Bull or Bear Market? (Week of March 31)

Each weekend, I analyze market conditions using sentiment and technical indicators. The goal is to use clues and indicators to determine if we are in a bullish, bearish, or sideways market environment.*

JUST RELEASED: Understanding Options (McGraw-Hill, 2E) and Understanding Stocks (McGraw-Hill, 2E): http://bit.ly/1bl0ZNk

My book, Predict the Next Bull or Bear Market and Win (Adams Media), comes out in May.

 

AAII survey (3/26/2014)

31.2% Bullish. 28.6% Bearish.wait

Bearish: If sentiment is over 50% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 50% bearish.

 

Investor’s Intelligence (3/25/2014)

54.7% Bullish. 17.5% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 60% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 60% bearish.

 

CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio: .64

Bearish: Less than or near .50 is bearish (more call options are being bought).

Bullish: Higher than or near 1.0 is bullish (more put options are being bought)

 

VIX: 14.41 (on 3/28/2014)

Bearish: Less than or near 12.

Bullish: Greater than or near 40.
Moving Averages (daily): S&P 500 is above its 50-day moving average, but pointing down. Nasdaq is below its 50-day moving average and pointing down

Bearish (Downtrend): Index crosses below 50-, 100-, or 200-day MA.

Bullish (Uptrend): Index crosses over 50-day, 100-day, and 200-day MA.

 

MACD: MACD is above zero line, but below its red 9-day signal line. (Note: I’m using the settings, 19,39,9, recommended by Gerald Appel, MACD’s creator.)

Bearish: MACD line crosses below 9-day (red or gray) signal line. MACD line (black line) crosses below zero line.

Bullish: MACD line crosses above 9-day signal line. MACD line crosses above zero line.

 

RSI: RSI is at 51.86 (on 3/28/2014)

Overbought: When RSI rises to 70 or above.

Oversold: When RSI falls to 30 or below.

Note: RSI can remain overbought or oversold for extended time periods.

 

Bonds: U.S. 10-year yield is at 2.71% (on 3/28/2014)

Note: 3.0% or higher is significant (consider selling bond funds as yield rises). 3.5% or higher and risk increases (for bondholders).

 

Analysis: Once again, the sentiment indicators are not giving strong signals, although the difference in sentiment between financial writers and retail investors is remarkable. The financial writers are still extremely bullish while retail investors have lost some of their enthusiasm (although some sentiment indicators show higher retail enthusiasm) . On the technical side, the Nasdaq fell below its 50-day moving average thanks primarily to biotech. In fact, Nasdaq’s weekly loss was the worst since October 2012. In addition, the technical indicators from other indexes are pointing down (but haven’t broken through their 50-day moving averages). We will have to be patient to see if this is the beginning of a trend change or a temporary pullback.

Opinion: What a week! As I warned last week (and the week before), the market is in the danger zone. The intraday market reversals and late day selloffs were significant, especially as volume increased at the end of the day. All week, the market attempted to rally intraday, which was constantly met by stronger selling pressure. We will have to see if the other indexes follow theNasdaq, or if the Nasdaq recovers.

Hopefully, if you owned any of the highfliers like Tesla, Netlfix, and others, you have been scaling out. Take the profits if you have any in these overbought stocks. Many of these stocks have obscene valuations (over 150 P/E in some cases), and they are too risky to hold for much longer (in my opinion). The risk-reward isn’t favorable.

The only bright spot last week was emerging markets, which had its best one-week rally in many months. With all of the economic and political problems in the world, the market still rallied. Once again, we have to observe if the one-week rally is a true bottom or a bear market rally.

One of the most difficult jobs of a trader is to be patient. At this point, wise traders are on the sidelines with cash ready to pounce. My view is that after five years, the short side will be lucrative, but it’s still too early to commit completely. I have been testing and probing the short side (something I learned from reading Jesse Livermore) with small share sizes and options. Although some Nasdaq stocks are getting slammed, the S&P has not cracked yet.

