The S&P500 finished higher for the sixth consecutive day and fourteen out of the last seventeen. There was no real news driving this strength, instead we continue rallying on “no news is good news”.
August was a rough month for stocks as repeated selloffs threatened to break this market. North Korea, political gridlock, and hurricanes all weighed heavily on the market’s mood. The news didn’t get any better in September, but amazingly enough, the market stopped caring and prices firmed up. For those of us that were paying attention, this was a powerful signal life was still left in this rally.
I did my best to warn Bears in my September 7th free blog post, very creatively titled, “A warning for Bears”. In it I cautioned a market that refuses to go down will eventually go up. I also encouraged bears to cover their shorts while their losses were small. The market closed that day at 2,465. A few weeks later we find ourselves 70-points higher in what looks like a painful short-squeeze.
Figuring out what the market is going to do isn’t hard once you know what to look for. In this case a market refusing to go down on bad news. The problem is too many people arrived with a bearish bias. This rally was “too old” and had gone “too far, too fast” and “a pullback was long overdue”. Bearish headlines convinced them it was only a matter of time before they would be proven right.
Blinded by confidence, Bears failed to recognize the significance of this counterintuitive strength because they were too busy arguing how dumb the market was. Unfortunately that’s not how this game works. When the market disagrees with us, without a doubt we are the ones who are wrong and it is best to get out of the way before we get run over.
But that was then and this is now. What most readers want to know is what’s comes next. Given how many up-days we’ve had over the last three weeks, the bears might finally be partially right. We won’t see the widely predicted crash, but 70-points in three weeks is a big move for this slow-moving market. At the very least we should prepare for a normal and healthy pullback to support.
One-direction moves are often fueled by bears scrambling to cover their shorts. This creates a flurry of near-term buying, but short-sellers are a relatively small group and they don’t have the buying power to drive larger moves. After a certain level most bears have capitulated and then it is up to other buyers to keep a move going higher.
Only big money has the resources to keep a larger directional move going. But the thing to know about big money is it hates chasing prices higher. Most of them have been doing this long enough to know that if they are patient, the desperate buying will subside and they will be able to jump in at lower prices. In many ways this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because if enough traders wait for a pullback, the lack of buying actually causes the pullback.
Without a doubt the path of least resistance is higher, but we know markets don’t move in straight lines. We need to mix in a few down days to keep this market healthy and sustainable. When a red-day happens, don’t freak out and start calling a top. If this market was going to crash, it would have happened weeks ago when headlines and sentiment were far more dire. Instead, expect the rate of gains to slow and for the market to spend a few weeks consolidating recent gains. We can keep going up for a few more days, but the higher we go, the harder we fall during the normal and healthy down wave. But either way, this is definitely a better place to be taking profits than adding new positions. Buy-and-hold investors can keep holding, but traders with profits should start thinking about locking them in, and those with cash should resist the temptation to chase.
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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.