Option Investor
Market Wrap

The Day After

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Friday was a big down day, what's referred to as an outside down day where it made a higher high than the previous day and closed at a lower low. This was true for many of the major indices but not all of them. The other bearish thing that happened was that it also created an outside down week since it encompassed all of the week's price action. So in effect it was a bearish engulfing daily and weekly candlestick. Therefore today's price action could be considered bullish in that there wasn't much follow through. The bearish thing that could be said for today was that there was no bounce either. It was more or less a doji day which is a day of indecision. The volume was light and seemed many traders decided to make a 3-day weekend rather than come into work today.

So we'll have to wait for the 2nd day after the down day on Friday to see whether or not we're going to get much follow through selling. There is some pretty solid support just underneath for several indexes and it makes me think we could get just a little more pullback before setting up another push higher but a review of all the charts makes me nervous about thinking long the market. While support is close and could be a good place to try long plays, a break of these support levels could usher in some very fast selling. I think the market is in danger here but not until it breaks a little lower, which I'll review in the charts below. We've got a yellow caution flag on the race course as the medical teams attend to a couple of broken stocks strewn all over the track. Now we'll have to wait and see if they can clear the track for the rest of the market to continue rallying.

It was a very quiet day. As I had said, volume was lower than normal and price movement seemed lethargic. There was a minor bounce attempt in the morning and then a relatively slow drift lower for most of the day after the morning session ended. Another minor bounce in the last hour saved the day from being red for most of the indices. An early morning rally in the DOW and S&P 500 without the participation of the Trannies and the SOX smelled of rotation more than buying interest. The Trannies have had a heck of a run. The techs and small caps become risky in a selling market so those areas experienced more selling today than the large caps. Rotating out of one sector and into another does not inspire bullishness and today was no exception. Even the late-day bounce is suspect and may have been short covering out of concern that Alcoa's earnings (after the bell) were going to be good (they were).

So today may have more of a throw-away day than anything else, as most doji days are. But an immediate hard bounce after Friday's sell off would have been very suspect (can you say intervention?). Consolidation, maybe a little more selling, and then a rally would be more constructive so that's what I'm hoping we'll see. I'd like to see a particular price pattern play out to the upside to indicate to me that we could be completing a major rally leg which would set up a larger downside move. As a trader I don't give a rip which way the market moves--I just want it to move.

The price action we've been in for well over two years now has been exasperating and I see the possibility for it to be coming to an end. Instead of sideways trendless price action I'd like to see some nice impulsive moves that are supportive of swing trading again. Spread traders have absolutely loved this market the past couple of years. Swing traders have hated it. Day traders have done well. Once the current leg up finishes I think it will be time for the swingers. It might even be supportive of position trades. You know, that's where you can put on a trade and hold it for a directional move that lasts a few weeks (down in this case) and enables you to move your stop to protect a profit without fear that price will come whipsawing back up to snatch your stop. I know, this is hard to remember for some of you who have only been in the market for a relatively short time but trust me, they're a lot more fun than this choppy go-nowhere market we've been stuck in (unless you do nothing but sell credit spreads in which case you've had your dream market).

The interesting thing about our market is that it is setting itself up for failure just at a point when most investors believe the stability of the market will stay this way. Stability breeds low rates of return and complacency, complacency breeds boredom and the need to take greater risks, and greater risk taking breeds instability and that's where we're headed. It's why the VIX is so low and why it will correct. Everything reverts back to the mean. The only question, as always, is how long it will take to swing too far before it heads back for the middle (often overshooting the middle). The point is that the market is due a correction, and a big one. A big one today is anything over a 10% correction which the market hasn't had in over 3 years, which is extremely rare. Without a steep correction investors have become complacent about the risks associated with investing and are risking more. The combination usually sets up the correction.

But I digress. My point is that I've been thinking this is the week we'll see a market high. We are inside a Fibonacci turn window and an important Gann date falls on April 13th, which is this Friday (and a holiday). If we see a rally into the end of the week, we could be very close to making a significant high in which case we'd have a great setup to get short the market. If we instead see a low this week, the week could mark a minor turn (a low) in the market and we'll turn around and continue this choppy price action higher until the we reach the high, wherever that will be.

