Dec 14

AM: Stuck in no-man’s land

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:23 EST

AM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets traded slightly lower, staying within a tight rage.  We are resting between 1420 the 50dma.  This is no-man’s land with a potential rebound on one side and a selloff on the other.  Neither camp is making an agressive move here and instead waiting to see what other traders do first.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Between the conflicting negative sentiment, strong price gains, and relentless short-squeezes, most traders are uncertain where this  market is headed and are just sitting on their hands.  We might break this log jam leading into the close as traders with more conviction start piling in on one side or the other.  Breaking above 1420 or under the 50dm could trigger a larger wave of activity from those waiting for the market to make a move.

Trading so close to the 50dma makes us vulnerable to a dip under it and the inevitable avalanche of automated orders that get executed when we break well followed technical levels.  Market markers pay their alimony and kid’s private school tuition through trading volume.  They know all these stop-losses are just a couple of points away and will do their best to push us into that area to trigger all that activity.  The bigger question is what happens after all those automatic orders are executed.  Does it trigger a larger slide as selling begets more selling?  Or will the market run out of sellers and bounce?

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

It is getting late in the game to put on a new short.  At this point we could easily bounce back above 1430 on yet another short-squeeze.  And if we selloff, we probably won’t fall much further then 1400.  That doesn’t set up for a good risk/reward.  If you have some short profits from yesterday, keep them on a tight leash and start eyeing the exit.  You don’t have to sell today, but the probabilities and rewards are less in your favor than they were yesterday.

Anyone out of this market should start looking for stock they like and look for an opportunity to buy on this pullback.  We might see prices get a little more attractive, but don’t get greedy and wait too long.  For long-term holders, don’t let this modest selloff spook you out of your holdings no matter how scary the headlines become.  Remember, our profit comes from the market not the medida, so don’t take your eye off the ball.  We could see prices dip to 1390 and maybe even a little bit lower, but that is where selling should climax and find support.

Of course the emotional trade is the wild card and we need to watch for signs the market is cracking if traders become spooked by developments out of Washington.  But given this market’s strength in the face of recent bickering and rhetoric, current participants are not all that sensitive to what is coming out of DC and I don’t expect a panic driven rush for the exits even if talks breakdown.  But I reserve the right to change my mind on a moment’s notice as the story develops and the market reacts to it.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL was flattened by a downgrade from a UBS analyst.  He lowered his price target from $1,000 to $700, and that caused the stock to drop to $510.  But let’s not forget these analysts are really glorified accountants and if they could trade, they would be traders not lowly analysts.  The other thing is this UBS analyst is still very positive on the fundamental story, he is just playing stock market by trying to guess what the market will do next.  And in most instances analyst driven moves rarely stick because they are not related to the fundamental story, they are simply one person’s opinion.  Fundamental news out of the company is what triggers directional moves in a stock.

Trading wise we might see the stock break $500 on gigantic volume, forming the second dip in a double-bottom before returning to more normal levels.  A lot of people are selling AAPL by the dump truck load between the weak price action, impending tax increases, and sentiment change, but look all of those to reverse next year.

Stay safe

Dec 13

PM: Rally let some air out

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

PM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets slid through the day as air let out of the recent rally.  We dropped back to 1420, what was overhead resistance up until two days ago.  Volume was average, but lower than the last couple days.  The somewhat restrained volume shows panic hasn’t hit the market and it was more a lack of buying that pushed us lower than a surge of selling. Is old resistance at 1420 going to become new support?  Or is there more downside left?

MARKET SENTIMENT

With seven short-squeezes over the last month, it wouldn’t surprise me if a large number of bears developed an aversion to shorting this market.  Fool me once shame on you, fool me seven times, shame on me.  But the thing about the markets is the more failed attempts there are, the more likely the next one will succeed.  Seven short-squeezes is getting up there and the probability for a real pullback is growing by the day.

It took a lot of buying to push us up 90+ points and  there is little wonder why the market is struggling to find new buyers.  It will probably take more than a one day decline to tempt value buyers with their large war chest to jump in.   A pullback to 1400 and things start looking real interesting again.

We could get hit with a panic driven selloff if the Fiscal Cliff thing blows up, but that is unlikely.  The post-election selloff shook out most of the emotional traders, so there are a lot fewer people left to hit the panic button this time around.  Further, there are a lot of people who already expect us to fall off the cliff and that possibility is so widely discussed it is largely priced in.  And lastly, the Fiscal Cliff is more like a rolling hill than a cliff and most of the effect won’t be realized for moths, so passing the deadline is more symbolic than consequential.  You could have retail investors dump their 401k accounts, but there will be so few of them that the selling will be far more restrained than the post-election selloff.  And honestly I would welcome more irrational selling because that creates great profit opportunities for those that keep their head.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Be prepared for more downside, but don’t be surprised if the market bounces pretty quick.  Shorts need to be real careful here and don’t get greedy.  It shouldn’t be hard to hit 1410,  1400 is a little more of a stretch because we could bounce anytime in that area.  Waiting for 1390 is getting greedy and less likely to happen.  I’m not saying it can’t happen, just less likely.  It is easy to make money in the markets, the hard part is keeping it, so selling a little early is always preferable to waiting too long and letting those profits evaporate.

Fiscal Cliff negotiations will play a role in the next few trading sessions.  We need to pay careful attention to how the market is responding to these developments.  If the market shows increased skittishness, then there might be more room on the downside, but if the market continues its indifference, then we can ignore it and trade the rebound.  Coming up on the holiday break next week, the result will be binary, either negotiations fall apart and everyone goes home, or a deal will be reached.  In coming days we will look at how to trade this.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

Predictably AAPL had a bad day, but I think this is a really good sign.  I would be far more concerned if AAPL rallied today because that shows the emotional trade is still in control.  The closer AAPL follows the indexes, the better off the stock will be.  We might see some agressive selling if we break under recent lows, but that autopilot stop-loss selling is expected, normal, and healthy.  It will take months for AAPL to climb out of this hole, but for the long-term investor the risk might be worth the reward.  For the swing-trader, there is still some volatility to play.

Stay safe

Dec 13

AM: Running out of buyers

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:11 EDT

AM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets traded lower this morning.  If you read the financial press, they’ll claim some piece of news caused this weakness, but reality is we ran out of new buyers after running up 90+ points in just a few weeks.  As anyone who reads this blog knows, only supply and demand drives market prices.  Fundamentals and technicals are secondary and that is why going against the crowd is often a winning strategy.  You can have the best fundamental or technical analysis in the market, but if supply and demand is not on your side, you’ll lose money.

MARKET SENTIMENT

We’ve seen a lot of buying in the last few weeks at the market gained 90+ points from the November lows.  Most of this move was simply recovering the emotional selling that took place after Obama’s reelection.  But where does that leave us now?  Did we come back to equilibrium, or did we overshoot and are poised for a pullback?

