Monthly Archives: September 2017

Sep 29

Weekly Scorecard: Why this breakout was inevitable

By Jani Ziedins | Scorecard

Welcome to Cracked.Market’s weekly scorecard:

This post includes a summary of the week’s market developments, links to the free posts I published, and analysis on how accurate each post was since I wrote it. 


Weekly Analysis

This week’s theme was “no news is good news”. After several weeks of dire headlines, this week produced very little on the news front. That reprieve from bad news was all this market needed to surge to record highs. As I’ve been saying since early August, a market that refuses to go down will eventually go up. This proved to be the week we’ve been patiently waiting for.

This is a mild breakout as far as breakouts go, but there is nothing wrong with that. The market likes symmetry and last month’s 2% pullback was modest. As a result we should expect an equally modest rebound. This is a healthy market and there is nothing wrong or unusual with these slow and methodical gains.

Few things calm nerves like rising prices. Many of last month’s sellers are quickly going from fear of a crash to fear of being left behind. Underweight money managers are who were waiting for a bigger pullback are starting face the possibility it isn’t going to happen. If this market was vulnerable and fragile, last month’s headlines would have sent us tumbling. Standing strong through both the figurative and two literal storms tells us the path of least resistance remains higher. Gains will continue to be slow and choppy over the near-term, but expect the pace of gains to pick up later in the year as big money starts chasing performance into year-end.


Tuesday September 26th: Why smart traders ignore today’s price-action

In a directional market, a late fizzle like this would be a big red flag. It warns us there is no follow through and support is crumbling. But this isn’t a directional market and traditional trading signals don’t apply.

We have been stuck in a predominantly sideways market most of this year and every breakout and breakdown has been a false alarm. Anyone who failed to realize this has been making the exact wrong trade at the exact wrong moment. Buying the breakout just before it fizzles and selling the breakdown just before it rebounds.

Unfortunately the market fools traders with these tricks far more often than people are willing to admit. That’s because it is nearly impossible to come to the market without a bullish or bearish bias. Many traders cognitively know the market trades sideways 60% of the time, but in the moment they always think prices are either about to take off, or on the verge of collapse.

Score 10/10: In a more typical market, Tuesday’s weak close would have been big red flag and an attractive entry for a short trade. But this isn’t a typical market and we must ignore traditional trading signals. Just as I suspected, Tuesday’s weak close was nothing more than a false alarm and the next four trading sessions saw us charge to record highs.


Thursday September 28th: The bull that refuses to die

Volumes have been average or above since Labor Day. Big money finally returned from vacation and is getting back to work. It is encouraging to see they are more inclined to buy this strength than sell it. Fragile and vulnerable markets tumble quickly. Sticking near the psychologically significant 2,500 level for nearly three-weeks tells us the foundation under our feet is solid.

Earlier in the week we dipped under support, but rather than sell this technical violation, many traders rushed in to buy the dip. Ignore what the bears are saying, this market is healthy and poised to continue higher. August’s basing pattern refreshed the market by chasing off weak owners and replacing them with confident dip buyers. Given how long we have been holding near the highs tells us few owners are taking profits and most are confidently waiting for higher prices. As long as confident owners keep supply tight, expect the drift higher to continue.

Score 10/10: Big money is buying this market, not taking profits. The path of least resistance remains higher and Friday’s surge into record territory confirms it. Without a doubt this market wants to go higher and it is running over anyone who doubts it.


Cracked.Market University:

I started a new educational series and will publish new articles each Monday and Wednesday. Sign up for Free Email Alerts to be notified when new articles are published.

I included a brief quote from each educational piece below. Click on the headline to read the entire article. And don’t forget to come back for next week’s new educational pieces.

The most powerful technique for analyzing the market

Traders often predict the outcome of a market moving event correctly, unfortunately they are not as good at figuring out the market’s reaction. This leads to the popular misconception the market is “fixed” and “rigged”. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I will cover this fallacy in another blog post. In the meantime just take my word for it the market is an equal opportunity humiliator and does a fair and equitable job screwing over both retail and institutional investors. When you lose money, it isn’t because some cunning market villain stole your money, it’s because your analysis is missing key ingredients.

In my two decades of trading, far and away the most effective tool I use in identifying market’s next move is studying what it is NOT doing. Almost everyone obsesses over what the market is doing and tries to to fit these moves into their narratives, whether that is fundamental, technical, or a hybrid of the two.

