Waiting for new highs

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Mar 31
S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

Stocks are just shy of all-time highs as the sideways trade continues.  Today was the last day of the quarter and volume was well under average yet again.  The market has largely traded between 1,840 and 1,885 since mid-February and Monday’s strength pushes us back into the upper half of that range.

Owners don’t want to sell and those with cash don’t want to buy.  This standoff leaves us trading sideways on low volume.  Holding these levels for several weeks gives the edge to bulls since markets tend to roll over from unsustainable levels fairly quickly.  Bears keep predicting an imminent sell off and while we might be approaching one, we need a material catalyst to kick it off, something that has so far been MIA.  To this point owners have ignored any and all bad news as they continue holding stocks and that reluctance to sell keeps supply tight, allowing this market to maintain current levels even on low demand.

While many shorts were chased out of the market in February’s rebound,  this sideways trade seduced many of them back in.  They shorted every dip to 1,840, but since many have stop-losses above recent highs near 1,885, that means many of these shorts have not been shaken out by recent volatility.  While those in cash might be reluctant to buy stock, shorts with automatic stop-losses above 1,885 will fuel a short squeeze and provide the lift needed to push us to new highs.

Whether this breakout is ultimately sustainable is in the hands of those sitting on cash.  Will they buy the breakout, or will they patiently wait for more attractive prices?  It seems like many of those that believe in this market are already in, leaving fewer left to chase a breakout higher.  Larger selloffs in recent years occurred in the low-volume summer months and sitting near all-time highs leaves us vulnerable to the inevitable bout of periodic selling.

Expected Outcome:
The market is poised to hit all-time highs in coming days, but demand will likely dry up following the primarily short-squeeze driven gains.

Alternate Outcome:
The market is only up a handful of points since the start of the year and this sideways consolidation could be setting the stage for the next round of bull market gains.

Trading Plan:
As always, it comes down to timeframe.  Long-term investors can and should ignore these near-term fluctuations.  The one exception is deciding when to add new positions.  We are near all-time highs and patient, long-term investors will likely see better prices at some point over the next six-months.  There is no reason for these long-term investors to try to time the market with their existing positions, but they can hold off on making new purchases.

Intermediate investors can consider proactively locking in profits in anticipation of a pullback into the 1,750/1,850 trading range, or at the very least employ a trailing stop to protect recent profits.  More nimble traders can wait for the short-squeeze to all-time highs and short the market if it stalls shortly after.

Plan your trade; trade your plan 


About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, 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 children.