Category Archives: chart patterns

A Different Kind of Bond Barbell

The “barbell” approach to bond investing typically involves buying a long-term bond fund or ETF and a short-term bond fund or ETF.  The idea is that the long-term component provides the upside potential while the short-term component dampens overall volatility and “smooths” the equity curve.  This article is not intended to examine the relative pros and cons of this approach.  The purpose is to consider an alternative for the years ahead.

The Current Situation

Interest rates bottomed out several years ago and rose significantly from mid-2016 into late 2018.  Just when everyone (OK, roughly defined as “at least myself”) assumed that “rates were about to establish an uptrend” – rates topped in late 2018 and have fallen off since.  Figure 1 displays ticker TYX (the 30-year treasury yield x 10) so you can see for yourself.

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Figure 1 – 30-year treasury yields (TNX) (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

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In terms of the bigger picture, rates have showed a historical tendency to move in 30-year waves.  If that tendency persists then rates should begin to rise off the lows in recent years in a more meaningful way.  See Figure 2.Figure 2 – 60-year wave in interest rates (Courtesy: www.mcoscillator.com)

Will this happen?  No one can say for sure.  Here is what we do know:  If rates decline, long-term treasuries will perform well (as long-term bonds react inversely to the trend in yields) and if rates rise then long-term bond holders stand to get hurt.

So here is an alternative idea for consideration – a bond “barbell” that includes:

*Long-term treasuries (example: ticker VUSTX)

*Floating rate bonds (example: ticker FFRAX)

Just as treasuries rise when rates fall and vice versa, floating rate bonds tend to rise when rates rise and to fall when rates fall, i.e., (and please excuse the use of the following technical terms) when one “zigs” the other “zags”.  For the record, VUSTX and FFRAX have a monthly correlation of -0.29, meaning they have an inverse correlation.

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Figure 3 displays the growth of $1,000 invested separately in VUSTX and FFRAX since FFRAX started trading in 2000.  As you can see the two funds have “unique” equity curves.

Figure 3 – Growth of $1,00 invested in VUSTX and FFRAX separately

Now let’s assume that every year on December 31st we split the money 50/50 between long-term treasuries and floating rate bonds.  This combined equity curve appears in Figure 4.

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Figure 4 – Growth of $1,000 50/50 VUSTX/FFRAX; rebalanced annually

Since 2000, long-treasuries have made the most money.  This is because interest rates declined significantly for most of that period.  If interest rise in the future, long-term treasuries will be expected to perform much more poorly.  However, floating rate bonds should prosper in such an environment.

Figure 5 displays some relevant facts and figures.

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Figure 5 – Relevant performance Figures

The key things to note in Figure 5 are:

*The worst 12-month period for VUSTX was -13.5% and the worst 12-month period for FFRAX was -17.1%.  However, when the two funds are traded together the worst 12-month period was just -5.0%.

*The maximum drawdown for VUSTX was -16.7% and the maximum drawdown for FFRAX was -18.2%.  However, when the two funds are traded together the worst 12-month period was just -8.6%.

Summary

The “portfolio” discussed herein is NOT a recommendation, it is merely “food for thought”.  If nothing else, combining two sectors of the “bond world” that are very different (one reacts well to falling rates and the other reacts well to rising rates) certainly appears to reduce the overall volatility.

My opinion is that interest rates will rise in the years ahead and that long-term bonds are a dangerous place to be.  While my default belief is that investors should avoid long-term bonds during a rising rate environment, the test conducted here suggests that there might be ways for holders of long-term bonds to mitigate some of their interest rate risk without selling their long-term bonds.

Like I said, food for thought.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Chart Patterns: Flag and Pennants

By Steve Hill

President, AIQ Systems

Stephen Hill is President of AIQ Systems. For the past 15 years he has been involved in all aspects of AIQ Systems, from support and sales to programming and education. Steve is a frequent speaker at events in the U.S. and Europe, talking on subjects as diverse as Portfolio Simulation TechniquesAdvanced Chart Pattern Analysis and Trading System Design.

