Oct 18

Where this market is headed next

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Update:

Thursday the S&P 500 tumbled sharply for the first time since last week’s big plunge. The market opened modestly lower, but the selling accelerated after the U.S. Secretary of State pulled out of a big economic summit in Saudi Arabia, heightening tensions between the two nations following the disappearance of a journalist. The market was already on edge after last week’s selloff, and it didn’t take much to push traders back into a selling mood.

But the thing we cannot forget is markets never move in straight lines, especially when emotions are this high. And not only are these sharp back-and-forth moves normal, they are actually part of the healing process. Every fearful seller over the last ten days has been replaced by a confident dip buyer. Out with the weak, in with the strong. While it would be more fun to watch the market zoom right back to the highs, that’s not the way this works. Buying dips are never easy, and that is true this time too.

Early weakness pushed us under 2,800 support. Without a doubt, quite a few traders used this widely followed technical level as a stop-loss. Their autopilot selling pushed the market down even further, triggering the next tranche of stop-losses, adding even more selling pressure. It didn’t take long for regretful owners to start having flashbacks of last week’s plunge and they reactively bailed out “before things got worse”. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, their fearful selling created the very plunge they feared. But by early afternoon, we exhausted the supply of fearful sellers, and prices found support near the 200dma.

There are two ways this story can play out. Bears believe this nine-year economic expansion is on the verge of collapse and it will take the “overvalued” stock market down with it. Blame it on interest rates, trade wars, or downright old age, pick your favorite reason. Or alternately, this is just another one of the 100+ dips and gyrations this nine-year-old bull market weathered on its way higher. 

While everyone loves predicting a top, what is more likely, the thing that happens 100+ times, or the thing that only happens once? Remember, bull markets bounce countless times, but they die only once. Could this be the top? Sure. But is it likely? Not even close. The odds are heavily skewed in favor of the continuation, but that never stops people from calling every dip a top.

The thing about this weakness is it is built on the premise that things will get worse. No one is afraid of 3.25% Treasury yields. The are afraid of 3.25% becoming 4.25%, and then 5.25%. Things need to get worse for the worst case scenario to materialize. But on the other hand, if things turn out less bad than feared, prices will rebound. Despite all the naysaying, there are plenty of reasons for stocks to keep going up. Namely, earnings are up 19% this quarter, while stock prices most definitely haven’t kept up with this phenomenal earnings growth. That sounds pretty bullish to me.

Bears need a lot of things to get worse for their thesis to turn into a reality. I just don’t see it happening. Reality is almost always less bad than feared and no doubt this time won’t be any different. People pray for a pullback so they can jump aboard the hot trade they missed, unfortunately, most people are too afraid to buy the dip when the market finally answers their prayers. This game is never easy, but that is what makes it so rewarding when we beat it.

Expect prices to remain volatile as the market comes to terms with recent events. But remember, collapses are brutally quick. The longer we hold last week’s lows, the less likely it is we will undercut them. The most nimble day-traders can buy these intraday dips and sell the intraday bounces. Those of us with a little longer timeframe can buy the larger dips and sell the larger rebounds. The biggest level ahead of us is 2,870 resistance where last week’s plunge started and is likely where this rebound is headed. It won’t be a straight line, but markets that fall down the elevator shaft usually land on a trampoline.

All of this assumes the worst is behind us. All bets are off if we undercut last week’s lows. That tells us buyers are afraid of this market and nothing shatters confidence like screens filled with red. But until then, this rebound is alive and well and believe it or not, we could see new highs before year-end.

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Jani

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Oct 16

Is it safe yet?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-hours Update:

What a difference a few days makes. Last week the market was collapsing. This week we recovered a big chunk of those losses and things feel significantly better. The only question is if this rebound is the real deal, or just a false bottom on our way lower.

The buying kicked off Tuesday morning when Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley reported solid earnings. That was enough to move the conversation away from rising Treasury yields and put traders back in a buying mood. Last week’s selloff lowered expectations and now “not bad” is good enough to send prices higher.

There were a lot of “what ifs” last week asking if rising interest rates and trade war tariffs were going to strangle the economy and crush corporate profits. But if companies continue to hit their numbers the way GS and MS did, expect these “what ifs” to quickly fade from memory. Reality is rarely as bad as feared and it won’t take much to put traders back into a buying mood.

And this week’s dramatic reversal shouldn’t surprise anyone. Markets that fall down the elevator shaft typically land on a trampoline. Last Wednesday I wrote the following after stocks tumbled 3.3%:

“I fear the slow, insidious grind lower. Those are the losses that accumulate when no one is paying attention. What I don’t fear are the big, headline-grabbing down-days. The one that gets everyone’s attention and makes headlines around the world. That’s because those big, flashy days don’t have any substance. As the saying goes, the flame that burns twice as bright only lasts half as long.”

