Jani

Jun 142016
 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.20.28 PMEnd of Day Update:

Tuesday morning the S&P 500 extended its selloff, crashing through 2,080 support and the 50dma on its way to the mid-2,060s. But by late morning we exhausted the supply of sellers and closed 10-points off the intraday lows. Justifications for this week-old selloff come from two sources, oil pulling back from its highs and growing fear of a Brexit.

Last Tuesday evening I warned readers to be wary of a near-term pullback in oil and equities and that is exactly what happened. We don’t need be psychic to know what the market will do next, all we have to do follow the swings of sentiment and supply and demand. Last week traders were giddy as oil broke through $50, leading many to predict $60 oil wasn’t far away. Instead of surging higher, oil prices peaked and stumbled back into the $40s. So much for the wisdom of consensus. Stocks followed the same flight plan when it looked like we were headed to all-time highs, yet found ourselves stumbling under the 50dma instead. But that’s the way this works. One week’s giddiness gives way to the next week’s pessimism.

This week oil prices have been bumped off the front pages as the financial press fixates on next week’s Brexit vote. This was supposed to be a slam dunk for the “stay” vote, but the Brexit camp has surged in recent polls. That uncertainty is unnerving markets as traders start to fear the unknown. While this will be a hugely disruptive event if Britain votes to leave the EU, the economic consequences will be less bad than most fear. This is a referendum on refugee immigration, not trade. British citizens want to close their borders to Middle East refugees and given EU laws, the only way they can do that is by pulling out of the union. This isn’t a dispute over trade and no one wants to start a trade war since both sides are so dependent on the other. This means we should expect British and EU politicians to quickly sign into law comparable trade agreements to replace the previous EU ones. This will take place within weeks if not days because both sides want to minimize the economic disruptions. But politicians are not promoting “Plan B” because they are trying to use fear of economic calamity to persuade people to vote “stay”.

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.22.36 PMA Brexit vote would send the S&P 500 down a few percent because it is not currently priced in. But this will be a buyable dip for those who have the courage to be greedy when others are fearful. A week or two after the Brexit vote, many of the unknowns will have been ironed out and we will move forward with a plan. Norway and Switzerland survive quite successfully without EU membership and instead are part of a European Free Trade Association. Britain will do the same thing and life moves on. Since Britain never adopted the euro and still used the pound, there won’t be any of the financial entanglements that drove concern over a Grexit a couple of years ago. All the Brexit is doing is shifting from standardized EU trade agreements to ones made separately. Six one-way, half-a-dozen another. For all intents and purposes it will do the same thing no matter what the document is called.

As for how to trade this, Tuesday’s dip undercut popular technical stop-losses, purging a good bit of that supply from the market. The relentless slide under 2,070 also combined with the Brexit headlines to convinced emotional traders to get out “before things get worse”. Unfortunately for them reacting emotionally doesn’t pay very well. While the Brexit story isn’t done, we are closer to a buy-point than a prudent place to sell defensively. The best profit opportunities come from trading against an emotional crowd and the anxiety is ramping up as the VIX surges above 20 for the first time since February. Those with cash, get your shopping lists ready. Those with buy-and-hold stocks, don’t let the fear-mongering convince you to sell at a discount.

Jani

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 Posted by at 10:24 pm on June 14, 2016
Jun 072016
 

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 9.07.00 PMEnd of Day Update:

The S&P 500 carved out fresh 2016 highs Tuesday, a long way from the February doldrums that lead to widespread predictions of doom-and-gloom. The biggest question is if we should buy this breakout, or short the upper end of a summer trading range.

The day’s other big headline is oil closed above $50 for the first time this year. A nearly 100% gain in a few short months persuaded many to predict a continuation straight to $60. The problem with consensus is it’s rarely right. If everyone is convinced oil has another $10 of upside, then it seems like an easy buy. Unfortunately for us, very few things in the market are easy. This nearly universal bullishness makes me suspect a near-term top is just around the corner. No doubt we can get to $60, but most likely it will be bumpy ride with many confidence shattering gyrations along the way. Since oil’s breakout above $50 is an obvious buy-point, many oil traders have already bought and incremental demand will be harder to come by. With a scarcity of new buyers, what is going to push the price higher?

