TL;DR: At the end.
Thursday was another ugly session for the S&P 500 as the index shed 1.2%. After a calm, even boring spring, volatility is roaring back. What this means for the market’s next move is the point of this analysis.
The primary catalyst for this month’s second-guessing is the latest flareup in Trump’s trade war with China. But as unnerving as the situation feels, the index is still holding above long-term support at 2,800.
In Tuesday’s free blog post I wrote the following:
“Quite simply, a market that refuses to go down will eventually go up. As long as we continue holding 2,800 support, the situation is constructive. Eventually headlines will let up and at this point, the only thing we need to rally back to the highs is less bad news.”
And two days later, nothing changed. Fear of new headlines is weighing on traders’ moods, but so far this latest bout of selling only brought us back to support.
The thing to remember about routine dips back to support is they always feel like things are about to get a lot worse. If they didn’t, no one would sell and prices wouldn’t dip in the first place.
So the question we have to ask ourselves is if this dip is the real deal and things are on the verge of getting a lot worse? Or if this is just another vanilla pullback back to support and savvy traders are buying these discounts?
Trumps has been waging his trade war for more than a year, and despite some volatility in the stock market along the way, the economy has swallowed all of the previous escalations fairly well. Without a doubt, these additional taxes on businesses and consumers are not helping the US economy, but so far they don’t seem to be doing a large amount of damage.
The thing to remember about headlines is once the market comes to terms with them, they get priced in and stop mattering. By the time the crowd knows about something, most people have already made all the trades they want to make. The people who fear Trump’s trade war sold last year and were replaced by confident dip buyers willing to hold these risks. Once we run out of people willing to these headlines, they stop mattering.
Without a doubt, we should be cautious as the market flirts with violating support, but until the market gives us a reason to stop trusting it, we should continue giving it the benefit of doubt. These trade war headlines are nothing new and if they haven’t broken this market already, they are unlikely to do so now.
That said, anything is possible when it comes to crowd psychology and we always need to be prepared for the unexpected. Few things shatter confidence like falling prices and I reserve the right to change my mind if we crash under 2,800 support and the selling accelerates. But rather than fear further weakness, the trader in us should be cheering over the opportunity to buy in at even better prices.
Most Likely Next Move: This test of support will hold and prices will eventually drift back to the highs as the market settles into a summer trading range.
Trading Plan: Get defensive if prices crash through 2,800 support. Baring that, stick with what has been working and that is believing in this market. If a person is nervous, consider selling a portion of your position and then buying back in after the market finds its footing.
If I’m Wrong: The market crashes through 2,800 support and that shatters confidence. If the selling spirals out of control, don’t expect it to stop until we reach 2,600 support.
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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.