Remember, Do Nothing, Absolutely Nothing Until...
In case the action over the past few days hasn't made it clear, traders appear to be implementing an age-old Wall Street-ism right now...
"Do nothing, absolutely nothing until there is something to do."
Put another way, it looks like most investors have decided to sit on their hands until the storm brewing in Washington passes.
This means that the algorithms are large and in charge at the present time. Stock indices are now moving violently each and every time a politician says something, regardless of whether or not the comment made was meaningful. So, raise your hand if you too are growing tired of the stock market lurching in either direction to the tune of 0.5 percent every time a computer runs a series of programs.
Given that there haven't been any real developments in the debt debate, the current spastic intraday moves are likely to stick around a while. As such, the remainder of this morning's missive will focus on investing strategy. What follows may be simplistic, but most investors can benefit from a big-picture strategy session every once in a while.
As Peter Lynch Said, Invest in What You Know
It is a safe bet that most investors focus a fair amount of their investment portfolios on the U.S. stock market. Since stocks have been the best performing asset class over time, this certainly makes sense. It also follows that investors prefer to invest in what they know and where they feel comfortable. So again, investing in the U.S. seems to fit the bill here.
Since the turn of the century however, investors have discovered that investing in the U.S. stock market also entails a little thing called risk. Two devastating bear markets, both of which produced losses in excess of 50 percent, within a nine year period has forced both individual and professional investors alike to reconsider the concept of risk. Every investor now knows that risk happens fast in the stock market and that it can be very, very painful.
So, the key question is how do investors capture the benefits of the stock market and yet avoid the mind-numbing declines that tend to occur during bear markets?
If memory serves, since 1900, the average bull market has produced gains of more than 80 percent while the average bear market has sported losses about 31 percent. And if you spend some time with a calculator, this combination can actually work to an investor's advantage over the long-term.
The Problem Is...
No offense intended, but the fact of the matter is the vast majority of individuals who invest in the stock market don't really know what they are doing. They don't understand the secular and cyclical trends. They don't know that most moves are overdone. They don't recognize what actually drives the market. They don't get the idea that the market is a discounting mechanism. They are confused when a company reports good earnings and the stock goes down. And they don't know how to recognize risk levels in the market.
Thus, too many investors wind up reacting to their emotions by buying when things "feel safe" and then selling when the pain of loss becomes unbearable. This means that investors basically implement a strategy of buying high and selling low. And the bottom line is this math just doesn't work very well.
A Three Step Plan
In an environment where markets move fast - in both directions - investors need to have a plan, a strategy, or a discipline to guide them. In addition, investors need to be able to stick with their plan/strategy when times get tough. And if the first part of that equation isn't hard enough, the second part (the sticking to it) can prove challenging - especially if you don't really understand your plan.
So... step one is to decide on a plan of attack. Frankly, it doesn't matter whether the plan is to dollar-cost average (buy each and every month) for the next twenty years or if you are going to use a sophisticated long/short trading strategy to try and make money in all environments. Again, the key is to have a plan.
Step two is to understand the plan. This means knowing the positives and negatives of the plan. It also means understanding when/how your particular strategy can struggle (don't kid yourself, ALL investing strategies struggle from time to time and/or in certain environments). In all honesty, this is not an easy task. But the point is to take the time to get to know how your approach is expected to work in various market environments.
And then step three is to implement a plan on a consistent basis. In short, this means that you don't get to pick and choose when to follow your strategy. No, you've got to commit. And yes, this means to continue to implement your plan even when it isn't working very well. That's what disciplined investors do. And this is also why disciplined investors can succeed in the long run.
Finally, if you don't feel qualified to pick a plan or you don't know the ins and outs of a plan that you've chosen, consult an expert.
Current Market Drivers
We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).
1. Fun and Games in Washington (I.E. the Debt Ceiling)
2. The State of Fed Policy
3. The Outlook for the U.S./Global Economy
The State of the Trend
We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 3 months, and long-term as 3 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:
Short-Term Trend: Neutral
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)
Intermediate-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)
Long-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 12 months)
Key Technical Areas:
Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:
- Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 1680
- Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): 1700
The State of the Tape
Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...
- Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator: Neutral
- Price Thrust Indicator: Moderately Positive
- Volume Thrust Indicator:Neutral
- Breadth Thrust Indicator:Neutral
- Bull/Bear Volume Relationship: Moderately Positive
- Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups: Moderately Positive
The Early Warning Indicators
Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.
- Overbought/Oversold Condition: The S&P 500 is neutral from a short-term perspective and is neutral from an intermediate-term point of view.
- Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is negative .
The State of the Market Environment
One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward because different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Markets Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.
Weekly State of the Market Model Reading: neutral
If you are looking for a disciplined, rules-based system to help guide your market exposure, check out The Daily Decision System.
Turning To This Morning...
Concerns over the political games being played in Washington are hurting the markets again today in the early going. In case you are wondering why traders care so much about the situation in D.C., Bloomberg reports that a Government shutdown would hit GDP by as much as 1.4%. So, with the 10/1 deadline for a deal to avert a shutdown quickly approaching, it appears that traders may want to avoid possible headline risks over the weekend as futures are pointing to a lower open on Wall Street.
Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...
Major Foreign Markets:
- Japan: -0.26%
- Hong Kong: +0.35%
- Shanghai: +0.19%
- London: -0.80%
- Germany: -0.22%
- France: -0.14%
- Italy: -0.98%
- Spain: -0.58%
Crude Oil Futures: -$0.44 to $102.59
Gold: +$11.10 to $1335.20
Dollar: higher against the yen, lower vs. euro, and pound.
10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.631%
Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
- S&P 500: -7.12
- Dow Jones Industrial Average: -42
- NASDAQ Composite: -11.64
Thought For The Day...
Do you think to say "thank you" for the good things that happen each day?
Looking for Guidance in the Markets?
The Daily Decision: If you want a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis - Check the "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. Investors first need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets. The Daily Decision system was up 30.3% in 2012, is up more than 25% in 2013, and the system sports an average compound rate of return of more than 30% per year.
The Insiders Portfolio: If you are looking for a truly unique approach to stock picking - Check out The Insiders Portfolio. We buy what those who know their company's best are buying - but ONLY when they are buying heavily! P.S. The Insiders is up over 30% in 2013 and has nearly doubled the S&P 500 since 2009.
The IRA/401K Advisor: Stop ignoring your 401K! Our long-term oriented service designed for IRAs and 401Ks strives to keep accounts positioned on the right side of the markets. This is a service you really can't afford not to use.
The Top 5 Portfolio: We keep things simple here by focusing on our five favorite positions. This concentrated stock portfolio employs a rigorous custom stock selection approach to identify market leaders. Risk management strategies are built in to every position.
All StateoftheMarkets.com Premium Services include a 30-day money-back guarantee!
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At StateoftheMarkets.com, our goal is to provide everything you need to be a more successful investor: The must-read headlines, market commentary, market research, stock analysis, proprietary risk management models, and most importantly – actionable portfolios with live trade alerts.
Finally, we are here to help - so don't hesitate to call with questions, comments, or ideas at 1-877-440-9464.
Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,
David D. Moenning
Founder and Chief Investment Strategist
For up to the minute updates on the market's driving forces, Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave (Twitter is the new Ticker Tape)
Positions in stocks mentioned: none
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