The possibility that Russia may invade Ukraine received the blame for the poor market action today, but that is just a convenient explanation to use as a headline. The market has been struggling recently for a variety of fundamental and technical reasons. In large part, it simply was due for corrective action and now that it is playing out, the folks who write about the market have to develop some simple logic to explain it.
Markets go through cycles and the bears are finally having a turn. The fact that they have been denied for so long makes it feel even weaker, but it is not only normal action but quite healthy. The market has gone far too long without the natural ebb and flow that we used to see before the Fed started supplying endless cheap capital.
What is really happening in this market is a shift back to normal action as the Fed slowly withdraws its support. It may be painful in the near term, but, eventually, the market will trade with normal emotions again as the manipulation of central banks recedes.
The big question is how long will it take for this to play out? I have no idea, but the current price action is a clear sign to be defensive. The key isn't to time the exact turns but to embrace the trends when they occur. Right now, the trend is down and the bears have control. That is really all you need to know.
Of course there are always a few stocks that acting well, and the potential for a countertrend move is very high, so you don't want to be dogmatically bearish. Just respect the fact that the market is generally acting poorly and that you need to protect capital more aggressively.
Have a good evening. I'll see you tomorrow.
Aug 05, 2014 | 1:28 PM EDT
The Seasonality Problem
- Finding sustained momentum is extremely difficult.
The good news is the outperformance of small-caps, but breadth is still running negative and the S&P 500 is struggling to hold the lows of the day. It is not the V-shaped bounce action we have grown accustomed to in the past few years, but it is still early and the bulls have time to regroup and make a better push over the next couple of days.
The big problem is seasonality. August is slowing going for obvious reasons, but what is frustrating is how few pockets of speculative action there are. A few big-caps, like Tesla (TSLA) and LinkedIn (LNKD), are exhibiting a little relative strength, but finding sustained momentum is extremely difficult.
Often, the worst markets for traders are those that don't look that bad. Right now, there's no major panic, volume isn't very heavy and support levels are holding. It isn't terrible but it isn't very good either, and the result is that it makes trading very lackluster. Good trading is most often a function of strong emotions, and what we have instead is lethargy and indifference.
I continue to watch Tarena International (TEDU) and a couple other things, but this market isn't giving us much. Stay vigilant and be patient.
Aug 05, 2014 | 10:45 AM EDT
Watching Key Groups
- Momentum and China names are on my radar.
The dip buyers made a feeble attempt after the gap-down open, but better-than-expected ISM services and factory orders helped provide support. Breadth is poor again with about 1,850 gainer to 3,400 decliners. Solar energy is leading while oil and chips are lagging.
Momentum and China-related names are holding up relatively well. Those are the key groups, and if they soften, it is sign that the limited speculative interest we still have is drying up again. So far, there isn't any obvious selling pressure, but we need to stay watchful.
I have my eye on a few China names, such as E-Commerce China Dangdang (DANG) and China Digital TV Holding (STV), but I don't see any reason to do anything aggressive now. The action still feels rather "dead cat," but that doesn't mean it can't continue. Keep an eye on the day lows as a key support area.
Aug 05, 2014 | 8:02 AM EDT
My Bias Is Bearish
- The bulls need to build on the bounce.
Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. -- Karen Kaiser Clark
We have seen this sort of action before, but Monday's very low volume bounce is being greeted with a very high level of skepticism.
Part of it is due to the fact that it is a seasonally slow time of the year, as market players take vacations and are less active, but the main driver for the pessimism is that there is less confidence that the Fed will continue to supply the gas that has driven us for so long.
The bulls are scoffing at the idea that anything has changed. We have heard before that the Fed is no longer being as effective in supporting the market and it has turned out to be dead wrong. The market has consistently found comfort in the arms of Janet Yellen and her crew. Doubting the Fed has not been a smart strategy.
Many bears are convinced that this time it is different and that a much more severe correction is lurking. There is no shortage of economic problems and international issues to provide selling catalysts, but the big question is whether they will matter this time. In the past, the market has blithely shrugged off any worries and concerns.
After the poor action we had last week, a dead-cat bounce and a retest of the lows would seem quite logical. The problem with that thinking is that it simply hasn't worked that way for a number of years. More often than not we bounce and as the bears proclaim that it is just a dead-cat bounce, we keep on running straight up. That causes a short squeeze and also pulls in the underinvested bulls from the sidelines. Before you know it we are going straight up and are back at the highs.
It certainly is possible for that scenario to play out again, but conditions feel somewhat different this time. What is most notable is how little energy we have had for so long. While the indices, other than the small-caps, have held up well, there just hasn't been much momentum. We don't have those pockets of speculative action that always signaled that the buyers were lurking and anxious to put cash to work.
The key to dealing with a market at this juncture is to not be too certain. It is the inflexible bulls and bears that have the most difficult struggles. I admit to having a bearish bias right now, as I don't like the narrowness of the market strength, but I'm ready to buy should the price action improve.
One interesting market timing call this morning come from Tom DeMark. He is stating that it is time to sell into the strength in the China market as he anticipates a fall of 10% to start within days. DeMark made a similar call about U.S. markets back on May 2 when he predicted an 11% correction. That turned out to be dead wrong, but it did cause a minor blip at the time.
We have flat action in the early going and not much news to contend with. The bulls need to go to work and prove that they can build on that bounce and that it isn't just a dead cat.