The Biggest Theory Shattered by Dow Theory

Ouch, that hurt! Dow Theory expert considered the bull market in tact right before the Dow Jones and Dow Jones Transportation average shed 10%. Here is one theory that Dow Theory just shattered.

The other day I stumbled upon this interesting piece of Dow Theory research by Bespoke Investment Group titled “Dow Theory Still Bullish.”

The bullish Dow Theory message was summarized as follows: “Many investors look for the Transports to lead the way, and the fact that it has done so well is a bullish sign for the major indices like the Dow and S&P 500, in our view.”

The analysis and the Dow Theory interpretation was not wrong per say, but the timing was terrible. The article was published on September 17, and followed by an 11% drop in the Dow Jones Transportation Average.

No indicator is perfect, but an outright bullish assessment or signal prior to a double-digit selloff is worth examining.

The chart below enhances the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Dow Jones Transportation average with a few simple trend lines.

The bold red Dow Jones trend line resistance was my personal up side target (shared with subscribers to the Profit Radar Report) since late July. In fact, the September 17 Profit Radar Report warned that:

The Dow and S&P are moving towards our targets and risk is rising.”

The ensuing selloff drew the Dow Jones Transportation Average well below a strong 2-year trend channel.

Although bearish, it wasn’t time to panic, because both averages confirmed the September 19 high. There was no bearish Dow Theory divergence at the top.

Dow Theory is the Grand Daddy of market trend analysis and I’m not about to discredit it, however, no indicator should ever be viewed in isolation.

Dow Theory still suggests the bull market is in tact – which harmonizes with my research – but that doesn’t mean investors need to accept a 10% drawdown.

The bounce from the October low brought the Dow Jones back up to key resistance (not shown on chart, resistance available to subscribers of the Profit Radar Report). A move above this resistance is needed to confirm this bounce.

As with any long-term indicator, additional indicators can be used to prune long-term portfolios via better-timed sells and buys.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013.

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Weekly ETF SPY: Dow Jones Transportation Average & Dow Theory

Dow Theory has been around for many decades and just triggered a confirmed buy signal. However, Dow Theory has had its struggle in the Fed manipulated market and the buy signal may not be as strong as it appears.

On Thursday the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) and the Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJT) reached an all-time high. According to Dow Theory, that’s a bullish confirmation.

Dow Theory has been around so long that it’s considered antiquated and outdated by many. Its roots go back as far as 1889 and start with a man named Charles Dow.

Dow started his career as an investigative reporter focused on business and finance. In 1885 Dow became a member of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1889 Dow began publishing a newspaper called the Wall Street Journal.

From 1899 to 1902 Dow published a series of editorials in his Wall Street Journal. Many asked him to compose a book made up of his editorials, but he didn’t. It was left up to others to continue Dow’s Theory and legacy.

Dow Theory students such as William Hamilton, Robert Rhea, George Schaefer, and Richard Russell kept the Dow Theory alive after Dow’s death. They were able to call the Great Depression market bottom in 1932, the turn to the downside in 1937, the 1949 market bottom and the 1966 top.

There are six basic tenets to the Dow Theory. One of which is that the averages must confirm each other. A bull market in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEArca: DIA) for example, could not occur unless the Dow Jones Transportation Average (NYSEArca: IYT) rallies as well.

Why? Only produced goods that are shipped to and paid for by the consumer confirm a strong economy (production without delivery would only inflate inventory).

Dow Theory was born in a free market and proved its worth many times in decades past. However, the Dow Theory track record in a Fed manipulated market is less than stellar.

For most of 2012 the Dow Jones was ‘doomed’ by a bearish non-confirmation as the Transports failed to confirm the Dow’s new high (dashed red box).

It wasn’t until March 2013 when both averages (industrials and transport) rallied to all-time highs, confirming the rally.

There have been some ups and downs since March, but the DJI and DJT both recorded all-time highs yesterday (July 18, 2013). This means that goods are manufactured and shipped.

Well, that’s what it used to mean anyway. Today it merely means that there’s enough liquidity to buoy different industry sectors.

This is a bullish development, although I’m not buying into the rationale that the stock market is up because the economy is healthy and that the economy is healthy because the transportation sector is confirming the industrial sector.

As the chart above shows, both averages are currently above their respective longer-term parallel channel. A move below the channel wouldn’t suffocate the bullish undertones, but as long as prices remain above, both indexes are ‘safe.’

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Will the Persistently Wrong Dow Theory Sell Signal Finally Come True?

No other technical indicator has been around as long as the Dow Theory. Dow Theory started out more as an economic theory, which Charles Dow published in the Wall Street Journal around the turn of the 20th century.

Dow’s theory focused on two key economic sectors: manufacturing (industrials) and transportation. If goods were being produced and moving through the economy, it should show up in the price action of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJT). A strong economy would buoy both averages.

The corresponding ETFs for the DJIA and DJT are the SPDR Dow Jones Diamonds (DIA) and SPDR Dow Jones Transportation Average (IYT).

Despite a rather decent century long track record, the Dow Theory sell signal has been dead wrong for well over a year. Why is that, and will the sell signal finally kick in late September/October?

The chart below plots the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) against the Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJT). There are a number of bearish divergences, but none of them have hindered the DJIA from breaking to new recovery highs.

The Dow’s trend is clearly up while the Transport’s trend is clearly down. The Dow is above resistance while the Transport is below support. Something’s gotta give, will the Dow break down or the DJT catch up?

Historical Performance & Seasonality

An examination of the historical significance of the current divergences doesn’t reveal a bearish bias. In fact, the performance of the Dow has been positive after instances where the Dow traded close to a 52-week high, while the DJT was nearly 10% below its 52-week high.

October is also the beginning of a historically favorable season for the Transports (perhaps due to the upcoming holidays). However, the week after September triple witching and October in general, has a bearish bias for the Dow Industrials.

Technicals

As if the bearish divergence wasn’t enough, the DJIA is now above resistance. The DJT is below support. Technically it will take a move above what’s now resistance to unlock more bullish potential for the Transports, but historical performance and seasonality suggest the risk for Transports is limited. Exactly the opposite is true for the Dow Industrials.

Intangibles

QE3 is here and the massive inflow of liquidity tends to buoy all asset classes including oil. High oil prices in turn cut into the profit margin of transportation companies like FedEx, UPS, Union Pacific, etc.

FedEx has already cut its fiscal 2013 forecast. Chief Financial Officer Alan Graf blamed weak global economic conditions. But that’s old news and already priced into the Transports recent slide.

It is obvious that the Transports refuse to confirm the Dow’s rosy picture, but the bearish omen hasn’t hurt the Dow’s performance either.

I follow and respect Dow Theory, but have learned not to be dogmatic about any one single indicator. The Dow Theory sell signal will be right eventually, but the weight of evidence of technicals, seasonality, and sentiment suggests some weakness for stocks over the near-term followed by year-end strength.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.