With the Fib turn window starting last Wednesday, April 5th, it's possible Friday's opening high was it. If I look at the NYSE, its high was on the 5th and it has since broken below its uptrend line from March. So this has me alert to the possibility that the market has already peaked (last Wednesday or Friday for many indices, March 21st for the DOW, January 11th for the NDX) and we should now be looking for shorting opportunities. But I'm not quite ready to jump on that bandwagon. The upside pattern looks a bit funky to make that call on some and the pullback on the DOW since March 21st makes it look like it has a new high in its future. And maybe it does but maybe it won't be until after a 10% correction. My point is that the market is risky right here and we'll need to take it a day at a time to see what is setting up. Let's take a look at the charts for some clues and levels to watch.

DOW chart, Daily

I'm showing what I'd like to see happen in the DOW--a little more of a pullback that will then lead to a final push up to finish the rally from October 2002, as in the end of the bull market. Support for this scenario is the 50-dma and October uptrend line at 11072. Much of a break below 11050 would call into question this scenario. A break below the March low would say the bears are in control. Until that happens we could see price go anywhere at any time, just as it's been doing. Traders can try a long near 11072 since your stop can be kept close by. Upside potential should be up near 11500. A break instead below 11070 that holds below, could be good for a short play down to the 200-dma but that's not at all clear at the moment.

SPX chart, Daily

The same setup for SPX as for the DOW--the 50-dma is at 1288 and if I draw the October uptrend line through the March low, we have trend line support near 1293, which was today's low. If we see price action consolidate sideways for a couple of days that would look bearish and I'd be looking for plays on the short side. Any break below the March low of 1268 would confirm some kind of top is in for now. Until that happens we could see a larger consolidation near the highs, as it's been doing since mid-march, which would suggest a new rally leg is coming.

Naasdaq chart, Daily

The techs need to hold on in order for the rest of the market to feel a little more bullish. The COMP came within 7 points of its 2382 Fib target (and a Gann target) so perhaps that was close enough. The short term pattern from the March low would look best with another push higher after the current pullback is finished. But the pullback needs to find support very close and perhaps the 20-dma at 2323 will do the trick. A break below the 50-dma and October uptrend line at 2295 would look bearish.

QQQQ chart, 240-min

QQQQ respected the top of its parallel up-channel to the penny and reacted with a sharp pullback from Friday morning's high. It could drop straight down to the bottom of the channel or chop up and down and run sideways over to it. I'd watch that uptrend line and see if it'll make a good spot to try a long play but we'll have to see how it makes it down/over to the line. But I've got the EW labeling calling the bounce completed on Friday and that we'll now see nothing but downside. If that's true you'll want to short all rallies in this index. It's too early to tell which it is so look for support at the trend line and if it breaks, sell rallies, especially back up for a retest of the broken trend line.

SOX index, Daily chart

The SOX has to be a disappointment to bulls. It had everything going for it after breaking above and closing above its 50-dma. It gave it all back. It was like my Gonzaga Bulldogs squandering their 14-point lead against UCLA to lose in the last few seconds. Ugh. Well, the bulls haven't lost this one yet but the bears are leaning over them asking them what they were even thinking about bouncing like that. Short the rallies in this one.

SOX index, 60-min chart

After showing this chart on Thursday I wanted to follow up with an updated chart to show one of the reasons why I'm so bearish the SOX. After breaking above its shallow up-channel (which was bullish) and closing above its 50-dma (which was bullish), the SOX gave back both accomplishments. Not only that, it has broken its steeper uptrend and in the process dropped back below the high on April 3rd thus creating overlap between the high and now the low. This defines a corrective bounce and says the SOX will head to new lows even if it first gets a bounce back up above 515. Any rallies should be used as opportunities to unload long positions in the semi's and look to short this index.

BKX banking index, Daily chart

The banks are the market's hope right now. If the banks can hang on here and make it to a new high, we should see the major indices following like little puppy dogs. Bulls do not want to see the March 31st low of 367.83 give way. The way this is setting up, if we get another push higher, the December 2004 high should be retested but I'm not so sure it'll be exceeded by much.

As I reviewed a lot of charts and analytical reports over the weekend I am more and more concerned about how the market is set up for a nasty surprise, mainly because so many least expect it now. As I had discussed in the beginning, stability breeds complacency and many traders start to forget about some of the risks in the market, and lose sight of their trading plans and risk management rules. I came across some notes I had kept about trading rules which I like to review now and then to "keep me honest".

