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Broad Participation

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It’s been a while since I highlighted some breadth indicators so here we go. First is the NYSE Advance / Decline line (NYAD). All I can say is Wow! NYAD is telling us that small cap stocks were the place to be coming out of the February low. Comparing the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index (SPXEW) against the S&P 500 (SPX) shows us how big cap stocks have performed against mega cap stocks. The move out of the February low showed widespread buying of big cap stocks, while mega caps lagged. This was a rotation out of the safety trade. Then we got a bit of consolidation in SPX as investors took some profit in big caps and re-allocated it to mega caps. Now it looks like the market is getting ready to run again, fueled by big caps. The percent of SPX stocks above their 200 day moving average (SPX200) shows the same picture as SPXEW. Widespread buying of big caps, followed by some consolidation, then renewed widespread buying.

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Leadership Waning

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Over the past couple of months, I’ve highlighted some encouraging signs that had accompanied price strength in the market. Unfortunately, most of those signs of strength haven’t persisted as the market is moving close to all time highs. First lets look at the Bullish Percent Index (BPSPX). It finally got above the 2015 highs in March and April of this year, but the subsequent consolidation in the market did serious damage to this indicator. It is still below 60% which is a big drag on the market (and adds the risk of a big decline). Basically, a lot of point and figure charts turned bearish during the last consolidation and haven’t righted themselves. Next is small caps stocks compared to big caps. They have lagged during the last rally. I like to see them lead as a sign of investors taking risk in their portfolios. Money flowed into mega cap stocks faster than big cap stocks during the last rally too. Another poor sign for a sustained rally. It looks

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Chart Repair

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The rally out of the February lows has repaired a lot of charts. If you look at the bullish percent index (BPSPX) the last rally brought the percent of bullish point and figure charts in the S&P 500 Index (SPX) to nearly 80%. That level is higher than BPSPX achieved during all of 2015. This is an encouraging sign for the market as a whole because it gives BPSPX plenty of room to consolidate before getting below the 60% level. Long time readers know that I use readings below the 60% level to indicate increased risk (big market declines occur when breadth is already weak). So as long as BPSPX stays above 60% this indicator will remain bullish. Another indication of chart repair comes from the percent of stocks in SPX that are above their 200 day moving average. This indicator is back to the 2015 level again. It has also improved substantially from the levels of the August 2015 to November 2015 rally (which had price peaking above the

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Core Risk Improves

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Over the past week most of my core measures of market health improved. Most notably is that my measures of risk went positive. This changes the portfolio allocations as follows: Long / Cash portfolio: 20% long and 80% cash Long / Short Hedged portfolio: 60% long high beta stocks and 40% short the S&P 500 Index (or the ETF SH) Volatility Hedged portfolio: 100% long (from 10/9/15) Another thing of note this week is that the Bullish Percent Index (BPSPX) is back above 60%. This reduces the risk of a steep or waterfall type decline. Here’s a post that explains the risk associated with poor breadth in the market.

 
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Long Term Trend Battle

Published on July 15, 2015 by in Market Comments
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I’m seeing several indications of weakness in the long term trend, but at the same time I’m seeing a lot of indicators that continue to show strength. It appears as if the battle for the long term trend has started. The first sign of weakness comes from monthly MACD for the S&P 500 Index (SPX). It has been rolling over since late last year and finally had a bearish cross in April. Momentum for SPX has been falling, but it is still at healthy levels. So here we’ve got two measures of momentum where one is bearish and the other is bullish. The next conflict comes from a point and figure chart for SPX. It recently broke its uptrend line that was put in place in late 2012. This created a new down trend and is considered bearish. Price has since recovered and is now only a few points away from breaking the down trend. If SPX can get above 2020 a new uptrend line will start and turn SPX

