Jim got called away on an emergency just after the market closed and asked if I could fill in for him tonight. I apologize that I will not have enough time to discuss a lot of the day's events but I will get the charts updated and review those. I think this is very important right now because of where we are in the current rally.
The bulls did it today and rang the bell at DOW 14K. It's been a very narrow-based rally with an obvious effort to lift the DOW to the psychologically important level. There's been a lot of negativity in the news lately (subprime problems, Iraq, declining home values, etc. and the attention to the DOW since last Thursday makes it look pretty obvious what's being done here--lift everyone's spirits by rallying the index everyone watches. Just don't look behind the curtain to see the man pulling the levers.
People will say I'm always looking for the negative side of the market but in actuality I look for signs of confirmation or divergence. That's what we who call ourselves technical analysts do--we look for the technical signals that either support the move or give us a heads up that the move is running out of steam (down or up). This rally is clearly running out of steam. The market internals have been weak. Even today--look at the table above and other than the S&P 500 marginally in the red, all the indices were in the green. But decliners outpaced advancers. And this is the way it's been the past few days.
Even the super strong rally on Thursday was met with negative cumulative TICK readings. That means there was more underlying selling than there was buying. The buying was being done in the large caps and I see two reasons for that: one, as already mentioned, it gives the market a psychological lift when you see the major indices heading into new all-time highs; and two, it's a defensive move--the funds may be moving their holdings into the large caps in preparation for what could be a difficult next few months.
Speaking of funds, the rally the past three days, including Super Thursday, showed virtually no sign of institutional participation. Program trading was much lower than normal and that indicates the major funds simply weren't buying it, literally. That's probably because they have no more cash to invest since cash as a percent of assets is at record lows, lower than it was at the 2000 market peak. And margins are hitting an extreme high, much higher than what we saw at the 2000 market peak. So we've got funds with no cash and investors using as much leverage as they possibly can in order to maximize their profits in a rallying market.
But the excessive margin (more credit) is that it works both ways. When the market drops someone's long position can get wiped out in a heartbeat. They have to sell to cover their margin and that intensifies the market drop and it becomes a vicious cycle. If I buy a $100 stock with cash and it goes up or down $10 I make or lose 10% on my money. If I buy that stock with 50%, or 2:1, margin then the same $10 swing gives me a 20% gain or loss. There are hedge funds leveraging upwards of 20:1 and even 40:1 and higher. They might put up only $5 for a $100 investment. Now the price only needs to drop 5% and their investment is completely wiped out. They'll be getting a margin call.
This is what happened to Bear Stearns--their highly leverage funds dropped in value and basically wiped out their entire investment, and those who invested with them. That's why Merrill Lynch stepped in to sell their $800M stake. They stopped when they realized they were only getting 80 cents on the dollar on the GOOD stuff (AAA-rated). They knew the toxic waste products (BBB-rated) probably wouldn't even find a buyer. If they had continued to press for a sale of the assets in the BSC fund they would have forced everyone else to mark the true value of their holdings to market and that would be devastating to the investment banks, hedge funds, pension funds and everyone else who owns this garbage.
Master them with Hotstix QQQ Trader. We'll show you exactly when to buy and sell the QQQQ and turn you into a master trader who knows how to cut your losses, nail short term gains and rack up some incredible profits.
30-Day FREE Trial:
Personally I think the Fed stepped in and forced Merrill to stop, knowing the danger to the banking system. They need time to figure out how to let the air out of this balloon. But as I've said repeatedly, credit bubbles don't squeak when the air comes out of them, they pop. And it's why we'll likely see a horrific collapse of credit and needless to say it will take a lot of investments down with it. Being long the market right now is probably not something you should be. Upside potential is dwarfed by downside risk.
So the Fed and other major investment banks may have put the kibosh on Merrill's attempt to sell of BSC's assets but it will still need to be done. For now everyone went zip-lipped on this and stuck their collective heads in the sand, The engineered rally last Thursday was designed to foil the bears' attempt to sell the market down and to get people to forget about the dangers in these shark-infested waters. Swim at your own risk, especially since a sewer line just broke and is dumping huge quantities of sludge into the market.
A late piece of news today reported that BSC's more highly leveraged hedge fund is currently worth nothing, zilch, zero, nada. Their less leveraged fund is worth a whopping 9% of its previous mark-to-model value. Expect much more of this to come as pension funds start demanding their investments returned to them (too late for those in the BSC funds and I suspect the same fate awaits many others).
