March 25th, 2013

The Known Stock Market World

imageI was asked to read Paul Farrell’s most recent blurb on the Wall Street Journal’s blog site Marketwatch.com entitled “New Critical Warning as 2013 shocker looms” in which he enumerates 6 new critical warnings, which added to the 7 he says were issued last year but to which there doesn’t seem to be a convenient link of the site.  This “critical warning” comes from Gary Shilling (the others came from Bill Gross, Nouriel Robini, Reinhart and Rogoff and Farrell himself.

Farrell clearly spells out that their vision of economic and market doom is rooted in their dislike and distrust for Fed Chairman Bernanke and his policies.  Is it professional jealousy?  Does it come from an contest between Keynesian and Austrian monetarist inside schools of economic philosophy?  In Farrell’s own words:

“Timing is critical at a turning point. We warned of the coming crash well in advance in 2008. We picked the bottom in March 2009. We are in the fifth year of an aging bull. These six Critical Warnings tell of a hard turning point dead ahead. Wake up. It takes time to restructure a portfolio. If you think you can do nothing and just wait for another year, you are like most investors: You just “can’t handle the truth.” Or you “have no idea what’s about to happen.” Or you believe “this time really is different.”

But the truth of the matter is that all these perma-bears have continually been calling for the market’s reversal and demise since last year, a 15% missed opportunity had you taken their heed and fled the market.  Was the turning point in 2012, in January 2013 or some undefined point in the future.  Why do these guys want us to sell equities?  Where do they want us to put our money?  Are they gold-bugs in disguise?

I’ve been reading much over the past couple of years from those who view a market reversal at the level of the previous all time high high as indisputable.  The reasons they offer could be technical, like Prechter’s obtuse Fibonacci reckoning, or fundamental economic, like those of Farrell, et al.  To me, it all sounds like a through-back to beginning of the Age of Discovery in the 1500′s when most believed the world was flat and you’d fall off if you sailed to the end.

1500 WorldYou could sail the Mediterranean Sea or Indian Ocean but sailing beyond the sight of land meant sure disaster.  It’s like the course the market’s followed since 2000, the Secular Bear Market seas.

Map of Known Stock Market

So long as we don’t venture outside the bounds, we know the landmarks, the levels at which the market pivoted in the past and has a probability of pivoting again in the future.  If the market reversed direction for a third time, we can guess, by looking at the above “map of the known stock market” where islands of rest might be and where it might reverse direction again.

But if half the stocks break into their own all-time new high territory and cause the index, by definition, to also begin to venture into uncharted territory then where will the first island be?  Where might we hit and wreck on a market/economic shoal or reef?

Bottom line: are you someone who has the confidence to sail where no one has ever sailed before to discover new lands and new wealth?

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March 1st, 2013

“Timing Is Everything”

imageCNBC never cease to amaze me the way they always trot out mostly bearish commentators on day’s when the market is declining severely, like Monday’s 1.83% plunge, but the bull’s when the market makes a stunning advance like the 1.27% rise a few days later.  Rather than counter-balancing the market’s prevailing psychology, CNBC feels that it’s in their best interest to go with the flow: panic when everyone else is throwing stocks overboard and be euphoric when buyers are flocking back into stocks.  Promote “risk off” on days when everyone has already decided to sell and “risk on” when the bulls are already stampeding.

They are a “news” organization and, as such, their time horizon is  very short and they need to present stories and “talking heads” who primarily describe or explain why something is just happening or has recently happened.  The information they offer is mostly anecdotal, opinions or canned offerings by companies rather than analytic and are, therefore, irrelevant to decision-making about the investable future.

