The S&P 500 stumbled Tuesday, breaking an eight-session win streak. Investors were unnerved after Trump announced a fresh round of EU tariffs, reigniting trade war fears. And right on cue, the EU said it was ready to implement retaliatory tariffs against the US.
So much for the trade situation getting better. But even though trade war headlines flared up again, the index shedding 0.6% is a fairly benign response. It certainly doesn’t measure up to the fear that gripped equity markets last year.
Today’s muted reaction is not a surprise for those of us that have been paying attention. We know most owners who fear Trump’s trade wars bailed out a long time ago. And not only did these fearful sellers already abandon the market, they sold to confident dip buyers who demonstrated a clear willingness to jump in front of these headlines.
If these confident dip buyers weren’t scared then, there is no reason to think they will get scared now. No matter what the cliches say about confidence, confident owners don’t sell, and when they refuse to sell, supply remains tight.
While tight supply is preventing any of this year’s modest dips from growing into something bigger, supply is only half the equation. The problem we is as prices approach last year’s highs, a huge chunk of demand has already been satiated during this amazing run. While most of this year’s rebound was fueled by “less bad than feared”, as we approach the old highs, “less bad” is no longer good enough and we need headlines to shift to “good” to continue marching higher.
I said as much last week when I predicted more back and forth was ahead of us:
“while the path of least resistance remains higher, the rate of gains is clearly slowing. The easy money has already been made. Now things get a lot more choppy. And choppy means challenging. Breakouts fizzle and breakdowns bounce.
Chasing these daily gyrations will most likely end in losses as people buy the strength and sell the ensuing weakness. Repeat that a few too many times and the losses will start to add up. This market needs to be traded proactively, not reactively. Don’t fall for its tricks.”
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Even though most of us understand the markets move sideways more often than they go up or down, almost everyone comes to the markets with a preexisting bias. Either people are bullish or bearish about current levels and they believe any move in their direction is the real deal. If they are bulls, they buy the breakout. If they are bearish, they short the breakdown. But not long after they react to the market’s move, it fizzles and reverses. Once prices start moving against these reactive traders, they lose their nerve and pull the plug. Buy high, sell low is a horrible way to trade. Unfortunately, most people fall for the market’s tricks and end up losing money.
Despite Tuesday’s weakness, I still like this market. This it has been challenged by countless bearish headlines and weak price-action. Yet, every time these dips fail to build momentum. We fear what we don’t know, not what everyone has been talking about for months. If these headlines were going to break this market, it would have happened a long time ago. If the market doesn’t care, then neither should we. The
This market is transitioning to more sideways than up. That means we need to be more careful with our purchases and stop-losses. In fact, for most people, they would be better off not trading this chop. Either buy-and-hold your favorite positions and wait for the slow grind higher to continue, or stay out and wait for the risk/reward to skew more in our favor.
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.