Why Our Stock Market Timing System Has Shifted To “Neutral” Mode ($QQQ, $SPY)


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On the close of December 13, our stock market timing system shifted from “buy” to “neutral” mode. This means we now have no firm bias with regard to near to intermediate-term market trend for swing trading.

The lack of substantial bullish follow-through in leading individual stocks in recent weeks, the absence of leadership in most ETFs (other than international ETFs), and the bearish pattern on the weekly chart of the S&P 500 Index (below) are all valid reasons to avoid the long side of the market now. Nevertheless, recent price action in the stock market has not yet convincingly confirmed the balance of power has shifted back to the bears, so we are a bit cautious about aggressively jumping in the short side of the market just yet.

Below is a longer-term weekly chart pattern of S&P 500 SPDR ($SPY), a popular ETF proxy for trading the benchmark S&P 500 Index. Notice that $SPY will likely print a bearish “shooting star” candlestick pattern for the week. This is a topping pattern that often indicates near-term bullish momentum is running out. Since a weekly chart is a longer-term interval than a daily chart, the formation of this shooting star pattern on the weekly chart is more important than if the the same pattern occurred on a daily chart:


Notice that the formation of the shooting star candlestick also occurred as $SPY “overcut” resistance of its downtrend line from the September high. This overcut of the downtrend line is significant because it sucks in new buyers, just as institutions are starting to sell into strength. This creates additional overhead supply that subsequently increases the odds of a resumption of the dominant downtrend. This would be confirmed if $SPY breaks below the horizontal price support shown above, which is merely a move below the low of its current weekly candlestick.

Although the weekly pattern of $SPY looks a bit ominous, at least in still trading above technical support of its 20, 50, and 200-day moving averages on the shorter-term daily chart. That’s more than one can say about the Nasdaq 100 Index, which sliced back below its 50 and 200 day moving averages yesterday. As you can see on the daily chart of $QQQ (an ETF proxy that tracks the Nasdaq 100), a break below yesterday’s low would coincide to the Nasdaq sliding back below its 20-day exponential moving average as well:


We concluded yesterday’s technical commentary by saying, “Given the lack of explosive price action in leadership stocks and the late day selling in the averages the past two days, the market could be vulnerable to a sell off in the short term…We are not calling the current rally dead, but we do not mind stepping aside for a few days and monitoring the price action.” To coincide with this statement, we made a judgment call to take profits on all long positions in our model trading portfolio by selling at market on yesterday’s open. Given that the broad market subsequently trended lower throughout the entire session, this worked out pretty well. Now, we are back to “flat and happy,” sitting on the sidelines 100% in cash.

One big challenge for swing traders right now is that volume levels in the broad market will likely begin heavily receding next week, as we approach the Christmas holiday. As we have warned several times in recent weeks, swing trading in low-volume environments is challenging because day-to-day price action tends to be more erratic and indecisive. Therefore, we’re not in a hurry to enter multiple new positions (either long or short) ahead of the holidays, but will still consider new stock and/or ETF trade entries (possibly on the short side and/or inverse ETFs) with reduced share size if an ideal trade setup with a firmly positive reward-risk ratio presents itself.
Why The Countertrend Bounce In The Nasdaq Has Run Its Course ($QQQ)

In our most recent ETF trading commentary (previous post in this thread), we pointed out the bearish shooting star candlestick pattern that S&P 500 SPDR ($SPY) formed on its longer-term weekly chart interval. The rest of the major indices closed with the same topping pattern on their weekly charts. Last Friday, we also illustrated the bearish pattern and relative weakness in PowerShares QQQ Trust ($QQQ), a popular ETF for trading the Nasdaq 100 Index. On the updated daily chart below, notice that $QQQ is now trading below its 20, 50, and 200-day moving averages, each of which should now act as resistance on any bounce attempt. The blue horizontal line marks horizontal price support of the recent “swing lows” set earlier this month:


As marked by the brown, downward facing arrows, we anticipate that a break of horizontal price support in $QQQ will swiftly lead to a retest of the prior low from mid-November. Why? The reason is simply that the stock market rally off the mid-November lows has technically been nothing more than a countertrend bounce from near-term “oversold” conditions. Now, it looks as though the rally may have already run its course, as $QQQ has run into major resistance of its downtrend line from the September 2012 high. Below is a second daily chart of $QQQ, which clearly illustrates how the ETF reversed after bumping into its multi-month downtrend last week (the red descending line):


We recently profited in a few ETF and stock swing trades on the long side after our system for timing the stock market shifted to “buy” mode. Yet, we were still fully aware at the time that the rally off the lows had not yet proven itself to be anything more than a countertrend bounce within the dominant downtrend. This is one of several reasons our market timing system shifted from “buy” to “neutral” mode on December 13, after several major indices formed “shooting stars” on their weekly charts while running into the downtrend lines from their September 2012 highs. Furthermore, if selling pressure in the broad market persists and we receive the necessary signals, the timing model may soon revert back to “sell” mode. We locked in solid profits on the short side of the market (and through inversely correlated “short ETFs”) when our stock market timing system was formerly in “sell” mode throughout most of October and part of November.

Going into today, we have “officially” added ProShares UltraShort QQQ ($QID) to our watchlist as a potential ETF to buy for swing trade entry. This inversely correlated ETF that tracks the price action of $QQQ, but moves in the opposite direction. We are looking to buy $QID, rather than sell short $QQQ, because subscribers with non-marginable cash accounts are unable to initiate short positions, but are not restricted from buying “short ETFs” such as $QID. Also, even though it is leveraged, $QID has shown only fractional underperformance to its underlying index for short-term trading.

Our short setup in iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index ($IBB) remains on our watchlist as a candidate for potential swing trade short sale entry going into today (December 17). Regular subscribers of our swing trading newsletter should note our clear, predefined trigger, stop, and target prices for the $QQQ and $IBB trade setups in the ETF Trading Watchlist section of today’s report.