Market Overview: Identifying a Change of Trend

Standard & Poor’s said it downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating from AAA to AA+ because it believes the U.S. will keep having problems getting its finances under control and pointed to the lack of leadership in Washington. Per Yahoo Finance: “The Obama administration called the move a hasty decision based on wrong calculations about the federal budget. It had tried to head off the downgrade before it was announced late Friday.”

Politicians lie and markets do not so ignore Washington and focus on PRICE and VOLUME action!

So, with that said, what does last week’s action across the US and global market truly mean? The $DJIA was down 5.75% on the largest volume since last summer, the $COMPQ was down 8.13% on the largest volume since May 2010 and the $SPX was down 7.19% on the largest volume since May 2010.

All three major markets confirmed a Dow Theory Reversal, a “Change of Trend”. In addition to the major indexes, the Dow Transports TRAN also confirmed a Dow Theory Reversal by breaking support and making a lower low.

Emotionally, I suspect that the market will bounce and that many stocks and indexes are “oversold” but this will most likely only be short term. Long term, the trend HAS CHANGED according to the charts. And until the charts show a new trend to the upside, all moves up are suspect. No one has to pick the exact bottom or top of a market so be grateful to recognize a trend and grab 60-80% of the move. It’s a lot safer and less risky to jump on board once the trend is confirmed rather than play a guessing game that can get you caught in a 500 point slide, similar to last Thursday. Markets can change on a dime so be prepared at all times but longer term trends stay intact for months, if not years.

I made a mistake in my general market analysis by not paying enough attention to my New High – New Low (NH/NL) Indicator. And it cost me because I put on positions in $RENN and $DANG in recent weeks after warning signals had been given. I did avoid a new position in $LNKD and saved money heading into the earnings announcement. Overall, shame on me but I didn’t lose too much because rules were followed and I am digging deep to listen to my indicators. Regardless of what “ I think may happen”, I am listening to my indicators and charts 100%!

So you ask: What warning signals?
The first signal was given by the Dow Jones NH/NL 10-day average differential (Diff) (chart above). The 10-d Diff started to make lower lows as the Dow was making higher highs, a clear divergence that warns the underlying stocks are weakening while the overall market is making a new high. This one signal alone should have put me on caution while entering new positions. It didn’t because the NH/NL 10-d Diff was still above the critical level of zero. Well, the market took care of that this week by plunging below the zero level, closing at -203 on Friday for the Dow. Consider this, it closed at +15.1 last Thursday ( 7/28) but went red the following day at -2.5 (last Friday, July 29, 2011). The divergence and the reading below zero was now screaming MOVE TO CASH and gave us enough time to do it before the end of the week romp! We all had time to get out without taking a loss. As it stands now, the 30-d Diff is also below zero with a reading of -21.47, the first reading below zero since July of 2010.

It’s interesting that the markets topped in May, just as Osama Bin Laden was killed – I must give a HT to Howard Lindzon for coining the Osama Bin Laden Top (he may have nailed it) and closing his blog post with this statement:

With the mood of financial markets quickly turning negative, the horrific price action of financials, the silliness of IPO valuations and some Bitcoin mishigas, you may not soon forget the ‘Osama’ top.

Now, let’s take a look at a number of charts and see what they “were” saying and what they “are” saying right now, as we head into next week (ahead of the market reaction to the US credit downgrade). NOTE: I personally believe that the downgrade is mostly priced into the market but I am sure we will still see some further selling pressure before a normal bounce.

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Trading and Poker

FYI: This is an update to an article I had published in November 2006 in The Trader’s Journal: How the Poker craze can Help you Trade

I have been trading my own accounts for a decade now and I continue to learn more with each passing day. However, I never thought that a game, a hobby of mine, would advance my understanding and the importance of expectancy and position sizing as much as playing poker. Trading the markets and playing poker both require strict money management rules, stable emotional balance and a solid game plan. If you don’t consider and employ these tools, you will most likely fail sooner rather than later and lose a lot of money along the way.

So, how could a person learn so much from a game that most people consider luck? And why do some traders continually profit year after year while others lose their shirt while making the same mistakes? I will discus the basics of position sizing and expectancy and show you how both items are extremely important when trading and playing poker for profits. I will also close the gap of how each entity (trading and poker) have helped me become better at both.

Many people consider trading and poker pure luck but this is not an accurate observation. Average traders and average poker players taint the outside world with images of luck, quick riches and pure fantasy of the actual grind that is required to succeed. Many factors run parallel with poker and trading but the average Joe would never understand ‘why’ because he or she just listens to what the “talking heads” of television say. Luck may and will play a small part under certain circumstances but rules, odds, risk and money management are the largest components of the two entities.

