Weekly Review and Look Ahead
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.
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.
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.
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.
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