Jani

Jul 192016
 

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 9.27.04 PMEnd of Day Update:

The S&P500 slipped a negligible amount Tuesday in one of the lowest volume sessions of the year. To this point stocks are holding the recent breakout as they trade in a tight range between 2,155 and 2,170. Quite a reversal in fortune from the turmoil and uncertainty we faced earlier in the year. The biggest question on everyone’s mind is if these record highs are the real deal, or these are the last gasps before the crash.

Last year many bull market skeptics claimed they would have a lot more confidence in this rally if we pulled back and refreshed. Many were quoting how many months it’s been since we had an X% pullback. Since then we’ve had two dramatic selloffs, the first occurring last fall and an even more dramatic one this winter. Now that we checked that box and reset the clock, have we won over the skeptics? No of course not. But now they have to be more creative when coming up with a reason to disbelieve this strength.

For years I’ve been firmly in the secular bull camp. Over the last 100-years, “lost decades” have been followed by monstrous secular bull markets lasting a dozen or more years. That makes this seven-year old bull market relatively young in comparison. That said, secular bull markets contain brutal and terrifying selloffs. The infamous Monday in 1987 where stocks lost over 20% in one day was inside a phenomenally profitable, two-decade long bull market. This bull market will die like every one that has come before it, just don’t expect it to rollover any time soon.

But that is the big picture and mostly applicable to long-term, buy and hold investors. Those of us with shorter timeframes can look at this 150-point rebound from the Brexit lows with a more cynical eye. Even in powerful up-trends, we experience the inevitable (and healthy) step-backs.  Having moved as far as we have over the last few weeks, it is little surprise we ran out of buyers willing to chase prices higher. But even though we are struggling to find new buyers, stock owners are confidently hanging on for higher prices. Even without strong demand, prices are holding up well because so few owners are selling stocks. When supply is tight, it doesn’t take much demand to keep us levitating near record highs.

At this point it seems many traders are watching 2,155 and 2,170 levels and waiting for prices to breach either of these benchmarks before making their next move. A wave of profit taking will hit us if we slip under 2,155 and jumping above 2,170 will trigger the next round of chasing. But since we remain in the low-volume summer months, we shouldn’t expect either of these moves to get too carried away. The breakout will likely stall near 2,200 while a dip would most likely bounce before testing 2,100 support.

Even though we broke out to all-time highs, for short-term traders we are better off trading against these moves. That means buying weakness and selling strength. The sustainable buying won’t officially begin until big money managers return from their summer vacations this fall.

Jani

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 Posted by at 9:28 pm on July 19, 2016
Jul 052016
 

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 9.57.32 PMEnd of Day Update:

Tuesday the S&P500 stumbled modestly following last week’s shocking rebound that recovered nearly all of the Brexit losses. We lost 100-points in the two-days after the Brexit, but bounced back over the successive three-days as if nothing happened. That dramatic whipsaw leaves most traders confused and wondering what comes next.

It is fairly obvious why the market sold off after the widely unexpected Brexit vote shocked the world, but even more unexpected was the powerful recovery that pushed us back near all-time highs. If the world is falling apart, shouldn’t the market be reeling? While that was the initial reaction, it didn’t take long for opportunistic traders to realize central banks would respond to this political calamity by pumping even more stimulus into the economy. Any talk of rate hikes was quickly replaced by reassurances of further easy money. It seems market thinks this medicine is more attractive than the Brexit is bad.

But the above analysis assumes all of last week’s buying was thoughtful and rational. While it would reassuring to think that’s the case, the size and speed of the rebound reeks of emotional, reactive, and desperate buying. Anyone who sold or shorted the Brexit headlines quickly came to regret that decision and was forced to rush back into the market. Shorts were squeezed and the imminent close of the second quarter forced money managers to buy back their books ahead of their quarterly reporting. They certainly didn’t want to be the guy who had to explain to investors why they reactively sold at the exact wrong moment. Further proof of this quarter-end phenomena is the frenzied buying ended on the last day of the quarter and July’s prices have been floundering without fresh buyers. Given the way overnight futures are trading, it doesn’t look like things will get any better Wednesday.

None of this should come as a surprise to experienced traders. One-hundred point moves over three-days are clearly not sustainable and bound to run out of steam at any second. Tuesday seemed to be that day for this rebound. Now that we stumbled back under the widely followed and psychologically critical 2,100 level, expect profit-taking and defensive selling to continue replacing last week’s reactive buying. I don’t foresee this turning into a big crash, just a bit of consolidation following last week’s dramatic swings. Two-steps forward, one-step back. Nothing unusual about that.

I shared the following analysis with subscribers early Friday afternoon when the market was up, but the momentum was stalling:

“the time to buy the dip was earlier in the week, not now that we’ve raced 100-points in three-days. If anything, I’m more interested in shorting this strength because over the near-term, moves like these are not sustainable. Most of the short-squeezing and chasing has already happened. Any bear who had a reasonable stop-loss has been chased off by this relentless climb higher. And this afternoon we are running out of momentum as we struggle to find new buyers at the upper end of the Spring’s trading range.