Why popular investing strategies don’t work

Every popular investing strategy stops working once too many people start using it because the crowd quickly distorts the price-action that made it work in the first place. They sucks up all the profit potential and it is hardly worth the effort. Or the crowd triggers fake breakouts that suck everyone in and then spit them out with less money than they started with.


Knowing what the market is going to do is the easy part. Getting the timing right is where all the money is made. Have insightful analysis like this delivered to your inbox every day during market hours while there is still time to act on it. Sign up for a free two-week trial.


Have a great weekend and I hope to see you again next week.

Jani

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Sep 28

The bull that refuses to die

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

End of Day Update:

The S&P500 only closed higher by 0.12%, but that was enough to hit a new record close. Gains have been slow, but steady. There was no meaningful news driving today’s strength, simply a continuation of the recent drift higher. Given how ominous the last several weeks have been, at this point no news is good news. As I’ve been saying for a while, a market that refuses to go down will eventually go up.

It’s been several days since a North Korea headline hit the front page, but even if it did, the market has grown immune to those headlines and it will take something spectacular to dent this rally. Anyone who was afraid of North Korea sold weeks ago. When there is no one left to sell the news, it stops mattering.

The GOP released its tax reform proposal and the market is cautiously optimistic. Given how poorly Republicans handled healthcare, most traders are taking a cynical approach to tax reform. I suspect something will pass eventually, but it will look far different than what was proposed. But at this point anything is a positive since the stock market has largely given up on tax cuts. The easiest way to see the lack of hope is how little the stock market reacted to healthcare’s defeat. The market barely flinched at Trump’s and the Republican’s political humiliation. If traders had high expectations for tax reform, we would have seen a much bigger reaction to the Republican’s inability to get anything accomplished.

Volumes have been average or above since Labor Day. Big money finally returned from vacation and is getting back to work. It is encouraging to see they are more inclined to buy this strength than sell it. Fragile and vulnerable markets tumble quickly. Sticking near the psychologically significant 2,500 level for nearly three-weeks tells us the foundation under our feet is solid.

Earlier in the week we dipped under support, but rather than sell this technical violation, many traders rushed in to buy the dip. Ignore what the bears are saying, this market is healthy and poised to continue higher. August’s basing pattern refreshed the market by chasing off weak owners and replacing them with confident dip buyers. Given how long we have been holding near the highs tells us few owners are taking profits and most are confidently waiting for higher prices. As long as confident owners keep supply tight, expect the drift higher to continue.

August’s 2% pullback was quick and shallow. The market likes symmetry and as a result the subsequent rebound has also been equally unspectacular. There is nothing wrong with that, but it also isn’t a surprise or a concern how slow the breakout has been. Recent sellers are still nervous and it will take a little longer before they conceded selling last month was a mistake and buy back in. But few things calm nerves like rising prices and soon the fear of losses will be replaced by fear of being left behind.

Expect the gains to be slow and choppy over the near term, but soon underweight money managers are going to give up waiting for a larger pullback. Their chasing prices higher will give the market a boost in the final months of 2017. As long as the gains are slow and steady, they will be sustainable. I will get a lot more defensive if the rate of gains ramp up. A good opportunity to take profits could be following a pop on a tax reform agreement.

Expect these daily gyrations to continue, but the path of least resistance remains higher. Stick with what has been working and that is buy-and-hold and adding on dips.

Jani

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Sep 27

CMU: Why popular investing strategies don’t work

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Welcome to the new Cracked.Market University educational series. Look for new articles every Monday and Wednesday.

Why popular investing strategies don’t work

The library, bookstore, and late night TV are filled with “surefire” investing strategies that will allow you to quit your job and live a life of leisure. At least that is what the flashy dust jacket or energetic pitchman promises us. Follow their extra special fundamental screen, chart pattern, or buy a piece of software and you are well on your way to printing money. Sounds great, doesn’t it? If only it was that easy.

The first thing to realize is the stock market is largely a zero-sum game. That means under most circumstances, one trader’s profits come directly out of another trader’s pocket. This isn’t always a bad thing and both of sides can earn handsome profits in a rising market. But like every pyramid scheme, the last person loses out.

Profit opportunities arise in the stock market when prices are not where they are supposed to be. This is commonly referred to as an inefficiency. For one reason or another a stock’s price is out of alignment. Maybe sentiment is overly bullish or bearish. Maybe the public doesn’t know the company’s sales are about to miss expectations by a wide margin. Or maybe a secret product is about to be announced. Whatever the reason, the stock is about to experience a large move and owners are rewarded for being in the right place at the right time.

