Reading history on the #MarginDebt chart

For anyone who pays attention to FINRA margin debt this market crash was no surprise.

If there was anything surprising about what is now 30% plunge in the SPX, it was that it took so long to happen.

I had a clear warning here as far back as six months ago in this post:

Margin Debt – setting up a S&P 50% plunge?

Now all I can say is anyone who was not paying close attention to margin debt or was disregarding its warning was asking to get their stock profits ripped apart.

Once margin debt starts down, it feeds on itself with margin calls leading to stock sales and more margin calls leading to more stocks sales with each jolting decline in the market. And besides the profits lost, there is time lost, sometimes a lot of time lost, before the market can even begin to recover.

If we take a look at the history on the chart below it’s pretty obvious the divergences between margin-debt and price of the SPX foretells the market sell-offs. In 2000 and in 2008 margin debt dropped down (the black boxes on the chart) while each time the market went higher for a few months before plummeting. Again these last six months (another lower black box lower than the previous peak), history repeated.

Granted it’s hard to believe as the market keeps going up and up the bull will ever end — earnings seemed good, the Fed was on board, Trump was bragging on Twitter at each new high — but long-term investors could not ask for a better advance notice it was their time to sell or at least tighten their stop-loss levels to preserve capital. All this market needed was one small trigger for the full unwinding of margin debt to usher in a bear market, instead it got a big one. But if it hadn’t been the Covid-19 pandemic, it would have been something else.

Now that the bear market has begun, margin debt is indicating it is not done yet.

History says, like in 2000 and 2008/2009, the S&P500 is going down around 50% before this bear market is finished. If history repeats again, there is another 20 or so percent more downside to go.

Margin debt during this long bull market went higher than either 2000 and 2007 so there’s no telling how that’s going to play out. From its 2019 peak it has a lot farther to fall – and if the news keeps getting worse — since the US, thanks to a lying President and his incompetent Federal administration is getting a late start on coming to grips with the pandemic it’s possible it could be more than 50%.

If the dire damage being done to the economy is not mitigated sufficiently by a Congress that was supposed to have a stimulus package out last week and hasn’t managed get one done yet or if the stimulus is too small or if it’s aimed at the wrong people, we could be looking beyond a historical 50-percent decline to something more like 1932.

You ask me, we’re at a point when we need a Franklin Roosevelt in the White House and instead we’re still stuck with worse than a Herbert Hoover.

But as history shows on the chart, whatever the final decline is to be, it’s likely it won’t be until after a big bounce any a week, any day, any minute now.

This market is massively oversold and it’s a positive sign that governors and mayors, allied with scientists and health-care providers across the country, have taken over the front-line fight against the pandemic as Washington goes on dithering.

The trouble with the margin-debt numbers is they are reported a month late so one pretty much has to guess, based the price action during the month, where the debt level might be in the current month. While we can see the SPX crash here in March on the chart, the margin debt line is only up to date through February. I would assume from the current price action in March it’s now a lot lower, probably akin to that drop in 2008 marked by the black vertical line.

If so, we may be closer to a bear-market bottom (six months or so) than the pattern in 2000 (which took about three years).

Regardless, the bounce, which could be spectacular, is not going to be a resumption of the bull underwater long-term holders are hoping for. More likely it’s going to be a bull to be slaughtered so severely by the next bear move no one, as despair sets in, will be looking to buy any stocks.

In despair is when a new bull market can be born.

But I could be wrong. It could be different this time. Uh, huh…

(CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

Reading history on the #VIX chart…

Ah, yes, I remember it well… In fact I’ll never forget…

I began investing in the stock market in September of 1987. My wife was having our second child that month. I figured I had to make some financial provisions for the future. I was beginning to make some extra money so I put our savings into the stock market. I bought stock in Compaq and Intel. The stocks were roaring up and continued to rise. I was a very happy young father.

Then about four weeks later on October 19th, the market crashed. In a panic I sold all the stock. That was on the Tuesday after Monday’s crash. That time was in so much chaos it wasn’t until Saturday before I got the fills to learn we had no savings left.

I didn’t tell my wife. She was busy with our newborn. I had a job so we had money coming in. I didn’t want to worry her. But I was virtually catatonic for weeks, until Dec 4th, 1987 (coincidentally our anniversary), when the market made a successful retest of the crash lows.

That was the day I learned what matters most in trading the market – no matter what happens, it’s all happened before.

History, history, history.

There is the famous curse, usually attributed to George Santayana, that “he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.” In the stock market it’s the opposite – “he who learns from history is is blessed to repeat it.”

Which brings us to the VIX, the Volatility Index.