Chart pattern analysis, often thought of as part science part art is a key element in many traders decision process. Common patterns like double tops and bottoms are somewhat self-fulfilling, given that most of us can see these patterns occurring. Measures of what consititues a double top or bottom in good analytical terms we’ll save for another article. In this this article we are focussing on two of my favorite chart patterns; Flags and Pennants

Flags and Pennants are Consolidation or Continuation Patterns

These patterns break out in the direction of the previous trend, confirming the existing trend, suggesting that investors are considering whether the market is overbought or oversold but ultimately deciding to confirm the existing trend. Flags and pennants are of two types, bullish or bearish

Flags and pennants are generally considered continuation patterns as they breakout in the prevailing trend direction. They represent a brief pause especially after a steep run up in an active ticker. They are a fairly common and useful for short term trading.

Bullish Flags – formation

Lower tops and lower bottoms bounded by two parallel trendlines with pattern slanting against the prevailing trend are considered bull flags (figure 1).


Figure 1Bullish flag pattern

Bearish Flags – formation

Higher tops and higher bottoms bounded by two parallel trendlines with pattern slanting against the prevailing trend are considered bear flags. (figure 2).


Figure 2Bearish flag pattern

Elements of bullish flags

  • A rapid and steep price rise of around 20% from bottom of the pole to top.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the flag.
  • Breakout occurs to the upside with resumption of increase volume levels
  • Flags length excluding the pole classic should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.
Figure 3. Whole Foods Market, Inc (WFMI) bullish flag


Bulkowski noted that the high and tight flag performed best. (source Encyclodpedia of Chart Patterns by Thomas Bulkowski).
2Some 25% of the patterns are horizontal notes Markos Katsanos. (source Measuring Flags & Pennants: Technical Analysis of Stocks and Commodities vol 23 no 4)bullish flag breakout on increased volume note the pole length is 20% + of the price action and the diminishing volume on the flag.


Elements of bearish flags

  • A rapid and steep price decline of around 20% from top of the pole to bottom.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the flag.
  • Breakout occurs to the downside with resumption of increase volume levels.
  • Flag length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.

Figure 4 shows MNST classic bearish flag breakout on increased volume note the pole length is 20% + of the price action and the diminishing volume on the flag.

Bullish Pennants – formation

Pennants look very much like symmetrical triangles, on the end of a pole, typically they are smaller in size and duration (figure 5).

Bearish Pennants – formation

An upside down bullish pennant, the triangle is at the bottom of the pole. (figure 6).

Elements of bullish pennants

  • A rapid and steep price rise of around 20% from bottom of the pole to top.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the pennant.
  • Pennants look like symmetrical triangles on a pole, price action is converging.
  • Diminishing volume as pennant forms.
  • Breakout to the upside with re- sumption of volume levels.
  • Pennant length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.Figure 7 shows CDW classic bullish pennant breakout on increased volume

Figure 7CDW Computer Centers (CDW) bullish pennant

Elements of bearish pennants

  • A rapid and steep price drop of around 20% from top of the pole to bottom.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the pennant.
  • Pennants look like symmetrical triangles on a pole, price action is converging.
  • Diminishing volume as pennant forms.
  • Breakout to the downside with resumption of volume levels.
  • Pennant length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.

How do you trade flags and pennants?

Katsanos study of Flags and pennants revealed that the average breakout was 45% over an average period of 11 days. Bulkowski noted a 63% average gain. to trade these breakouts, set tight stops at low of day before breakout and use trailing stops once breakout occurs.

Target prices are more difficult to predict as these are continuation patterns, but after 11 days you are beyond the average move in days.

AIQ tip

Once a breakout occurs, use AIQ space on right of the chart (rtalerts only) and advance 11 days into the future. Draw a trendline parallel to the pole trend from the breakout point.

Too Soon to Get Sweet on Sugar

One of my (admittedly, potentially foolish) beliefs is that commodities will outperform stocks again someday.  Possibly someday starting soon (roughly defined as anywhere from today to a year from today) and that the shift will be dramatic and last for a period of 3 to 8 years.

And no, I don’t think I could be any more vague.  But I haven’t really “taken the plunge” (i.e., shifted money from the stock market into commodities in any meaningful way) yet.  But I am keeping a close eye on things.  Rather than rattled off another 1,000 words to explain, I will simply refer you to Figure 1 that tracks the ratio of the S&P Commodity Index to the S&P 500 Index.

