Was Friday’s Price Action in Gold Signaling a Top in the S&P 500?

You can’t feel the heat until you hold your hand over the flame.

You have to cross the line just to remember where it lays.”

~ Rise Against. “Satellite” Lyrics ~

Friday morning traders and market participants awaited the key January employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reaction to the supposedly wonderful report was a surge in the S&P 500 E-Mini futures contracts as well as several other key equity index futures.

The overall tenor among the financial punditry was predictable as wildly bullish predictions permeated the morning session on CNBC and in the financial blogosphere. However, after the report had been out for several hours notable independent voices such as Lee Adler of the Wall Street Examiner came out with information that suggested the numbers were an apparition of manipulated statistics.

I am not going to spend a great deal of time discussing the report, but the reaction to the news was decisively bullish on Friday. The question I want to know is whether Friday was a blow off top? In the recent past the S&P 500 has seen several key inflection points and intermediate-term tops form on non-farm payroll monthly announcements.

I follow a variety of indicators to help me decipher more accurately when the market is getting overbought or oversold. For nearly two weeks the market has been extremely overbought, but now we are reaching truly astonishing levels. The following charts represent just a few signals that the market is due for a pullback and a top is likely approaching.


Percentage of NYSE Stocks Trading Above Their 50 Period Moving Average

The chart above clearly illustrates that as of Friday’s closing bell (02/03) over 89% of stocks were trading above their 50 period moving averages. Consequently that reading is one of the highest levels that we have seen in the past 3 years. In addition, over 73% of stocks that trade on the NYSE are currently priced above their longer-term 200 period moving averages. Another extremely overbought signal.


S&P 500 Bullish Percent Index Weekly Chart

The S&P 500 Bullish Percent Index is another great tool for measuring the overall position of the S&P 500. It is without question that the longer term time frame is reaching the highest level of overbought conditions in the past 3 years.


McClellan Oscillator Divergence with S&P 500 Price Action

The two charts shown above present an interesting situation regarding the divergence in the McClellan Oscillator and the price action in the S&P 500. The most recent example of this type of divergence occurred in October of 2011 and prices immediately reversed to the upside after several months of selling pressure. In fact, this correlation between reversals in the S&P 500 and divergences in the McClellan Oscillator works relatively well historically.

Clearly there are bullish voices arguing for the 2011 S&P 500 Index high of 1,370.58 to be taken out to the upside in the near future. Additionally, several market technicians in the blogospere have been pointing to the key resistance range between 1,350 and 1,370 on the S&P 500 as a likely price target. Obviously if those price levels are met strong resistance is likely to present itself. However, as a contrarian trader I have found that the more obvious price levels are the more likely it is that they either will not be tested or they will not offer significant resistance.

It is obvious that Chairman Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have embarked on a massive fiat currency printing campaign which has helped buoy risk assets to the upside. Through a combination of reducing interest rates on safety haven investments like Treasury’s and CD’s, the Federal Reserve has forced conservative investors and those living on a fixed income into riskier assets in search of yield.

This process helps elevate stock prices and creates the desired outcome for the Federal Reserve which involves the perception by average individuals that they are wealthier. The Fed calls this the “wealth effect” and they seem poised to insure that U.S. financial markets continue to ride upon a see of cheap money and liquidity.

Ultimately the Federal Reserve’s most recent announcements have served to help flatten the short end of the yield curve further while providing a launching pad for equities and precious metals. However, issues persisting in Europe could have an adverse impact on the short to intermediate term price action of the U.S. Dollar.

Right now everywhere I look I hear market prognosticators commenting on how hated the U.S. Dollar is and how Chairman Bernanke will not allow the Dollar to appreciate markedly in order to protect U.S. exports and financial markets. I think that the Dollar has the potential to rally in the short to intermediate term. Right now the U.S. Dollar Index appears to be trying to form a bottom.


U.S. Dollar Index Daily Chart

Obviously there is good reason to believe that the U.S. Dollar Index could reverse to the upside here. Whether it would have the strength to take out recent highs is unclear, but a correction to the upside not only seems unexpected by most market participants, but it seems plausible based on the weekend news coming out of Greece.

Monday morning the Greek government is set to determine if they will agree to the demands of the Troika in exchange for the next tranche of bailout funds. If the Greek government and the Troika do not come to an agreement, the Euro could sell-off violently.

Additionally there are already concerns about the next LTRO offering from the European Central Bank. The measure is to help provide European banks with additional liquidity, but there are growing concerns that the size and scope of the LTRO could have a dramatic impact on the Euro’s valuation against other currencies. Time will tell, but there are certainly catalysts which could help drive the U.S. Dollar higher.

