Jun 022013
 
S&P500 weekly at end of week

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Weekly Review and Look Ahead

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks closed lower for the second week in a row, but still finished May with impressive monthly gains.  Weekly trade was off due to the holiday shortened week and is not directly comparable.  Of note is the first back-to-back weekly decline since November’s lows 300-points ago.

MARKET SENTIMENT
No one disputes the rate of gains since the April lows is unsustainable, the argument centers on if we consolidate or rollover.

Markets decline one of two ways: they plunge when everyone is caught off guard by unexpected news and under appreciated risks, or grinding lower when everyone is fat, dumb, and happy; the proverbial boiling an oblivious lobster one degree at a time.  Our job is deciding which, if any, these scenarios apply.

Lets test the first one, plunge on unexpected news and under appreciated risks.  Recent examples are the 2008 Financial Crisis and the first bout of Euro Contagion fears three-years ago.  The market is blindsided and collapses as the new risk factors are priced in.  Over the last two-weeks did we uncover something new and unexpected?  Are there risks the market under appreciated?

Following financial press headlines covering this two-week selloff, it appears the headline worry is QE ending a couple of quarters early.  First, the Fed has given zero indication this will happen, and second, everyone already knows QE is going to end.  Where is the new risk factor worthy of a steep selloff?  We don’t have one and is why the market didn’t fall into a 5-day, 10% slide following the Fed minutes two-weeks ago.  Panicked selling is unbridled and impulsive; if it hasn’t happened yet, it is unlikely to start without a new catalyst

The second option is grinding lower.  These are the tops at the conclusion of long bull moves where we finally run out of buyers.  These typically end on good news, not bad, as demand exhausts itself in one last push higher.  AAPL’s 40% haircut following the strong iPhone5 launch is a perfect recent example of this.  The market top in 2007 is another.  In situations like this everyone is excited about the future and buying every dip, worries are few and far between.  Those calling for a big decline are labeled extremists.

Currently it seems everyone is bracing for the inevitable pullback/selloff/meltdown.  The market is on edge following recent selling, not complacent.  Even bulls are unsure and lightening up their exposure on the fear the market might be topping.

Now we ask, do we have new and unexpected news followed by a sharp correction?  No.  How about a complacent market topping on good news?  Some will debate me on this, but the fact that there are so many people promoting the bear case makes this also a no.  What does it mean when neither of these topping scenarios apply?  The bull is resting, not dying.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
When everyone calls for a continuation or a breakdown, maybe answer is we trade sideways and consolidate recent gains.  We came a long way since the April lows and further upside at this pace is unlikely.  On the other side, everyone is waiting for the obvious selloff, so that won’t happen either.  All the nervous sold the recent weakness and we are running out of new sellers to keep the declines going.  That means we likely fall into a trading range for the next couple months.  Buy the dips and sell the rallies.

Alternate Outcome:
The market can fall apart at a moment’s notice and selling often triggers more selling.  I don’t expect a major correction here, but I’ve been wrong before and without a doubt I’ll be wrong again.  We use stop-losses to get us out of a bad trade and when the market doesn’t act as expected we must reevaluate our original thesis.  This market will violate material support if it fails to hold 1600, until then this is a normal pullback following a strong run.

Trading Plan:
The assumption is dips are buyable until they aren’t.  While new strength is buyable, but don’t get greedy and take profits as we approach recent highs since it is likely we are moving into a range bound market.  The risks for a market meltdown are always with us and use stop losses to control our risk.  If the market bounces on Monday, Friday’s low of 1630 is a decent stop for a dip-buyer.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

 Posted by at 9:52 pm on June 2, 2013
Apr 282013
 
S&P500 weekly at end of week

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Look Ahead

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Elevated volatility continued for the third week as the market rose 1.75% and extended the bounce off the 10wma.  We remain inside the recent trading range between 1540 and 1597, but are above previous resistance at 1570.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Increased volatility is often seen in market tops as the debate between bulls and bears intensifies.  This week’s rebound was the third largest weekly gain since the start of the year, but for all the criticism thrown at this market, we are still within 1% of the highs.  Believe in this rally or not, we live and die by price and right now prices are near all-time highs.  This rally is fueled by an abundant supply cynicism and is why we continue heading higher.

