After a day of tight, sideways consolidation, the major indices finished slightly higher yesterday. However, an intraday tug-of-war between the bulls and bears kept traders on their toes, and caused stocks to finish well off their highs. The broad market opened lower, reversed into firmly higher territory by mid-day, then drifted back down in the afternoon. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4%, the S&P 500 0.2%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average 0.1%. Scoring its seventh consecutive advance, the small-cap Russell 2000 rose 0.4%. The S&P Midcap 400 edged 0.1% higher. A bounce in the final thirty minutes of trading prevented the main stock market indexes from closing near their lows of the day. Instead, stocks settled near the middle of their intraday ranges.
Total volume in the NYSE surged 24%, while volume in the Nasdaq rose 16% above the previous day’s level. Although higher volume on an “up” day is typically a positive sign, this was not necessarily the case yesterday. Because most of the increased volume occurred during the afternoon sell-off, the higher turnover was actually a sign of “churning.” This occurs when institutions stealthily sell into strength, after a protracted rally, causing volume levels to spike higher and prices to remain little changed. Market internals were marginally positive. In both the NYSE and Nasdaq, advancing volume exceeded declining volume by a ratio of less than 2 to 1.
In our March 8 commentary, we suggested the broad market would likely continue higher until at least the S&P 500 caught up to the Russell 2000, S&P Midcap, and Nasdaq at testing resistance of its January 2010 highs. At that level, we said overhead supply from the January highs could spark a short-term correction in the broad market, which would prompt us to “consider lightening up and/or tightening stops on long positions.” Not surprisingly, yesterday afternoon’s distribution (churning) came into the market as the S&P 500 SPDR (SPY), a popular ETF proxy for the S&P 500 Index, came within just 0.1% of its January high. This is shown on the daily chart of SPY below:
Less obvious than the test of the January high in the S&P 500 is resistance of that high also correlated to the CBOE Volatility Index ($VIX) coming into its prior low from January 2010. Widely known as the “fear index,” the $VIX gives us a visual representation of the level of investor complacency in the market. A lower reading indicates a low level of fear, which is generally a contrary indicator of future market direction. On the chart below, notice how the correction that began in January kicked into gear as the $VIX dropped to the same level its presently trading at:
The $VIX trading at the same level that started the January correction in the broad market is indeed a warning sign to aggressive bulls. Yet, despite the S&P 500 contending with key resistance of its January 2010 high and the $VIX testing its January low, there’s no reason to panic and suddenly start selling everything today. After all, yesterday was the first recent display of distribution the market has exhibited. Nevertheless, one might now consider trailing tighter stops on existing long positions, especially those that have been lacking relative strength on the way up. If the broad market indeed enters into a correction from current levels, the healthy pullback will be welcomed, as it will create fresh, lower-risk buying opportunities in strong ETFs.
Yesterday, we made a judgment call to lock in profits on iShares U.S. Technology Sector Index (IYW), which we bought last week. Compared to the Nasdaq, IYW has lacked substantial upside momentum since entry. As such, we were not interested in holding through a potential pullback in the broad market. However, we remain long both iShares Xinhua China 25 (FXI) and KBW Capital Markets SPDR (KCE). FXI does not necessarily have a close correlation to the U.S. markets, while KCE has just broken out above resistance of a five-month downtrend line. We’re also holding just a half position of KCE, which we may add to on a pullback to support. Yesterday, we also entered a new position in Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX). Though it has not yet broken out above the highs of its five-day range, yesterday morning’s gap down to the 50-day MA provided a low-risk entry point, after GDX subsequently reversed to a new intraday high at mid-day. Buying pullbacks in commodity-related ETFs is often more effective than buying breakouts.
There are no new setups in the pre-market today.
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.
- Per Intraday Trade Alert, we adjusted the parameters for yesterday’s pre-market buy setup in GDX. We bought at mid-day, with slightly larger share size and lower stop price. New trade details reflected on the table above.
- Per Intraday Trade Alert, we made a judgment call to sell IYW, locking in a moderate, short-term gain on the trade.
- 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