Up, down, or sideways?

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

May 22

S&P500 daily @ 11:54 EDT

The markets opened flat, but rallied out of the gate in continuation of yesterday’s strength.  While yesterday’s price gains were impressive, the lack of volume demonstrated a reluctance of people to jump on the bandwagon.  Of course this is not a red flag by itself since most traders are late when recognizing a a reversal.

Part of the reason I’m suspicious of this most recent rally attempt is I would feel better if it undercut a major technical level in order to flush-out a large number of holders on huge volume before bouncing higher.  Potentially 1300 could be that obscene level the markets often trade to before reversing, but it just doesn’t feel like the dip under 1300 triggered that huge, emotion driven sell-off.  No doubt Friday’s volume was high, but given it coincided with options expiration, the volume was fairly mediocre when compared with previous options expirations.

The other thing is the sell-off hasn’t been drawn-out enough for traders to grow numb to headlines the way they did last fall before kicking-off our most recent Q1 rally.  Traders continue to be fairly sensitive to headlines and any bad news could trigger a new wave of selling, hampering a sustained rally.  Plus I don’t think the sell-off has reached obscene valuations due to irrational selling that provide such a compelling value that stocks can bottom and rally in the face of dire headlines.

But a lot of what we should expect depends on what direction the market is headed.  There are three general market directions; up, down, and sideways.  And based upon where we are headed will determine what kind of price action we should anticipate.  Much of the above expectations of a huge volume undercut is based on forming a bottom and resuming the previous uptrend.  This shakeout of weak holders is what clears the way for a move higher.  But if we don’t get that flush-out, the bottom is less solid and will more likely lead to a sideways range until time and repeated pullbacks demoralize and humiliate weak holders, thus setting the stage for a continuation of the previous rally.  And finally we could be experiencing a temporary bounce on our way much lower.  But given how far we have come already, a large portion of the correction has already occurred and barring a huge shock to the system, I expect we are fairly close to this move’s lowest point.

Given the headlines, economy, and forward looking nature of the market, it is not surprising the market got ahead of itself with the Q1 rally and needed a rest.  Of the above scenarios, I expect trading range is where we are headed until the market can sort through some of these headline risks and then ultimately finish the year with a nice rally.  Now, I don’t expect last Thursday was the bottom of the trading rang and the one of the follow-on dips will likely test the 200dma or 1257 area before bouncing.  For an example of how this might look, refer back to last summer’s trading range.  I don’t anticipate the same volatility we saw back then, but the we could trade sideways in a similar fashion through this summer.

If we are transitioning into a trading range, the best way to trade this is to buy the dips and sell the rallies, capturing profits early and often before the market has a chance to take those back.  It could be months before we switch into rally mode where you can hold stocks for extended periods of time.  Of course trading sideways does allow some of the strongest stocks to sustain a rally, but these will be the exception, not the rule, so plan on capturing profits on most of your trades and avoid taking round-trips on your trades.

But these are just my opinions and I could easily be wrong, so we need to follow and trade what the market gives us.  In the markets, it is okay to be wrong, but it is suicidal to stay wrong.

Poor FB was again getting destroyed this morning, down 7% in early trade.  Even more interesting given how difficult it is to locate shares for shorting, meaning most all of the selling pressure is coming former FB bulls dumping shares by the truckload.  This could be setting up an interesting buying opportunity if the selling becomes too overdone.  And even as I write this, the shares have rebounded and are only down 2% by late morning.  Given the volatility, I would only view this as a trading opportunity because I remain skeptical of FB’s future growth opportunities since they already have 1/2 of the planet’s internet users.  I have little doubt subscriber growth is will decelerate and to plateau as they reach the saturation point and growth tapers to population growth and global internet adoption rates.  But regardless, the stock presents a great trading opportunity for the nimble given the high volatility in the name.

LNKD daily @ 11:53 EDT

LNKD is recovering nicely from the FB induced sell-off as investors are recognizing the difference in growth and revenue potential between the two companies.  In addition, some of the liquidation pressure on LNDK in order to make room for FB in investor’s portfolios has relented and this relief has allowed LNKD to bounce back.  It was a nerve wracking ride, but LNKD has recovered its 50dma.  But that is the volatility home-run hitters should expect when trying to hold high-beta stocks through a correction.  I don’t have those kind of nerves and why I prefer selling on the way up even if it means giving up some upside potential.

Stay safe

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About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and writer who has successfully traded stocks and options for more than a decade. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA and M.S. Marketing from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes manufacturing engineering at Fortune 500 companies, structural engineering, small business consultant, collegiate instructor, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two young children.