Bottom line: According to the signals and clues, this market could go in either direction. Nevertheless, the high margin debt, the unwillingness by many to even imagine a bear market, the one-week breakdown in the Nasdaq, and those late day selloffs confirm the market is vulnerable right now. In addition, the accusation by author Michael Lewis that the stock market is rigged by high frequency traders is a development that must be watched. Perhaps one day the SEC will crack down on the unfair practices (but that could take years). And yet, although it’s tempting to commit to one side of the market or the other, it’s essential that you let the market be your guide (one of the reasons I am testing the market).

 

* Note: These signals are not actionable trades, but only guidelines. Always use other indicators, and your own research, to confirm before buying or selling.

Bull or Bear Market? (Week of March 24)

Each weekend, I analyze market conditions using sentiment and technical indicators. The goal is to determine if we are in a bullish, bearish, or sideways market environment. *

JUST RELEASED: Understanding Options (McGraw-Hill, 2E) and Understanding Stocks (McGraw-Hill, 2E): http://bit.ly/1bl0ZNk

My book, Predict the Next Bull or Bear Market and Win (Adams Media), comes out in May.

My latest MarketWatch article: http://on.mktw.net/1cCpJrV

 

AAII survey (3/19/2014)

36.8% Bullish. 26.1% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 50% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 50% bearish.

 

Investor’s Intelligence 3/18/2014)

52.0% Bullish. 17.4% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 60% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 60% bearish.

 

CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio: .55

Bearish: Less than or near .50 is bearish (more call options are being bought).

Bullish: Higher than or near 1.0 is bullish (more put options are being bought)

 

VIX: 15.03 (on 3/21/2014)

Bearish: Less than or near 12.

Bullish: Greater than or near 40.

 

Moving Averages (daily): S&P 500 is above its 50-day moving average, its 100-day, and 200-day MA, but pointing down

Bearish (Downtrend): Index crosses below 50-, 100-, or 200-day MA.

Bullish (Uptrend): Index crosses over 50-day, 100-day, and 200-day MA.

 

MACD: MACD is above zero line, but even with its red 9-day signal line. (Note: I’m using the settings, 19,39,9, recommended by Gerald Appel, MACD’s creator.)

Bearish: MACD line crosses below 9-day (red or gray) signal line. MACD line (black line) crosses below zero line.

Bullish: MACD line crosses above 9-day signal line. MACD line crosses above zero line.

 

RSI: RSI is at 55.87 (on 3/21/2014)

Overbought: When RSI rises to 70 or above.

Oversold: When RSI falls to 30 or below.

Note: RSI can remain overbought or oversold for extended time periods.

 

Bonds: U.S. 10-year yield is at 2.75% (on 3/21/2014)

Note: 3.0% or higher is significant (consider selling bond funds as yield rises). 3.5% or higher and risk increases (for bondholders).

 

Analysis: Just like last week, many of the technical indicators and sentiment indicators are not giving strong signals. In fact, if you study the indicators, they are saying the market could go in either direction. Nevertheless, if you dig a little deeper, you will detect ominous signs. Commodities have been hit hard (copper is the latest), biotechs were taken to the woodshed on Friday and smashed, and the market made a dramatic intraday reversal (the Dow was up 130 but ended down 28). That intraday reversal was an interesting clue, although it’s too early to say if it’s significant (perhaps traders didn’t want to hold over the weekend and sold). Other worrisome clues are the large number of IPOs set to go public and the high margin debt (at an all-time historic high). In summary, the market is still in the danger zone.

Opinion: In my upcoming book, Predict the Next Bull or Bear Market and Win (Adams Media), I discuss that detecting a trend change is essential for traders and investors. I discuss the clues and indicators that help you to identify those changes. Last week, the market acted irrationally. The market appeared to rally early in the week based on a chance that Janet was going to be more dovish than Ben. After Janet spoke, the market sold off, recovered, and sold off again. These are all red flags. In my opinion, this topsy-turvy, unpredictable market is a clue that something big is headed our way, but I don’t know what. As a market observer, it confirms the market is getting more dangerous every day.

