April 5th, 2013

Gold (GLD) in an “Indecision Zone”

I was recently accepted as a “columnist” for the subscription portion of SeekingAlpha.com, a well-respected stock-oriented editorial site, and quickly got my first submitted article accepted.  Much to my disappointment, however, my second submission was wrongly rejected, I believe.  The rejection notice stated:

As a fundamental investing site, Seeking Alpha doesn’t publish articles based primarily on Technical Analysis.  Feel free to post this piece to your instablog.  Thanks!

Sincerely Yours,

SA Editors

As you might expect, this response raised my blood pressure on several counts.

  1. First, I thought that I had summarized most of the fundamental arguments, bullish and bearish, covering the subject of the future direction of gold prices.
  2. Second, I can’t imagine any site that doesn’t take technical factors into account when presenting content about stocks, markets, commodities and forex can do so without including a heavy dose of technical factors and opinion.
  3. Finally, why isn’t there a site that features articles contributed by vetted contributors focusing on technically-based market and stock opinions?  It might even be called www.stockchartists.com

In any event, the rejected article appears below. What say you? Should it have been rejected? Would you be interested in reading or even contributing to a technically-based content market opinion site?


imageI know both the bull and bear fundamental arguments surrounding gold, you’ve heard alll of them before.

  • The Bulls point to the fact that gold is both a commodity used by industry and consumers and, perhaps even more so, a safe haven alternative for fiat money and store of accumulated wealth.
    • Central banks around the world flooding the market with currency that eventually will lead to inflation and rising commodity and gold prices
    • A fixed world-wide supply of gold in a world of ever increasing demand
    • Increased demand resulting from the growth of ETFs
    • Increased demand due to increased wealth from emerging market consumers
    • Increased demand from governments beginning to accumulate
    • Continued political uncertainty
    • Finally, the price of gold is still only around 70% of its inflation adjusted peak price of $2300 reached during the 1970′s energy crisis.
  • The Bear’s argue that the price of gold has quadrupled with only minor corrections from less than 50 in 2005 when the GLD ETF was first made available.
    • Hedge funds are reportedly unloading their large cache of GLD
    • There will be better places to invest your money than gold as stocks and commodities continue to reflect an improved economic environment
    • The bull market for gold paralleled the secular bull market for bonds therefore a reversal in fixed income secular trend will also lead to reversal in gold prices.
    • QE and monetary easing will end soon and the excess money supply that the Fed pumped into the economy will begin to be drained
    • Governments are actually unloading their gold hoards

Rather than trying to second guess the experts and come up with my own prediction of gold’s future direction, I believe price action and trend best represents the consensus of how the world’s investors actually act on their beliefs. There’s no question that the price of GLD has stalled but what isn’t as clear is whether this the beginning of a reversal leading to sharply lower prices or whether this period could be actually represent the end of a consolidation pattern.

In the chart below, there’s not question concerning the top boundary of the pattern … it’s clearly defined.  There are two possibilities, however, for the zone’s lower boundary. The blue dashed line assumes the zone is a descending triangle reversal top pattern while the green dashed line assumes the zone is a flag consolidation pattern. We will be left in the dark as to which pattern interpretation is correct until GLD declines to approximately 137, or down another 7.4%, at which point GLD will likely find some support.

It’s said that “the longer the pattern the stronger the trend out of that pattern”. If the price stabilizes around 137 and then reverses, a major bull move could be launched that could finally carry GLD substantially above its previous high of 182. But if it again fails after that reversal at around 150, or today’s price, then a reversal top would be confirmed leading to further declines possibly to under 100. GLD is clearly in an “indecision zone” (click on image to enlarge) and I would wait to make any further commitments either way (bullish long or bearish short) until investors drive the price out of the zone one way or another.

Bull and Bear Gold Case

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March 20th, 2013

Rocket or Breakout? What say you?

imageThe second most difficult challenge (after auguring the market’s future near-term direction) is to select the best stocks into which to put some money to work so as to maximize potential returns while keeping risk of loss acceptable.  Most of the time, whenever you hear or read a comparison between two stocks, “talking heads” like Jim Cramer usually  throw out such slogans as “buy best of breed” as the guide in making your choice.  However, although “best of breed” is subjective and is boiled down fundamental factors like sales and earnings growth, great management or higher profit margins.  Seldom does Technical factors such as stock volatility, institutional support or relative strength seldom enter a “best of breed” discussion.

