How much risk are you holding?

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

May 09

Free End of Week Analysis and Lookahead: 

The S&P 500 added 3.5% this week and produced its first weekly gain in three weeks. That said, the previous two weekly losses were fairly modest at -1.3% and -0.2%. This continues to be the most epic rebound of all rebounds and the index is towering 30% above March’s lows.

In previous posts I covered the reasons this market is ignoring the horrific economic carnage surrounding us. But for those that missed it, it mostly comes down to the market’s forward-looking nature pricing stocks for where we are headed, not where we are today. The stock market expects the economic situation to be much improved in six months and that is how it is valuing stocks today.

But now that stocks are significantly above the selloff’s bottom, is there still a reason to be buying stocks at these levels? As is usually the case, the answer is both Yes and No.

First, let’s start with the Yes. Momentum is definitely higher and this market is refusing all invitations to breakdown. We just completed the seventh week of this rebound and if it was unsustainable and vulnerable to a crash, it would have happened by now. Compare this to the typical market crashes that are breathtakingly quick and force traders to sell first and ask questions later. The market most definitely doesn’t give us the luxury of multiple months to thoughtfully consider the full situation and allow us to sell in a calm and orderly fashion before the crash.

But just because this market is trading well and will most likely continue trading well doesn’t mean it is a good buy. Successful trading has less to do with the outcome of any individual trade and is more about managing our risks. Let’s say chances are good we can make $20 over the next few weeks. That seems like a no brainer, right? Well, what if that opportunity to make $20 also came with the risk we could lose $80. Does it still seem like a good deal? Probably not.

This market is dramatically higher and most likely it will keep going higher. But just because it goes higher doesn’t mean we should be chasing it here. The big run from the March lows ate up a big portion of the upside and means there is less profit potential left for us to squeeze out of the market over the near-term. And more than just limited upside, if there are any bumps in the road, there is an awful lot of air underneath us right now.

Given how skewed against us the risk/reward currently is, this is definitely a better place to be locking-in profits than adding new money. Just because the market goes up next week and the week after doesn’t mean buying stocks at these prices was the smart trade.

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


About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, 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 children.