The First Two Months of 2013

My, my, how time flies!

Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday we were starting out the year with the Dow up 300 points?

Good times….

Anyway, I think now is probably as good a time as any to reflect on what we’ve seen over the last couple of months. Here is a performance chart showing how each of the S&P sectors have done so far this year relative to the S&P500. It’s a good way for us to see where the strength is coming from as we approach these all-time highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P500.

The best two sectors for 2013 have been Consumer Staples and Healthcare!

2-28-13 sp sectors

The worst areas so far this year are easily Technology and Materials – funny how much they stand out in this chart with their fluorescent coloring.

I think this is probably something we should pay attention to. If the market averages want to keep ripping, some of the more cyclical areas better start participating. This defensive leadership is not what we want to see.

And here’s same chart showing just the past month. The leaders were Staples and Utilities. Materials and Consumer Cyclicals were the worst:

2-28-13 sp per chart month



What Does Dr. Copper Think?

With the recent sell-offs in US Markets, let’s keep in mind that some other areas of the world have been doing just that for over a month now. It started with Europe and some of the emerging markets the day after the Super Bowl. And since then, some of the economically sensitive commodities have joined in. Most importantly, in my opinion, is what we’re seeing from Copper – one of my favorite tells out there.

Here is a weekly chart of Copper Futures. The highs in the chart came back in February of 2011, just a couple of months before US Stocks peaked and lost over 20% over the next two quarters. Copper continued its decline along with Stocks and they both bottomed out together that October.

Since then, US Stocks have gone on to hit higher highs, and even all-time highs in some cases like the Small-caps, Mid-caps and Dow Transports. Copper, on the other hand, has not. In fact, as you can see in this weekly bar chart, the base metal has actually been stuck within this smaller symmetrical triangle that developed towards the bottom end of a much larger consolidation.

2-27-13 HG

I think Copper is a good tell here. We’ve been seeing some weakness unfold, no question, but this one could either foreshadow a more precipitous decline in risk assets, or hang on to that key multi-year trendline support and offer more of a “stay long” signal.

The bad news here is that Copper is currently attempting to hold on to this uptrend line from the June 2010 lows for what is now the 6th time. Unfortunately, the more times that a level is tested, the higher the likelihood that it breaks.

So let’s not forget about this one – Dr. Copper knows.


Tags: $JJC $HG_F $SPX

Is this the Beginning of a Bear Market?

I’m asking.

Was Monday’s new 52-week high in the Dow Jones Industrial Average the high for the year?

Are we in the beginning stages of a bear market?

I’m asking this because I simply can’t think of a single person who does think that. And I talk to a lot of people.

From a contrarian perspective, this is some scary stuff.

And I’m not talking about the permabears who are still bearish and have been during this epic four-year rally. I’m talking about the objective folks who have been on the long side of this bull market. Off the top of your head, are there many people you know who think this is the beginning of a bear market? A 20% or more correction? Anyone?

This obviously doesn’t affect what we’ll be doing today or tomorrow or next week. But as a technician who analyzes sentiment on a daily basis, this is definitely a rare occurrence. And the question is certainly worth asking.

Remember, when everyone is leaning one way, it probably makes sense to at least consider the alternative. In this case, I can’t think of many (or anyone) who thinks that a bear market is already under way. In fact, I’m just hearing and reading more about how we’re already in the next secular bull.

This to me is fascinating stuff…


Sector Rotation into Defensives

When things are good, you want to see financials, tech, and consumer discretionaries leading on a relative basis. When times are bad, you’d expect to see the defensive areas like staples, healthcare, and utilities outperforming.

Well, Technology peaked on a relative basis back in the summer before $AAPL crashed. Discretionaries peaked in January. And Financials were the last ones standing, but had an unfortunate false breakout in relative strength a couple of weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Healthcare is hitting 3-year highs relative to S&Ps, and Staples and Utilities look constructive on a relative basis. I dropped by the Nasdaq this morning to talk Sector Rotation with my friends at BNN. Click the video to check it out:

2-26-13 BNN



Technical Tuesday: A Take on the Trade (BNN)


Broadening Top in the Dow Industrials

So here is a quick snapshot of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and its broadening top formation. This one has been forming since the end of January and I think it’s pretty clear. Consider this one another feather in the hat for the bears.

