When in doubt stick with the trend, and the strong finish Thursday and Friday confirm support for this market. But always be on the lookout for a top and know what signals to sell.
The S&P500 sold off early, but found support and saw-toothed its way higher to finish unchanged. Ever since the Fiscal Cliff pop, we’ve seen the market try to selloff, but each time it bounced back. Bull markets often start weak and finish strong, and that is exactly how the market has behaved since the post-election bottom in mid-November.
Volume was average Friday and it seems like most money managers came back early from vacation since almost every trading day this year has been in above average volume. Of course you can blame the Fiscal Cliff and its fallout for the elevated volatility and volume.
Not everyone is buying this rally, both figuratively and literally. The morning selloffs Thursday and Friday show some traders are still gunning for this rally and trying to top-tic the reversal lower. But thus far any profit taking and short-selling has been premature. The noteworthy thing is these early profit-takers and shorters are actually building the foundation for the next leg higher. There is only one thing people who sold the market can do, and that is buy the market. These premature sellers will fuel the next leg higher if they are forced to chase a rising market.
But all good things eventually come to an end, so we need to watch for a potential top. When will we run out of buyers and nose over? While Friday’s positive reversal are nice to see, one day’s strength doesn’t constitute new support and the future of this move lies in next week’s trade. Will we continue finding support? Will we crush bears with another short-squeeze higher? Or are we already witnessing the last gasps of the rally and on the verge of nosing over?
It all comes down to supply and demand. How are bulls positioned? What are the bears doing? How many buyers are left? Will breaking support trigger an avalanche of selling? All good questions and while there are no definitive answers, we can pull together various clues and make an educated guess as to how other people are positioned and how that influences the next market move.
Cynics of the Fiscal Cliff rally are dime a dozen and up until yesterday’s new closing high, they were waiting for the expected pullback to the 50dma. But now they are not so sure and some are covering their shorts or adding to their longs to hedge their bets. But this has only provided modest lift to the market and not triggered the mass buying that signals a capitulation top. Each day consumes more buyers, diminishing the available pool of buyers, but intra-day reversals like we saw on Thursday and Friday show buyers are still in control and we should assume this is the case until evidence shows otherwise. When in doubt, stick with the trend.
There is less upside in this rally with every new high, but so far the market keeps marching higher. I would be reluctant to make new buys here until we see constructive support for these levels next week. The market is behaving fairly well and a gentle stair-step higher seems the most likely trade. This could include a modest pullback to 1460, but fall much further and the stop-loss selling will pickup and pressure prices.
But while it is not wise to buy, current holders can stick it out a little longer, but keep a close eye on the exit and don’t let recent profits evaporate if it looks like the market is topping. And if you are still shorting this market, you need to get your head examined. We are closer to the day when the short trade will work, but it is foolish to get in the way of this market before there are clear sings of topping.
If the expected outcome is a gentile stair-step higher, the alternate outcomes will be a surge higher or a plunge lower. I would be a seller of each and most likely put on a short and ride the market down to the 50dma. Rallies are more likely to continue than reverse, but every rally ends in a pullback, and so we need to be on the lookout for that day, especially given how far and fast we’ve come over the last couple months. Obviously a breakdown should be sold, but I would also sell a strong surge higher because that will likely be a capitulation top.
AAPL tried to rally today, but it just couldn’t hang on to it’s gains and finished at $520. So far $520 has been the magic number as someone is willing to buy shares every time it dips to this level, but it will be interesting to see which side, buyers of $520 or sellers of $520 have more staying power. Another material dip under $520 could send the stock back to $500, but that simply creates an even more attractive and less risky price for an AAPL bull to get long. This is a trading stock now and holders need to expect these up and down swings. Buy weakness and sell strength.
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.