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?

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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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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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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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June 7th, 2012

When It Comes to Technical Analysis, Accuracy Depends on Time Horizon (GLD)

My wife ran into my office yesterday and said that somebody on CNBC was saying that the market was making lower highs and higher lows and that, based on that “analysis” she said we should be either selling stock or buying some Ultrashort SPY ETFs.  I looked at my charts and I couldn’t see to what that “talking head” might be referring.  Or, to be more correct, I saw many situations on the S&P 500 chart to which the statement could be applied but it all depended on the time horizon, hourly, daily, weekly or monthly.

I saw another instance of this principle this morning when I clicked open a post by Corey Rosenbloom, well known for his internet go-to website dedicated to a technical approach to the market, Afraid to Trade, and frequent contributor to many other commentary sites like  Green Faucet.  In the ETF Daily News post, entitled “Watching Converging Trendlines in Gold“, Rosenbloom includes the following hourly intraday chart covering the period since December, 2011:

and  writes:

While there’s many other ways you can analyze the current Gold price chart, be sure to take into account this trendline convergence or overlap into the $1,630 area ….  That doesn’t mean price is required to reverse here – it’s just a key level on which to focus and plan short-term trades depending on whether trendline resistance holds (bearish if so) or breaks (bullish above $1,640 for confirmation) ….. A push/ breakthrough beyond $1,640 strongly suggests a Structural Reversal of the short-term trend, implying higher targets ($1,670, $1,700, etc) could be achieved in the context of a new intraday uptrend ….. The recent push above $1,600 locked in a “Higher High” which is the first step to a structural reversal).

My trading horizon is longer than that inferred in Rosenbloom’s strategy.  If precious metals is a good place to put my money in the hope of appreciation (the only form of return since precious metals don’t  pay dividends or interest) as an alternative to other opportunities then I want to make sure that the percentage gain will be significant.  I own a large number of stocks and, once I put precious metals (or any other stock for that matter) in my portfolio I don’t want to necessary have to make hourly or daily decisions as to whether it’s worthy of continuing it being held.  The only way of doing that is to focus on more elongated trendlines, longer waves and bigger swings.

That’s why included a longer term chart a month ago (updated to yesterday’s close), in “Buffett and Precious Metals

and wrote

Both charts [I'd also included a chart of silver] contain familiar features:

  • descending channels;
  • potential necklines;
  • a zone that could indicate whether the controlling pattern is a consolidation or reversal;
  • lack of clarity as to whether price will cross below the potential neckline

With all that upcoming uncertainty in the $US, I can’t imaging that the emerging pattern in precious metals isn’t a consolidation and, with all due respect to Warren Buffet, there won’t be another run higher beginning towards the end of the summer.

Rosenbloom looks at possible breakout from his “converging trendlines” and sees a move to the 1670-1700 (or, approximately, 167-170 in GLD) presumably over several weeks.  But then what is he going to do with this 4.3% move?  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.

December 14th, 2011

The S&P 500/Gold Ratio

On Wednesdays, the focus here at the Stock Chartist blog is on individual stocks or ETFs and the topic today is GLD.  GLD is the 2nd-highest capitalized ETF behind only SPY; it’s nearly triple the capitalization of QQQ. Some can look at the price of gold in purely economic terms to arrive at what they feel is a theoretically correct price; others attempt to correlate the gold prices to other assets to see whether they are in line in a macro- way and, finally, one can look gold prices in purely technical terms.

  • Some say that the price of gold has a fixed relationship to the rate of inflation.  Specifically, Eddy Elfenbein has estimated that relationship to be that “for every one percentage point that real rates differ from 2%, gold moves by eight times that amount per year.  So if the real rates are at 1%, gold will move up at an 8% annualized rate. If real rates are at 0%, then gold will move up at a 16% rate (that’s been about the story for the past decade). Conversely, if the real rate jumps to 3%, then gold will drop at an 8% rate.”
  • The stock market, as represented by the S&P 500 Index fluctuates within a fairly wide range when priced in gold rather than the $US.  I wrote about this last May in which a inserted the following chart (since updated) which shows the S&P 500/gold: S&P/Gold Ratio since 1971

“The ratio is a function of both variables, the price of gold and the value of the 500 largest US public companies. Both variables are equally driven by value of the $US, domestic and international economic trends and a host of other drivers. Alternative possibilities for the ratio are possible through almost an infinite number of combinations of both variables. Some gold bugs claim that the price of gold is headed to the $4000/ounce level without indicating what they think will happen to the stock market. That doesn’t work for me.Make your own guess as to where and when you think the price of gold will be. But you should also forecast where you think the S&P 500 might be at the same time. It’s only after you calculate their ratio and see where it plots on the above chart will you be able to assess the reasonableness of those projections.Once a long-term trend begins it’s hard to reverse. I can accept $4000 gold and the S&P hits 2000 (a 50% increase from current levels) for a ratio 2.0 in 2014.”

  • The charting approach is to look for reversals in the chart of the GLD etf (click on image to enlarge):

Everyone continually is on the look out for the big reversal, the one that will carry GLD back below 100 and gold below 1000.  Let me tell you with a high degree of confidence and certainty that a move as substantial as GLD has had since 2006, a reversal when it comes won’t happen in a week or month.  It’ll take quarters.  In the meanwhile, retracements like the many that occurred since 2006 and are plainly visible on the above chart, are only pauses in a long march higher.

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