It seems likely we’ve exhausted the supply of available buyers for the time being.  Momentum traders jumped on the bandwagon and shorts have been blown out.  Regardless of what the news reports, to go higher we need to find new buyers willing to pay even more to continue this rally.  Short-term traders make up most of the daily trading volume, but they have limited buying power and only institutional money can sustain moves higher.  But the thing about institutional money is they hate chasing stocks and prefer buying the dip.  If we’ve exhausted the supply short-term money, we will pullback some before big money will step in and start buying the dip.  Two steps forward, one step back.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Don’t expect a major market correction here.  If you are tempted to trade the short side, take your profits early and often.  If you are a swing trader, now is a good time to lighten up and wait to buy back in at lower prices.  Value investors, hang on and don’t let the noise around you distract you or make your question your resolve.  This will be a modest pullback and look for a rally early next year as a lot of this tax motivated selling and special dividend money is reinvested in the markets.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is the high-beta trade, down 3x the indexes losses, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone.  One more selloff will purge the stock of the last holding on and set the stage for a consolidation and recovery.  Once all the people who can be scared out are scared out, supply will dry up and the stock start a recovery   The Apple Inc story is not broken and the company is fundamentally sound.  AAPL stock on the other hand was over-owned and that lead to the pullback because it ran out of new buyers.   I’m a loyal Apple Inc fan, but not an AAPL stock bull by any stretch.  I see the stock entering a decade-long sideways trading range as it continues to grow internationally and print money with shockingly high margins, but it will lose market share to lower priced competition and they will not come up with the next disruptive, must-have gadget.    I actually think the Windows 8 family of products are the most promising thing out there, but it will take a couple of years for them to get the hardware and software mix just right to compete with the fit and polish of Apple.

Stay safe

Dec 12

PM: New high, but finish flat

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

PM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Stocks notched the highest levels in almost 2 months after the Fed announced it would keep rates near zero until unemployment dropped to 6.5%.  But the enthusiasm was short-lived as the markets gave back all those gains and closed flat for the day.  Volume was higher between short-covering and momentum trading, but those buyers quickly ran out of money and the market couldn’t entice anyone else to jump in at the new highs.

MARKET SENTIMENT

We got another shot-squeeze today, the 7th by my count since the November lows.  I’m surprised bears are still solvent after all that bloodletting.  Chances are many bears have grown tired of shorting the market and conceding defeat.  It is okay to be wrong, it is fatal to stay wrong.  But the ironic thing is as soon as most give up, we will finally get that selloff.  The market is cruel that way.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Stocks are getting a little rich up here and it would be a good time to trim profits.  The market is not setup for a major fall, just a retest of the 50dma or 1400.  The two reasons we won’t have a major correction, 1) the market is pessimistic, not complacent and 2) the market is obsessing about negative news, not oblivious to it.  The fuel for major selloffs is unexpected bad news.  Anything that has been talked about ad nauseam is not going to surprise anyone.

For a trading plan, lighten up on longs and wait for better prices to buy back in.  The extremely aggressive could look to put on a quick short, but don’t stay short more than a couple of days and close your position near the 50dma.  But honestly there isn’t a lot of profit to make a short trade worth the risk.

INDIVIDUAL STOCK

AAPL seems to be firming up around the $540 level.  This isn’t an absolute floor for the stock, but some sideways consolidation here is part of the basing process.  We will probably see one more dip lower due to broad market weakness that flushes out the last of the hopeful, but after that the stock will be better poised to climb out of this hole.

Stay safe

Dec 12

AM: The oblivious rally

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:09 EDT

AM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market is trading higher after yesterday’s breakout.  We are just above of resistance in the low 1430s after the market popped on the Fed’s announcement.  It’s been one heck of a ride over the last 5 trading days as we bounced off 1400 and had 5 consecutive up-days, now looking at our 6th.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see a down in the near future.  In fact a little consolidation here would be healthy because going too-far, too-fast is unsustainable and leads to larger snap-backs.

There is some volatility surrounding the Fed announcements with the initial reaction being higher and breaking former resistance at 1434 is triggering some stop-loss/auto-buying.  This is the oblivious rally that just keeps on going no matter how many reasons it shouldn’t

MARKET SENTIMENT

Many traders are suspicious of this rally and unsure what to do.  They joined the crowd and sold stock after Obama’s reelection.  They continue fretting over the Fiscal Cliff headlines and still worry about developments in Europe that everyone has seemingly forgotten about.  Yet the market is oblivious to these concerns.  What is a trader to do?  Most rationalized it as a temporary bounce and it would come back down, but it’s been nearly a month and 85+ S&P points and the market is still going up.

In the markets, price is truth and many cynical traders reconsidering their views.  This is a perfect example of what happens when too many traders opinion’s cluster together.  Efficient markets depend on independent opinions.  Surprisingly it doesn’t matter if individuals in are rational or not, just as long as they are independent.  Even when participants are irrational, if the irrationality is independent, the extremes on one side counteract extreme views on the other side.  In an independent environment the irrationality cancels itself out and we are left we an efficient market.  But what we had in the post-election selloff was a clustering of opinions.  Rational or not, when groupthink hits the market, it skews prices and makes the market inefficient.  But this isn’t bad for trader because this is our bread and butter.  Inefficient markets create profit opportunities and without cracks to exploit, beating the market would not be possible.

The situation we have now is pessimists suffering from doubt and an identity crisis.  These turncoats are the new buyers that are pushing us higher, as both as short-covering and afraid of being left behind chasers.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Up six days in a row might make the market vulnerable to a pullback, so anyone tempted to chase this market might wait a couple of days to find better prices.  As we have seen time and time again, it is ruinous for your trading account’s health to be short this market.  The trend is clearly higher and the easy trade is owning the market.  We should expect a pullback to the 50dma, but that will be a buying opportunity.  The one snag to watch for is an emotional trade surrounding the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.  Much like the Obama reelection, we could see some irrational selling, but that will be short-lived and create a buying opportunity.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is again following the indexes, albeit with a lot more beta.  The irrational selling seems to have abated.  Most of the pre-tax increase selling has probably already happened too. Anyone contemplating locking in AAPL gains for tax purposes was likely pushed over the edge watching the stock nose over like it did.  Most of the commentary surrounding AAPL is focusing on their weaknesses and what they are doing wrong and no doubt there is truth to these points.  The iPhone finally has real competition from Samsung and is losing market share in the US, but lets not forget AAPL is an international story and how they perform overseas is what will drive the stock.

Stay safe

Dec 11

PM: Can’t hold this bull down

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

PM Update

Markets surged higher and is flaunting strength in the face of widespread pessimism   We make our money off of the market, not fundamentals, so listen to what the market is saying and here is wants to go higher.  We could see some near-term consolidation of the recent gains, but the trend is clearly higher.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market surged past resistance at 1420 and burst above 1430 before settling back to 1427.  There was a late selloff after all the short-squeeze buying tapered off, but the market still finished in the top half of the day’s range.  Volume was slightly above average.  The next level of overhead resistance dates from before the election at 1430 and support is now 1420.

MARKET SENTIMENT

The market was caught off guard when word came out of Washington that Fiscal Cliff talks were making progress.  Lately the assumption has been both sides are digging in and unwilling to compromise, but today’s tone was far more conciliatory.