2-25-13 DJI

This particular type of formation is fascinating to me because it frustrates everyone. Here’s the psychology behind it: Take the lows from back in early February and you have the bulls saying, “okay, we’re long and strong, unless we take out last week’s lows. If we roll over, we’ll get out”. Then the lows get taken out just before reversing higher to make fresh highs. Those disciplined longs are now out of this market and watching it rip without them.

Then towards the top of the range, you have the bears saying, “okay, we’re short right here and we’ll cover if we make new highs”. Then, of course, the market makes new highs, taking out the stops and then reverses lower to make fresh lows. The bears are now watching the market get crushed without them.

At this point, the bulls are frustrated. The bears are frustrated. And everyone who did nothing is still a genius. Then the same thing happens again with the longs against the new pivot lows. And the same thing happens again with the shorts against recent pivot highs.

It’s a ridiculous cycle that is definitely amusing to watch. But at the end of the day, the increase in volatility is a sign of a turning point. And therefore, since we’ve rallied into this particular broadening formation, a reversal here would signal lower prices for the Dow Industrials.

I’d say a breakdown below last week’s lows would confirm, but then I would just be another silly trader that we just had some fun with up above.

*One more thing to note is the bearish divergence in RSI down at the bottom of the chart. Fresh highs Monday morning for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (imagine that), but lower highs clearly in the Relative Strength Index.

Careful out there…



Gold From The Top Down

Oh Gold…

This one has been a dear friend throughout my career. Kind of like Google actually. We have a close relationship. You know those specific stocks, or assets classes, that you’ve just been right about and done well with that just bring a smile to your face when you hear the name? We all have those. The opposite is also true in some of the names that you just can’t get right. Believe it or not, Apple was one of those for me for a long time. But over the last year it’s been different and I’ve actually gotten it right for a change. So don’t think that just because you’ve been good (or bad) with something, that it will stay that way forever. Stay objective.

Which brings me back to Gold. So what do we make of the silly yellow metal that’s making all this noise throughout the media lately? The dreaded death cross right? Isn’t that funny? Maybe I find humor in things that other people don’t. But “Death Cross”?? Come on. Can we come up with something any more ridiculous? It’s almost as good as the Golden Cross.

Legend has it that when the 50 day crosses over the 200 day simple moving average, that’s a golden cross and is a good thing. The death cross is when the 50 day crosses below the 200 day. The media likes to make a big thing about it because it sells and people like it. And that’s fine. But the truth is that it means absolutely nothing at all. And an argument can be made that the pessimism (or optimism) that it brings can actually be taken from a contrarian’s perspective and signals to do the opposite. My friend Ryan Detrick put out a chart this week showing how many times Gold has actually gone up after these dreaded death crosses….

2-24-13 gold death crosses

So let’s focus on Price and forget about all this other nonsense. My first chart shows Gold long-term and is adjusted for inflation to show real prices, not this nominal stuff, to get a good idea of where we’re really at (click chart to embiggen)

2-24-13 Gold inf adj

It looks to me like over the last year and half, gold prices have been consolidating near an area that makes sense. The real all-time highs back in 1980 came after a parabolic move that couldn’t really hold. I suppose you can make the argument that the big time long-term resistance came just under $2000. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’ve been struggling up here since September of 2011.

Now, let’s put that correction into context for a hot minute. We’re essentially looking at a 20% down move that has turned into a fairly wide range for 18 months. No new highs or new lows for a long time. This 20% down move and time consolidation came after more than a 600% move over 10 years. I’d say that the correction was more than earned/deserved.

This next one is a weekly logarithmic scale nominal chart showing the monster move so far this century. It’s fascinating how the peaks connect so nicely. But the uptrend support lines, whether drawn aggressively or more conservatively, show that more downside in Gold is certainly possible. 1450 and even 1150 can be hit without changing the upward trajectory that it has on a secular basis. And those aren’t predictions or a target. But I think it’s worth pointing out that those lines are there. I think to ignore them would be irresponsible.