For example, on January 26, 2012, Cramer’s theStreet.com had a piece on XLB, the basic materials ETF in which they claimed that “DuPont Company (DD) is the undisputed king of basic materials. From the 2009 rally, DuPont was the top performing Dow component.”  However, PPG (PPG) wasn’t mentioned at all.  PPG represented only 4% of the ETF as compared with DD’s nearly 10%.  But which was actually the better stock to have bought more than a year ago.  A comparison of the two shows that PPG actually appreciated 58% while DD declined nearly -3% (click on images to enlarge).

PPG - 20130319DD - 20130319 I’m now sitting on some cash trying to figure out if I should redeploy it in yesterday’s momentum stock leaders (who are still advancing nicely) or taking a gamble on stocks that have great charts and look like they may soon breakout and become tomorrow’s leaders.

In technically-based comparison like these, IBD’s rule is to only buy stocks that are within a few percentage points above what IBD labels their “buy point”, those breakouts or crosses above resistance trendlines which are top boundaries of a variety of chart patterns such as inverted hear-and-shoulders, ascending triangles or IBD’s cups-and-handles.  This comparison might match up LKQ (automotive parts), a stock that’s advance 370% since 2009 in a near straight shot and, perhaps, may continue to advance higher against, for example, Williams-Sonoma (retail home furnishings).

LKQ - 20130320WSM - 20130320

Putting aside fundamentals and basing the investment choice strictly on a technical basis, the choice rests on how one evaluates two factors:

  • Trading off the risk one perceives in buying a stock continuing to advance after having nearly doubled in each of the past four years vs. the risk that a stock will continue to languish for continued economic sluggishness.
  • How important the psychic reward might be for you to have found a new “high flyer” before others vs. piggybacking on a winner that others continually discovered over the past four years.

I’ve always tended to chose the breakout but what say you?  Would you catch the tail of a comet like LKQ or get on what you hope might be a future rocket?  And why?

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February 15th, 2013

Bullish Technical Gold Outlook

imageHave you ever heard of the “fear industry”?  That’s what Philip Pilkington called those economists and writers who are the leading voices among what can be called “goldbugs”, those who believe that gold is the only safe haven among all asset classes.  In his recent blog post on Naked Capitalism entitled “The Fear Industry – Austrian School Propaganda and the Gold Market“, Pilkington writes

the sheer scale by which the fear industry has taken off is, to be frank, quite surprising. We have all seen the likes of Peter Schiff as a regular guest on the American business news spouting vague talking points about the impending dollar collapse and gold reaching $5000 an ounce…..What is so interesting is that the fear industry grows larger and larger at a time when the make-up of their key market – the gold market – has fundamentally altered its composition…..the fear industry’s most successful year was actually in 2011 and this in turn is reflected in the fact that the gold price reached its record high in the summer of that year……the fear industry has probably stretched itself too thin and it is likely that we saw its peak last year.  From here on in it will probably be diminishing returns and we’ll likely hear of more and more scams as people within the industry compete for ever scarcer resources…… the end game is just around the corner….”

On the flip side of the coin, there’s Trustable Gold who at the beginning of the year in “Gold 2013 – What is the trend for the gold price in 2013 and beyond?” summarized forecasts from various trusted sources:

  • “Bloomberg in November 2012 forecasted a level of US dollars 1,925.- per ounce of gold.
  • The bullion bank ScotiaMocatta forecasts a rising gold price in 2013 and would not be surprised to see a gold price above US$ 2,200.- per troy ounce of gold.
  • BNP Paribas estimated in November 2012 gold to reach US dollars 1,675 per ounce in 2012 and US dollars 1,865 per ounce in 2013.
  • Members of the London Bullion Market Association forecast a gold price of US dollars 1,843.- by September 2013.
  • The global bank HSBC predicts a very similar gold price of 1,850 US dollars per ounce of gold in 2013.
  • The CEO of Newmont Mining estimates that the price of gold in 2013 may increase to US dollars 2,550.
  • In November 2012, Deutsche Bank updated its forecast on the gold price to US$ 2,000.- by next year, i.e. 2013.
  • Credit Suisse expects a gold price of US$ 1,840.- in 2013.
  • In October 2012 private bank Coutts predicted gold prices to reach US$ 2,000.- in the coming months.