The resulting price-action reveals how bearish the markets were and how many traders were either under-invested or short the market.  A lot of today’s move was a short-squeeze and as we saw this afternoon, the air often lets out of those after reaching the point of maximum pain for bears.  But even with the modest letdown, the market still closed in the top half of the range.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

The market is becoming more hopeful a Fiscal Cliff deal will be reached and is rallying in anticipation.  But this early move shows the market is ahead of the news and all the upside will already be priced in by the time something is agreed to.  We might even see a sell the news if the eventual compromise isn’t everything the market is hoping for.

The market clearly wants to rally here as all the bears are helpless to hold down the market.  We might even see under-invested money managers chase into yearend if this strength keeps up.  The important technical levels are 1420 underneath and 1430 above.  We coud easily retest and even dip through 1420 on a routine, healthy, and productive pullback, but anything larger shows major flaws in this rally.  1430 is the new line in the sand for bears and we’ll get another surge of buying if we can break above this level.  Recent price action shows it is time to be long the market.  We will watch for downside weakness tomorrow, but barring a major breakdown, this market wants to go higher and any dips should be used as entry/add-on points.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

APPL rallied with the market and finished higher by 2.1%.  As I shared in the AM update, seeing AAPL follow the market’s price moves is a good sign the selloff fever is breaking.  The irrational and emotional selling will need to dry up before any kind of sustainable rebound can happen.  Often this comes after most have given the name up for dead.  The failed bounce off of $500 a couple of weeks ago did a lot of demoralize the hopeful crowd.  A double bottom with a new low would go a long way to completely demoralizing the last holdouts and ironically put a floor under the stock.  Much like the broad market, we need skittish holders to sell to longer-viewed value investors who are comfortable sitting through volatility.  Once there is a critical mass of stable value investors, the volatility will subside and the name will begin its climb higher.  The big catalyst will be earnings in January and with the newly lowered expectations, it will be easier for AAPL to exceed the vastly lowered bar.

Stay safe

Dec 11

AM: New highs

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:09 EST

AM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets surged past resistance at 1420 and are now in line with pre-election resistance near 1430.  All of the Obama reelection selloff has been recovered and the market continues flaunting strength in the face of pervasive negativity.

MARKET SENTIMENT

It is a bad time to be short the market and bears are feeling more pain today as the market refuses to acknowledge their view of the world.  But as we know, markets operate on supply and demand, not fundamentals.  Fundamentals and sentiment can influence supply and demand, but price is exclusively driven by supply and demand and all other factors are secondary.

Because the pessimism is fairly widespread, that view is already priced in.  People trade their views and if everyone is telling you how bad the world is, then they have already traded those opinions.   After they sell, these people are simply cheerleaders since they can no longer dump more supply on the market.  But here is the interesting thing, while the current bears are unable to further pressure prices, they can boost prices if they start buying back into the market.  And that is the heart of contrarian trading.  The crowd cannot push the market any further in their direction, but they can move markets if they change their mind and push the prices the other way    And this rally is doing just that.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Don’t expect the market to go straight up and their will be some turbulence, but we should hold above the 1420 going forward.  If there is material a violation of 1420 that likely means the rally is fizzling.  But a test of 1420 and modest penetration will just be part of digesting these new gains.  Today’s pop is largely driven by shorts getting blow out of the water and their frenzied buying will climax soon and we should expect a little retrenchment.

Stocks rallied on encouraging words out of Washington on progress toward averting the Fiscal Cliff.  Maybe they will actually get something done before the deadline, but you have to wonder if this is a buy-the-rumor, sell-the-news setup forming.  But either way I expect this rally will continue into next year as the economy continues growing slowly and headline events turn out better than trader’s worst fears.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL popped along with the broad market today.  It is getting late in the game for AAPL to announce a special dividend, so anyone hoping for that should adjust their expectations accordingly.  Today AAPL’s price-action is mirroring that of the indexes.  That is progress as the stock is weaning the emotion out of its trade.  Emotion is not an on-off switch, so we can expect more wild swings, but this is part of getting back to more normal trade.

Stay safe

Dec 10

PM: A win for the bulls

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

PM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets traded mostly flat on light volume.  Neither sellers nor buyers showed up in force and while it looks like a draw, holding above the 50dma is a win for bulls.  We are within a couple of points of a post-election high and breaking above that would be a technical accomplishment.  Of course we need to wait for the breakout to stick because it could just as easily turn into a double top, dropping us back to the 200dma.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market is holding up well giving further hints owners are not ready to sell shares even with all the counterproductive rhetoric in Washington.  Another support day here and it will be time to take a serous look at going long this market.  The real test will come when we break above Dec 3rd’s high of 1424.  If we don’t selloff in a double top, it will be extremely constructive action and we have to take notice no matter what is going on in the headlines or how light the volume is.  Markets rally in the face of pessimism and that could be what is happening here.  All the pessimists already sold to new holders who are comfortable sitting through the Fiscal Cliff volatility.  This attitude creates a self-defeating prophecy where the holders willingness to ride out volatility actually eliminates the expected volatility.   If everyone is holding, supply dries up and the market heads higher.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Another close above the 50dma and this market will show more strength than most give it credit for.  No doubt there is a lot of pessimism around the Fiscal Cliff, Europe, and China, but the only times I can recall when everything was great was just before a major bear market.  This fear of impending doom is also creating a self-defeating prophecy as it holds prices in check keeps the bear in his cage.

My recent bias was for a modest pullback after the recent 75 point rally, but I am reconsidering that near-term expectation.  There is probably a 50/50 chance we’ll avoid a selloff and instead use this sideways consolidation to reset the clock.  Headlines are always a risk in this market, but everyone is expecting us to go over the fiscal cliff so that is already largely priced in. We could see a couple of days of emotional selling, but nothing like what happened after the election.  There was far more hope of a Romney win than a Fiscal Cliff resolution, so that means any Fiscal Cliff selloff to be more modest.  Hope is the fuel of declines and right now hope is scarce.

AAPL daily at end of day

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL had another down day.  At this point the stock is so emotional it is largely a coin flip if it will be up or down.  It has completely disconnected from the broad market and is marching to the beat of its own drummer.  It has become a trading stock and is completely divorced any market or company fundamentals.  If it feels too risky to buy AAPL here, then it is probably a good buy for anyone willing to hold through more volatility.

Stay safe

Dec 10

AM: Supporting the 50dma

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:12 EDT

AM Update

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The markets rallied modestly in early trade.  There are not many sellers at this level and they are being matched with more than enough willing buyers to support prices.  We are also close to making a new post-election high 1424.  Volume is light, but that is normal for this time of the year.  For as much concern as there is over headlines, the price-action doesn’t reflect this sentiment.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Owners are willing to hold here and the swing-trade is not putting much of a dent in these higher levels.  The recent pullback to 1443 changed the makeup of stock owners as weak-kneed owners sold out to more long-term opportunists willing to buy at a discount and hold through some volatility.  The stability of these new owners is supporting prices so far and we haven’t seen the volatile ups-and-downs that followed past declines in 2010 and 2011 and this summer.

