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SPY cup and handle


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11.25.14 – That’s All Folks!


I began this blog on August 3, 2009, when I was still working as an investment advisor.  The past 5 1/2 years have been something, haven’t they?  The Dow Industrials rose from 9,286 to 17,818, an almost 92% gain, while the S&P 500 Index more than doubled, rising 129%.  And the Nasdaq Composite, that little scamp, did even better – up 138%.

My goal was to share my thoughts on the daily market action as seen through ETFs, which have seen exponential growth.  Demand for ETFs has increased as institutional investors have found ETFs a convenient vehicle for participating in, or hedging against, broad movements in the stock market.  As of July 2014, the total number of index-based and actively managed ETFs, including commodity ETFs, had total net assets of $1.8 trillion and accounted for 12% of total net assets managed by long-term mutual funds, ETFs, closed-end funds, and unit investment trusts.  “Popular” doesn’t even begin to describe the success of these investment vehicles.

I have been retired now for 3 1/2 years.  The most fun part of writing the blog was explaining market action in terms of technical analysis.  I find TA to be a challenging field and enjoy it immensely.  It was how I made my living and I miss it, although I still use it for managing my own retirement accounts.

I now have an opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while – devote a significant amount of my time volunteering at animal shelters.  Beginning next month that’s what I will be doing.  Unfortunately this means that starting next week I won’t have the time to write my ETF Roundup blog.  I will continue my pay site – Subscribers Only! – until the end of December.  That will be discontinued on December 31.

To all of you who who read the blog over the years I hope you found it helpful and/or useful.  Thanks again for reading and have a happy holiday season.


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11.24.14 – The Nasdaq Roars

The market indexes set new highs – again – amid growing confidence in the global economy.  The Dow Industrials inched up just 7 points to close at 17,817.90 while the S&P 500 Index was a little stronger, gaining .29%.  The Nasdaq Composite was the big kahuna today, gaining .89%; small-caps in particular caught fire and jumped 1.24%.  Market players like what they see with how Europe is dealing with inflation and with China lowering interest rates to jump-start their economy.  Retailers did well today.

XBI, the biotech ETF, gained 2.40% and broke out to a new high albeit on below-average volume.  URTY, the 3X leveraged Russell 2000 ETF, rose 3.55%.  As the market rises volatility declines, so XIV, the inverse VIX short-term ETN, was up 2.11%.  Please click on the symbols for details.

Last week DIA, the Dow 30 ETF, broke through an intermediate-term rising resistance line on its daily chart, seen below:


You can see in the yellow rectangle where for about a week DIA kept bumping up against the trend line but wasn’t able to get through and stay above it.  It succeeded last Friday although it closed well below its open.  Today it also closed below its open.  You can tell that by the filled (black) Japanese Candlestick bars.  When the close is below the open, the bar gets filled in and is colored black.  When the close is above the open the bar is drawn in white, e.g., last Thursday.  Keeping in mind the TA axiom that a former resistance line once broken frequently acts as support when tested, we need to watch carefully what happens should DIA pull back to the former resistance-now support line: If DIA closes below it then the breakout failed.  As the late great technical analyst Mike Epstein said on more than one occasion, a failed breakout is a powerful signal.

IWM, the Russell 2000 Index ETF,  could be on the verge of an upside move.  The daily chart pattern has formed what could be either an Inverse Head-and-Shoulder pattern or a Continuation Head-and-Shoulder pattern.  The difference is that the former is a reversal while the latter is not.  Differentiating between the two involves volume analysis and to be honest, the volume pattern the past few months isn’t what is classically seen in either pattern.  But calculating a target price objective is the same in either case.  Here’s the daily chart:


To calculate a price objective, take the distance between the head and neckline (the line connecting the shoulders) and add it to the breakout price.  Here the distance is 118.04 – 103.54, or 4.50 points.  The breakout will be through the right shoulder high of 118.25 (some technicians use breaking through the neckline, which is 118.35.)  Add that to 4.50 and you get a target objective of 122.75.  IWM’s all-time high is 120.97 so this would be a new all-time high.

No guarantee any of this will happen, of course.  We have a seasonal bias to the upside the remainder of this week so whether or not this breakout and target objective are reached is something we will know, in the fullness of time.

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11.21.14 – Blog Will Resume Monday

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11.20.14 – Pushing ‘Em Forward

Yesterday the market pulled back; today it pushed forward with the Dow Jones Industrials adding 16 points to close at 17,701.85.  The S&P 500 Index gained .20% while the Nasdaq Composite tacked on .56%.  Chipmakers were higher after Intel raised its dividend.