The story for the S&P 500 sounds a lot like what I just described for oil. While we’re near all-time highs, what catalyst is ahead of us that will convince people to buy stocks at record highs? A lot of institutional money managers are on summer vacation, leading to the typically lower volume we see this season. If big institutional money isn’t around to buy, who else has the firepower necessary to sustain a continued move higher? If we cannot answer that question, it is hard to get excited about this breakout.

This week the stock market rebounded from the slowest hiring numbers in half a decade. Rather than fear economic slowing, traders cheered the Fed’s postponed interest rate-hike. I don’t know about you, but I would more bullish if the Fed hiked interest rates because the economy was doing well, not the other way around. This excitement over a stagnant economy doesn’t make a lot of sense and is most likely only a reactionary phenomena. Delaying the second rate-hike a few months isn’t going to do much to improve corporate earnings and thus will have a limited impact on longer-term equity prices.

As for how to trade this, the last couple of days looked more like short covering than sustainable breakout buying. Shorts were forced to cover when we rose above their stop-loss levels. But often the point of maximum pain is where the market reverses. Surging to 2,120 would have led to widespread capitulation as most bears gave up ahead of the “inevitable” runup to all-time highs. But this afternoon the air was let out of the breakout as most of those early gains fizzled and we returned to near break-even. That lack of follow-on buying is a big red flag for bulls. We want to see people chasing this breakout, not taking profits. If we hold above 2,100 through the remainder of the week, then the situation looks good for bulls. But if we stumble back under 2,100 so soon after the breakout, look for a return to at least 2,080 and more likely 2,060. Trade accordingly.

Jani

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 Posted by at 9:13 pm on June 7, 2016
May 312016
 

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 8.41.36 PMEnd of Day Update:

The S&P 500 gapped above 2,100 resistance at Tuesday’s open, but the euphoria was short-lived and we slipped back under this psychologically important level by midmorning. That tells us few were willing to chase the breakout and we were held back by a lack of demand. Volume was elevated, but this had more to do with last day of the month adjustments than the crowd overreacting to today’s price-action. The big weekly event is payroll numbers on Friday. Another lukewarm or better result will give the Fed a green light to raise rates over the next few weeks.

In her speech on Friday, Janet Yellen made it clear a June or July rate-hike is still a very real possibility. Following some brief intraday volatility, the market largely brushed off the rate-hike talk and ended the day strong. This was bullish because it showed most owners don’t fear a quarter-point rate-hike and were more than content hold their stocks through this noise. But this morning’s fizzled breakout tells a different story. While lack of supply fueled this two-week rebound from May’s lows, we are running into an equal and opposite lack of demand as we approach old highs.

Since we are quickly rolling into the summer doldrums, we are more likely to fall into a trading range than breakout to new highs. Big institutional decision makers are headed to the Hamptons and they are leaving their portfolios on autopilot. We need traders to buy this market with enthusiasm to breakthrough a stubborn 2,100 resistance level. At the moment stalling seems more likely than chasing.

Until we get better clarity about the market’s intentions, short-term traders are better off waiting for a more attractive opportunity than trying to force a bullish or bearish bet here. If we roll over, expect the profit-taking to push us back to the 50dma. On the other hand, if we keep bumping up against 2,100 resistance, there isn’t much selling pressure and we will likely continue to all-time highs. Both of these moves only amount to a couple dozen points, so don’t expect an explosive move in either direction. But during the summer we take what we can get.