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While it is most certainly premature to claim last week’s selloff is over, the situation is far less scary than it was a few days ago. And that matters a lot when talking about emotion-fueled selloffs. Last week people reflexively sold first, asked questions later. But this week’s bounce gives traders more time to be thoughtful and make rational decisions. Without the pressure of falling prices, most owners will stop overreacting to the fear-mongering headlines.

Risk is a function of height and believe it or not, last week’s dip was actually one of the safest times to buy in months. Prices plunged and impulsive sellers bailed out, but those discounts and turnover in ownership made stocks far more attractive. It certainly didn’t feel that way, but buying dips is never easy. By rule, every dip feels real. If it didn’t, no one would sell and we wouldn’t dip.

We are not out of the woods, but we are close. Hold near 2,800 support through Wednesday’s close and we can say last week’s emotion-filled selloff is over. Even a dip to the 200dma wouldn’t be bad as long as it found support and didn’t trigger a waterfall selloff. Market collapses are breathtakingly quick and holding last week’s lows for four days means cooler heads are prevailing and the impulsive selling is over. Without a doubt, the market could experience another leg lower, but it would take a fresh round of headlines to trigger that next wave of selling.

And while I continue to believe in this market over the medium- and long-term, we should expect volatility to persist over the near-term. If we survive the next few days, then this bounce will continue all the way up to the old highs near 2,870. That is where waterfall selloff started, and the market will likely hit its head back toward 2,800 support. But rather than fear the next dip, that back-and-forth is the healthy way the market recovers from a big scare.

As usual, long-term investors should stick with their positions. More nimble traders can profit from these back-and-forth gyrations. A person that cannot stomach another dip should sell the strength as we approach the old highs and buy the next dip. And if everything goes according to plan, the market will put this bout of indigestion behind it, and we are still on track for a nice rally into year-end. Every dip over the last nine years has been buyable and chances are this one is no different.

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Jani

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Oct 10

What happened the last time we fell 3%?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Update:

The S&P 500 was murdered Wednesday, collapsing 3.3% as the market plunged for the fifth-consecutive session as interest rate fears spiraled out of control. This was the worst down-day since last February’s selloff.

While that sounds dreadful, could this actually be a good thing? Did anyone look back at that fateful day in February when we fell 3.75%? If you did, you already know what happened next. Panic driven selling pushed us down another 50-points early the next day, but rather than collapse lower, supply actually dried up and we finished the day up 1.5%. And not only that, that morning’s lows were the lowest point for all of 2018 and we have been higher ever since. Will this time be any different?

Without a doubt, we could fall further, but is that an excuse to abandon this market? Or is this a golden opportunity to jump in? Only time will tell, but at this point, the best we can do is look at history.

I fear the slow, insidious grind lower. Those are the losses that accumulate when no one is paying attention. What I don’t fear are the big, headline-grabbing down-days. The one that gets everyone’s attention and makes headlines around the world. That’s because those big, flashy days don’t have any substance. As the saying goes, the flame that burns twice as bright only lasts half as long.

They don’t get any bigger than 1987’s 20% collapse. That day will forever live in market folklore. But what you rarely hear is the market actually finished 1987 with a respectable 6% gain. And not only that, all of those 20% losses were erased within 12 months. It doesn’t sound nearly as scary when you put that 20% loss in context.

But forget 1987, we don’t even need to look further back than earlier this year to see the same behavior. February’s selloff sliced nearly 10% off this market. Yet we reclaimed all of those losses within six months.

I will be the first to admit I didn’t see Wednesday’s dramatic selloff coming. I have been bullish on this market since February’s bottom and today’s 3% selloff doesn’t change anything. Dips are a healthy part of every move higher. And that includes frighteningly dramatic days like Wednesday. If a person cannot handle a 3% dip in the broad market, or a 10% dip in a highflying tech stock, they probably shouldn’t be speculating in stocks.

If I wasn’t already fully invested in this market, I would be buying this dip with both arms. I’ve been doing this for way too long to let a little irrational selling scare me off. But that is what works for me. If the market’s volatility is keeping a person up at night, that is a sign they need to reduce their position sizes to something that is more manageable. The key to surviving the market is keeping your head when everyone else is losing theirs. Do whatever is necessary to reclaim your perspective. If that means dialing back your position sizes, then that is what you need to do.

Back to the big picture, if a person believes a 0.25% bump in Treasury rates will strangle the economy, then they definitely need to sell and lock-in their profits. But if a person doesn’t believe this economy is teetering on the verge of a recession, then they can ignore the noise and wait for higher prices. As crazy as it sounds, I still believe this market is setting up for a year-end rally. Come back in three months and we’ll see who was right.

If you found this post useful, Follow Me on Twitter so you don’t miss future updates: 

Jani

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How about avoiding a loss?

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