The S&P500 closed at yet another record high on Tuesday. Never mind the fact we only moved 0.07% above Monday’s record close, which was up only 0.18% from Friday’s close. Records are records and today counts…right?
For those of us that are paying attention, this looks a lot like a lethargic wedge higher and suggests this market is running out of gas, not on the verge of exploding higher. Explosive moves are by definition explosive. A tiny trigger blossoms into in a much larger move. Sometimes it is an unexpected headline, other times a technical breakout. But something triggers a surge of buying and away we go.
Unfortunately this wedge higher is the opposite of explosive. We keep getting good news. Today the Trump administration said they wouldn’t put conditions on repatriated profits and companies could use their newly liberated cash for dividends and buybacks. More cash in shareholders’ pockets is always a good thing. Then there was the technical the breakout as we moved into record territory. The cumulative result of both of these bullish developments, a measly 0.07% gain. Something so small it doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error.
Every day bulls are trying to push us higher, but the gains are getting smaller and smaller. That reeks of exhaustion, not unbridled potential. Without a doubt it is encouraging we managed to hold recent gains. Typically markets tumble from unsustainable levels quickly. This strength comes from owners who are confidently holding for higher prices and few are taking profits. Their conviction keeps supply tight and props up prices. Unfortunately propping appears to be the best bulls can manage. We need new buyers to keep this rally going and right now those with cash are reluctant to chase prices any higher.
Everyone knows the market moves in waves and it is obvious from the chart this market is at the upper end of its range. I still believe in this bull market and am most definitely not a perma-bear predicting a crash. But I recognize when the market gets ahead of itself and needs to consolidate recent gains. Without a doubt we reached a point where we need to cool off.
The quickest way to consolidate recent gains is dipping back to support. That is a normal and healthy way to reset the clock and clear the way for a continuation higher. The slower route is trading sideways for a longer period of time and allowing the trend lines and moving averages to catch up. We’re only a couple of weeks into this sideways trade and it would take several more weeks of treading water before we come close to consolidating recent gains. As a point of reference, the 50dma is still 70-points underneath us.
Strictly looking at the market dynamics, at best we trade sideways for several weeks. Worst we dip back to 2,500 support. Either way this is not a great time to be putting new money into the stock market.
If we move beyond the market and consider looming headlines, Republicans are making good progress toward tax reform. Without a doubt this encouraging news contributed to recent gains. But it doesn’t take a political science degree to know these negotiations get ugly, often to the point of crushing all hope moments before a deal is finally reached. That is standard operating procedure for Congress and we should expect more of the same here.
Republicans are currently in the brainstorming phase where everything and anything goes. But soon they will transition to the compromise stage where opposing sides and special interests dig in and threaten to blow the entire thing up if they don’t get their way. It is only time before the current feelings of hope for tax cuts devolve into cynicism. Most likely that shift in sentiment will be the catalyst that triggers a pullback to support.
Without a doubt our politicians could unexpectedly announce fair and reasonable tax reform ahead of schedule, but I certainly wouldn’t bet my money on it. Between the price-action and the headline environment, I suspect the next few weeks will be a lot more challenging for the stock market.
Buy-and-hold investors should stick with their favorite stocks, but shorter-term traders should look for opportunities to lock-in profits and the most aggressive can think about shorting. That said, the path of least resistance is still higher and any dip should be bought. This will be nothing more than a normal and healthy dip on our way higher.
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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.