The mass psychology of the market – because money is always at stake – is either in some degree of fear or some degree of greed with both emotions filtered by time.

While history serves as context, the VIX measures the market endless wheeling back and forth between fear and greed. The index itself runs opposite the other major indexes, the S&P500 (the SPX), Dow Jones Industrial Averasge, the Nasdaq Composite…in other words, it runs opposite the market.

When the VIX is low the market is in a bull market, and most stocks are rising, virtually all stocks, and when it is high (as it is now), the market is a bear market, and stocks go down, virtually all stocks.

But the VIX says more than the obvious.

Right now because we’ve just finished a very long bull market there is a lot of belief that the recent stock crash is just a temporary drop and prices will soon be hurtling upwards to new highs.

And yet…right now the VIX says “not so fast.”

Consider the chart below showing the VIX with a monthly chart of the SPX.

I’ve outlined the effect of the VIX on the general market.

First, let me say what I consider the key levels on the VIX itself. Under 15, the market is in a steady advance, a bull market. At 25, the market is in a normal “correction” and the price will soon continue to climb. But if the VIX rises through 25 convincingly and vaults past 40, it ia a bear market. At that point the VIX will have to convincingly fall back through 25 before stocks can in general begin to move up again.

On the chart the red vertical rectangles mark the periods in which the VIX last went through 40 and dropped again below 25. In the 2008 bear market it took eight months before prices began to rise again. Although it doesn’t show here on a monthly chart, a weekly chart of 2010 has the VIX also above 40 (marked by the red circle on this chart) when it took five months for the prices to rise again. In 2012, it took four months for prices to rise gain.

These are measures of time.

I am suggesting this is the time it’s going to take for the current bear market to subside so prices can rise again in a steady climb. Months at best, and even then only for those not holding long term. This crash has caused a lot of damage and a lot of stock holders are trapped at higher levels (the entire advance from the day Trump was inaugurated as President has been erased). William O’Neil of Investor Daily called this “overhead supply,” meaning those holding stock above current prices will be looking for bounces to get out so going forward is going to be a choppy ride and it’s going to take time to work off the effects of the bear.

To say nothing of the fact there are very few signs the market has, as yet, quit falling.

Still, there’s more…

By my reckoning the VIX is also a calendar. The market always has a bullish bias (this is America after all!) but there are months and even years lost along the way.

The shaded blocks on chart below illustrate the time it takes for prices, once the bear market has begun, to regain their former highs. For instance if one invested in the market at the top in mid-2007, it would have taken more than five years to breakeven; in the 2015/2016 and 2018/2019 corrections approximately a year each to regain the losses, or move sideways to new highs.

When the bull is going strong, everyone forgets it takes just one down day for a bear market to begin. Of course, until it’s later and one can look back, no one can know which down day, like February 20th this year, is THE DAY.

Which is also why since December 4th, 1987, as a day and swing trader, and having learned the market’s history, I sell, every time, on the first day down.

(CLICK ON THE CHART FOR A LARGER VIEW)

#MarketTiming – doin’ the monster bounce Monday…

Needless to say, the market was up huge today. After being down huge last week.

I’m just going reiterate what I said last Tuesday when I first began looking for a bounce in this post:

#MarketTiming – From the Kerplunk to a bounce

So what now?

This sell off is so extremely oversold there is going to be a bounce. Likely tomorrow.

Forty-eight of the stocks on my nifty-50 stock list are on sells with 36 individually oversold (that is a lot). The indexes are down more in this four-day thrust than they’ve been in more than a year. It is just too much too quickly.

However, the question is going to be what to do with this bounce? Hang on and hope it’s V-bottom? Or sit on the edge of your seat looking for a chance to SELL EVERYTHING?

The bull market of the past year would suggest the former, everything else suggests the later. But it should be noted that CNN’s Fear and Greed Index is at 22 today. While that’s an “extreme fear” level, it has more room to move down which suggests when the bounce happens, tomorrow or whenever, the low of left behind will be tested, and if by then this is a full-fledged bear market, this bounce is going to be remembered as a last chance to sell for a long time.

P.S While the stocks on my nifty-50 stock list had only two on buys and 36 oversold (a huge number in perspective) a week ago, there are now 40 on buys but only four overbought. AAPL and, my favorite, TSLA, had a particular spectacular day, up 25 and 90 points respectively. There is likely more market upside to come as more stocks continue to bounce back toward overbought.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – From the Kerplunk to a bounce

Warned of a sell-off here back in February 9th in this post:

$SPY – Up, up, up…and KERPLUNK?

Well, the market defied the sell-off warning for a couple of weeks as it ran up past the setup, but that run up is gone now in the rubble of the last four days.

