#MarginDebt – The Reckoning has arrived…

You know those recaps that begin each new episode of TV shows with words like “Previously on Mad Men…Previously on Shameless…” or most appropriately in this case “Previously on Breaking Bad”?

For a year I’ve been watching for the end of this bull bubble and chronicled it’s slow rollover in the links in this link so let’s call this recap “Previously on Margin Debt”:

Margin Debt – the divergence that kills the bull

As has been noted before the trouble with this gauge from FINRA (it used to be from the NYSE) is that it is calculated and released always a month late. So during any given month one pretty much has to guess from price action what’s going on with the margin debt. Given how over extended it was, my guess October’s price action was probably finally killing the bull market (see the link above), and November would probably be the confirmation that the bear was out of it’s nine-year cave. Indeed, it was confirmation and the bear did emerge.

If one stares at the chart below for a while, it’s clear if history is any guide (at least based on the 2000 and 2007 bull bubbles) when margin debt comes apart it does not quit feeding on itself until the SPX declines 40 to 50 percent.

Ai-yi-yi, long-term holders!

But can this time be different? Of course it can. Margin Debt this time is coming down from higher levels than even 2000 and 2007. What if different turns out to be the same as 1929-1932? Talk about a “Presidential cycle” – the last “businessman” to be President was Herbert Hoover who presided over the worst bear market in history.

Different is never really different. It really means all things must change so that all can return to being the same.

America has had magnificent prosperity from 1945 to… Picking a time depends where one sits on the income inequality scale but I suppose for the vast majority of Americans the time was the 1980s when prosperity began to fray, the American dream began to fade. Read an telling opinion piece on this just yesterday – American Capitalism Isn’t Working. Needless to say it can be fixed but the fix is going to take a lot of year now. It’s going to be long climb back and we’ve not even hit bottom.

I could be wrong about this, of course, since market psychology can run amok even in the face of time and all sorts of fundamental foolishness.

In the meantime, as J.P. Morgan so famously put it “the market will fluctuate.” There will continue to be plunges to buy and bounces to sell. For those of us who actively play this game, that’s all that matters to make money.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY – Simple black candle tops…

Let’s call this a KISS moment as in “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

Again and again, market upswings end in black candles – a hanging man, a shooting star, a dreaded doji, or just a sign after six days up and two blasts of nothing-much news the buyers get tired. Not always it’s a black candle ends the rally, but it happens often enough, me thinks, for swing traders to take notice.

On November 26th, it was suggested this market would rally in this post: If Santas’s rally is coming to town… and on the follow up in this post: Fast and furious the bear-market rally rises… it was suggested this swing has the speed of a bear-market rally and it was noted:

“If I had to guess, I’d pick the 281 neighborhood as a place where the SPY may settle this trip up (see the chart). Maybe even a bit higher. It may not take long or it may chop up until January. After that all indications are we have not seen the eventual lows of this bear.

Well, it didn’t take long. SPY came within 60 cents of that 281 number today and sold off. Hence the black candle.

So is this swing done?

Could be but maybe not… If not the simplicity of this looks truly stupid, if so I suppose it looks…smart? The key to these singular candle moments is what always comes next. Looking back over the chart below, it appears, what comes next is the smart part but if it breaks that red line at 281 it will likely go considerably higher (more Santa gifts for bulls and those who want to jump out of the house from an upper-story window).

Must note that all of my bellwether stocks – NFLX, AMZN, NVDA MSFT, GS, BIDU, BABA, FB, TSLA, AAPL — were up today from yesterday’s close, and ALL OF THEM were down from today’s open. In other words, in one of the posts linked above it was suggested in a bear market there would be selling pressure nearly every day – today during the day it was obvious this was one of those days.

Tomorrow could another and it could bring more serious selling if the simple black candles have their way.

(click on the chart for larger view)

$SPY $TQQQ – Fast and furious the bear-market rally rises…

It was noted in the post below from the day before yesterday that bear market rallies tend to be fast and furious so we would have to see how this one goes.