I'll cover the economic reports quickly so that I can get to tonight's charts.
PPI and Core PPI
Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization
And now let's get right to the charts. I prepared the charts tonight without looking at after-hours futures and was surprised to see them hard down. That may change by tomorrow morning and therefore I can't make a market prediction based on what it looks like tonight. Therefore I'll discuss tonight's charts as though nothing changed from the closing prices.
DOW chart, Daily
There's a way to consider the EW (Elliott Wave) count as complete at today's high on the DOW (not as easy to do on SPX), which I'm not showing on tonight's chart but if we see some very hard selling on Wednesday then I'll need to update this chart for tomorrow night's Market Wrap. In the meantime I'm expecting a pullback from today's high that could be a choppy whipsaw kind of move over the next couple of days. Following the pullback the pattern would look best with another rally leg to finish the wave count for the rally from March.
A longer term Fib projection points to 14052 as an upside target (got relatively close to it today) and then 14170-14184 based on some other Fib projections for this rally. A crop below 13670 would negate the bullish wave count and suggest we've already seen the high, confirmed with a break below 13475. A break of its uptrend line from March would be another signal that the high is already in. Until that happens, even if tomorrow's sell off is sharp, we're still in an uptrend.
DOW chart, 60-min
Price action since last Friday formed a small ascending wedge with bearish divergences, a classic topping pattern. The DOW closed right at the bottom of the wedge today so a gap down tomorrow would clearly be a break of it. As depicted with the bullish wave count (green) we could get a relatively steep pullback, perhaps to the 13800 area, as part of a correction to the rally and then another leg higher into the end of the month. In the bullish wave count, the July 9th high is wave-1 and that's why a break below 13670 would negate the bullish count (can't overlap the top of the 1st wave except in a triangle/wedge). Any drop below 13800 would be a heads up that something more bearish is happening.
I'm going to review the SPX from top to bottom and show why I believe we need to on the lookout for a major high again. Each time the wave pattern sets up the possibility for a major high I've been calling it out here so that we can test it. The market has been very persistent in its rally and that could continue into August, or certainly the end of the month as I show on most of my daily charts.
But with each EW setup for a potential top I review it and what to look for. I've tested several tops and when they get violated I simply switch directions and play the next leg up. I obviously watch the market all day long and therefore can afford the luxury of trading long for short term moves. If you can't watch the market during the day I haven't been able to recommend long plays because of the risk for a downside surprise. Who knows, tomorrow could be one of them.
So starting with a very wide angle view of the weekly chart for SPX which includes price action since 2000, I'm showing what I believe is the correct EW count and it calls for a top very near the current level.
SPX chart, Weekly, 2000 - present
After the 2000-2002 decline we've had what I think is an A-B-C 3-wave correction to the decline. Like the DOW, rallying above the previous high does not negate the fact that it could still be part of a much larger 3-wave correction to the 1982-2000 bull market. This kind of large (a)-(b)-(c) correction, as labeled on the chart), needs a big wave-(c) to the downside, a move that will take out the October 2002 low.
The A-B-C "bounce" off the October 2002 low has two equal legs up at 1562.80 which is very close to the top of a parallel up-channel for the 2002-2007 rally (it's currently near 1570). The negative divergence at the current high helps confirm that it's the 5th wave of wave-C (wave-C being the leg up from October 2005). The pieces are the puzzle are just about complete here.
SPX chart, Weekly, 2005 - present
Now looking a little closer, you'll probably recognize this chart as the one I've been using at the conclusion of each of my reports. This shows wave-C up from October 2005 which needs to be a 5-wave move. We're in the final portion of the 5th wave now as it approaches the Fib target at 1562.80.
The 5th wave is the leg up from March and the daily chart zooms in on that leg:
SPX chart, Daily
Each impulse wave is made up of 5 smaller waves so the 5th wave that started in March will be made up of a 5-wave move (and its 5th wave will be made up of 5 waves, right on down to the final 5th of the 5th of the 5th...). So within the 5th wave of the move up from March, its 5th wave started from the June 27th low. It also needs to be a 5-wave move and I'm showing only the 3rd wave as having completed (light green wave-iii).
