Is the Stock Market Rigged? … and a More Important Question

Is the stock market rigged? Many believe it is … and rightfully so.

However, there are more interesting and pertinent questions, such as:

  • To what extent is the market rigged, and how does it affect me?
  • Why do allegations of a rigged market sprout up right now?

Different Ways to Rig the Market

There are different ways to ‘rig’ the market, and there are different entities to do so.

  • High frequency traders attempt to gain a time advantage.
  • Inside traders try to get information ahead of the crowd.
  • The Federal Reserve and central banks around the globe aim to prop up equity markets via various types of quantitative easing or low interest rates. The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the actual QE liquidity flow to illustrate the correlation (or lack thereof, may the reader judge) between stocks and QE.

Regardless of the exact correlation between QE and stocks, even the Federal Reserve’s own research admitted that FOMC meetings drove the S&P 55% above fair value (more details here).

But none of the above is new or shocking.

Why Now?

Perhaps more interesting than who and how is why now?

Isn’t it curious that articles and charts (like below) about central bank liquidity driving up stocks are popping up just as the S&P 500 is breaking to new all-time highs?

There were no such claims last August or early this year when the S&P traded below 1,900. Seems like investors (and fund mangers) are fishing for excuses.

As the chart below shows, investors and fund managers were clearly under-invested at the recent lows. 3 out of 4 large cap fund managers got beaten by the S&P 500 in 2015. How to explain such dismal performance?

Central bank liquidity is a welcome scapegoat. Fund managers could (and do) essential argue: “Our research suggested lower prices, but central banks stepped in and unexpectedly buoyed stocks.”

Boycotting Yourself Out of Profits

This is the most hated stock market rally ever, that’s why it’s gone on for so long.

Today’s market hater is tomorrow’s buyer (disgruntled, but ‘better late than never’). As long as this cycle perpetuates, there’s more up side. We observed this back in 2013: QE Haters are Driving Stocks Higher

Boycotting the market by avoiding stocks may feel like the ethical thing to do, but it hurts the portfolio.

There is no question the market is rigged to some degree, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage for open-minded investors.

Rigged or not, the stock market has responded reasonably well to time-tested indicators. A number of them pointed to a strong stock market rally.

The key question is not whether the market is rigged, it’s how do you handle a rigged market? Now is the time to be the best informed investor you know.

The latest indicator-based S&P 500 forecast is available here: Stock Market Melt-Up Alert?

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile 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, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

Dare to Compare – Could the End of QE Crash Stocks Like in 2010 and 2011?

The S&P 500 dropped 17% right after QE1 ended and 20% right after QE2 ran out? Will stocks crash again now that QE3 and QE4 have been completed? Here is the only visual QE history chart along with an unexpected conclusion.

QE1 ended on March 31, 2010. Shortly thereafter the S&P 500 dropped as much as 17.12%.

QE2 ended on June 20, 2011. Shortly thereafter the S&P 500 dropped as much as 20.76%.

Fed officials are expected to end asset purchases (QE3 and QE4) at the next FOMC meeting on October 28-29. Will stocks crater like they did in 2010 and 2011?

QE History & Comparison

QE1 started in December 2008 with $660 billion, was expanded by $1,050 billion in March 2009, and ended in March 2010.

QE2’s $600 billion asset purchase injection started in November 2010 and lasted until June 2011.

QE3 started in September 2012 at a rate of $40 billion per month.

QE4 started in December 2012 at a rate of $45 billion per month.

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Starting in January 2014, QE3 and QE4 have been reduced gradually by $5 billion per month.

QE3 and QE4 have already been wound down to combined monthly purchases of $15 billion, and Fed officials said they expect to end asset purchases after the October 28-29 meeting.

Will the QE3 and QE4 withdrawal shock the system (aka stock market) as QE1 and QE2 did?

QE After Shock?

I’m a visual person and find that a picture (or chart) really says more than a thousand words.

Here is a simple, visual explanation of the various QE programs. This is the only QE history chart on the web, and was originally published in the October 5 Profit Radar Report. QE1, QE2, QE3 and QE4 are illustrated by various shades of green, because green is the color of money (chart courtesy of the Profit Radar Report).

Illustrated are the monthly dollar purchases. Exact monthly asset purchase data for QE1 and QE2 is not readily available, so the amounts shown are based on total committed funds divided by the number of months the program was in effect.

QE3 and QE4 differ from QE1 and QE2 and two important ways:

1) The asset purchases under QE1 and QE2 were more significant than the asset purchases under QE3 and QE4.

2) QE1 and QE2 stopped cold turkey. The Federal Reserve obviously learned from the almost instant S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) selloffs and equipped QE3 and QE4 with the ‘taper’.