That’s why I don’t watch the business media.  Rather, I attempt to peer out into the future and see if I can perceive where the next turning point might be. Towards that end, I’ve been focusing an area I labelled the “Crunch Zone”, the range between the 2000 all-time high and the 2007 all-time high (approximately 1545-1575) and have been monitoring for Members since the beginning of February as the market closes in on that target:

  • February 2: “The most glaring difference [between the 2007 attempt at crossing into new high territory and now] is that OBV [on-balance volume indicator] was also making new highs in 2007 but it has failed to do so, so far, this time.  That difference could be attributed to greater investor skepticism in 2012 than there was in 2007 as evidenced by the huge volumes of cash still sitting on the sidelines and in fixed income/gold safe haven investments.  That actually, could be positive indicator for the market actually finding success in breaking higher this time around.”
  • February 10: “the 50-day moving average of daily volume of the 500 S&P stocks has declined since peaking in 2006.  As the Index and OBV (on-balance-volume) continued to advance to new highs in 2007, average daily volume diverged and failed to move higher.  As a matter of fact, average daily volumes have trended lower to where they are now about 50% of the that 2006 peak….What events will cause these trends to reverse direction?…Stocks usually move opposite of interest rates: when interest rates decline, stocks advance and when interest rates rise, stocks fall.  Rates have been falling since 2009 and stocks have increase.  But because of the Fed’s intervention, when interest rates begin to rise, stocks could also rise.”
  • February 17: “Technically almost nothing new has happened other than the market has edged a little closer to the “crunch zone” ….The one significant development is on the volume side: 1) On-Balance Volume (OBV) has finally matched the peak during last year’s March high and 2) the 50-day moving average of daily volume seems to have finally bottomed out and shows a teeny-tiny upward slope…..Since the Market moves at glacier rather than human speed, we probably won’t get an answer of what follows the Crunch Zone interaction until the fall.”
  • February 24: “the market is bumping up against the “Crunch Zone”….I wouldn’t be surprised if we were stuck in this area through the summer…..Don’t believe the media “talking heads” who offer explanations for a pause or correction at these levels grounded in the employment numbers, earnings reports, interest rates, exchange rates or corporate guidance announcements.  The true explanation is that investors small and large have acrophobia, they fear heights, especially those at levels they’ve never seen before…..What encourages me is that there aren’t any bubbles today and, rather than being buoyant, the economy is still struggling to gain its footing.  Rather than exuberance, there’s still a lot of skepticism and fear about the stock market and the economy, the sort of ground in which the seeds of a true bull market can begin to root and grow.”

We don’t need CNBC to tell us that approaching the bottom edge of the Crunch Zone will be a bumpy ride.  As much as we might hang on every word of their prognostications, neither Cramer, Gartman, Kass nor any of the other familiar cast of characters can tell us whether we will ultimately cross through the Zone or bounce off it, reverse and begin sliding lower again (click on image to enlarge).

SP 500-20130222

You’re familiar with the old saw that “timing is everything”; the next few weeks or maybe months is a perfect time to heed it.  This is no time to make new commitments if you’re getting into the market for the first time or are looking to put some idle cash to work.  You’ll know when this struggle between bulls and bears, supply and demand, in the “crunch zone” is resolved and you’ll have plenty of time to add new positions to participate in the next trend to higher levels.  Don’t fret losing the first few percentage points; consider them insurance against the possibility that the market reverses instead.

On the other hand, I like most of the 70 positions in my Portfolio and don’t see weakness in most of their charts.  There’s little reason to unload them and run the risk of losing out on the launch of the next wave higher if the “crunch zone” turns out to be only a milestone rather than an insurmountable wall.

I don’t know about you but I’m currently around 90% invested and have no plans to either unload in anticipation of a correction or bear market or aggressively put the remaining cash to work until this uncertainty is resolved.  The Market moves at glacier rather than human speed so we probably won’t know what follows the Crunch Zone interaction until sometime around Fall. This may not be want you want to hear – we all like to see more action – but it’s unfortunately what we’re going to get.

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February 22nd, 2013

Postmortem on Stock Sales

imageThe jarring correction over the past couple of days understandably sent shivers down my back.  Should I start selling some of my winners in order to lock in those gains or just steel my nerves and hold on until this passes?  I like most of my positions (currently over 70 stocks in the Model Portfolio) and the market is close to testing the strength of its momentum as it approaches what I have labeled the “Crunch Zone”, the area between the 2001 and 2007 all-time highs.  Shouldn’t I do nothing and just wait?  There is nothing in the technicals other than the fact of the approach to the all-time high to indicate that this is only another correction that the market has successfully weathered during the current bull market run since the 2009 bottom.

