Small Caps Lead Market – Good or Bad Omen?

The Russell 2000 index of small cap stocks just pushed to new all-time highs.

Is this bullish for stocks?

To find out, I’ve plotted the S&P 500 against the IWM:IWB (small cap/large cap) ratio.

IWM is the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEarca: IWM). IWB is the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

Based on the ratio (currently at 1.06), the recent outperformance is by no means extreme.

What if we pretend for a moment that small cap outperformance was extreme (reading of 1.10 or greater)?

The red lines mark prior periods of small cap outperformance (IWM:IWB > 1.10). The S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) couldn’t care less.

If anything, one could make an argument that extreme small cap underperformance works as buy signal. The dashed gray lines highlight readings smaller than 1.03.

 

The gray overlay of the iShares Russell 2000 Small Cap ETF (IWM), makes it clear that IWM is only trading 3% above where it was a year ago. The S&P 500 gained 13% since March 2014.

Small caps are often portrayed to be the engine that pulls the train (or at least the canary in the mine), but that’s not true.

We dispelled this myth in July when many jumped on the ‘small caps are down, the market’s going to crash’ bandwagon.

Perhaps recent small cap outperformance is a reflection of the idea that a strong dollar hurts multi-national large caps with overseas income more than small domestic companies.

But what happens if dollar strength takes a breather?

One more thought: Historically, small caps tend to under perform in the later stages of a bull market.

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 and 17.59% in 2014.

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

Bullish Russell 2000 Signals – Will They Last?

The Russell 2000 has weighted down the broad stock market since March. Now, for the first time in a while, the Russell 2000 is actually outperforming large cap stocks. Does that mean that small caps will lead the market higher?

The Russell 2000 is showing signs of life, after months of underperformance relative to the S&P 500.

The Russell 2000 is one of the only indexes (along with the MidCap 400) that painted a green reversal candle (see chart insert).

Prior to erasing last week’s losses, the Russell 2000 also dipped to a 52-week low. A weekly reversal after a 52-week low is also considered a selling climax.

605 stocks recorded selling climaxes last week. This is the highest count of selling climaxes since October 2011, which marked a major bottom (more details here: Selling Climaxes Soar to 4-year High).

From a technical perspective, here are a few Russell 2000 developments to keep in mind:

  • Bullish: Last week’s green reversal candle pushed the Russell 2000 back above support at 1,080.
  • Almost Confirmed: The chart below shows one indicator I like to monitor when it comes to spotting trend changes. On the short-term daily chart, this indicator requires a close above Friday’s high. The same is true for the weekly chart.
  • Confirmation Needed: The IWM:IWB ratio shows the performance of small caps (IWM Russell 2000 ETF) relative to large caps (IWB Russell 1000 ETF). The IWM:IWB ratio is about to test prior support, now resistance.

Unless the ratio can move above 1.05, small caps are likely to continue underperforming their large cap cousins.

In short, the Russell 2000 is showing strength, and odds of continued up side are increasing.

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.

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

3 Strike Wall Street Law – QE Bull Market Only One Strike away From Knock Out

We all know the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. Historic data (based on the 1987, 2000 and 2007 tops) strongly suggests that every bull market also follows the three strikes rule. This bull is one strike away from being over and out.

“Dead man walking” is an expression used by prison guards as the condemned were led to their execution.  Is the stock market a ‘dead bull walking’?

I asked that question back in February right after completing my 2014 S&P 500 forecast.

At the time there was no sign of a major top yet, but since no bull market goes on forever, I published a 3-step quick guide on how to discern a dying bull market (or the formation of a major market top).

Based on historic data, a bull market dies in three stages:

3 Stages of A ‘Dying’ Bull Market

Psychological process: Finding value becomes a challenge and investors become pickier.
Technical manifestation: The number of stocks hitting new 52-week highs or the percentage of stocks above the 50-day SMA slides lower, while prices climb higher.

Psychological process: Finding value becomes more challenging and investors feel attracted to safer large cap stocks.
Technical manifestation: Small-and mid-cap stocks are lagging large cap stocks.

Psychological process: ‘Smart money’ is selling stocks to ‘dumb money.’
Technical manifestation: Selling pressure increases behind a façade of rising large cap indexes. Declining stocks outnumber advancing stocks.

Back in February the S&P 500 was in stage 1. It was basically graying around the temples, but still a safe distance away from the coffin.

How About Today?

