Technical Analysis

  • 08 Aug
    The S&P 500 is about to hit a new all-time high. How much upside can you expect?

    The S&P 500 is about to hit a new all-time high. How much upside can you expect?

    Since the beginning of July, the market has shown quite a bit of bullish momentum. As of this writing, the S&P 500 (SPY) has rallied more than 150 points from a pivot low in late June in the 2,700 area – a total gain in a little over a month of 9%. The index is now poised to match, and quite possibly exceed the highs it reached in late January. For most technical traders, a new high marks a break above resistance that should give the market momentum to keep pushing even higher. If you’re not the type of person, however to simply “leap before you look,” then like me, you want to try to figure out how much room is left.

    How much upside remains in the market isn’t an easy question to answer, simply because nobody can make anything more than a semi-educated guess about future events – or the way the investing world will interpret them. The same technical traders who look for new all-time highs to extend trends even further also like to use historical price action to come up with estimates. Economists and fundamental investors try to use geopolitical and macroeconomic data and events to identify keys and trends. I hesitate to say that any one approach is better than another. Instead, I like to consider a combination of a couple of different technical techniques, along with economic and, yes, even geopolitical conditions to try to come to my own opinion.

    I spent some time this morning going over some of that data, and here’s what my early conclusions are. Keep in mind, these are just a few of my own best attempts to make a semi-educated guess, so you can take it or leave it as you wish.

    Some Fuzzy Math

    I’ll start by giving you a look at a technical chart of the S&P 500.


    There are a couple of elements of this chart that I think are useful right now. The first is the Relative Strength (RSI) indicator shown in the lower portion of the chart. RSI is a sentiment and momentum indicator that oscillates between upper and lower extremes to gauge a trend’s strength and give traders a way to estimate the likelihood the trend will continue or reverse. At the upper extremes (above 70), reversal risk to the downside is increased, while at the lower extremes (below 30), the opposite is true. The other element that comes into play about RSI is that stocks will often continue to follow their current trend even as RSI hovers near, or even beyond extreme levels. That reality is what makes RSI interesting to me right now. Even as the S&P 500 is pushing near to the all-time high it set in January of this year, RSI remains just a little below its uppermost extreme. It has also managed to oscillate within its upper and lower extremes since that high was reached in January, with its general pattern of highs and lows since April closely approximating the pattern of the index. That is a confirmation of the market’s trend over the last four months, and the fact that the indicator still hasn’t pierced its upper extreme band suggests there could be more room to run.

    At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to discuss a basic tenet of trend-based analysis. Trends tend to move in what I like to think of as stages. Typically speaking, most long-term trends can be broken into three different stages. Stage 1 is the earliest portion of a trend, when the market begins to reverse from an extreme or high or low. That’s the hardest stage to recognize, simply because it moves against the grain of the current longer trend, when most people will simply see that counter move as a minor correction or pullback within that trend. Stage 2 is the longest portion of a trend, and the area where the most money is likely to be made. It’s where the new trend is easiest to identify, and so more and more investors jump on board in that direction, making it easier and simpler to maintain. Stage 3 is the latest stage of the trend, and what I like of as the “last gasp” stage of that long-term trend. There is often still quite a bit of room to move along the trend in this stage, and so this stage can still yield very profitable results; but it also means that reversal risk is greatly heightened during this stage.

    The challenge about the stages of a trend is predicting how long any given stage will last. Stage 2 can last 4 to 5 years in many cases, while Stages 1 and 3 are usually considerably shorter. The problem is that word – usually. I’ve been saying the market is in Stage 3 of its long-term upward trend for more than two years, which is undoubtedly longer than that stage should last. I maintain that attitude, however, simply because I think it is smarter to estimate conservatively; plan for the best, but be prepared for the worst. That means that I want to recognize and take advantage of upside opportunity when it’s there, but be ready and positioned to react quickly and effectively when the market reverses back the other way.

    If you operate on the idea that the market is in Stage 3, any upside that remains should be somewhat limited. That is where the “291.78 Total Distance” estimate I highlighted on the chart comes into play. Some people will take the total distance of the last market correction to estimate how far the market’s new opportunity will be after a new high is reached. I think it’s reasonable to use the total distance as a reference point, but I prefer to think in somewhat more conservative terms.

