Option Investor
Market Wrap

Hurricane Rita Watch

Printer friendly version

There haven't been a lot of happy things lately for people to feel excited and optimistic. And with that down-in-the-dumps feeling usually comes a negative response in the stock market. When people feel good, they buy and when they feel bad, they sell. Sometimes it just doesn't get any more complicated than that. Have you ever wondered why the same piece of negative or positive news gets a completely different reaction from the market at different times?

I get into some details later about significant downside warnings that the market is alerting me to at the moment. My interpretation of the EW pattern that I've been following all year has been indicating that we should expect another new market high (in SPX) before we see THE market high. That's still a possibility until the DOW and SPX take out the August lows. But the sell off since Tuesday has me seriously doubting this now. Today's bounce could be just a dead cat bounce and we'll roll back over to take out the August lows, or it could be the start of the next rally leg. The bulls literally have to make a stand here otherwise some very bearish possibilities enter the picture. I'll get into some of the significant sell signals I'm seeing since to be forewarned is to be forearmed--it's time to have a very tight leash on longs and be ready to enter some longer term short positions.


Candlestick chart of the NASDAQ QQQQ

The once a week Hot Stix stock market report reveals simple, powerful strategies for profiting from the stock market - whether down or up!

Click here for your complimentary report:

This morning started out relatively quietly. We got the unemployment report at 8:30 which was relatively benign, and once again, not believable. Supposedly there are unconventional means for people to file their claims, such as mobile offices at shelters, and yet we only saw an 8K increase in new claims to 442K (consensus was 450K). Last week's initial claims number was revised higher from 398K to 424K so expect this week's numbers to also be revised higher. The continuing jobless claims rose 88K to 2.67M. The Dept. of Labor reported that there were 103K claims, 214K in the past 3 weeks, related to Katrina. There was a 97K increase in filings for the week ending Sept 10th, making it the most since the summer of 1992.

Also reported this morning was the August Leading Economic Indicators number which fell -0.2% versus -0.3% expected. This was the 2nd month this number declined and the biggest contributor to the decline was from consumer expectations. Five of the 10 indicators improved while three declined. The coincident indicators was up +0.2% and the laggings indicators fell -0.1%.

Oil was up sharply early this morning but then sold off for most of the day. After peaking at 68.14 in the early hours, it dropped to 66.01 this afternoon before bouncing up about 0.60 into the close. Natural gas futures also jumped up to a high of 13.67 (November contract), just below yesterday's all-time high of 13.60, before settling back down and closing at 13.10. From its low around 6.50 at the beginning of the year, this is more than a double in NG prices. Needless to say customers are not going to be happy with either their oil supplier or their gas company. If prices stay high, expect all the electric companies, most of whom use NG for power generation. So if you're using electric heat you may not be immune for long. The only hope for us is that the parabolic spike in the gas and oil charts is bearish--many times these parabolic spikes don't end well so we could see a crashing of prices within the next several months. Maybe a stock market crash will stall the economy which will lessen demand for energy which will drop its price. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Early morning earnings reports had little impact on the market which is clearly more concerned about Rita than much else. But General Mills (GIS 46.19, +1.51), KB Homes (KBH 73.70, +2.98) and Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY 39.70, +2.28) each reported upbeat earnings. There were no profit warnings to speak of this morning.

Tomorrow is needed to provide a few more clues as to where this market is headed next but let's see what the charts are telling us after today's price action.

DOW chart, Daily

The DOW briefly broke its uptrend line from its April low (ignoring that brief poke below it in July) and found support on price level support at 10350 which of course is near the August low. The rally today took it back up to the trend line so tomorrow we'll find out if this is just for a kiss goodbye (bearish) or if the break down was just a head fake (bullish).

SPX chart, Daily

The SPX held both its uptrend line from March 2003 and the one from its July low. If these trend lines break, it should be a quick trip to its 200-dma at 1200. If the trend lines hold there's still a possibility for a new rally leg as depicted on the chart. For that to happen, tomorrow needs to leave little doubt about it by rallying strong. In the fact of Rita, that could be a challenge.

Nasdaq chart, Daily

All these support lines and the market is barely holding them. Same for the COMP--it dropped down to its neckline and got a little bounce. It looks like a hammer candlestick pattern on support, a potentially bullish sign but only if we get a big green candle tomorrow.

SOX index, Daily chart

Like the COMP, it looks like a hammer candlestick on support (50% Fib retracement of the Jan-Sept 2004 decline). With the daily stochastics reaching oversold, it's just possible for this to bounce from here and give us another leg higher. Hey, anything's possible with this market. Otherwise look for the 200-dma as the next downside target.

