correction, what makes us think we can do better?  The goal isn’t to make all the money, but to capture a chunk of highest-probability profits when the wind is at our backs.  Using leverage on the way up and sidestepping the pullbacks will produce great results even when buying late and selling early.  And back to CRUS, yesterday’s breakout is highly noteworthy and the stock should be added to a ready list for consideration when the uptrend resumes.

Stay safe.

 Posted by at 12:47 pm on May 30, 2012
May 292012
 

NASDAQ daily @ 2:16 EDT

Stocks are higher in response to global headlines and strength seen in overseas trading.    Given the extremely low holiday volume on Friday, a technical follow-through-day seems plausible if the indexes close with 1.25%+ gains.  Of course we should be suspicious of any follow-through-day that takes advantage of a holiday comparison.  A more reliable benchmark is Thursday’s volume or the 50-day average volume. But as I write this, the markets have given up 1/2 of the early morning gains as the euro is plunging against the dollar.

Part of the headwind equities are facing is the inverse relationship between the strength of the US dollar and the US stock markets.  Weak dollar = strong stock prices, strong dollar = weak markets.  Much of this relationship occurs because most companies in the indexes derive a large portion of their sales and profits from overseas.  When foreign currencies are weak relative to the US dollar, those overseas revenues and earnings lose value, lowering a domestic company’s profits, and thus valuation.  In addition, a strong dollar means domestically produced products and services become more expensive in foreign countries and those higher prices put further pressure on international sales and earnings.  Given how close this relationship has been, the US dollar is worth keeping an eye on as part of your market routine.

No doubt a lot of bears are running for cover as today’s price action broke above recent trading highs.  Many of the late bears who shorted the market long after the decline was obvious are feeling a lot of pain as most of their positions are in the red.  To stop the bleeding, they are buying back their positions, contributing to this move higher as part of a classic short squeeze.

Now the question is if there will be follow-on buying from value investors after the temporary lift from the short squeeze dissipates.  To continue rallying from here, the market will need to conclude the reasons for the recent sell-off were unjustified.  That means getting over our renewed fear of headlines.  What are the chances of that happening over the next several days?  And late morning trade gave back many of those early gains, showing not many traders were eager to follow the short squeeze.

But while I don’t see a lot of reason for us to sustain a rally from here, the downside risk is equally suspicious.  As we  find ourselves in a headline obsessed market, the thing to remember is we can safely ignore what everyone is talking about because it is already priced in the market.  The markets are the most efficient discounter of information ever conceived.  As soon as a material number of people become are afraid of a Greek default or a Euro breakup, they either immediately sell their positions that would be affected, or lower the price they would be willing to pay for those vulnerable  assets.  This shift in sentiment moves markets prices to the exact point where there is just as much optimism as pessimism and the scales are perfectly balanced.  Existing fears or hopes cannot drive the market because they are already priced in.  It takes chances in expectations to move markets as traders change their mind and either bid up or sell assets to reflect their new expectations of the future.

I expect we’ll continue to trading in this range as the market sorts through its feelings toward the economy in the US, Europe, and China.  From here it will take a material shift in sentiment either due to new information or fatigue over the same fatalistic headlines failing to crash the market (ie Chicken Little effect).

The stock market is one of the few places in the world where people are excited for the opportunity to buy merchandise at inflated prices and turn their nose up at buying anything at a discount.   You don’t need to look any further than FB to see this phenomena.  Two-weeks ago people were excited for the opportunity to buy FB at $45.  Yet here we are just a few days later and what was a screaming buy at $45 is now an untouchable pariah at $29.  What gives?  It is the exact same company with the exact same balance sheet and future as it had two-weeks ago, yet it went from being a must have stock to a complete embarrassment that no one is willing to admit to owning.

This is a perfect example of clustering.  People’s views on FB are based entirely on what other people think, namely the aggregate’s view as reflected in the stock price.  When the group likes a stock, they bid up the price and everyone loves it.  When the price falls, everyone hates it.  But the thing to remember is the more people who end up clustered around a single view, the less independence and balance there is in the market and the more likely the price will make a big move in the opposite direction.  We saw this when FB was the must have stock and was bid up to a $100b valuation and we are now seeing the pendulum swing the other way as FB is the laughing-stock of the market with its $60b market cap.

LNKD weekly

FB continues to get pounded today as it sliced through $30 with the initiation of options trading today.  But this shouldn’t surprise anyone as it continues to shakeout irrationally euphoric bulls.  Using GRPN and LNKD as benchmarks, both traded lower for 4-5 weeks before bouncing higher.  We should expect to see something similar with FB before it bounces.  For swing traders, we want the stock bottom before buying because anything else is trying to catch a falling knife.  Day traders who watch each tick of the day can get away with trading short-term moves as they jump in and out of a stock over a period of hours, but the rest of us would be better served by waiting for the stock to bottom and rebound first.   Anyone contemplating a trade on FB, keep your price target under $38 because of all the regretful IPO buyers who are praying to the stock market gods so they can get out of their bonehead trade without losing money.  This selling pressure at the IPO price will create a headwind for the stock, slowing further gains.  But for the breakout trader, seeing a high-volume break above the $38 level would make for an interesting buying opportunity.  Remember this is an advanced trade and most would be better served waiting for a follow-through-day and buying more traditional CAN SLIM stocks showing the strongest fundamentals and charts.

