Wednesday was a dreadful day for the S&P 500. The index started with a small gain, unfortunately, that was as good as it got. By the close, the market shed 2.4% in the biggest loss since the early September tumble.
Anyone who’s been reading these posts knows I’ve been giving this market the benefit of doubt as it carved out a base near 3,300 support. Even Monday’s tumble under this level wasn’t a big deal because the index spent the rest of the day reclaiming a big chunk of those early losses. As most experienced traders know, it isn’t how the day starts, but how it finishes that matters most. To me, it looked like the market was finding its footing and getting ready for the umpteenth bounce since the March lows. Then today happened…
There is nothing good to say about Wednesday. It was a one-way selloff that never found a bottom. While the optimist might find some solace that it didn’t undercut Monday’s lows, that’s only because the selloff ran out of time. But hey, there’s always tomorrow! Ugh.
I often say we cannot read too much into a single day’s price action. And that’s still true. But I am no longer giving this market the benefit of doubt. Today’s dreadful price-action turned this into a show-me trade. Until we recover Wednesday’s highs, I will remain leery of this base. And if we fall under Monday’s lows, look out below.
As for how I traded this abomination, I came into the day long and was sitting on a profit cushion from this week’s early bounce. That gave me a little breathing room when prices started retreating shortly after the open. As I wrote yesterday:
By getting in early, I have a decent profit cushion to protect my backside. I will continue holding as long as we remain above my entry points. If prices retreat, no big deal. I get out and look for the next trade. If prices crash under Monday’s lows, I might even try a short.
Little did I know I would be putting my contingency plan to work a few hours later. But that’s why we have them. To protect us from bad things when the market goes the “wrong” way. I started peeling off my positions this morning and I was all the way out by early afternoon. Once it was obvious the index wasn’t finding a bottom, I even put on a short.
I’m not a fan of shorting a bull market, but there was nothing good about today and things could get even worse if we fall under Monday’s lows. Today proved there are still a lot of nervous owners left and it could get even worse tomorrow. That said, I’m happy to be wrong. If prices bounce and reclaim Wednesday’s highs, I’ll be ready to buy that bounce. But something tells me that won’t be happening for a while.
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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.