It’s a grind; trading for a living and playing poker for a living is a grind – a full time business.

I don’t trade for a living but I do trade/ invest to grow my personal wealth. The savings and income from my main career is put to work through investing.

When investing in the stock market, it is essential to have a sound set of rules or a system that has been tested in real time, (back testing or historical testing is not required but can be used, my opinion of course). Back testing helps but playing sports has taught me that Monday morning quarterbacking is for theorists. Once a system has been tested profitably in real-time, the trader or poker player must follow clearly defined rules in order to preserve capital and cut losses. Both traders and poker players must consider the odds of their stock or hand making a gain or making a loss. Price objectives and targets should be a large part of every investor’s system but it is not the essential ingredient to success. Understanding how much to trade or how much to bet and exactly when to make that bet will be based on the system’s expectancy – and this should be the top priority.

So where does system development start? It starts by properly understanding position sizing techniques and calculated expectancies. Using these tools, the investor will be armed to trade only in situations where the odds are in his/her favor. A system that has been tested will have an approximate expectancy that will tell the trader or poker player how much will be gained or lost during each trade or hand over a period of time. Using this as one part of the equation, the investor or trader will now determine how much risk to undertake by calculating a position sizing algorithm that tells them how much to place on a specific trade or poker hand. The word “algorithm” may scare many people away but I have developed very simple position sizing and expectancy spreadsheets that can be found as a link on my blog. They can be downloaded, studied and tweaked without any advanced mathematical experience. This spreadsheet is strictly for trading, not poker.

Most traders and poker players look for three major factors when developing a system:

  • How much to trade or bet
  • The right odds or positive expectancy
  • Multiple trades or hands to play (opportunity)

How do we Calculate Position Size (stock trading example)?

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Calling Tops and Bottoms: Trend Changes

Every once in a while you like to look back and review your notes to locate where your research was right and where it was wrong. The simple technique of following stock market leaders and the NH-NL ratio nailed the period of time when the market transitioned from an up-trend to churning to the “Big Decline”. We nailed it here on this blog and every reader was prepared for the imminent decline. No one can dispute that. Readers of this blog were told to move to cash to preserve capital in late 2007 and early 2008. Now, I am not talking about day traders but longer term traders or investors that work full time and do what I do.

The chart highlights in red where I was making the sell posts (the articles are listed below):
041009_trend_change

Anyway, I have been posting twits about the strengthening of the NH-NL ratio which is starting to tell me that the newest trend change is beginning. Yes, this is my first major blog post saying that my screens (market tools) are telling me to wake up because things are starting to change. It’s not time to jump in with both feet and buy every stock that’s up on above average volume but it’s time to sharpen the skills and be ready. We may look back and point to March and April of 2009 as the bottom of the market or at least the start of the changing trend.

We don’t have market leaders yet but when they appear, I will locate them, post up charts and talk about them nightly on twitter (twitter.com/cperruna). Too many stocks still have their 50-d moving averages below their longer term 200-d moving averages and new highs are still limited. However, new lows have dried up considerably and the NH-NL ratio has a moving average that is trending higher for about a month now. That’s the most sustainable trend for this ratio since the big decline started.

Stay tuned to the blog and my twits for follow-ups to my research on individual stocks and the overall trend.

In the meantime, take a look back at the numerous blog articles I posted in 2007and 2008 talking about a market decline, shorting stocks and selling in general. Learn from what the simple tools were telling us. I am far from a market genius and far from rich but I can make a few dollars following the leaders and the NH-NL ratio.

A Review of Articles Pointing to a Stock Market Decline in early 2008:

  • May 23, 2008: Smelling Trouble

    The bottom line or point of today’s rant is the fact that I still feel that the market is headed for a decline or as I phrased it a couple weeks ago: The Big Decline (long term perspective of course).

  • May 8, 2008: Market Distribution

    I originally started to point out market troubles back on March 14, 2008 in a post titled Snapshot Friday; I highlighted both the Dow Jones and NASDAQ with clear yellow shaded areas showing the 200-day moving averages pointing down for the first time since 2003 (that’s huge if you ask me).

  • May 7, 2008: The Big Decline

    I am a positive person by nature and I prefer to buy stocks going up but I am starting to see several leading stocks struggle to hold new highs or fail to challenge recent highs. These patterns are familiar and they are suggesting that the recent bounce is the final stage before a possible market decline.