Stay safe.

 Posted by at 2:25 pm on May 29, 2012
May 252012
 

S&P500 daily @ 2:02 EDT

It’s a quiet pre-holiday trading session.  The market has been trading around breakeven all morning as everyone is far more focused on what they are going to do over the three-day weekend than what is happening in Europe.

The market continues finding support in the 1300 region, moderating the anxiety of a cascade sell-off as investors are getting more comfortable with these new levels.  There might be a little more upside left in the bounce, but no doubt we’ll test the lower end of the range over the next couple weeks.  The market will need to chew through both bulls and bears as we consolidate and search for the next move, either up or down. But for the time being, I think most of the traders who wanted to sell have already sold, so it will take new and unexpected bad news to trigger another big leg down.  (For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll consider a move down to 1250 as part of the original sell-off and consolidation, not a new leg down.  A new leg down would be a dramatic plunge to 1200 or lower.)

The thing we need to realize about Greece is by itself, a default or eviction from the Euro will have little direct effect on the banking system since all Greek debt is already viewed and booked as near worthless.  No doubt it will hit some speculators and hedge funds making big bets on the outcome in the pocketbook, but we should not fear global contagion and banks falling like dominoes.  Most major banks have either gotten rid of their Greek debt, hedged it, or written it down and already booked the loss.  Greece losing the Euro will be a major disaster for the local region, but it will not be a material issue for the global financial sector.

The fear in the markets has never been about what happens if Greece fails, but about the bigger dominoes like Spain and Italy, situations not already priced in the market.   No doubt Germany could make an example out of Greece to get Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain to tote the line, but ultimately I expect the Euro to hold together through a combination of all the ideas being thrown out there, namely a hybrid of bailouts, Euro bonds, money printing, and austerity.  There are major negative consequences to each of these, but doing all in moderation will lead to the least bad resolution.

Survey from Yahoo Finance on 5/25

Who wants to buy FB?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Being a contrarian, seeing the humiliation suffered by early FB investors makes for an interesting counter-trend opportunity.  No doubt the stock could decline a lot more from here and there is a very real risk of decelerated growth crushing its high-flying valuation, but all the highly bearish sentiment forming around this story makes me far more intrigued by this name.  I continue to be skeptical of its long-term prospects because consumer tech companies have a limited shelf-life (just ask PALM, RIMM, AOL, MySpace, etc), but this highly skewed sentiment in FB could setup for some short-term trades.  Regardless of which way FB eventually goes, no doubt there will be some tradable swings like we’ve seen in LNKD and GRPN.  Obviously this is the deep-end of the pool, so only try something like this if you know what you are doing and understand the risks.  The key to managing these kind of trades is capturing profits early and not allowing yourself to hold too long and get whipped around by the inevitable volatility.

Have a great weekend.

 Posted by at 2:34 pm on May 25, 2012
May 242012
 

S&P500 daily @ 1:32 EDT

The markets bounced around modestly all morning and are currently lower with no new headlines to push the markets decisively one way or the other.  For the time being the correction found footing around 1300 as the selling pressure moderated and value buyers are finding these levels attractive.

Today is the first day that could qualify as a follow through day from Monday’s rally attempt.  The thing to be careful of is while there are such things as V-bottoms, they are typically associated with frantic sell-offs that are emotionally charged and lack fundamental merit, thus the extreme plunge followed by a quick rebound.  Further these are most often found in individual stocks, not the indexes.  Based on history, if we do get a FTD in the next few days, it is unlikely the market will take-off and resume the previous uptrend, if for no other reason than we have a fair bit of overhead resistance from regretful buyers over the last three months who are praying for the chance to get out at breakeven.  So while this pullback is constructive in the big picture, leave the raging-bull hat in the closet for the time being.

As for headlines, it seems like we are stuck in the movie Ground Hog Day as we continue seeing the same economic stories recycled from last year.  We should start calling it the “olds” because there is nothing new about it.  As it stands everything should already be priced in the market fairly well given we just reset for the Q1 Teflon rally that was completely oblivious to ominous headlines.  Not to say we can’t dip a bit lower over the coming weeks and months through the market’s typical gyrations and head fakes, but it will take something genuinely new and unexpected to crash the market from here.  Maybe this is Greece actually getting kicked out of the Euro instead of just idle speculation and debate.  Or some kind of irrefutable proof that China has been manipulating their economic numbers and the situation is far more dire than we are lead to believe.  But as long as we are simply fretting over a sluggish economy or a Greek default, that is already baked into the cake and accounted for.

FFIV daily @ 1:32 EDT

In individual stocks, FFIV is getting crushed today and is 20% off of its 52-week high.  This is just one of many recent examples of why every great investor preaches never fall in love with a stock.  Date them and then take your money and run while the sun is still shining.  The idea of home-run hitting is extremely seductive, who doesn’t want to hold a great stock through an entire 1,000% run?  But while it is easy to identify the biggest winners at the end of each year, the thing we fail to consider is the hundreds of stocks that had the exact same fundamentals and chart patterns that crashed and burned.  This phenomena is called survivor bias because we only study the successful and ignore similar examples that plunged into obscurity.  In trading, the best way to hedge against this is to take your 20% profits and move on to the next hot trade.

 Posted by at 1:34 pm on May 24, 2012