PM: Biggest selloff of the year

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Feb 04
S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

PM Update

Biggest selloff of the year and AAPL is flirting with recent lows.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Stocks had their biggest down day of the year, but volume was surprisingly absent for such a large move.  This shows this was the product of too little buying instead of widespread selling.  The last few weeks of gentle updrafts have spoiled investors and any losses catch people by surprise, but selling is part of any rally and a few red days here and there are not fatal.

MARKET SENTIMENT

There are two ways to look at today’s restrained selling volume.  One view says the selling was limited and will dry up soon.  The other is we need a high-volume flush to revitalize this market and today’s low-volume doesn’t qualify.  We are left deciding which scenario is more relevant to this market.

It largely comes down to how spooked traders were by this reversal from Friday’s breakout.  If complacency rules and most traders are holding on and waiting for the expected rebound, then more selling is in store.  But if the dip spooked weak hands out and brought in agressive bears, we could see selling exhaust itself quickly as another short-squeeze propels us higher.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Expected Outcome:
Selling is part of every advance.  While we are not at a major top, some selling here is normal and healthy.  I don’t know if we are in the middle of a test of 1500, 1470, or 1450, but I would bet on a rebound, not a crash.  The best thing to do is let the market tell us what it wants to do.  Finding support by midday on Tuesday is suggestive of a quick bounce.  If selling  picks up as we fail to hold 1496 and technical stop-losses are triggered,  look for support near 1480 or 1470.  A high-volume dip and reversal would be ideal for a longer continuation but not necessary for a modest bounce.

Alternative Outcome:
Could this be the big top everyone’s fearing?  We have budget talks, deficit spending, money printing, high unemployment,  and a weak global economy.  It is possible, but unlikely one of these will crash this market.  Things that everyone is watching and talking about rarely become dangerous because there is so much awareness and time to solve the problem.  This is the exact reason Europe has been able to hang on for 3+ years.  But at the same time we cannot totally ignore the possibility if a black swan and that is why we trade with stop-losses.  Violating support at 1450 will invalidate the continuation thesis and we will reevaluate the market’s health if that happens.  Of course there is no reason a nimble swing-trader needs to wait for 1450 before getting out of the market.

AAPL at end of day

AAPL at end of day

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is trading just above $440 and a few dollars from the recent low of $435.  A lot of buy-the-dip traders put their stop-losses under $435, so expect selling to accelerate if the market breaks this key technical level.  Since everyone who is attracted to AAPL already owns it, I’m not sure how quickly AAPL will find support from new buyers if it triggers a larger wave of stop-loss selling.  The silver lining  is another wave of high-volume selling brings this stock one step closer to finding a bottom.  All the fearful and hopeful holders need to be driven off so AAPL can build a solid foundation of confident and steady holders that will not flinch in the face of further selling.  It is their steadiness that will finally allow AAPL to rebound.

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.