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NYSE Bullish Percent Signals Fail at Trader’s Narrative




NYSE Bullish Percent Signals Fail


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perilously perched at the ledge stock market support
Yes, today’s decline was yet again another Lowry’s 90-90 day and it took us perilously closer to the ledge. Or over the ledge, depending on which index you’re looking at and how thick you draw your support lines. Weinstein’s support level is still not breached, for whatever that’s worth. Is everything lost? I turned to an ancient way of looking at the health of a market.

You already know how to use bullish percent indices to time the stock market. Although they are usually shown in point and figure charts (those X’s and O’s), I prefer to look at a line chart because it moves in tandem with time and the market proxies like the NYSE index, Dow Jones and S&P 500.

But the original way that bullish percent charts were interpreted was to gauge where we were along a continuum of bull or bear market. The short version is that when the NYSE bullish percent index moves up above the 70% line and closed below it, the market is on notice. Similarly, when the NYSE bullish percent index moves lower than 30% and then breaks above it, there is an indication of underlying health, and a portent of a nascent bullish rally.

Looking at a very long term chart of the NYSE bullish percent index, it is easy to see the efficacy of this measure of market internal health:

nyse bullish percent index long term chart2

Recently though, the NYSE bullish percent index has been breaking down through the 30% level not only often but to such a degree that it has fallen lower than it did after the Black Monday crash of 1987.

Here’s a chart zooming into the past two years to show more detail:

nyse bullish percent index 2007 to Nov 2008

Each successive piercing of the 30% “maginot line” brings about a weaker and weaker counter rally from the market. Until in July, the market barely manages to plateau before falling again. So what’s up? Why is this once solid indicator start to sputter and fail so badly?

My hunch is that what changed over time was the inclusion of non-equity securities on the big board. Right now half of the securities traded on the NYSE are closed-end funds, ETFs, ADRs, municipal bond funds and other funny pieces of paper that do not represent fractional ownership of a public company as it used to when traders started pushing paper under the Buttonwood tree.

This is why Lowry Research service started to keep “operating company only” NYSE data. Speaking of Lowry’s, I went to a presentation by one of their analysts last night and will share the details with you tomorrow.

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4 Responses to “NYSE Bullish Percent Signals Fail”  

  1. 1 jh

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    Babak,
    Thanks for a terrific post!
    I went back and looked at the Stan Weinstein video. His approach is so simple yet powerful. I can still remember the first time I read his book . . . time to dig it back out again!
    jh

  2. 2 P

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    “My hunch is that what changed over time was the inclusion of non-equity securities on the big board. Right now half of the securities traded on the NYSE are closed-end funds, ETFs, ADRs, municipal bond funds and other funny pieces of paper…”

    Unfortunately the tech heavy nasdaq and the resource heavy TSE paint a similar picture to the NYSE.

  3. 3 Michael

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    The reason for failure I believe is simple. This particular technical indicator is not old enough. We are seeing things that have not happened since the Last Great Depression. This is a theme I will continue to harp on. Traditional tools will be of no use to you if you are going to compare them to previous readings in the last secular bull market. You will be sure to lose money almost every time if you try to trade off of these.

  4. 4 TONY

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    Babak,

    The scary thing is that many indicators have failed in detecting the bottom of this market, not just the Bullish Percent Index. Would you think using the Bullish Percent on the S&P 500 might be better than using the one for NYSE?

    From what I’ve seen, the commercials have been right on this time around on the S&P 500. They have been at extreme net short positions throughout the entire decline.

    Tony

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