There has not been much progress in Fiscal Cliff talks, but the market seems to be rallying in anticipation of the inevitable deal.  This is pretty standard buy-the-rumor, sell-the-news kind of stuff.  Given the recent rally in the face of stubborn posturing by both sides, it seems the market is okay with us heading off the cliff for a short amount of time.  But even if the majority of smart-money is expecting it, the actual event could spook retail investors and they start selling by the fistful because of media hype.  This could create another profit opportunity like we saw following the election.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Holding above the 50dma is encouraging, but we need to maintain this level for another day to prove there is real buying behind this move and it isn’t just short-term traders propping us up.  Breaking 1424 without selling off will be a strong indication current owners are perfectly content holding and that lack of supply will support of prices.

On the other side, breaking under the 50dma could trigger a wave of selling and that could shake the confidence of many content owners.  Nothing undermines resolve like red splashed across a trading screen.

AAPL daily @ 1:12 EST

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is showing its divergence from the rest of the market with it down while the broad market is higher.  It is now trading in a world of its own as everyone is trying to guess the next move.  This stock has completely separated from the fundamentals and is just a dice game at this point.  Everyone is in the markets for their own reasons, some want to make money and support their families with others are looking for a gambling-like thrill.  All the gamblers are flocking to AAPL and if that is your thing, there is no better place to be.

The supportive thing for the market is while AAPL carried the market on it’s back in the early part of this year, the collapse of AAPL has not weighted on the broader markets as much as expected.  At the time it seems to be a single stock story that is not spreading.

Stay safe

Dec 09

LA: Look for 50dma support

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Look Ahead

Here is what we can look forward to this week and strategies to trade it.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market regained the 50dma late Friday.  Finding new buyers to support prices above the 50dma will be a key component of continuing the current rally.  We are in the middle of the holiday lul and should expect volume to continue slacking off.  Lower volume means more volatility since it is easier for smaller traders to move the market, so expect head-fakes to continue.

MARKET SENTIMENT

The 50dma and 200dma are a key psychological levels for no other reason than so many people follow them.  Congestion around a price level creates more powerful support and resistance because this is where a lot traders actually bought and sold shares.  Emotions of fear and regret will cluster here because this is the point where many traders accounts will move between profit and loss.  Moving averages and round numbers make for noteworthy mile markers but don’t generate the same levels of pain and pleasure for traders who didn’t enter or exit trades at these levels    But the secondary indicators can affect the market’s mood and influence exceptions about what lies ahead.  In many ways these secondary technical levels are self-fulfilling prophecies.

A lot of traders are going to watch how we trade around the 50dma.  If we hold above it, they will buy the market.  If we fall under it they will sell and short.  And if that is what people are going to do, then we want to get out in front of this so we profit from the crowds buying and selling.  We don’t want to be the first one on the bandwagon, but we want to jump on before it is obvious to everyone else.

The market is currently ignoring the Fiscal Cliff debate and is not showing concern about the growing political deadlock.  Both Republican and Democratic leadership have thrown out ultimatums  and I wouldn’t expect either side to back down any time soon.  And the market knows this too, but it doesn’t seem concerned.  While this might be perplexing to the fundamental trader, we trade the market, not the news.

The thing we have to decide is if traders are buying for non-fundamental reasons here and that is creating this support here.  Are shorts buying this market because they cannot stomach further losses?  Are bandwagon traders buying because everyone else is?  If either of those traders are leading the charge higher, we will head lower quickly after their limited buying power dries up.  But if big money vale investors are attracted to these prices, then we will likely continue higher.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

The big difference between short-squeezes and momentum traders and value investors is the size of their trading accounts.  Short-term traders drive a lot of the daily volatility we see, but only the large mutual funds can sustain major market moves.  And so the most obvious way to tell who is leading this market is to wait a few days.  If big money is in charge, we’ll hold these levels going forward.  But if the short-term traders are propping up the market without the support of larger traders, this rebound will fizzle and collapse under its own weight.

If the market choses to ignore the Fiscal Cliff and thinks a pullback to 1400 is the only rest it needs, we have to respect that because the market is larger than we are.  It isn’t about what the market should do, but what the market does that puts profits in our accounts.

AAPL weekly at end of week

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

How can we not talk about AAPL?  Not only is it one of the most widely held stocks, but it also makes up the largest portion of the indexes.  AAPL’s $50 decline wiped out more market cap than most of the companies in the S&P500.

The first thing we need to recognize that AAPL the stock is a lot different from Apple Inc.  Apple Inc. is one of the most profitable companies in the world and growing like gangbusters.  There is nothing wrong with Apple Inc., but AAPL the stock on the other hand has run into significant headwinds.  Call it unrealistic expectations or over-owned,  but whatever it is, the stock is off 25% from its $700 high just a couple of months ago.  Is this stock done selling off?  Is it headed to $400?  Honestly I have no idea.  Has sentiment peaked, or is this just a shakeout?  I think AAPL is getting hit by all these people trading for tax reasons and the stock might liven up closer to the new year when this artificial pressure goes away.  But there are no guarantees because emotional trades go further and longer than most expect.  And lets be honest, at this point AAPL has turned into an emotional trade because it what everyone is talking about.  If you are a gambler, try to pick a bottom.  But if you are in this to make money, wait for the stock to find a bottom before buying in.  Most often we will see a couple false bottoms before the real rebound starts.  One false bottom down, one more to go.

Stay safe.

Dec 08

WR: Recovered early losses

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 weekly at end of week

Weekly Review

It is important to periodically take a step back and look at the bigger picture because too often the daily noise can be confusing and misleading.  That is the intent of these weekly reviews.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market sold off early in the week as Monday and Tuesday finished in the red, but the market rebounded Wednesday, recovering all of those losses.  Interestingly enough, we opened the week by gapping above the 50dma, couldn’t hold that level and traded down to 1398 before bouncing back, ending the week above the 50dma.  Wednesday was the low point in the week and had the highest daily volume in quite some time.  Was this the capitulation point of a modest pullback?    Certainly could be looked at that way.

MARKET SENTIMENT

How a week closes is similar in importance to how a day closes.  Often big money makes their trades later in the week after they had a chance to evaluate market conditions and new fundamental data.  Pros throw their weight around near the end of week and it is important to keep tabs on what they are up to because they have all the money.

The most bullish thing from last week is buyers were willing buy Wednesday’s dip under 1400 and kept pushing the market all the way back above the 50dma.  On the other side we should be asking if this was the last short-squeeze before correcting lower.

The single the most challenging aspects of trading the market is both sides always have extremely compelling arguments for their positions.  The market price is the exact balance point between these two opposing viewpoints and you end up with exactly half the money on each side of the trade.  One side is buying because they think it will go higher, the other side is selling because they think it is time to get out before prices decline.  (there are other reasons to sell, but lets keep this simple)  To be successful, we need to spot group think and exploit opportunities where the crowd is getting it wrong.  For the near-term trade that is hard to do here because it seems both sides are equally matched.  A bad headline could trigger an emotional selloff, or the pervasive pessimism could continue fueling a rally that discounts every piece of bad news thrown at it.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Right now it is hard to get ahead of this market because there is no obvious group-think skewing the crowd one way or the other.  From here the best play is waiting for the market to reveal its hand and then jumping along for the ride.  Holding above the 50dma for a couple more days makes this a buyable rally.  Dipping under the 50dma shows buyers are unwilling to support these prices.