BKX banking index, Daily chart

The uptrend line on this chart may not be that significant since it was only 2 points but watch to see if any bounce fails at it. The April low looks like it's next on the visitation schedule. The poor performance continues to paint a bleak picture for the economy and suggests an inverting yield curve is on the horizon--not good for banks and something that has always presaged an economic recession.

A few analysts that I regularly follow have issued their own alarms about what the market is telling them and I thought the timing is right to discuss them this evening. For quite some time I've been holding onto my opinion that we should expect another market high (in SPX) before we see THE high and roll over in the start of the next major bear market leg down. As I show on some of the above charts, this is still a possibility, one that I haven't chucked out the window, yet. But the sell off since the Sept high has now put a very significant dent in my interpretation of the EW pattern which has been that a new high should be expected. The bullish possibility is not completely dashed against the rocks until we see the August lows taken out in the DOW (got close today) and SPX, but let's just say the bears' claws have significantly punctured my half full cup. The depth of the current pullback against the September rally puts the August lows in jeopardy. And if the August lows give way, then I believe we have a major top in the market already in. That would be the March high for the DOW and the July high for SPX and C0MP.

While I don't want to scare anyone, and I certainly caution against planning for a market crash (since they're extremely rare occurrences) the market is currently perched precariously near the edge of the cliff and one little push by the wind's of Rita could knock us off our balance. I mentioned some time ago that there are many players in the market who are expecting 2005 to be an up year. After all, the worst year ending in 5 since the 1940's I believe was up only +9%. Never a down year. Many people have therefore kept their money in the market and are looking for opportunities to add more. When it becomes generally recognized that 2005 is headed for the dumpster, fund managers won't be able to get out fast enough. A no-bid situation is essentially a market crash. I wouldn't expect this scenario until the latter part of October at the earliest but we're getting some signals now, which I'll discuss in a bit. Now, we have the PPT standing in the wings to immediately and massively purchase stock futures if that happens, as they probably did in April 2005, so fast market drops will always need to keep bears on their toes and watchful for the PPT to come rushing to the rescue again. They want the stock and housing markets to deflate slowly, not crash.

One of the major sell signals is based on the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, and this comes from an observation put together by Robert McHugh. McHugh's observations are graphically presented here:

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index versus the DOW

When Consumer Sentiment (in green) broke its neckline back in 2000 the DOW wasn't far behind--it lifted back up in the summer of 2000 and then fell off sharply from there. With the most recent Sentiment reading at 76.9, a drop of 12.2 from the previous reading, which is the worst drop since before 1997, it has once again broken its neckline. As I mentioned in the beginning, when people get in a sour mood, they sell and therefore this chart says loud and clear that the stock market could be in real trouble soon, and in fact the trouble may have already started. The wicked hurricane season we're experiencing, and all the worries about what it will do to our economy, how we'll pay for it all, etc., is only aggravating a worsening consumer sentiment picture. This consumer sentiment sell signal is only the 2nd one in 5 years.

Another signal that rarely triggers is called the Hindenburg Omen, named by its author, Kennedy Gammage. The signals that are used here are the number of new highs and lows, total issues traded, the NYSE 10-week moving average and the McClellan Oscillator. A Hindenburg Omen signal is generated when the common number to both the new 52-week highs and new lows divided by the total issues traded is greater than or equal to 2.2% (0.022). On Tuesday, and again on Wednesday, we got the first signals. On Tuesday there were 78 new lows and 167 new highs, so we take the number 78 and divide it by the total issues traded (get these numbers out of the WSJ since charting programs sometimes report these numbers inaccurately) which was 3,442. That gives us 2.26%. Wednesday's numbers were 136 new highs and 149 new lows so we use 136 divided by the total issues traded on Wednesday of 3,463, giving us 3.93%, well above the minimum needed.

This >2.2% signal is only valid though with two other conditions: (1) the NYSE 10-week moving average must be rising, and it is, and (2) the McClellan Oscillator must be negative, and it is. So we have a valid sell signal by this method and it's good for 30 days after which a new signal must be generated as it is no longer effective after that period of time. So we've got this crash signal right on the heels of the consumer sentiment crash signal. This of course guarantees nothing in this market but instead is a heads up that the current market is extremely vulnerable to an extent rarely seen. The last Hindenburg sell signal was back in April and the PPT saved the day. I would expect them to try again in the event of a fast market sell off.