At the risk of being lumped with the “goldbug” crowd, I took another look at gold’s long-term trend to see whether I can add anything new to this debate from a technical perspective about gold’s future direction.  I believe I’ve discovered something interesting:

GLD - 20130215

Since it began trading in 2005, the gold ETF, GLD, has had three consolidations in its secular trend higher, each of which lasted around 2 1/2-3 years.  The secular trend channel ascends at the rate of approximately 20%/year and can be clearly seen through the upper trendline connecting the 2006, 2008 and 2011 peaks.  A parallel line connects the 2008 trough with a point slightly lower than the current price, 155.54.

I believe we may be at or very near the end of the most recent 2 1/2 year consolidation and, if the secular trend can be trusted, a new bullish leg will begin shortly.  Extrapolating the channel suggests that the target of this next push higher would be in the area of 240-270 (or gold prices of 2400-2700) towards the end of 2014.

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January 24th, 2013

AAPL Update

imageA friend asked last night whether it might be time to jump on AAPL, now that it’s dropped so precipitously.  I referred him back to a piece I’d written early last November when the stock was at 563 entitled “AAPL Gets a Cold, the Market Gets …..?” in which I said that AAPL was forming a perfect head-and-shoulders top reversal pattern and, if it held to completion then the stock could fall to 385.

At the time, a call that AAPL would fall to 385 looked bold.  However, head-and-shoulder patterns are one of the most reliable chart patterns as are the mirror image of inverted head-and-shoulders as bottom reversal patterns (click on image to enlarge).

AAPL - 20130124

AAPL gapped down 61 points, or 12%.  My friend asked three questions: Why didn’t you sell short when you had confidence in the chart?  Should I sell short now?  Or should I buy now since it’s dropped so much already?  Typical questions that we ask every day about every stock currently in our Model Portfolio or stocks that we are looking to buy.

The first two question can be answered as a matter of general policy: I don’t short stocks.  I’ve tried it over the years and have lost money nearly each time.  Stocks can double if you hold them long enough in good market conditions but the odds of them falling 50% is rare.  We believe that the market controls 50% of a stocks action, industry 30% and factors specific to the individual stock only 20%.  Furthermore, based on my study of the stock market over the past 50 years, I know that the market increases 70% of the time.  So the odds are against you 70% of the time when you bet a stock will decline by selling it short.  You have to have close to 100% certainty that a stock will decline before taking on such long odds and, because I trade stocks based on my assessment of supply and demand dynamics rather than fundamentals, I never have that level of certainty.

The answer as to whether AAPL is a buy today is also rather easy and summed up in the Wall Street saying: “Never try to catch a falling knife”.  Right now, AAPL is clearly a falling knife.  Someday, somewhere, it will hit the ground; it’s just that we don’t know where.  When it does, the tide of momentum will have to reverse.  AAPL fell because almost every large institutional investor had AAPL as one of their major holdings.  There just wasn’t anyone in the market to sustain the demand and keep the price rising.  The balance of power flipped from demand-driven momentum to momentum propelled by supply.

As the chart above indicates, it took eight or nine months for momentum to turn from demand to supply; it will take an extended period of time for it to flip back from supply to demand.  Individual investors don’t have to be the first ones to climb on that train since we have no way of knowing when it will change direction.  What we do know is that there will be plenty of time for the individual investor to climb onto a moving train that has as large capitalization as AAPL.

My earlier guess was that the “roundhouse” will be in the 350-400 range.  No need to panic and buy now.

December 11th, 2012

Our Discipline: A Case Study in MED

As I’ve written here often, I believe the best approach for the typical individual investor is to manage their portfolios employing the following three steps: 1) a well-founded, unemotional approach to market timing, 2) the notion of industry group rotation and 3) diversification that spreads risk among a fairly large number of individual stocks (i.e., investing approximately equal amounts among stocks in the portfolio).

Put another way, the portfolio management effort down to answering the following questions: How much money should be put at risk in the stock market at any particular moment and, if new money is to be put to work, which stocks should be added to the portfolio? 