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Decision Time

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We end this week in a critical situation. My core indicators were all damaged during the high volatility moves both up and down this week. Core measures of risk and trend have now gone negative. The measures of the economy are close to going negative and market quality and strength aren’t far behind. As a result the core portfolios are raising cash and or adding a hedge. The new core allocations are as follows. Long / Cash: 60% Long and 40% Cash Long / Short: 80% Long stocks I believe will out perform in an uptrend — 20% short the S&P 500 Index (SPX) My market risk indicator hasn’t signaled yet so the volatility hedge will remain 100% Long. So, what’s an investor to do? Follow the core portfolios or the volatility hedged portfolio? The answer lies in your risk tolerance. The volatility hedged portfolio is designed to ride out most dips in the market and only hedge when the odds for a steep decline rise. The core portfolios are

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Weak Breadth Increases Market Risk

Published on June 30, 2015 by in Market Comments
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Over the past few days various measures of breadth have show quite a bit of weakness. As I noted in this post, large market declines come when breadth is already weak. With such weak readings the odds have increased that this decline will be 10% or more. Below are some breadth examples. First is NYSE Advance/Declines. They led the current decline in the S&P 500 Index (SPX). Small caps are especially sensitive to this condition. Next is the Bullish Percent Index (BPSPX). It currently has less than 60% of the stocks in SPX with bullish point and figure charts. This indicates a significant number of stocks in down trends. Last is the percent of stocks in SPX that are below their 200 day moving average. Nearly 50% of SPX stocks are below their 200 dma. With all three measures of breadth showing significant weakness, a signal from my market risk indicator should be taken seriously.

 
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Why Breadth Matters

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A few weeks ago Urban Carmel at The Fat Pitch wrote a post that concluded that the NYSE Advance / Decline line (NYAD) was a poor timing indicator. I generally agree with his assessment. I think that most measures of breadth by themselves are poor timing indicators. Markets can fall when breadth is healthy and breadth often diverges at market tops for a very long time before the market actually falls. For example, the Bullish Percent Index (BPSPX) and the percent of stocks below their 200 day moving average have been diverging with the S&P 500 index (SPX) for over a year (or two depending on how you count). The fact that breadth isn’t timely is why I don’t use it as a part of my “core” indicators. Instead, you’ll hear me refer to various forms of breadth as ancillary or secondary indicators that give good background information. So what information does it give?  Answer: When breadth is poor the odds increase that a decline will be large. If breadth

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Breadth Still Healthy

Published on March 3, 2015 by in Market Comments
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There really isn’t anything significant happening in market internals lately. From all appearances the market wants to go higher, but probably needs to consolidate a bit before another rally. If the market dips keep an eye on breadth to see if anything changes from bullish to bearish for early warning of a significant decline. Here’s an update of some of the breadth measures I follow. They all have healthy readings, but with a few nuances. The NYSE Advance / Decline line (NYAD) is confirming the recent move to new highs. This is the most healthy sign of breadth I’m watching. Breadth between the most bullish stocks on Twitter and StockTwits and the most bearish stocks is also showing readings that are consistent with a bullish trend. However, it is now at levels that have often preceded a short term decline. The bullish percent index (BPSPX) has historically strong readings above 60%, but is down from the giddy readings during the rally in 2013. The highs over the past six months

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Breadth Checkup

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I’ve stated several times over the past year that breadth must deteriorate for the market to fall substantially. In mid July I pointed out the weakness in the ratio between the S&P 500 index (SPX) and SPX equal weighted (SPXEW). When it falls below its 20 week moving average it is often a sign of choppy markets to come. The market rallied after SPXEW’s initial failure, but during that rally SPXEW only made it back to the underside of its 20 week moving average then turned back over again taking the market with it. This is a great example of how tops are a process, not a single event. I’m not suggesting that we’ve seen the top, but wanted to point out how much time it takes for one indicator after another to weaken, then fail, before a top is actually in place. Tops usually take several months and are often fraught with whipsaws in our indicators (and portfolio allocations) before the weight of selling causes a severe down turn.

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