The S&P 500 stumbled Thursday in one of the few misses since the Christmas rebound kicked off. Over the last few days, the index struggled to break through 200dma resistance and has slipped back to the psychologically significant 2,700 level.
While today’s tumble felt abrupt given how calm and steady the climb has been from December’s lows, a down day shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I wrote late last week:
“Everyone knows markets don’t move in straight lines and anyone who expects the market to keep racing higher clearly doesn’t understand how market work. While anything could happen, more often than not, hot markets cool off and pullbacks from overbought levels are a normal and healthy way of consolidating gains.”
We knew this was going to happen, we just didn’t know the when or the why.
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Thursday’s weakness started before the open when European economic data failed to meet expectations. That brought last year’s global growth fears back to the front. The only question is if this is just a single bout of indigestion, or if this will trigger another wave of second-guessing and defensive selling.
The nice thing about today’s dip is we found a bottom before lunchtime and closed well off the early lows. That is the opposite of last year’s dreadful price-action when early weakness triggered runaway selloffs. At least for the time being, investors appear more inclined to buy the dips than pile on the selling. But it takes more than one day to consolidate nearly 400-points of gains, so we have a long way to go before we can waive the all-clear flag.
I want to make one thing clear, I am most definitely not bearish and think the setup over the medium- and long-term looks good. But I am far less optimistic over the near-term. Markets move in waves and the Christmas rebound priced in a lot of good news. Hope that things will be less bad than feared. Unfortunately, the problem with hope is it leaves the door open to disappointment.
The crowd is always filled with emotions that swing between extremes. Last month’s collapse was built on fear of an economic collapse. This rebound started with hope that things were not as bad as feared and quickly morphed into fear of being left behind. And no doubt recent gains leave us vulnerable to another near-term reversal. Two steps forward, one step back. That’s the way the market always worked and there is no reason to expect something different to happen here.
I’m not predicting a crash or anything dramatic like that. Just a cooling off. Maybe that means some sideways trade. Maybe that means a dip back to support. Either way, it is very predictable and shouldn’t catch anyone off guard. But it will. Because it always does.
Everyone knows markets move in waves, but they always forget that fact in the moment. Every dip is seen as the start of something bigger. By rule, it has to. If it didn’t scare people out, then no one would sell and we wouldn’t dip. Even if this is the start of a very normal and routine pullback to support, expect to hear all kinds of people shouting doom-and-gloom and how we better get out now before it is too late.
Smart money buys discounts and sells premiums. It is definitely premature to call a one day dip a discount and we should be prepared for more. But as long as we know it’s coming, then it is a lot easier to maintain our composure and resist the urge to join the hysterical crowd. The market is acting well and there is nothing to do with our favorite long-term investments. But for our short-term swing-trades. This is a good time to get defensive and start taking profits if you haven’t already.
What’s a good trade worth to you?
How about avoiding a loss?
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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM
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.