Another potential indicator that the Dollar could see higher prices in coming days was the largely unnoticed bearish price action on Friday of precious metals. Both gold and silver have been on a tear higher over the past several weeks. Both precious metals have surged since the Federal Reserve announced that interest rates would remain near zero on the short end of the curve through 2014.

However, on Friday gold and silver were both under extreme selling pressure. The move did not get much attention by the financial media. The price action in gold and silver on Friday could be another indication that the U.S. Dollar is set to rally. The daily chart of gold is shown below.


Gold Futures Daily Chart

Obviously the reversal on Friday in gold futures was sharp. The move represented nearly a 2% decline for the session on the price of gold. However, as long term readers know I am a gold bull. I just do not see how gold and silver do not rally in the intermediate to longer term based on the insane levels of fiat currency printing going on at all of the major central banks around the world. The macro case for gold is very strong, but the short term time frame could reveal a brief pullback.

At this point, I suspect a pullback will present a good buying opportunity for those that are patient. However, I think it is critical to point out that this move in gold on Friday could be a signal that the U.S. Dollar is going to find some short to intermediate term strength. If the Dollar does start to push higher, it will likely put downward pressure on risk assets like equities and oil

While Friday’s price action may not mark a top, nearly every indicator that I follow is screaming that stocks are overbought across all time frames. Pair that with the Greece uncertainty and LTRO considerations and suddenly the Dollar starts to look a bit more attractive. Ultimately I am not going to try to pick a top, but the evidence suggests that it might not be too many days/weeks away.

By: Chris Vermeulen – Free Weekly ETF Reports & Analysis: www.GoldAndOilGuy.com
Co-Author: JW Jones – Free Weekly Options Reports & Analysis: www.Optionnacci.com

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Last week we received reports that the unemployment rate in the United States was improving markedly. In addition, sentiment numbers were released that confirmed my previous speculation that market participants were becoming more and more bullish as prices in the S&P 500 edged higher. The exact numbers that came in demonstrated that bullish sentiment had not reached current lofty levels since February 11, 2011. The table below illustrates the most recent sentiment survey:

Chart Courtesy of the American Association of Individual Investors


Clearly investors are growing considerably more bullish at the present time.  The bullishness being exhibited by market participants is rather interesting considering the notable headwinds that exist in the European sovereign debt markets, the geopolitical risk seen in light sweet crude oil futures, and the potential for a recession to play out in Europe.


To further illustrate the complacency in the S&P 500, the daily chart of the Volatility Index is shown below:


The VIX has been falling for several weeks and is on the verge of making new lows this week. If prices work down into the 16 – 18 price range a low risk entry to get long volatility may present itself. For option traders, when the VIX is at present levels or lower there are potentially significant risks associated with increases in volatility.


My expectations have not changed considerably since my article was posted last week. However, I continue to believe that the bulls will push prices higher yet in what I believe could be the mother of all bull traps. Let me explain. As shown above, we have strong bullish sentiment among market participants paired with general complacency regarding risk assets.


As I pointed out last week, my expectation if for the S&P 500 to top somewhere between 1,292 and 1,325. A lot of capital is sitting on the sidelines presently and if prices continue to work higher I suspect that a move above the 1,292 price level will trigger a lot of long entries back into stocks or other risk assets.


We could see prices extend higher while the “smart” money sells into the rally. Retail investors and traders will point to the inverse head and shoulders pattern on the daily chart of the S&P 500 and the breakout above the key 1,292 price level. The pervasive fear of missing a strong move higher will help fuel long entries from retail investors.


At the same time retail investors begin buying, a lot of committed shorts will be stopped out if prices push significantly above the 1,292 area or higher toward the more the obvious 1,300 price level. Thus, there will be few shorts to help support prices should a failed breakout transpire. A perfect storm could essentially be born from the lack of shorts to hold prices higher paired with the trapping of late coming bulls.


The daily chart of the S&P 500 Index below illustrates what I expect to take place in the next few weeks:


I want to reiterate to readers that it is not totally out of the question that the 1,292 price level could hold as resistance or that we could roll over early this coming week. Additionally a breakout over 1,330 will certainly lead to a test of the 2011 highs around the 1,370 area.


If the S&P 500 pushes above the 1,370 area we could witness a strong bull market play out. Ask yourself this question, what reasons could produce such a rally and what are the probabilities of that outcome transpiring in the next few weeks?