All of us are continually caught on the horns of this dilemma but even more so when the market is correcting: 1) hold on and run the risk of more significant losses or 2) sell and run the risk of unwinding some excellent positions.  We usually evaluate our success as investors is to see whether our total returns (dividends and appreciation) are respectable.  If we’re honest, we compare those returns against a benchmark [I use the S&P 500 Index] to see whether our efforts have produced returns in excess of what we would have earned in an Index Fund or ETF.  What we don’t do often enough, however, is move beyond our current positions and analyze the previous trading that got us to where we are today.

  • When did we sell stocks?
  • How have the stocks that we did sell (often in panic in response to a market correction) perform after we had sold them?
  • How did the portfolios of investors who bought our stocks from us perform after they took those stocks off our hands?

Since January 1, 2012, there were 87 sales transactions from the Model Portfolio.  Some of those sales were swaps to move into other stocks and others were sales to reduce risk by moving into cash.  I wanted to find out whether those sales were actually necessary?  How did the sold stocks perform had I held on to them to the present?  Did I sell winners or losers?  Were the sales made as the market was rising or falling?  What I can I learn from about my trading habits from those sales?  For each transaction, I captured the gain/(loss) prior the sale, the gain/(loss) from the sale to current and the stock’s performance vs. the S&P 500 since the sale.  Some of the results were surprising and revealing (click on image to enlarge):

Sales Performance 1

Most interesting is that 65.5% of the sold stocks actually appreciated after the were sold.  Luckily, most of the stocks sold continued to underperform since only 47% kept pace and 53% lagged the S&P 500 Index since their sale.  Interestingly, the stocks with the largest gains after their sale were losers when I sold them.  As a matter of fact, nearly 60% of the sold stocks that had losses prior to their sale have appreciated since.  One of the largest post-sale gains was MTZ (click here for chart).

When were those stocks sold and should they have been?  What was the market doing at the time of the sale?  Except for one extremely short periods, the Market Momentum Meter has been Bullish Green since the end of January 2012 suggesting to Instant Alert Members that they have a fully invested posture (click on image to enlarge):

Sales Performance 2

What stands out is that many of the sales occurred during months during and after the end of market corrections.  For example, there were 19 sales in June and July after the Spring correction but only 9 in May and June when the correction was occurring; there were 11 sales during the Sept-Nov correction but 33 in the months after it had ended.

This may sound like overly personal but I think there are several lessons that anyone can take away from this exercise:

  • It’s important to periodically review stock sales in addition to tracking stocks you currently own.
  • Stick to a market timing discipline to avoid being unnecessarily scared out of the market when it is correcting.
  • Continue to monitor stocks you’ve sold and buy them back rather than taking a risk on something untried if, after the correction ends, the stock continues its advance.
  • Move into cash only when your market timing discipline indicates that the correction is likely to turn into a bear market reversal.

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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.

January 2nd, 2013

Shaking Off the Fear

If you’re an individual investor, one of the most important articles of last week besides the focus on the “Fiscal Cliff” debacle was an article in the December 29 Washington Post entitled “Bull market roars past many U.S. investors“.  The gist of the story was that “Americans have missed out on almost $200 billion of stock gains as they drained money from the market in the past four years, haunted by the financial crisis……Individuals are withdrawing money as political leaders struggle to avert budget cuts that threaten to throw the economy into a new slump.”

