Short-term S&P 500 Outlook

Up then down and making everybody frown. That’s been the stock market’s pattern since the beginning of the year. As the worst week of the first quarter is coming to an end, we’ll venture a short-term S&P 500 outlook.

This is probably the messiest S&P 500 chart I’ve ever published, but it conveys two very important points:

The stock market’s action has been messy. The S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) chart shows a lot of overlap along with false breakouts and false breakdowns. This has created a lot of technical support (and resistance) levels.
There are two support clusters. The first support cluster is around 1,825 – 1,840. The second support cluster is around 1,790 – 1,810.

The March 21 rally was the most recent fake breakout (red arrow). Morning trade pushed the S&P 500 to a new all-time high, followed by persistent selling.

SPX32814

A special March 21 morning Profit Radar Report update warned that: “One Elliott Wave count allows for a fake out breakout, followed by a drop lower. Today is Triple Witching. The S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) closed lower on Triple Witching day 71% and the week after Triple Witching 66% of the time.”

This particular ‘Elliott Wave count’ mentioned in the March 21 Profit Radar Report projects lower prices, but the S&P 500 will have to move below the 1,840 support cluster to unlock lower targets.

For the last few days, the Russell 2000 has been our ‘canary in the mine.’ The Russell 2000 captured our first down side target yesterday (view article here: Russell 2000 Captures First Down side Target). As always, when a target is reached, there’s an above average chance of a reversal.

S&P 500 resistance is at 1,866 – 1,870.

For now the S&P 500 is stuck in ‘technical purgatory.’

Various indicators suggest new all-time highs eventually. The question is whether we’ll see a deeper correction before that.

Continuous updates are available via the Profit Radar Report.

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.

 

Technical Support Buoys Nasdaq … For Now

Friday’s market action was unusual as stocks didn’t rally into the close to cap the week with a happy end. Despite a rough week for stocks though, the Nasdaq Indexes and Nasdaq ETF stayed above important short-term technical support.

On Friday I tweeted a picture of an important technical support shelf for the Nasdaq-100.

Here’s a closer look at important near-term support for the Nasdaq Composite, Nasdaq-100, and Nasdaq QQQ ETF (Nasdaq: QQQ).

Nasdaq-100 Support

The chart shows support around the January 22 high (which is also the March 3 low) and the October 2000 monthly candle high (lower green line).

Nasdaq QQQ ETF

Technical support for the Nasdaq QQQ ETF is around 88.90.

Nasdaq Composite

The Nasdaq Composite found support exactly at the January 22 high (which is also the March 3 low).

The 78.6% Fibonacci retracement of all points lost from 2000 to 2002 is at 4,271.

Rising trend channel support is at 4,222 and the 50-day SMA at 4,207.

We don’t draw those support levels, the market does (we just connect the dots).

In addition to the subtle Nasdaq clues, there’s been one ‘tip off indicator’ that’s kept investors on the right side of the trade, and it’s not one often talked about:

Leading Indicator: What the Yen Carry Trade Predicts for Stocks

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.

The S&P 500 is Revealing Must Hold Support

Investing is about buying low and selling high, but it’s also about knowing when to simply wait. Don’t let a month of sideways trading lure you into making short-sighted decisions. Take a look at key technical support and wait for the trade to come to you.

The S&P is trading today where it was on May 22. In other words, no net progress in 2 ½ months.

For the last 30 days the S&P 500 has been stuck in a 37-point trading range.

Investing and trading is about knowing when to buy, sell and simply do nothing. Previously back on July 17, the Profit Radar Report said that: “the immediate down side is limited, the up side is limited as well.”

Sitting on the sideline doesn’t make you money, but it doesn’t lose you money either. Furthermore, not expecting any big moves allows you to wait without being on the edge about missing the next big move.

Like a fisherman waiting for the next big catch, investors and traders are waiting for the next big move. It may take patience, but the next big move always comes and nobody wants to miss it.

Key support helps identify the next big move, because once support is broken, prices generally move to the down side.

The 1-hour S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) chart below reveals important support created by all the seemingly aimless churning of 20+ long trading days.

There is a trend line convergence in the low 1,680s along with the neckline of a possible head-and shoulders pattern.