I have spoken to a number of professional traders who are sitting this market out. Many short-sellers are patiently waiting for a better opportunity to short. And those who want to go long are also waiting for better opportunities. In other words, there is nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines in cash, waiting for the market to reveal its hand.

There are those who disagree with sitting on the sidelines. In their opinion, you should always be 100 percent invested in the market at all times. I disagree. There are times when the most prudent choice is to sit and patiently wait for an opportunity to pounce. I believe this is one of those times. To be patient while waiting for the right opportunity is difficult for most people. During those times, Jesse Livermore used to go fishing until he was certain he was right. At the moment, nothing is clear, although many people are sure they know what the market will do next. No one knows!

If you are heavily invested in the stock market, I’m not suggesting that you sell everything and move to cash. I am saying, however, that it’s a good time to review what you own, discuss it with your brokerage firm or money manager, and be sure you are protected in case the market does fall in the future (one day it will). Only you can decide how much risk you are willing to take. (Warning: If you own any of the high-fliers such as Tesla or Priceline, you’re at risk. You’re also at risk if you are buying stocks on margin.)

Over the next few weeks, we should have a better idea where this market is headed. It’s possible it will rise well above its all time highs (maybe even go parabolic). Money managers a lot smarter than me believe that is exactly what is going to happen, and it could. On the other hand, if more red flags appear (intraday reversals to the downside, continued selloff in commodities, a failure for market to rise above its previous high, and market leaders selling off), then I will be more confident this current uptrend is ending.

Bottom line: Long or short, this market is unpredictable right now. Be on the lookout for danger signs and red flags. (I’m watching emerging markets and the bond market (i.e. interest rates) for clues).

 

* Note: These signals are not actionable trades, but only guidelines. Always use other indicators, and your own research, to confirm before buying or selling.

Bull or Bear Market? (Week of March 17)

Each weekend, I analyze market conditions using sentiment and technical indicators. The goal is to determine if we are in a bullish, bearish, or sideways market environment. *

JUST RELEASED: Understanding Options (McGraw-Hill, 2E) and Understanding Stocks (McGraw-Hill, 2E): http://bit.ly/1bl0ZNk

My book, Predict the Next Bull or Bear Market and Win (Adams Media), comes out in May.

My latest MarketWatch article: http://on.mktw.net/1cCpJrV

 

AAII survey (3/12/2014)

41.3% Bullish. 26.8% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 50% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 50% bearish.

 

Investor’s Intelligence 3/11/2014)

55.1% Bullish. 17.4% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 60% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 60% bearish.

 

CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio: .69

Bearish: Less than or near .50 is bearish (more call options are being bought).

Bullish: Higher than or near 1.0 is bullish (more put options are being bought)

 

VIX: 17.82 (on 3/14/2014)

Bearish: Less than or near 12.

Bullish: Greater than or near 40.

 

Moving Averages (daily): S&P 500 is pointing down although slightly above its 50-day moving average, its 100-day, and 200-day MA. Dow is below its 50-day moving average.

Bearish (Downtrend): Index crosses below 50-, 100-, or 200-day MA.

Bullish (Uptrend): Index crosses over 50-day, 100-day, and 200-day MA.

 

MACD: MACD is above zero line, below its red 9-day signal line, and pointing down. (Note: I’m using the settings, 19,39,9, recommended by Gerald Appel, MACD’s creator.)

Bearish: MACD line crosses below 9-day (red or gray) signal line. MACD line (black line) crosses below zero line.

Bullish: MACD line crosses above 9-day signal line. MACD line crosses above zero line.

 

RSI: RSI is at 48.18 (on 3/14/2014)

Overbought: When RSI rises to 70 or above.