For you numbers fans, especially Fibonacci fans, there's an interesting Fibonacci sequence between previous market crashes and today's date. September 2005 is 911 months from October 1929 (911 has a lot more significance to us now) and 215 months from the October 1987 crash. If you divide 215 by 911 you get 23.6% which is a Fibonacci time relationship between the two previous crashes and today (61.8% and 38.2% are the more commonly known Fib relationships and .618 minus .382 = .236). Kinda spooky. And there's more to the relationship between crashes. The ratio of the October 1929 price to the October 1987 price to the current price shows a Fibonacci relationship. The 1929 to 1987 price differential is 1.618 times the 1987 to 2005 price differential. Stated another way, the ratio of the price differential from 1987 to 2005 is .618 (the golden ratio) of the price differential between 1929 and 1987. Because of this Fib relationship there's also a way to calculate what kind of decline we could expect if we were to have a similar ratio between 1929's and 1987's declines and it points to approximately 7500.

Looking at some previous price patterns is calling our attention to some warning signals as well. I've discussed before how we humans, especially when operating in a herd mentality, which the market reflects, tend to repeat patterns. These patterns are a reflection of mass psychology and we're actually pretty predictable. So when we look at where we've been it can sometimes be a good indicator of where we're going. The following chart shows an analog (a comparison of different time periods) of the DOW leading up to the 1987 crash versus today:

DOW comparison between 1987 and today

This chart is scary and says don't be long (certainly not on margin!) if we get another one of these. Remember, 1987 was before PPT so expect the PPT to pull out the stops and attempt to plug every hole in the dike as it appears.

Another chart shows an analog between the Nikkei from 1985 through 1998 and the DOW since 1996. The Nikkei followed a very predictable post-crash pattern and we have been following their pattern very closely. The primary difference is the amplitude between the Nikkei's peak and the DOW's peak but again, the timing of the rallies and declines is remarkably close. A continuation of the analogy does not bode well for our market:

DOW comparison with the Nikkei

As indicated on the chart, a 36% decline, just for reference, in the DOW would take it down to about 6800, which is not terribly far from the 7500 number discussed above. So, just some numbers to keep in the back of your mind in the event this starts to unfold, and of course it would not be in a straight line to these kinds of levels. We'd have lots of bear market rallies to enjoy as well.

I offer all this as food for thought. I would not bet on a stock market crash for lots of reasons. Nor would I be foolish enough to be long and hope to ride it out. Cash is a wonderful position if you're worried and not wanting to play the short side. Think about short term bonds so you roll into new ones as they mature and you get the higher interest rates. It's a time to be very careful.

Last thing I wanted to mention is how much money the Fed is pumping into the monetary system. I gave some numbers last week that are staggering and the amounts just continue to grow each week it seems. While the Fed jawbones the market about increasing rates to fight the inflation monster, they are massively inflating the money supply at a hyperinflationary rate, currently at 6 times the rate of GDP and 5 to 10 times the rate of inflation. They will continue to use the markets to inject money into the system while talking down the markets and hurting the consumer and small businesses with higher rates. Their hope is to stop the speculation in the stock and housing markets and it should work. But as always they will very likely swing too far again and have to run to the rescue by aggressively lowering rates. Did you notice what the bond market did after the Fed raised rates again on Tuesday? The bonds rallied thereby lowering rates--a big raspberry was blown in the Fed's face. They're already predicting what's going to happen to the economy and how the Fed will react. While Greenspan wants a bear market in intermediate and long-term bond prices, so as to undermine the on-going bull market in property prices, the bond market continues to front run him in expectation that he'll quickly correct himself when he sees property prices nose dive too quickly. That's a smart group of people over in bond land.

OK, moving on. Oil was up and then it was down. With Rita breathing down the necks of the oil industry it seemed odd to see oil close down on the day, especially after starting higher on the day. The bounce from oil's recent low is looking corrective as though it's going to lead to more lows:

Oil chart, August contract, Daily

Oil is struggling to hold onto to its steeper up-channel, and above the mid line of the longer term up-channel. The current bounce is overlapping and choppy and indicates that it will proceed lower. A break of $63 would indicate it's heading for the bottom of the longer term up-channel, currently at $60. On the other hand, if a rally continues over the next couple of days it should head to new all-time highs.

Oil Index chart, Daily

This index remains in a tight and steep up-channel. The acceleration to the upside looks like a blow-off top to me. The top of this rally is forming an ascending wedge while negative divergences are beginning to appear, classic signs of topping. It could certainly squirt higher still while building more negative divergences so it could be a little early to short this index, but certainly keep those trailed stops close by and take as much out of this as you can.