2-24-13 gold weekly

Now let’s look at some near term support levels. This is a daily bar chart showing two important trendlines that broke this month. It’s never a good thing when 2 big ones break within a few weeks – definitely some heavy selling pressure. Currently the price of Gold is sitting at the bottom of this 18 month range where buyers have stepped in before. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this is the 4th time down here. The more times it’s tested, the higher the likelihood that it breaks. We’re seeing that phenomenon play out in the British Pound right now.

2-24-13 Gold daily

Now back to the weekly chart to look at some retracement levels. If we do break this key support, and probability increases with each retest, there are 2 levels that stand out. If we take the recent monster move off the 2008 bottom, the 38.2% Fibonacci Retracement comes in around 1450, and the 61.8% Fib level is around 1150. I find it interesting that we just mentioned those 2 possible areas when we discussing the uptrend lines in the weekly log chart above. The power of support clusters…remember that.

2-24-13 gold fib levels

As far as the upside is concerned, Gold certainly has some work to do before we can start talking about targets. Once we have a nice pivot low, we can look at some Fibonacci extension targets and potential measured moves. But to bottom fish down here makes no sense to us at all unless you’re a really short term trader that enjoys scalping falling knives. Not my game personally.

I think the good money to be made here has been in the relative gold charts. I’ve been pretty vocal about the Gold vs Gold miners pair. And it continues to work well as both Gold miners ($GDX) and Junior Gold miners ($GDXJ) get destroyed. Here is an up-to-date chart of Gold vs the Miners. We had a nice breakout from that flag pattern to start the year. And now this week we’ve confirmed even higher after breaking out above the May highs.

2-24-13 gold vs gold miners

I also continue to see some interesting developments out of the Platinum/Gold Ratio. I first brought this one up in early December as we started to see some momentum divergences in favor of Platinum. And since then, a 10% up move in the pair, but more importantly some key resistance levels have been broken. This is definitely one pair that we want to keep on our radar:

2-24-13 gold vs platinum

And finally I want to take a quick look at one of my favorite long-term charts in my chart book. This one is the now infamous Dow to Gold ratio. My pal Joe Weisenthal, who actually just got named Executive Editor at Business Insider (congratulations buddy), likes to ask me all the time, “JC, if you were stuck on a deserted island with just one chart, what would it be?”. And my asnwer is always the same. “The Dow/Gold chart of course”.

Readers of the blog have seen this one before. But here is a long-term chart of the “Real Money vs Paper Money”, as it is often called (click chart to embiggen):

2-24-13 dow gold ratio

This one historically doesn’t find a bottom until the ratio gets down to about 1:1. Today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 14,000 and Gold prices at 1480, we’re looking at about an 8.86 ratio up from a low in August 2011 below 6. We could potentially even see this ratio get up near 10:1 before possibly rolling over again. This is a really really long-term chart, where we have data going back over 100 years. So yea, not a day trade.

But I think it’s worth talking about, especially as governments around the world continue to dilute their currencies (fiat money). There’s no diluting of Gold. You can’t print more of it. Hell, they can barely find more of it. But that’s a different discussion for a different day. Let’s look at price:

2-24-13 dow gold ratio daily

As you can see in this shorter-term look, we had a nice break above the multi-year downtrend earlier this year. The “false breakdown” that occurred in 2011 has given this pair legs that could certainly take it up towards 10:1. From there we’ll just have to reevaluate the situation. But I don’t think that this secular move in Gold over Stocks is over from a secular perspective. We’re about 13 years in for this particular collapse. Remember, the Real Money vs Paper Money bubble popped in 1999 above 44:1. This sucker has been crashing ever since.

I think this is a great example of how powerful counter-trend bear market rallies can be within ongoing secular moves. So far this one is up over 50%.

I hope this sheds some light on all of the different time frames and ratios that we look at for Gold. There are obviously some more of them (silver/gold, gold/S&Ps, etc) but we could be here all day. These are a few of the ones that I think are worth pointed out right now.


Related Posts:

Metals vs Miners (Jan 24, 2013)

Will Platinum Start to Outperform Gold? (December 4, 2012)

Why Do We Need Gold Stocks (August 3, 2012)

Decision Time For Gold is Quickly Approaching (July 29, 2012)

Talking Gold & Silver With Jeff Macke (Jan 4, 2012)



I Don’t Know

You see how easy that was?

