Declining Margin Debt – the bullish scenario

Margin debt, money borrowed to leverage the market, has for now topped and is in decline. Before the top in February it had reached levels far beyond the surges in 2000 and 2007, which could be an ominous indication of what is to come when and if margin debt continues to unravel.

See the chart below and the charts in the link.

Does the fact that it is coming down as major players try to ease out of their leveraged positions mean the market, measured by the S&P 500 stock index (SPX), has also topped? For the time being it would appear it has but history would say that’s not necessarily so.

MARGIN DEBT AND THE MARKET

From the link:

“The first chart shows the two series in real terms — adjusted for inflation to today’s dollar using the Consumer Price Index as the deflator. At the 1997 start date, we were well into the Boomer Bull Market that began in 1982 and approaching the start of the Tech Bubble that shaped investor sentiment during the second half of the decade. The astonishing surge in leverage in late 1999 peaked in March 2000, the same month that the S&P 500 hit its all-time daily high, although the highest monthly close for that year was five months later in August. A similar surge began in 2006, peaking in July 2007, three months before the market peak.”

Simply put, that would mean there is at least another new high coming in the new few months (the summer rally?) before any significant bearish behavior in the stocks.

The heads up is to say those highs, if they come, will be opportunities to sell, or at least tighten stops on long-term investments. A second look at the chart shows that the SPX, coming off highs in margin debt, declines close to 50%. Those were real bear markets. The next one could be worse. Regardless, no matter how low it goes, it is best to be avoided.

There are two possibilities it could be somewhat different this time. One, margin debt itself could surge to another new high along with a strong months-long market rally (see the jingle-jangle in 2015 on the chart); or two, the top is already in and the next leg down (given how astronomically high the margin debt is beyond 2000 and 2007) could be a dead bull dropping right out of the sky (they can not fly forever).

(click on the chart for larger view)

The $10K options trade – $SPY today for 103%

Had a loser in the calls to start the day, and another in the puts, but the hard run up in the calls for 180% at the end netted a 103% total gain for the day.

This trade late in the day was in the 267 in-the-money call expiring today, 91 call contracts initially for the loss, then back in for 111 contracts to the close (see chart below).

But if anyone harbors any illusions about this being easy psychologically, divest yourself of those straight away. Trading $10,000 worth of the nearest in-the-money strike at the closest expiration, still has me down 74% for the week, $7,405 on a $10K gamble in each trade after losses of 93% on Monday and 83% on Tuesday. Obviously, it is a strategy that can only be traded with a small portion of any account or portfolio. And even then it is flat out scary at times.

Fast money when it goes your way, and it seems even faster when it goes against you.

(click) on the chart for a larger view)

The $10K Day-Trade – $SPY Options on Fridays

This is all about buying calls and puts for day trades.

And again, ITM 261 SPY weekly option, expiring today, has vaulted past 100% for the day for another trending day (see other posts below).

The white flag on the lower right of the chart below is the dollar gain today so far per $10K traded, also the percentage gain.

The key to these trades is they are day trades in the most liquid call or put, in or at the money, on the nearest expiration to minimize time decay and to get the biggest bang for the buck; using whatever entry a trader is comfortable with, using a stop loss to guard against big losers; and finally taking full or partial profits when one has them, on a breakeven reversal, or on a trailing stop, or into too much strength, but no later than the close of the day.

The day trades on Friday have accounted for 57% of the gains this year.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY options – massive trending day

In what I have tongue-in-cheek called the “Fool’s Game” I define trending days as any day the system of buying puts or calls goes past a 100% gain.

“THE FOOL’S GAME”

Just now today went flying past 200% on a $10K buy in the 4/25 SPY 268 at-the-money put, expiring tomorrow. See chart below, the white flag on the lower right is the current gain per $10k invested, also the a percentage calculation.

I may have to change the name of this game to “Options Trading with Henry David Thoreau” — as in “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

(click on the chart for a larger view)

#BellwetherStocks – End Of A Swing Trade

The swing trade for buying stocks signaled by the market’s breadth indicators on the open of April 4th, thirteen trading days ago, ended on the open of trading today.