One of the most important things to realize about these profit opportunities is they are limited in potential. Not everyone can profit from the same opportunity. If too many people buy a discounted stock, their buying increases the stock price until the discount disappears.

Think of these profit opportunities like a $100 bill lying on the street. If I find it by myself, I keep all $100. If a good friend and I see it at the same time, we split it and both of us are $50 richer. If five friends come across the $100, each person benefits by $20. If 1,000 people find the $100, each person gets ten cents and at that point it is hardly worth the effort.

This same phenomena occurs with popular investment strategies. Let’s say a hypothetical formula identifies stocks that are undervalued by 20%. If we keep this strategy to ourselves, we make a lot of money. But if we publish a book with our strategy, a lot of people are going to start chasing the same 20% discounts. The more people looking for them, the harder it will be to get there first.

After missing out a few too many times, some investors decide they are perfectly happy with a 19% profit. Rather than wait for the stock to fall 20%, they jump in early so they don’t get left out again. Soon a lot of other people start doing the same thing and because of all the early buying, the stock never falls to a 20% discount.

Then some people decide 18% is good enough and they start buying even earlier. This process repeats over and over again until the discount shrinks from 20% to 10% to 5% and even 1%. The process of beating each other with the same investing strategy only stops once the profit opportunity is so small it isn’t worth the effort.

The above describes value investing, but the same process occurs in momentum stocks too. Let’s say there is a great stock screen that identifies companies with the largest profit growth. The strategy tells us to buy these momentum stocks when they breakout from a consolidation because that is when they have the most explosive upside. But soon everyone is chasing the same growth stocks at the same time and the breakout moves so fast few people can buy it before the stock is too far extended to buy safely.

Frustrated investors who get left behind a few too many times commit to buying the stock a little before it breaks out so they don’t get left behind again. It doesn’t take long before more and more investors are buying the stock before it breakouts and soon the buy early crowd is causing a breakout before the stock is ready. Without a sufficient consolidation, the breakout fizzles and tumbles back into the consolidation, triggering everyone’s stop-loss. Rather than make money using this surefire investing idea, all the followers are sitting on losses.

Every popular investing strategy stops working once too many people start using it because the crowd quickly distorts the price-action that made it work in the first place. They sucks up all the profit potential and it is hardly worth the effort. Or the crowd triggers fake breakouts that suck everyone in and then spit them out with less money than they started with.

Dogs of the Dow, value investing, momentum investing, technical analysis, candlesticks, cup-with-handle, etc, etc. When any strategy gets too popular, it stops working. The very act of people following a strategy changes it and that is enough to destroy the profit potential.

But don’t despair, there are a million different way to profit from the stock market. The key is to find a strategy that fits the way you look at the market and then add your special sauce. There is nothing wrong with starting with an existing strategy, but you must bring something extra to the process to make it profitable. Maybe you are a technophile and have a knack for knowing which products will be a hit before Wall Street figures it out. Or maybe you know which laggards are about to turn things around. Something, anything, but you absolutely must have that special sauce otherwise you are just one of clones fighting over the same $100.

In future Cracked.Market University pieces I will help you find unique ways to look at the market that will help you find your special sauce. Be sure to come back for more free CMU posts.

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Sep 26

Why smart traders ignore today’s price-action

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

End of Day Update:

On Wednesday the S&P500 rebounded from Tuesday’s selloff but it was unable to hold those early gains and closed flat.

In a directional market, a late fizzle like this would be a big red flag. It warns us there is no follow through and support is crumbling. But this isn’t a directional market and traditional trading signals don’t apply.

We have been stuck in a predominantly sideways market most of this year and every breakout and breakdown has been a false alarm. Anyone who failed to realize this has been making the exact wrong trade at the exact wrong moment. Buying the breakout just before it fizzles and selling the breakdown just before it rebounds.

Unfortunately the market fools traders with these tricks far more often than people are willing to admit. That’s because it is nearly impossible to come to the market without a bullish or bearish bias. Many traders cognitively know the market trades sideways 60% of the time, but in the moment they always think prices are either about to take off, or on the verge of collapse.

Read any blog post or social media stream and all you see is endless bickering over whether the market is about to explode higher, or about to plummet. The rarest opinion is “meh, the market isn’t doing much and I don’t think it will do anything any time soon.”

Unfortunately for most traders these bullish and bearish biases convince them to buy the breakout or sell the breakdown, moments before prices reverse. Then they either chicken out or hit their stop-loss and lock-in their losses. To add insult to injury, prices reverse hours after the trader closes his position. Almost every single person reading this blog knows exactly what that feels like.

