The S&P 500 slipped another 0.8% Wednesday, making this three down sessions in a row.
So much for the Santa Claus rally. All of last week’s profits are gone, and then some. As I warned readers in December, anyone who didn’t lock in profits risked giving it all back by holding too long. And that’s exactly what happened:
[S]mart traders are sitting on a big pile of profits they collected last week and are getting ready for the next big trade. Maybe that’s shorting the reversion trade later this week. Maybe that’s sitting in cash until something more interesting happens in January. Either way, anyone expecting these big gains to keep rolling in clearly doesn’t understand how markets work.
Now that the index is teetering on 4,700 support, the crowd is wondering what comes next. The answer is easy: either stocks bounce…or they don’t.
The index broke the very steep and very straight-up rally from the October lows. Since the market loves symmetry, a rally that goes too far tends to be followed by a pullback that goes too far, too.
Unfortunately, as easy as that sounds, trading successfully is anything but easy. Expect lots of misleading bounces along the way (a sawtooth decline), which could start as early as Thursday. Remember, if this were easy, everyone would be rich.
At this point, the pullback deserves the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who shorted Tuesday or Wednesday morning is sitting on small but comfortable profits, and they can lower their stops to somewhere between Tuesday’s intraday highs and their entry points, greatly reducing their risk.
As I warned readers on Tuesday, shorting a rally is one of the hardest ways to make money in the market, so this only applies to the most adventurous traders, but for the moment, this trade is working and we stick with it. The most important thing is respecting our stops. Just ask anyone who shorted “too high” at 4,400, 4,500, and 4,600. Don’t make the same mistake and pull the plug if the short trade stops working.
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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.