According to the Post, much of the damage to investors is “self-inflicted” because of fear and anxiety brought on by market volatility and memories of past “crashes”.  However, U.S. growth has improved and earnings tied to the economic are expanding.  Those improvements have been reflected in stock prices.  Of the 500 stocks comprising the S&P 500 Index, 481 are higher now than they were in March 2009 or when they entered the gauge.  Some of the statistics supporting these conclusions are:

  • Investors are lowering the proportion of stocks they own in retirement funds during a bull market for the first time in 20 years.
  • The proportion of stocks in the assets in 401(k) and IRA (excluding money market funds) fell to 72 percent from 72.5 percent in 2009.
  • The percentage of households owning stock mutual funds has dropped every year since 2008 to 46.4 percent in 2011, the second-lowest since 1997. [Of course, this could also result from the wide choice, availability and acceptance of competitive ETFs]
  • New money has gone to the relative safety of fixed-income investments as corporate bonds and Treasuries have received nearly $1 trillion since March 2009.

Housing is making a comeback and housing stocks were among the leaders last year, banks are on the mend and financial stocks were also among the best performers and 2013 auto sales are projected to approach 1.5 million. Is it time then for individual investors to begin fearing declines in the value of their fixed income investments as interest rates reverse (regardless of Bernanke’s protestations to the contrary) and start moving money back into stocks?

Meanwhile, institutional investors (the group I call the “herd”) hasn’t fared that well in the market either.  According to in December 26 Wall Street Journal article entitled “2012 Was Good for Stocks, Bad for Stock Pundits“,

  • At the end of 2011, Mr. Cramer warned investors to avoid bank stocks. Oops. They were one of the best-performing sectors in 2012. He urged investors to avoid real estate, but housing prices are up more than 2% from a year ago…..and the stocks of home builders, as measured by the S&P Homebuilders exchange-traded fund, are up 53.6%.
  • Of the 65 market “gurus” tracked during the last few years by CXO Advisory Group, the median accuracy for market calls is 47%. If that sounds low, or you wonder about the quality of the pundit, consider that the list includes such well-known names as Bill Fleckenstein (37%), Jeremy Grantham (48%), Bill Gross (46%) and Louis Navellier (60%).

So how do I deal with the noise coming from the “talking heads” and the uncertain produced by the market?  I maintain my equanimity in the face of volatility by relying on how market participants have behaved during similar situations in the market’s history.  I rely on my Market Momentum Meter to give me some indication of what market participants believe will happen, on average, in the near-term as reflected in their collective buying and selling decisions.  It’s measure by whether they are pushing prices up or down and the momentum behind those decisions.

The Market Momentum Meter turned a bright Green on January 31, 2012 when the Index was 1312.41, or 10.25% under today’s close of 1462.42.  It wasn’t Green for only 10 trading days during the year (the longest period was 7 days around the November correction low:

Like a parent who never quite trusts riding in a car that his kid is driving, I didn’t fully trust my own creation.  It took me a few months after that Green signal at the end of January to increase the money I had in stocks.  As hard as I tried to totally drown out the noise (news) about Euro debt and currency problems and, more recently, the fiscal cliff debates, I never could bring myself to be fully invested and, like corporate America, always had a significant amount of cash on the sidelines.  And then in after the November elections, as the Market reacted to the realization of a second Obama term and continued Congressional stalemate, it looked for a couple of weeks like we might see a repeat of the 2011 market implosion.  Fortunately, I waited this one out and saw money begin flowing back into stocks as prices quickly recovered.

Like many other market participants, I need additional “guarantees”.  Even though the Meter says that these sorts of market conditions in the past have lead to higher prices and that it’s all clear to be fully invested with relatively low risk, I still want to see the Index continue its assault on the all-time highs by first crossing above where it stalled out last September.  When that happens (which could be next week), I’ll feel more comfortable putting rest of cash to work.

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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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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.

August 21st, 2012

Stock Market Recover Sidetracked by European Sovereign Debt Crisis

I think one of my most prescient posts was entitled Housing and Finance: Two Superimposed Crises and Bear Markets of September 17, 2010, almost exactly two years ago and just before the last mid-term elections.  The market had already bottomed the previous March and were breaking above what I saw as an inverted head-and-shoulder interim bottom.  As noted in the post,  there appeared to be the beginnings of a bottom in the housing market due to once-in-a-lifetime affordability.

