Last week saw the DOW put in its best 5-day performance since 1932 and then Monday's decline was the worst start to any month since 1932. The market's manic-depressive mood swings are hard to keep up with as the bulls and the bears duke it out.
The credit collapse we've been experiencing in the past year is the worst since the Great Depression. Rather depressing to hear all these references to the era of the Great Depression. Considering what that period of time did to the stock market (it lost 90% of its value, same with home values before it ended), it's not a pleasant thought for those of us trying to use the stock market to build up enough wealth to allow us to retire at least somewhat comfortably. The wild swings in the market are not just nerve wracking for both sides; it makes it equally difficult for bulls and bears alike to make any money.
And another reference to the Great Depression era came out of England today--the BOE (Bank of England) lowered its key lending rate by a full point to 2%. The BOE last cut the rate to that level in 1939 (and stayed there until 1951 when it was raised to 2.5%). The ECB (European Central Bank) also cut its rate by 0.75%, lowering it to 2.5%. It's the largest cut in the ECB's 10-year history. Shucks, we have them beat hands down at 1.0% and will soon saddle up with Japan and have it at 0.5%. In all seriousness though, many other countries are citing very poor economic forecasts and are scrambling to get the pump re-primed with easy money (the same thing that got us into trouble in the first place).
And this wild behavior looks like it will continue for some time to come. I've been talking about the need for a large 4th wave correction that could last 2-3 months before we get the 5th wave down to finish the bear market leg from October 2007. What's not clear at the moment is whether we need to put in one more new low this month before we even start that large 4th wave correction. And yet we've been dealing with these wild market swings since the October 10th low. The potential is for the swings to actually increase.
A report out on Tuesday from Bloomberg mentioned "U.S. stock swings will be more than triple the average for the next seven months as investors contend with a global recession and the worst returns since the 1930s." This assessment is based on the volatility futures showing investors expect SPX to rise or fall at least 2.8% a day through June. And here again the comparison to 1932--the last time the stock market moved that much during the same amount of time was 1932. Since September 15th SPX has risen or fallen 4% or more on 27 days as people worry about all the bad financial/economic news punctuated with hopes that we're putting in a bottom (in anticipation that the market will be ahead of the economic recovery). The last time the S&P 500 had as many 4 percent moves was 1933, when it happened 38 times, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. As a reference, the normal daily range for SPX over its 80-year history is 0.8%.
And now we've got volatility of volatility--the VIX has been swinging wildly since October. So if you're feeling a bit whipped by this market and wondering why you feel like you're watching a ping-pong match up close you're not alone. As the Bloomberg article pointed out, VIX is reflecting and forecasting some extreme market volatility. The prior high for the 18-year-old index was just shy of 50 following the LTCM debacle in 1998. It recently got as high as 89.53 and is currently hanging out around 60. This is pretty amazing when you think about the VIX falling for four straight years from 2002 to 2006 to a 13-year low of 9.89 in January 2007. Back then we were lucky to see +/- 50-point moves for the DOW. It's now not uncommon to see +/-500-point moves. Nice money if you can grab those moves.
This week's price action has been very choppy and the charts for the week look more like bear flag patterns than anything else (at least to me). Lots of people see the potential inverse H&S patterns that have developed since the first shoulder formed at the November 13th low. The head is the November 21st low and the second shoulder is Monday's low. Jeff pointed this pattern out on his charts last night. The neckline for SPX is currently near 884. I'd feel more bullish about the possibility for a strong rally out of this pattern if this week's rally didn't look so choppy and corrective. It looks more like a setup for a strong selloff to follow.
I'm going to take a moment to explain a term I use often but a reader's question reminded me that I should not assume people know what I'm talking about. If you were my wife sitting next to me while I discussed some of these things I'd be able to watch your eyes glaze over, like my wife's, and know that I've lost you. Be sure to send me questions when I don't make sense in what I'm saying. I mentioned the inverse H&S pattern and a bear flag pattern above and these are recognizable patterns that we look for on the charts to help us trade. They're repeating patterns and can be found on multiple time frames, hence they're fractal patterns. So I'll repeat what I discussed on the live Market Monitor the other day.
