Breaking support

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Mar 13
S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks opened higher, but plummeted into the red, crashing through prior support at 1,850.  Volume was barely above average, suggesting the selling was not nearly as dramatic as the price-action made it appear.

MARKET SENTIMENT
We closed a few points under 1,850 and triggered a wave of automatic stop-loss selling under this support level, but this where the selling stalled, not accelerated.  Flushing out any and all with an itchy trigger finger makes it easier for the market to find a floor on Friday.

Last week we rallied in the face of weak Chinese data and political confrontation in Ukraine, but this week we sold off on the same headlines.  Rather than attribute this strength and weakness to headlines, it appears to simply be typical market gyrations.  Modestly above average volume on such a “shockingly large” decline suggest this weakness was more due to a lack of demand than heard based selling.  We’ve come a long way on all timescales and after running out of momentum chasers and short-covering, a wider pool of prospective buyers seems uninterested in paying record highs for stocks.

While weak demand is weighing on stocks here, we need to see previously confident owners change their minds and sell if this weakness is to accelerate lower.  Through multiple dips, most owners showed they are comfortable holding headline risk and seem unphased by weakness here and there.  That confidence in the future keeps supply off the market and make it easier to find a bottom.  This rally will end like every one before it, but first we need a catalyst to shatter owners’ confidence.  So far that still seems missing.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Stalling near upper end of trading range.  Vulnerable to a larger selloff, but need a catalyst.
Markets slipped today, but this 1% dip is unlikely to concern many owners who have confidently sat through bigger selloffs in recent months.  As long as they keep holding, it will be hard to enter a downward spiral of selling.  For that we need something to interject a large amount of uncertainty into the market.  While Ukraine could be that catalyst, the market’s ambivalence last week shows most traders are not buying Obama’s and Putin’s bluffs.  While the market is vulnerable to a bigger selloff, look for it to find a floor soon unless headlines take a significant turn for the worse.

Alternate Outcome:
Sometimes markets fall for no other reason than herd driven selling.  If the market crashes through the 50dma, expect many traders to adopt a sell first, ask questions later approach to risk management.

Trading Plan:
If the selloff stalls on Friday, we could be in the mist of another buyable dip.  For the short thesis to work, we need far more scary headlines to shatter the market’s confidence.

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.