Jani

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 Posted by at 10:50 pm on May 31, 2016

Trading Plan for Friday May 26th

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May 262016
 

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 9.57.09 PMEnd of Day Update:

Thursday was a quiet day for the S&P 500 as we await Janet Yellen’s speech on Friday. Volume was exceptionally light because few chose to adjust their portfolio. This apathy showed up in the price-action too as we spent all day inside a few point range and closed exactly where we started.

Given the 65-point rebound off last week’s lows, a do-nothing day is constructive. It allows traders to catch their breath and suggests that we are not at unsustainably overbought levels yet. If demand dried up and nervous traders were taking profits, we would have quickly tumbled from these levels. That means at least for the moment owners are confidently waiting for higher prices. When owners don’t sell, supply stays tight and prices remain strong.

The wildcard is what Janet Yellen says on Friday. Rate-hike headlines fell off of the front pages and that dissipating fear allowed us to rebound from last week’s lows. But has this move already priced in bullish comments from Yellen? Since risk is a function of height, the surge in prices makes this a riskier time to buy than last week and there is less margin for error. If she says the right things we bounce a little higher. If she says the wrong things, there is 50-points of air underneath us. Limited upside and lots of downside setup a poor risk/reward for buying the market ahead of this speech.

The most likely outcome is Yellen keeps a June rate-hike on the table and the stock market switches into fretting mode. That could push us back down to the 50dma. But since these comments won’t surprise many, only the knee-jerk traders will sell the news. Once they are out, supply will dry up and prices will bounce. Buying this rebound will be a good entry for those that missed last week’s recovery. But after a brief period of volatility, expect the frenetic trading to dry up as we return to more benign summer trade. Since a big portion of the institutional decision makers are on their way out the door for summer vacation, expect most portfolios to be put on autopilot. That means no big directional moves and a summer trading range to develop. Buy the dips, sell the rips, and repeat until fall.

Jani

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 Posted by at 10:02 pm on May 26, 2016

Trading Plan for Wednesday May 25th

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May 242016
 

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.00.35 PMEnd of Day Update:

Stocks exploded higher in one of the biggest up-days of the year. We received encouraging housing numbers this morning but they were certainly not enough to justify this type of pop. Instead of a fundamental driver, this rally was fueled by sentiment.

As I wrote last week, bullish sentiment fell to five-year lows. While things can always get worse, the more skewed the market gets in one direction, the more likely a swift reversal becomes. Last Thursday’s intraday dip and rebound was our signal to buy. Breaking support is an obvious trigger for additional selling, but when that wave of liquidation failed to materialize, that is when we knew the sellers weren’t there. Friday’s and Tuesday’s strong gains confirmed this thesis. We’re not going up on good news, we’re rallying on a lack of supply. No matter what the headlines, when owners don’t sell, supply tightens and prices rebound.

The cynical bear will point to Tuesday’s light volume rebound, but that is further proof most owners are not interested in selling.  They’re happy with their positions and not responding to headline fear-mongering or weak price-action. Tuesday’s rebound reaffirms their decision to hold, making them even less likely to sell the next round of recycled rate-hike/China/oil/weak earnings headlines.

Given how skewed sentiment was, most likely there is more life in this rebound. The next obvious target is 2,100 resistance. From there it really becomes a battle of wills between those with cash and those with stock. Every previous rally attempt was thwarted when those with cash were unwilling to chase a breakout. Since we are quickly approaching the summer doldrums, we shouldn’t expect anything different this time. With big money managers headed to the Hamptons, a lot of institutional money will be on autopilot over the next few months. That means a continuation of this this sideways chop. Until further notice, buy weakness and sell strength.

For a trading plan, as long as the market continues to behave well, dip-buyers should hold until we test 2,100 resistance. Breaking this level could lead to another round of chasing and short-covering. If the breakout fizzles, that will be our signal to take profits. On the downside, take profits defensively if we stumble back under the 50dma this week. A deflation similar to May 11th tells us there is no demand and we need to lock-in profits before they evaporate.

Jani

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 Posted by at 10:04 pm on May 24, 2016