And now, so far, it has went exactly as expected. Both short-term and long-term breadth, measured by the McClellan Oscillator and Summation Index, gave buy signals for yesterday’s open.

Despite a somewhat squishy start to yesterday, the rally (or maybe it should be called a “bounce”) clicked in strongly today. The fast move up midday was probably due to a speech by Federal Reserve chairman Powell which turned out to be more dovish than expected on future interest-rate increases. Funny how often news comes along to agree with what market breadth is saying already.

Notable moves in the rally so far include TQQQ up 12.% in two days; UPRO up 9.1%; FNGU, the 3x-leveraged ETF of the “FAANG” stocks, up 9.7%; tech ETF TECL up 13.4%. In two days…

So what now?

Both SPY and TQQQ are up more than two standard deviations of an average advance (“fast and furious”) and SPY is about to smack into an obvious down trend line (see the chart below). This is not sustainable. It is likely too much too soon. In addition my nifty-50 stock list has 45 stocks on buys (this current turn to the upside started with 39 of those 50 stocks on sells). Consequently, it’s likely the general market will either go sideways for a time now or take a quick dip…maybe only one day. Given past history, those who did not jump on the buy signals yesterday are probably itching to buy any dip so the rally should go on. Only 11 of my 50 stocks are overbought. Usually there will be many more of them overbought before this upswing stalls out completely.

If I had to guess, I’d pick the 281 neighborhood as a place where the SPY may settle this trip up (see the chart). Maybe even a bit higher. It may not take long or it may chop up until January. After that all indications are we have not seen the eventual lows of this bear.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY $TQQQ – if Santa’s rally is coming to town…

It appears it started today and triggered the likelihood of more to come tomorrow…

This should be a rally all the way to Christmas and possibly a bit beyond.

Why?

Because the market has been pounded hard to the downside since, in some index cases, early October. But more importantly short-term and long-term breadth, measured by the McClellan Oscillator and Summation Index (see the chart for today below), has simultaneously given buy signals for tomorrow’s, Tuesday’s, open. And they have done it with a telling divergence – see on the chart how deep the breadth plunge was on the lows in late October, and how the breadth numbers failed to confirm the price lows at the same levels last week.

In addition, my nifty-fifty stock list had 44 sells on the first plunge (usually the sign of a swing bottom) but could not muster more than 39 on sells during the last sell-off. Forty-five of them are now on buys.

I have major 3xleverage ETFs giving new individual buy signals for tomorrow’s open – FAS, SOXL, FNGU, TNA, TQQQ, UNPRO — and major bellwether stocks doing the same – AMZN, NVDA, TWTR, GS, BABA, FB. But neither TSLA nor NFLX can be ignored on any market bounce.

While AAPL missed an individual buy signal today by a whisper, this market is not going anywhere without it. However, I see, it closed at 174 and is down to 170 after-hours (a better bargain?). That AAPL has an after-the-close sell down raises the possibility the downside is not yet done.

Highly likely we are now in a bear market with Finra (NYSE) margin debt unraveling. If so, there’s going to be downward pressure on this rally almost every day. This is the time for traders to take advantage of sharp upside bounces like today and for long-term investors to lighten up on their holdings if not to get out completely. Every time margin debt has come apart (and this time it is from a higher level than both 2000 and 2007) the SPX has lost 40% to 50% before the bear market ended in 2003 and 2009. See this LINK – the divergence that kills the bull.

Bear-market rallies tend to be fast and furious so we’ll see how this one goes, but if it is truly a bear-market rally, it will as time goes by take a lot of time to recover from the its eventual bottom whenever it comes and at whatever price level.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$FB – run amok and tumbling down…

Facebook (FB) has been able to run on its own since being founded and going public.

So what, as it turns, does the company do? It runs amok.