Markets go down because people stop buying and start selling.  No matter how far this rally came, holders keep holding and buyers keep buying.  Until this changes, expect the rally to keep going.  Every dip is a buying opportunity because large institutions use the weakness to build their positions.  It is anyone’s guess how long this can continue, but we need to stick with that is working until it stops.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:

We remain inside the trading range between 1540 and 1597.  Recent volatility could signal the last gasps of the rally before we roll over, or the volatility is flushing out weak hands and clearing the way for another leg higher.  Elevated volatility accompanies market tops and we have that in spades, but market tops are due to a lack of buying.  So far we have an endless supply of buyers willing to rush in and buy every dip.  As long as we keep making higher highs, the stick with the market.

The best thing about being small and nimble is we can respond to the market’s moves and don’t need to anticipate them.  If we don’t know comes next, we simply wait for the market to tell us.

Trading Plan:
Until we have evidence to the contrary, assume the rally is alive and well.  The market is stuck in a range between 1540 and 1595.  Setting new highs shows there are ample buyers willing to chase.  If we stall and break through support at 1570, look for continued selling to the lower end of the trading range.  As long as we stay above 1540, the rally is still intact and the dip is buyable.  But there are only so many times we can test a level before failing, so be extremely cautious and use tight stops under this level.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

 Posted by at 9:53 pm on April 28, 2013
Apr 212013
 
S&P500 weekly at end of week

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Look Ahead

MARKET BEHAVIOR
The market remains range bound even though we widened the window in recent weeks.  March traded primarily between 1540 and 1560.  A couple breakouts and breakdowns later, that range stretched from 1536 to 1597.  Twenty-points of volatility exploded to sixty since the start of the second quarter.  Increased volatility on the heels of a steady six-month rally hints at a shift in market personality and often signals the trend is on the verge of changing.

MARKET SENTIMENT
This rally was supposed to pullback January 3rd after the massive and “unsustainable” Fiscal Cliff pop.  Yet here we are nearly four-months later and a hundred points higher.  Like a broken clock, the naysayers will eventually be proven right if we wait long enough, are we finally getting close to that point?

Our job is not to know what the market will do next, but what it is more likely to do.  This is a very subtle, but important distinction.  No one knows what will happen tomorrow, but we can combine herd psychology with an understanding of what other traders think and how they are positioned.  There is no way to know what the news will be, but with some insight we can make an educated guess about how the market will respond.   Remember, while the news is random, the crowd’s reaction to it is not.

This market largely ignored any and all negative headlines on our climb to all-time highs.  Should we expect that to change anytime soon?  Some expected US markets to breakdown on China data two-weeks after it ignored the most sluggish employment report in nearly a year.  Really?  This market went from fearing every headlines six-months ago to completely ignoring them.  I don’t know what tomorrow’s headlines will be, but I do know this market doesn’t care about them.

This cannot go on forever and at some point the market will pullback; it always has and it always will.  If it won’t implode on a negative headline, what’s left?  Too optimistic.  Once all the chasers are in, no one is left to buy and the market will fall from a lack of demand.  This is the topping scenario we are watching for.  Unfortunately identifying the number of chasers left is far more ambiguous than trading some concrete and timely economic data point.

Previous market tops since the 2009 lows were abrupt, headline driven selloffs.  The selling was aggressive, but short.  Within a week or two we found a bottom and resumed the up-trend after a brief basing period.  If this market tops differently, will the resulting selloff be different too?  Something to keep in the back of our mind as we watch this market’s next move unfold.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
There are plenty of reasons for the rally to continue here, namely the number of people still expecting a pullback.  But I just don’t feel comfortable owning it here.  In a rally of this age, the market no longer gets the benefit of doubt and it needs to prove itself, until then I will remain cautious.

Market selloffs take occur quickly and holding 1550 through Wednesday shows bulls still have the upper hand.  From there expect the next move to be higher.  But if the market runs into resistance at 1570 and rolls over, another test of 1540 is unlikely to hold.  Like a cat, a rally only has so many lives and we’ve used several of them in recent rebounds.  We are getting closer to the dip that doesn’t bounce with every passing day.