As defined in the dictionary:
Now that we have a much better understanding of the term (wink), let me explain what I look for. Essentially they're repeating patterns. EW analysis is based on fractals--I look for 5-wave moves in the direction of the primary trend and then 3-wave corrections. This shows the basic EW pattern:
Within the 5-wave move (wave (1) in the above figure) waves 1, 3 and 5 are in the direction of the trend and are themselves 5-wave moves. Waves 2 and 4 are counter to the trend (corrections) and therefore are 3-wave moves (or a variation). Looking at a larger move these patterns repeat and form the basis of EW analysis in fractal geometry:
Three degrees of the EW pattern:
So the pattern grows in this form and becomes repeating. If you look at the pattern in a smaller time frame (a smaller degree of the pattern) you see the same pattern. You see a fractal of the larger pattern. Human beings tend to react the same way in similar circumstances. Social mood swings follow a somewhat predictable path and they cycle. These cycles give me a heads up to what I'm analyzing and looking for.
It's why I was so bearish in 2007 and why I'll get bullish next year once we finish the 5th wave down. I'll flip bullish and bearish within the larger pattern, down to intraday swings, depending on where I think we are in the larger pattern. EW patterns show the swings in social mood and the stock market happens to be one of the best reflectors of social mood and herd mentality (and why fundamentals follow, not lead, the market).
When we look for common trading patterns, such as H&S tops/bottoms, triangles, flags, pennants, wedges, etc., we look for them on multiple time frames. They are fractal patterns and technical analysis is the recognition of these patterns and we attempt to play them in the direction they normally resolve. We're playing an expectation that the herd will react as it usually does.
And with that let's go hunting for fractals.
S&P 500, SPX, Weekly chart
The price pattern of the move down from October 14th has had me thinking we've got one more new low for the year to put in before we get a larger correction (wave (4) on the chart) and that's shown in dark red. The bottom of the parallel down-channel coincides with an important Gann level at 661 by mid month. Otherwise, as shown in pink, there is a good possibility we've seen the low for the year and we'll march sideways over to the top of the down-channel before heading lower again into the May timeframe. I show the key level to the upside as 1020 since that would break back above its longer-term uptrend line from 1990 but I don't see it going much higher, maybe 1050, before breaking back down again. The daily chart shows why 1050 is a possibility:
S&P 500, SPX, Daily chart
If we've got an inverse H&S pattern playing out since November the upside projection out of it is near 1050. The neckline is currently near 885. For the short-term bullish possibility (pink) I'm showing a rally up to 970 because that's where the bounce off the November low would achieve two equal legs up. From there I'm envisioning a large sideways triangle playing out into February.
If the market instead breaks down (key level of 815 shown below on the 60-min chart) then support at 795-800 could stop it otherwise we'll likely see another test of 768 for at least a bounce and then potentially on down to the 661 level.
A note on how I like to use MACD to help confirm wave counts (which I've labeled the same as the dark red labels on the price chart). The move down in a descending wedge pattern, which is the way I think the dark red count is unfolding (because of the 3-wave price action), should show bullish divergence along the way, and it is. If we were to get a new low and MACD breaks its uptrend line then I'll know we have something even more bearish going on than I'm showing. If MACD rolls back over at the zero line that will be a strong sell signal. If MACD climbs back above the zero line while price rallies (pink count) we'll have confirmation that the bulls are in control for now. I use settings for MACD that are faster than the default 12,26,9 (something like that) which can give false buy and sell signals but I use it more for divergence than overbought/oversold.
Key Levels for SPX:
S&P 500, SPX, 60-min chart
It's hard to see with the multitude of trend lines but I've drawn in a sideways triangle and the pink wave count calls for another up-down sequence before resolving to the upside. If price plays out this way you'll definitely want to play the long side for a move up the 970-980 area at a minimum.
It's hard to see but notice this afternoon's bounce stopped just under the broken uptrend line from the November 21st low--possibly set up for a kiss goodbye tomorrow morning. If it drops lower tomorrow, especially if it gets below the key level at 815, it could find support near 795 where the move down from last Friday's high will have two equal legs down. From there it could rally again (dashed line). A drop below 795 should see at least a test of 768 if not lower.
Dow Industrials, INDU, Daily chart
I'm showing the same potential moves for the DOW as I showed for SPX. Today's rally stopped at the downtrend line from November 4th and a break above it should see a rally at least up to the 9500 area (two equal legs up from November 21st. Two equal legs down from last Friday's high would be near 7900 and therefore a break below it should usher in stronger selling. Just stay aware of what has been and will likely continue to be a very choppy environment that will be full of whipsaw price action.