Why is it that we don’t hear that more often?

There’s this belief out there that as market participants we always need to have an opinion on everything. Is it a buy, sell or hold? Tell me now, right now. Oh ok, you don’t know? How about gun to your head – what do you do? Buy or Sell? Hurry up, there’s a gun to your head!

What’s wrong with I don’t know?

Readers of the blog know how obnoxiously bullish I was last summer (see here and here). And I wasn’t going to apologize for it either. The pessimism was getting to the point where it was actually upsetting me. But now that markets are at all time highs, people forget the list of reasons to run away from stocks. It’s only after the 10% corrections that the headlines become that scary. Check out this hilarious list of stuff that dominated the news last summer.

At the time, things were clear to me as far as US Equities were concerned. Pessimism was high, the right sectors were leading, the right ones were struggling. The right currencies were bottoming and the right ones were topping. Seasonality cycles were in our favor. Metals were acting well, etc etc.

But these days, we’re all over the place. Europe has been getting crushed. China and some other emerging markets slaughtered. US stocks, not so much, but they are showing signs of weakening. Treasuries are wishy-washy. The easy trade is to short them, but price says otherwise. The Dollar is making 5-month highs, but has it gone too far too fast? Tech has been struggling and under-performing all year. Apple, America’s favorite stock continues to disgust. So is it wrong to say I don’t know?

Not to me it isn’t.

It actually feels pretty good. You should try it some time.

And it’s all about time frames. I have my thoughts about the bigger picture. But the market doesn’t care what I think. I need to worry about where to allocate and how to manage my risk now. I can’t afford a 50% draw-down like many “long-term investors” suffered a few years ago. That’s unacceptable to me. I need to manage risk real time. Not wait until thing get hairy to start to worry. Proactive, not reactive right?

So when we’re in these situations, and they’ve come in the past and I promise you will come again, we just get much smaller and look to other less-correlated areas. It’s okay to do that. You don’t always have to be leveraged long or leveraged short stocks no matter what, even if you don’t have a clue what’s going to happen. That’s how you get crushed in this market. By guessing.

According Ted Williams, the first rule for good hitting is to get a good ball to hit. He didn’t say to swing at all of them as hard as you can so eventually you’ll hit one really far. His advice was to wait for your pitch. He said, “A good hitter can hit a pitch in a good spot three times better than a great hitter can hit a ball in a questionable spot.” And it’s true. Common sense even. So why should it be any different in capital markets.

If you don’t love the pitch, don’t swing at it. But if you feel really confident putting on a position because all of the stars are aligned: seasonality, momentum, polarity, interemarket relationships, sentiment….go for it. Crush it. Win or lose, would you make the trade again? If the answer is an easy yes, then you did the right thing.

But to look back at a past trade and have to say to yourself, “damn I shouldn’t have put that one on, I was just bored”, well then you probably shouldn’t have put it on. You should’ve done some push-ups or grabbed a sandwich or something instead. It would have been cheaper and maybe saved yourself a headache.

These markets trade, what, 252 or so days out of the year? Do we always need to have a strong opinion? Do we always have to love the pitch? Do we always need to be leveraged long or leveraged short?

The stars will align again. The fat pitch will come. They always do.

And when it does, you better have your chips stacked high enough to participate to the fullest extent possible.

That’s how I see things at least….



Bearish Divergence Developing in S&Ps

It looks to me like the US Stock market is finally joining this Bearish Divergence party that we’ve seen throughout Europe this year. I think this is a development that is definitely worth paying attention to. You see, when prices in a given asset class make new highs, we also want to see momentum putting in higher highs. When momentum diverges, it’s a heads up that something isn’t right. Think about it, when you throw a tennis ball up in the air, momentum in the speed of the ball is going to slow before it eventually hits its peak and reverses right? Same thing in markets.