And of course lets remember we don’t always have to be in the markets.  Don’t trade just for the sake of trading.  If you don’t have an edge on the market, take some time off and come back when there are better profit opportunities.  Volume for the rest of the year will trend lower and volatility will pick up as smaller players will be able to push the market around.  That could be enough of an excuse to take a break and come back in January with a rested mind.

AAPL weekly at end of week

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL had its worst week in a years.  Resistance at the 200dma turned the stock back down and most of the traders who piled in on the recent rebound from $500 are now under water.  Funny how the market manages to turn the easy trade into the wrong trade.  There are a dozen psychological and economic reasons this happens, but it boils down to if it is easy to buy, it is probably a bad idea.  AAPL’s bounce off $500 sucked in a lot of people and this second pullback barbecued them.  AAPL is quickly going from a buy-and-hold stock to one that should be sold any time you have a profit because two days later it will reverse hard and you’ll be in the red.  The shocking thing is how volatile such a large company is when there is no real news to speak of.  There is no scandal at the top, no PR disaster, no major accident, strike, or disruption, AAPL is making these dramatic swings just because.  You’ll get a dozen reasons out of the financial press and analysts, but the truth is the stock was over-owned and ran out of buyers.  Without buyers, fundamentals don’t matter.

Sunday we’ll look forward to what we might happen next week.

Stay safe

Dec 07

PM: What short-squeeze

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

What happened to today’s short-squeeze.  We closed higher, but it should have been a lot higher.  Did this give us a clue about how this market is positioned and where it is headed?

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets closed above the 50dma for the first time in nearly two months.  This would be considered a big win except it came on the heels of a strong employment report that failed to excite traders.  Volume was well below average and it seems many traders have cutout for the rest of the year.  Low volumes can lead to increased volatility as it becomes easier for smaller trades to move the market, so we might expect more unpredictability from the markets in coming weeks.

MARKET SENTIMENT

It was surprising to see the market’s underwhelmed reaction to an unexpectedly good jobs report and drop in unemployment to 7.7%.  The market even traded in the red for part of the day.  It was encouraging to see the market rally into the close and finish near the highs, but it is still curious the market failed to rally strongly on good news given how negative sentiment seems.  In times of extreme pessimism, the markets will vault higher on something as little as less-bad news, yet here we have good news and the market shrugs it off and only squeezes out a 0.3% rally on light volume.

We might infer from the lack of a meaningful short-squeeze the markets are not overly pessimistic.  This is good news for bears and bad news for bulls.  The last few short-squeezes sent bears into hibernation and that lack of shorts in the market is why we didn’t see more upside from today’s news.  The apathetic rally also means there are not a lot of buyers on the bull side left to push us higher either.  Earlier in the week I was reconsidering my thoughts regarding a pullback because of the seemingly widespread negative sentiment, but today’s price action shows bearish positioning is not as prevalent as it sounds.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

While we finished the day strong and closed above the 50dma, I’m not sold on this rally just yet.  It still has to prove other buyers are willing to step-in at these levels and we won’t slip back under the 50dma due to lack of follow-on support.  Today’s price action nudged me slightly more negative than I was coming into the day.  I don’t have a lot of conviction in this bearish view, but today’s moves seeded to indicate there is not a lot of upside left the markets right now.  But just to clarify I only expect a brief pullback relating to emotional Fiscal Cliff worries and this will create a buying opportunity once the Fiscal Cliff is in the rear view mirror.

For a near-term trade, look to short the market if we break under the 50dma again and consider buying the market or at least covering shorts if we hang above the 50dma for three days.  Of coures all bets are off if our politicians surprise us all and come up with an agreeable compromise next week.

AAPL daily at end of day

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL continues acting like a drama-queen swinging between bouts of enthusiasm and despair.  Everything was great on Thursday and it was all broken again on Friday.  While it doesn’t feel helpful, this price-action is necessary to cleanse an over-owned stock.  Analysts will point to this or that for why we are selling off, but they are overlooking the simple and more accurate reason of supply and demand.  AAPL was perceived as the safest stock in the world and it was flooded with overly optimistic and slightly naive owners who assumed it was a sure thing.  But once everyone and their grandmother had as many shares as they could fit in their mattress, there was no one left to buy and gravity took over.  Now all these late comers are selling for a loss and gladly selling their stock for a steep discount just so they don’t have to endure any more pain.  But their pain is someone else’s gain.

Stay safe

Dec 07

AM: Employment Surprise

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at 1:05 EST

Surprise employment numbers fails to excite the market.  Is this giving us valuable insight into the market’s biases and disposition?

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Interesting price action this morning as the market shrugged off a far better than expected employment report.  It is noteworthy when the market fails to respond to positive news and can be a red flag signaling near-term weakness.  If good news can’t lift the market, what will bad news do?

We opened above the 50dma, but fell back under this psychological level within the first hour of trade.  Failing to hold this level for the second time in just over a week is not encouraging.

MARKET SENTIMENT

The market popped at the open, but quickly fizzled.  The gap was quite modest and short-lived, so it doesn’t count as a short-squeeze because it never put much pressure on shorts.  Most likely early gains were people rushing out to buy the headline and follow-on buying never materialized.  The early rally could be a victim of lack of buying rather than hit by a wave of selling.

People are tearing apart the employment report looking for reasons to doubt the headline number, but that is their cynical bias showing through.  They don’t want to buy this market and are looking for an excuse to ignore an otherwise positive result.  Remember, news doesn’t move markets, people’s reaction to the news does.  This is a subtle, but important distinction.  No piece of news is 100% positive or 100% negative.  There are always nuances to every story and depending on the mood of the market, it can grab on to either side.  With today’s employment report it would be extremely easy for traders to focus on to the headline number and run with it.  But it takes a bullish bias to ignore the negative aspects of part-time work and discouraged job hunters leaving the labor force.  We fell on the other side where the market ignored the headline and sold off due to the negative nuggets contained in the report.  This shows a bearish bias toward the news as traders fretted over details buried in the story.

The employment report is now in the rearview mirror and the market’s attention has already shifted to the next thing.  But we can use this result to gauge the market’s sentiment going forward.  Today’s early price action shows a lot of bearish cynicism and could set the tone for the coming weeks.  If good news cannot lift the market what will?

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

The unexpected surprise from the employment report didn’t produce the bounce it could have.  That is a very ominous warning.   Of course we need to watch how the market trades through the rest of the day.  Cynics could have taken hold early on but might lose control this afternoon.  This is a volatile market and often the initial reaction to a major story has been wrong.  Which will turn out to be the head fake, this morning’s pop, or the subsequent selloff?  One of them is wrong but it is too early to say.  In recent history, the wrong move corrected within hours.  Will we see the same here?  How the day closes will give us more information.  A weak close could be bad news for the markets as we get closer to the Fiscal Cliff.  A strong close will show traders are already looking ahead and less worried about what is in front of us.

