Below is my extended interview with best-selling author and trader Toni Turner, who gave me a few insights into the current market environment. She is the author of A Beginner’s Guide to Day Trading Online, A Beginner’s Guide to Short-term Trading(2nd Edition), and Short-term trading in the New Stock Market, to name a few.
Q. What stocks do you study?
Turner: When I’m watching market action, I go through the nine sectors of the S&P 500. I always keep an eye out for sector movement and key industry groups like telecommunications and transportation. I watch these closely as well as the three major indices, which I also watch on weekly and monthly charts, as well as intraday. Often you see patterns on the long term charts that you can’t see intraday.
Q. Do you have a favorite indicator?
Turner: One indicator I use is Average True Range (ATR), which I use on the major indices. When the ATR starts to rise, and when the candlesticks get wider and wider, it means there is more concern and indecision. This year, much of the volatility started with the rebellion in Egypt and went through the spring months. Even though the market was rising, each weekly candle was getting wider and wider. That means the bulls can push the market higher, but the bears can also push it lower.
Q: Don’t traders like volatility?
Turner: We do like volatility but when it turns on a dime, you have to question how you can maintain a bullish or bearish bias. You want volatility, but you want the kind of volatility that makes sense. Currently, all it takes is one phone call between Sarkozy and other world leaders and the market can make a U-turn. My strategy is to establish the boss du jour. During all trading time periods, there is always a boss du jour. There is something that is leading the market; of course, in the case of the U.S. dollar, it might push the market in an inverse direction.
Q: What about right now?
Turner: You always want to identify the boss or whatever market or instrument is leading our financial markets. Right now the euro is the boss du jour. It is having a rough time. On most days, if the euro heads south, the market is going down. I have seen times when oil is the leader, and often it’s the S&P 500 or Dow futures. When there is this much uncertainty in the market, it creates a tremendous amount of volatility, and it’s difficult to play. It’s total uncertainty. It’s a headline-driven market, not driven by fundamentals based on a sound economy. It isn’t sound.
Q: What do you see on the chart?
Turner: Basic technical analysis teaches you how to identify confusion, which we identify by calling it congestion on a chart. Congestion on a chart, especially on a daily chart, is a series of stops and starts, and gap ups and downs. Right now we are witnessing the kind of congestion on stocks that are normally docile. For example, consumer and utility stocks such as Procter and Gamble, Wal-Mart, and Phillip Morris are acting like a kangaroo on speed. Normally, many of these defensive sectors are a yawn. Now, though, some of the most orderly value stocks are rising and falling like growth stocks, which make you wonder what is going on.
Q. Have you seen this before?
Turner: For many stocks, I can’t relate their current disorderly patterns to any recent period in history, possibly with the exception of 2008. Even in usual docile utility stocks, you can see mass confusion.
Q. What advice would you give to investors?
Turner: If you are an investor that is bottom picking, don’t buy an overpriced growth stock with bad fundamentals. I know that hedge funds are waiting to sell them short if there is a market downturn. Check the fundamentals like the P/E ratio, debt ratios, and earnings. If we get another downturn and you’re in a high-flying stock that was bid-up by traders, the hedge funds will come in and short the heck out of it. You might want to look at value stocks rather than growth stocks because value stocks don’t get as hammered as growth stocks in a downturn.
Q. What patterns do you see on a chart?
Turner: Right now in many stocks, I see a bear flag pattern formed of wide candles and big gaps. It tells me that traders are totally confused. The long, wide volatile candles on the S&P is also indicating there is no agreement since the first part of August as to where the market should go. It’s indecision. Perhaps experienced day traders might fare well in this market environment — if you pick the right stocks and catch an upswing or downswing. Experienced traders can make profits, but for most traders, standing aside is the best idea. Again, I think this headline-driven market is difficult for most people.
Q. Any final advice?
Turner: Out of all this chaos comes order. If you’re wise and don’t try to outsmart the market, and stay in cash right now, you’ll have money to trade when the market starts to go your way again.
Note: You can read more about Toni Turner at her website, http://bit.ly/Tseud