Time to get out?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Dec 11
S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
It was a bloody day in the markets as we gave back all of Friday’s employment pop.  The market is a couple of points above support at 1,780 and a dip under this level will trigger a second wave of stop-loss selling.  The market remains comfortably above the 50dma, but we will likely test this level if we cannot hold 1,780.

MARKET SENTIMENT
The question on everyone’s’ mind this afternoon was “buy the dip or sell before it is too late?”  This selloff roiled the calm ride we’ve had to this point.  This is far from a crash but it did serve as a wake up call for many traders.

Volume was only 7% above average, showing an orderly selloff without much panic.  This tells us the decline was more a function of buyers not showing up than a mass rush for the exits.  Like everything in the markets, there are two ways to read this.  The bullish view is confident owners don’t sell weakness and the market will quickly bounce on the lack of shares available for sale.  The bear’s counter argument is we haven’t seen the real wave of emotional selling hit the market yet.

For the first eleven months of the year I believed in the bulls argument that confident owners keep supply tight and prop up prices.  But given the dramatic shift in sentiment and churn in ownership from value oriented dip buyers to momentum chasers, I no longer have confidence in the resolve of owners to keep holding in the face of weakness.  These are buyers who rushed to the market once the coast was free of doom and gloom headlines.  These new, fair-weather owners are likely to be scared by their own shadow their selling will pressure markets.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
It doesn’t feel like the dip is done.  The low volume selling shows we haven’t hit the emotional capitulation that often signals a bottom.  We will likely break support at 1,780 on Thursday and that stop-loss selling will trigger another leg lower.  The next stop from there will be the 50dma.  After that it largely depends on traders emotions.  Will confident owners keep holding and end the selloff?  Or will headlines screaming Taper cause many to throw out all their carefully laid plans and allow the herd selling destroys their resolve?

Alternate Outcome:
Every other dip this year felt like the real thing, why is this one any different?  We dip a couple percent, everyone gets all worked up, selling exhausts itself, and we make new highs a week later.  While this pattern cannot continue forever, its been the best trade of the year.

Trading Plan:
While we might see a modest bounce in the morning as dip-buyers try to defend 1,780, expect a fresh wave of selling to hit the market if this support level doesn’t hold.  How each trader responds to this move largely depends on their timeframe.  Nimble swing traders can short this violation of support with a stop above 1,780.  Intermediate-term traders looking to buy the dip should wait for lower prices.  Longer-viewed traders need to get ready to buy their favorite stocks when emotional owners are selling them at steep discounts.

While I expect further selling, the one thing that will turn me into a buyer is if we slip under 1,780 but bounce back decisively.  Failing to trigger another leg lower after breaking support shows the selling exhausted itself and this is yet another dip buying opportunity.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

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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.