I solved the first question for myself several years ago.  I collected data back to 1963 on the daily S&P 500 Index and, by asking a series of “what-if” questions determined when it would have been better to have invested money in the market making an average return than having it sit idle on the sidelines.  Or, stated in the reverse, when would having money sit on the sidelines been better for long-term returns than had it been invested earning an average market return?  The analysis resulted in my Market Momentum Meter, an unemotional barometer of market sentiment, that allows me to shut my ears to all the media noise and hype about what they claim is “Breaking News” and focus instead on the truth about conditions conducive to momentum-driven markets over the past 50 years.  Following the Meter’s signals over the long run, investors could have avoided market crashes while still taking advantage of the bull market runs.  I can attest to the fact it helped me avoid the worst of the 2007-09 Financial Crisis Crash.

Once the Meter signals that it’s relatively “safe” to put new money to work in the market,  I use a two-step approach for finding the stocks best for carrying that risk.  I scan all stocks to find those that meet one of four different sets of criteria and, once having narrowed down the population of publicly-traded stocks, I look at their charts to find those that might have a good chance of crossing above levels that stymied their past advances (in other words, those that look like they could soon breakout across significant, long-term resistance trendlines). The first stocks to breakout are first in line as investment candidates.  The discipline requires me to sometimes be fairly active and at other times to do nothing but unemotionally watch the Portfolio run with the market or sit idle safely protected in cash.

The debate/negotiations in Washington has brought us again to a crucial market pivot point.  The Meter indicates that when market conditions look as they do today it might have been best for us to have money invested.  I have begun running those scans to begin finding those stocks that look like they’re ready to trigger Buy Points in their charts by crossing above key resistance levels.

While 75% of the stocks currently in the Portfolio show gains and 69% have outperformed the S&P 500 since their purchase, few have delivered the sort of results as has MED since its purchase last March.  I had never heard of Medifast when it dropped through one of the Scans and presented a compelling chart.  When I purchased the stock, I wrote in the Instant Alert to Members that the stock is “a product of yesterday’s Stocks-on-the-Move scan.  It has formed an inverted head-and-shoulders reversal pattern at what I hope will be the bottom of a multi-year descending wedge pattern.”  Since then, the stock has advanced 95%:

As the usual disclaimer says, “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance”.  But, I believe in the discipline and am using it today to find the next batch of stocks some of which, with some patience and luck, will hopefully deliver what turns out to be the outstanding performers over the next nine months or a year.

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December 6th, 2012

More Reliable: Horizontal vs. Sloped Trendlines?

Over the past several years, charts have become more pervasive than ever in discussions, commentaries and prognostications about individual stocks and the market in general.  Even Cramer, who once considered technicians to be on the same level as astrologers or readers of tea leaves, no regularly refers to the analysis of one chartist or another.

One of my pet peeves, however, is that bloggers and media talking heads will insert trendlines in their discussions almost willy-nilly as they pontificate about the support or resistance they hope the line they drew will presumably offered them. Because the use of trendlines is so prevalent, it’s assumed that everyone understands their meaning and relevance; we rarely hear about the arbitrariness and subjectivity that goes into their selection.

Last week, I offered three examples of head-and-shoulders patterns (GLD, AAPL and FDX), each demarcated by a horizontal trendline, or the pattern’s “neckline”.  [As an interesting aside, I may have been one of the first to publish an alert about the possibility of AAPL forming a head-and-shoulder top which could result in a correction down to approximately 400 in my November 8 post, "AAPL Gets a Cold, the Market Gets …..?"  Now many are commenting about it and Cramer even had a segment tonight dismissing the stocks technical risks.] What makes the head-and-shoulder such a “reliable” (if you allow me to use that term in the context of something so subjective as the reading of stock charts) pattern is that the supporting trendline is horizontal.  I’ve seen sloping necklines but these never turn out to be as recognizable nor as accurate.

As I describe in my book, Run with the Herd,

What makes trendlines so confusing is that many trendlines that seemed so precise at first may lose their potency as new trading is tacked on.  As a matter of fact, as more transaction data over longer and longer periods of time with multiple trading days condensed into individual bars, you’ll usually find yourself drawing a plethora of trendlines.  Some trendlines are short and some long, some connect pivot points that once seemed compelling and inviolate become less significant and even irrelevant when viewed in a longer-term.  The support or resistance expectations implicit in short trendlines at one may become overwhelmed and irrelevant as more recent buying and selling emerges.