AAPL daily @ 1:06 EDT

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is giving back some of yesterday’s big pop, but still well above yesterday’s lows.  This is turning into a highly emotional stock as it whips around.  Every moment of relief has been followed by another bout of terror.  And this isn’t a one way story, both bulls and bears are getting shredded by this volatility.  This has become a great swing trading story where you sell the rallies and buy the dips.  It will probably keep this up for some time to come as the stock turns over its core ownership base from complacent speculators to steadfast value investors.  Unlike spectacular breakdowns in NFLX and GMCR, AAPL has the fundamentals to back up its valuation.  Heck it is undervalued as compared to the broad market given its dividend and growth.  This is one of the most successful companies in the world and it is trading at a legacy company valuation.  But that doesn’t mean prices can’t continue to decline as emotion overtakes reason.

Stay safe

Dec 06

PM: What to look for tomorrow

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Markets finished higher by 0.3% Thursday.  Volume was less than average as traders paused before Friday’s employment report.  We continue trading between the 50dma and 1400, but find ourselves at the upper end of the range, within easy striking distance of an upside breakout.  Of course that also means there is more of room on the downside before we find support at 1400.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Employment numbers will be off slightly due to Sandy’s disruptions, but everyone is expecting that.  The question is how the market will respond to the numbers we do get.  Sandy gives traders a lot of leeway to trade their preexisting bias.  They could say the numbers are disappointing and hit the sell button, or they could rationalize away awful numbers by saying it was just a temporary blip due to Mother Nature.  Either way they have a free pass to trade their bias and we’ll learn a lot about what the market is thinking here.  The other thing to watch for is if the market’s initial reaction is the wrong reaction.  Lately the market has moved strongly after news, but quickly reversed and ultimately sustained a move in the other direction.  Keep an eye out for a similar head fake tomorrow.

Sentiment has been highly bearish surrounding the Fiscal Cliff and it seems few are expecting a last-minute deal.  If that is the majority’s opinion, then it is already priced in.  And honestly, these Fiscal Cliff debates are mostly about what gets cut and who pays more.  It is no longer debating if we get austerity, but who and  what feels the pain.  If we look at it more broadly from a macro-economic view, a compromise will largely have the same effect regardless of who it falls on because austerity is austerity.  The only exception is if they ultimately decide to kick the can down the road and continue the current policy in the name of economic stimulus.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

The market is holding up surprisingly well in the face of the political stalemate and near certainty we’ll plunge off the Fiscal Cliff.  If we continue holding up, I’m getting ready to reverse my expectations of a near-term pullback.  I thought there would be an emotional trade lower, but we’re not seeing it and the bearish side of the trade is getting a bit crowded.  It feels too easy to short the market here and you’d have to be crazy to buy this market.  Often the hard trade is the right trade.

As I shared the other day, there are great arguments to be made for a move in either direction.  When we don’t have a clear edge, it is best to let the market make its move and we jump in a little late.  Right now I think the smart trade is to let the market show it’s hand and then jump along for the ride whether it be lower or higher.

AAPL daily at end of day

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL staged a huge upside reversal on the largest volume since the Nov 16th bottom.  The stock probably put in a short-term bottom, and by short-term I mean the next few days.  We could see lower prices, but this volatile trade is flushing out most of the nervous AAPL holders and in their place far more confident buyers are stepping in.  Anyone buying here isn’t going to be scared by a pullback here or there.  They are in this for a longer-term trade and willing to hold through some volatility in order to get the profits they expect once some sanity returns to this name.  It will be these new owners who bring stability and take supply off the market, clearing the way for a rebound higher.  This doesn’t happen all at once and we could still see some wild swings in coming days and weeks.

Stay safe

Dec 06

AM: Anticipating employment

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:17 EST

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Seems we are in a holding pattern after yesterday’s whipsaw action and anticipating tomorrow’s employment numbers.  It is still early in the day and the markets could make a break one way or the other, but so far things are steady to slightly positive.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Is this the calm before the storm?  What will send us higher or drop us lower?  The impact of Sandy will be in this employment  survey as business and consumption on the east coast was interrupted.  But everyone already knows that, so rational expectations will be for a weaker number.  Of course if the market is predisposed to selling off, it could use that weak number to justify liquidating shares.

The interesting thing to watch is if the employment will be the catalyst to get this market moving again, either up or down.  The Employment Report will be long forgotten by late morning as traders refocus on political risk, but if employment kicks off a wave of buying or selling, it could last for a couple of days.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Currently we are pushing back toward the 50dma.  Holding above that key psychological level would be bullish, but don’t buy the first break above the 50 and wait to see if the breakout fizzles and reverses again.  There is more profit potential by being early, but there is also significantly more risk and more often the risk/reward doesn’t pan out of the overly-agressive trader.

A market refreshes itself by either pulling back, or trading sideways.  We came a long way in a short time the last few weeks and one way to clear the path higher is pulling back to the 200dma, the other is churning here for a bit.  A couple of months ago we churned above 1400 for a month before making a 50 point surge in just over a week.  I’m bullish over the intermediate-term, but more cautious here.  This is a great place for a value investor with a 6+ month time horizon to buy in.  For a more nimble trader, wait for the market to make its next move because you might see modestly more attractive prices if the coming days.

It seems a lot of traders are adjusting their portfolios for non-fundamental reasons, namely tax motivated selling.  This selling could create a buying opportunity leading into next year as stock rebound from this artificial inflation of supply.  And beyond that, we could see this same money pumped back into the markets in the near future.  What was weakness becomes strength.

AAPL daily @ 1:18 EST

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL is having a wild ride today.  It gapped lower at the open and traded as low as $518 before rebounding back to $550.  There is a truckload of emotion tied to this stock right now and many of the investors who had a set-it-and-forget-it mentality regarding AAPL are freaked out right now.  Their sure-thing doesn’t feel so sure anymore.  Anyone who bought in the last 10 months is sitting on a loss.  How can it be possible to lose money on the surest of sure things?   While there is a lot of talk about tax selling, the thing people are overlooking is there are hundreds of millions of shares underwater right now, many of those held by late-to-the-party retail investors.  This kind of flush out isn’t surprising and is clearing the deadwood.  I’m not an AAPL bull and don’t know how much more upside is left in this name, but I think this selloff is getting out of hand and is creating a buying opportunity.  Buying here is catching the kinife and that is rarely a good idea, but if someone was wiling to hold for 6-12 months, they will be rewarded by stepping in front of this un-fundamental selling.

Stay safe

Dec 05

PM: Much ado about nothing

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market was all over the place Wednesday.  Broke below 1400 in early trade, popped above 1415 in afternoon trade, and ultimately closed near break-even   Today’s price action did a good job humiliating bears and bulls alike and the multiple head-fakes triggered the strongest volume we’ve seen in a while.