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Figure 1 – Commodities versus Stocks (Source: www.DailyReckoning.com)

History suggests that “the worm will (eventually) turn.”

Sugar

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Let’s focus on one commodity for now.  Sadly, it’s one of my favorites (ranks right up there with coffee).  Sugar.  As you can see in Figures 2 and 3, sugar has a history of contracting in price over a period of time and then alternately – and please excuse my use of the following overly technical terms – “swooping” or “soaring”.Figure 2 – Sugar 1970-1998 (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

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Figure 3 – Sugar 1998-2019 (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

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Sugar can be traded either in the futures market (each full one-point movement in price equates to $1,120 in contract value).  An alternative for “normal people” is ticker CANE which is the Teucrium Sugar ETF which trades like shares of stock.  See Figure 4.Figure 4 – ETF Ticker CANE (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

As you can see, sugar has been “contracting” in price of late.  Does this mean it is reading to “swoop” or “soar”?  Possibly.  But for those who want to play the bullish side, it is probably a bit too soon to dive in.

Seasonality in Sugar

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Figure 5 displays the annual seasonal trend in sugar.  It should be noted that you should NOT expect every year to follow this trend.  It is a display of previous historical tendencies and NOT a roadmap.Figure 5 – Sugar Annual Seasonal Trend (Courtesy Sentimentrader.com)

Still, the primary point is captured nicely in:

Jay’s Trading Maxim #92: One of the keys to long term success is committing capital where the probabilities are (or a least appear to be) in your favor.

February through April is NOT that time for anyone looking to play the long side of sugar.

Figure 6 displays the cumulative results achieved by holding long one sugar futures contract ONLY during the months of February through April every year starting in 1970.

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Figure 6 – Cumulative $+(-) holding long sugar futures Feb, Mar, Apr every year since 1970

Some things to note regarding sugar Feb through Apr:

*UP 18 times

*DOWN 31 times

*Average gain = +$2,201

*Average loss = (-$3,377)

*Largest gain = +$6,630 (1974)

*Largest loss = (-$18,424) (1975)

Summary

The point IS NOT to argue that sugar is doomed to plunge between now and the end of April, nor even to argue that it cannot rally strongly between now and then – because it can.

The point IS to merely point out that the odds do not presently favor the bulls, which means – well, see Trading Maxim #92 above.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

It Really Was the Most Platinum Time of the Year; What Time is it Now?

In this article I highlighted the fact that platinum tends to be a consistent performer during the months of January and February combined.  2019 held serve as platinum futures registered their 23rd Jan-Feb gain in the last 24 years.  The Platinum ETF (ticker PPLT) registered a two month gain of +9.6%.  See Figure 1.

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Figure 1 – Ticker PPLT (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Figure 2 displays the updated hypothetical growth of equity achieved by holding long 1 platinum futures contract during January and February every year starting in 1979.

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Figure 2 – Platinum futures $ +(-) during Jan-Feb; 1979-2019

Since most investors will never trade platinum futures, Figure 3 displays the growth of $1,000 invested in ticker PPLT only during Jan and Feb since 2011.

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Figure 3 – Cumulative % growth of $1,000 invested in ticker PPLT ONLY during Jan. and Feb.; 2011-2019

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Figure 4 – Yearly % +(-) for PPLT during Jan-Feb

Going Forward

So platinum was great, but what have you done for me lately?  For what it is worth, historically two sectors that “should” be doing well in the March-April period are energies and grains (please remember that seasonal trends DO NOT always work every year).   As you can see in Figure 5, energies have been rallying since late December (though lots of consternation regarding crude oil remains a constant).

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Figure 5 – Ticker DBE (Energies) – so far so good; (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

Grains have been a bust so far (their “favorable seasonal period” typically begins in late January-early February – no dice this time around).  Where too from here?  One of two scenarios: either this is just going to be an off year for grains, or right now will be looked back upon as a buying opportunity.  Only time will tell.

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Figure 6 – Ticker DBA (Agricultural) – so far NOT so good; (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

And of course, don’t forget that the stock market tends to do pretty well March through May….

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

All Eyes on Key Bellwether Support Levels

First the reality.  Nobody knows what the market is going to do.  Yes, I am aware that there are roughly a bazillion people out there “prognosticating” (myself included) about the stock market.  And yes, if one makes enough “predictions”, the law of averages dictates that one will be correct a certain percentage of the time.