There is also an open chart gap at 1,706. Chart gaps have been acting like a magnet for the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) and Nasdaq-100 (NYSEArca: QQQ). Fibonacci resistance is at 1,700 and 1,704 (could ultimately be trumped by the open chart gap).

I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t know where the next short-term move will take stocks. In fact, in my Profit Radar Report I’ve declared 1,684 – 1,709 a trade-neutral zone.

But, a drop below the support cluster and head-and shoulders trend line should unlock a move to about 1,650 with more bearish potential thereafter.

What about the up side? The S&P 500 (NYSEArca: IVV) hasn’t hit our up side target yet, so new highs (now or after a correction) are still possible. Regardless, the up side is limited and becoming more and more risky.

Specific trades along with entry and exit levels are available via the Profit Radar Report.

Will Small Caps Lead the Market to All-time Highs?

Market timers often watch small caps for clues about possible trend reversals, but thus far the Russell 2000 Small Cap Index is going strong. Here’s a closer look at seasonality and support/resistance levels for the Russell 2000.

It’s said that major market tops are often preceded by weakness in small cap stocks. This premise makes sense, as small cap stocks are most sensitive to the ebb and flow of liquidity. As a liquidity gauge, small cap indexes like the Russell 2000 could be the canary in the mine.

The truth is in the pudding. Does this theory hold up against the facts? The chart below plots the S&P 500 Index against the Russell 2000. I guess the key point is how you define a “major” market top.

Small cap weakness foreshadowed the 2007 top, but wasn’t obvious at the 2010, 2011, and 2012 highs (at least not on the weekly chart).

What about today? Small caps are going strong and the canary is chirping and frolicking.

The second chart provides a closer look at the Russell 2000 (corresponding ETF: iShares Russell 2000 ETF – IWM).

The Russell 2000 climbed back above the green trend line originating at the October 2011 low.

Recent prior peaks supply various resistance levels (red lines) and today’s decline drove prices below the green November 15 support line (an early warning signal), but starting in mid-December small caps tend to outperform large caps. January is one of the strongest months for small cap stocks.

Historical seasonal patterns suggest that more strength lies ahead for small caps. Technicals support this view. This may drive small caps to new all-time highs (less than 4% away), but I doubt it will be enough to push the Dow and S&P to all-time highs. A break below technical support at 836 (green trend line support) would warn that this year is different.


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.

Will The Fiscal Cliff Really Send Stocks Spiraling?

How will the fiscal cliff affect stocks? Investors are preparing for the worst-case scenario, but the stock market rarely delivers on investors’ expectations. What exactly is the fiscal cliff and how should you trade it?

“Fiscal cliff hopes buoy the markets” and “Fiscal cliff concerns drive stocks lower.”

The fiscal cliff is everywhere and thus far I’ve refused to write about. Everyone talks about this cliffhanger, so isn’t it already priced in? Is the fiscal cliff really as bad as it’s hyped up to be? Here’s my 2-cent contribution to the subject.

First off, fiscal cliff is the wrong label. It should be dubbed a fiscal shot in the foot. It’s a self-inflicted problem, or better yet, a problem imposed by incapable politicians upon the American public.

The Fiscal Cliff – A Twofold Problem

Neither the annual deficit nor the even bigger U.S. debt problem are new issues. It’s just that the divisive political climate moves politicians to hang out our dirty financial laundry in plain sight and turn previously discreet negotiations into public spectacles.

The debt ceiling issue came up in July/August 2011. At the time, the United States had reached its $14 trillion debt ceiling. Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on a balanced budget, so they simply increased the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion – or 17% – to $16.4 trillion.

To make their failure and the new debt ceiling increase more palatable (and to give the public hope that the next round of negotiations will be different), both parties agreed on automatic spending cuts and tax increases. Those spending cuts are slated to take effect January 1, 2013 (called sequestration).

The cuts/hikes one two punch is one component of the fiscal cliff. That the new $16.4 trillion deficit ceiling is no longer adequate is the second. The fact that the U.S. deficit increased 17% in 18 months should be the third (but it’s ignored for now).

Will Washington Get it Done?

The token deal of August 2011 came last minute and obviously just postponed the inevitable. It even made things worse.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating because the (2011) budget debate showed that: “American’s governance and policymaking is becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed” (quote from Standard and Poor’s).