START OF THE TRADE

Despite a choppy market in which neither SPY nor QQQ rose as much as one percent, all twelve of the bellwethers were in the black for the trade and several on the list had rather stellar gains for 13 trading days — TWTR up 20.5%, NFLX up 19.3%, TSLA up 14.2%, AMZN up 13.1% and FSLR up 11.4%.

The Bellwether stocks with single-digit gains were FB, 9.7%; BIDU, 8.4%; BID 7.5%; NVDA 6.3%; BABA 6.6%; GS 2.3%; and last and least (remarkably) AAPL 1.4%.

Once again, market timing has been validated by the stocks even when the market is going no where.

On the charts below, the white flags on the lower left quadrant of each chart is the dollar gains for $100k invested in each particular stock.

Thirteen days…

(click on the chart panel for a larger view)

#MarketTiming – From follow through to follow through

The general market, after Tuesday’s bounce, followed through today for big gains across the board, made all the more bullish by coming back from a deep gap down.

The Dow, or instance, was down 500 points at the open and finished up 230.

The question now, of course, can there be more tomorrow.

All indications are this correction is over with many of the indexes touching their 200 daily moving averages, with my nifty-50 list of momentum stocks triggering 30 buy signals in the past two days (Monday all but two of those stocks were down, today all but six were up), with CNN Money’s Fear and Greed Index finally lumbering up off a very low readings at 12 today (it got as low as six and can’t go below zero). That later index is still registering “extreme fear” which is the time a time for investors to be looking to buy stocks.

But most importantly (see the chart below), short-term breath put in a low above a low in negative territory, a divergence with the SPY Tuesday which needed a follow through into positive territory to turn the all-important long-term breadth up. The follow through came today.

All three of my swing-trading signals, based on price, breadth and volatility, are on buys now.

So this market bounce has more to come and could morph into a full-fledged multi-week rally.

Some notes. AAPL is probably the safest bet during a market bounce (emphasis on “safest”) but NFLX, NVDA and TSLA will probably out-perform among the big boys. Look at TSLA today, up 7.5% on the day and 13.7% from the open — there was some dope just last week predicting Elon Musk’s baby would go bankrupt.

(click on chart for a larger view)

$SPY OPTIONS – buying calls and puts in a fool’s game of “dailies”

I was going to do a wrap-up of the returns for the first quarter in what I tongue-in-cheek called “the fool’s game” but decided not to because I doubt anyone would believe it.

Even after trading it (off and on) and tracking it (completely) I have trouble believing how astounding it is myself. See note below.

THE FOOL’S GAME – BUYING CALLS AND PUTS

I had tried trading options 30 years ago when I first started trading and it was obvious I didn’t know what I was doing. After being inundated by deltas and thetas and gammas and IVs, as well as strategies like verticals and calendars and strangles and straddles and busted wing whatevers, iron condors, I got killed ever time I tried to put all that stuff to use. It was just too big a jungle to juggle for the average guy.

It was an iron condor that finally told me I had to quit. How anyone executes a four-legged trade in options, going in and coming out, was way beyond me. It still is.

So what to do? What to do?

Do what I do in every other aspect of my trading for the past 30 years – simplify, simplify, simplify. The market either goes up or it goes down. Why wouldn’t it be the same for options?

But in options one is told BY EVERYONE that in buying puts and calls only three things can happen and two of them are bad. It either goes your way right away (the one good thing) or it goes against you (obviously a bad thing), or it goes no where and dies in time decay (the other really bad thing). What to do? Can’t do anything about the “for you” or the “against you” but time decay can be reduced if not eliminated by day trading. Not much decay with a buy on the open and a sell no later than the close.

Last fall I tracked this on the SPY monthly options, but by the beginning of the year, I tracked and started trading the at-the-money weekly options (for a bigger bang to the buck). Much of the tracking had be done manually and by trial and error because the strikes change often daily with the SPY movements, but the trading could be automated in TradeStation. In looking back at the end of the quarter I discovered that most of the really big winners, which I define as more than a 100% gain on the day, came on Fridays, the day of the weekly expiration (8 out of 14 of the big winners).

The day of the expiration? The thing of it is SPY now has options expiration days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It seems possible the Friday expiration phenomenon could be present Monday and Wednesday too.

Call it day trading the dailies.