Alternate Outcome:
Rallies often go longer and higher than anyone expects.  That is clearly the case here and it could continue proving the cynics wrong.  Many traders locked in profits over the last six-weeks of nearly flat trade and these are the next buyers ready to chase the next leg higher.  The most obvious sign the rally still has legs is seeing it head higher.  Regaining and holding 1570 is impressive and breaking above 1600 will put all this head-and-shoulders nonsense behind us.  But no matter what the market does, there is no reason to own what we don’t understand and trust.  Most traders know how to find good trade, but they end up giving back all those profits by forcing an ill-conceived trade when they get a little too cocky.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS
AAPL’s make or break moment is just around the corner.  Even if the company modestly beats expectations or announces a dividend increase, the resulting strength is a selling opportunity, not a buying one.  This stock was built on 30%+ growth and unless it puts up those kind of numbers, it won’t regain its former glory.  The stock is now a dividend/value investment and one last selloff will chase off the leftover growth holdouts.  Without a doubt AAPL has a future and is a money printing machine, but the same can be said of MSFT, INTC, and CSCO.  How many growth investors are still hanging out in these 1990 growth stocks?  The same maturation is happening to AAPL.

It wouldn’t surprise me if GLD saw more selling this week.  We’ve seen the dead-cat bounce as anxious dip-buyers snapped up discounted shares.  The unfortunate thing for them is what is cheap, usually gets cheaper.  It is far easier to buy the overdone selloff than throw on a short, meaning this is the wrong place to buy.  Buying when there is blood in the street is a good way to get killed.  The key to successful dip-buying is having the patience to wait until the blood is dry.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

 Posted by at 10:08 pm on April 21, 2013
Apr 202013
 
S&P500 weekly at end of week

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Weekly Review

MARKET BEHAVIOR
This was the largest weekly loss since the election, even beating out the final week of 2012 when Fiscal Cliff fears climaxed.  Volume was also the highest of the year as holders wavered in their resolve and were selling by the truckload.  The market finished just above the widely followed 50dma/10wma.  The largest weekly gain immediately followed by the biggest selloff shows the market’s personality is chaining from the steady and predictable first quarter rally.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Was this week’s high-volume selloff the capitulation point before resuming the up-trend?  Without a doubt that is one of the possible outcomes.  Losing 60-points over a handful of days is more than enough to flush out weak hands.  Buyers replacing the sellers are clearly not afraid of this market and proved willing to step in front of a freight train.  Finding support at 1540 on Friday provided vindication for the buy-the-dip crowd, but is this real support or just a pause on the way lower?

True capitulation happens when emotional and irrational selling gets so carried away value investors can no longer resist and jump in, scooping up shares with both arms.  Is that what happened here?  Did we plunge far beyond sane levels and value investors were unable to hold back any longer?  That is a hard case to make when we only broke through to these levels in March.  Not a lot has changed in the ensuing weeks to make this 1540 level irresistible to value investors when they were uninterested in it six-weeks ago.   Heck, things are actually a tad worse with dramatically slowing employment and the precedent set by the Cyprus bailout.  There is no way value-buyers propped up the market on Friday when we are only 2.5% off of all-time highs and in the face of deteriorating economics.

If it wasn’t value investors, who was buying on Friday?  Speculative dip-buyers.  Every other dip this year was buyable and when people see something happen often enough, they start expecting it.  The unfortunate thing for bulls is dip-buyers lack the conviction, confidence, and deep pockets of value investors.  These late chasers opinions change with the wind and they will sell in droves as soon as the market moves against them.  Only after the selling accelerates and prices drop precipitously will reliable value investors finally step in and prop up the market.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
Even if the this market is built on a house of straw, we could continue higher for a few more days.  Friday’s bounce will likely suck in another wave of dip-buyers, but look for the rebound to stumble when the limited supply of new buyers dries up.  Retesting 1540 shows buyers are running out of strength and can no longer support further upside.  A break of this key level will quickly send the market to 1500.  From there it is just a hop, skip, and jump to 1450.

Alternate Outcome:
As we discussed in Friday’s PM post, bearishness is picking up, offsetting the widespread optimism seen a couple of weeks ago when we set record highs.  Many of these pessimists are already out of the market and the aggressive went short, relieving potential selling pressure and making a move higher more likely.  Churn in sideways trade is what makes flat bases work as the paranoid sell to the confident.  Flat bases take longer to develop because they grind down optimists instead of frighten them with a sharp and decisive plunge.