Trendlines are nothing more than an arbitrary, imaginary lines that visually connect two or more pivot points. Pivot points are those spaces in time and price where control is transfers between buyers and sellers, when one trend in one direction reverses and begins moving in the opposite direction. In reality, this transfer doesn’t occur in one transaction at one price but instead occur over a period of time, a large number of trades at a range of prices.  There’s no precise way of locating when that transfer is complete and the struggle continue even when a reversal appears to be complete.

Why is it important to locate these pivots? Because we believe that after having occurred several times at approximately the same point, the failure to occur at that same level sometime in the future means that the winner of the last battle has lost control of the trend and it now resides in the other side who will control the trend until the next struggle begins.  That transfer of control is the breakout.

Repetitive struggles at the same price make intuitive sense.  An institutional investor looking to sell its large holding in a stock will continue to do so as long as a stock’s price is above a certain level; when it drops to or below the level they hold their shares back from the market; they will continue to accumulate shares up to a certain price but not above that price.  But what can we say the same thing about pivot points at different levels?  Bottom line, they tell us little about what we can expect about where the next pivot might be and we can say little about whether that recent pivot is the beginning of a reversal or the continuation of a trend.

The above chart for LKQ presents a pretty channel but it offers little information about the risks of the trend failing, how much profit potential remains in the channel trend or when it might collapse.  It is easy to draw the channel trendlines after the fact but drawing those lines in 2010 would have produced the dotted trendlines.  Which more accurately defines the trend, the solid or dotted lines.  Is the stock currently within the trend boundary or is it outside the bounds and bound to correct.  The most common mistake when inserting trendlines is thinking that the recent pivot is critical in establishing a meaningful trendline.  In other words, trendlines are usually discovered within the time frames of the chart, rarely coming in from prior the chart’s beginning.  That’s why I always simultaneously look at a charts in three time horizons.

That error doesn’t occur when you look for breakouts across horizontal trendlines like this one for NEOG.  Is there any doubt that a cross above 48.00 indicates that the bears have lost control to the bulls who have launched a new push to higher stock prices?

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November 29th, 2012

Head-and-Shoulders Patterns: FDX Case Study

The key point in yesterday’s discussion of the GLD and AAPL head-and-shoulders patterns can be summed up in the post’s last paragraph:

“……. no matter how good these chart patterns may look a year from now, unless and until they cross their necklines, there’s no certainty today that they won’t fail to deliver.  While getting in early will produce a greater return, the trade entails significant risk that the stock actually winds up moving in the opposite direction.”

The point perhaps not made emphatically enough is that even though head-and-shoulders stock chart patterns appears on the surface to be similar to the results of a series of random coin tosses there is a major difference between the two should the price/value cross the neckline.  The result of coin tosses merrily continues on a random path, the path in the prices/values in stocks, indexes and commodities subsequent to a cross of the neckline usually becomes impacted by a feedback loop know as “momentum”.

When they see new highs or lows being set as the price/value crosses the neckline, investors expect, even anticipate, a continuation of the prevailing trend.  That predisposition causes them to place trades (either buy if a cross above or sell if a cross below the neckline) in anticipation of being able to close those positions some time in the future at a profit.  Coin tosses have no connection with the future but investors do.

The trading rule, therefore, is that investors should wait to commit to their prospective position until momentum is launched and the signal in the form of a neckline cross is evident.  [This presumes that a neckline is something obvious and concrete but that's the topic for the next post.]

Let’s look at another example of that trading rule.  One advisory service recently substantiated their large position in FDX (Federal Express) by arguing that FDX was restructuring their operations so that their Express division is “refined” and their Ground operation “will lead to better margins and more market-share take against UPS.”  Somebody has to perform good fundamental analysis but it’s not clear whether individual investors are equipped or has the time to uncover and evaluate such information.  Large institutional investors (what I call “the heard”) do and what we can do is to follow their footprints in their hunt for big game.

