The March options expiration cycle ended without much fanfare, but not after reaping a respectable 2% gain. All of the major indices saw gains exceed 2% with the small-call Russell 2000 being the exception. The market has now pushed higher nine out of the last ten weeks. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 have led the way all year and are now higher on the year 17.3% and 11.7%, respectively. Both have also pushed above key levels. The Nasdaq sits above 3000 and the S&P is now above pre financial crisis levels trading over 1400.
There is no doubt that this rally has been one for the ages. For instance, last week marked the first time the S&P closed below its 20-day moving average. The streak: 52 days. It was the second longest streak of all time. The last time such a streak occurred – 1944!
Moreover, last week broke the 1% daily decline and ended the 10th longest such streak. If that wasn’t enough, last week also saw the first “90% down day” this year. Another historical streak. We can all thank the slow and steady rise in the market for the historical accomplishments.
“We are seeing this unbelievable rally in the market and yet the market is unbelievably complacent. We haven’t been this bullish for a long time,” said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, based in Austin, Texas.
But, where are we now? How will the market fare over the next few months? Are there any historical precedents that we should be aware of going forward?
Well, I am not a prophet. I can’t predict the future. But, I can tell you how the next few weeks fare on a historical basis. Hopefully this will give you a “heads up” as to what to anticipate going forward.
The day after expiration is typically bearish. March is no different; in fact, the week after expiration has seen the Dow down 15 of the last 24 years. But weakness continues throughout the rest of the month. The end of March is actually one of the weaker periods for the stock market.
Will it happen again this year? No one knows for certain, but with Apple making up roughly 18% of the Nasdaq 100, when the tech behemoth’s parabolic move comes to an end we should see a sharp decline in not only the Nasdaq, but the S&P as well. Remember, since the latest rally began Apple has managed to tack on approximately 54%. Yes, 54%. I am very curious how the largest company in the universe manages to be mispriced by several hundred billion dollars. Yet, Wall Street analysts keep pushing estimates higher.
My thought – we will be discussing this magnificent run five years from now when Apple is trading with a market cap far below $500 billion. Like its predecessors in the exclusive $500 billion club, it is my opinion that Apple will eventually suffer the same fate.
But don’t just listen to me, listen to what the market is saying.
While the investor’s fear gauge, VIX has been sliding to five year lows, the expected volatility in Apple has increased, judging by a VIX index that tracks Apple options. Apple, like IBM and other bellwether names, has its own VIX index.
The CBOE Apple VIX index , which measures the expected 30-day volatility of the underlying shares of Apple, jumped 35 percent this week, suggesting more gyrations ahead as more investors speculate on short-term moves.
The end of March should be very interesting. April is typically a strong month and then we enter the “sell in May” period. One thing is certain, 2012 should be one for the record books. I can’t wait to see how it plays out