Simon Says: 3 Most Contrarian ETFs to Own Right Now

Here are three contrarian picks for die-hard contrarians and those who missed the latest stock market rally. Two trades are true bottom pickers, one trade is 2x contrarian, which almost makes it a mainstream trade.

If contrarian investing came with a label, it might as well be ‘no guts, no glory.’ It takes guts to bet against the crowd, but it can pay off big.

I use sophisticated software and crosscheck with basic media sentiment (headlines) to identify extreme sentiment delights for contrarians. Here are my top three choices:

Gold Anyone?

Gold prices have dropped almost $800 since September 2011, and according to many pros, gold will shed another $300 – $400. Here are a few recent doom and gloom headlines:

  • “A final purge to $700? What gold bulls surrender might look like” – Nov. 12
  • “Here’s why gold could be headed to $800” – Nov. 12
  • “Gold bulls beware: More pain coming” – Nov. 10

If gold is going to drop another few hundred bugs, why would anyone hold on to it? That’s the crux of contrarian investing. In the midst of extreme pessimism, there are not enough sellers left to drive prices much lower.

It appears that gold is at or near this point, often called the ‘puke point’. Gold ETFs like the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) and iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) are likely to surprise many to the up side.

Fill up The Car Honey

According to the U.S. Energy Department, low gas prices aren’t going away anytime soon. I don’t recall the Energy Dept predicting a 30% drop a few months ago, but that’s what happened.

According to one ‘pro’ interviewed on CNBC, gas may drop to $30.

Catching a bottom in oil prices is a bit like catching the proverbial falling knife, but simply based on investor/media sentiment, this slippery, oily knife is closer to the kitchen floor (a bottom) than the hand that dropped it (top).

The United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) and Energy Select Sector SPDRs (NYSEArca: XLE) are two ways to play a bounce.

The Ultimate 2x Contrarian Trade?

Back in May I noticed, and reported on, the unusual amount of bearish media coverage. Russ Koesterich (chief investment strategist at BlackRock), Wilbur Ross (billionaire investor), Carl Icahn (billionaire investor), David Tepper, Marc Faber and Peter Schiff predicted a serious correction or outright market crash.

In the spirit of no guts, no glory, I wrote back then: “Here’s a message for everyone vying to be the next Roubini: A watched pot doesn’t boil and a watched bubble doesn’t burst.”

Some of the recent headlines make we wonder if we’re in for a May/June repeat:

  • “Sentiment is ‘off the charts’ bullish” – Nov. 12
  • “Don’t get suckered by stock market winning streak” – Nov. 12
  • “Marc ‘Dr Doom’ Faber: I will soon be proven right” – Nov. 13

Yes, sentiment polls show excess optimism, but can it still be considered a contrarian indicator if everyone reads about it? Will two negatives make a positive?

Another factor to keep in mind is that actual money flow indicators do not confirm sentiment polls. Investors don’t seem to be putting their money where their mouth is.

Therefore, owning stocks into next year may be more of a true contrarian move than selling stocks. Instead of owning broad market ETFs like the S&P 500 SPDRs (NYSEArca: SPY), I would probably opt for certain sector ETFs that offer more up side.

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.

Sector ‘Heat Map’ Shows Cooling Appetite for Risk

Every bull market has a certain life expectancy. Nobody knows how long this bull will live, but a look at the S&P 500 industry sector ‘heat map’ shows ‘graying around the temples’ as investors rotate out of higher risk industries.

A rising tide lifts all boats. This sounds cliché, but was certainly true in 2013.

The first chart below shows the Q4 2013 performance of the nine S&P 500 sector ETFs. Those nine ETFs are:

  • Industrial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLI)
  • Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLK)
  • Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLY)
  • Materials Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLB)
  • Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLF)
  • Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLV)
  • Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLP)
  • Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLE)
  • Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEArca: XLU)
    The ETFs are sorted based on Q4 2013 performance.

More risky, high beta sectors (red colors) like technology and consumer discretionary were red hot in the last quarter of 2013.

‘Orphan & widow’ sectors (green colors) like utilities and consumer staples lagged behind higher risk sectors.

