It’s been a dramatic two days for the S&P 500. Between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, the index shed more than 50 points over a few short hours of trading. That volatility was a radical departure from the gentile glide higher trades have grown accustomed to.
Wednesday the Fed reiterated its policy of keeping interested rates steady, but it disappointed some investors when it said it was not considering rate reductions in response to slowing global and domestic growth. That disappointment triggered a two-day wave of reflexive selling that didn’t stop until we tumbled to 2,900 support.
Everyone loves a market that goes up nearly every day with dips measured in hours instead of days. These periods of calm spoil investors. But the inevitable arrival of volatility shouldn’t surprise anyone. And to be honest, Wednesday’s initial 0.75% decline and Thursday’s 0.21% followup loss barely qualify as volatility in conventional markets. This week’s moves only feel dramatic because of how calm things have been.
There are two ways to interpret this hiccup. Either it is an aberration that will vanish as quickly as it hit. Or this is the first jolt at the start of a bumpier ride.
Thursday morning started well enough with dip buyers rushing in and pushing prices above Wednesday’s lows, unfortunately, the lift was short-lived and prices quickly tumbled to new lows. The resulting selling picked up speed and didn’t stop until we exhausted supply almost exactly at 2,900 support.
The most encouraging development Thursday is prices closed well off the lows. The morning freefall bounced off near-term support and after that, traders were far more inclined to buy the weakness than continue selling it.
While this pullback is small, 2019 has been a year of small pullbacks. The thing about trends is they are far more likely to continue than reverse. (they continue countless times, but reverse only once) As long as we keep holding above 2,900 support, I will keep giving the benefit of doubt to this rally.
But if prices tumble under 2,900 Friday and finish near the day’s lows, that is a very bearish development and it means further selling is ahead of us. The most obvious next level of support is 2,850. After that, far more meaningful support is back at 2,800. While it would feel scary, either of these would be reasonable levels to test in a normal and routine pullback. Two steps forward, one step back.
What a person does in any of the above scenarios should already have been decided. Smart traders plan their exit before they even enter a trade. That’s when they decide if it will be a quick trade or a long-term investment. Whether they will sell into strength on the way up, or use a trailing stop to lock-in profits before the fall. There are many ways to trade, the important thing is to make those decisions during the clarity that comes before a position is put on. In the heat of battle, even the most experienced trader is vulnerable to making an impulsive decision if they don’t have a plan.
My personal preference is to sell early on the way up. That way I have cash on hand and am looking for a buying opportunity when everyone else is scared and worried about bigger losses. But that is what works for me. You need to decide what works for you. And no matter what you do, plan your trade and trade your plan.
I’d love to see this dip go further because that creates even more profit opportunity for swing-trade. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be that lucky and this will bounce quickly like every other dip this year.
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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.