Purely theoretical, the actual end of QE3 and QE4 could be a non-event, and should be much less noticeable than the end of QE1 and QE2.

Why Did the S&P 500 Just Lose 200 Points?

But, if that’s the case, why did the S&P 500 just lose as much as 200 points?

Investors may have simply sold stocks in anticipation of QE ending. Sometimes it’s all about mind of matter. If investors mind (that QE is ending) it matters, at least temporarily. In addition, the Dow Jones reached an important technical resistance level on September 17. The Profit Radar Report predicted that this resistance level would increase the risk of a correction.

It is undeniable that the various QE programs have driven asset prices higher. It would be intuitive to conclude that the absence of QE (at least sterilized QE) will send stocks lower.

But the stock market is not always intuitive and doesn’t conform to investors’ expectations.

Furthermore, despite the end of QE, the stock market has not yet displayed the classic pattern of a major market top, the kind of pattern that foreshadowed the 1987, 2000 and 2007 highs. Here’s what I mean: The Missing Ingredient for a Major Bull Market Top

In summary, I wouldn’t sell stocks just because QE is ending.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar ReportThe 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.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Unlikely Source Anticipated Stocks Radical Post FOMC Rally

Only 30% of Wall Street analysts expected the Federal Reserve to taper and most of Wall Street feared a post-taper meltdown. Who would have thought that stocks would melt up following the taper decision? This average Joe’s chart talk did.

I’m just an average Joe, a largely self-taught market analyst. I don’t even try to predict what the Fed decides to do at their FOMC meetings.

I can’t read minds (especially highly encrypted Fed minds), but I can read charts (at least so I’d like to believe) and share my interpretations of ‘chart talk’ primarily via the Profit Radar Report.

Here’s what ‘yesterday’s’ charts foretold about today’s performance for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI).

The December 15 Profit Radar Report featured charts of the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) and Dow Jones and stated that:

“The charts show that the support creating the ideal down side target is about 0.7 – 1% below current trade. A brief dip below the 50-day SMAs followed by a close back above would be a buy signal.”

Yesterday’s special FOMC prep Profit Radar Report summarized the expected outlook like this:

“With or without test of the 50-day SMA, odds favor overall higher prices. A move below the 50-day SMA followed by a close back above would be short-term bullish.”

A test of the 50-day SMA wasn’t absolutely necessary. Why? Because the Dow Jones and S&P 500 futures already touched their 50-day SMAs on Sunday night. (View chart and analysis here: What the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Did When You Weren’t Looking)

But, if a 50-day SMA test would happen, it would be bullish.

As the S&P 500 chart below shows, today’s post FOMC kneejerk reaction took the S&P 500 and S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) briefly below the 50-day SMA before soaring higher. The Dow Jones and Dow Diamond ETF (NYSEArca: DIA) did not test their 50-day SMAs.

Only 30% of Wall Street analysts expected the Fed to taper and almost everyone feared that such taper would cause a meltdown, not a melt up.

Who would have thought that a Fed taper would send stocks soaring? Charts did!

If you enjoy ‘chart talk’ from an average Joe market analyst, feel free to test drive the Profit Radar Report or click here for the most recent, free short-term forecast: S&P 500 and Dow Jones Short-term Forecast

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (stocks, 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. We are accountable for our work, because we track every recommendation (see track record below).

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Federal Reserve FOMC Meetings Zapped Stocks 4 Times in a Row

The Federal Reserve has been very accommodating and assured Wall Street of its full support (no taper) each of the last four meetings. Nevertheless, stocks sold off every time. Will this time be a repeat?

Wall Street anxiously anticipates the outcome of this week’s two-day FOMC conclave.

Taper or no taper is the question … and it will be answered on Wednesday around 2pm EST.

Until then, speculations run wild.

I don’t participate in the speculation for two reasons:

  1. The market’s reaction is simply unpredictable (more below).
  2. Technical analysis usually provides some clues even before the Fed announces anything.

The timelines in the S&P 500 chart below mark all 2013 FOMC meetings.

The first three meetings of the year were near-term bullish for the S&P 500 and S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY), but eventually gave way to new lows.

The last four FOMC meetings were all followed by immediate declines.

The September 18 meeting (blue dot) was followed by an exciting twist. Most of Wall Street and the financial media expected the Fed to announce tapering at their September 18 FOMC meeting.

Surprise! The Fed did the unthinkable and continued unbridled QE. The S&P 500 soared the day of the announcement and a few hours on the next day, but dropped lower thereafter.

More or less ignoring the Fed’s noise, the September 18 Profit Radar Report published the projection chart below and warned:

“The S&P 500 red resistance line will be at 1,735 tomorrow. A temporary decline from this line (around 1,735) followed by another rally leg to 1,750+ would make most sense (see projection).”