Specifically, I envisioned the market being victimized for the first time in history by two economic crises: financial crisis hitting banks and other financial enterprises plus the housing crisis hitting consumers.  I suggested that before the market can advance to new highs, both these industry groups would have to bottom and begin moving higher.  The keystone of that post was the following chart on which I attempted to visually superimpose the impact of those two crises on the stock market:

Here we are, two years later, with the market having ground 24.6% higher from 1126 to 1420 today.  I wrote then:

The reason the market appears to be bottoming again (the inverted head and shoulders) may perhaps be that housing is beginning to bottom and turn also. The number of foreclosures continues to rise (although at a lesser rate than last year) and the improved affordability index (historic low mortgage interest rates and closeout prices of houses) has not yet stimulated a pickup in the housing sales turnover. But a pickup may be around the corner [triggered by an up-tick in interest rates?]. Without a turnaround in housing, the stock market recovery will be short-lived.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have sufficient courage to invest in homebuilders and missed out on the Industry Group with one of the biggest moves over the past twelve months, Homebuilders, at 75%:

We thought our Financial Crisis had been contained by the Fed’s first round of Quantitative Easing and that banks would begin their recovery however the effort was sidetracked because of the European Sovereign Debt Crisis beginning towards the end of 2009.  The recovery in the stocks of the country’s larger banks began to falter towards the beginning of 2010 and only now has begun to show signs of renewed life:

The “herd’s” big money flow again beginning to be directed into financial stocks gives hope that, absent a new major crisis (although our own Federal debt and budget debate is still looming on the horizon), the market will be able finally to continue to the previous all-time highs and ultimately break the grips of the 12- going on 13-year secular bear market.  A cross of the XLF above 16 will trigger for me the another clear indication that financials will begin leading the market higher.

It’s been a long, frustrating two years.  We’re facing another national election, this one even more important than the last.  Continuing to look at all the negative news continues to make our investment lives feel dismal.  Seeing the possibilities of some positive news for a change opens the mind to a totally different stock market future than the one we have become accustomed to.  I may be nothing more than an incurable optimist but that’s the best way to remain committed to the stock market and, ultimately, long-term financial well-being.

August 16th, 2012

Scaling the Wall of Worry

Are we at a bullish or bearish pivot point?  If you’re looking for market advice from CNBC you’re looking at the wrong place.  The best way to get viewers is to create and stimulate controversy and that’s what CNBC does every single day.  You get a lot of different opinions but you can’t get just one straight opinion that you can act on.

A perfect example was how they juxtaposed, on two successive days earlier this week, Jeremy Segal of Wharton Business School articulating a bullish outlook followed the next day by Doug Kass of Seabreeze Partners pushing a bearish perspective today.  Interestingly, couched inside both opinions were opposing opinions on the impact of Romney’s selection of Ryan as his V.P. candidate:

  • First, they put on Jeremy Siegel who endorsed the Ryan selection because of Ryan’s budget-cutting efforts and suggested that, as a consequence, the market will advance to around 1500.
  • Kass came the next day suggesting than Ryan’s selection will lead to Obama’s reelection and driving the the market down to 1300 (interestingly, he started his pitch by using an invalid and inaccurate technical view  of the market) because of Ryan’s conservative history and his known hostility towards Bernanke.  Kass believes that the highs for the market have already been made.

So what is the average investor to do?  Which opinion should we embrace?  Or is watching merely a total waste of time.

If you’re obsessed with trying to guess the upcoming election’s impact on the market then you have to come up with answers to a series of difficult and highly subjective questions:

  • Is a Romney win looked on favorably or not? an Obama reelection?
  • Is the market already discounting the election of one or another candidate?
  • If there was a market bias towards one candidate vs. the other then would an upset create an adverse market reaction after the election?
  • How does control of Congress factor into the equation?
    • What if Congress is split?
    • What if Congress is controlled by the same party?
    • What if control of both houses goes to the opposing party?

