Apr 11

Finally time to buy the dip?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks sliced through any semblance of support as the selloff continues.  We fell over 80-points from the all-time highs set last Friday.  This includes breaking the 50dma Thursday and continuing lower on Friday.

MARKET SENTIMENT
It is hard for the financial press to come up with a justification for this selloff other than “profit taking”.  There are no fundamental headlines dominating trading rooms and it largely seems like people are selling for no other reason than everyone else is selling.  The high-flyers are taking it the hardest, down 20 and 30%.  Some claim the death of these mo-mo stocks signals the end of this bull run, but here is the thing, markets typically top when the hottest stocks continue higher while everything else drops back.  During the dot-com boom, brick-and-mortar companies were shunned while everyone was piling into speculative internet stocks.  Today we have the opposite.  The momentum darlings are down double digits while the broad market only slipped a few percent.  Is this the end of the bull market?  Not if we use history as a guide.

Stocks fall for only two reasons, waves of selling or lack of demand.  A rush of sell orders is the stereotypical selloff and fairly intuitive.  This is when everyone hits the sell button at the same time and that surge of supply overwhelms demand, crushing prices.  The less intuitive reason prices fall is lack of demand.  This is when most traders still believe in the market, but prices come under pressure because prospective buyers wait patiently for more attractive prices.  

Surges of buying and selling often see volume leap 30 and 40% above average, but over this 80-point slide, the most elevated volume we’ve seen was 8% above average.  That hardly qualifies as a mass exodus.  The lack of huge selling volumes suggests most owners are confidently sitting through this weakness and these price declines are largely driven by lack of demand.  This is important because it gives us insight into where we are headed next.  

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
There are two kinds of selloffs, those driven by fearful headlines and those that seem to fall for no reason at all.  This week’s selloff  lacks a fundamental catalyst and these mysterious selloffs are primarily caused by supply and demand imbalances.  All of the big selloffs people remember and fear are triggered by a fundamental catalyst that sent shivers of fear through the market.  Contagion, Default, Taper, Sequester, etc.  Confident owners need a boogeyman to shatter their confidence and turn them into sacred sellers.  So far we don’t have a boogeyman and that likely means this selloff will be more shallow since fewer owners will impulsively sell the fear mongering.

Alternate Outcome:
Sometimes we don’t figure out why a market is selling off until after it already happened.  If this market continues collapsing, the financial press will invent a reason.  While today’s selloff stalled just above 1,810, we could see a fresh round of emotional and reactive selling if we breach 1,800 next week.

Trading Plan:
The best profit opportunities are born from the most uncomfortable situations.  Buying the dip Wednesday after holding support was the easy, and wrong, trade.  Buying now that we’ve crashed through support is far more difficult.  And that is what likely makes it the right trade.  Without a fundamental driver, expect this selloff to stall soon.  Shorts should look to take profits and bold dip-buyers can take a chance.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 08

Pausing

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 Daily at 1:13 EDT

S&P500 Daily at 1:13 EDT

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks bounced off the 50dma in early trade and are holding near 1,850 as they search for direction.  So far today’s move is more like a pause than decisive rebound since we are only up a few points from Monday’s close.

MARKET SENTIMENT
For as much drama as two-days of selling caused, we are only 2.5% from all-time highs.  This can be taken one of two ways.  Either this dip is no big deal and we shouldn’t be obsessing about it, or this is the start of something that still has a long way to go.  Of course the truth most likely lies between these two extremes.

Today’s pause marks the end of two-days of emotion fueled selling.  Those with a weak hand were flushed out in the rush for the exits, but confident owners continued holding and that limited new supply.  As soon as the emotional finished selling, the market found a floor and this is taking pressure off any remaining anxious holders.  But the fate of this move is no longer in the hands of holders.  Instead buyers will be the ones to save us.  Traditionally this is a mix of value investors and dip buyers.  Today’s pause is tempting dip buyers, but it is hard to claim a 2.5% discount from all-time highs represents a great buy for the stingy value investor.  Sometimes dip buyers can do this on their own, but if we need the value investor’s help, we probably need to slip a little further before they come to the rescue.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
If the marked doesn’t end this dip in a decisive v-bottom today, we will likely hold near for 1,850 over coming days.  This leaves us vulnerable to one last emotion filled selloff as those barely hanging on get flushed out.  That last dip will likely be the end of the selloff and clears the way for a continuation higher.  We saw a similar move in late January.

Alternate Outcome:
While big selloffs usually need a reason, sometimes we only come up with one after the fact.  While this is behaving like a vanilla pullback, it could devolve into bigger waves of emotional selling if dip buyers and value investors don’t have sufficient numbers to prop up the market.  Every dip is buyable until the one that isn’t.

Trading Plan:
There is not a lot to do here as we wait for the next trade.  We will likely see one last dip lower before bottoming.  This means shorts can continue holding and dip buyers can wait for a better entry.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 07

Sell the fear?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks sold off for a second day, slicing over 50-points from Friday’s intraday highs.  We are just above the 50dma, but under 1,850 support.  Volume was elevated, but only just above average, so this move doesn’t qualify as a stampede for the exits.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Easy come, easy go.  Friday we set record highs following a respectable employment, but its been all downhill since then.  While there are no major headlines to speak of, many high-fliers are crumbling and that is dampening the mood in the rest of the market.  We haven’t seen major waves of selling indicating most owners are largely holding through the dip.  This weakness is primarily coming from the absence of demand as anyone with money was reluctant to buy all-time highs as we ran out of momentum chasers.