Oversold: When RSI falls to 30 or below.

Note: RSI can remain overbought or oversold for extended time periods.

 

Bonds: U.S. 10-year yield is at 2.64% (on 3/14/2014)

Note: 3.0% or higher is significant (consider selling bond funds as yield rises). 3.5% or higher and risk increases (for bondholders).

 

Analysis: The technical indicators took a turn for the worse last week, especially MACD, which turned down. The S&P 500 is still above its 50-day moving average but is pointing down. Keep in mind that in a volatile market, moving averages aren’t as effective (they are most effective in a trending market). Sentiment indicators are still a bit frothy, but not as extreme as the week before (because of the market pullback). Beginning tomorrow, outside events such as Ukraine and the Fed will trump the indicators. Bottom line: Anything is possible so be prepared.

Opinion: As I wrote in this blog last week, the market is in the danger zone. Although the technical indicators were pointing up, there were other clues (such as frothy sentiment indicators) that reflected excessive bullishness.

As you may know, I wrote a column for MarketWatch (link above) about the reasons this bull market is coming to an end (or could be topping out). After I wrote the column, the Nasdaq suffered the worst weekly decline since April 2013, and other indexes got hit hard.

Although no one can call the exact top or bottom, it is possible to recognize a dangerous market using clues and indicators. Not surprisingly, several individuals and at least one money manager mocked the idea the bull market might end. In my opinion, it is a mistake to not plan and prepare for a correction, pullback, or bear market. Yes, the market has an upward bias, but that doesn’t mean there will always be a bull market. Perpetually bullish money managers and investors who believe the market goes up forever will eventually learn another 2008 lesson. If you are going to participate in the market, be open to any possibility.

As for me, I’d rather be cautious than blindly bullish like so many on Wall Street. To not even entertain the possibility the market is or could get dangerous is ridiculous. For example, to urge investors to buy emerging market dips is even more foolish. I know that buying on the dip worked in the past (it works in a bull market), but not when EM is struggling (suggestion: wait until EM stops falling).

Once again, the U.S. market begins the week in the danger zone. With Russia and Ukraine looming in the background, and unusual financial events coming from China and emerging markets, this should be another volatile week.

Nevertheless, it’s possible that Janet and the Fed will light the market on fire. Based on previous Fed meetings, if the market sells off early in the week, investors and traders will be looking for any reason to buy. Perception is everything: If investors perceive that Janet is going to save them, the market could rally even with all of the negative news coming from so many directions.

Bottom line: Fasten your seatbelts because the odds are good this market is going to take us on a rocky ride.

 

* Note: These signals are not actionable trades, but only guidelines. Always use other indicators, and your own research, to confirm before buying or selling.

7 signs we’re near a market top, and what to do now

Opinion: Wall Street is reliving the 1960s — but the ‘Go-Go’ era is ending

Remember March 4, 2014 — a day that will go down in Wall Street history as the beginning of the end for this latest bull market, which is about to celebrate its fifth birthday.

On March 4, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 227 points based on a report that Russian troops were pulling back from Ukraine’s border. This “news” lit the market on fire, a sign that the market is heading into a mania stage where it doesn’t take much to boost stocks.

Indeed, nowadays instead of the “Nifty Fifty” stocks that defined the late 1960s market, we have the likes of Facebook, Tesla Motors, and Chipotle Mexican Grill — the new new things.

Can the market go higher? Sure, although the higher it goes, the more dangerous it becomes. Often, during the latter stages of a bull market, the market separates itself from reality and appears to be on another planet.

Such red flags are everywhere:

1. Retail investors have been pouring money into stock mutual funds.
The fear of missing out on the sixth year of a bull market has created something close to a buying panic. Although not as maniacal as we saw in 1999, the stock cheerleaders are back and rooting for their stocks and mutual funds to go higher — just like they always do before a crash or bear market.