For all the excitement, we are still suck between 1400 and the 50dma and today’s move didn’t shed much clarity on where the market is headed next.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Bears were sucked in with an early selloff, but were squeezed out a couple of hours later as the market surged higher.  Bulls jumped all over this rebound, but were ultimately let down as the market soldoff into the close.  What does this mean?  The market is still emotionally charged and short-term traders are trying to jump ahead of the next move.  These aggressive and premature traders are the source of this volatility and the market probably needs to marginalize these traders before the market can reveal its true intentions.  A couple more wild days like today will convince many of these short-term traders to stay away for a while.  Once they are out of the picture, the market will make its next move.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Today’s move chased out a lot of weaker hands on both sides and there is a strong possibility the next move outside the 1400 to 1415 range will signal the market’s near-term intentions.  Or it could be just another head fake intended to humiliate and demoralize all the traders trying to jump ahead of the market.  This whipsaw selloff very well could have refreshed the rally and made room for further upside progress, it could also be the last gasps of the rally before nosing over, or it could be the just the start of a volatile trading range.

On this blog I often talk about high-probability trades, but right now a valid and solid case could be made for a move in either direction.  Pessimism remains at elevated levels and most traders expect us to fly off the Fiscal Cliff, meaning it is already priced in.  But at the same time the market rallied on hope that the Fiscal Cliff wouldn’t be such a big deal and we have corrected very little since negotiations in DC started bogging down.  This is turning into one of those situations where the probabilities are fairly well-balanced, making it nothing more than a flip of a coin.  To make money we need to see more of an imbalance and extreme in sentiment and we just don’t have that here.  At times like these it is best just to sit on cash and wait for more information.  The biggest mistake most traders make is needing to be in the market nearly all the time.  If you don’t have an edge on the market, take a break and go fishing.

AAPL daily at end of day

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL was pounded relentlessly today.  This is what happens when a stock is over-owned and someone yells fire.  AAPL closed down 6.4% on no news as investors climbed over each other trying to get to the exits.  Lets be clear, AAPL is not a GMCR or NFLX with an astronomical and unsustainable valuation based on outrageous growth expectations.  But AAPL does suffer from being one of the most owned stocks in the world and it has run short buyers.  Blame it on tax increases next year, Android, supply chain issues, or whatever else people are talking about.    But the truth is everyone who wants some AAPL already has some AAPL and there is no one left to buy shares from the guy who wants to cash in.  It is anyone’s guess how far this selloff will go, but unlike other bubble stocks, AAPL is the real deal and it isn’t about to implode in on itself.  If anything, the street is under appreciating its growth, cash flows, and profit margins.  We might see a double bottom form, but recognize over the near-term this stock has transitioned from investment grade to trading material.  Expect the stock to remain volatile until we have concrete fundamental data out of the company, most likely the Q4 earnings.  Until then trading AAPL will just be legalized gambling.

Stay safe

Dec 05

AM: 1400 bounce

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

 

S&P500 daily at 12:57 EST

AM Update

Markets tried to selloff and no doubt hungry bears piled on the early weakness.  But just as quick, the market bounced off 1400 and sent late bears running for cover.  Did this rally correct enough to refresh itself and is resuming the uptrend, or was this simply a false bottom on our way lower?

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Wild early trade.  Markets opened higher, then slid through he first couple hours before bouncing off the 1400 level and jumping back to new highs.  AAPL was pounded and no doubt contributed to the index’s early weakness.  The market flirted with 1400, a level that provided support multiple times going all the way back to August, before surging back above 1410.  Is this another legitimate bounce off 1400, or just a fake rally to suck in premature bottom-pickers and flush out aggressive shorts?

MARKET SENTIMENT

Last week everything was looking up and now everything is falling apart.  It is maddening how the market switches personalities like this, unless you understand how the market works and then these swings become profit opportunities.  As anyone who has been reading this blog for a while knows, we try to get ahead of these moves, not whipped around by them.

Everyone gets to contribute their ideas about what the market does, and they do this by buying or selling stocks.  But unlike the traditional one-person one-vote, in the markets some people’s opinions count a lot more due to the size of their trading account.  But the interesting thing about voting in the stock market, once you place your vote, you no longer have a say and are just along for the ride until you buy or sell more shares.  It is this ‘along for the ride’ period where interesting things happen.

This phenomenon was on display the last few weeks.  The markets sold off hard after Obama’s reelection as a mass of disappointed Republicans voted with their money and pulled out of the market in droves.  But after a certain point all these disappointed Republicans sold and they were no longer influencing the market’s direction.  At this point other investors saw an opportunity to buy heavily discounted shares on the heels of an emotional selloff.  These new buyers poured money into stocks, but after a couple of weeks they also ran out of money and after all the buyers bought, demand dries up and markets fall under their own weight.

While it seems like the market is changing personalities, it is simply reflecting the opinions of the traders actively buying or selling at that moment in time.  Recognizing what actually makes the markets move brings you one step closer to figuring out how to win at this game.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Selling has modest to this point and we’ll most likely continue lower until we drop where it rattles some of the more confident traders.  But expect the market to saw tooth its way lower as bottom pickers and late shorts create these rallies.

Of course the market can go either direction and regaining and holding above the 50dma would signal this rally is back on.  We have the November employment report this Friday and that might be the catalyst to nudge the market one direction of the other.  Since we have rallied strongly the last couple weeks, expect and upside move to be more limited than a move lower that still has lots of room to run.

Stay safe

Dec 04

PM: Modest selloff so far

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

 

S&P500 daily at end of day

Markets down for a second day, but panic has not hit the street yet.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Stocks finished in the red, but off of the day’s low.  We fell back under the 1410 level that was temporarily providing support.  Volume was up from Monday, but still below average.   We declined the last two days, but it has been anything but a mad rush for the exits as volatility and volume are well under control…..so far.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Buyers failed to show up for a second day.  Volume was lower than average, showing selling wasn’t the sources of the weakness.   Buying pushed this market higher, but now the rally is struggling to find new buyers willing to commit fresh capital at these levels and as a result we hit this soft patch.

Last week everyone was hoping for an early compromise to the Fiscal Cliff, but that view has changed 180 degrees and now it seems everyone expects us to blow past the deadline without an agreement.  I’m getting tired of always talking about the Fiscal Cliff, but it is the topic of the moment.  The overall impact will be minimal, but the market is obsessing over it and that creates tradable opportunities due to these overreactions.

Depending on how things go over the next couple weeks, the act of falling off the cliff could actually be the point of maximum pessimism and become the buyable catalyst. We’ll have to keep an eye on sentiment and see how other traders are positioned the closer we get to the deadline.

AAPL daily at end of day

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

No reason to buy the dip here and most likely any strength is a good shorting opportunity.  Longer-term holders prepare mentally for a modest selloff and don’t let all the hype in the media scare you out of your positions.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL really took it on the chin today and it is getting harder to find an AAPL bull.  The selloff and this shift in sentiment is dramatically lowering the expectations for the company on what should be a blowout quarter.  IPhone5 is still on backorder, we have the iPad mini, the new iPad4, and the refreshed iMacs to make for a strong bump in Q4 sales.  This doesn’t mean AAPL can’t go down more, but AAPL at $575 is far less risky than owning it at $700.

Stay safe

Dec 04

AM: Weakness persists

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily @ 1:10 EST

The market is running out of buyers prices are softening.  Some will blame this or that, but the truth is a change supply and demand is the driver behind this weakness.  Look for a potential sawtooth selloff to at least the 200dma.