Typically there are two types of large selloffs.  The first is the familiar headline driven panic selling.  This is typified by overwhelming fear the market is about to crumble because some structural flaw has just been uncovered.  That doesn’t seem to be the case here since the best most people can come up to explain this weakness is “profit-taking”.  The other type of extended decline is the “stealth” selloff.  This is the one that sneaks up on us by lulling traders into complacency.  These are the declines that no one notices because they are trivial by themselves, but over time they add up.  The last-two days of weakness is many things, but stealth is not one of them.

The emotion and pain of the recent plunge sent most with a weak stomach running for cover.  Most of these are the late to the party momentum chasers and breakout buyers.  They are the ones that first showed losing trades and are the most likely to impulsively pull the plug.  Now that many of these flaky owners have jumped ship, they were replaced by more confident buyers willing to own the uncertainty and this is the start of the bottoming process.  This selloff will finally end when the supply of sellers dries up after all who were inclined to sell already sold.  Given how transfixed the market has been by the last two days, we are probably getting close to this capitulation point.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: A little more weakness before finding a bottom under the 50dma.
Short-term traders are well aware of this weakness and many sold as we undercut their stop-losses.  This autopilot selling is provided much of the downside pressure, but now that many of these traders are out of the market, that overhang has been removed.  What hurt us today cannot hurt us tomorrow.  While we likely have some traders barely holding on and slipping under the 50dma will flush this last wave out, once these stragglers sell, expect the market to run short of supply and bounce.

Alternate Outcome:
Nothing shatters confidence like losing money.  No matter how confident we are, when everyone else is rushing for the exits, it forces us to wonder if they know something we don’t.  All of us have our breaking point before we succumb to the emotional pressure and join the herd.  If the market doesn’t find a bottom shortly after breaking the 50dma, the selling will likely continue as previously confident holders start selling first and asking questions later.

Trading Plan:
The market will likely find support near the 50dma in coming days, but if it doesn’t bounce in a v-shaped rebound, it needs one last plunge lower before returning to 1,900.  Long-term traders should ignore this volatility, but short-term traders can look for an interesting entry point when the crowd is convinced we are on the verge of a dramatic plunge lower.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 04

Selling begets selling

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 1:23 EDT

S&P500 daily at 1:23 EDT

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
We slipped over 25-points from record highs as buyers failed to embrace these new levels.   The market opened strong following a decent employment report, but we waterfalled lower as the market undercut recent technical levels at 1,890 and 1,880.

MARKET SENTIMENT
This reaction was not driven by fearful headlines and is primarily the result of traders trying to game each other.  We often see volatility surrounding the monthly employment data, but it is typically short-lived and over the last few years it hasn’t had a lasting impact on trading.  Good report or bad, the market continued its relentless march higher from the 2009 lows.  It seems unlikely today’s decent employment report that fell in line with expectations will derail this rally.

We have seen periodic selloffs during this 5-year-old bull market, but each was following some spooky headline that threatened the solvency of the global financial system, giving traders flashbacks of 2008.  We’ve seen more modest weakness recently due to political gridlock or the impending Taper, but so far we don’t have any of that headline fear mongering going on today.  That means this is not the “crash” bears have been waiting for and this move is simply a rebalancing of supply and demand.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
The market is in the middle of an emotion driven selloff.  We are undercutting recent support levels as autopilot stop-losses are kicking are adding fuel to the fire, but so far there is little headline fear to shatter the confidence of bulls that have been conditioned to buy every dip.  Once the selling frenzy slows, expect the market to find a floor as supply dries up.

Alternate Outcome:
There are bullish and bearish headlines every single day.  If the market wants to sell off, it will be easy to find a justification.  Nothing shatters confidence like screens filled with red.

Trading Plan:
Long-term investors should ignore these daily moves, but shorter-term traders should be treading lightly here.  Bears shouldn’t expect the market collapse without a dramatic headline and bulls need to be careful about buying the dip so close to the upper end of the recent trading range.  Sometimes the best trade is no trade.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 03

Bulls love complacency

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 1:43 EDT

S&P500 daily at 1:43 EDT

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks dipped under 1,890 after setting record highs earlier in the session.  Following four-consecutive up-days, it is not alarming to have a modest down day.

MARKET SENTIMENT
So far this weakness has not opened the floodgates of selling and we gently drift lower as most owners show little concern and resist selling.  If recent headlines didn’t spook them, an 8-point dip from record highs is unlikely to either.

I’ve been waiting for a short-squeeze to launch us to new heights, but so far we haven’t seen bears rush for cover.  We are only a few points above previous highs, so many might be holding on in the hopes this move will reverse lower.  If a person believes in the “pain trade”, we haven’t seen real pain yet and both bulls and bears are confidently sitting on their positions.