Still, the market does offer clues.  Sometimes those clues turn out to be false leads.  But sometimes they do offer important information.  For example, Figure 1 displays four major market indexes.  As you can see, in the Aug-Sep-Oct time frame all four of these averages “broke out” to new all-time highs (i.e., The Good News) and then broke back down below the previous resistance line drawn on each chart (i.e., The Bad News).

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Figure 1 – Four major indexes breakout then fail (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

False breakouts happen all the time.  And the reality here is that sometimes they mean something and sometimes they don’t.  But when all four major average do the same thing, a warning sign has been issued to those who are interested in seeing it.  That’s why it can be useful to seek “confirmation”.  For my purposes I look to what I refer to as my 4 “bellwethers”, which are:

SMH – Semiconductors

TRAN – Dow Transportation Average

ZIV – Velocity Shares Inverse VIX Index

BID – Sotheby Holdings

These tickers appear in Figure 2 (click to enlarge).

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Figure 2 – Jay’s Market Bellwethers (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

While the major indexes were testing new highs in Aug/Sep and then breaking down in October:

SMH – Never really came close to breaking out above its March high

TRAN – Followed the major indexes by hitting new highs in Aug/SP and then breaking down in October

ZIV – Never came anywhere close to its Jan-2018 high

BID – Broke to a new high in Jun/Jul, then failed badly.

In a nutshell, the failed major index breakouts were accompanied by absolutely no positive signs from the 4 bellwethers. So, the warning signs were there if one wished to see them.

So where are the bellwethers now?  Another close look at Figure 2 reveals that:

SMH – the key support level at 80.92

TRAN – the key level for the Dow Transports is 8744.36

ZIV – the key support level is 60.60

BID – a potential support level is 32.95 (the Apr 2013 low)

Summary

*Given the washed-out/oversold level that many indicators and sentiment surveys have reached…

*…Combined with the fact that we are in the seasonally favorable pre-election year (no down pre-election years since the 1930’s)

*There is a chance that 2019 could be surprisingly bullish, and shell-shocked investors should not stick their heads in the sand to the possibility.

At the same time:

*Based solely on trend-following indicators ALL of the major market indexes are technically in confirmed bear markets.  As a result, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having some portion of one’s capital in defensive positions at the moment (30% cash or short-term bonds?).

*Keep a close eye on January performance.  A bullish January would be a positive sign just as a negative January could – in this case – signal a continued market decline.

*Keep a close eye on the 4 Bellwethers relative to their respective support levels.

In a nutshell:

*Up January + Bellwethers holding above support = GOOD

*Down January + Bellwether breaking down below support = BAD

Those are all the “clues” I can offer at the moment.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Just how much influence a President has on the stock market

I often wondered just how much influence a President has on the stock market and found this interesting chart from Macrotrends. 

In the first 21 months from their inauguration you can see the top 10 performing Presidents. Who would have thought Gerald Ford would be so far up the list. Of course geopolitical events and prior President and Congress actions also take time to percolate into the market. 

Obama came into office soon after the 2008 financial crisis unemployment near 9% in 2009 and Ford after the oil crisis and Nixon. There are of course many other influencing factors, but a good rule of thumb In economic terms, the first year or so of any administration is just a carryover from the previous administration.

Probably the most significant contributor for the last decade has been the Federal Reserve chairs who have kept short-term rates low, while driving longer-term rates down by buying up $4.5 trillion of US government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. Lower returns has driven many investors into riskier assets like Stocks and this has helped fuel the stock market run that began in March 2009 and continues today. 

Economics aside, the current correction, and yes we are still in corrective territory can be seen in this SPX monthly chart. The Fibonacci retracement drawn from the low of the February 2018 correction to the recent high shows we’re at or past the 38.2% level. The next significant level is at 50% level of around 2729.

Dollar and Gold ‘To the Barricades’

This week it is the U.S. dollar and Gold taking their turns testing critical inflection points.