MARKET BEHAVIOR

Stocks tried to stage a rally in the first hour of trade, but quickly fizzled and we are currently down 0.3%.  Yesterday’s reversal had a large intraday range, but it happened on low volume.  From this we can infer it wasn’t a wave of selling that hit the market, but a lack of buying.  This further reinforces the notion this rally is running out of buyers.  If prices continue declining, we will naturally expect volume to pick up.  It will be this burst of volume on downside that signals the end of the pullback as the last surge of the sellers rush for the exits.  At that point selling dries up and we head higher due to a lack of supply.  The market is one a giant pendulum that swings back and forth.    It seems we are starting to swing back the other way.

There are a lot of people who claim it is foolish to time the markets.  What they really mean to say is most people, pros and amateurs alike, cannot time the market.  But that is simply because they are looking at the wrong clues.  The market is pretty straight forward if you understand the dynamics that cause prices to rise and fall.  Namely the emotions and positioning of other traders.

MARKET SENTIMENT

Over the last couple weeks the market’s rebound seduced many traders into thinking the Fiscal Cliff didn’t matter any more.  Anyone who was shouting doom and gloom was humbled by the recent rally and it encouraged anyone who expect the Fiscal Cliff to be resolved to jump in head first.  But the market doesn’t like being easy or predictable, so just as everyone thinks they have it figured out, the market throws a wrench into the works to keep everyone off-balance.

The biggest question we need answered is if this is the start of a real pullback, or just the last short-squeeze.  It is super easy to figure out what the market will do next, the challenge is knowing when it will do it.  Timing is where all the money is made.  Without a doubt the market will pullback because it always does, what we need to figure out is when it will happen.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

Breaking the 50dma yesterday and squeezing out the last of the bears really puts the odds in favor of this being the real pullback.  But don’t mistake favorable odds with certainty.  There are no guarantees in the market and the chances of this being the real pullback are about 2/3 to 1/3.  So while it makes the pullback more likely than not, out of three similar setups, one will continue higher.  But as a trader that is okay.  The goal isn’t to always be right, but to make more money when we are right than we lose when we are wrong.  We use risk management techniques like limiting losses and letting winners ride.  We also look for setups that put the probabilities in our favor.  Combining these techniques vastly improves the chances we will be successful, but there are no guarantees in this game.

I think this is the real pullback, but there is a smaller probability there could be last short-squeeze before this rally leg is done.  Most likely we will see a sawtooth lower as  bottom-pickers get sucked in prematurely on the way down.  The rule of three works pretty well in these situations.  This is where we get two or three head-fakes before the real reversal happens.  There is a lot of psychology behind why this happens, but just know that every short-squeeze or false bottom brings us one step closer to the one that actually sticks.  Ignore the first couple, but get ready to trade the 3rd or 4th.  We had several short squeezes over the last couple weeks and that is why I am more confident in this attempted pullback.  And on the other side we’ll see a few failed rally attempts before the real one can succeed.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL outperformed yesterday and is getting whacked today.  There are opinions abound about AAPL from it being the first trillion-dollar company to it falling 70%.  And you know what, both could be right.  AAPL’s rally could still have legs if international sales continue exploding.  While AAPL’s products are premium priced, the number of people around the world who can afford it are growing every day.  It is highly unlikely AAPL will lead the budget handset market, but with the exploding global middle class the pie is growing so fast AAPL will do just fine focusing on the upper end of the market.  But at the same time technology companies rarely dominate for long.  Palm and Rim are recent examples of 800lb gorillas  being supplanted by a newer innovator.  Ten years from now Apple will still be a big player, but it won’t have the coolest or most innovative producer on the market.  It is fine to trade AAPL, but I wouldn’t plan on handing shares down to your heirs.  Hardware is just too volatile for any one company to stay at the top of the hill for more than a couple iterations.

Stay safe

Dec 03

PM: Too-far, too-fast

By Jani Ziedins | Intraday Analysis

S&P500 daily at end of day

Is the market finally running out of buyers?

MARKET BEHAVIOR

The market’s character is changing slightly as we saw the biggest intraday selloff in a month.  Today was an outside reversal, meaning the high was higher and low was lower than the prior day.  The market opened above the 50dma, but those were the highest levels of the day and the market sold off through the close.  There were a few failed rally attempts, but each only temporarily halted the selling.

This breaks the pattern of intraday bounce backs after early selloffs.  We will see if tomorrow can find support, or if this too-far, too-fast rally has finally reached the breaking point.

MARKET SENTIMENT

It will be interesting to see how Tuesday trades.  Today’s price action was fairly negative and that could cause many would-be buyers to take a wait and see attitude.  Few are going to buy tomorrow if they think they can get a better price in a few days.  Without a demand from a pool of buyers, prices will fall to the point where buyers are finally tempted to come back.

After today’s selloff, the ball is in the value investor’s court.  We will fall until they see prices they can’t resist.  We could see them stepping in tomorrow if they expect an imminent resolution to the Fiscal Cliff, or they could wait for us to bounce off the 200dma.  They could even wait for us to penetrate the 200dma before stepping in in meaningful numbers.

And lets not forget most of the bears were chased out of the market the last couple weeks and they are ready to pile on any weakness, further pressuring a weak market.

TRADING OPPORTUNITIES

There is no such thing as a safe trade in the stock market, but there are situations more favorable than others.  It is these high probability trades that give the savvy trader an edge over the long-term.  It looks like we are on the verge of one of those opportunities.  No doubt this could turn into another short-squeeze, but I think the market has risen far enough to flush out the vast majority of shorts, meaning there is not a lot of shorts left to squeeze.  We’ve also consumed most of the demand from buyers willing to chase this rally higher.  There are no guarantees here, but it seems like the odds favor a pullback to at least the 200dma.

Of course this is for the more nimble swing trader.  Anyone with a longer view of the market should continue holding.  Just be aware of the imminent pullback and prepare mentally for some near-term weakness.  As most people cognitively recognize, we’ll resolve the Fiscal Cliff at some point, but the market could get emotional as the negotiations get ugly.

INDIVIDUAL STOCKS

AAPL’s daily price action mirrored the indexes day-long slide, but it finished in the green by a fraction of a percent, outperforming the broad market’s half-percent decline.

There is a lot of talk of people selling their big winners ahead of an imminent tax policy change, but never ever let taxes influence your trading decisions.  The market moves way too much for any tax savings to be worthwhile because they can be wiped out in a matter of days.  Long-term capital gains, short-term capital gains, dividends at ordinary income rates, wash sale rules, etc, it doesn’t matter, trade the stock market. If you thought AAPL had a good run over the last 10 months, but chose to hold for two more just to get long-term capital gains treatment, how did that work out for you?

Anyway, all the people who are listening to their accountant and selling gains this year are creating weakness in good stocks.  Their loss can be your gain.

And of course all these recently liquidated trading profits (and special dividends) are going to need a home next year.  That buying could put prices higher in the first half of next year.  Remember, only supply and demand directly determines prices, not fundamentals.  If all these traders are buying back into the market after their tax sales, it will support the market no matter what else is going on in the world.

Stay safe