Key Levels for DOW:
Nasdaq-100, NDX, Daily chart
NDX has been in a slightly different, and weaker, pattern than the blue chips. It usually pays to follow the techs so watch to see if NDX is able to break its downtrend line from November 4th, which it tried to do today but closed back below it. If it manages to rally tomorrow it should be able to make it up to about 1265 over the next day or two (for two equal legs up from November 21st) and perhaps a little higher to the top of its parallel down-channel and 50-dma, currently near 1287.
I show both possible wave counts leading to a new low sooner rather than later, like on the blue chips. The chart of the RUT below shows the same sideways triangle possibility like the blue chips.
Key Levels for NDX:
Russell-2000, RUT, Daily chart
Like the other indexes, the RUT failed to hurdle its downtrend line from November 4th today. If it manages to break higher tomorrow the upside target level is 517 (two equal legs up from November 21st) and then back down into the sideways triangle. The sideways triangle idea is just a guess at this point but would be a typical pattern for the 4th wave after a big move.
If the market continues to head lower, two equal legs down from last Friday is near 400. Much below that and we could see it head down to new annual lows. The downside target, based on the trend line along the lows from October 28th, is 315.
Key Levels for RUT:
Banking index, BIX, Daily chart
The banking index tried to rally above its downtrend line from September today but failed to hold it. If it can rally higher tomorrow we could see BIX make it up as high as the top of a parallel down-channel near 175. But before that it will have to deal with its 50-dma near 154. The descending wedge pattern calls for another leg down, shown in dark red, with a downside target near 85. That would potentially set up a very good long play in the banks
Bonds continue to get a high level of interest as buyers flock to them for their perceived safety. At this point it's looking like bonds might be the last bubble. Talk about too much too fast! I would not be comfortable holding bonds long at this point. In fact I recommended a short play for TLT today in the Market Monitor (stop at 113 which could get tagged but I still like the setup and will be watching for another entry if stopped out). The following monthly chart shows the 30-year yield back to 1993:
A parallel down-channel for yield shows TYX has dropped to the bottom of the inside channel and slightly below the first downside Fib projection at 3.17%, closing at 3.08% today. The pattern for the move down from the June 2007 high would look better with a bounce and then new low to finish the decline and that's what I'm showing. The next downside Fib projection for the leg down from 2007 is at 2.87% and could be achieved after a bounce and then final low next year (coinciding with a final low for the stock market before it rallies for at least a year).
So my short recommendation on TLT is based on yield (and the bond price) completing a wave count for the move from November 3rd. If TYX is getting ready to bounce then TLT should pull back and I'm looking for a trade for the time being.
The transports sport a similar pattern to the broader market and actually is one if the indices that keeps me thinking we've got another leg down this month before getting a bigger bounce into the new year:
Transportation Index, TRAN, Daily chart
The 3-wave declines for each leg down from October 14th is what has me thinking the transports are in a descending wedge pattern. There should be 5 waves within the wedge and as counted on the chart that means we're due the 5th wave down. This index also battled its downtrend line from November 4th today and lost. If it rallies tomorrow then we'll have some kind of larger corrective pattern in play and I'll have to figure it out as it progresses. Upside resistance would first be its 50-dma at 3735 (although you can see it regularly pushed above it back in July-September). A decline as depicted, down to around 2600-2700, would be a very good setup for a long play into the new year.
Commodity Related index, CRX, Monthly chart
The sideways consolidation in the commodity related stocks looks like a bearish consolidation pattern and that's the way it's labeled. It calls for a 5th wave down and the 2001-2002 lows near 200 makes for a good downside target.
While gold is often classified as a commodity it hasn't acted like the rest of the commodities. That's of course due to many people looking at gold as a safe-haven investment. But gold also needs another new low before I would consider it to be a good buying opportunity:
Gold Fund, GLD, Weekly chart
The corrective wave count for the decline tells me two things: one, it needs another leg down to finish the count; two, it's a corrective count which means gold will head higher again once this pullback is finished (probably the only commodity to do so within the next few years). Notice it failed at a retest of its broken uptrend line from July 2005--bearish. Downside targets for GLD remain in the $60 area ($600 for the shiny metal). I'll be a buyer down there.
