Divergences don’t matter…until they do…

Over and over again, especially in bull markets, prices keep going higher despite divergences on internal indicators, but when a tumble comes, a “pull back”, even a crash and one looks back at its beginning there is usually a divergence there.

Or a cluster of divergences.

So as of today, we have one in CNN Money’s “Fear And Greed” Index. That index has been wildly over bought as prices have surged on most major indexes (in the SPY ETF surrogate for the S&P 500). It is back off, risen again and as of today put in its divergence by making a lower low while SPY has hugged its high (see the chart below). It is not infallible but if history do tell, it is a reliable context (not the red lines on the chart and subsequent market drops).

And wonder of wonders, the FINRA Margin Debt reading for October came out today (see the second chart below). It is a monthly and always a month behind so there’s always some guess work to be done in real time, but this reading is, indeed, ominous.

Besides having risen way beyond the debt levels of both 2000 and 2007 before those bear markets arrived, it has now been carving out a ledge pattern on its chart (sometimes called a bear flag) for the past few months as the market keeps rising into thinner and thinner air.

Why ominous?

Note it’s the same pattern that was in place as the market was making highs last time and, when it finally fell apart, it was the precursor of the bear markets in both 2000, and 2008. Is it different this time? Is it ever different this time?

History, history, history.

This is to say nothing of the divergences on the McCellan Oscillator (the NYMO) with its Summation Index (the NYSI) declining for the past 10 days even as the market as advanced.

Does this mean we’re about enter a bear market?

Maybe not, divergence don’t always matter. But if a bear comes roaring now there is a good chance when we look back to this day this cluster of divergences will have mattered.

(FEAR AND GREED – CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

(FINRA MARGIN DEBET – CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

$SPY – the slow roll over?

Given how sprightly the rally since December has been it’s hard to call a top. Actually it’s hard to call a top anytime but bear-market rallies are especially tricky.

Weeks ago it was suggested here this would be the rally to make everyone one believe the bull market has resumed, and it has been that kind of rally.

There is famous, familiar chart of investor emotions in the market (see below) that shows the various stages of market emotions from despair to euphoria and back again (see below). It’s worthwhile review that chart every so often and ask one’s self how am I feeling now. This is especially true for long-term holders and retirees who have their savings tied up in the market.

Looking at the chart below I would suggest we are at the “Return to Normal” stage. For any swing trader who played the upswing this has been a fantastic rally. For investors it’s been a big sigh of relief.

But… There are signs now that sigh may be about to become a gasp.

Long-term breadth, as measured by the McClellan Summation Index, the most important indicator of mass market psychology, turned bearish four days ago after several warnings from the declining highs on the McClellan Oscillator itself. My nifty-50 stock list has failed to get overbought since the rally’s kick-off’s first few days. While the indexes have worked higher, the stocks have rotated and paused and in some cases fallen under the surface (take a look at the rollover in the banking sector).

Weed stocks lead again (check out CRON up 87% on the YTD summation index run up or GWPH up 71%). While there’s a growth logic to the marijuana sector, that’s still just as crazy as the dot-com bubble of yesteryear.

Despite all those warnings until prices follow internals and drop with conviction (which could happen any day now, even tomorrow), and the VIX jumps back above 15 (it closed at 14.74 today), the sell off may not happen, and if the SPX, or in this case the SPY run up past the resistance at recent highs, it might go to all time highs before the bear market resumes.

Doubt that but we’ll see.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – $SPY ready for a Santa Claus Rally?

I’ve always been confused at what constitutes as”Santa Claus” or Christmas rally mainly because in bullish years, most years, the market rallies into Christmas and right on up into January so it’s hard to tell what is distinctive about Christmas itself.

This obviously is not one of those years.

SPY has come into Christmas in a free fall, eight consecutive days down (see the chart below), fueled by bad news (the usual Trump stuff) but mostly from being so ridiculously overbought and speculative something had to give. It is down now 20%, which makes this an “official” bear market.

My last post here was December 4th, 20 days ago. There has been no need to give a general-market update since the unraveling of margin debt has ruled this slam down and will likely keep doing so as the bear market continues its decline for some time to come.

So what about a Santa Claus Rally now?

Given the difference this year from so many others, I decided to seek out a simple definition of the possible phenomenon, went to Investopedia, Seeking Alpha, The Street, and eventually to Wikipedia which pretty much summed up all the others had to say:

A Santa Claus rally is a rise in stock prices in the month of December, generally seen over the final week of trading prior to the new year. It is a type of calendar effect.