As the NEW YORK TIMES INVESTIGATIVE REPORT revealed this week the company has been reckless and irresponsible and instrumental in the Russian invasion of the US 2016 elections, and its executives have “delayed, denied, and deflected” criticism through the entire controversy.

We’re talking sheer greed here, capitalism as its ugliest.

But it appears its time of running unfettered is up as Congress focuses on bringing regulations to finally make it responsible for the harm it has done and to insure that it does not do it again. In the end Facebook will be better off for it…or it will be dead (hard to believe? remember MySpace?).

As a result the FB stock (see chart below) has proved once again in financial markets’ store there all always both escalators up and escalators down,

Regardless, to state the obvious, while investors may see profits evaporate in fleeting time, traders can make money on both the ups and and the downs.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

Five sessions in the marijuana stocks

Going into the market selloff last month, marijuana stocks were the leading sector in the market.

The stocks were flying on Constellation Brands certification of the sector’s profit potential with a $4-billion investment in Canopy Growth Corporation (CGC), then came Canada’s blanket legalization of the weed, Michigan in this election becoming the 10th state to legalize recreational uses in the U.S., following pot pioneers Washington and Colorado and others.

And now Jeff Sessions, the leading federal marijuana-legalization opponent, has been forced to resign as U.S. Attorney General. While Trump forcing Sessions out no doubt has more to do with Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, it does have the side effect of removing another obstacle in the road to a possible national legalization.

The leading stocks in the marijuana sector surged today on the Sessions news but they were already on the run with the market bounce.

Long-term breadth (measured by the McClellan Summation Index) turned up after a 40-day decline on October 31st, giving a clear market-timing signal to buy the market on the open on November 1st, five trading days ago.

CGC is up 23.7%, TLRY 41.8%, CRON 29.2% and the ETF for the sector, MJ is up 16.9% (see the charts below, the white flags on the lower right tell the gains far per $100K invested).

In addition GWPH, a stable medical marijuana stock that has been around for a long time in the US, is up 8.9%.

All in five trading days. This sector is a perfect example of the splendid simplicity of the long-term breadth signal. Coming into the market selloff as a leading sector, it was highly likely (almost a certainty) that as the market’s drop stopped, the sector’s stocks would bounce fast and high…so to speak.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarginDebt – the divergence that kills the bull

I been taking note of margin debt, now recorded monthly by FINRA, since last spring with the warning that it was at astronomical levels in relation to itself in 2000 and 2007.

One early post solely on margin debt this spring noted that the market was likely to make new highs while margin debt failed to the do the same (see the charts below). It is difficult to time precisely when this distribution is going to matter since it is always reported a month late. During lag, one can only speculate what it going on it with behind the scenes, so to speak.

Linked here,I called that:

Declining Margin Debt – the bullish scenario

And linked here more recently on October 1, it was suggested this may be the month when debt takes its toll:

Margin Debt – a sign of quiet desperation?

It’s been noted in posts here that even as the market moved up to new highs it appeared during the day that there was selling going on. I guessed that was big players were trying to edge off margin debt. Behind the scenes the advancing stocks were narrowing, the new lows at the bottom of the market were beginning to outpace the new highs at the top. Everywhere there were signs – wackiness was going on all over the place., marijuana stocks became the leading sector, some low priced stocks, like YECO, would go up 500 percent (in a day!); one by one bellwether stocks, FB, NFLX, TSLA, AMZN and finally even AAPL took hits; the housing stocks have been declining all year and finally banking stock have joined them.

In that October post above, I called this late stage the “most bearish bull market” I’ve seen.

But now margin debt is finally the revealed rub.

Each time the levels of margin debt in 2000 and 2007 became unsustainable, the subsequent decline led to bear markets in which the S&P 500 index declined 40% to 50% (see the charts below), and now when it drops it will be dropping from an even higher height.

Can a 40-50% bear market happen again? You can bet half your portfolio on it.