2. The Investor’s Intelligence survey is concerning.
The closely watched II survey shows a low proportion of bears (less than 20%), which some have pointed out is the lowest proportion since just before the 1987 crash.

3. Sentiment indicators are pessimistic.
The VIX, the put-call ratio and other major sentiment indicators suggest that investors and traders are getting complacent. Apparently, market participants believe that the Fed, or their fund manager, will protect them in a worst-case scenario.

4. Fundamentals are being ignored.
Obscenely high P/E ratios are passed over, along with soft economic readings (i.e. GDP and ISM). When the fundamentals are weaker than expected, the weather is blamed.

5. The stock market crash of 2008 has been forgotten.
Investors forget, but the market never does. Those who do not heed the lessons of the past will once again learn a painful lesson.

6. The Nasdaq is soaring.
The three-year chart of the Nasdaq has gone nearly parabolic, hitting a 14-year high of 4,351 on March 4. It’s the Go-Go years all over again. (And that late 1960s bull market ended with the 1973-74 bear market.)

7. Fear and greed are taking over.
When the market reaches the tipping point (and we’re getting closer), investors and traders buy “ATM” (anything that moves). The fear of missing out causes a buying panic.

What to do now:

There have been numerous crash predictions over the last five years. As a result, many investors have closed their ears, and who can blame them? The market has ignored the warnings and continued to go up. One thing about crashes: They can’t be predicted (but it won’t stop people from trying). However, it is possible to recognize a dangerous market, which is what we have now.

The market is wearing no clothes

Just like the emperor, the market is wearing no clothes. Right now, many people see only what they want to believe. It’s been a long time since investors felt full-throated fear, and many have forgotten what it feels like. The panic to buy will be replaced by the urgency to get out at any price. No one can know what will cause perceptions to change, but they will.

At the moment, emerging markets are in deep trouble, and what is happening in Ukraine didn’t help. Nevertheless, the CEOs of several major brokerage firms have urged investors to “go long” emerging markets because they are so “cheap.” Once again, these well-educated salesmen are wrong. Emerging markets will recover one day, but not soon. Urging investors to buy on the dip is disgraceful.

Sit and wait?

If we are in the mini-mania stage of the bull market, the market will continue to go higher based on rumors, hope, and greed. Sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the bull market to top out takes tremendous discipline. Trying to capture that final 5% can be costly if you get the timing wrong (and most people do). Be prepared for increased volatility as we get closer to the end.

Of course, it’s not easy to sit on the sidelines when everyone else seems to be making money. Although many investors are dreaming of another 30% return this year, the odds are good that it will be a difficult year. Yes, during a mania stage anything is possible, but with each passing week, the clock is ticking.

Those who have studied market history have seen this story before, and the ending is always the same. No matter how many warnings you give, no many how you urge people to avoid buying the speculative Go-Go stocks and move to the sidelines, few listen until it is too late.

Michael Sincere’s newest books, “Understanding Options” (2nd Edition) and “Understanding Stocks” (2nd Edition) have just been released by McGraw-Hill. Sincere’s website (www.michaelsincere.com) uses indicators and clues to determine if stocks are in a bull or bear market.

Bull or bear market? (Week of March 10)

Each weekend, I analyze market conditions using sentiment and technical indicators. The goal is to determine if we are in a bullish, bearish, or sideways market environment. *

JUST RELEASED: Understanding Options (McGraw-Hill, 2E) and Understanding Stocks (McGraw-Hill, 2E): http://bit.ly/1bl0ZNk

My book, Predict the Next Bull or Bear Market and Win (Adams Media), comes out in May.

My latest MarketWatch article: http://on.mktw.net/1cCpJrV

 

AAII survey (3/5/2014)

40.6 % Bullish. 26.6% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 50% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 50% bearish.

 

Investor’s Intelligence 3/4/2014)

54.6% Bullish. 15.1% Bearish.

Bearish: If sentiment is over 60% bullish.

Bullish: If sentiment is over 60% bearish.