If only a small percentage of the herd know or arrive at the same conclusion as the above the FDX analysis then price action in FDX shares will not be impacted dramatically.  If the analysis is correct and is reflected in operating results, the rest of the herd will join the chase and price momentum will begin.  If its efforts, the FDX shares will languish at best and fall at worst.  I would want to buy the shares only after, and not before, sufficient numbers of investors begin to believe in the FDX transformation and the shares begin to rise.

FDX stock has been restrained from continuing its uptrend by a resistance trendline (“neckline”) for over 5 years.  It isn’t relevant to the trading strategy whether you envision an emerging inverted head-and-shoulder pattern (square 1) or the longer-term ascending triangle (square 2).  To believe the story, you have to “show me the money”. You need to see the shares cross above the resistance trendline (the “neckline”) to have confidence that the uptrend momentum is sufficiently sustainable before foregoing other opportunities and putting your good money into FDX stock.  As my slogan says, “fundamental analysis is subjective, momentum is a fact.”

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November 28th, 2012

Head-and-Shoulders Patterns: AAPL and GLD Case Studies

In my book, Run with the Herd, I retell the coin toss experiment from Burton Malkiel’s book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street.  In it, he asked students to

“continuously toss coins with heads arbitrarily representing a move up in a stock’s price and, conversely, tails a move down.  All the price changes were assumed to be of equal magnitude and all were recorded in a line chart.  After an unspecified number of tosses, the students began to see patterns in the charts that looked similar to those of stock charts.”

One of the most talked about, recognized and perhaps most reliable stock chart patterns are the head-and-shoulders and its mirror image the inverted head-and-shoulders. What makes these patterns so important is that they fall into the reversal category (as contrasted with the continuation or trending patterns).  In these patterns, the price/value of the stock, index or commodity makes three different attempts to reverse the direction of the prevailing trend.  Characteristically, the price/value reaches approximately the same level the first two times and then falters; it succeeds in the third attempt and crosses the level reached the previous two attempts. The elements of the pattern include a shorter left “shoulder”, a longer middle “head”, and a shorter right shoulder; all are connected by a trendline at what is called a “neckline”.

As you might expect, as a chartist I believe that comparison between the randomness of coin tosses and stock chart patterns is a false one using the wrong logical argument (incorrectly using deductive reasoning rather than inductive reasoning).  But it is true, however, that the head-and-shoulder chart patterns are easier to perceive in retrospect and not as readily discernable in real-time.  Furthermore, when the pattern has evolved sufficiently in order to actually intimate its future likely outline, the practical question remains as to when might be the best (highest probability of being realized with the lowest risk of being failing) time to act on that perception.  Here are two cases in point:

    • AAPL: At the beginning of the month, I wrote a piece entitled “AAPL Gets a Cold, the Market Gets …..?” when the stock was at 563 in which I included a chart showing a partially formed head-and-shoulder pattern and wrote: “Has the stock hit bottom and is it poised for a turn around (a large Wall Street firm recently called on CNBC for AAPL to more than double over the next year)?  Double it might but in the near-term it’s setting up for another 25% decline below what might be consider the neckline of an emerging head-and-shoulder topall the way down to 390 (nearly 30% from current levels).”Compare the chart in that post with the one below and you’ll find that AAPL is closely following the course outlined there:

      Although Robert Weinstein of Cramer’s theStreet.com wrote today that investors should “Put Away the Prozac, Apple’s Just Fine”, this emerging pattern continues to look to me uncannily like an emerging head-and-shoulders top [Cramer's Action Alerts Plus service has been a long-term AAPL investor with a 90+% profit].  There’s no way to tell whether the stock will follow-through but it pivots and starts declining again, I would order a refill from the pharmacy.

    • GLD: I wrote a piece at the beginning of the summer entitled “When It Comes to Technical Analysis, Accuracy Depends on Time Horizon (GLD)” in which I included a chart of GLD with a pattern that looked like a descending channel and wrote: “I look at a possible breakout from my flag and see a long-term move equal to the preceding the neckline.  I see the possibility of a 75-80% move to the 250-270 level over a year or two.  It all depends on how much time you want to spend managing your portfolio and making trading decisions.”