Once margin debt begins to unravel, it will feed on itself — when the margin calls come, it is either put up more money or sell the stock. Selling the stock drives it lower and brings more margin calls. Nothing else will matter, not fundamentals, not news, not hopes, not dreams.

Why is this important? Depends on one’s age. When it happens, it will take years and years – five years? eight years? 13 years? – to recover the prices the indexes are at right now.

It appears, now that we can see the new high in the market and the fact the margin debt did not follow, that process has begun behind the scenes, so to speak.

Of course big bull markets can fool (see 2016 in this one on the charts below), and might try soon since the market is currently deeply oversold and the Christmas season is traditionally bullish, but it can’t fool history forever. History is the best indicator of the fear-greed-time market psychology there is since it repeats and rhymes all through time. In the end history will tell.

(click on the charts for a larger view)

$LVS $WYNN – “No one knows how to bankrupt casinos like I do.”

I made up the quote in the headline on this post but I’d bet the first thought of everyone — EVERYONE — who read it was Donald Trump said that?!

He might as well have (maybe he has sometime in his daily incoherence). Before he got into the money laundering business with the Russian Oligarchs, he owned casinos in Atlantic City. They all went broke.

He doesn’t own any gambling palaces anymore but it appears as President he’d like to help bankrupt those of his friends as well, like a hobby on the side. Both Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are big Trump supports. Or at least they have been. Looking at what’s happening to the shares of their companies, one wonders if they still are. If they are, what’s the matter with them?

This probably has to do with the way Trump has managed to get the Chinese to quit playing games of chance but who knows? Maybe it’s just his “golden touch” in casinos is contagious? Or maybe, a more obviously, it might be, as much as fools wants to tout the supposed merits of a businessman in the White House, every fool needs to remember the last one was Herbert Hoover.

The worst is likely not over for LVS and WYNN, and the down staircases like these here (see the charts below) are likely going to get built soon in a lot of other stocks, and a lot of market sectors (even now take a glance at housing stocks and bank stocks and place bets).

(click on the charts for a larger view)

$SPY – Is the bouncing cat dead?

The general market has bounced from its low last Thursday.

The actual buy signal was issued on the market’s short-term breadth indicator for Monday’s open three trading days ago. In that time the 3x-leveraged ETF, TQQQ (the Nasdaq) is up 5.8% (the Nasdaq), UPRO (the S&P) is up 5.1% and TNA (the Russell small caps) is up 8.8%.

All this is fine and dandy in reaction to last week’s fast, severe sell-off.

Now the question rises: Is this a classic “dead-cat bounce”?

In stock market terms, as defined by Investopedia, “a dead cat bounce is a temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or a bear market that is followed by the continuation of the downtrend.”

Despite these last three days, the overall market hasn’t been able as yet to turn the all-important long-term measure breadth (the NYSI, the McClellan Summation Index) up, and today its short-term component (the NYMO) clicked down.

How many times have we see that before — the market pops out of a deep drop and the NYMO turns down in negative territory.

Dead cat? In addition the SPY ends today in a dreaded doji (see the chart below). Dead cat? Sure looks like it. If so, the market’s current recovery will roll over in short order…probably tomorrow. Maybe Friday (or maybe Friday too).

However, this is all could be (and probably is) a positive sign for swing-trading bulls. Since last week’s lows my nifty-50 stock list has moved from 40 stocks on sell signals (usually the bottom or the beginning of the bottom of a swing) to all 50 on buys yesterday. They clicked down slightly today (another sign of the cat) but the last time all this happened was March 5th at the end of the three-day bounce out of the March low. The cat that died that day gave rise in the end to the spring rally. If this bounce dies now, it very well could result in a bottom for a trading rally.

Such a rally may be, in the fullness of time, the last of this bull market and an opportunity for buy-and-holders to lighten up or to raise protective stops before the real bear growls, but it could also be a stock rally that rises all the way to the end of the year.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY – Market breadth takes a toll on a “Big Wednesday”

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.

(click on the chart for a larger view)