Buy high and sell low is a horrible way to trade the market, unfortunately it happens way more often than anyone wants to admit. Directional traders make a lot of money getting here, but they give it all back in these sideways stretches.

The above was a very long-winded way of saying, ignore today’s late fizzle because it is meaningless. Just like last week’s breakout didn’t mean anything, and the fizzle before that. We are stuck in a market that refuses to go down nearly as much as it refuses to go up. Don’t fall for these tricks by reading too much into this meaningless price-action.

While we are in a mostly sideways market, the path of least resistance is definitely higher. Headlines have been resoundingly bearish over the last several weeks and the market has flatly refused to breakdown. If this market was fragile and vulnerable to a crash, it would have happened weeks ago. The fact we withstood wave after wave of bearish headlines means this market is far more resilient than most people realize. A market that refuses to go down will eventually go up.

Keep doing what has been working. Stick with your buy-and-hold positions and add on dips. Big money returned from summer vacation and they are more inclined to buy this market than sell it. Expect this demand to prop up prices over the near-term as big money keeps buying every dip. Over the medium-term expect this resilience to pressure underweight managers into chasing prices higher into year-end. This is an old bull market, but it still has life in it. Underestimate it at your peril.

Jani

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Sep 25

The most powerful technique for analyzing the market

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Welcome to the new Cracked.Market University educational series. Look for new articles every Monday and Wednesday.

Many traders approach the market by trying to predict the outcome of an event and profit the market’s expected reaction. If the Fed raises rates, then the market will respond this way. If unemployment misses expectations, the market will move that way. Cause-and-effect analysis works well in everyday life it is natural to bring this line of thinking to the market. Unfortunately this method fails to account for how markets work and this omission explains why so many people lose money.

Traders often predict the outcome of a market moving event correctly, unfortunately they are not as good at figuring out the market’s reaction. This leads to the popular misconception the market is “fixed” and “rigged”. This couldn’t be further from the truth and I will cover this fallacy in another blog post. In the meantime just take my word for it the market is an equal opportunity humiliator and does a fair and equitable job screwing over both retail and institutional investors. When you lose money, it isn’t because some cunning market villain stole your money, it’s because your analysis is missing key ingredients.

In my two decades of trading, far and away the most effective tool I use in identifying market’s next move is studying what it is NOT doing. Almost everyone obsesses over what the market is doing and tries to to fit these moves into their narratives, whether that is fundamental, technical, or a hybrid of the two.

The problem is looking at what the market is doing inevitably leads us to thinking about what it “should” be doing. When the market doesn’t do what we think it should be doing, rather than admit we are missing something, our natural instinct is to argue with the it. This response is incredibly counterproductive and leads to more lost money than every other mistake traders make.

Take the current situation with North Korea. This is obviously a bearish development and there are grave consequences for everyone involved if this situation escalates beyond words. Despite these ominous warning signs, the market continues to hover near all-time highs. This leads many people claim the market is complacent, stupid, and worse. Common sense tells us the market should have sold off dramatically on these dire headlines. But we didn’t. That mean either the market is wrong, or god forbid, we are wrong. We couldn’t possibly be wrong, so obviously the market is wrong.

Rather than acknowledge the market’s strength, these critics double down and claim it will only be time before prices crash and they are proven right. The problem is these traders are missing the incredibly powerful signal the market is giving us. This market is not selling off, not because it is stupid, but because it is unbelievably resilient and strong. There are few things more bullish than a market that refuses to go down on bad news. Everyone who is spending all their energy arguing with this market is about to get run over.

If this market was fragile and vulnerable, it would have crashed a long time ago. Rather than argue with it, we should acknowledge it. Better yet, let’s profit from it! A market that refuses to down will eventually go up.

The same thing happens on the opposite side. A market that fails to go up on good news is a clear warning of potential exhaustion. A recent example is AMZN spiking on the acquisition of WFM. Since then the stock is down 13% and it definitely looks like it is struggling to find new buyers.

Asking what is the market is not doing gives a trader great insight into which direction a stock is inclined to go. A market that refuses to go down on bad news has a lot of upside potential in it. A stock that fails to go higher despite all the praise it is getting is a clear sign new buyers are scarce and at the very least it needs to rest and consolidate recent gains.

I have a large assortment of tools and techniques I use to evaluate the market, but this is far and away the easiest, most powerful, and most profitable tool I use.

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