It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
As such, there are times when investors can learn an awful lot about the state of the market environment simply by scanning the charts of major stock market indices. And cutting to the chase, this is definitely one of those times.
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Some will argue that Friday's weakness was related to concern about the debt ceiling debate taking place in Washington. The fact that the Republicans in the House pushed through a measure that "defunded" (is that even a word?) Obamacare as part of a continuing resolution to fund the government until December 15 certainly adds to this argument.
Since everybody on the planet knows that the bill has no chance in the Senate, the move can be viewed as just another effort to up the level of gamesmanship (which is likely to lead to brinkmanship) between the two parties. Therefore, some traders fear that the debate will once again threaten the fragile economic recovery.
Another argument regarding Friday's sudden swoon was that all the good news is now out. The Fed didn't taper. Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration. And Syria is out of the headlines. So after a surprising run to the upside, some backing and filling would be a logical next step for the indices.
Then there were the issues of an expiration Friday and the Dow's rebalancing, as three old-school names were booted from the venerable index. Some argued that this combination allowed the algorithms to play even more games with the market than usual.
In any event, it appears that some sort of a pullback is under way. The question, of course, is if the pullback that got rolling on Friday will be a one-day wonder or something more serious.
As the technicians like to say, "The tape tells all." So, in an effort to find some clues as to what might transpire next, let's take a look at some charts.
Let's first take a look at the daily chart of the S&P 500. This is the index that most technicians follow and therefore can be viewed as a picture of the overall "market."
S&P 500 Index Daily
Sometimes it is best to use a K.I.S.S. (keep is super simple) approach when reviewing charts. While Friday's decline wasn't a happy event for the bulls, the S&P remains above the August high, which is an important technical line in the sand, as well as is shorter-term moving averages. And all three of those moving averages are moving higher. In addition, there is an uptrend line that can be drawn from the November and June lows. Thus, the bottom line is the trend remains bullish - at least at this stage.
The next step is to look for confirmation among other indices. So, take a moment to scan the following charts using the criteria that was applied to the S&P 500.
NASDAQ Composite Index Daily
For the NASDAQ, the same situation can be seen. This chart is actually in better shape than the S&P's as Friday's pullback was less severe. The bottom line here is the index remains in an uptrend, is well above the August high, and is nowhere near its short-term moving averages or trend-line. In short, it's all good.
Russell 2000 (Small Cap) Index Daily
Ditto for the Russell 2000, as the market-leading small cap index remains in pretty darn good shape.
However, the "picture" painted by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Midcaps is very different. Take a look.
Dow Jones Industrial Average Daily
Uh oh. This daily chart does not look nearly as good as the S&P, NASDAQ, and Russell. No, chart-watchers will argue that the DJIA failed to hold its breakout, broke important support, and appears to be tracing out a double-top formation. In addition, the short-term moving average has been violated. Therefore, the bears will suggest that the most likely next step is a trip down through the trading range to test support in the 14,800 area.
S&P 400 Midcap Index Daily
A similar picture is painted by the midcaps. This chart clearly shows a potential double-top and although the index remains above the short-term moving average, those seeing the glass as half-empty are likely looking for those gaps on the chart to be filled in the near term.
A Tale of Two Tapes
The problem is it appears that the charts are telling conflicting stories at this point. The charts of the S&P, NASDAQ, and Russell seem to suggest that the trend is up and the pullback should be bought. Yet, the action in the DJIA and Midcaps argues that defensive measures should be taken - and soon.
Generally speaking, it is usually a good idea to go with the message from the "league leaders," which in this case would be the NASDAQ and Russell since they are up the most on the year. In addition, the bulls contend that the action in the Dow should be discounted due to the rebalancing of the index that took place on Friday. The thinking here is that some of the move may have been artificial in nature.
So, those looking to place a bet on the near-term direction may want to continue to lean long. However, experience suggests that this may be a time to put away the crystal ball and simply try to stay in tune with what the market is doing for a while. In English, this means that it is time to let price be your guide.
Current Market Drivers
We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).
1. The State of Fed Policy 2. Fun and Games in Washington (I.E. the Debt Ceiling) 3. The Outlook for the U.S./Global Economy
The State of the Trend
We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 3 months, and long-term as 3 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:
Short-Term Trend: Moderately Positive (Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)
Intermediate-Term Trend: Positive (Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)
Long-Term Trend: Positive (Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 12 months)
Key Technical Areas:
Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:
- Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 1710
- Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): 1730
The State of the Tape
Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...
- Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator: Positive
- Price Thrust Indicator: Positive
- Volume Thrust Indicator: Positive
- Breadth Thrust Indicator: Positive
- Bull/Bear Volume Relationship: Moderately Positive
- Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups: Moderately Positive
The Early Warning Indicators
Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.
- Overbought/Oversold Condition: The S&P 500 is very overbought from a short-term perspective and is neutral from an intermediate-term point of view.
- Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is negative .
The State of the Market Environment
One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward because different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Markets Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.
Weekly State of the Market Model Reading: moderately positive - This tells us to give the bulls the benefit of the doubt at this time.
If you are looking for a disciplined, rules-based system to help guide your market exposure, check out The Daily Decision System.
Turning To This Morning...
With another potential big, bad event (Germany's elections) out of the way, traders will now turn their attention entirely to the state of the debt ceiling debate. The German elections did not provide any major surprise and preliminary PMI's out of Europe remained in expansion mode. Farther east, China's HSBC PMI rose to a six-month high. However, with the potential for an economy-damaging government shutdown now just a week away, all eyes will likely be on Washington in between this week's important PMI numbers. Finally, U.S. futures point to a modestly lower open at this time.
Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...
Major Foreign Markets: - Japan: Closed - Hong Kong: -0.56% - Shanghai: +1.33% - London: -0.40% - Germany: -0.22% - France: -0.06% - Italy: +0.10% - Spain: -0.28%
Crude Oil Futures: -$0.12 to $104.63
Gold: -$9.60 to $1322.90
Dollar: higher against the yen and euro, lower vs pound.
10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.742%
Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value): - S&P 500: -3.69 - Dow Jones Industrial Average: +21 - NASDAQ Composite: -3.18
Thought For The Day...
It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. -Moliere
Looking for Guidance in the Markets?
The Daily Decision: If you want a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis - Check the "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. Investors first need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets. The Daily Decision system was up 30.3% in 2012, is up more than 25% in 2013, and the system sports an average compound rate of return of more than 30% per year.
The Insiders Portfolio: If you are looking for a truly unique approach to stock picking - Check out The Insiders Portfolio. We buy what those who know their company's best are buying - but ONLY when they are buying heavily! P.S. The Insiders is up over 30% in 2013 and has nearly doubled the S&P 500 since 2009.
The IRA/401K Advisor: Stop ignoring your 401K! Our long-term oriented service designed for IRAs and 401Ks strives to keep accounts positioned on the right side of the markets. This is a service you really can't afford not to use.
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At StateoftheMarkets.com, our goal is to provide everything you need to be a more successful investor: The must-read headlines, market commentary, market research, stock analysis, proprietary risk management models, and most importantly actionable portfolios with live trade alerts.
Finally, we are here to help - so don't hesitate to call with questions, comments, or ideas at 1-877-440-9464.
Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,
David D. Moenning Founder and Chief Investment Strategist StateoftheMarkets.com
For up to the minute updates on the market's driving forces, Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave (Twitter is the new Ticker Tape)
Positions in stocks mentioned: none
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