In surfing lore, there is the myth of “Big Wednesday.”
The myth was immortalized in the 1978 cult film “Big Wednesday,” written and directed by John Milius, who also wrote such movies as “Jeremiah Johnson”, “The Wind and the Lion” and “Apocalypse Now.” It was Milius’ contention elite surfers cannot acquire true greatness, legendary greatness, until they face and overcome the great waves, the legendary waves that rise and surge and rage along the California coast from out of almost nowhere. No one know why they come or when they come but as the movie puts it: “They always come on Wednesdays.” Maybe what Milius had to say about surfers should also be applied to market traders and investors.
Today was a big Wednesday in the stock market.
The Dow was down more than 800 points, the Nasdaq more than 300, the SPY nearly 100 points. Big moves out of, I guess one could say, flat surf on Tuesday.
Actually this was no real surprise.
There have been signs everywhere. The general market indexes have been rising in price to all time new highs for the past month in defiance of long-term breadth as measured by the McClellan Summation Index, the $NYSI (see the declining red dots on chart below). That was rather amazing to watch, particularly the way the NYSI kept falling day after day despite the lingering bullishness on the indexes, and in the end, as always, the NYSI took its toll.
In a head-to-head battle between price and market breadth (the sum of all stocks rising and falling) it may be hard to tell when the battle will end but it will end with breadth winning every time.
Long-term breadth is the most effective indicator of mass market psychology there is.
Even as market appeared to be rising on a few tech stocks alone — AMZN, FB, NFLX, NVDA, GOOGL and most notably AAPL — breadth was saying the bottom was falling out. When those stocks began to crumble (look up charts of FB, NFLX…), this day became all but inevitable.
Signs everywhere. Besides the obvious relentlessness of the NYSI, the economy-sensitive housing stock have been falling for months with the banks beginning to tumble with them (many of the banks broke major price supports today just like in 2007-2008); news low began to outpace new highs in late September and accelerated on October 4th (which also happened in 2007-2008); there were also rare whispers under the surface like the day the Dow made a new high while more than 50% of the SPX stocks were below their 50-day moving averages (last seen at the exact market top in 2007).
So is this the beginning finally of the bear market to come that is just as inevitable? Don’t know yet. The market can plunge farther now (as I write this it is in overnight futures trading); it could even crash. But it won’t be a bear market for sure until it rallies and that rally fails below the previous highs in the price of the major indexes.
I seldom have anything to say about fundamentals, since the technical trumps the fundamental every time, but probably I should mention when one considers what comes next, the here-and-now is a bull market that is ten years old, interest rates are rising, unemployment is at its lowest level in forever, margin debt in stocks is near its high and at an astronomical level; there has been a tulip craze in crypto-currencies, a mania in block-chains, and the strongest sector in the market right now is the weed patch, marijuana stocks.
If this is the death of the bull and the birth of a bear, everything I’ve just mentioned will not be with us much longer.