In our case, we use the Relative Strength Index (RSI) as our momentum indicator of choice. We saw this oscillator diverge out in Europe throughout January, and we’re currently watching the consequences. The EuroStoxx50 is down over 8% for February. Italy is down over 13% from its January highs, Spain is off more than 10%, and even the “quality”, Germany and France, came off 6% and 7% respectively. All of these following bearish divergences between price and momentum.

Now we’re seeing this develop in the US. Take a look at RSI this week make a much lower high as prices started the week off with fresh highs before rolling over. The divergence is clear and is a major warning sign for us.

2-22-13 SPX

We’re also seeing this development in a few of the other averages. Here are the Midcaps and Transports as two more quick examples:

2-22-13 MDY

2-22-13 DJT

I think it’s important to point out that this is happening. Last summer we saw the complete opposite occurring. Prices in S&Ps were making new lows into early June while RSI was putting in a higher low. While everyone was worried about Europe splitting up and the S&P500 breaking below the 200 day moving average, momentum was telling us that things were much better than the headlines would represent. In fact, Oil and Precious Metals were putting in Bullish Divergences as well. So I think it’s only fair that we mention the bearish side of it now.


Also see:

Bullish Divergence in Silver (August 14, 2012)

Bullish Divergence in Crude Oil – Bloomberg Radio (June 19, 2012)

Bullish Divergence in Euro, Bearish Divergence in US Dollar (July 17, 2012)


Consensus Is A Shallow Pullback

Everyday I speak with investors from all walks of life: hedge fund managers, stock brokers, retail investors, high net-worths, buddies both in and out of the industry, etc. There seems to be this ongoing consensus that the inevitable stock market pullback is going to be just that, a pullback. In fact, everyone is sure of it.

From an investment psychology perspective, this worries me. Remember, when everyone is so sure of something, it typically pays to at least consider the alternative. What if this is not just a pullback?

Every day I walk into work and ask myself some simple questions: What’s the last thing that I expect to happen? More importantly, what’s the last thing that my fellow market participants expect to happen? In this case, I think the clear answer is a bigger, deeper correction. This is just an observation of course, but it’s what I’m thinking.

Now, from a portfolio management perspective, this doesn’t change anything we’re going to do today or tomorrow or even next week. But philosophically, I think it’s prudent to keep this in mind.

Being from Miami and watching so many people brainwashed into thinking that Real Estate would always go up in value was fascinating. Everyone knew that housing was a good investment. I was mocked at the time for not participating. A more recent example was the Apple bubble. Late last summer I couldn’t think of a single person that didn’t know that AAPL was going higher.

So do we short everything and not cover until S&Ps are down 40%? No. But I do think it’s worth pointing out that the consensus seems to be that this will be a shallow pullback. We’re at least considering the possibility that it isn’t. There’s no harm in that. The foul would be not to.


British Pound Sterling Looks Ugly

Have you guys been watching this thing? What a train wreck. We always say that the more times a level is tested, the higher the likelihood that it breaks. And the Pound against the US Dollar, or Cable, is down to the same support level since 2010 for the 6th time. Count them – six times. It’s rare to see something test the same support (or resistance) this many times. Check it out:

2-20-13 GBPUSD

The psychology behind this is pretty simple. There are buyers surrounding this 153 area, or there have been at least. For whatever reason, the buyers stepped in to buy in September of 2010. After a brief rally, the market corrected once again and the buyers came back at the same 153 and change level. Fast forward almost a year and the buyers came back. And back again a few months later for the 4th time. And again last June for the 5th time.

There comes a point where anyone willing to buy down here at this price will have already bought. The more times the level is tested, the less and less buyers that are left to buy. Now that we’re here at test number 6, it just seem inevitable to me that it breaks.

Could we get a little bounce here before the buyers completely dry up? Sure. But I would be surprised if this thing didn’t crack soon…

Also make sure you check out the Pound against the Euro. Interesting action there as well.



Don’t Forget About That Energy Breakout

A little bit over a month ago we pointed to the high likelihood of Energy breaking out on a relative basis. That consolidation that we had seen since September was just too tight and too clean for us to ignore. In addition, momentum as measured by RSI hadn’t reached oversold conditions since mid-summer. These bullish characteristics signaled to us that a breakout was probably coming.