What about the July 31 FOMC meeting? The July 31 Profit Radar Report stated that: “The Nasdaq-100 and Dow Jones chart suggest a period of correction or consolidation.”

What do technicals say this time around?

Technicals allow for some near-term weakness and a test of the 50-day SMAs for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones (DJI: ^DJI). I favor the odds for a year-end rally, but with sentiment at multi-year bullish extremes, any move below support would caution of a sizeable drop.

A more detailed technical forecast for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones, along with a chart that highlights important support, is available here: S&P 500 and Dow Jones Short-term Forecast

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (stocks, 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. We are accountable for our work, because we track every recommendation (see track record below).

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Post FOMC Meeting Effect Tends to Kill S&P 500 Mojo

The Federal Reserve announced that the ‘big bad taper’ will stay in the closet. That’s good news. The Fed announced the same thing on September 18, which led to a three-week correction. The same thing happened in late July.

You know the spiel. When there’s a Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday, the stock market (NYSEArca: VTI) takes a hiatus until Mr. Bernanke makes his announcement.

There’s a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting about every 45 days or eight times a year.

More often than not the S&P 500 has a positive bias going into the FOMC meeting, but the S&P 500 ETF has lost its mojo after each of the last three FOMC meetings.

The S&P 500 chart below illustrates the S&P’s performance after the last 10 FOMC meetings.

This chart covers an incredibly bullish time period, but it’s interesting to note that – since September 2012 – the S&P 500 dropped below the FOMC meeting high every single time within the next few weeks.

More remarkable than the S&P’s post FOMC performance history is the S&P’s pre FOMC performance history.

An official Federal Reserve study shows that the ‘pre FOMC drift’ (optimism leading up to the FOMC announcement) accounts for all S&P 500 gains over the last two decades.

In other words, pre FOMC gains inflated the S&P 500 to an unbelievable degree. A full analysis (with shocking charts) of the Federal Reserve study is available here:

New York Fed Research Reveals That FOMC Drove S&P XX% Above Fair Value

QE3, Apple, and Rekindled Love for Stocks – How to Use Technicals to Navigate a Confusing Stock Market

This week is jam-packed with news. Apple, Bernanke, and Germany’s Constitutional Court are slated to make potentially market-moving announcements. Here’s one simple technical tip that will help navigate a confusing situation.

What does Apple’s Tim Cook, the Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, and Germany’s Constitutional Court have in common? They are all expected to announce much anticipated news this week.

Wednesday, September 12. Apple

Apple is putting the finishing touches on the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. That’s where a select few will (or are expected to) lay eyes on the new iPhone 5.

Apple shares (AAPL) didn’t quite reflect fans’ excitement as shares dropped 2.6% on Monday.

This drop triggered a bullish percentR low-risk entry against the 20-day SMA. Just because this is called a “bullish” low-risk entry doesn’t mean it’s time to buy.

Apple shares tend to move higher when new products are revealed and correct thereafter (with the exception of the April 2012 iPad 2 unveiling, which coincided with a larger drop, instead of a rally).

A rally parallel to Apple’s event would likely provide a good set up to sell AAPL shares. A drop below the percentR trigger level will also suffice if we don’t see the customary Apple release spike.

Short selling a stock is not for everyone. But Apple accounts for 20% of the Nasdaq-100 index (corresponding ETF: PowerShares QQQ) and shorting the Nasdaq-100 via short ETFs like the Short QQQ ProShares (PSQ) is a more accessible way to benefit from falling Apple prices.

Wednesday, September 12. German Constitutional Court Ruling

The European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is the facility anointed to distribute European “bailout cash” to struggling euro zone members.

The ESM has many flaws (one of them is lack of funding) and one of them may prevent its VIP from playing “money ball.” The German Constitutional Court will rule over the legality of participating in the ESM on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 13. FOMC and QE3?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will meet Wednesday/Thursday this week.

The S&P 500 Index (SPY) is points away from a 55-month high and I don’t think that launching QE3 right now makes sense, but I don’t know what’s going on behind closed FOMC doors and the general consensus is that the Federal Reserve will announce QE3 on Thursday.

Similar announcements have resulted in large moves for stocks, Treasuries, currencies, gold and silver.

Combat Uncertainty with Technicals

What does the S&P 500 chart tell us about stocks? If the chart could talk it’d say that now is “rubber meet the road” time.

The S&P is close to key resistance at 1,440 (this month’s r1 is at 1,437) which the Profit Radar Report has been harping about. 1,440 is the most important resistance in the neighborhood. It separates bullish bets from bearish ones and provides directionally neutral low-risk trade opportunities (my bias is to the down side, which may require waiting for a spike above 1,440 followed by a move below).

Various news events suggest that this week is important. Technicals agree. Use important support/resistance levels to put the odds in your favor.

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.