The sharp rebound Wednesday after Tuesday’s market drubbing tells us that the bulls are still alive and kicking. Even better, the technology dominated Nasdaq bounced off a key trendline as investors shook off a host of bad news. That’s bullish.
The list of market negatives was rather long although the media seemed to blame the Senate for delaying the vote on the Obamacare replacement bill. But that was only the tip of the iceberg as pressure really began overnight in Europe. The European Commission imposed a record $2.7 billion fine on the tech giant Alphabet (ticker: GOOGL), saying the company skewed search results to benefit its own shopping service at the expense of its rivals. The stock fell 2.5% to lead the tech sector and the Nasdaq lower.
Comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, saying that there will not be another financial crisis “in our lifetime” got traders to scratch their heads and hark back to former Fed chief Alan Greenspan’s “irrational exuberance” comments in 1996. Greenspan’s bearish sentiment was followed by another five years of strong gains.
But there was more. Oil prices rose to break a small technical formation to the upside. The U.S. dollar suffered its largest single-day loss since January. And the VIX — the so-called fear index — spiked, suggesting fear was returning.
None of that made any lasting technical impressions. And when we dig down a bit to market breadth, the losers on the New York Stock Exchange beat winners that day by a relatively tame 892 issues (source: eSignal). That was turned around by a factor of two during Wednesday’s early rebound.
Further, the advance-decline line, which plots the net number of winners minus losers over time, stood at a 52-week high Monday. It is very hard to think the market is weak with this statistic.
I think there are three charting items that now hold the key to the market’s fate for the next few weeks or months. The first is from the bearish side, and it is the Nasdaq’s trendline drawn from the November 2016 low (see Chart 1).
That line was challenged earlier this month when most of the big tech leaders were smacked down. Analysts crawled out from under rocks to proclaim that the game was over for the group and FANG stocks. The group came roaring back.
To be sure, there was some damage done as a few of these leaders, such as Apple (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX) dipped below their 50-day averages. But many others did not and started to rally back.
This week, there were bearish reversals, or intraday price changes for the worse, again across the group. The Nasdaq once again dipped down to test its trendline. So far, the bulls stood tough. But there is no doubt that their inability as a group to return to new high territory is a warning. Facebook (FB) actually did set an all-time high on Monday, but it closed the day with a net loss. That is not good.
However, as long as the Nasdaq’s trendline remains intact the bulls will reign.
On the bullish side, there are two breakouts I’d like to see happen. The first is in the small stock Russell 2000 index, which continues to trade sideways within a six-month range (see Chart 2). I wrote about it earlier this month and a few days after that column was published the index made an attempt to break out higher. It did not quite happen. However, it is now poised to give it another go.
The second bullish event I’d like to see is a breakout in the Dow Jones Transportation Average. As with the Russell, it continues to trade in a six-month range (see Chart 3). A move higher through its upper border will cause casual Dow Theory enthusiasts to proclaim a new buy signal as the transports join the Dow industrials in new high ground.
Dow Theory is more complex than just the positioning of the two main averages, but supposedly when the companies that make the goods and the companies that move the goods all do well, the economy and the market are in a very good place.
In my view, an important buy signal fired shortly after the election and is still in effect today. However, a nice reinforcing signal could not hurt.
The only real potential problem on the horizon is the tech sector as it manifests in the Nasdaq. The bearish reversals there were real, and a few of the leaders are now trading below their 50-day averages. On balance, though, there is still more to like about the market than not like.