The S&P 500 popped 1.25% in one of the biggest up-days of 2016. There wasn’t a headline worthy of this price-action, instead these gains were driven more by a lack of bad news than anything else. Overnight Chinese markets ended flat, Japan was up, and oil stopped selling off. What was holding us down the couple of weeks let go and the market responded by taking flight. Bears should take note: when we the market refuses to sell off on bad news, that tells us it is poised to go higher once the negative pressure lets up. That is exactly what happened Tuesday.
There are two types of pullbacks, routine and emotional. Routine pullbacks are part of the natural ebb and flow of supply and demand. Two-steps forward, one-step back. These are measured and controlled. On the other side, emotional crashes occur when fear spreads like wildfire through the market and trades “sell first and ask questions later”.
This distinction is important to us is because it lets us anticipate how deep a pullback will be. Routine dips bounce sooner than most expect while emotion fueled selloffs go far further than people are prepared for. In broad terms, routine dips bounce above support and emotional moves smash through support before bouncing. Tactically speaking, we buy routine pullbacks early while emotional selloffs require more patience before jumping in. Since this dip was fueled by recycled headlines, it had less potential to dive to new lows and is why it made sense to buy the dip early.
Just like in nature, symmetry is an important part of the markets. Less potential on the downside also means less opportunity on the upside. Routine rebounds are far more modest than their emotional counterparts. That means while Tuesday’s gains are nice, we should be thinking about taking profits sooner than later. We will be able to measure this rebound in the 10s of points instead of the multiple 100s that followed February’s highly emotional lows.
2,100 is the obvious target as long as China and Oil remain subdued. Given that we didn’t fall very far, there is less upside driven by chasing and squeezing. But what this rebound does create is even more confident owners who are that much less likely to sell the next round of negative headlines. If we can break through 2,100 and hold above this level, that sets the stage for an assault on all-time highs above 2,130. Hold those highs and it could be a nice summer to own stocks. On the flip side, if we quickly unwind Tuesday’s gains over the next couple of days, this was a bull-trap and we are headed for a retest of 2,000 support. Trade accordingly.
What’s a good trade worth to you? How about avoiding a loss?
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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.