And those are just the questions that easily roll off the top of my head.  Clearly spending much time trying to answer these questions is futile.  Making investment decisions today based on what you have figured out to be the correct answer to each of these questions is foolish.

There can only be four options that drive your investment decisions today based on your prediction of an event in a little more than 11 weeks.  Sell, buy, do nothing or ignore the  election and base your decision on what’s happening today.

My answer is always to “follow the herd” rather than make my own fundamental analysis.  I’m not proud; I want to do what the majority of the money sloshing around the market is doing today rather than trying to second guess whether they are right or wrong in going in the direction that they are.  I want to know how strong the market’s momentum is and the direction in which it’s driving.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s no doubt as to that answer.

For the first time since October 2009, the market next week as measured by an index of the 500 stocks comprising the S&P 500 Index will create a situation where the market’s current level will be above its average level over the prior 50 days  which will be higher than its level over the average of the prior 100 days which will be over the average of the prior 200 days.  Finally, they will all be higher than the market’s average level for the past 300 trading days.  The same will soon also be true for the index of stocks comprising the Dow Jones 30 Industrials and, for the Dow Theory followers, the DJ Transports.

On July 17, four weeks ago when the S&P 500 closed at 1357, I described the market’s consolidation flag and went out on a limb to say a cross above 1420-25 would lead to the market climbing to 1575.  Today, the market closed at 1415, or 4.27% above that July 17 close.  Hopefully, all the uncertainties and “Alerts” and “Breaking News” and “Earnings Season” jabbered about on CNBC didn’t scare you away from being in the market.  It didn’t scare the big money herd who have been accumulating stocks and, in the process, forcing prices higher.  They may reverse course but, I doubt it more ever day.

Come back often to check on the market’s progress.  Better yet, become a Member and see where I’m putting my money to take advantage of this advance … while it lasts …and the Industry Groups from which I select the stocks I buy.

July 24th, 2012

How to remain unemotional in a volatile market

I look back at my last post and think, based on the market’s action over the past several days, what must I have been thinking?  How could I possibly gone so far out on a limb as to call for a market rise to 1575?  And how dispiriting is it when the market proceeds to decline by 1.6% over the next five trading days?  Well, I’ll tell you that it feels horrible.

In the same way that last Thursday we began to see some blue skies and some progress towards shoring up portfolios, today’s market is just as equally dejecting by pulling the rug out from under.  Fortunately, we have a ballast [anything that gives mental, moral, or political stability or steadiness] as market traders through the Market Momentum Meter.  This objective, unblinking, unemotional barometer of what has happened to the market in similar situations over the past sixty years steers our course and guides us through these turbulent emotional markets.

Last week, the market failed to touch the upper boundary of a channel giving the first hint of a potential problem.  For the rest of this week, the support provided by the zone demarcated by the two converging trendlines will have to hold or else we’ll have to rewrite the game plan.

For the time being, the Market Momentum Meter continues to ship a bright Bullish Green because the Index is above all its moving averages, only the 50-dma is out of sequence; however, only two of the moving averages are heading higher (200- and 300-dma’s) while two are heading lower (50- and 100-dma’s).  But the situation changes with each day’s trading activity.

Similar situation like this in the past became stabilized and trading confidence returned when the Index remained above the 50-dma so that it pulled the two laggard averages higher into a more proper alignment.  It’s not to say that the moving averages dictate the future.  What the statistics indicate is that investor confidence reflected in market prices is a progressively reinforcing loop.  The Index’s ability to advance will bring in more buyers waiting on the sidelines; price pressure will turn the remaining equity holders into sellers.

I have a long list of more than 100 stocks any of which I would have bought a week ago because of the strength of their chart actions.  The recent market action has put a definite questionable dent into their otherwise favorable prospects.

The past week has proven again that “50% of a stock’s price movement can be attributed to the overall market, 30% to its industry sector and only 20% to its own fundamentals.”  It doesn’t matter how strong the charts of stocks already in the portfolio or those in a watchlist look, they’re all trumped by the market’s action.  This is never more true than today since so many of the forces driving the market come from overseas.