Here’s the pulse of today’s market:

Value is harder to find  and investors are becoming pickier. On January 14, 2013, 89.54% of NYSE stocks traded above their 50-day SMA. Only 46.24% of NYSE stocks traded above the 50-day SMA at the most recent S&P 500 high on September 19.

Stage 1: Complete

Small cap stocks are under performing. The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the IWM:IWB ratio. IWB represents the iShares Russell 2000 (small cap) ETF. IWB represents the iShares Russell 1000 (large cap) ETF.

The ratio shows just how badly small caps lag behind large caps, but it also shows why this is only stage 2 of 3 of a dying bull market: Despite small cap weakness, the S&P 500 is still trading near its high.

Stage 2: Complete

Stage 3 – One Foot in the Coffin?

During the third and final stage, stocks move from strong hands (smart money) to weaker hands (‘dumb’ money).

This gradual shift takes many months and may still deliver sizeable gains and even blow off frenzies.

Nevertheless, the internal deterioration of stage 3 divergences are terminal.

Being familiar with the three stages of a dying bull market protects investors against turning bearish too soon. Premature bears leave money on the table and/or lose their pants going short.

My favorite ‘third stage indicator’ correctly foreshadowed the 1987, 2000 and 2007 bear markets. It also telegraphed that any correction since 2010 was to be followed by new bull market highs.

This indicator currently shows a fledgling multi-week divergence, which – if not reversed – may have put an expiration date on this bull market.

A detailed look at this historically accurate ‘third stage indicator’ is available here:

The Missing Ingredient for a Major Bull Market Top

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.

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

This Bearish Russell 2000 Pattern is Still Alive

The Russell 2000 has been taking it on the chin: It’s been the scapegoat for the April sell off and, unlike other indexes, wasn’t able to report new all-time highs in June. Will the Russell 2000 catch up or lead the broad indexes lower?

The Russell 2000 has been the ‘black sheep’ and ‘scapegoat’ of market indexes. Small cap stocks led the April sell, losing as much as 10%, and lagged the May/June rally.

What’s the deal with small caps? Will they catch up or lead the broad market lower?

Here’s what the Russell 2000 (Chicago Options: ^RUT) chart says:

Support

On May 6, the Russell 2000 closed below the 200-day SMA for the first time since November 21, 2012.

The May 7 Profit Radar Report made this observation: “Many investors follow the 200-day SMA. A close below it is generally considered a sell signal and/or bear market. The path of least resistance would be to jump on the sell signal bandwagon, but that’s premature in my humble opinion. The Russell support cluster at 1,100 – 1,080 seems more important than the 200-day SMA at 1,115.”

The small cap/large cap ratio (IWM/IWB) chart IWM = iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM), IWM = iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB) – featured in the same Profit Radar Report also suggested that important support is still ahead (chart below).

Here is an updated version of the IWM:IWB ratio chart plotted against the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY). Green trend line support held and buoyed small caps and the S&P 500.

Resistance

1,080 is also the neckline of a possible head-and shoulders pattern. The May 11 Profit Radar Report stated that: “The Russell 2000 has kept the possibility of a bearish head-and shoulders pattern alive, as the left and right shoulder sport near-perfect symmetry. The ascending red trend line at 1,188 appears to be the dividing line between bullish and bearish bets.”

Summary

For now the Russell 2000 is trading between support and resistance. The weak IWM:IWB ratio recovery hints at further small cap weakness, but for now there are different ways to play this constellation:

  • Sell against resistance
  • Buy against support
  • Buy once resistance is busted
  • Sell once support is broken

Perhaps even more revealing is the current S&P 500 constellation. The 2014 S&P 500 forecast projected an S&P 500 high around 1,955 in May 2014.

The S&P 500 reached this target in June and peeled back. Does this mean a significant top is near? All the details are available in an update to the original 2014 S&P 500 forecast:

Updated 2014 S&P 500 Forecast

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.

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

S&P 500: 3 Reasons to Expect the May Blues … But Not Yet

Have you been infected yet by the media’s crash talk? Most major financial media outlets predict a correction or outright crash. There are reasons to be worried about the ‘May Blues’ (sell in May and go away), but there’s also reason not to worry, yet.

According to CNBC, Dr. Doom is worried about a crisis bigger than 2008, and so should you.

There truly are reasons to expect some weakness (aka the ‘May Blues’), but perhaps just not yet.

Why Look for May Blues

1. Seasonality: S&P 500 seasonality for midterm election years is bearish. Click here for S&P 500 seasonality chart.

2. The Nasdaq-100 may be carving out a head-and shoulders pattern.

3. Stock market breadth is deteriorating. A truly rising tide lifts all boats, this rally isn’t. Large caps are in, small caps are out.