    Another technical method of market analysis that I have learned to appreciate over the course of my years in the market is Fibonacci analysis. It’s pretty fascinating to see how market trends, and their swings from high to low correspond with Fibonacci mathematics. Those calculations can also be used to estimate a market’s extension of a trend. Here’s what we get if we apply the .618 Fibonacci ratio to the total distance of the market’s correction from January to April of this year:

    291.78 X .618 = 180.32

    We can add this number (roughly 62% of the total size of the correction) to the last market high to get an estimate of how much further the market could run if the resistance from that high is broken.

    2,872.87 + 180.32 = 3,052.87

    180.32 / 2,872.87 = 6.27% total upside

    Forecasting broad market upside of about 6% if the market makes a new high seems like a pretty conservative estimate; if it is even remotely close to correct, that should translate to some pretty healthy gains on individual stocks. How long that kind of a run will take is anybody’s guess. I decided to look back at the last two bull markets to gauge how long Stage 3 of their respective long-term trends lasted.

    The bull market that ran from 2002 to 2007 hit a high point in October 2007 before beginning its reversal; the “last gasp”, final stage of that five-year trend began in August, meaning that Stage 3 in that case covered about a two-month period of time. Prior to that, the March 2000 high that marked the end of the “dot-com boom” started its “last gasp” push in February of the same year. Saying the market could move about 6% in one to two months isn’t unreasonable given the increased level of volatility we’ve seen from the market this year; but I also think it’s useful to think about how long it has taken the market to recover from its latest correction (assuming, of course, that a new high is actually made). The bottom came in April, so a conservative estimate could suggest that it may take between 2 to 4 months. That certainly implies the market’s trend could last through the rest of the year, or possibly even longer since my estimate intentionally errs on the conservative side.

    There are some important elements from a fundamental and economic view that I think support the idea the market has some room and reason to run a little longer. Earnings continue to come in generally strong, and most economic reports (jobs, housing etc.) are also showing pretty broad-based strength. A healthy economy should generally lend itself well to continued strength in the stock market. While interest rates are rising, the Fed has maintained a conservative pace and degree of those increases, and the economy seems to following that lead pretty well. As they currently stand, interest rates remain historically low despite the increases we’ve seen so far. That is also a positive, bullish indicator.

    There are risks to my forecast. Frankly, many come from the geopolitical arena at this stage. Trade war concerns are still on everybody’s mind, and the Trump administration’s reimposition of economic sanctions on Iran could put a cap on oil supply that could drive oil prices near to their historical highs. While corporate earnings have yet to really show a negative impact from tariffs between the U.S. and its trading partners, more and more CEO’s are starting to cite tariffs as a risk. If that risk starts to manifest itself in an actual deterioration of revenues, and of earnings, the market can be expected to react negatively. Increased oil prices, at the extreme, could have the net effect of muting demand for a wide range of goods all over the globe. Real estate prices in many parts of the U.S. have also been showing some remarkable increases over the last year or so as well, while wage gains have generally been quite muted; at some point, those increases, along with increasing interest rates could very well put home ownership – a big indicator of broad economic strength – out of the reach of the average working person.

    Is there good upside left in the market? I think there is. I also think we have to be careful to factor risk into our evaluation and our investment decisions. Be conservative and selective about how you jump into a new opportunity, and plan ahead about how long you intend to stay or how much gain you want to chase. Put a plan in place to limit your downside risk if you’re proven wrong and the market turns against you, and limit the size of the new positions you take.

  • 31 May
    U.S.-China tensions could force AMAT much lower

    U.S.-China tensions could force AMAT much lower

    Over the last several weeks, the threat of a trade war between the United States and China has put a lot of pressure on the broad market. Virtually every sector of the economy could be affected by U.S. tariffs More →

  • 30 May
    CVS looks poised for a big break out – here’s why

    CVS looks poised for a big break out – here’s why

    Looking for a new investment to make can be an intimidating process, no matter how experienced you may be as an investor. There are so many ways to go about doing it, how are you really supposed to know what method works best? More →

  • 13 Aug
    Sunday Edition: Wearing A Polo? You’ll Like This Buying Opportunity

    Sunday Edition: Wearing A Polo? You’ll Like This Buying Opportunity

    When reading about the fraught retail sector, I usually find myself wondering about how iconic American brands are doing. Those longstanding brands that really embody and define American style.

    This week had me thinking about Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL).