Gold continues to perform well, with GDX, the gold miners ETF, gaining 3.34%.  Its little brother GDXJ did better, climbing 5.54%.  XOP, the S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production ETF, was up 3.23% but is still in the downtrend that began last June.  FCG, the natural gas trust ETF, floated 3.65% higher.  Please click on the symbols for details.

Bollinger Bandwidth continues to narrow as it coils tighter.  The BandWidth is now .261; anything below .30 is considered Squeezed.  We have a very similar pattern in the Nasdaq VIX, the VXN, where the BandWidth has narrowed to .2751:


It isn’t a matter of if, it’s when.  Volatility will increase and revert back to its norm.

I like what I’m seeing in the price action of IWM, the Russell 2000 ETF, but what I don’t like is the volume action.  Please take a look at the daily chart below:


After topping on July 1, 2014, IWM pulled back and bottomed on October 15, 2014.  After that it recovered a little more than 78.6% of the decline (blue Fibonacci series) and then it pulled back to the 61.8% level.  It bounced sharply higher today.  A more recent Fibonacci time analysis shows that IWM retraced 23.6% of the price rise since bottoming in October (red Fibonacci series) – a shallow and potentially bullish development.  See where the red and blue lines almost overlap?  That’s called a Fibonacci price cluster.  These clusters tend to act as strong support or resistance levels.

But what about the weak volume?  The more-or-less horizontal black line running through the volume bars is a 50-day SMA of volume.  The price thrust that sent IWM to its high last week was on very low volume and generally speaking, low volume on a price advance is not very bullish.

But take a look at the Price Zone and Volume Zone Oscillators, PZO and VZO.  Developed by my friend Walid Khalil, the oscillators reflect buying and selling pressure in a security.  It’s bullish for VZO to have a greater value than PZO when the ETF is rising in price, and bearish for PZO to have a greater value than VZO.  PZO is on the left and VZO is on the right:


Today PZO was 13.38 and VZO was 13.70.  So despite volume being well below average, there seems to be no major selling underway in the small caps.

Well, that wraps up the week for me since I’ll be unavailable tomorrow afternoon.  Enjoy your weekend.

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11.19.14 – Taking ‘Em Back

Yesterday’s gains turned into today’s losses with the market pulling back as Fed minutes show the governors are concerned about deflation.  The Dow Industrials slipped only 2 points to close at 17,685.73 while the S&P 500 Index fell .15%.  Hard hit Tesla and Netflix contributed to the Nasdaq Composite lost .57%.  Treasury yields rose, which usually is consistent with higher equity prices.

UNG, the natural gas ETF, gained 3.86% but was turned back trying to get through its 200-day SMA.  UVXY, the leveraged VIX short-term futures ETF, rose 5.00%.  JO, the coffee ETN, gained 3.46%.  SRTY, the leveraged short Russell 2000 ETF, was up 3.16%.  Please click on the symbols for details.

The Bollinger Bandwidth on the VIX, discussed in Monday’s blog, narrowed to .2962.  A value below .30 is considered “Squeezed” so an increase in volatility should be expected soon.  Given how the market has really done nothing but move higher since making its V-bottom in mid-October, it’s likely there will be a pullback from here.

That may impact how gold performs.  A few weeks ago GLD, the gold ETF, fell below important support around 114.65 – 114.70 as well as closing below a long-term rising trend line.  It also closed just below a 50% retracement of the rise from the July 2005 low to the September 2011 high.  This month it’s tried to recapture the 50% level but stalled and pulled back upon reaching the former support line, which is now acting as resistance.  You can see this in the monthly chart below, which can be made full-screen by clicking on it:


The former support now resistance line is blue.  A pullback in stocks of more than just a few points may provide the oomph for GLD to push through resistance.  Whether it’s able to accomplish this is something we will know, in the fullness of time.

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11.18.14 – Nothing But Clear Sky Ahead?

Equity indexes closed at new highs as health-care and raw-material companies rallied.  The Dow Industrials added 40 points to close at 17,687.82 while the S&P 500 Index gained .51%.  The Nasdaq Composite was up .67%.  Gold and silver rallied today and volatility continues to fall.

GDXJ, the junior gold miners ETF, was a big winner yesterday and it did it again today, climbing 6.76% on almost double average daily volume.  GREK, the Greece 20 ETF, jumped 5.92% but it’s still far below its 50-day and 200-day SMAs.  SIL, the silver ETF, was up 5.60% and TAN, the solar ETF, was shining as it gained 4.97%.  Please click on the symbols for details.