Which brings us to today. Granted it was a big one but in options lots of days are big ones. The SPY 263 in-the-money put expiring today netted 238% on my date-trade signal. And the same 263 puts for Wednesday and Friday trailed with 110% and 85% respectively. (The white flags on the right-hand axis in the charts below show the total gain for $10K traded, so chosen to also correspond to a percentage gain.)

Not a bad start to a quarter.

NOTE: Probably should say something about the first quarter in this “fool’s game” just for the record… There were 62 trading days in the quarter with 40 of them profitable for a win rate of 64%. Not going to say how much it made overall (everyone would say “oh, come on, that can’t be!”) but think about these numbers… As I said above there were 14 big winners of 100% or more. The biggest winner in the calls was 252% on 3/9. The biggest winner in the puts was 265% on 2/2. The biggest winning week was the week of 2/5 to 2/9 at 650% and the biggest losing week was 3/12 to 3/16 for a negative 208% (obviously one does not trade this strategy with one’s entire account).

All of this is simply buying calls or puts as day-trades.

(click on the chart for a larger view)

$SPY options – another freaky Friday?

Last Friday, the calls in what I’ve ironically labeled for myself the “Fool’s Game” exploded 250%.

In my post in this link below I noted that going into that Friday, my game was looking at its first losing week this year and there had been no trending day during the week also for the first time this year. I define a trending day as any day either the weekly SPY calls or the puts close with a 100% or more gain.

TRENDING DAYS IN THE FOOL’S GAME

So what’s this week look like? Pretty much the same as last week.

As of today’s close, this day-trading system, buying SPY calls and/or puts, expiring either Wednesday or Friday, is losing money, a jarring 81% for each $10K traded (it was losing 152% at last Thursday’s close). Obviously, one does not trade this with any more than a small portion of any account. In addition, this week again there has been no trending day.

Can last Friday be happening again this week? I’m going to suggest — yes!

SPY is down this week four days in a row (not much) which tends to be a magical number for a turn-around in my experience with swing trading, especially in this bull market. The Nasdaq Comp is down three consecutive days. CNN Finance’s “Fear and Greed” Index is down four days to 21, an “extreme fear” level, a neighborhood in which one should consider going long. Yesterday, 40 of the stocks in my nifty-50 stock list were on sells (that is usually the bottom or the beginning of the bottom in any downswing, however small). Today those stocks clicked up to just 38 on sells. The VIX gave a swing buy signal to go long on tomorrow’s open.

And tomorrow is Friday. There have been twelve trending days by my definition so far this year and seven of them have come on Friday. Freaky.

Added all up, tomorrow looks like a run to the upside again and the calls could go crazy, again, if its another trending day.

Or the market could have a monster fifth-day-down crash…but then that would also be a trending day, only in the puts instead.

#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)

Trending days in the “Fool’s Game”…

The market Friday broke to the upside at the open and never looked back.

As a result it was what I’ve now come to call in my mind a “perfect trending day” in what I ironically call the “Fool’s Game”. That is to say since I started trading and tracking weekly SPY calls and puts solely on as longs and solely as day trades to avoid as much time decay as possible, it is a day when the in-the-money option gains more than 100% on the trend for day.

Friday’s expiring weekly SPY 275 calls vaulted on my day-trading signal into the close for 252% profit on the day trade. That is $25,200 for each $10K traded, in this instance 93 contracts (see the white flag on the lower right of the 10-minute chart below).

Going into Friday, last week’s trading was truly looking like a fool’s game.

From Monday to Thursday, the daily trades were down a cumulative 150% for the week, $15k for each $10k traded, the first weekly loss of the year.

But there had been no trending day during the week, by Thursday no 100% plus day, another first for the year.

And it was also a Friday, when the weekly option expires and there are the most volatile movements. There have been twelve trending days (up and down) in the first ten weeks on this year and five of those days have come on a Friday, making Friday this week once again the best possibility for another trending day.

And so it was to be, as it turned out. Rather spectacularly. For 252%, the second biggest day-trading gain of the year (on February 2nd, the Fool’s Game racked up a 265% gain on a put trade), and turning the loss on the trades for the week into an overall 100% profit.

(click on the chart for a larger view)