There are few upside catalysts left for this market since it has largely priced in any and all good news on the horizon.  While there are risks out there, few owners are willing to sell at a discount because they have been conditioned to expect higher prices in the near-term.  Every time they sold scary headlines or weakness in the last 18-months was a mistake and they are determined not to do it again.  While many claim complacency leads to a top, it is actually a bullish catalyst.  When owners refuse to sell for any reason, that keeps supply tight and makes it very easy for the market to rally.  Markets don’t top on owners’ complacency, but lack of demand from buyers.  To figure out where this market is headed, we need to spend more time focusing on the opinion of those sitting in cash than those owning stocks.  Given how far we are away from levels that value investors find attractive makes us vulnerable to slipping on light demand once the momentum crowd catches up to this market and becomes fully invested.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: At the upper end of an extended consolidation and trading range.
While we might see a short squeeze in the near-term, with so few upside catalysts remaining, we will likely continue trading sideways for the remainder of the quarter.  Unfortunately for many recent buyers, trading sideways means holding within the recent trading range that goes as low as 1,750.  We don’t get paid for owning sideways markets and this is a better place to be locking in recent gains than initiating new positions.

Alternate Outcome:
Momentum is a powerful thing and carries us far higher and longer than anyone expects.  There is enough money sitting on the sidelines following the 2008 market collapse that is finally warming up to the market.  While that is a long-term bullish catalyst and will likely lead to a decade-long secular bull market, we will see periodic selloffs and even bear markets along the way.  While we can easily continue higher, stay vigilant.

Trading Plan:
Long-term investors should ignore these intermediate fluctuations, but they should hold off making new purchases since the patient will likely see lower prices over the next 6-months.  Short-term traders should consider locking in profits or using a trailing stop to protect recent profits.  Bears should be rooting for a strong short-squeeze that ultimately fizzles after sucking in the last of the demand.  Failure to hold those gains is the signal to go short.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 02

Challenging 1,890

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 3:04 EDT

S&P500 daily at 3:04 EDT

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
The S&P500 is flirting with 1,890, setting record highs in midday trade before pulling back a few points.  In the absence of prior levels to reference, traders are naturally drawn to round numbers and today 1,890 is providing overhead resistance.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Defying skeptics, this market is off and running yet again.  So far it is only poking its head into new territory and shorts are not scrambling to cover their positions.  Either they are sitting on their bearish positions, hoping this upward move stalls, or there are so few pessimists left to cover we are not seeing the typical short-squeeze.

But here is the thing, bears should be hoping for a swift surge higher.  Trading sideways is constructive and supports a continuation.  Exploding higher on one last dying gasp is the most bearish thing this market could do.  There are no such things as triple-tops, so bears needs us to race to new highs if they want the market breakdown.  And the opposite is true for bulls, they should root for modest and sustainable gains.

There is little headline fear left in this market, meaning we are not weighed down by some overhyped risk.  This negates the profitable upside of something coming in less bad than feared.  Taper, Crimea, interest rate hikes, the market is taking it all in stride and owners are unwilling to dump shares at a discount no matter what the headlines are screaming.  Price moves often overreact on both the high and low side.  Over reacting to uncertainty creates buying opportunities, but just as often we get too high and fall under their own weight when everyone is holding on for higher prices.

Then we complicate the situation by throwing timeframe in the mix.  Sometimes the market is short-term bullish, medium-term bearish, and long-term bullish.  We can go up for two-weeks, slip to 1,700 by mid-summer, and close next year above 2,100.  Timeframe is what lets both bulls and bears be right at the same time (or both wrong if they impulsively react to the inevitable head fakes).

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: One last surge higher before stalling into the summer doldrums.
While this rebound could stall at any time, that would be a little too easy for bears.  Often the market convinces us we are wrong just before proving us right.  Once last short-squeeze would send bears running for cover, but the market would rollover not long after if buyers fail to rush in and buy record highs.  Markets trade sideways around 60% of the time and being near the upper end of the trading range suggests we should be cautious since typical odds suggest we are more likely to fall back into the trading than race to 2,000.

Alternate Outcome:
Trading flat for the first quarter of the year took some froth out of last year’s hot market and allowed us to catch our breath.  Sideways is an important part of moving higher and sometimes three months of consolidation is all we need.

Trading Plan:
This has been a “buy weakness, sell strength” market and there is no reason to think it has changed.  As we break above old highs, we should be more inclined to sell the strength than chase the breakout.  Longer viewed holders should keep holding, but the patient will likely find better prices in coming months if they are looking to add to their favorite positions.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Apr 01

Challenging old highs

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks are higher on the first day of the second quarter and the S&P500 set a new intraday record.  We are at the upper end of the 1,840/1,885 range that stretches back to early February.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Early highs did not set off an avalanche of short-covering, but we only poked above the old record by less than one-point.  Either shorts are sitting tight, or there are few shorts left to cover.  While not a scientific sample, Stocktwits’ SPY sentiment gauge reads 57% bearish, not a level suggesting we are running out of shorts.  The most likely scenario is shorts who were previously shaken out in the last month of whipsaws moved their stops a little further out.  This means we need to push closer toward 1,890 for a short squeeze to begin in earnest.

But short-squeeze or not, the future of this move to new highs depends on the appetite of the masses sitting on piles of cash.  Will they embrace the breakout, or continue waiting for lower prices?  While short-term traders on Stocktwits are wary of this market, most owners are content sitting on their profits and are reluctant to sell regardless of scary headlines like political and military conflict with Russia.  If that doesn’t spook owners into selling, I’m not sure what will.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Push to new highs before stalling on lack of follow-up buying.
There is no such thing as a triple top, so it seems likely we are destined to bust through 1,885 in the near-term.  Markets typically collapse from unsustainable levels in quickly, so holding these levels for multiple weeks suggests we are not yet at unsustainable levels.  We will push toward 1,900 in coming days, but unless those with cash embrace this breakout, expect it to stall and fall back under 1,850 on weak demand.