If we hold 1550 through next week, bulls are stronger than most give them credit for and look for new highs.  Selloffs develop quickly and the longer we stay at these levels the more likely a continuation is.

GLD weekly at end of week

GLD weekly at end of week

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS
AAPL finally broke recent lows at $419 and plunged 9% on a fresh wave of selling.  The sliver lining is this dropped first quarter’s expectations below the already low levels and reduces pressure on next week’s earnings.  Failing to find a bottom is finally extinguishing hope and causing many AAPL evangelists to give up.  Only after the most loved stock becomes the most hated does it stand a chance at bouncing.  A disappointing earnings next week will trigger one last selloff and AAPL will finally be buyable.  An earnings beat only prolongs the agony as the resulting bounce inevitably sells off.  This move has nothing to do with fundamentals and the selloff won’t end until all the hopeful are finally driven off.  Anything that delays this cleansing process puts off finding the bottom.

GLD found temporary support at $130 and finished at the highs of the weekly range, albeit down 6% for the week.  Volume was the highest we’ve seen since the market top in 2011.  Optimists will call this a capitulation bottom, and they might be right, but if a dip is too easy to buy, it is rarely the bottom.  Anyone in GLD should use this strength to sell and wait to buy back in at lower prices.

Plant your trade; trade your plan

 Posted by at 9:32 pm on April 20, 2013

WR: Big gains

 Weekly Analysis  Comments Off
Apr 142013
 
S&P500 weekly at end of week

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Weekly Review

MARKET BEHAVIOR
This was a historic week as we smashed the all-time high set back in 2007 and kept on going.  This was also the largest weekly gain since the start of the year, moving up 2.6% on light volume.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Markets typically make big moves under two conditions.  The first is after a steep selloff where traders were impulsively selling stocks by the truckload.  This leads to a capitulation bottom and the market rebounds decisively from irrationally oversold levels.  The second condition is at the tail end of long move where the last holdouts forget their reservations and finally embrace the long-established rally.  These are the last traders left to buy a rally and markets roll over shortly after on a lack of demand.

This rally is almost five-months old and to see some of the largest weekly moves in such a mature market is enough to raise suspicions.  One strong week doesn’t mean the top is in and we often see multiple strong weeks leading into a top.  Every market is different, but they are all the same.  There are parts of this rally that are unique, but after it is all done, we will look back and say I should have seen this coming because it was exactly like……..

I hope this market tops soon because normal and periodic pullbacks keep a rally sustainable.  This is the one-step back after two steps-forward.  If we jump ahead three, four, and five-steps at a time, expect a two, three, and four-step pullback.  I don’t think the market is grossly over-bought at this point and a five or ten-percent pullback would be part of finishing the year higher.  But if we go another ten-percent higher without a pullback, we will likely have a 20% correction in our future.  In a bit of irony, bulls should be rooting for a pullback and bears a strong rally higher.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Expected Outcome:
The trend is higher and no matter what our biases, we have to respect that.  The market is clearly above support and the breakout remains intact until we dip under 1570.  Longs should move a trailing stop up to this level because a dip under this level in the first half of the week spells trouble for the aging rally.  On the short side, an aggressive bear could short weakness with a stop above the recent high of 1597.

This market is bound to pullback at some point.  Maybe it is this week, maybe next week, or next month.  The question isn’t if, but when.  The key to making money is figuring out the timing.  Without crystal balls, we have to watch the market and respond to the signals it sends.  Right now those are moves above 1597 and through 1570.

Alternate Outcome:
This is the rally that just won’t quit.  These things go longer than anyone expects, but fail as soon as everyone expects them to keep going.  It is really hard to say where we are.  Last week’s strength was due to the resurgence of the too-far, too-fast crowd after pushing up to all-time highs.  With those in the rearview mirror, what comes next?  Have all the pessimists given up and we can finally correct?

The biggest challenge I have is determining what conditions would get me reengaged in this rally.  Obviously I’m looking for a shakeout to refresh the uptrend, but what if the chase is just getting started?  I don’t want to stubbornly miss 100-points of upside because the market doesn’t do what I think it should.  A weakening market cannot hide its cracks, so if we don’t see weakness develop over the next few days, the next move will be higher.  Then we resume our search for cracks and another move higher.  Repeat until the market stops going higher.

Plan your trade, trade your plan

 Posted by at 11:13 pm on April 14, 2013