We should get a small 4th wave pullback that lasts a couple of days and then a final 5th wave to finish off the whole thing. The dark green wave count is a slightly different and more bullish count that is looking for more of an ascending wedge pattern to form into early/mid August and potentially top out around 1603-1606. Beware of that possibility if you've sold some bear call spreads.
If instead of a relatively small pullback we see selling take SPX below 1506 then that would say the top is already in. So if you're long the market I'd use that as my stop level.
Zooming in for a closer look at the 5th of the 5th wave, the move up that started June 27th, it too will be a 5-wave move.
SPX chart, 60-min
By the wave count I have on this, it is possible to consider the little sideways triangle that formed since last Friday to be complete and that calls for a final rally leg tomorrow. By the looks of tonight's futures that interpretation doesn't look very likely. But if by some manipulation, er I mean surprise, we get another leg up tomorrow, keep an eye on that 1562.80 level. It just so happens that a projection from the triangle (widest part projected from the breakout level) falls exactly at 1562.80.
OEX chart, Daily
OEX continues to trade very well technically. It's currently back at the top of its parallel up-channel for price action from July 2006 and looks to be stalling. I show a small pullback to be followed by another and final small 5th wave to finish the leg up from June 27th which will finish the 5th wave in the leg up from March which will finish the 5th wave in the leg up from October 2005 which will finish the c-wave for the A-B-C move up from October 2002.
The final piece of the puzzle is about to be put in place. The only question tonight is whether or not that final piece was put in today or will it be next week. As I've depicted on the chart, my preferred wave count at the moment shows another high later this month, perhaps topping out around the Fib projection at 723.77 (this is where the 5th wave up from March would equal the 1st wave up from October 2005, a very common relationship between those two waves).
Nasdaq-100 (NDX) chart, Daily
The NDX shows the same short term bullish potential (green) as the others as far as looking for a pullback and then final rally leg into the end of the month. But as depicted with the bearish wave count (dark red), it's possible today's high was it and now we start a sell off, especially since it tagged the Fib projection at 2032 (5th wae = 162% of the 1st wave). It takes a break below 1948 to say we've seen the top. Hopefully the wave pattern to the downside will give a heads up before that. If the bulls aren't finished yet, even with a relatively steep pullback tomorrow, we should see NDX head up to the 2070 area.
Nasdaq-100 (NDX) chart, 60-min
I'm making the assumption for now that the bullish wave count is the correct one. This calls for a pullback, which should stay above 2000 but could drop as low as 1950 and not negate the bullish wave count or the uptrend line on the daily chart. If it's a choppy whipsaw move down then it will increase the likelihood that we'll see another rally leg follow it.
Russell-2000 (RUT) chart, Daily
Still a choppy mess. It's almost as if the small caps are marking time while the big caps get all the glory and head for new highs. This is just an ugly mess and suggests a topping pattern to me, especially with the negative divergences. Another down-up sequence, as shown within an ascending wedge, would finish this off nicely, topping out around 860 870.
Russell-2000 (RUT) chart, 60-min
A closer view of a potential ascending wedge shows how a down-up sequence could finish as early as Friday or Monday. If price follows this kind of path to the 860 level in the next few days, it'll definitely be worth trying a short play on it, especially if the new high is accompanied with negative divergences.
It's been a few weeks since we looked at the NYSE and the number of new 52-week high:
NYSE (NYA) vs. New 52-week Highs, Daily
As the NYSE continues to make new highs, it continues to do it with fewer and fewer participating in those new highs. Whether it's the a-d line, negative TICK readings or new 52-week highs, we have all the signs of topping in this market. It should be very close now and is one reason I think we're seeing so much money run to the safety of the large caps. The lack of participation of everyone else is showing up in the market internals such as the above chart.
BIX banking index, Daily chart
I drew in a parallel down-channel based on the line along the lows so the bulls will want to see price break above this channel. A strong buy signal on this chart would be a rally above 398. During the big spike up since last week you can see MACD has remained in negative territory. If it comes up to the zero line and turns back down, that's one of the better sell signals you'll see. Keep an eye on the banks since a rally without them, as the market's been doing, won't last long.
U.S. Home Construction Index chart, DJUSHB, Daily
A little oversold bounce gave the home builders a lift back above the July 2006 low, but alas it didn't last long. But it's possible we'll see a little more bounce to relieve the oversold condition (light red), or a roll back over to new lows. If the new lows are met with bullish divergences then we could see a little larger bounce (dark red) before heading for fresh lows again.