U.S. Dollar

As you can see in Figure 1, on a seasonal basis the dollar is moving into a traditionally weaker time of year.1Figure 1 – U.S. Dollar seasonality (Courtesy Sentimentrader.com)

In Figure 2 you can see that traders have been and remain pretty optimistic.  This is traditionally a bearish contrarian sign.2Figure 2 – U.S. Dollar trade sentiment (Courtesy Sentimentrader.com)

In Figure 3 we see the “line in the sand” for ticker UUP – an ETF that tracks the U.S. Dollar.  Unless and until UUP punches through to the upside there is significant potential downside risk.3Figure 3 – U.S. Dollar w/resistance (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Gold

As you can see in Figure 4, on a seasonal basis the dollar is moving into a traditionally stronger time of year.4Figure 4 – Gold seasonality (Courtesy Sentimentrader.com)

In Figure 5 you can see that traders have been and remain pretty pessimistic.  This is traditionally a bullish contrarian sign.5Figure 5 – Gold trader sentiment (Courtesy Sentimentrader.com)

In Figure 6 we see the “line(s) in the sand” for ticker GLD – an ETF that tracks gold bullion.

6Figure 6 – Gold w/support (Courtesy  AIQ TradingExpert)

I would be hesitant about trying to “pick a bottom” as gold still looks pretty week.  But if:

a) GLD does hold above the support area in Figure 6 and begins to perk up,

AND

b) Ticker UUP fails to break out to the upside

Things could look a lot better for gold very quickly.

Summary

As usual I am not actually making any “predictions” here or calling for any particular action.  I mainly just want to encourage gold and/or dollar traders to be paying close attention in the days and weeks ahead, as the potential for a major reversal in both markets appears possible.

Likewise, if no reversal does take place – and if the dollar breaks out to the upside and gold breaks down, both markets may be “off to the races.”

So dollar and gold traders – take a deep breath; focus your attention; and prepare for action…one way or the other.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Here Are The Warning Signs to Watch For

Here’s a number for you – 88%.  Since 1948, over any 10-year period the Dow has showed a gain 88% of the time.  That’s a pretty good number.  It also explains why we should give bull markets the benefit of the doubt (for the record, if you only hold the Dow between the end of October and the end of May every year you would have a showed a 10-year gain 98% of the time!  But this article is not about seasonality per se, so that’s a topic for another day).
Of course, there is a lot of variability along the way, and if you Google “current signs of a bear market” you come up with 4,280,000 articles to peruse.  So, few investors ever feel “contented”.  We’re always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”
Some Warning Signs to Look For
#1. Major Indexes
Figure 1 displays the four major average – Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 with their respective 200-day moving averages.  In the last few days the Dow slipped a little below its 200-day average, the other three remain above.

(click to enlarge)1aFigure 1 – Four major market averages with 200-day moving averages (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Warning Sign to Watch For: If 3 or more of these averages drop below their 200-day moving average.
#2. Market Bellwethers
Figure 2 displays my four market “bellwhethers” – tickers SMH (semiconductors), TRAN (Dow Transports), ZIV (inverse VIX) and BID (Sotheby’s Holdings) with their respective 200-day moving averages.  At the moment only ZIV is below it’s 200-day moving average but some of the others are close

(click to enlarge)2Figure 2 – Four market bellwethers with 200-dqy moving averages (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Warning Sign to Watch For: If 3 or more of these averages drop below their 200-day moving average.
#3. S&P 500 Monthly Method
In this article I detailed a simple timing method using S&P 500 Index monthly closing prices.  Figure 3 show the S&P 500 Index with it’s “trigger warning” price of 2,532.69 highlighted.

(click to enlarge)3Figure 3 – S&P 500 Index Monthly Method Trigger Points (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Warning Sign to Watch For: If SPX closes below 2532.69 without first taking out the January high of 2872.87
#4. International Growth Stocks
When growth stocks around the world are performing well, things are good.  When they top out, try to rebound and then fail, things are (typically) not so good.  The last two major U.S. bear markets were presaged by a break in ticker VWIGX (Vanguard International Growth) as seen in Figure 4.

(click to enlarge)4Figure 4 – Dow Jones Industrials Average (top) and previous warnings from ticker VWIGX (bottom)(Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Warning Sign to Watch For: Technically this one is currently flashing a warning sign.  That warning will remain active unless and until VWIGX takes out the January high of 33.19.
#5. The 10-Year minus 2-Year Yield Spread
This is one of the most misrepresented indicators, so I will state it as plainly as possible:
*A narrowing yield curve IS NOT a bearish sign for the stock market
*An actual inverted yield curve IS a bearish sign for the stock market
Figure 5 displays the latest 10-year minus 2-year spread.  Yes, it has narrowed quite a bit.  This has launched a bazillion and one erroneously frightening articles.  But remember the rules above.

