Ouch, that hurt! What this means and how to trade it

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Sep 03

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Well, that was dramatic. The S&P 500 shed 3.5% Thursday in the second-largest decline since the depths of the Coronavirus crash. Only June 11th’s 6% crash was worse.

As awful as this tumble felt, it helps to keep things in perspective. This afternoon the S&P 500 closed at 3,455 after plunging 125 points. This same 3,455 was an all-time high last week. That’s right, up until a few days ago, the market has never been this high. It doesn’t seem so bad when we put it that way.

As with all things in the market, there are two ways to look at this situation. 3,455 is still a very high number and the vast majority of stock owners are still sitting on a mountain of profits. If they shrug this off like they did on June 12th, the worst could already be behind us. On the other hand, the pessimist will point out just how much clear air remains underneath us. The next major support level is all the way back at 3k and falling another 400-points would hurt…a lot.

What’s a trader to do in a station like this? Lucky for regular readers of this blog, I told everyone exactly what to do last night:

The great thing about euphoric accelerations is they tend to be one-way moves, meaning we can easily follow this rally higher with a trailing stop. Keep it 50-100 points behind the market and we should safely navigate any near-term whipsaws. And you know what? If we get stopped out prematurely, there is no rule prohibiting us from getting back in. If a false alarm squeezes us out, no problem, just jump back in when prices recover.

I sure a heck didn’t expect today’s bloodbath, but I already had a plan in place to deal with it.

I don’t mention this as often as I should, but I like keeping my stops spread out. Today I had multiple stops between 3,500 and 3,450. This strategy helps me mitigate the inevitable whipsaws. If my first level gets hit and the market bounces, no big deal. Most of my position is still intact and I only miss a little bit before buying back in. If on the other hand, the selloff accelerates, I lock in some of my profits higher up and can actually make money buying back in at lower levels. Anyway, this is what works well for me and helps mitigate the frustration when the market undercuts my stops by 10 cents before bouncing.

As I wrote yesterday, I like this market and paradoxically, today’s dip actually makes me feel better about it. I was growing concerned about this relentless climb and the lack of a meaningful down day. Healthy and sustainable rallies take a step back for every two steps forward they take. If prices bottom and bounce soon, that is an incredibly bullish indication that confirms these prices are legitimate there is more life left in this rally. On the other hand, if prices continue falling, no big deal, my stops were already triggered and I am sitting on a mountain of cash. When the next trading opportunity presents itself, I will be ready for it.

At this point, I don’t see a reason to give up on this market and I will be looking for the next entry point to buy back in. But if the selling accelerates Friday and into next week, I have no problem switching my outlook and following the market’s lead. That’s the best part of being a nimble and flexible trader, I often make more money when I’m wrong.

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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.