January’s rally was admirable. Its perseverance frustrated bears. The infrequent single day declines maxed out at -0.6%.
And the last nine days of the month were more than mind-numbing for most traders as the market traded in a very tight range.
There’s no doubt the bears are ready. Almost every technical and sentiment measure I follow has pushed into a bearish state. Typically, I am ecstatic by the weight of the bearish measures, but it seems everyone is aware of the measures and have joined my short-term bearish camp. And when the herd is anticipating something a bearish move might have a hard time coming to fruition.
That was certainly the case last month.
We must remember that January is one of the strongest month of the year for the market. February not so strong with a historical return of 0.0%.
February swoon? Not yet.
After Friday’s unemployment report, the bulls managed to push the indices, particularly the Dow to highs not seen since before the financial crisis in 2008. A drop in the unemployment rate to its lowest level in three years (8.3%) propelled stocks.
“In this economy only one variable matters right now and that variable is employment,” said Lawrence Creatura, an equity portfolio manager at Federated Investors.
“This report was great news. It was beyond all expectations, literally. The number was higher than even the highest forecast.”
After three months of gains a decline seems the likely scenario. Again, almost all technical and sentiment measures have reached short to intermediate-term extremes, but will they win out for the bears or will the mighty power of the bulls push through the consolidation that has lasted nine long trading days?
Talented analyst Jason Goepfert of Sentimentrader.com recently stated that when “the S&P 500 closed at a six-month high with volume 10% off its low from the past month (as it did on Thursday), then the next two days were positive only 12 out of 46 times.”
Out of the 12 positive occurrences, only twice did it advance more than 1%. Thirteen times it closed with a loss greater than 1%.
Another interesting stat provided by Mr. Goepfert is “the last 8 Fridays when the Nonfarm Payroll report was released” all have closed lower than the prior trading day.
In fact, if you went back to September 2009 and purchased shares of the S&P and sold at the close of the trading day you would have only made a paltry 1%.
Couple the aforementioned studies with short-term overbought readings in three out of the four major indices and I expect to see a short-term pullback over the next 1-5 days.
The two best performing days (on a historical basis) in February are now behind us and now we are entering into a period of bearish seasonality.
Just more food for thought.