Alternate Outcome:
The S&P500 was up a trivial 1% in the first quarter of the year and this sideways trade helped consolidate recent gains and cool a hot market off.  This pause makes it easier for the market to resume the previous uptrend.  If we break above 1,900 and hold those levels, this bull is ready to rip.

Trading Plan:
The best trade of 2014 has been buying weakness and selling strength and it is unlikely to be any different here.  We will likely challenge 1,900, but that creates a better selling/shorting opportunity than buying one.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 31

Waiting for new highs

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR|
Stocks are just shy of all-time highs as the sideways trade continues.  Today was the last day of the quarter and volume was well under average yet again.  The market has largely traded between 1,840 and 1,885 since mid-February and Monday’s strength pushes us back into the upper half of that range.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Owners don’t want to sell and those with cash don’t want to buy.  This standoff leaves us trading sideways on low volume.  Holding these levels for several weeks gives the edge to bulls since markets tend to roll over from unsustainable levels fairly quickly.  Bears keep predicting an imminent sell off and while we might be approaching one, we need a material catalyst to kick it off, something that has so far been MIA.  To this point owners have ignored any and all bad news as they continue holding stocks and that reluctance to sell keeps supply tight, allowing this market to maintain current levels even on low demand.

While many shorts were chased out of the market in February’s rebound,  this sideways trade seduced many of them back in.  They shorted every dip to 1,840, but since many have stop-losses above recent highs near 1,885, that means many of these shorts have not been shaken out by recent volatility.  While those in cash might be reluctant to buy stock, shorts with automatic stop-losses above 1,885 will fuel a short squeeze and provide the lift needed to push us to new highs.

Whether this breakout is ultimately sustainable is in the hands of those sitting on cash.  Will they buy the breakout, or will they patiently wait for more attractive prices?  It seems like many of those that believe in this market are already in, leaving fewer left to chase a breakout higher.  Larger selloffs in recent years occurred in the low-volume summer months and sitting near all-time highs leaves us vulnerable to the inevitable bout of periodic selling.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
The market is poised to hit all-time highs in coming days, but demand will likely dry up following the primarily short-squeeze driven gains.

Alternate Outcome:
The market is only up a handful of points since the start of the year and this sideways consolidation could be setting the stage for the next round of bull market gains.

Trading Plan:
As always, it comes down to timeframe.  Long-term investors can and should ignore these near-term fluctuations.  The one exception is deciding when to add new positions.  We are near all-time highs and patient, long-term investors will likely see better prices at some point over the next six-months.  There is no reason for these long-term investors to try to time the market with their existing positions, but they can hold off on making new purchases.

Intermediate investors can consider proactively locking in profits in anticipation of a pullback into the 1,750/1,850 trading range, or at the very least employ a trailing stop to protect recent profits.  More nimble traders can wait for the short-squeeze to all-time highs and short the market if it stalls shortly after.

Plan your trade; trade your plan 

Mar 26

Choppy trade continues

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks retreated from early gains and finished just above 1,850 support as they continue bouncing around between 1,850 and 1,880.  Volatility is increasing as intraday ranges span more than one percent, but the market is not moving higher or lower as each gain or loss is quickly unwound the next day.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Owners don’t want to sell and those with cash don’t want to buy.  This standoff leaves us trading sideways as both demand and supply remain balanced.  Volume has been light, probably due to big money managers taking their kids skiing for spring break.  The big questions is what will happen when they come back to work.  Will they start locking in profits or bidding up the price of stocks?

Complacency is the rule as geopolitical conflict between Western Europe and the world’s largest oil producer largely goes unnoticed.  The best profit opportunities arise when the market overreacts to some fear mongering and owners give away their stock at steep discounts.  Those reduced prices compensate dip buyers for taking the risk, but near record highs there is little reason to own the risk since no one is willing to pay us for it.  While momentum is still higher, making money in the markets comes from balancing risk and reward.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: At the upper end of a trading range
Stocks have either stalled above 1,850 and are on the verge of reversing, or they are resting before making their next move higher.  And to be honest, I could easily see either outcome happening.  Sometimes we don’t have an edge on the market and it is best to wait for the next trade with better odds.  Everyone can make money in the markets, the hard part is keeping it.  The number one way people give back profits is forcing trades when there isn’t one.