It seems hard to believe the market can keep climbing without pulling back but despite JP Morgan Chase today telling its investors to dump U.S. equities, it ain’t happening yet.  In fact, I see confirmation of the move in the long-term (monthly) Volume Zone Oscillator (VZO) and Price Zone Oscillator (PZO) charts on SPY, the S&P 500 Index ETF.

The oscillators, developed by market technician Walid Khalil, reflect buying and selling pressure in the security being evaluated.  When the security’s price is above the 60-bar EMA and the oscillator is above +15 and rising, that’s bullish.  Please take a look at the PZO and VZO charts below, which can be made full-screen by clicking on them.  PZO is on the left and VZO is on the right:

SPY monthly

Normally, when the oscillator rises above +60 and then closes below, that’s a signal to sell. But there are times when the ETF trades sideways rather than pulls back even though the oscillator declines, and then the oscillator begins rising again.  That’s what happened back in June/July of last year and January of this year.  You can see how both PZO and VZO broke upwards through their descending trendlines at the end of last month.

So does this mean it’s clear sailing ahead for the stock market?  It’s hard to believe that will be the case but the market does climb a wall of worry.  In any event, the answer to that question is something we will know, in the fullness of time.

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11.17.14 – Getting Ready To Bust A Move?

The equity markets have drifted higher on weak volume since I last blogged two weeks ago.  Today the Dow Industrials inched up 13 points to close at 17,647.15 while the S&P 500 Index ticked up .07%.  The Nasdaq Composite slipped .37%.  Small-cap stocks were hit harder, with the Russell 200 Index falling .82%.  There are also concerns about Japan sinking into a recession.

Cold weather gripping much of the nation sent UNG, the natural gas ETF, up 5.40% on light volume.  GDXJ, the junior gold miners ETF, gained 4.36% on heavy volume.  SRTY, the leveraged short Russell 2000 Index EF, rose 2.40%.  Please click on the symbols for details.

The Bollinger Bands are tightening on the VIX, the CBOE Options Volatility Index.  This can lead to a “Squeeze,” the term John Bollinger coined for when the Bollinger Bands narrow and the Bollinger BandWidth decreases.  Bollinger BandWidth is an indicator derived from the Bollinger Bands. provides an excellent explanation of what Bollinger Bandwidth is and how it’s interpreted:

“BandWidth measures the percentage difference between the upper band and the lower band. BandWidth decreases as Bollinger Bands narrow and increases as Bollinger Bands widen. Because Bollinger Bands are based on the standard deviation, falling BandWidth reflects decreasing volatility and rising BandWidth reflects increasing volatility.”

Bandwidth is simply the difference between the value of the upper Band and the lower Band, divided by the value of the middle Band.  When the BandWidth is narrow, volatility tends to be low and the range of an ETF is also narrow.  Since one of the best ways to capture a gain is to buy or short when it breaks out of a narrow range, scanning for a narrow BandWidth can be an excellent method for finding ETF’s that are getting ready to break out.

But how narrow is narrow?  Put another way, can “narrow” be quantified?  The short is answer is Yes…and No.  What’s narrow to one ETF may be wide to another.  I find the most effective method is to look at a six month chart of an ETF with the Bollinger Bandwidth charted and look for periods of time where the Bands have narrowed.  The Squeeze occurs when volatility is very low.  The chart below shows the Bollinger Bands squeezing together on the VIX:


Below the VIX surrounded by its Bollinger Bands is the SPY and below that, the Bollinger BandWidth.  The red line is measuring the degree of Squeeze.  When the Bandwidth falls below .30, the Bands are squeezed together.  Today’s closing Bandwidth was .3732, the tightest it’s been since in over six weeks.  When the BandWidth falls below .30 there tends to be a sharp move shortly thereafter in the VIX and the stock market as volatility expands, i.e., reverts to its mean.

Last year, VIX Bandwidth started rising on December 2 and the SPY dropped 2.2% before bottoming.  Not a huge decline but in May of this year when the Bandwidth narrowed to .1581 (May 15) and then expanded, the SPY never fell at all – on May 15 it closed at 187.40 and moved steadily higher until the end of July.  In mid-September the BandWidth dropped to .1716 (September 11) and a few days later the S&P began what developed into a 7.7% pullback.  So just because the BandWidth is narrowing and then expanding doesn’t necessarily mean the market will fall.  All it means is that volatility is likely to pick up and the market will begin moving out of its range.  Which direction that will be is up to you to determine.

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11.3.14 – Blog Will Resume Monday, November 17

Subscribers Only! will be updated daily.

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