On Thursday the S&P 500 gapped lower at the open, undercutting the widely followed 2,700 support level and triggering another wave of defensive selling. But in midmorning trade, supply dried up and by the end of the day, the market surged 50-points above those early lows.
Everyone knows the market moves in waves, but that doesn’t stop people from being surprised every time it moves in waves. Our bullish or bearish bias convince us each gyration higher or lower is the start of a much larger move. Last week bulls were convinced the market was racing back to the highs. This week bears claimed their long-awaited collapse was finally upon us. And you know what, both sides got it wrong. That’s because they forgot the market moves in waves.
In Tuesday’s free blog post, “Don’t fear the normal and routine”, I warned readers:
“Every dip feels real and by rule, it has to. If it didn’t, no one would sell and prices wouldn’t dip. Without a doubt, October’s correction felt real. This week’s collapse feels just as scary. But just because it feels real doesn’t make it real. In fact, all of the selling over the last few weeks makes it even harder for this dip to find new sellers. The longer this drags on, the more people sell, the fewer sellers we have left, and the more solid the market becomes.”
Guess what? Thursday’s early selloff failed because we ran out of sellers. Pundits love to tell us no one can predict the market, but it really isn’t that hard once we realize that the same things keep happening over and over. Sign up for Free Email Alerts so you don’t miss profitable insights like these.
I wish the only thing we needed to know was what comes next. Then making money would be easy. Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. Not only do we need to know what is going to happen, but more importantly, we need to know when it is going to happen. Getting the timing right is where all the money is made.
While no one knows precisely when the market will make its next move, we do know when the odds are on our side. For example, this morning we knew the market was ripe for a bounce. Number one, we remember markets move in waves. Number two, all of the selling over the last few weeks chased off a big chunk of would-be sellers and supply would be tight. While there are no guarantees in the market, seeing the dip under 2,700 support stall because supply was drying up was a great signal this was time to jump in and buy the dip.
If both bulls and bears agree the market moves in waves, then both sides should have seen today’s rebound coming. The main point of contention is what comes next. Bulls say today’s higher-low is a healthy part of the recovery process. Bears claim this bounce only delays the inevitable collapse. But as long as both sides agree we will go higher over the next day or two, there is only one way to trade this.
That said, I definitely fall in the bull camp. As we witnessed in October, crashes are breathtakingly quick. Selling begets selling and cracks turn into gaping holes. But that’s not what is happening here. Wednesday’s dip under 2,700 bounced quickly. As did Thursday’s dip under this critical support level. If the market was fragile and vulnerable, that was the perfect way to launch a tidal wave of defensive selling that knocks us under October’s lows. Is that what happened? Nope. Supply dried up and we bounced. At this point, it is harder to find fearful sellers than confident dip-buyers, and that bodes well for the market’s continued recovery.
But just because the market bounced today and things look good, don’t forget markets move in waves. That means this rebound will inevitably stall and pullback. The longer these consolidations drag on, the more volatility shrinks and the smaller these swings become. We are getting further along in the healing process and that means we shouldn’t expect this rebound to be as sharp as last weeks, or for the next dip to be as dramatic.
Of course, all of this goes out the window if we tumble under 2,700 support Friday and launch a tidal wave of defensive selling. But barring that worst case scenario, things look good and the path of least resistance over the near-, medium-, and long-term is higher.
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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.