Since then, we have seen $XLE relative to the S&P500 get above its downtrend line and hold above what are now rising 50 and 200 day moving averages (blue & red dotted lines). At this point, the price action is flirting with the September highs and remains in full fledged bull mode:

2-19-13 XLE vs SPY

We continue to think that this is in the beginning stages of a bigger shift towards Energy. Remember that this space had been underperforming for 2 years. This is no joke, we’re talking about energy here – not 3D printers and rare earth metals. These Energy names are some of the largest companies on the planet.

So keep these guys on your radar – Exxon Mobil ($XOM), Chevron ($CVX), Conoco ($COP). I don’t think this is over. And $OIH – the Oil Services Sector is doing something similar – Schlumberger ($SLB), Halliburton ($HAL), Transocean ($RIG). It looks to me like the relative outperformance is probably just getting going.


Also See:

Time For A Relative Breakout In Energy? (Jan 15, 2013)


Why Does Technical Analysis Matter?

Last summer I was having dinner with an old friend that I hadn’t spoken to in some time. I moved to the northeast at age 18 and he stayed down in Miami. Although we grew up playing baseball together, it’s impossible to keep up with everyone. So it was really nice catching up after all these years. As it turns out, he currently works at fund that doesn’t incorporate any technical analysis into their decision making. His exact words were, “we try to ignore price action as much as we can”.

I almost spit my food out when he said that. But he couldn’t have been more serious.

Over the weekend I was reading an article in Forbes that reminded me of that dinner. It was written by Michael Kahn in April of 2010. As usual, Kahn does a nice job clearing up misconceptions and detailing some of the advantages of technical analysis. Here are a few of my favorite bullet points:

  • Technical analysis is a bit of a misnomer since it is really not that technical. A better name for the use of charts to make investment decisions might be risk/reward analysis or even market psychology. Sure, there are some complex mathematical concepts involved with some of its more esoteric indicators. But at its core, technical analysis is simply a method of determining if a stock or the market as a whole is worth buying or selling. Once we identify this we are way ahead of the game with regard to assembling a winning portfolio.
  • Simply stated, technical analysis is the study of data generated from the market and from the actions of people in the market. Such data includes price levels that have served as turning points in the past, the amounts of stock being bought and sold each day (volume), and the rate of change of price movements (momentum) over a given span of time.
  • Technical analysis also attempts to measure the collective investor psyche, calling heavily on the psychology of crowds and the cycle of greed and fear. If everyone thinks one way, the odds that the market thinks the other are usually high. Was investor sentiment ever as negative as it was in March 2009 when the market put in a very important bottom?
  • Contrast that to the more ephemeral fundamental analysis, the standard analytical backbone of Wall Street for several generations. Fundamental analysis, which seeks to uncover the intrinsic or true value of a stock, is dependent on future sales, earnings and cost estimates of a company being studied. Often, these numbers change as circumstances, such as the status of the overall economy or the competitive landscape for a company, change.
  • By contrast, the inputs of technical analysis–the price of shares and the volume being sold–never change after the fact. Charts are never revised later. Critics will point out that forecasting future price movement based on past price movement is akin to reading tea leaves or divining the future from the textures of chicken entrails. Many of the high priests of fundamental analysis are quick to call technical analysis the financial world’s alchemy. Indeed, chart watchers cannot predict the future any better than your broker, your spouse or a Ouija board. But what they can do better than most is make a decision about what to do–buy, sell or hold–based on the probabilities of the actions of others given certain conditions. In other words, if a pattern on the chart appears, a chart watcher can create a framework for what the market might do if and when prices break free from that pattern. It does not work every time, but past performance does give us an idea of what will happen so we can do something about it.
  • Something chart watchers keep pasted to their computer screens is a sticky note that says. “All big losses begin as small losses.” When the initial reason for buying is gone, we do not hang around hoping the stock will go back up. Hope is a four-letter word in the world of investing.

All of this is great. But I think the most important aspect about what we do is the Risk Management. This, to me, is the most under-appreciated piece of the puzzle. We’re not trying to make outrageous predictions about the future. We’re looking at price and market behavior to manage risk. That’s it. I don’t know how it would be possible to do that without looking at price.



Why Technical Analysis Matters (Forbes)