TVIX and UVXY, the leveraged VIX ETFs were backing into the starting blocks, backing into the starting blocks — here $TVIX – Just a heads up… and here $TVIX – Just a heads up… — until finally there were off with TVIX up 92% in the last four days, and UVXY up 67%. I remember when I posted that heads up someone on Twitter or Facebook scoffed at me an told me I basically full of shit (I get a lot of that at market tops).

Now there are stocks all over the place down 20% or more just on market timing. It’s likely nothing as changed at many of those companies since four days ago except for the market sell off. Such is the madness of crowds.

None of this is any surprise really, since there were signs everywhere that the indexes were running on the fumes of AAPL vapor and a, I guess, a whopping TSLA short squeeze (everyone said Elon Musk was crazy, and then it turned out is was more like crazy smart). Over at Virgin Galantic (SPCE), where Richard Branson’s company has put a mere two winged space craft in space for short jaunts, there are passengers buying seats on flying ships to Mars. Say what?

As the indexes made new highs, there were divergences on the NYMO/NYSI, CNN’s Fear and Greed Index, S&P 500 stocks versus their 200-day moving average, and news lows were gradually climbing above new highs before bolting much higher (see the chart below).

Then there is the Coronavirus…and again news comes along like black swans crying when market internals are obviously falling apart.

So what now?

This sell off is so extremely oversold there is going to be a bounce. Likely tomorrow.

Forty-eight of the stocks on my nifty-50 stock list are on sells with 36 individually oversold (that is a lot). The indexes are down more in this four-day thrust than they’ve been in more than a year. It is just too much too quickly.

However, the question is going to be what to do with this bounce? Hang on and hope it’s V-bottom? Or sit on the edge of your seat looking for a chance to SELL EVERYTHING?

The bull market of the past year would suggest the former, everything else suggests the later. But it should be noted that CNN’s Fear and Greed Index is at 22 today. While that’s an “extreme fear” level, it has more room to move down which suggests when the bounce happens, tomorrow or whenever, the low of left behind will be tested, and if by then this is a full-fledged bear market, this bounce is going to be remembered as a last chance to sell for a long time.

P.S. And if it doesn’t bounce? Ai-Yi-Yi!

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY – Up, up, up…and KERPLUNK?

Just got back from a week in New Orleans so if my head feels a bit thick, don’t blame me, blame the Nawlins’ food, drink, the music.

W.C. Fields once said: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” New Orleans is a perfect city to not do the wastin.’

Anyway, the market after a break of its December/January uptrend line, took another shot and manage another high on SPY (among other index ETFs) last week but dropped back down below the January high (332.95) to close at 332.20 Friday.

Not such a big deal except the NYMO after the rally off a double-bottom earlier in the week (see the white line with the red dots on the chart below) fell with the price weakness to turn the all important NYSI (longer-term breadth) negative.

That’s an automate sell on its own but there’s maybe more…

In his book “Methods of a Wall Street Master,” Trader Vic Sperandeo says determining the trend is a simple as 1-2-3. One is the break of the trend line, which happened on the gap down from 1/24 to 1/27 (see the chart); two is the attempt to resume the recent trend that fails, which may have just happened; three is a fall back to through the low after the trend line break.

Since “three” hasn’t happened yet, there’s a chance, and maybe even the likelihood, the pattern here is just a pause before more advance but…

But Trader Vic Sperandeo’s has more. His most classic set up for aggressive traders is right here, right now. He calls it “2B”, as in “2B or Not 2B, that’s where the money is made.” The fade off the old high on Friday is the 2B, as pretty as can be (see the chart).

This a short.

And it is made all the better by the stop being close by at the old high at 334.20.

That simple. And if it follows through, without stopping out, it could be a great big KERPLUNK right at an all time high.

P.S. There’s also a bearish full moon today for those who put some store in such lunar signs.

(click on the chart for a larger view)
and

$TVIX – From heads up to launch up…

On January 14th, I posted this link as a “heads up” to the what was happening in the VIX and its related ETFs and ETNs like the 3x-leveraged TVIX:

$TVIX – Just a heads up…

“I don’t know what’s going to finally trigger it nor when it’s coming,” I wrote in that post, “but when this leveraged VIX ETF turns, it’s going to explode.”

The trigger turned out to be the old reliable standby – the NYSI, the McClellan Summation Index, as long-term breadth tripped under the price surface of the market, along with the first day TVIX did not make another new low. That was on 1/22 for a buy of TVIX on 1/23 (see the blue candles on the chart).