Obviously earnings season is going to be upon us shortly and if earnings come in below expectations a potential sell off could intensify. Furthermore, economic data in Europe continues to weaken and slower growth appears to be manifesting within the core Eurozone countries like Germany and France. If most of Europe plunges into a recession, deficits will widen beyond economic forecasts and the strain in the sovereign debt market of the Eurozone will increase dramatically.


One key element that many analysts are not even discussing is the potential for higher oil prices to present additional economic headwinds for developed western economies.


Clearly the situation in the Middle East is unstable, specifically what we are seeing taking place in the Strait of Hormuz involving Iran. If a “black swan” event occurs such as a military conflict between the United States and Iran or Israel and Iran the prices of oil will surge.


In a recent research piece put out by SocGen, nearly every scenario that is referenced involves significantly higher oil prices. According to the report, the Eurozone is considering the banning of imported Iranian oil which could cause Brent crude oil prices to surge to a range of $120 – $150 / barrel according to SocGen.


The other scenario involves the complete shut down of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran. If this shutdown were to persist for several days the expectation at SocGen for Brent crude oil prices is in the $150 – $200 / barrel price range.


Clearly if either of these two scenarios play out in real time, the impact that higher oil prices will have on European and U.S. economies could be catastrophic.


The daily chart of light sweet crude oil futures is shown below:


I want readers to note that I am not suggesting that oil prices are going to rise or fall, just outlining the report from SocGen about where they expect oil prices to go should either of the two scenarios presented above play out. If oil prices were to work to the $125 / barrel level and remain there for a period of time, I would anticipate a very sharp decline in the S&P 500.


Currently there are a lot of headwinds for bulls, some of which could persist for quite some time. I intend to remain objective and focus on collecting time premium as a primary profit engine for my service at OptionsTradingSignals.com.


Once I see a confirmed move in either direction I will get involved. For now, I intend to let others do the heavy lifting until a low risk, high probability trade setup presents itself. Risk is increasingly high.


Get these weekly reports and trade ideas free here: www.Optionnacci.com

JW Jones

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Wall Street’s 2011 Predictions – How’d They Do?

Courtesy of Joshua Brown, The Reformed Broker

Mr. Madison, what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

- Principal, Billy Madison

Wall Street Chief Strategists are smarter than you are.  They went to fancier schools and have more access to research, information and data.  They’re also probably better looking than you, too.  But don’t feel bad – as a whole, they’re of little more practical utility than that octopus in Spain who picks soccer match winners.  I’m not sure if the chief strategist position is classified under “marketing” in the human resources departments of the large banks but it wouldn’t be very incongruous with reality if it were.

Were they wrong about 2011?  Sure they were.  Too bullish?  What what’d you expect – their job is to suck up investable assets!

Wall Street’s “Chief Market Strategists” – were wrong on their forecasts for 2011, but not alarmingly so.  I pulled the below hilarious quotes from a December 2010 issue of Barron’s below (my responses in red)…

Collectively, the 10 strategists and investment managers surveyed by Barron’s see the S&P 500 finishing next year near 1373, roughly 10% higher than Friday’s close at 1244. (Wrong!)

A majority sees 2011 as the year when a sustainable economic recovery takes root, winning over skeptics and persuading both companies and consumers to relax their stranglehold on squirreled-away cash.  (Wrong!)

Against this backdrop, nine of the 10 strategists we polled are penciling in stock-market gains ranging from 7% to 17% for next year.  (Almost!)

Nearly all the strategists expect stocks to outperform bonds, especially Treasuries.  (Oy vey!)

“We’ve just started a secular bear market in bonds” – Henry McVey, Morgan Stanley.  (Yeah, maybe a year too early so far.  Wrong!)

Only Doug Cliggott of Credit Suisse was appropriately restrained in his outlook for 2011 a year ago.  The game of forecasting a year-end S&P target 12 months ahead of time is obviously ridiculous, I certainly don’t think it’s something I could do myself, but we’ll give Cliggott credit for essentially nailing the flat close.

As for some of the others, I award you no points…


Outlook 2011 (Barron’s)

Read Also:

Barry’s piece at the Washington Post on The Folly of Forecasting is great too, read it here.

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Is the Fed Secretly Bailing Out Europe?

Tim Iacono

It still pales in comparison to what was done a few years ago, but, at its current pace, the Federal Reserve’s generous central bank liquidity swaps now aiding European banks will soon rival that of the 2008-2009 financial crisis as shown below, another $37 billion being added last week to bring the total up to just shy of $100 billion.

For those of you new to this story, see this WSJ commentary by Gerald P. O’Driscoll the other day and his appearance on CNBC on the same subject.

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