I have zero interest in buying the market after we’ve run this far. But a short here could be interesting. Not because I’m bearish this economic environment, but because we priced in an awful lot of optimism the last few days. Invariably sentiment will swing the other way when someone important says the wrong thing. The long-three day weekend means there is even more time for us to stub our toe.”

Looking forward to Wednesday and how to trade this, we tested and held 2,080 support and the 50dma Tuesday. Unfortunately these things are rarely one-day events and if overnight futures accurately predict tomorrow’s open, we will find ourselves slipping under this first line of technical defense. From there the next key level is 2,050 and expect at least temporary support. If we trade sideways in this area for a couple of days, that counts as our step-back and things start looking more optimistic. But if we cannot hold this level, expect another wave of defensive selling to swamp the market and the next stop is the 200dma near 2,025.

Jani

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 Posted by at 9:58 pm on July 5, 2016
Jun 282016
 

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.26.15 PMEnd of Day Update:

It’s been a dramatic few days for global markets as the near universally expected “Bremain” turned out to be a shocking “Brexit” instead. The S&P 500 was complacently resting near all-time highs the night before the vote, but a few short hours later we found ourselves in the middle of a panic driven selloff. Friday’s selling extended through Monday morning, but by Monday afternoon we were running out of fearful sellers and found support near 2,000. Then Tuesday we surprised nearly everyone when we rebounded 1.8%. The question on everyone’s minds is what comes next? Is this a dead cat bounce before tumbling lower, or is the worst already behind us?

It’s been analyzed to death from countless other sources, but the Cliff Note’s version is the Brexit is more political than economic, especially when viewed from U.S. shores. A strong dollar, weak oil, and potential economic slowdown in Europe will be headwinds for our energy and export companies, but this is nothing new. Our service based and import heavy economy survived these headwinds all year and this is largely more of the same. This means the “Brexit” selloff is a buying opportunity, not a precursor to something much worse. If anything, this political uncertainty delays a Fed rate hike on the short end of the yield curve and the flight to safety is pushing down yields on longer end. Low interest rates leads to investors bidding up the prices of stocks and the risk to the markets from increasing rates gets put off yet again.

That’s the big picture. But what we really want to know is how to trade this and for that we need to zoom in. The Brexit is a large, ambiguous mess that no one understands because nothing like this has happened before. It would be a mistake to assume two-days of selling is all it took to fully price in the risks and headlines that will come out over the next weeks and months. While it was nice to see global markets bounce Tuesday, it is premature to call this thing over. Currently the market is expecting a rather smooth and painless transition for Britain. But all it takes is for one loud-mouthed politician to start spouting off that now is the time to reconsider and renegotiate these free trade agreements. Or another from Europe to say that London won’t get a free pass and needs to suffer the consequences of their decision. Right now politicians on both sides of the English Channel are humbled and meek from this gigantic rebuke. But give it a couple of days and soon they will find their big mouths again. When they do, expect the market to shutter and reel. At best we should expect the market to remain range bound for a while. That means these pops should be sold, not chased. We will survive this and pull out of it this fall, but expect it to be a bumpy ride between now and then.

What can we learn from this? Was the vote as unpredictable as people are claiming? I’ll be the first to admit I fell for it. I was nearly certain Britain would vote to stay in the EU. But just because that was the most likely outcome doesn’t mean it was a good trade. The previous runup in price ahead of the vote created a very poor risk/reward and is why I chose to be in cash ahead of the vote.

Quoting last Thursday’s Premium Analysis sent to Subscribers the day before Britain’s historic Brexit vote: 
Traders are fixated on Thursday’s Brexit vote and this drift up to 2,100 resistance tells us the crowd is optimistic and expecting a favorable outcome. This positive outlook is somewhat unusual because more often than not the market fears uncertainty and typically prices in the worst, but this time traders are buying ahead of what they think will be a Stay result. Unfortunately for those positioning for pop, they will be disappointed because a big chunk of this buying is happening ahead of time. If no one is left to buy the headline, we could actually stumble into a sell the news situation. The market hates to be predictable and right now the least expected outcome would be a selloff following what most bulls are hoping for.

While I agree with the crowd that a Stay vote is the most likely outcome, I don’t want to buy ahead of the vote because much of the upside has already been realized. Since this Brexit drama never really pressured prices, there is not a lot of upside to be realized once this weight is removed. While we could surge 20-points in a knee-jerk relief rally, we could also open down 40-points if the Leave crowd surprises everyone. That is a poor risk/reward even if the reward is a higher probability outcome.

Jani

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 Posted by at 9:28 pm on June 28, 2016
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

What’s a good trade worth to you? How about avoiding a loss?
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 Posted by at 9:13 pm on June 7, 2016