Staying disciplined and following your trading plan, whatever it is, is very important to your long term success. The actual plan is not as important as following it strictly, assuming it's a winning plan of course, and part of your plan should be a set of rules. The rules listed below (which I'll finish up on Thursday) are derived from Dennis Gartman's "Rules of Trading" and are worth rereading on a regular basis to ensure you don't wander from them. When the market experiences a change in trend, and you find yourself fighting it, sticking with your rules will save your account and enable you to stay in this business. There are 13 rules to review. I'll review just the first five tonight and the rest on Thursday so as to keep the length of each newsletter from getting too long. I suggest copying and pasting into your own document that you can save and review on a regular basis.


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The most spectacular crashes of traders, be they individuals, funds or corporations, have almost always occurred because they thought they had reached the point where they didn't need to follow the rules anymore. Perhaps they had more money to withstand a bigger drawdown and therefore were going to hold onto a losing position or, even worse, average down. Whatever the reason for a failure, ask what happened and they will always tell you they violated their own trading rules. The Hunt Brothers and their silver fiasco, the near collapse of Long Term Capital Management, Sumitomo Copper and the failure of Barings Brothers because of Nick Leeson's over-leveraged trading were the result of abandoning some very basic rules. These are worth saving and make a part of your trading plan, and don't forget them. Usually people get into trouble when they believe the market should do something, based on fundamental reasons or the trader's knowledge of the market, and they start to outthink the market. The above firms would very likely still be strong players in the market had the traders continued to follow their trading rules.

So, here are the rules that should be key to everyone's trading plan:

Never, ever, under any circumstance, should one add to a losing position ... not EVER!

Averaging down into a losing trade is the quickest way to busting your account. This is what the Hunt Brothers, LTCM, Barings Brothers and Sumitomo Copper all tried to do as they were convinced they could hold on until the market turned, and would become fabulously wealthy by averaging down into a long position (or up into a short position) once the market reversed. Many traders have successfully used this tactic to save a position, many times being able to exit a total position at breakeven by doing this. But while this technique may save a trade, or even give you some winning trades, the downside risk is huge. It's the account-busting technique if there ever was one. What you should do of course is add to a winning trade. As long as the market continues to move in your favor, add to your position. But adding to a losing position is a recipe for disaster.

See Rule #1 and don't ever forget it or violate it. It's that important to be rule #2 as well.

Learn to trade like a mercenary guerrilla.

The point here is that you shouldn't give a rip which way the market is moving. You are neither bullish nor bearish, optimistic nor pessimistic. The market just is and you should trade the direction in which it is heading. You want to be on the winning side and be willing to change sides immediately if it looks like the other side has regained possession of the ball.

Don't hold on to a losing position. Capital is in two varieties: Mental and Real, and, of the two, the mental capital is the most important.

While holding on to a losing position will obviously cost you real capital losses in your account, it can play havoc in your head. Mental capital can be wiped out by a loss, especially a significant one. You may have more real capital to trade but a deficit in mental capital can be a severe handicap. While holding on to a losing position you become more and more fearful and you avoid potentially profitable trades while you continue to nurture the losing position. Needless to say you won't get ahead that way.

Go where the strength is. Most think the objective is to buy low and sell high, but in reality what you want to do is buy high and sell higher, or sell short low and to buy lower.

Since none of us can know what "high" or "low" is, we can't use the actual price to determine a good entry and exit point. But most of us can identify a trend and trade with it. Following an up trend means buying high, buying even higher, and then selling higher still. Or just the opposite if you identify a down trend. The point is we don't have any idea how high high is or how low low is. Therefore follow the trend. During the late 1990's there were many who were constantly saying the market is too high to buy and yet it may have rallied another 25%, 50% or 100% after that. During the tech bust of 2000-2002, after stocks got a 50% haircut many were saying they're too low to sell short. After getting another 50% haircut they were still saying the same thing. Identify the trend and trade with it--go with the strength (including selling strength).

I'll pick up the rest of the trading rules on Thursday. We all know these rules, some of us by painful lessons that reminded us we violated the rule (sometimes being reminded more than once). By incorporating these rules into your trading plan you will be successful. It doesn't matter the indicators and other technical tools that you use. Staying consistent with your method and following these rules is what will make you successful.

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

The bounce in the home builders is clearly choppy and looking bear flaggish. Whether it makes it up to the 200-dma or fails from here can't be known but ideally we'll see another minor push higher to finish this correction. It should then tip over and head for a new low.