The first chart is a snapshot of a healthy overall market. No wonder the S&P 500 ended 2013 on a high note.

The second chart shows that the tide turned in 2014. Conservative sectors are now swimming on top, while high octane sectors have sunk to the bottom of the performance chart.

This doesn’t mean the bull market is over, but the distribution of colors illustrates that investors have lost their appetite for risk (for now).

Like graying around the temples, this rotation out of risk reminds us of an aging bull market.

It’s not yet time to order the coffin, but indicators like this do warn of the potential for a deeper correction.

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.

Weekly ETF SPY: XLV – Head-and Shoulders Above Other Sectors

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLV) sports the second best year-to-date performance. Recent price action has exposed a key short-term support level that can be used as a trigger level for investors looking to short the health care sector.

The Health Care Select Sector SPDR’s (XLV) performance ranks head-and shoulders above the rest. XLV is up 19.19% year-to-date, outperformed only by utilities (XLU is up 19.66%).

Other double-digit year-to-date performers include the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP – 17.89%), Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR (XLY – 15.46%), Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF – 14,48%) and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE – 10.08%).

Technology (XLK), industrials (XLI) and materials (XLB) are stuck in single digit performance territory.

Looking at the performance (and possible cracks) of leading sectors often provides clues for the overall stock market. Prior ETF SPY’s identified key support for other leading sector ETFs like the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) and SPDR Retail ETF (XRT).

Key support for IWM and XRT has proven crucial to the short-term performance of IWM and XRT. Bot sectors/ETFs bounced exactly from support.

Not all technical analysis proves correct with that much clinical precision, but XLV is at a point where key support has become visible.

The chart below shows that XLV may be carving out a short-term head-and shoulders pattern with a neckline around 46.70. This week this potential neckline coincides with trend line support.

A break below 46.70 would unlock a measured target of 45.15 +/-, which also coincides with trend line support.

As long as support holds, the up trend remains intact and we’re just talking about ‘unhatched eggs.’ Investors fishing for a price top may use broken support as a trigger level for short positions.

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It’s Do or Die Time for Small and Mid Cap ETFs

Small and mid cap stock indexes are trading at key inflection points. How the indexes and ETFs react to support at current prices will likely set the bias (bullish or bearish) for the coming weeks.

“Do or die” scenarios don’t come around too often, but when they do they deserve our attention and often provide either a low risk or a high probability trading opportunity.

What elevates the current constellation for mid and small cap ETFs from willy nilly to do or die?

There are a number of reasons. The two charts below were originally published in the October 24 Profit Radar Report. The “in a nutshell” conclusion published that day was that: “The stock market is stretched like a rubber band and should bounce back. If it doesn’t, it will ‘snap’”.

Chart 1: S&P MidCap 400 Index

Corresponding ETF: SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF (MDY)

The trend line originating at the October 4, 2011 low has provided guidance and support for the S&P MidCap 400 Index. A close below this trend line would be concerning. Additional support is provided by the 200-day SMA at 964.

Chart 2: Russell 2000 Index

Corresponding ETF: iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IWM)

The interaction between the Russell 2000 and its October 4, 2011 trend line hasn’t been as pronounced, but the decline has thus far stalled at trend line support. A close below this trend line would also be concerning. Additional support is provided by the 200-day SMA at 807.

Conclusion

Unbroken longer-term trend lines like the ones mentioned above provide invaluable technical insight, often worth more than insider information.

As long as indexes remain above their respective trend lines – the S&P 500, Dow Jones, Russell 2000, MidCap 400 and many sector ETFs remain above at this time – the benefit of the doubt should be given to rising prices.

In addition to trend line support, the October 25 Profit Radar Report pointed out a buy signal for stocks (given by the VIX) and a bullish price/RSI divergence.

Yesterday’s strong rally is running into technical resistance triggered a bearish percentR low risk entry. It remains yet to be seen how long this bounce will last, but trend line support is now our stop-loss level for long positions. The beauty of using a rising trend line as stop-loss for long positions is that it virtually guarantees a winning trade.

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.