We are already hearing statements like “the cuts/hikes don’t take immediate effect” or “congress can change laws retroactively,” so an early or even timely solution seems unlikely.

Is the Fiscal Cliff Really that Bad?

Can stocks fall off the fiscal cliff? They sure can. The image below explains the financial impact of the tax cuts.

Any fallout should be cushioned by bullish seasonality. The 2011 deficit negotiations and S&P downgrade happened during one of the weakest periods of the year. The 2012 negotiations occurred during one of the strongest times of the year.

Other factors to consider are how much of the worst-case scenario is already priced in? Fear over an increase of dividend taxes appears to have driven the post election sell off (the SPDR S&P 500 ETFSPY – fell 9% from its September high).

Lets not kid ourselves, higher taxes and lower government spending – and any combination thereof – is bad for the economy. There will be consequences and the stock market will react.

But right now the reaction is expected. The stock market likes to prey on unsuspecting investors (not prepared ones). The stock market may wait for a more “opportune” time to douse investors.

Here’s how I approach the fiscal cliff: I don’t know if the negotiations will be fruitful or embarassing. I don’t know how much of the bad news is already priced in. But I do know that a move above resistance will unlock more up side, just as a move below support will lead to increased selling. With strong December seasonality the up side deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

I rather be guided by price action around support/resistance than by politicians. Key support and trigger levels along with a multi-month forecast is outlined in the Profit Radar Report.

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.

Sector ETF Analysis: 9 Sectors – 1 Message: Watch Important Technical Support

The S&P 500 Index is generally sub-divided into nine sectors. How the leading (or lagging) sectors behave can provide valuable forecasting insight. This article takes a look at the three leading year-to-date performers and their technical message.

The S&P 500 Index and the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) are made up of ten industry sectors. State Street Global Advisors subdivides the S&P into nine popular sector ETFs, called Select Sector SPDRs.

There are ten sectors, but they are condensed into nine ETFs as the technology and telecommunication sector are represented by the same ETF, XLK.

The first graph below provides a visual of the S&P 500 sectors and the sector allocation for the Select Sector SPDRs.

The second graph shows the year-to-date performance of each sector.

Each sector corresponds differently to economic developments and some sectors may boom while others bust. That at least used to be the case. During the 2000 decline about half of the sectors delivered positive returns, the remaining ones negative returns.

Since the beginning of the QE market, most sectors are up, just at a different pace.

Right now, most sectors are just above technical support and are sending the same technical message: Watch out how each sector performs around support. If support fails … watch out.

Let’s look at the technical picture of the three biggest and best performing sectors individually:

Technology:

The technology sector got hit hard in recent weeks. Nevertheless, as of Thursday’s close the Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) is up 22.48% year-to-date.

The technical picture for XLK looks plain ugly. XLK dropped through trend line support going back to the October 2011 lows (at 29.65) and the 200-day SMA at 29.19.

The technical picture for the Nasdaq-100 looks similar. December 30, 2011 was the last time the Nasdaq-100 closed below the 200-day SMA. It’s been trading above the 200-day SMA for more than 200.

Here’s a surprising factoid: Since 1990 the Nasdaq-100 had seven streaks of trading above the 200-day SMA for more than 200 days. The first close below the 200-day SMA was bearish only one time.

Owners of Rydex funds have grown very skeptical of the technology sector. The percentage of assets invested into Rydex technology funds has dropped to an all time low.

On August 5, the Profit Radar Report pointed out a similar extreme in the financial sector: “Financials are currently under loved (who can blame investors). Of the $900 million invested in Rydex sector funds, only $18 million (2%) are allocated to financials. With such negative sentiment a technical breakout (close above 14.90) could cause a quick spike in prices.”

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) rallied as much as 10% after it broke above 14.90.

Even though the technical picture of the technology sector looks quite bearish, there’s reason to believe that the down side is limited. A bullish opportunity may develop soon.

Financials:

The financial sector, represented by the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), is holding up much better than the overall market. The chart for XLF is a bit more decorated with trend lines as the Profit Radar Report has provided updates for XLF since it’s August 6 break out.

