Yawn and Pop or Drop – How the S&P 500 Reacts to FOMC Meetings

The most consistent side effect of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting is a gigantic yawn … followed by an unpredictable pop or drop. Here’s how the S&P 500 reacted to all FOMC meetings over the past year.

The 12-member monetary policy making body of the Federal Reserve gets together eight times a year for a secret 2-day conclave.

Wall Street eagerly anticipates a carefully selected string of canned comments by the Federal Reserve chairman disbursed at the end of the meeting (usually Wednesday around 2:15pm EST).

Life on Wall Street is on hold until the Fed chairman (for the first time Janet Yellen) serenades the audience with her assessment of the economy.

The S&P 500 chart below highlights all FOMC meetings since the beginning of 2013 (yellow lines).

Do FOMC meetings affects stocks in a predictable manner?

The S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) chart below shows all the FOMC meetings since the beginning of 2013 (yellow lines).

The most predictable pattern actually occurs before and during the FOMC meeting. What pattern? It’s about a two-day long yawn.

The blue boxes show prolonged sideways trading leading up to the conclusion of the meeting. There have only been two declines into the FOMC meeting (red boxes).

After the meeting the S&P 500 may pop, drop, or grind higher. There’s no direct link between FOMC decisions and the S&P 500 (aside from the obvious fact that QE is good for stocks over the long-term).

Here’s one interesting factoid you may sink your teeth into: When the S&P rallied into FOMC Tuesday, it was down on Wednesday 5 out of 6 times.

The S&P’s actual post-FOMC performance seems to depend more on other factors, such as the technical structure of the chart.

The green lines show that technical support stabilized or buoyed the S&P 500 at least three times, while the inability to stay above support contributed to the January/February correction.

The current technical picture is interesting as the S&P 500 dropped below support and the 20-day moving average on high volume last week, but struggled back above this week (on anemic volume).

Here’s a detailed analysis of what this – normally bearish price/volume pattern – means for the S&P 500 and SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) along with the resistance level, that – once broken – will unlock higher targets.

Short-Term S&P 500 ETF Analysis

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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Federal Reserve – How to Tame the Monster it Created

Thanks to quantitative easing (QE) stocks are up 130% and more. The Fed created a monster of a rally, but how do you tame the monster without killing it? As the most recent Fed minutes indicated, it may be ‘easier’ than some think.

Never under estimate the psychological power of a dangling carrot. For years the Federal Reserve used the promise of more QE as an incentive (carrot) to drive stocks higher.

This has worked well. Too well. The Dow Jones, Russell 2000 and other major indexes are trading at all time highs and the Fed’s next challenge is to tame the monster (rally) it created without killing it.

How can this be done? Perhaps with the ‘reverse dangling carrot approach.’ Before we talk about the reverse carrot approach, let’s review how the ‘dangling carrot approach’ works.

The ‘Dangling Carrot Approach’

At how many post FOMC meeting conferences did we hear Ben Bernanke assure Wall Street that the Federal Reserve is ready and willing to assist?

From July – November 2010 Bernanke’s steady assurance was nearly as potent as QE2. Do you remember the August 2010 Jackson Hole summit? Bernanke then said: “I believe that additional purchases of longer-term securities … would be effective in further easing financial conditions.”

The placebo QE effect was strong enough to lift the S&P 18% before QE2 became official on November 2, 2011. Thereafter the S&P 500 rallied another 16% to the April 2011 high. QE2 ended in June 2011.

From October 2011 – September 2012 the Fed did nothing more than dangle the QE3 hopium carrot and the S&P 500 rallied 36%. QE3 was finally announced in September 2012, followed by “QE4” (replacement of Operation Twist by outright Treasury purchases).

Containing The Fed Monster – The ‘Reverse Dangling Carrot Approach’

From 2009 – 2012 the Fed talked up QE and stocks. Today the S&P 500 trades 135% above its 2009 low and the Fed knows it created a monster (rally). The Fed also knows that everyone else knows this is a phony funny money rally.

How can the Fed contain the monster it created – take away the punchbowl without causing a severe hangover. The ‘reverse dangling carrot approach’ is born.

Dropping hints about more QE contained the bear market, so dropping hints about reducing QE should tame the QE bull market. This process may have already begun.

The release of the Fed minutes on February 20, showed dissention among committee members about the duration and scope of QE.

Whether this division over the issue is real or just a new PR strategy to contain the Fed monster, I do not know. But we do know that stocks sold off right after the Fed minutes were released.

Just like controlled fires can stimulate a forest, the Fed may try to light ‘controlled burns’ to manage the stock market. As in nature, the summer time (starting in May) is a good time for a ‘controlled burn’ on Wall Street. Shareholders should plan accordingly.

I personally view the Fed like an unwelcome guest. Some guests bring happiness wherever they go. Some (like the Fed), whenever they go. Unfortunately, the Fed’s comment about leaving (scaling back QE) appear to be only a tease.