(click to enlarge)5Figure 5 – 10-year treasury yield minus 2-year treasury yield (Courtesy: www.StockCharts.com)

Warning Sign to Watch For: If the 10-year yield minus the 2-year yield falls into negative territory it will flash a powerful warning sign for the stock market and the overall economy.  Until then ignore all the hand-wringing about a “flattening” yield curve.
Summary
We are in a seasonally unfavorable period for the stock market and – as always – we are bombarded daily with a thousand and one reasons why the next bear market is imminent.
So my advice is to do the following:
1. Ignore it all and keep track of the items listed above
2. The more warning signs that appear – if any – the more defensive you should become
In the meantime, try to go ahead and enjoy your summer.
Jay Kaeppel
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Does it all Hinge on BID?

The question posed in the title is essentially, “does the fate of the stock market hinge on the action of Sotheby’s Holdings” (ticker BID)?  Sotheby’s is the oldest stock on the NYSE and is the only publicly traded investment opportunity in the art market.  As the art market is highly sensitive to the overall economy it has been argued that BID is a potential stock market “bellwether”.
Still, the most obvious answer to the question posed above is of course “No.”  Of course the performance of the whole stock market does not come down to the performance of one stock.  That’s the obvious answer.
The more curious answer is arrived at by first looking at Figure 1.  Figure 1 displays a monthly bar chart for BID in the top clip and the S&P 500 Index in the bottom clip.  What is interesting is that historically when BID tops out, bad things tend to follow for the broader stock market.1
Figure 1 – BID tops often foreshadow SPX weakness (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Consider:
*The bear market of 2000-2002 was presaged by a dramatic top for BID in 1999, and confirmed again in late 2000.
*The great bear market of 2008 was also preceded by a top and breakdown in BID.
*The 2011 top in BID was followed by a quick but sharp -21% SPX decline.
*The 2013-2014 BID top was followed by roughly 2 years of sideways SPX price action.
*More recently the top in 2017-2018 top has been accompanied by much volatility and consternation in the broader market.
Figure 2 “zooms in” to recent years using weekly data.
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Figure 2 – BID Weekly chart (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
In Figure 2 we can see how poor performance for BID presaged an extended period of sideways trading for the SPX.  At the far right we can also see that BID is at something of a critical juncture.  If it punches through to the upside and moves higher it could be something of an “All Clear” sign for the market.  On the other hand, if BID fails here and forms a clear multiple top, well, history suggests that that might be an ominous sign for the broader market.
Other Bellwethers
BID is one of four market “bellwethers” that I like to monitor.  The other 3 are SMH (semiconductor index), TRAN (Dow Transports) and ZIV (inverse VIX).  You can see the status of each in Figure 3.
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Figure 3 – Four stock market “Bellwethers” (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
To sum up the current status of these bellwethers:
*All 4 (including ZIV as of the latest close) are above their respective 200-day moving average.  So technically, they are all in “up trends.”
*All 4 are also threatening to create some sort of topping formation.
In sum, as long as all four of these bellwethers continue to trend higher, “Life is Good” in the stock market.  At the same time, if some or all of these fail to break through and begin to top out, the broader market may experience more trouble.
Bottom line: Now is a good time to pay close attention to the stock market for “tells”.
Jay Kaeppel
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Trend Following in One Minute a Month

In the article linked below, investor and Forbes columnist Kenneth Fisher writes about what to look for at a market top (How to Tell a Bull Market from a Bear Market Blip). One piece of advice that I have heard him offer before is to wait at least 3 months after a top in price to worry about whether or not we are in a bear market.  That is good advice and provided the impetus for a simple trend-following model I follow based on that “wait 3 months” idea.

First, a few key points:

*Trend-following is NOT about picking tops and bottoms or timing the market with “uncanny accuracy”.  So don’t expect any trend-following system to do so.

*The primary edge in any trend-following method is simply missing as much of the major soul – and capital – crushing bear markets as possible, with the understanding that you will miss some of the upside during bull markets.