By the time TVIX finished its down swing, it made new lows 11 days in a row, four days after the “heads up” given here (see the blue vertical line and the pink dots on the chart below) – great anyone short any VIX-related product — but that was also a sign the pop was going be a bang, maybe even more than a bang – an explosion yet to come?

Since then, three trading days ago, TVIX is up 29.9% on today’s close. UVXY, the 2x-leverage ETF, is up 22.7%.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – the Santa Claus rally goes crazy

The Santa Claus rally which arrived with a buy signal on the open of December 9th, is still going and going and going…

I wrote about this quiet rally trigger first in this link:

#MarketTiming – with not much fanfare Santa slips into view

Then, as the fanfare took hold:

#MarketTiming – the Santa Claus Rally, a progress report

Since that second post, TQQQ has gone from up from 9% to 17.7%, UPRO from 6% to 11.2%. The 3x-leveraged sector ETFs continue to surge: TECL (tech) up 21% now, ERX (energy) up 18.1% and SOXL (semis) up 29.9%. Among the bellwether stocks I follow, TSLA is leading the pack, up 27% now; NVDA up 13.4%; WYNN up 18.2% on a big jump out of a high-level consolidation today.

AAPL, which lagged early on, has now moved up a nice 10.9%, closing above 300.

Big gains in not much time – the rally is a mere 17 trading days old.

All of which is great for the bulls…except it’s all begun to go kind of crazy.

AAPL has a market cap of $1.3 trillion, somewhat insane no matter how much cash the company generates for buy-backs. MSFT is at $1.2 trillion; both GOOGL and AMZN are knocking on the trillion-dollar door. These stocks have market caps four and five times such “puny” companies as Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nike, Proctor and Gamble, Home Depot and even Exxon-Mobil. How crazy is this?

Speaking of buy-backs, corporate debt is likely piling up more and more as the FED keeps its foot on the printing-press pedal – margin debt did not move much last month so all this “irrational exuberance” has to be coming from somewhere.”

CNN Money’s “Fear and Greed” Index is at 97. Ninety-seven! That in and of itself is the stratosphere of extreme greed. It can’t go higher than 100. A year ago it touched 3, on a trap door that swings both ways.

Still, the market can go higher, and probably will, since there is momentum in that 97 number. It usually takes a divergence (a high below a high) in that index to trigger a decent down swing (see the red circles on the chart below). The index has to back off on a market dip (which is likely imminent) then fail to go higher as the market resumes its advance to another high.

And both breadth measures, the NYMO (short-term) and the all-important NYSI (longer-term) remain positive. So there is time for more rally.

Not much more to say at this time…except to note in markets going crazy (like 1999, like now) there is, in the end, no profit until one sells.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – with not much fanfare Santa slips into view

On a FED day as the Federal Reserve held firm on low interest rates, it appears the annual Santa Claus rally may have quietly slipped into view despite the tight trading of the past few days.

Possibly it’s even set up a for a fast move by the tight trading.

Appropriate timing, I guess, since it’s hard to fathom this market continuing to rally on anything other than the FED pump, pump, pump…

Regardless, the NYMO put in a low above a low today (see the chart below), to go along with the important NYSI’s rise for the past four days. That completes the breadth pattern that is a most reliable trigger for a sustained up swing.

Since the last time the NYMO put in a low above a low on October 8th, SPY has rallied seven percent.

I would venture to suggest about the only thing that could abort the rally would be the Tweeter in chief scattering the trade-talk sticks again. Reportedly he is meeting tomorrow with advisors to discuss the proposed Dec 15th tariffs against China. Since when has he listened to advisors? So anything can happen.

In the meantime, one has to respect the signals and be long, and buying dips, until further notice.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

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)

#MarketTiming – the NYMO low above a low

One of the signs of a true bull market is the follow through off a low-above-a-low pattern in short-term breadth (the NYMO).

The signal is displayed in the top portion of the chart below.

It is buy signal for aggressive traders looking for a rally to begin off a meaningful market bottom. In bull markets, it almost always has follow through to the upside immediately. That hasn’t quite happened in recent months, which has made everything in the current market psychology suspect. See August on the chart as an example.

But it did happen today — after triggering yesterday for today’s open, there was the immediate follow through to the upside.

Now the bulls need long-term breadth (the NYSI) to turn up in the next day or two, which is the trending signal. The NYSI is the smoothed line in the middle of the chart below. It is still falling but…

If both breadth indicators get in line, there is a good chance the market rallies strongly, possibly for several weeks, maybe back to the recent highs, maybe higher.

But, of course, as has happened all through these unstable times, it will be a rally that can be killed by a tweet.

(click on the chart for a larger view)