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Technical Arguments For Continued Weakness at Trader’s Narrative

Let’s face it, this market has been driven by technicals not by any real fundamental health. So what happens when the same folks leave and take their rationale with them, fundamental investors may not be as keen to support the bids.

The recent softening in bids shouldn’t be a surprise. On October 15th the S&P 500 briefly traded 20.81% above its long term moving average. Now, it is only 14% above it. It was back on September 16th that the S&P 500 index first reached the 20% Maginot Line. Between then and now we had 4 other instances where price briefly pierced minutely above the 20% barrier only to be pushed back. Compared to historical precedence, this is part for the course.

As I presented in the detailed historical research report (What Happens This Far Above The 200 Moving Average?), usually when price moves this much away from its long term trend it has been unable to continue at the same pace. That’s what we’re seeing today as the S&P 500 is now below where it was trading on September 16th.

In this short video you can see the headwinds arrayed against the S&P 500. Both by the breaking of the uptrend line from March 2009 and the approaching downtrend line from the top of the bear market (October 2007):

INO video SP500 screenshot Oct 2009

One of the most important sectors, the Philadelphia Banking Index (BKX) has broken this uptrend line. We are also seeing some serious breadth (advance decline) weakness which is never really good but especially bad news while the market is so near a top.

Two institutional money managers have turned negative on the market recently. Jeremy Grantham of GMO Partners and Bill Gross of PIMCO. Click here for details on Grantham’s reasoning and to download his full quarterly report. Gross goes further than Grantham saying: “almost all assets appear to be overvalued on a long-term basis”. You can read his full commentary here.

For those who like to look at fundamental data like the quaint P/E ratio, here is a very long term chart, courtesy of Prof. Shiller:

PE cyclically adjusted Shiller data very long term chart

As you can see, a lot of air was let out of the bubble. But, to mix metaphors, the pendulum didn’t swing back enough. During previous important market lows, the P/E ratio has fallen to much humbler depths. Thanks to the 60% rally from the March lows, we are once again back above the long term average. Which is unsettling, especially when you remember that Shiller uses a 10 year smoothing of the earnings data to iron out short term noise.

October’s P/E earnings, according to Shiller’s methodology is about 20 - well above the long term historical average of 16. Normally, a P/E ratio of 20 corresponds to economic expansion in its 5th year, not a major recession like the one we’re experiencing now. So understandably, Prof. Shiller is skeptical of the recovery in the equity market making the inevitable comparison to the aftermath of the 1929 crash and saying that “it can’t be trusted to continue”.

And turning our attention momentarily to the options markets, the equity only ISE sentiment index came in today at 191. Which means that while the equity market had a negative day with red all over the monitor, retail option traders tenaciously clung to hope and bought almost twice as many calls.

And if all that wasn’t spooky enough for you, to coincide with Halloween this year we have the 80th anniversary of the Great Crash of 1929. Boo!

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