 

CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio: .53

Bearish: Less than or near .50 is bearish (more call options are being bought).

Bullish: Higher than or near 1.0 is bullish (more put options are being bought)

 

VIX: 14.11 (on 3/7/2014)

Bearish: Less than or near 12.

Bullish: Greater than or near 40.

 

Moving Averages (daily): S&P 500 is above its 50-day moving average, its 100-day, and 200-day MA, and pointing up.

Bearish (Downtrend): Index crosses below 50-, 100-, or 200-day MA.

Bullish (Uptrend): Index crosses over 50-day, 100-day, and 200-day MA.

 

MACD: MACD is above zero line, above its red 9-day signal line, and pointing up. (Note: I’m using the settings, 19,39,9, recommended by Gerald Appel, MACD’s creator.)

Bearish: MACD line crosses below 9-day (red or gray) signal line. MACD line (black line) crosses below zero line.

Bullish: MACD line crosses above 9-day signal line. MACD line crosses above zero line.

 

RSI: RSI is at 66.40 (on 3/7/2014)

Overbought: When RSI rises to 70 or above.

Oversold: When RSI falls to 30 or below.

Note: RSI can remain overbought or oversold for extended time periods.

 

Bonds: U.S. 10-year yield is at 2.79% (on 3/7/2014)

Note: 3.0% or higher is significant (consider selling bond funds as yield rises). 3.5% or higher and risk increases (for bondholders).

 

Analysis: It feels like Groundhog Day. The technical indicators are still pointing up, so the uptrend continues. On the other hand, sentiment indicators are showing signs of exuberance, i.e. margin debt is rising and retail investors (and many pros) don’t believe a bear market is near. If you follow the trend, you are long. If you follow the trend and also study underlying market conditions, you see red flags (as I discussed in my latest MarketWatch article above).

Opinion: As I’ve warned repeatedly for several months, emerging markets are still vulnerable. Even though some major brokerage firms are recommending that you buy on the EM dip, I strongly disagree. One day EM will be a buy, but it’s not now.

The theory is that if emerging markets continue to weaken, investors will flock to the U.S. stock market. It’s a good theory but if things unravel quickly, I think that all markets will be punished, at least temporarily.

I’ve studied the market for many years and although it’s not as maniacal as in 1999 (or as insane as the real estate buying frenzy of 2005, 2006, and 2007), I see a lot of worrisome signs. Yes, the market could go higher from here, but the risks keep increasing.

After my MarketWatch article was published, there were over 500 comments. Some people were angry at me for warning investors that the market is dangerous. This anger is a clue. When too many investors refuse to even consider a bear market or correction is possible, that is a huge red flag.  The market does not go up forever.

In my next MarketWatch article, I will write some of the strategies that investors and traders should take when the market gets dangerous. If you’re an investor, start by talking with your financial advisor or brokerage firm. Be sure you are protected (as much as possible) in a worst-case scenario. Other steps include using protective put options (this strategy is not for everyone because puts can be expensive), being diversified, taking profits on occasion, sticking to index funds instead of individual stocks (but that depends on the stock).

Let me be clear: I cannot predict when the market has reached a top, or whether there will be a crash or correction. But I can recognize a dangerous market, and that’s what we have now. I have been cautious for some time but I also recognize that the uptrend is intact. It’s too risky to short the market (primarily because of the Fed), but it’s also risky to be 100 percent invested in equities. Each person has to find his or her comfort zone and risk tolerance. Some people can’t stand to lose out on a potential 5 or 10 percent upside. Others are willing to accept much lower returns but with less risk. Only you can decide what works for you.

Bottom line: Be prepared for another volatile week. Although the market begins the week with a slightly negative bias (because of world events), the uptrend is still intact. Nevertheless, I’m watching for clues that investor’s perceptions have changed (we’re not there yet).

 

* Note: These signals are not actionable trades, but only guidelines. Always use other indicators, and your own research, to confirm before buying or selling.