Plan you trade; trade your plan

Mar 19

Yellen spooks the market

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
It was a quiet day up until Janet Yellen rattled the markets with her first press conference.  Stocks plunged dramatically to 1,850, but found support at this key level and bounced off the lows by the close.  The intraday range stretched nearly 25-points, but the market finished down just 11.5 points.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Yellen was supposed to be more dovish than Bernanke, but her revelation that interest rates could be raised within six-months of the end of QE was faster than many expected.  This means we could see short-term interest rates increased as soon as a year from now.  But most likely the market overreacted to this news.  Number one, the Fed would only make this move if the economy is improving enough to withstand higher rates.  And two, going from zero percent to one percent still counts as stupid low rates by historic standards.  This is nowhere near the four and five percent rates that are used to throw cold water on overheated economies.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Stocks are at the upper end of the recent range and vulnerable to falling back into it
As traders we should embrace market overreactions because that is what profit opportunities are made of.   If stocks were always priced appropriately, then we couldn’t make money except through dumb luck.  The question now becomes if the overreaction will be to the upside or the downside.  Will the market continue ignoring risk as it pushes to new highs?  Or will traders develop an irrational fear of Yellen and run for cover every time she steps near a microphone?  Given how quickly traders brushed off conflict with the world’s largest oil producer, I don’t expect the market to panic over Yellen’s comments either.  But rather than think for the market, we will let it decide for itself.  If the selloff builds momentum, we could see another Taper Tantrum like selloff.  If we hold these levels tomorrow, then the Fed meeting is already old news.  When the market gets upset, it is painfully obvious and it won’t take long to tell what the market is thinking.

Trading Plan:
If the market holds these levels tomorrow, we’ll probably drift up to 1,900 before demand becomes an issue.  Crash through 1,850 and previously confident owners might not remain so confident.  Be careful with long positions here since the upside is far more limited than the downside.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 18

Back near record highs

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks added to yesterday’s gains and recovered most of last week’s modest Crimea selloff.  Volume was  light for a second day as many buyers take a wait-and-see attitude toward this rebound.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Owners remain confident while everyone else stays cautious.  Last week’s selloff came on unusually restrained volume given the volatility and headline risk.  This week’s rebound continues the suspiciously light volume.  What this tells us is most owners are perfectly content holding on to what they have regardless of the price action or headlines.  This is a dramatic shift in sentiment from 2013 where the market was constantly spooked by an endless stream of bearish headlines.  Last year many were afraid to own stocks, this year they are afraid to sell them.

While many will claim complacency is a sign we are at a top, by itself complacency is bullish.  When no one wants to sell, supply becomes tight, making it easy for markets to rally on low volume.  Complacency doesn’t kill bull markets, lack of new buyers does.  Rather than focus on owner’s confidence, we need to look at who is buying record highs.  Last year’s bond market selloff flushed many long time bond owners out of that market and their shift to equities propped up stocks.  But we’ve seen a rally in bonds in recent months, taking pressure off bond owners.  This means there are fewer bond sellers and less money to reallocate to equities.  Other investors fled volatility and uncertainty overseas, causing them to seek the safety and security of US equity markets, but those that are still in foreign markets are probably in it for the long haul and we should expect the flow of international investment in our markets to slow.  While it doesn’t take much demand to prop up prices when confident owners keep supply tight, we need to see new money continue flowing into our markets to extend this bull market.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Near record highs, but vulnerable to a pullback into the trading range
Stocks are rebounding on light volume, showing low participation on the buy-side.  We can continue heading higher as long as owners stubbornly hold on to their positions, but waning demand threatens to let us slip back into the 1,750-1,850 trading range.

Alternate Outcome:
Nothing gets people excited about stocks like rising prices.  Those left out of the rebound from the 2009 lows are starting to warm up to stocks again as they hear about all the money their neighbors and coworkers are making in the market.  While this can keep pushing us higher for months, these buyers are usually the last to show up before prices roll over so be careful.

Trading Plan:
While it feels like the market wants to challenge 1,900, this is the later stages of this rally leg and we should be taking profits, not establishing new positions.  While we are in a decade long secular bull market and buy and hold investors can sit tight, expect intermediate dips along the way.  Shorter timeframe traders should continue buying weakness and selling strength.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 17

Relief rally

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks recovered a portion of last week’s losses in one of the lowest volume sessions of the year.  We reclaimed 1,850 support and remain above the 50dma.

MARKET SENTIMENT
The market didn’t bounce Monday because dip buyers flooded the market, but because existing owners were uninterested in selling and the resulting tight supply supported prices.  While nothing improved over the weekend, things didn’t get worse either.  Sometimes no new bad news is enough to calm nerves.  Given the low volume rebound, this only reassured owners and kept them from selling while most prospective buyers continue waiting for more clarity before rushing in to buy.  Even though tight supply can slow the slide, we need conviction from buyers to push us back to new highs.  So far buyers are not feeling it and we need to be suspicious of this rebound.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: At the upper end of the range and vulnerable to a pullback as geopolitical risks loom large
Sometimes the market blows risks out of proportion, others it under appreciates the dangers.  Given the market is 1.3% from record highs, the market is many things, but panicked over current events is not one of them.  While this situation could play out exactly as the market predicts, we are vulnerable to a selloff if anything unexpected comes up.  We only get paid to own risk when we buy at a discount and it is hard to justify owning here for a measly 1.3% discount.

Alternate Outcome:
Selloff or not, if people are talking about something, it is priced in.  While we are barely off the highs despite this geopolitical risks, we could be significantly higher without them.  Once the market moves past this headline cycle, it could easily pop as we catch up to where we should have been.  We don’t need to selloff in order for there to be attractive values.

Trading Plan:
While the situation will most likely resolve itself as the market expects, we are not getting paid to own the risks near all-time highs.  We could go higher from here, but the risk/reward is not in our favor and doesn’t setup a favorable trade.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 13

Breaking support

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks opened higher, but plummeted into the red, crashing through prior support at 1,850.  Volume was barely above average, suggesting the selling was not nearly as dramatic as the price-action made it appear.