Immediate trend line support for XLF is at 15.65. The 50-day SMA is at 15.68. Immediate resistance is at 16.05. Aside from a break of the minor red trend line support, the recent decline hasn’t done any technical damage to the financial sector.

Consumer Discretionary

The Health Care (XLV) and Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) are slightly bigger than the Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY), but XLY outperformed XLV and XLE.

XLY is just barely holding on to its position above the trend line from the October 2011 low (at 45.60), but the 200-day SMA is not until 44.27. Support based on prior supply/demand inflection points is around 45.

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.

Disappointing Earnings May Be An Opportunity for ETF Investors, But …

The earnings season is in full swing. Most heavy hitters are slated to report earnings this week or next. Rather than overanalyzing the effect of one or two companies, this article looks at the opportunity and risk presented by the long-term earnings picture.

Even before this year’s earnings ritual started, a number of companies spoiled the third quarter earnings season. Intel, Caterpillar, FedEx and many others warned that estimates were too high.

Bloomberg reported that earnings pessimism among U.S. chief execs is the highest since the 2008 meltdown and the Wall Street Journal warns of an “earnings pothole.”

The S&P 500 has rallied as much as 37% since the October 2011 low and the stock rally has become extended. Could a bad earnings season push stocks off the edge?

De-focus On Earnings

Earnings are just one of many forces that drive stocks, in fact I consider them secondary and to some extent a contrarian indicator. Record high Q1 2010, Q1 2011, and Q1 2012 earnings were followed by dismal short-term stock performance so disappointing Q3 2012 earnings don’t automatically translate into falling stock prices.

Seasonality is favorable for most of the remaining year and key technical support for the S&P 500, Dow Jones and even the Nasdaq-100 is holding up. Let’s take a closer look at the S&P 500’s technical picture.

Since June the S&P has been climbing higher within the black parallel trend channel. The S&P’s rally stopped at 1,474.51 on September 14, which was exactly when the upper parallel channel line converged with a decade old resistance line.

Ironically that was just one day after Bernanke promised unlimited QE3. They say don’t fight the Fed, but in this instance the Fed lost to technical resistance. The decline from the September 14 high helped digest overly optimistic sentiment and put the trading odds in favor of going long.

The October 7, Profit Radar Report cautioned of lower prices, but viewed any decline as an opportunity to go long: “A digestive period that draws the S&P to 1,450 and perhaps towards 1,420 seems likely. The highest probability trade is a buy signal triggered by a move below the lower black channel line (around 1,420), followed by a move back above.”

Using trend lines to identify buying or selling opportunities worked like a charm in 2010 and 2011 (trend line breaks were a major contributor to short recommendations in April 2010 and May 2011), but starting in 2012 the S&P delivered a number a fake trend line breaks.

That’s why the above recommendation was to wait for a break below trend line support followed by a move back above before buying. The strategy worked. From here we simply elevate the stop-loss to guarantee a winning trade. We will go short only if the next important support is broken.

Long-term Earnings Message

Even as the economy continues to deteriorate, corporate earnings have slowly crept to new all-time highs. That’s right, all-time record highs.

The chart below plots operating earnings for S&P 500 companies (as reported by Standard & Poor’s) against the S&P 500 Index. Corporate earnings are the epitome of a mean reverting indicator and as predictable as a boomerang.

Every time corporate earnings get too high they reverse and the boomerang hits stocks. Nobody knows how high is too high. Right now, too many are expecting the boomerang to hit so it may take a bit longer, but we’re getting there.

Summary

Over the short-term (possibly into Q1 or Q2 2013) stocks may continue to rally (despite disappointing Q3 2012 earnings), but the long-term implications of record high earnings are deeply bearish for stocks.

The short-term opportunity for investors is to buy the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) on pullbacks (as long as they remain above key support). I don’t have a specific up side price target, but we’ll take profits when we see bearish technical divergences.

Concurrently we’ll be watching for a market top. Unfortunately, market tops aren’t a one-time event, it’s a process. Like knocking over a Coke machine, you have to rock it back and forth a few times before it falls over.

We’ll be looking at ETFs like the Short S&P 500 ProShares (SH) and UltraShort S&P 500 ProShares (SDS) once we see bearish divergences confirmed by sentiment and seasonality.

The Profit Radar Report will identify low-risk and high probability buying opportunities when they present themselves.