Staying true to historical form, stocks kicked off the slowest week of the year with a lethargic session of trading that left the major indices flat to marginally higher. The main stock market indexes opened in positive territory, drifted in a very tight, sideways range throughout most of the day, dipped lower in the afternoon, then recovered to close just above the middle of their intraday ranges. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3%, the S&P 500 0.2%, and the Nasdaq Composite 0.1%. Both the small-cap Russell 2000 and S&P Midcap 400 indices edged less than 0.1% lower.
Because of last Thursday’s early closing time, turnover obviously surged above the previous session’s levels. Total volume in the NYSE increased 120%, while volume in the Nasdaq was 101% greater. Trading in both exchanges stayed below 50-day average levels, which is likely to remain the situation, at least through the end of this week. Many traders take a break from the markets during the last week of each calendar year, and there’s no reason to believe this year will be any different. Because of the extremely light volume over the holidays, we’re only focused only on managing existing open positions, rather than entering new ones. As we said yesterday, the stock market’s strong advance of the past week has been impressive, but we won’t know whether or not the recent gains are sustainable until institutional activity returns to the markets.
As we approach the end of 2009, headlines are already rolling off the popular financial media presses, trumpeting how extraordinary the rally of the past ten months has been. “S&P 500 on pace to record largest annual gain since the 1930’s,” was one such headline we saw last night. Indeed, there’s no denying the facts of this year’s huge advance. However, at a time when investors are in their bliss, it’s important to keep the “big picture” in perspective. Although traders and investors often have short-term memories, do not forget the S&P 500 tumbled 38.5 percent in 2008, its biggest loss since a 38.6 percent plunge in 1937. The Dow Jones Industrial Average similarly nosedived 34 percent last year, its steepest drop since 1931. This means one of the largest annual declines in the history of the stock market (2008) was followed by one of the market’s largest historical gains (2009). A shocking, new paradigm? Not really. This is often the case during periods of high volatility, and the same thing happened in the 1930’s. Simply put, the larger the drop, the greater the recovery; the greater the rally, the larger the subsequent correction.
Let’s take a step away from the hype of this year’s rally, and take an objective look at the long-term charts of the benchmark S&P 500 Index. Below are two weekly charts of the S&P 500. Fibonacci retracement lines are applied on the first chart, while the second chart marks the long-term downtrend line of the S&P 500, beginning with the October 2007 high (semi-log scaling):
As shown on the charts above, the S&P 500 is poised to enter 2010 at two pivotal resistance levels. First is the 50% Fibonacci retracement from its October 2007 high to March 2009 low. Time and time again, the 50% retracement level has proven to be a pivotal level for stocks, ETFs, and indexes, especially for longer-term trends. The second key area of resistance is the downtrend line that has been in place for more than two years. With the S&P bumping up against that trendline right now, one must still concede the dominant long-term trend is technically still “down.” Nevertheless, just because the S&P 500 is up against two major levels of resistance right now does not mean 2010 will be a losing year. Rather, the “big picture” merely gives astute traders and investors legitimate reasons to perhaps reduce position size and/or tighten stops on winning positions they’ve been holding.
Every year at this time, subscribers send e-mail asking us to share our predictions for the upcoming year. Since we believe in the mantra “trade what you see, not what you think,” we’re always hesitant to share such long-term thoughts. However, this year we’ll satisfy the masses and give it a whirl anyway. Because the sell-off of 2008 was so monstrous, and the rally of 2009 so powerful, it seems the market may be reaching some sort of equilibrium, at least in the mid to long-term. Therefore, our best prediction (we really hate using that word) is that the dominant theme of 2010 will be sideways, range-bound trading that culminates in a slight gain or loss by this time next year. If the market plays out in this manner, it would be just fine with us. Since the basis of our style is identifying sectors and ETFs with relative strength or weakness to the broad market, our trading strategy works quite well in range-bound markets. This is confirmed by our historical performance record, which indicates our most profitable years were often those without a strong trend. As such, it wouldn’t be so bad if our “prediction” happens to be right.
There are no new setups in the pre-market today. If we enter anything new, we’ll promptly send an Intraday Trade Alert with details.
Daily Performance Report:
Below is an overview of all open positions, as well as a performance report on all positions that were closed only since the previous day’s newsletter. Net P/L figures are based on the $50,000 Wagner Daily model account size. Changes to open positions since the previous report are listed in red text below. Please review the Wagner Daily Subscriber Guide for important, automatic rules on trigger and stop prices.
- Yesterday, we used the MTG Opening Gap Rules to manage the opening gap downs on both EEV and FAZ. This caused stops in both positions to be adjusted slightly lower, to just below yesterday’s lows of the first 20 minutes. Later in the day, as the market pulled back, EEV and FAZ began moving higher, and eventually finished the day near unchanged levels. We’re maintaining the same, gap-adjusted stops going into today, but intend to tighten the stops if EEV and FAZ start heading back up again.
- Reminder to subscribers – Intraday Trade Alerts to your e-mail and/or mobile phone are normally only sent to indicate a CHANGE to the pre-market plan that is detailed in each morning’s Wagner Daily. We sometimes send a courtesy alert just to confirm action that was already detailed in the pre-market newsletter, but this is not always the case. If no alert is received to the contrary, one should always assume we’re honoring all stops and trigger prices listed in each morning’s Wagner Daily. But whenever CHANGES to the pre-market stops or trigger prices are necessary, alerts are sent on an AS-NEEDED basis. Just a reminder of the purpose of Intraday Trade Alerts.
- For those of you whose ISPs occasionally deliver your e-mail with a delay, make sure you’re signed up to receive our free text message alerts sent to your mobile phone. This provides a great way to have redundancy on all Intraday Trade Alerts. Send your request to [email protected] if not already set up for this value-added feature we provide to subscribers.
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Edited by Deron Wagner,
MTG Founder and Head Trader