  • January 23, 2008: Setups for Selling Stocks Short

    I wrote an article on October 15, 2007 titled How to Make Money Selling Short, precisely when the general market indexes were topping. I am not going to take full credit but subconsciously my charts were giving me signals that the market was showing the major red flags and signals of what we are seeing today.

A Review of Articles Talking about Selling, Profit Taking and Market Distribution in late 2007:

  • 10/03/07: Is Shanghai a Nasdaq Déjà vu

    Well, the current two year rise of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index looks remarkably similar to the rise of the NASDAQ of the late 1990’s and the charts below explain better than I can!

  • 10/04/07: A Technique for Profit Taking

    What do you do in a market like today when you have profits in multiple positions but you don’t want to give it all back? You want to continue to ride the winners but at the same time, you want to maintain the unrealized gains in your account. HOW?

  • 10/12/07: Distribution Day

    This was the largest showing of volume in two months and is not healthy because it was pure distribution. It was only the second distribution day over the past month so we can’t call this a bear run but please be on the lookout for a possible correction of 5%-10%. Technology stocks led the decline as BIDU gave back 10% of its amazing run.

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Capitalism, Socialism, Bailouts and Talking Heads

“Depression is the aftermath of credit expansion.” – Ludwig von Mises

I’d love to find someone that can venture through a single day without reading, hearing or talking about the current state of the economy, the stimulus plan, the bailouts or ponzi schemes. It’s sickening but what’s worse is the fact how NO ONE talks about fixing the problem correctly. Does anyone learn from the past?

I didn’t read the stimulus package in its entirety (it appears that our representatives didn’t either) so take what I say with a grain of salt.

We can blame Bush, blame Clinton, blame Obama, blame Regan, blame Nixon, etc. – it’s all the same; they work for the same crooks, I mean corporation, the US Government!

Time magazine recently published a list of the top 25 people most responsible for this crisis but I would argue that their thinking is flawed and dated by at least 100 years. As Victor Sperandeo noted in his book, Trader Vic – Methods of a Wall Street Master, Thomas Jefferson understood better than any political leader in world history that government “profusion” can only be paid by the “labors of the people.” He knew that a growing government budget and an extension of the services government offers “under the pretense of caring for [the people]” can only come at the expense of private property and individual liberty.

“I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers … We must make our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.” – Thomas Jefferson

“The issue is always the same: the government or the market. There is no third solution.” – Ludwig von Mises

This blog entry is not about playing the blame game, pointing fingers or determining who is responsible but rather a move towards first discussing and then implementing responsibility and accountability based on how economics 101 truly works (without government interference). I am certainly not ruling out oversight and regulation but I am asking the government to just butt out of the free-market system we call capitalism. They will not make things better. For example, Ludwig von Mises once said:

“Government spending cannot create additional jobs. If the government provides the funds required by taxing the citizens or by borrowing from the public, it abolishes on the one hand as many jobs as it creates on the other.”

He made this statement more than half a century ago but the current administration is doing exactly that, spending an unprecedented amount of money (trillions when they look in the mirror and state the truth) on a stimulus plan that will most likely fail to achieve what its authors claim. I am not arguing that is won’t create jobs but how many jobs will be lost due to the new package. What will the net gain or loss total be once we look back in five or ten years?

021609_jobless_claims

The talking heads of the media offer no help as they skew the unemployment numbers every chance they get so they can “GET” their headlines. Even the president is talking about the economy and unemployment numbers reaching levels not seen since the Great Depression. Really? What stats are they looking at? This is a sensitive topic as several of my family’s closest friends have lost jobs in recent months but the truth is the truth.

Business Week noted:

In the last year, the U.S. economy shed 3.4 million jobs. That’s a grim statistic for sure, but represents just 2.2% of the labor force. From November 1981 to October 1982, 2.4 million jobs were lost — fewer in number than today, but the labor force was smaller. So 1981-82 job losses totaled 2.2% of the labor force, the same as now.

Job losses in the Great Depression were of an entirely different magnitude. In 1930, the economy shed 4.8% of the labor force. In 1931, 6.5%. And then in 1932, another 7.1%. Jobs were being lost at double or triple the rate of 2008-09 or 1981-82. This was reflected in unemployment rates.

The latest survey pegs U.S. unemployment at 7.6%. That’s more than three percentage points below the 1982 peak (10.8%) and not even a third of the peak in 1932 (25.2%). You simply can’t equate 7.6% unemployment with the Great Depression.

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Top Articles for the New Year

Happy New Year!