Stocks: The Big Picture

By Chris Ciovacco

Charts Were Helpful When S&P 500 Was Struggling On April 3

Since an April 3 article, Why Odds Still Favor New Record Highs In Stocks, proved to be helpful after the S&P 500 had dropped 78 points below the March 1 high, it may be constructive to revisit the same concepts now that the S&P 500 has printed several new closing highs.

This Is What Increasing Fear Looks Like

The chart below shows the S&P 500’s 100-day moving average (blue), 200-day (red), and 300-day (green) during the transition from a favorable period to an unfavorable period (2005-2008). Moving averages allow us to focus on longer-term trends rather than inevitable day to day volatility.

Charts cannot predict the future; they simply help us better understand the odds of good things happening relative to the odds of bad things happening. The left side of the chart above shows a more favorable look with blue, the fastest moving average, on top and the slopes of all three moving averages are positive (bullish trends). The right side shows a lower probability look with blue, the fastest moving average, on the bottom and the slopes of all three moving averages are negative (bearish trends).

How Does 2017 Compare To The 2007-2008 Peak?

The charts below allow us to look at markets through an unbiased lens. Reviewing the trends below requires no discussion of politics, the Fed, or our personal views on any topic. Do trends in 2017 look more like a favorable period (point A in first chart) or an unfavorable period (point B in first chart)?

History Says Markets Could Surprise On The Upside (2017-2022)

This week’s video covers numerous similarities and differences between the early stages of the powerful 1995-2000 rally in stocks and 2017. Like the charts above, the charts in this week’s video speak for themselves.

After you click play, use the button in the lower-right corner of the video player to view in full-screen mode. Hit Esc to exit full-screen mode.Video


The Dow

Does the Dow look more like a favorable period or unfavorable period? You can decide using the charts below.

Financial Stocks

In early October 2007, just as the S&P 500 was peaking, financial stocks’ (XLF) 100-day moving average (blue) dropped below both the 200-day (red) and 300-day (green), telling us the odds of bad things happening had increased relative to the odds of good things happening. How close is the 2017 100-day to dropping below the 200 and 300-day? The answer tells us something about the strength of the long-term trends in 2017.


When we take a longer-term view, the trends in small-caps (IWM) and mid-caps (MDY) remain in the favorable camp.


The same concepts apply to the May 2017 version of the NASDAQ’s daily chart.

Bullish Trends Make Higher Highs

By definition, a bullish trend makes a series of higher highs and higher lows. The charts illuminated the concepts below when stocks were in a funk on April 3:

“Therefore, if the trends shown above remain in place, the S&P 500, Dow, XLF, IWM, MDY, and the NASDAQ will eventually make higher highs after the current pullback. To illustrate the concept of higher highs and higher lows, we will focus in on the left side of the chart below, during the bullish phase.”

The chart below shows only the bullish phase (2005-2007). Notice how the pullbacks are followed by higher highs. Compare the look of the moving averages during the bullish trend below to their look in May 2017.

A quote from the book Market Wizards provides some additional insight:

“Investors tend to confuse short-term volatility with long-term risk. The longer the time period, the lower the risk of holding equities. People focus too much on the short term, week-to-week and month-to-month price changes, and don’t pay enough attention to the long-term potential.”

Richard Driehaus

The 2017 moving averages below help us stay focused on the long-term potential.

Is it possible the trends flip over in a bearish manner? Yes, it is very possible. However, the evidence we had in hand on April 3 and the evidence we have in hand today (see charts above) do not support an imminent trend reversal. If the evidence shifts, bearish odds will begin to increase. That may happen, but it has not happened yet.

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