The chart below plots the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) against the IWM:IWB ratio. The IWM ETF represents the small cap Russell 2000, the IWB ETF represents the large cap Russell 1000.

The IWM:IWB ratio shows small caps quickly erasing an 11-months performance advantage.

Although this is a reflection of fragmentation, it should be said that, historically, this disparity does not foreshadow major immediate weakness.

Why Look for May Blues … Later

Simply because the media is looking for a crash right now.

CNBC: “I’m worried about a crisis bigger than 2008: Dr Doom”
MarketWatch: “Risk of 20% correction highest until October”
Investors Business Daily: “Why investors expect to ‘sell in May and go away’”
CNBC: “Wells Fargo strategist presents scary chart”

Based on various cycles, technical indicators and seasonal patterns, the Profit Radar Report proposed a May high back in January when it published the 2014 Forecast.

This outlook continues to be valid, however, it has now become the crowded trade.

The market will likely find a way to shake out the weak and premature bears, and fool the herd (the May 4 Profit Radar Report outlined the most likely route of this head fake).

In terms of technicals, the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) remains above important support and still within a chopping zone, obviously designed to hurt impatient investors. As long as this support holds, it’s dangerous to go short.

Even the weak Russell 2000 remains above an important support cluster (yes, more important than the 200-day SMA).

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.

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

How Bad is Small Cap Underperformance for the Broad Stock Market?

The small cap sector has lost as much as 10% while the Dow Jones and S&P 500 are still within 1% of their all-time high. This chart illustrates the discrepancy better than any other. How bad is this for the broad stock market?

Small cap stocks have been taking it on the chin. The Russell 2000 lost as much as 9.85%. How bad is small caps’ performance relative to large caps?

Bad! Here’s a look at the small cap:large cap ratio (published in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report). The chart below shows the ratio between the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) and the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

Small caps erased an 11-month performance edge in less than 6 weeks. The last time the IWM:IWB dropped as far was from July – October 2011.

The second chart plots the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) against the IWM:IWB ratio. The July – October 2011 small cap underperformance (big IWM:IWB drop) was a coordinated decline that saw large and small caps decline at the same time.

Small caps just fell much harder than the S&P 500.

This time is different. Small caps are down significantly while large caps (S&P 500 and Dow Jones) remain within 1.5% of their all-time highs.

At the same time, the Russell 2000 closed below the 200-day SMA for the first time since November 21, 2012.

However, this may be more of a bear trap than a sell signal. There is a must hold support area that’s more important (because not as obvious) and less prone to false signals than the 200-day SMA.

Must hold support is outlined in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report.

Personally, I feel that there’s been too much bearish media coverage for stocks to enter an immediate, prolonged correction (must hold support will tell me when I’m wrong), so I’m also looking at key resistance. The kind of resistance that should U-turn a bounce.

Must hold support is discussed in yesterday’s Profit Radar Report. Key resistance is revealed here:

The Secret Dow Jones Barrier Every Investor Should Know

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.

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

Money is Rushing from Small Caps into Large Caps

Money is always rotating from one segment to another. Sometimes this rotation is bullish, other times it’s bearish. Right now money is flowing from small caps into large caps, a sign that investors are losing their appetite for risk.

Somebody flipped the switch from ‘risk on’ to ‘risk off.’

There are many measures of ‘risk on – risk off.’ Almost all of them are lagging.

I usually don’t care for lagging gauges, but this one has an interesting twist.

Illustrated in the chart below is the ratio between the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWM) and iShares Russell 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: IWB).

A high ratio means that investors prefer small caps over large caps (risk on) and vice versa.

Although the ratio has been stuck in a range since August 2013, up until recently more money was flowing into the small cap Russell 2000 ETF than into the large cap Russell 1000 ETF.

This changed rather abruptly.

Here’s what makes this IWM:IWB ratio interesting:

The ratio has dropped to levels of prior support. As the dashed purple lines indicate, ratio lows generally occur fairly close to S&P 500 lows.

Obviously, the IWM:IWB is not at a new low, but the gray lines show that prior tests of this low caused temporary S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) bounces.

This may be the case here too. A drop below the lower green support line, however, may indicate a change of investor behavior.

Less appetite for risk generally translates into lower prices.

While the IWM:IWB ratio has yet to drop below support, another indicator has already triggered a sell signal. More details here:’

MACD Triggers the Year’s Most Infamous Sell Signal

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.

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