A survey of home builders shows a further deterioration in their confidence levels about the home market. The index dropped to 24, the lowest reading in the 22-year history of this index. You can't trade this barometer though--it peaked at 72 in June 2005, a month before the home builders' stock prices peaked. I suspect the home builder's confidence index will bottom right about the time their stock prices bottom. Where that will be nobody knows. I suspect much lower still.
Oil chart, August contract (CL07Q), Daily
Oil (August contract) continues to push upward and should stair-step higher to the Fib target at 79.25 and possibly to just above 80 to reach the top of it parallel up-channel by the end of August is what I'm projecting. The bullish wave count calls for a correction after that and then a continuation higher. My preferred wave count calls for the new high to be followed by another leg down to below 55, perhaps well below as we head into 2008.
Oil Index chart, Daily
While the price of the commodity may have some more room to the upside, I think we've seen the high in the oil stocks. It's very typical for the commodity stocks to lead the price of the commodity. We've got a nice clean wave count for the rally from March, tagging the Fib projection for equality between the 1st and 5th waves and the rally in oil stocks should be completed. I'm looking for a long downhill move to follow.
Transportation Index chart, TRAN, Daily
The Transports also look done. The ascending wedge pattern for the choppy move higher from August 2006 looks complete as of yesterday's rally. It tagged the Fib projection at 5414.66, did a little throw-over above the top of the wedge and finished the 5th wave. While it could press marginally higher I think this one is close enough to be able to stick a fork in it and call it done. Find a relatively weak transport stock and buy some puts on it.
U.S. Dollar chart, Daily
The US dollar hasn't been able to get off the mat yet but the continuing bullish divergences in a bullish descending wedge, not to mention the high bearish sentiment on the dollar, make for a ripe opportunity to go long the US dollar, short the euro.
Gold chart, August contract (GC07Q), Daily
Of the US dollar isn't able to get a bounce started then gold could very well get a rally going. But the best fit on an EW count says it may not have much of a bounce left even if it presses higher again. It nearly hit the Fib projection at 671.36 for the leg up from the June low but it might bounce up to the 50% retracement of the decline at 675. But if the dollar starts to bounce then gold may be ready to start its next leg down to new lows (heading ultimately for $500 or lower.
Results of today's economic reports and tomorrow's reports include the following:
Tomorrow morning will be busy with potentially market moving reports so anything goes for the opening of the cash market.
Futures are down hard this evening (S&P 500 futures are down more than 10 points, or the equivalent of about a 100-point drop in the DOW). Yahoo's headline numbers were "profit falls to $161M". Earnings were flat against a year ago, 11 cents. Intel reported profit up 44% with sales up 8%. But their profit margins took a hit (higher costs). They beat estimates of 19 cents a share by reporting 22 cents, an improvement from 15 cents last year.
YHOO was rewarded with a spanking after hours--their stock closed a little more than a dollar lower than the 4:00 close of 27.49. INTC dropped from their closing price of 26.32 to 25.05, near the low of after-hours trading. Equity futures remain near their after-hours lows but anything can happen between this evening and tomorrow morning.
If the market opens hard down tomorrow morning and continues heading lower in a hurry then it will look like the kick off to a bigger decline (rather than consolidate for a few days before heading higher). The market's rally the past few days has been built on fluff and no stuff so there may be little to hold it up. As I've been saying on the Market Monitor, I'm looking for evidence of topping and not interested in the long side of the market. The downside surprises could be very hurtful.
But we've seen post-earnings negative futures in the evening get completely reversed by the following morning and a rally the next day. We've got an active Fed (The Working Group, otherwise known euphemistically as the Plunge Protection Team) who has become much more proactive in this market rather than waiting for a problem and then trying to fix it. We know they're probably worried about all this excess credit now that the cat is out of the bag (Bear Stearns' collapsed hedge funds) and any hint of a market drop could have them attempting to rally it right back up and get the help of the shorts again, just like last Thursday.
So be very careful about an early morning move as it could be manipulated, especially if it rallies and the bears run for their caves again. But understand that we're perched on the edge of high cliff and it won't take much to get the investors hitting their sell buttons. The more leveraged they are the quicker they'll be to sell.
By the same token, we haven't seen a break of any uptrends and it's therefore
too early to sound the alarm. I'll be back here tomorrow night for the Market
Wrap and we'll assess what happened and what it might mean. Be careful out
there, in both directions.