MARKET SENTIMENT
We closed a few points under 1,850 and triggered a wave of automatic stop-loss selling under this support level, but this where the selling stalled, not accelerated.  Flushing out any and all with an itchy trigger finger makes it easier for the market to find a floor on Friday.

Last week we rallied in the face of weak Chinese data and political confrontation in Ukraine, but this week we sold off on the same headlines.  Rather than attribute this strength and weakness to headlines, it appears to simply be typical market gyrations.  Modestly above average volume on such a “shockingly large” decline suggest this weakness was more due to a lack of demand than heard based selling.  We’ve come a long way on all timescales and after running out of momentum chasers and short-covering, a wider pool of prospective buyers seems uninterested in paying record highs for stocks.

While weak demand is weighing on stocks here, we need to see previously confident owners change their minds and sell if this weakness is to accelerate lower.  Through multiple dips, most owners showed they are comfortable holding headline risk and seem unphased by weakness here and there.  That confidence in the future keeps supply off the market and make it easier to find a bottom.  This rally will end like every one before it, but first we need a catalyst to shatter owners’ confidence.  So far that still seems missing.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Stalling near upper end of trading range.  Vulnerable to a larger selloff, but need a catalyst.
Markets slipped today, but this 1% dip is unlikely to concern many owners who have confidently sat through bigger selloffs in recent months.  As long as they keep holding, it will be hard to enter a downward spiral of selling.  For that we need something to interject a large amount of uncertainty into the market.  While Ukraine could be that catalyst, the market’s ambivalence last week shows most traders are not buying Obama’s and Putin’s bluffs.  While the market is vulnerable to a bigger selloff, look for it to find a floor soon unless headlines take a significant turn for the worse.

Alternate Outcome:
Sometimes markets fall for no other reason than herd driven selling.  If the market crashes through the 50dma, expect many traders to adopt a sell first, ask questions later approach to risk management.

Trading Plan:
If the selloff stalls on Friday, we could be in the mist of another buyable dip.  For the short thesis to work, we need far more scary headlines to shatter the market’s confidence.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 12

Testing 1,850 support

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 12:35 EDT

S&P500 daily at 12:35 EDT

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks slipped in early trade, but bounced off 1,855 by midday.  1,850 was resistance over the first couple months of the year and appears to be providing support here.  Currently we find ourselves in the middle of the trading channel that dates back to November 2012.

MARKET SENTIMENT
There are few explanations to justify the last couple days of weakness and many in the media are chalking it up to “profit-taking”.  Volume has been below average, showing this dip is more a product of weak demand than active selling.  Owners are comfortable and confident.  While many contrarians say that is a sign of bad things to come, in the near-term, that confidence keeps supply tight as few owners are willing to sell.  For the market to rollover, we either need a fearful headline to shatter this complacency, or to run out of buyers willing to pay top-dollar for stocks.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Momentum is higher, but gains are getting harder to come by
The run since the November 2008 lows is nearly 17-months old.  It is not unusual to see gains taper off as the market prices in future expectations and then waits for the confirming fundamentals to catch up.  The market needs to consolidate recent gains and will likely trade sideways until the 3rd Quarter.  That doesn’t mean we cannot hit 1,900 in the near-term, but it suggests the upside potential is far more limited than the downside risk.

Alternate Outcome:
Momentum is clearly higher and history has examples of rally legs lasting multiple years.  As long as there is new money ready to chase this market higher, there is nothing that will stop it.

Trading Plan:
Long-term investors can continue sitting on their investments, but they should hold off on adding to their favorite positions since we will likely see better prices in coming months.  Short-term traders should take profits proactively or use trailing stops to protect recent gains.  With so little fear priced into the market, there are few headlines that could trigger a surge higher, but one bad headline could send us tumbling.  That doesn’t set up a favorable risk/reward.

AAPL daily at 1:18 EDT

AAPL daily at 1:18 EDT

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS
AAPL is retook the 50dma after struggling with this level since 4th quarter earnings.  It is widely expected the iPhone6 will have a larger screen to stem the market share losses to Android competitors, so that is unlikely to be an upside catalyst for the stock.  We haven’t had anything new and exciting out of AAPL since Steve Jobs resigned as CEO and is why the stock is well off the highs.  Can Tim Cook pull something out of the hat this year?  AAPL bulls are certainly hoping so.

TSLA is bouncing today following recent weakness, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the stock close the gap and allow the 50dma to catch up before resuming the up-trend.

P is reclaiming the 50dma on above average volume, signaling a potential buy-point.  Since so few traders love this stock, it means there is upside if it continues to defy the skeptics as it successfully fights off competition from AAPL and others.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 11

Dipping under 1,870

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks gave up early gains and finished in the red for the second consecutive day.  We broke under recent support at 1,870, but the “free-fall” only pushed us down a few more points before bouncing off 1,865.  Volume was higher than yesterday, but still below average.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Without any real headlines to attribute today’s weakness, the media blamed “profit-taking”.  Despite breaking recent support, we didn’t see sellers flood the market as volume remained constrained, meaning today’s weakness was more due to a lack of buying than wave of selling.