Transportation Index chart, TRAN, Daily

Talk about congestion! One look at all those daily candles scrunched together at support by the uptrend line and 200-ema says there's a real battle going on here. This could sell off quickly out of an oversold condition but it's just as likely we could see a rally get underway. Like my comments for the broader market in general, we should get some clues in the next day or two.

U.S. Home Construction Index chart, DJUSHB, Daily

As it turns out that bounce up to the 50-dma and 50% retracement of the initial drop was an outstanding short entry level. Now that it's near oversold as it approaches its 200-dma I would think another bounce is not far away.

U.S. Dollar chart, Daily

The U.S. dollar broke its downtrend line and has since been consolidating near its 50-dma. The shorter term pattern of the bounce looks like it will head higher still. It's possible that the dollar will just consolidate sideways in a larger pattern but if it manages to rise back up towards $90 watch for resistance at its previously broken uptrend line.

Gold chart, August contract, Daily

The fact that gold has rallied so strongly in the face of a rallying U.S. dollar is very telling. It says there is a lot of fear about our economy and the stock market--people are running to the "safety" of gold. This rally has been building literally for almost a year. The sideways triangle was a consolidation pattern in the longer term uptrend in gold. I see $500 gold in the not too distant future before we see any significant correction. The current rally is a 3rd of a 3rd wave up so we should get some stair-stepping higher before a larger pullback.

There are no major economic reports tomorrow.

Sector action was generally positive with 8 of the 10 economic sectors positive for the day. We'll find out tomorrow whether this was just a dead cat bounce as some shorts covered and some looked for bargain basement prices. The two laggards were energy (-0.6%) and utilities (-0.7%) as some profit taking seemed to take hold there. The consumer discretionary sector (+1.60%) was the best-performer, but the financial (+0.5%) and information technology (+0.2%) sectors also helped lift the market. General Mills' earnings report is credited with helping the consumer staples sector (+0.7%) and other consumer-oriented stocks.

In some other specific sectors the leaders to the upside were the retailers (oversold bounce in RLX?), the airlines, Trannies, technology and finance. The red sectors were led by the energy indexes, gold and silver, biotechs and then the SOX was barely in the minus column today.

After the market closed, Oracle (ORCL 13.52 +0.23) reported non-GAAP earnings of $0.14, up 38% over the prior year, and GAAP earnings of $0.10. They had a net income of $519M (non-GAAP income $738M), also up 38%. Total GAAP revenues increased 25% to $2.77B (non-GAAP revenue up 31% to $2.91B). Sounds like a pretty good earnings report. I guess that's why it sold off after the close down to 12.89, basically back to its August lows. Fickle people.

Tomorrow will hopefully answer some shorter term questions as to where this market is going. If we see a continuation of the sideways/up choppy consolidation then that would likely be pointing to another push lower. And if we then push lower the DOW will probably break its August low. And if the August low is broken, it's very likely we've seen the highs for the year, and probably for many years. A decline shouldn't happen quickly, at least not yet, since the first leg down could be close to finishing and we should get a bounce going into October. But after that bounce is finished in early October is when it could get ugly.

But the bulls have a fighting chance here--they just need to prove it tomorrow. If the current bounce off today's low turns into something more impulsive to the upside which is then followed by corrective pullbacks, that would be a start. We need to see a rally above SPX 1225, DOW 10520 and NDX 1585 as the first step. If we get that and a pullback is then corrective, the next upside hurdle is SPX 1236, DOW 10603 AND NDX 1604. Until those levels are exceeded now, the bears have the ball and the bulls need to overpower them and take the ball back. The bullish case has been hurt bad by the last couple of days.

There are a couple of warning flags for the bears too though. We're getting some bullish signals from a contrarian sense when you look at the total put/call ratio ($CPC on stockcharts.com). Today's number was 1.41, the 2nd highest reading since 2000. The highest number before that was 1.42 on April 15th of this year, 3 days before this year's low. The NYSE and Nasdaq advancing/declining issues 10-dma for each has reached the lower band that has consistently marked bottoms, not the start of a major decline. The caveat here is that market crashes usually come out of oversold conditions. Again, it's always risky betting on a crash but it is worth noting, and staying aware of.

Look for commentary in the Futures Monitor where I'll try to keep you all updated on tomorrow's pattern and what it's telling us to expect next. We're potentially on the cusp of a very large move. Now if we only knew which direction...

Market Wrap Archives