    For several years, it has seemed that Ralph Lauren has been in the same boat with Michael Kors and Coach, with their products being found mostly at outlet malls and on discount racks at departments stores. More →

  • 06 Aug
    Sunday Edition: Starbucks Addict? Don’t Buy The Dip

    Sunday Edition: Starbucks Addict? Don’t Buy The Dip

    I have a confession to make. I used to be a Starbucks addict.

    A few years ago, I was never without my venti iced non-fat 16-pump chai tea latte with extra extra ice. The baristas at my local store knew me by name and even went so far as to ask if I was ok if I showed up late or if I showed up more than twice a day. They even followed my dog on Instagram.

    I was addicted to a point that when there was a forest fire one summer that stopped my preferred Starbucks store from getting its chai concentrate delivered, I went online and bought all of the chai concentrate I could afford from with delivery by next day air. More →

  • 23 Jul
    Sunday Edition: Don’t Fear The Reaper. It’s Not Coming For This Retailer.

    Sunday Edition: Don’t Fear The Reaper. It’s Not Coming For This Retailer.

    Looking at the retail sector over the last couple of years, it’s not difficult to imagine the grim reaper (or maybe just Amazon) coming for what remains of shopping mall staples and other brick-and-mortar retailers.

    The number of bankruptcies and closures is astounding. So far this year, more than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy, up 31% since this time last year. While most of those filings were from small Mom & Pop stores, there are some pretty big household names on the list too.

    Gymboree. Payless ShoeSource. Gordman’s. RadioShack. Teen clothing retailer Wet Seal. Women’s retailers The Limited and Bebe. More →

  • 02 Jul
    Sunday Edition: Things Are Looking Bright For Solar Stocks

    Sunday Edition: Things Are Looking Bright For Solar Stocks

    On occasion, I like to take a look back over the stocks I’ve written about to see how the technical patterns I’ve identified in their charts have played out.

    In early January of this year, I wrote a piece for our sister publication, Direction Alerts, about Canadian Solar (NASDAQ: CSIQ). In the article, which you can find here, I discussed how CSIQ was nearing a breakout from a falling wedge pattern and could soon be beginning a new uptrend that could see its price potentially rising 100% or higher.

    So where is CSIQ today? More →

  • 25 Jun
    Sunday Edition: This Could Be Your Next 10-Bagger

    Sunday Edition: This Could Be Your Next 10-Bagger

    If you’re like me, you’ve looked at more than a few charts and wished you had invested when a stock was coming off a bottom and was on its way up rather than looking for clues that tell you if there’s another buying opportunity on the horizon so that you can get in on the uptrend too.

    Lucky for us, there are ways to spot a bottom. And once you do spot one, it only takes the courage of your convictions to buy in even with sentiment at its worst.

    This week, I believe I have spotted a bottom in Teekay Corporation (NYSE: TK). More →

  • 18 Jun
    Sunday Edition: Dark Skies Ahead? This Bearish Signal Spells Trouble For One Tech Stock

    Sunday Edition: Dark Skies Ahead? This Bearish Signal Spells Trouble For One Tech Stock

    Last week I wrote about a bearish pattern on China’s Google, Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU). At the end of that article, I made mention that when one market leader starts to turn bearish, others may soon follow.

    Sure enough, last Friday, the technology sector experienced a sell-off that extended its losses on Monday and sent some big names—Netflix to name one—into near-correction territory.

    It’s not clear what started the sell-off, and it remains to be seen if it was all just a short-term correction or a sign of something more ominous from the group of stocks that has been at the heart of Wall Street’s bull run in equities in the last several months.

    One stock in particular that I want to discuss today is Nvidia (NASDAQ: NVDA). More →

  • 11 Jun
    Sunday Edition: Don’t Buy China’s Google Just Yet

    Sunday Edition: Don’t Buy China’s Google Just Yet

    It never fails to make me laugh a bit to myself when I see excitement over a bunch of zeros. Remember Dow 20,000 earlier this year? Or Amazon hitting $1,000 a share last week?

    This week it was Google’s parent company, Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL), soaring to trade at $1,006 by late Monday morning which helped push the market cap of the world’s second largest company to $688 billion.

    What’s remarkable in my mind is that the demand is still there, even despite all those zeros of the four-digit stock price, as such a high price on an individual stock should make the company look unaffordable to smaller investors.

    As that $1,000 price tag is too steep for me, I decided to take a look at China’s answer to Google, Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU). More →

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