September 28, 2010, 7:50am EST   

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Tuesday's Need-To-Know  

Smart / Dumb Money Confidence


* Friday's extreme TICK readings were a clue that further short-term gains would be difficult to sustain, and the markets mostly meandered in response yesterday.  We're now neutral among almost all short-term indicators, and have a slight conflict between trend (up) and seasonality (down, kind of).


* The Hindenburg Omen from August has mostly failed.  When that's happened in the past, the next six months were up 100% of the time.


* Decimalization has ruined the concept of 90% days...but not as much as volatility has.




The Dumb Money is 54% confident in a rally.

The Smart Money is 50% confident in a rally.


Smart/Dumb Confidence

View longer history



Short-term Outlook (1-5 Days):  10% Long (from 9/23 at 112.65)



Active Studies
Date Study Forecast
  Nothing notable  

Summary:  We'll change the Outlook to Flat if SPY trades at 113.85.  Trend is positive, but there is some slight negative seasonality and overall our guides aren't providing much direction here.


Detail:  When the market rallies very well during a month, there has often been a mean-reversion thing going on during the last few days of that month and the next few of the following one.  There were 31 times since 1928 that the S&P rallied ~9% or more heading into the final 3 days of the month.  Those last 3 days were positive 45% of the time, averaging -0.2%.  However, the first 3 days of the next month were up 71% of the time, averaging +1.5%.  It works in reverse, too.  If the month was down 9% month-to-date, then the last 3 days were up 68% of the time, averaging +1.7%, and the first 3 of the next month were up 44% of the time, averaging -0.7%.

So if the month-to-date was good, then the very end of that month was bad, while the first three of the next were good.  And vice-versa.  There were only four times September was up +5% month-to-date, and the final three days showed returns of -0.7%, -0.7%, +0.6% and -1.9%.  The first 3 of the next were -1.8%, +1.0%, +0.8% and -1.9% - nothing much to read into there.  Sentiment-wise, we're mired in the same "nothing going on" muck that we've been in lately, so we don't have much to rely on there at the moment.


Current SPY:  -0.03  at 114.26


The 4 Anchors:

1. Sentiment: 


2. Studies: 

     Nothing too notable, but some potential

     negative seasonality into month-end

3. Trend

     New multi-month closing high

4. Support/Resistance: 

     Nothing especially nearby


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Intermediate-term Outlook (1-3 Months):  25% Long  (from 9/20 at 114.22)


Summary:  The breakout from 9/20 (should it hold) is confirmation of the bullish studies from late August.  If SPY closes under 111.30, we will move back to Flat.


Detail:  No change.



The 4 Anchors:

1. Sentiment: 

     Mostly neutral

2. Studies: 

     Conflicts between bullish studies in

     August and technical sell signals

3. Trend

     Positive above 112ish

4. Support/Resist:

     Nothing especially nearby




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Equity Indicators - Updates and Extremes


Hindenburg Omen


Last month, we took a look at the Hindenburg Omen, an overly data-mined "market crash" signal.  It got a huge amount of attention at the time, and was looking prophetic for a couple of weeks, but has since petered out faster than King Jung il's assertion he's not a nepotist.


Arguments vary about when (or if) a Hindenburg Omen signal is rendered moot, but I'd say the market rallying is a pretty good sign that it's not working.  Actually, looking back at the Report from August, the S&P did decline about in line (or more) than historical averages, at least during the first few weeks.  It's the longer-term that's not looking as disastrous.


So let's go back to 1965 and look at every Hindenburg Omen, along with how the S&P 500 performed during the subsequent 30 days.  We'll separate out future performance based on if the market rallied well or fell hard during that first 30 days, to see if it had an impact longer-term.


By "rallied well", let's require that the S&P rise by at least +5% during that first 30 days, and also that the maximum gain is twice the maximum decline during that time.  For "fell hard", we'll require the opposite - a drop of at least -5%, with a maximum decline at least twice as large as the maximum gain.


1 Month


3 Months


6 Months


Max Gain

6 Mo. Later

Max Loss

6 Mo. Later

S&P rallies >5% with > 2-to-1 reward/risk (9 occurrences)
Median 0.2% 1.6% 4.9% 9.8% -4.2%
% Positive 56% 67% 100%    
S&P declines >-5% with > 2-to-1 risk/reward (20 occurrences)
Median 0.0% -0.2% 2.9% 6.7% -8.3%
% Positive 50% 50% 60%    
Any random time...
Median 0.9% 2.0% 4.0% 7.7% -4.5%
% Positive 59% 62% 65%    


From the table, we can see that there were 20 times the S&P fell hard during the first 30 days, versus only 9 times it rallied well.  That's right in line with historical expectations following the Omen.


What's interesting is how the S&P performed over the ensuing six months.  When the market bucked the Omen for the most part and did well during the first 30 days, then over the next six months it was positive every time, and the maximum gain averaged twice as large as the maximum loss during those six-month stretches.


When the market fell hard during the initial 30-day period, then it also showed a positive six-month return (which isn't too surprising given the market's long-term trend and tendency to rebound from shorter-term declines).  But the risk/reward wasn't nearly as positive as it was compared to those times when the market rallied after the Omen.



NYSE Unchanged Issues


Barry Ritholz pointed out a chart yesterday from Ron Griess showing the percentage of unchanged issues on the NYSE.  As the exchange went to decimal pricing, the number of unchanged issues dropped dramatically (it takes less to move a stock $0.01 than it did to move it 1/16 of a point).  The conclusion was that this is likely the cause of the numerous 90% up and down days we've been seeing lately.


Well, yes and no.


This is a concept we've discussed several times in the past couple of years, and it's important to remember.  We simply cannot rely on breadth extremes like we were able to a few short years ago.  But I don't think decimalization is the main culprit.  Here's why:



The chart shows the percentage of unchanged issues (the blue line) along with the number of extreme breadth days, this being defined as any day where more than 80% of stocks closed up or down on the day (the small gray lines at the top of the chart).


The correlation between the two is -0.14 (on a scale of -1 to +1), meaning that the two are very modestly inversely correlated.  So as the number of unchanged issues dropped, the number of extreme breadth days increased.  That's what we expect.


But there is a 0.22 correlation between those extreme breadth days and the VIX implied volatility index.  Which makes sense, too - as market volatility increases, so does the number of extreme breadth days.  In fact, this explains more of the move in breadth than decimalization does.


Even still, the cluster of extreme days since 2008 stands out, and neither decimalization nor volatility can explain it.  I know it's cliché by this point, but I do blame high-frequency trading for these distortions, and it's the main reason I rely on breadth as an indicator less than I used to...especially the vaunted 90% days.



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Equity Market Indicators



In late August, we got a spike in bullish (for the market) indicators near the 30% level, similar to what we saw in late May and late June, and once again we saw almost immediate buying pressure.  Unfortunately, we didn't quite reach the kind of extreme we have previously before the market took off.  With the rally over the past 2 weeks, bearish indicators have climbed but haven't reached the 30% threshold.


More history:   Short-term Score     Long-term Score    Indicators At Extremes



* New extreme

See all indicators


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Bonds, Commodities and Currencies - Updates and Extremes


Nothing notable for today.




Jason Goepfert

Founder, Sundial Capital Research, Inc.


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