In this month's post, we will try to answer the nagging question on so many minds today. Is this a new bull market or just a big bear market bounce?
Let's start with a bit of a primer on how we view markets. First, we are a technical shop. Yes, we look at some fundamental data (example, sequential GDP growth or decline), however we also believe the charts reflect all known information at any point in time from a fundamental perspective.
We use monthly charts the same way you might use a Google Maps satellite view to see the big picture on an area. Can you tell where this is?
We use weekly charts to determine trend or the intermediate term direction of the markets as reflected, below, for Apple Inc. and Sears Holdings Corp.
As you can see in our examples above, Apple is still in an uptrend. Sears (right) is still in a downtrend despite the recent bounce.
Finally, we use daily charts to determine short-term buy or sell timing and overbought or oversold conditions that could lead to market strength or weakness.
We will come back to this chart later for a deeper dive.
Is this a new bull market or just a big bear market bounce?
The short answer is that no one knows for sure. I could make the case that we could see a significant rally from here to new highs. Not necessarily as the start of a new bull market but as a final blow off top.
I can also make the case that this is just a bounce in a consolidation range that will eventually move higher or lower from the range. This is the case I will show you today and that seems to make the most sense to me now..
Since we are now in year ten of an economic expansion, typically you would assume the next move would be down, but in this managed economy anything is possible!
The big picture
The big picture is simple: We have entered a period of consolidation in the markets where it will trade in a large range or we are in a bear market. That is it. There are no other options!
That is not to say we cannot eventually leave this consolidation range and enter a new bull phase, but right now we just don't have the visual evidence to make that proclamation.
Let's take a closer look at the monthly S&P 500 index chart to see why I make this statement.
Notice how on this monthly chart, the last several times the lower MACD histogram (in blue) fell below its zero line, it either meant a consolidation phase as in 2015-2016 or a full blown bear market in stocks as in 2007-2008. It has never ever been anything else.
If you go back in history as far as we can chart, you only see these same two choices: consolidation or bear market. So we can narrow all options to these two things. It is not a new bull market as some would like you to believe, at least not yet.
I also want to point out that it is not uncommon to see a move down and then get a large bounce like we have seen in 2019. You can see a number of historical large bounces following the MACD histogram crossing its zero line to the downside such as in 2015, 2008 and even 2000 after that initial leg or move down.
If we follow the script from 2015-2016, we will likely test the prior highs and then retest the 2018 lows in a large vacillating range until we break either higher or lower from the range.
If we follow the 2007-2008 script, this bounce in the markets will eventually lead to lower equity prices as the bear market really gets rolling.
So which is it? Lets focus on some shorter term charts to see if we can find an answer.
The Trend is Your Friend!
Traders have sayings like "the trend is your friend" or "don't fight the trend." It is true, it is very tough to make money when you are not aligned with the trend.
So what is the trend of the markets?
Below, we see a weekly chart of the S&P 500 index. What it shows is that we are in a bullish or upward trend on intermediate term basis.
A couple of interest points:
1) We are very overbought. The candle that formed at the end of last week can be a reversal candle (called a Doji in Japanese Candlestick trading) and I would not be surprised to see us finally pull back and give up some gains here. We have drawn out this possible pullback in blue dotted lines to the right of the actual market data.
2) When the lower chart window MACD histogram moves above its zero line, we typically have at least one thrust higher, followed by a pullback and a final thrust higher. You see this visually in the histogram forming several humps as I call it with a lower dip in between when it is above the zero line. It is possible that is what is happening here and that might portend a retest of the 2018 highs also drawn in the blue dotted line.
3) The big question in our minds is "what happens as we approach the old highs?" Obviously, there are two choices: 1) we break to new highs or 2) we bounce lower from without making new highs. At this point, no one knows what will happen if we retest the 2018 highs.
How do I know the market is not going to just take a nose dive and move substantially lower when it starts to correct? First, most market participants seem much more comfortable that I relying on Central Banks for direction and at the moment they are telling us all is fine! Second, the black and red moving averages that surround the MACD indicator at the bottom of the chart are still widening. If they were ready to cross that might be a whole different scenario! A widening set of MACD moving averages generally mean there is continued upside in the stock or index.
The Short Term View
Finally, let's take a short-term market view. Again we will focus on the broad S&P 500 equity index.
Let's go back to the chart I showed you at the beginning of this post and let's notice a couple of things that might point to the market's next short-term move.
First, we have reached the next area of resistance (in yellow) where prior market moves have stalled. So far we appear to be stalling here as well.
Second, Friday's price candle did a common retest of the prior day's highs and also is reflecting a possible reversal candle know as a Doji in Japanese candlestick trading.
A word of caution, this market has already taken out level after level of what we call resistance getting to Friday's close, it could do so again. Also, this market is really being driven by Central Bank liquidity, U.S. China trade news and corporate share buybacks so it may not heed traditional technical levels depending on what is said, agreed to or implemented in the coming days by those aforementioned Central Bankers or our elected officials in Washington.
However, at this time, we believe there is a chance the markets pull back here. If you were to ask for a price target for the pullback, I would guess that we might hit the bottom of the risk range at 2700 before we bounce higher.
The U.S. markets appear to be in a period of consolidation at present. We would expect it to move within a large trading range from the December lows to the November 2018 highs.
They will eventually exit the range and this will either start a bear market move lower or the next bull market leg. If it is the latter, it will probably be a historical blow off to the upside leg that could mean big profits on the way up.
On an intermediate and short term basis, we expect the markets to pull back and then move higher, eventually retesting the prior November 2018 highs. Whether it then breaks to new highs or rolls over and retests the December 2018 lows at that point is really anybody's guess. I would tend to thing the latter, but in this managed market anything is possible.
I hope this has helped you see the markets over three different time periods.
I would love to hear your comments and feedback. Was this too much information or too technical? Did you enjoy it? Do you differ in your perspective? Feel free to leave a comment below.
3/4/2019 10:17:51 am
Thanks Jeff. Always informative. Does politics play a role in your market exposure. For instance it seems like the markets will get a boost based on the pending trade deal with China. Would you try and capture that boost?
Great question Stacy! Politics unfortunately are one of the three non-earnings related drivers of this market at present along with the Central Banks and corporate stock buy-backs.
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