On Thursday the S&P500 surged higher, extending Wednesday’s bounce off of 2,600 support and the 200dma. Markets sold-off Tuesday on fears of 3% Treasuries, but that nervousness and uncertainty evaporated as the focus returned to earnings. So far Facebook and Amazon knocked the ball out of the park and that strength is putting investors at ease.
While anyone can explain what happened after the fact (hindsight bias), it wasn’t hard to see this bounce coming a few days ago. This is what I told readers in Tuesday’s free blog posts:
“The thing to remember about today’s 3% headline is bond prices have been rising since Trump’s election. For practical purposes, 3% is no more significant than 2.9% or 3.1%. The round number simply makes for a better headline. Will 3% change anything, probably not. If the market didn’t care about 2.5%, 2.7%, or 2.9%, then 3% won’t matter either. This market has been incredibly resilient because confident owners refused to sell every bearish headline thrown at it over the last three months. Will this time be different? Not likely.”
Predicting the market isn’t hard if you know what to look for because the same thing keeps happening over and over. But just because we know what is going to happen doesn’t make trading easy. Far and away the hardest part is getting the timing right. That is where experience and confidence comes in. Several months ago investors were begging for a pullback so they could jump aboard this raging bull market. But now that prices dipped, rather than embrace the discounts, these same people are running scared. Markets dip and bounce all the time, but we only make money if we time our trades well.
The most important thing to remember is risk is a function of height. The higher we are, the greater the risks. By that measure, Tuesday’s dip near the 2018 lows was actually one of the safest times to buy stocks this year. Did it feel that way? Of course not. But that is why most people lose money in the stock market. If most people were selling Tuesday, and most people lose money, then shouldn’t we have been buying? Given the market’s reaction today, the answer is a pretty resounding yes.
The point of this post isn’t to brag about the calls I made, but letting people know it is possible to read the market and make money from these swings if they learn to look at the right things and ignore all the other noise around them.
And this doesn’t just apply to this week’s move. In January I warned readers the relentless climb higher was unsustainable and incredibly risky. Just when the crowd was feeling the most confident, February turned into a bloodbath. But what most people failed to realize is that dip was actually the safest time to be buyings stocks because prices were dramatically lower. It is always safer to buy when fear and uncertainty are peaking than when everyone is calm and confident. This year, far and away the riskiest time to own stocks was in January when everyone was confident and the safest was to buy when everyone was scared in February.
Then we come to what happened since. I told readers the selloff did enough damage that we shouldn’t expect a rebound back to the highs. Instead, look for a sideways consolidation and a trading range to develop. In a trading range we buy weakness and sell strength because every directional move fizzles and reverses. And what has happened since February? Every directional move fizzled and reversed.
While it is easy to identify a trading range when looking at an old chart, these things also easy to spot in real-time. Unfortunately most people miss it because their judgement is clouded with bullish or bearish biases. They assume every move the higher or lower is the start of the next big move. But just when everyone is convinced the rally is back on, or the selloff is about to get worse, the move fizzles and reverses.
I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have been doing this long enough to recognize these patters and profit from them as they happen. If you learn what to look for, you can do it too.
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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.