There is no generally accepted explanation for the phenomenon. The rally is sometimes attributed to increased investor purchases in anticipation of the January effect, an injection of additional funds into the market, and to additional trades which must, for accounting and tax reasons, be completed by the end of the year. Other reasons for the rally may be fund managers “window dressing” their holdings with stocks that have performed well, and the domination of the market by less prudent retail traders as bigger institutional investors leave for December vacations.

The Santa Claus rally is also known as the “December Effect” and was first recorded by Yale Hirsch in his Stock Traders Almanac in 1972. An average rally of 1.3% has been noted during the last five trading days of December for the NYSE since 1950. December is typically also characterized by highest average returns, and is higher more often than other months.

The failure of the Santa Claus rally to materialize typically portends a poor economic outlook for the coming year; a lack of the rally has often served as harbinger of flat or bearish market trends in the succeeding year.

That last line in the quote is probably giving already-battered bulls further heart palpitations but let’s consider how oversold this market is and the chances of a rally coming.

Short-term breadth (the McClellan Oscillator) is near a level last seen at the February low this year and down four days in a row (four is a magic number) and at a level which usually generates at least a violent bounce if not an ultimate bottom of a down swing. My nifty-50-stock list has had 40 or more stocks on sells for two days now (48 on Friday, 43 yesterday, an uptick) — another sign, if not of the bottom of a down swing, or at least the beginning of a bottom. The VIX, solidly in bear-market territory above 25 has been screaming up for seven straight days. In standard deviations of average declines SPY is down more than has been seen in at least a year (I keep track of only a year). CNN Money’s “Fear and Greed” index is at two!

I guess what I’m saying is this market is down so far so fast it is bound to bounce any day, any minute… If short term breadth had clicked up Monday with the market at new lows I’d be more confident Santa is here with more than a lump of coal for the bulls, but one can not have everything, even at Christmastime.

I am a bear, and as recorded in these posts, have been pretty much from the top this year. With sector by sector falling apart, and stocks all over the place in bear-markets of their own, and the pot stocks becoming the leading sector at the end, it was rather obvious the bull was about to stumble and die.

But in the spirit of Christmas, let’s give bulls a bit of relief.

The last time I ventured a guess as to high an upswing might go, I suggested the 281 neighborhood (see the chart below) I’m not good at that kind of guessing but luckily nailed that one as SPY hit a high at 280.40 before ending the run around a closing 279. So I’ll venture another guess. If this is a fierce, multi-day run up into early January, in other words a “Santa Claus Rally”, it could get to the 250 neighborhood (see the chart) with 255 to 260 as formidable resistance beyond that.

(But, bulls, don’t let this bit of relief become a beacon of false hope, this will be, if it does come, another rally to sell.)

(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)

$SPY – Can Orange Become The New Black Swan?

Four days up in a row for SPY and TNA while the Nasdaq, long the leader, now lags…

At the close of the day forty-one of the stocks on my nifty-50 stock list ended in the buy column with fourteen overbought.

Short-term breadth was up again but is now in overbought territory. Usually it takes time to unwind that even when it turns down.

Long-term breadth has been rising now for just three days, giving worthwhile advances in most everything — 40 out of the 50 stock on my list advanced today, and 41 or the 50 are positive on this three-day upswing. It should be noted if long-term breadth turns down now it will put in a fairly serious divergence with the SPY new high (see chart below).

Which bring us to the news?

I don’t ever trade the news but just taking in some market perspective one wonders if something is going to come along and blindside the complacency of this bull advance? Like the odd VIX spike today. Like AAPL gone crazy and possibly running out of buyers besides AAPL itself. Like some sector gone so frothy so fast it signals irrational exuberance has crossed over into insane exuberance (see the pot stocks in the post below).

Or like two of those closest to the jabbering President of the United States suddenly going down coincidentally on the same day, one with a guilty plea and flip, and the other found guilty on 80 criminal counts that could get him 80 years in prison. Trump claims always to be the best, be the greatest, know more than anyone else, likes setting records…how boastful can he be when his administration racks up more convictions than any other, including the Nixon administration?

What’s it mean to the market? As I write this, I see futures are down, with the Dow futures reversing the day. This bull market has been able over and over again to erase the overnight falls in futures. What if this time it doesn’t?