Oil chart, May contract, Daily

The ascending triangle still looks like a good consolidation pattern. It should find resistance at or below $70 and head back down to the bottom of the pattern, maybe around $62 by the time it gets there. That should then set up a rally leg into the summer that sees oil easily exceed $80.

Oil Index chart, Daily

If the oil stocks continue to follow oil, they should also pull back and then set up a strong rally leg. I don't see the oil stocks doing this without the broader market supporting the move but maybe after a minor pullback in the oil stocks and a stronger pullback in the broader market, a bounce in both will get the oil stocks leading the way to new highs while the broader market fizzles out at a lower high. That's just speculation at the moment. Disregarding all else, this is the pattern that should play out in this index.

Transportation Index chart, Daily

So close. That last high of 4760 was within spitting distance of its Fib target at 4771. The short term pattern looks like it should get another stab at a new high so perhaps it'll make it. Any break down below 4500 would suggest a major high has been made. In the meantime another new high Should be the last one.

U.S. Dollar chart, Daily

The dollar is holding on and continues to consolidate inside a sideways triangle. A break below $88.50 or a rally above $91.16 should set the direction for weeks. In the meantime, with it chopping up and down inside this pattern, we won't have much input from the dollar as to what's going to happen to the other commodities.

Gold chart, April contract, Daily

The current leg up in gold looks very close to finishing. If it's finishing the rally from July 2005 then the pullback will be a multi-month correction. If it's only going to correct the leg up from the March low, it should be relatively quick before resuming its northward trek.

There were no major economic reports today and there won't be any tomorrow. This chart shows the reports for the rest of the week:

Thursday will be a big day for reports which will include retail sales (although we already got a heads up last week) and Michigan Sentiment. Friday's Capacity Utilization and Industrial Production are important as they're a big part of the Fed's "data" that's important to them.

There was nothing outstanding in the market internals that told us anything today that was different than price action. There was a slight divergence between the blue chips and the internals where the DOW and SPX were slightly positive today while the internals shows a slightly negative bias. The down volume slightly exceeded the up volume and decliners beat out advancers. Total volume was notably weak today. The lack of performance of the techs and small caps as compared to the large caps could be an indication of some stock rotation. Sector action was just as mixed as the major indices and price action today. Leaders to the upside were the energy indexes, utilities and financials. The red sectors were led by the airlines, disk drives, healthcare, technology, SOX and retail. Again, it was sort of a mixed bag and not very telling.

One measure that is starting to catch my eye, which I've recently been reporting, is the new 52-week highs vs. lows. While we've seen some divergences between these numbers and the new price highs this year, that's only been one of many indicators showing us bearish divergence against price. It's been a heads up and a warning that we're very likely in the tail end of this rally instead of at the start of a new one. But there's another indication from these new highs vs. lows that's part of what's called a Hindenburg Omen signal. It sounds ominous and it potentially is. I'll cover more about this signal on Thursday because I want to see if we have a confirmed signal by then but we had the first signal on Friday. This Hindenburg signal is a heads up for the potential to see a very large market correction coming. Some of you may remember my discussion about this signal last fall which is when we had the last one (and did not get follow-through on the signal due to massive liquidity injection as measured by M-3). At any rate, with the high number of new highs and new lows now, we have one of the signals used in the Hindenburg Omen formula. More on Thursday.

Tomorrow could see more of the same kind of price action if we don't get some volume back. Alcoa (AA 32.83 +0.33) got a good shot in the arm from its strong earnings report. It closed almost $2 higher in after hours at 34.77 and gave the futures a lift as well. They reported earnings of $608M, or 69 cents/share, which was more than double the $260M, or 30 cents/share, a year ago. Revenue was $7.24B, up from $6.22B a year ago. Their earnings clearly exceeded expectations of 51 cents/share on revenue of $7.21B.

We're at a potentially critical point for the market but it's a little early to make a call as to which way it's likely to head. I'm thinking a little more of a pullback and then head higher again. But there's not much room for error--too much of a pullback and it could break some important support levels which would call into question any new highs in the short term. If you're long the market I'd be very nervous and have stops up tight. If you're looking to get short the market, it could be just a little early. Caution is required for both sides until we get some clearer signals. Good luck and I'll see on you on the Monitor.

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