Today that channel has morphed into what might turn out ultimately to be an inverted head-and-shoulder pattern.  The hesitation in calling it that is that the pattern is developing after a major bull run rather than at the bottom of a major decline.  Consequently, this inverted head-and-shoulder will further morph a consolidation pattern or some type of reversal top pattern.

Bottom line, no matter how good these chart patterns may look a year from now, unless and until they cross their necklines, there’s no certainty that they won’t fail to deliver.  While getting in early will produce a greater return, the trade entails more risk that the stock moves in the opposite direction.  [In fact, even after a trendline is crossed, the stock will often reverse and test the trendline in what is called a "Buyers'/Sellers' Remorse Correction".]


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November 8th, 2012

AAPL Gets a Cold, the Market Gets …..?

I searched this blog to see what I may have written about AAPL over the years and found that there have been 15 individual posts since 2006, many comparing AAPL and GOOG (search other terms by using the search button in the lower left panel).

But situation is dramatically different today than it’s been at any previous time [haven't people gotten into a lot of trouble when they claim "this time it's different"?]:

  • Jobs is no longer the creative or leadership head of the company,
  • the company now has competition for its products (e.g., Samsung) and its services (iTunes vs. Pandora, Spotify and Amazon)
  •  the stock became the largest capitalized stock in the world and held a dominant role in all market indexes
  • the stock is considered “overbought” being a large position in nearly every mutual, pension and hedge fund,
  • finally, some blowback is now being heard and felt about the product introduction rate and design [note: the discontent with the connection format change and the mapping service disappointment].

So, I’d like to toss my stock chartist’s view of the “bear market” that has captured the AAPL driving it down 18% over the past two months.  Has the stock hit bottom and is it poised for a turn around (a large Wall Street firm recently called on CNBC for AAPL to more than double over the next year)?  Double it might but in the near-term it’s setting up for another 25% decline below what might be consider the neckline of an emerging head-and-shoulder top all the way down to 390 (nearly 30% from current levels).

Supporting this negative view is the long-term negative divergence existing between the trends between the two price peaks in 2012 and the comparable peaks in the OBV volume trend.  OBV indicates the relative volume between buyers (closes higher) and sellers (closes down).  In other words, as AAPL churned higher it was on less volume than those days when it closed lower.

Unfortunately, AAPL represents a large component of the major indexes so “when AAPL sneezes, the market gets a cold”.  Let’s hope that cold doesn’t turn into pneumonia.

October 24th, 2012

ARMH: Patience Pays Off

When the market has been as frustrating as it’s recently been, you are always on the lookout for something to reinforce your confidence and beliefs.  It came this week from an extremely surprising direction.  A stock chart that ultimately delivered on its promise.

When I purchased ARMH (ARM Holdings PLC) on February 29, I wrote to members of my Instant Alerts service that that stock “was captured in several of the previous “Stocks on the Move” scans and is a favorite of momentum traders.  The stock has been trapped in a 12-mos. consolidation pattern.  Whether you see a horizontal channel, an inverted head-and-shoulders or a cup-and-handle doesn’t really matter that much.  The point is that a breakthrough on the upside with a strong market as tailwind could lead to substantially higher prices.”

Unfortunately, that horizontal channel morphed into a descending channel or flag.  There were many times during the past eight months that I felt like I should sell the stock but I felt that, given time, the stock would come through with its promise of a strong upward push.

A large contributor to that confidence came from the favorable divergence between the stock price action and the volume trend.  As indicated in the above chart, OBV (or on-balance-volume, the running total from adding the volume on up days less the volume subtracted on down days) has continued to edge ever so slightly higher while the price fluctuated lower from the high- to low-20′s.  That divergence tends to suggest that demand for the stock has exceed supply even as the stock’s price has slipped.

This quarter, ARMH “reported a very strong quarter, coming in at $227M in revenues for the quarter against mean analyst estimates of $222M, up 20% y/y. Pre-tax profit of $108.5M was up 22% y/y.”  Was this an extraordinary earnings report and significantly improved over prior quarters?   I don’t profess to understand (nor do I really care) why the move took place at this time.  But I do believe that others who do understand the technology and care about the company’s financial performance (aka, “the Herd”) have been accumulating the stock for the past six months. That patience was rewarded by a 12-14% gain over the past two sessions.