Most owners remain confident and are waiting for higher prices.  Every time they sold weakness in the last couple years was a mistake and traders have become conditioned to hold weakness and buy dips.  While it’s worked to this point, we need to be more careful the less fearful traders become.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:  Near upper end of trading range
Momentum remains higher and so far today’s weakness doesn’t look like anything more than the normal ebb and flow of supply and demand.  Down days are a normal part of going higher and without fearful headlines, expect any weakness to be short-lived as owners confidently hold through modest dips.

Alternate Outcome:
Markets often move as a herd.  Typically it takes something to spook the herd into a stampede, but sometimes selling begetting selling is all that is needed.  Journalists always invent reasons after the fact, but sometimes people sell for no other reason than other people are selling.

Trading Plan:
Some weakness here helps keep the market fresh, but the downside risk of owning sill out weights the upside reward of a grind higher.  Long-term owners can continue holding, but intermediate traders should consider locking in recent gains.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

 

Mar 10

Holding 1,870

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

S&P500 daily at end of day

End of Day Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks recovered to flat after slipping modestly in early trade as they continue finding support at 1,870 for the fourth consecutive day.

MARKET SENTIMENT
The market remains near all-time highs because owners and buyers keep believing in these levels.  We’ve seen multiple headlines that could have sent us tumbling if this rally was fragile and over-extended.  Instead it ignored this “noise” and suggests we are standing on firm ground.  Today’s trade was on light volume, showing this strength was due more to reluctance by owners to sell than buyer’s enthusiasm to buy.  Since price is derived from both supply and demand, as long as owners remain confident and reluctant to sell, the resulting tight supply supports prices.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome: Upper end of trading range
Markets often oscillate around the “right” price.  Sometimes they are too high, and others too low.  Since there is virtually no fear in the markets, that suggests it is more likely we are too high, rather than too low.  This makes it a riskier time to own stocks since the upside is more limited than the downside.  Momentum is clearly higher, but the risk/reward of owning here not great.  The best profit opportunities come from buying fear and selling confidence.

Alternate Outcome:
The recent dip to 1,740 cleared many weak holders and left us with a confident ownership more willing to hold risk and volatility.  When no one is interested in selling headlines or weakness, markets march higher.

Trading Plan:
Stocks are the most risky to own when it feels the safest.  Be careful with long positions here as the potential upside is dwarfed by the risk below.  Long-term owners can continue holding, but they should wait for better prices before adding to positions.  Short-term traders should lighten up and bears can jump on violations of support.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 05

What risk?

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 3:05 EST

S&P500 daily at 3:05 EST

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks are trading in a tight range following Tuesday’s rebound to new highs.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Traders are indifferent to threats of economic sanctions against the largest oil producer in the world.  Pretty crazy how  inflation in Turkey sends us tumbling 100-points while hostile words between the US and Russia propels us to all-time highs.  If the market made everyone would be rich.

It appears the market is calling Putin’s and Obama’s bluff, assuming neither one has the courage to escalate the situation any further.  But if the market expect business as usual, that means there is little upside if this situation is resolved, yet it exposes us to huge downside if it deteriorates.  Little upside and lots of downside, not exactly the best place to own stocks.  Over the last year the market was afraid of its shadow, but as every predicted disaster turned into a buyable dip, traders are growing more apathetic toward risk.  One of these days we will come across a situation that is worse than feared and that will be the catalyst for the next correction.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:
While reality is often not as bad as the market fears, that only occurs after it sold off and more than adequately priced in the risk.  Here we have the opposite, real risk and uncertainty, yet we are making new highs.  Making money in the markets comes from understanding the risk/reward.  We need to know when to buy risk and when to sell it.

Alternate Outcome:
Owners are stubbornly holding on to stock and even conflict among the world’s superpowers is unable to shake their resolve.  While this could end badly, prices won’t go down as long as confident owners keep supply scarce.  It doesn’t matter what the market should do, only what it does.

Trading Plan:
For the short-term trader, there is little reason to own stocks here.  We are at the upper end of the recent trading range and the market is indifferent toward geopolitical risks.  While momentum can continue pushing us higher, the potential gains are dwarfed by the downside risk.  Buy weakness and sell strength.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Mar 03

Ukrainian Uncertainty

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 12:47 EST

S&P500 daily at 12:47 EST

Intraday Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks opened under 1,850, retreating from Friday’s all-time highs.  While stocks slipped back into the 1,830-1,850 consolidation region, we remain at the upper end of the recent trading range.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Traders are on edge as the situation in Ukraine deteriorates.  It is quickly turning into a showdown between Putin and the West, leaving us wondering who will flinch first.  While realistically the economic impact in the West will be limited, it is the uncertainty that weights on the market.  Few are in a buying mood when we don’t know what will happen and trading near all-time highs means value investors are not tempted to jump in yet.

While few on Wall Street foresaw this Ukrainian crisis a few weeks ago, the one thing we did know is the market was approaching the upper end of a potential trading range.  Every day there are countless positive and negative stories, meaning market participants can easily find an excuse to trade their preexisting bias.  If they want to buy, there are plenty of reasons to buy.  If they want to sell, it doesn’t take long to find a justification.  While the news is random, the market’s reaction to it is not.

TRADING OPPORTUNITY
Expected Outcome:
It is unlikely the situation in Ukraine will be resolved over the next day or two, so expect uncertainty and weakness to persist.  Most likely this is little more than saber rattling by both sides and the economic impact will be limited.  We will see near-term weakness, but it is creating yet another buying opportunity down the road.  The market is likely entering a trading range that will stretch through midyear, so continue buying weakness and selling strength.

