Monthly Archives: February 2019

Feb 28

What it will take to finally break this market

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Analysis:

The S&P 500 slipped Thursday morning, but those early losses were modest and failed to ignite wider selling.

The biggest headline was Trump walking out of negotiations with North Korea. This development has limited implications for the US economy and is why it didn’t affect the stock market. But could this foreshadow a potential outcome during Trump’s far more critical meeting with the Chinese president? Could all the hype and hope surrounding the imminent trade deal turn into a similar bust? Given the market’s resilience today, it doesn’t seem worried, but sometimes it takes more than a subtle hint to get the market’s attention.

Prices continue to hover underneath 2,800 resistance. Even though Monday’s breakout fizzled, only pulling back a small amount is actually a bullish signal. If prices were overbought and vulnerable to a larger pullback, it would have happened quickly. Instead, prices continue hovering near the highs as confident owners refuse to take profits because they are waiting for even higher prices. That tells us this market wants to go even higher.

But all of this is dependent on a stable headline environment. Owners’ bullishness by itself has been enough to hold us near the highs and the market is resisting the more traditional ebb and flow of prices. But given how far we’ve come and how many weak holders are still hanging on because they haven’t been shaken out during a routine pullback, one piece of damning news has the potential to unleash a torrent of selling. At the moment, the most likely culprit would be hitting a major snag in negotiations with the Chinese.

Things look great and a market that refuses to go down will eventually go up. But we are on thin ice and if any selling starts in earnest, there is a lot of air underneath us.

High probability of modest gains and small chance of big losses. How a person trades this is up to their trading style, risk tolerance, and time frame. Nimble day traders can keep squeezing nickels and dimes out of the upside. Anyone holding for years or decades should ignore these daily gyrations. But those of us that trade over days and weeks need to be more careful.

The path of least resistance remains higher, but the rate of gains is slowing and the upside is more limited. But as long as owners refuse to take profits, expect the market to keep drifting higher.

That said, given how far we’ve come, there is a good chance the next pullback will be larger than normal and is something we need to keep an eye on. The market loves symmetry and last year’s epic collapse resulted in this year’s historic rebound. But when this rally finally runs out of steam, expect the ensuing step back to rattle a lot of nerves. Everything looks great for the time being, but that will change in an instant. While a return of volatility will scare retail investors, I’m looking forward to the trading opportunities it will create.

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM

Feb 26

Are We Pausing or Stalling at Resistance?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Update:

The S&P 500 broke through the 2,800 milestone Monday after Trump officially postponed the March 1st Chinese tariff escalation. That put traders into a buying mood. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm was short-lived and we quickly slipped back under this widely followed level. We flirted with 2,800 resistance again Tuesday, but ultimately we were unable to close above it.

The market hit its head on 2,800 resistance last October, November, and December, each occurrence resulting in a significant tumble. Over the last two days, it has proven to be a stumbling block again. Will this time end differently than the last three? That is the question everyone is wondering.

Widely watched resistance levels often turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. Prices rally up to resistance. Technical traders see this signal as a good place to take profits. Their profit-taking pressures prices, leading to a small pullback. Other traders see the weakness develop, so they start selling too, adding even more pressure. Prices keep slipping until either we run out of sellers, or they are attractive enough that dip buyers jump in and take advantage of the discounts.

Given how far the market’s come since the Christmas lows, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the market take a break and catch its breath. In fact, that would be the normal and healthy thing to do. I would be far more concerned about the sustainability of this rebound if we keep racing ahead without resting.

The daily back and forth is what keeps the market fresh. These gyrations squeeze out the weak and replace them with the confident. But we have had very little pausing and refreshing since this rebound began back in December. Unfortunately, that means a lot of weak hands are still holding on. Rather than flush them out in small, periodic pullbacks, the supply of weak hands is building up to the point where the next pullback could trigger a mass exodus and do a lot of damage.

In many ways, the market is like a forest. Small fires clear out the debris and keep it healthy. Wait too long between fires and too much fuel accumulates, meaning the next fire has the potential to be devastating. At the moment, everything is great and everyone is enjoying themselves. But all it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke.

The challenge is knowing what that spark will be and when it will come. Until then, everything will be great. Prices will keep drifting higher until they don’t. Knowing what the market will do is the easy part because it keeps doing the same thing over and over again. The hard part is getting the timing right. That is where all the money is made. While we don’t know the timing of the next dip, that doesn’t mean we cannot prepare for it.

For our long-term positions, there is nothing to see or do here. If we are not selling for years, what happens over the next few weeks is meaningless and we can (and should) completely ignore these near-term gyrations. But for a short-term swing trade, we need to be careful up here. Given how far prices have come, the rewards left ahead of us are a lot smaller than the risk underneath us. The time to buy the discounts was weeks ago, not now that prices are far higher. If a trader is doing anything, they should be taking profits, not adding new money. We only make money when we sell our winners and that almost always involves selling too early. People who get greedy and hold too long often end up giving back all of their profits and then some.

To be clear, I’m definitely not bearish and am not predicting a collapse. I’ve just been doing this long enough to know that I should be cautious when everyone else is feeling good. I’m not calling a top, just warning people to be careful. A routine pullback to 2,600 is most definitely not a collapse, but it will feel like it if a person wasn’t prepared for it. The best way to avoid making poor trading decisions is to not be surprised by the normal and routine.

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM

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