I guess then we might be able one day to look back and say: “Whattaya know…Orange
was the new black…SWAN!”

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#Bitcoin – Don’t follow this crypto mania much but…

But I took a look today to see what’s going on lately.

Are you kidding me? There are people out there claiming this will replace the dollar? Replace gold?

Can’t anyone spell T-U-L-I-P-S?

I thought this would end when lap dancers in New Orleans started putting bar-code tattoos on their boobs to collect bitcoin tips.

Now that the drug dealers and money launderers have made a market a few notable institutions (like Microsoft for heavens sake!) had gotten sucked into, and computer nerds in bedrooms with potato chips are “mining” in their spare time, and even more than a few suburban crazies have gone crazy over, what is the real future for this crap? It is in market history (duh, the tulips), and it is not good.

Does anyone actually want to put their savings in this for a buy-and-hold overnight?

That this stuff is priced in U.S. Dollars should tell everyone everything that needs to be told.

(click to enlarge)

#MarketTiming the second biggest mountain in the stock market range

Great article and charts from Visual Capitalist:

VISUALIZING THE LONGEST BULL MARKETS IN THE MODERN ERA

If this current bull market can hold for two more months, it will become the longest bull market in the modern era, topping the dot-come bubble.

Uh, did I slip and say “bubble”?

The question, as always, is what comes next and when.

What comes next is obvious – what goes up also goes down. The “when” is the tricky part but it would seem the when is getting closer by the day. I find it hard to believe in percentage gain it can top the dot-com mania but it is possible. If it does, it’s likely the higher it goes, the farther it falls.

One of the most famous quotes in investing history is from Bernard Baruch: “I made my money by selling too soon.”

Might want to keep Baruch in mind as each market pundit, each brokerage analyst, each brokerage, continues to say invest now, invest for the long term, while staring at the second highest mountain in the great rocky stock market range.

(click on link or this chart for a larger view)

#HousingStocks – Remembering 2008…

At the advent of the 2008 bear market, the housing stocks died first, then the banks came apart, and then everything…

So witness $TOL $DHI $HOV $KBH $LEN $MDC $NVR $PHM and then ponder the banks and then ponder…

Not much more to say except to paraphrase Yogi Berra again: “It’s beginning to look like deja vu all over again.”

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – long, strong and more to come

Didn’t getting around to posting the timing signals last week for various personal reasons so this post probably looks a little late to the party.

Oh, well…

A lot related to the headline above has already happened. The Nasdaq is already up six days in a row and the SPY, except for a minor dip during the week, would be too. My nifty-50 stocks have risen from 13 on buys and 15 oversold six trading days ago to 41 on buys and 29 overbought as of the close Friday. Virtually every index and sector ETF is overbought.

Once again, the market internals, ruled by short-term and long-term breadth, called the swing low, the turn, and the rally (see the circles and lines on the chart below).

So why bring this up now?

Because there is more to come in this bull market, either right away or right after a shallow pullback. The short-term breadth indicator is just too strong to be turned on a dime, and with the long-term breadth having just come out of a divergence itself (see the circle in the middle of the chart), there is a good chance this rally has another three, four, or more weeks to run before any significant sell-off is possible. So every dip is to be bought, and every surge savored.

Could it be different this time? The market could do whatever it wants but history says not right now, and history, when it comes to the mass psychology and movements of the market, is the best indicator of all (no matter who says otherwise).

(click on the chart for larger view)

A manic Monday in four-day-old $LFIN

Day 1: Came public at 6 dollars.
Day 2: Dipped into the $5 range.
Day 3: Wandered up to $20.
Day 4 (today): Opened at 39, ran up to 140, halted by Nasdaq at 126, reopened at 59, ran up again to 96, halted again at 75, reopened again 69, halted again at 62, dropped to 43, popped to 87, closed at 72, up 228% for the day.

Up 11 times its IPO four days ago.

(See the crazy 10-MINUTE chart below.)

How does this happen?

In a word — BLOCKCHAIN.

LFIN, LongFin Corp, came public four days ago and bought a blockchain company, Ziddu.com, and the stock went nuts. Wrote recently about RIOT, a biotech, which doubled on changing its name to Riot Blockchain. And already, according the MarketWatch, this latest blockchain jackrabbit is being investigated for securities fraud.

Likely this is another mania, to go along with bitcoin, that is just beginning. And it will all be insane if it goes on long enough, and in the end if it gets big enough it will kill the bull.

(click on the chart for a larger view)