Oil is a different story. I thought it might get a bounce off the $52 level (its uptrend line from 1998 when using a log price scale) but no bounce and now that changes the outlook for oil over the next few years (for me anyway):
Oil Fund, USO, Daily chart
After the pullback, as sharp as it is, I was thinking the pattern for oil called for another rally leg to a new high over the next few years. A drop below $37 would negate the bullish wave pattern I was considering (calling for another run up to new highs) but now I think that expectation has been pretty well shot out of the water (even though $37 has not been violated yet). Oil should find support either near $41, $37 or the uptrend line (arithmetic price scale) near $34. From there I'm thinking oil could certainly bounce, and bounce hard, but I see a big consolidation in oil's future rather than the start of a new bull market leg up.
Even in Seattle (with higher than national average gas prices) I filled up my little Honda Fit for $17 (great little car, 38-40 mpg, comfortable to drive and ugly cute). Gotta love that.
Economic reports, summary and Key Trading Levels
The initial unemployment claims came in a little lower than the previous week but the 4-week moving average continues to climb. After hitting a 16-year high for the week ending November 1st at 543,000 the last two weeks have declined with last week's number at 509,000. I'm sure that's small consolation to those who got the pink slip. Large layoff announcements are ticking higher.
The report on factory orders showed a worse-than-expected decline in October, down -5.1% vs. expectations for -4.5%. This was the biggest decline since 2000. Durable goods orders fell a revised -6.9% vs. the estimate of -6.2% last week. This is a reflection of businesses not investing in capital equipment projects (either they're nursing their cash account or are unable to borrow).
On Wednesday we got the ISM (Institute of Supply Management) nonmanufacturing index and it had dropped to 37.3% in November from 44.4% in October. So we have manufacturing and the service sectors in recession territory and we heard this week that our economy has been in a recession since December 2007. Thanks guys, I think we already knew that. The other number in the ISM index that is of concern is the prices paid index--it dropped to 36.6% from 53.4% in October. While lower prices paid sounds nice it's a reflection of more deflationary problems (ones the Fed thinks they can fight but really are powerless to do much, since it's demand driven). Unfortunately it's looking like we've got more pain ahead of us.
In summary, the market has been bouncing back and forth this week but not showing a whole lot of conviction either way. From last Friday's high we've seen the market close at either the high or low of the day and then get reversed with a big gap move the next day. There's just no conviction or follow through and it's risky holding trades overnight. Today closed up off the bottom thanks to a late-day bounce into the close. That actually leaves tomorrow's open subject to more guessing. Plus tomorrow morning we get the jobs number and who knows how the market will react to it.
The pattern of the bounce off Monday's low looks very choppy--lots of overlap between highs and lows and that makes it look like a bearish continuation pattern after the drop on Monday, especially since it broke down below the bear flag pattern this afternoon. But as shown on the SPX 60-min chart, we could be inside a larger sideways bullish consolidation pattern that will resolve to the upside early next week. At this point the wave pattern is not clear enough to help determine whether I should be thinking bullishly or bearishly into next week. It's hard enough intraday trying to figure out what this whacky market is doing let alone day to day. For those on the live Market Monitor I will continue to do my best to provide setups to test each direction and try not to get whipped out of our trades.
For those who are not glued to your screens all day, watching these squiggles and trying to trade them, my suggestion is to wait for a break of one of the key levels to help determine which direction the market might trade. Again, on the SPX 60-min chart I show yesterday's high near 876 and Monday's low near 815 is the key levels. A break of one of those could see some follow through. But then there's reason to believe SPX 795-800 will be solid support (otherwise it will break back down to at least 768 if not lower). A rally above 876 should make a run for it up to at least 917 and then higher potential up to 970.
The bottom line is that we are either going to chop our way down to a new annual low by mid month or we're going to chop our way higher and then back down (perhaps in a big sideways consolidation) into the new year. If you're a longer term trader I do not see a good setup for you, either way. Assuming we're going to consolidate at best for a couple of months you'll then have an opportunity to play the short side. Later next year will be the opportunity to get long for a rally into the end of the year.
Continue to trade lightly and quickly and use good stop discipline. This is the period when traders go broke forcing trades. Even with good stop discipline you can die of a 1000 paper cuts. If you see a setup, take it and then get out with profits rather than hold for more. The market will more than likely punish those who hold for more. Good luck in this market and I'll be back with you on Tuesday as I fill in for Jim.
Key Levels for SPX:
Key Levels for DOW:
Key Levels for NDX:
Key Levels for RUT:
Keene H. Little, CMT