The Good News:

*Starting in November 1970 this system has beaten a buy and hold strategy

*This system requires no math. There are no moving averages, etc.  Anyone can look at a monthly S&P 500 bar chart and generate the signals.  And it literally takes less than 1 minute per month to update.

The Bad News:

*Every trend-following method known to man experiences whipsaws, i.e., a sell signal followed by a buy signal at a higher price.  This system is no exception.

*Due to said whipsaws this system has significantly underperformed the S&P 500 buy-and-hold since the low in early 2009.

For what it’s worth, my educated guess is that following the next prolonged bear market, that will change.  But there are no guarantees.

OK, all the caveats in place, here goes.

Jay’s Monthly SPX Bar Chart Trend-Following System

*This system uses a monthly price bar chart for the S&P 500 (SPX) to generate trading signals.

*For the purposes of this method, no action is taken until the end of the month, even if a trend change is signaled earlier in the month.

*A buy signal occurs when during the current month, SPX exceeds its highest price for the previous 6 calendar months.

A sell signal occurs as follows:

a) SPX registers a month where the high for the month if above the high of the previous month. We will call this the “swing high”.

b) SPX then goes 3 consecutive monthly bars without exceeding the “swing high.” When this happens, note the lowest low price registered during those 3 months. We will call this price the “sell trigger price.”

c) An actual sell trigger occurs at the end of a month when SPX register a low that is below the “sell trigger price”, HOWEVER,

d) If SPX makes a new monthly high above the previous “swing high” BEFORE it registers a low below the “sell trigger price” the sell signal alert is aborted

Sounds complicated right?  It’s not.  Let’s illustrate on some charts.

In the charts that follow:

*An Up green arrow marks a buy signal

*A Down red arrow marks a sell signal

*A horizontal red line marks a “sell trigger price”.

Sometimes a sell trigger price is hit and is marked by a down red arrow as a sell signal.  Other times a sell trigger price is aborted by SPX making a new high and negating the potential sell signal.

spx trendf 1

Figure 1 – SPX signals 1970-1979 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 2

Figure 2 – SPX signals 1980-1989 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 3

Figure 3 – SPX signals 1990-1999 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 4

Figure 4 – SPX signals 2000-2009 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 5

Figure 5 – SPX signals 2010-present (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

To demonstrate results we will use monthly close price data for SPX.  If the system is bullish then the system will hold SPX for that month.  If the system is bearish we will assume interest is earned at an annual rate of 1% per year.

Figure 6 displays the results of the System versus Buy and Hold starting with $1,000 starting November 1970 through 1994 (roughly 24 years).

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Figure 6 – Growth of $1,000 invested using System versus Buy-and-Hold; Nov-1970 through Dec-1994

Figure 7 displays the results of the System versus Buy and Hold starting with $1,000 starting at the end of 1994 through the most recent close.

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Figure 7 – Growth of $1,000 invested using System versus Buy-and-Hold; Dec-1994 through Feb-2018

Figure 8 displays the growth of $1,000 generated by holding the S&P 500 Index ONLY when the trend-following system is bearish.  In Figure 8 you will see exactly what I mentioned at the outset – that the key is simply to miss some of the more severe effects of bear markets along the way.

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Figure 8 – Growth of $1,000 invested ONLY when trend-following model is Bearish; 1970-2018

Finally, Figure 9 displays trade-by-trade results (using month-end price data).

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Figure 9 – Trade-by-trade results; Month end price data

Summary

So is this “The World Beater, Best Thing Since Sliced Bread” system?  Not at all.  If you had started using this system in real time in March of 2009 chances are by now you would have abandoned it and moved on to something else, as the whip saw signals in 2011-2012 and 2016 has the System performing worse than buy and hold over a 9 year period.

But here is the thing to remember.  Chances are prolonged bear markets have not been eradicated, never to occur again.  100+ years of market history demonstrates that bear markets of 12 to 36 months in duration are simply “part of the game”.  And it is riding these bear markets to the depths that try investors souls – and wipe out a lot of their net worth in the process.

Chances are when the next 12 to 36 month bear market rolls around – and it will – a trend-following method similar to the one detailed here may help you to “save your sorry assets” (so to speak).

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.