Alternate Outcome:
The armageddon scenario is Russia and the West fall into an armed conflict.  The consequences are devastating enough to keep traders from buying all-time highs no matter how unlikely.  But even if we avoid military intervention, the market is on edge and nervous traders are prone to mad dashes for the exit.

Trading Plan:
Buy weakness and sell strength.  As we trade near all-time highs, lookout below.  This is still a decent place to defensively lock in profits and is giving shorts an interesting entry.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Feb 26

IDA: Stalling at 1,850

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 3:27 EST

S&P500 daily at 3:27 EST

Intraday Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks continue hanging around 1,850, unable to build on Monday’s breakout to record highs.  As we approach the end of the February, the market is flat for the year, failing to extend last year’s bull market.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Markets often exhibit a consistent character through each quarter.  Big money managers are judged by their quarterly performance and this often drives their decision making.  If a quarter starts strong, they are forced to chase, motivated by fear of being left behind and end up prices higher into quarter’s end.  As soon as the calendar changes, they are given three-month’s of breathing room and what was an urgent buying frenzy the week before, becomes a far more laid back approach.

This played out perfectly over the last two quarters.  In the closing weeks 2013, we had managers push us to record highs nearly every day.  Big money was climbing over each other trying to buy all the stock they could find for their quarter and year-end reporting.  But that buying evaporated the first trading day in January since they were no longer pressured by an arbitrary, calendar driven deadline.  Since this quarter has not continued making new highs, managers don’t feel pressured to buy and is why we entered a sideways period.  Without any sense of urgency, expect March to be equally laid back as we continue consolidating 2013’s gains.

TRADING PLAN:
Expected Outcome:  Stalling at the upper end of an extended trading range.
Markets trade sideways more often than anything else, so holding between 1,750 and 1,850 for the next several months is likely outcome.  While most of us either classify ourselves as bull or bear, we must recognize the market trades sideways most of the time, making the best trade buying weakness and selling strength.

Alternate Outcome:
The 5% pullback to 1,740 did a good job of purging excess, making gains from here more reasonable and sustainable.  While the explosive upside seems limited, momentum remains higher and this bull market is alive and well.

Trading Plan:
Buy weakness and sell strength.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS
AAPL 
struggles while TSLA explodes to new highs.  One is a story everyone loves and the other is a growth stock that terrifies anyone with common sense.  The problem with a loved stock is everyone already owns it, leaving few to buy it.  No matter how great a company is, prices fall when it cannot find new buyers.  On the other side, a terrifying stock keeps going higher because so few people have the courage to own it, meaning those that bought into the hype are unlikely to sell at any price, keeping supply extremely tight.  Basic laws of supply and demand; sell what everyone loves and buy what everyone is terrified of.

Plan your trade; trade your plan

Feb 25

Stalling after new highs

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 2:37 EST

S&P500 daily at 2:37 EST

Intraday Analysis

MARKET BEHAVIOR
Stocks pulled back after setting record highs Monday morning.  This continues the sideways consolidation near 1,850 and we remain at the upper end of the recent trading range.

MARKET SENTIMENT
Monday’s push to new highs triggered a wave of breakout buying and short-covering, but the surge didn’t last long as we stalled and retreated from those early highs.  This suggests few are willing to buy the breakout because either they are already fully invested, or they don’t trust these valuations.

Sometimes breakouts are the launching pad for strong upward moves, but other times they are the last gasps of buying before demand dries up and prices slide lower.  While technicians believe all the information they need is contained in the chart, what market participants are thinking is even more important.  Did we breakout because a heavy weight holding the market back was suddenly lifted?  Or was it because all the good news has finally been priced in and there is little incentive for people to buy?

Resolving Fiscal Cliffs and Euro Contagion lead to big moves higher because many traders were reluctant to own those risks, but once those clouds cleared traders embraced the market.  More recently we had bouts of doubt over Emerging Markets and domestic economic data, but neither of those headlines whipped the market up into a frenzy.  It is harder to say these were heavy weights holding us back and removing these obstacles will trigger a run to 1,900.  On the other hand, its been a while since we had a real scare.  The apathetic attitude held by many traders leaves us vulnerable to the next headline scare.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES
Expected Outcome:  Stalling near upper end of trading range
While this rebound can continue, we are near the upper end of a potential trading range and this affects the risk/reward of initiating new positions.    Following yesterday’s fizzled breakout, that shows there is not a lot of explosive upside in this market, meaning at best we will grind higher.  On the other hand, we are 100-points from recent lows and that creates a lot of downside risk if buyers remain hesitant to buy above 1,850.

Alternate Outcome:
Recent weakness and volatility left many people reluctant to trust this market.  Recent sellers are slow to change their mind and they remain on the sidelines.  This means the market is currently not over-owned since there is so much money available to chase another let higher.

Trading Plan:
Buy weakness and sell strength.  We are near the upper end of a potential trading range and the risk/reward suggests we be more defensive than offensive.  Failing to reclaim 1,850 demonstrates a lack of demand at these levels and likely means further weakness in the near-term.  If nothing else, this is a good place to take profits and wait for the next high-probability trade.

Plan your trade; trade your plan