There are two situations that lead to big events in the markets and they represent psychological mirror images of each other. The first issue is overconfidence. Whether this is overconfidence in a market, a strategy or one’s self, overconfidence leads to carrying the largest position at the most inopportune moment. The second issue is indecision. There are times when a market approaches critical levels yet; the trading population appears uninterested or, scared. Either way, indecision leads to fewer participants while overconfidence leads to too many. Therefore, our focus today is the examination of a very bullish net commercial trader position in the face of the lowest commercial participation rate since the economic collapse of 2008-2009.
This week we’re going to look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 equity futures markets. All three of these markets are setting up for a classic Commitment of Traders (COT) Sell Signal based on the disparity between the markets’ prices and the actions of the commercial traders within them.
I understand that our weekly readers may feel like we’re beating a dead horse over the last few weeks. We’ve stated and re-stated various reasons for our concerns regarding the equity markets and this week has provided yet more fuel for the warning signal. First of all, let me begin with my personal bias by stating that, as an S&P 500 pit trader whose only decade on the floor was the 1990’s, I’m used to making money on the long side. However, there are enough warning signs in the marketplace right now that I won’t take a long position home. I believe the next home run trade in these markets will be on the short side and this week, I’ll provide one more big money example.
I frequently talk about using the commercial traders as a proxy for fundamental information. Commercial traders’ pinpoint focus on the markets they trade takes into account the supply and demand structure within their individual markets, including stocks and bonds. Furthermore, their actions within the markets they trade literally, tell us what they expect to happen within their market going forward. Thus, our thesis that, “No one knows the markets they trade like those whose livelihood is based directly upon the correct forecasting of their market.” All things being equal, when my analysis of the fundamentals seems confounded, I defer to the respective experts within their markets. Finally, when the market sectors are analyzed in total, commercial traders’ actions can lead to a bigger picture. The recent shift in their positions within the financial markets leads me to believe Continue reading Expected Turbulence in the Financial Markets
The recent action in the equity markets has been volatile and confusing to say the least. Today, we’ll focus on the S&P 500 futures and the COT buy signal generated by the recent sell off. Later in the week, we’ll examine the decoupling between the Nasdaq 100 and the S&P 500 which could very well be the most obvious clue to the bigger picture.
The equity markets have been THE place to be for capital appreciation over the last few years. Last year saw the Dow Jones under perform with a 9.6% return compared to the S&P 500 at 13% and the Nasdaq 100 at a whopping 19%. In spite of the impressive returns provided by the stock index futures last year, there were still periods of flatness and even outright declines. In fact, the Nasdaq had a decline of more than 10% from peak to trough at one point last year, in spite of its 19% return for the calendar year. This week, we’ll discuss a method of applying the commercial traders data from the weekly CFTC Commitment of Traders reports to the equity markets in an attempt to preserve profits gained on the long side of the markets as well as profiting from forecasted declines.
This has been a tumultuous week in the equity markets as news events and political leveraging have sent markets in China and Greece down by more than 5% and 11%, respectively. Here in the US, Wednesday’s action attempted to mimic the global markets but was met by a solid bid in the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Index around the Thanksgiving lows. Meanwhile, the Russell 2000 found support near the critical 1150 level that has propped it up since late October. We published a short take in Equities.com earlier in the week projecting expected weakness in the equity markets due to the shift in the commercial traders’ position over the last couple of weeks. This has led many to ask exactly how we use these reports to forecast trading opportunities in the commodity markets. We’ll use this week’s piece to explain our approach in detail within the context of today’s equity markets.
We frequently describe the discretionary portion of our COT Signals advisory service as a three step process. First of all, we only trade in line with the momentum of the commercial traders. It has long been our belief, three generations worth, that no one knows the commodity markets like those who whose livelihood’s rest upon the proper forecasting of their respective market. This includes the actual commodity producers like farmers, miners and drillers along with the professional equity portfolio managers using the stock index futures to hedge and leverage their cash portfolios. Tracking the commercial traders’ net position provides quantitative evidence of both the long and short hedgers’ actions within an individual market. The importance of their net position lies in the collective wisdom of this trading group. Their combined access to the best information and models is summed up by their collective actions. The final part of the commercial equation lies in tracking the momentum of their position. Their eagerness to buy or, sell at a given price level is equally important as the net position. We only trade in the direction of commercial momentum. Finally, commercial trader momentum is the bottom indicator on the chart below.
The second step of this process is how we translate the weekly commitment of traders data into a day by day trading method. Commercial traders have two primary advantages over the retail trader. First of all, they have much deeper pockets and they have the ability to make or, take delivery of the underlying commodity as needed. Secondly, they have a much longer time horizon. Think, entire growing season or their fiscal year on a quarter by quarter basis. Therefore, we have to find a way to minimize risk and preserve our capital. We do this by using a proprietary short-term momentum indicator on daily data. The setup involves finding markets that are momentarily at odds with the commercial traders’ momentum. If commercial momentum is bearish, we are waiting for our indicator to return a short-term overbought situation. Conversely, if commercial traders are bullish, we wait for a market to become oversold in the short-term. The short-term momentum indicator is labeled in the second graph.
Once we have a short-term overbought or, oversold condition opposite of commercial momentum, an active setup is created. The trigger is pulled when the short-term market momentum indicator moves back across the overbought/oversold threshold. Waiting for the reversal provides two key elements to successful trading. First of all, it keeps us out of runaway markets. Markets are prone to fits of irrationality that catch even the most seasoned of commercial traders off guard. News events, weather issues and government reports can all wreak havoc unexpectedly. Waiting for the reversal also provides us with the swing high or low that is necessary to determine the protective stop point that will be used to protect the position. Everywhere there is a circle, red or blue, was a trading opportunity in the S&P 500 this year. Within each circle, the highest or lowest value was the protective stop point. It is imperative to know the protective stop prior to placing any trade. This allows the trader to determine the proper number of contracts to trade relative to their portfolio equity. Risk is always the number on concern of successful trading. Currently, the protective stop levels are 17980 in the Dow, 1189 in the Russell 2000 and 2079 in the S&P 500.
Currently, the Dow, S&P 500 and Russell 2000 all contain this same set of circumstances. Given the lofty valuations, the speed of the recent rally and recent global economic developments it seems prudent to expect a retreat from these highs. Clearly, that is what the commercial traders, who were MAJOR buyers at the October lows believe is about to happen. We’ll heed their collective wisdom as they’ve successfully called every major move in the stock market for 2014.
The commercial traders have been on fire when comes to predicting the stock market in 2014. I suppose this makes sense since they’re the ones with access to the best information and modeling available. This explains the huge moves we’ve seen in their net positions based on the Commitment of Traders reports. Somehow their neural and social networks have put them in the right position for nearly every trade this year as you can see on the chart below.
The S&P 500 has rallied more than 12% in 24 trading sessions. This isn’t a terribly rare occurrence. Writing up a quick indicator shows me that there have been 18 observances of rallies traveling more than 10% in any rolling 24 day period. Restricting the filter to 12.5% still provides us with 9 observances while bumping it to 15% drops the return to 5 examples. The last 10% rally was in January of 2012 and the last 15% rally was in November of 2011. These last two observances were clearly during the churning process as the market had not made new all-time highs, yet.
The 18 total examples gained an average of .92% in the S&P500 futures one month later. The largest gain was 6% while the largest loss was 10%. Finally, the market ended up higher one month later exactly half of the time.