Wednesday, September 21, 2011

S&P 500 & the Dollar Ahead of the Fed Statement

The Federal Reserve is holding a two-day meeting Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Market participants are expecting the Federal Reserve to prop up financial markets yet again with some grand new plan. The fact is the Federal Reserve is running out of bullets.

Interest rates cannot move much lower in terms of the Federal Funds rate, additional quantitative easing seems redundant since Treasury yields are close to all-time lows, and finally a twisting of maturities will do little to alter the current economic conditions. The Federal Reserve is just repeating practices which have proven over a long term do little to create jobs or get the economy moving in the right direction. A stock market rally does not help a person looking for a job!

It is possible that even if the Federal Reserve proposes additional stimulus the market could sell off. I have been trading less in this environment and have been focusing on looking for trade setups that could work regardless of price action. For now I am sitting predominantly in cash waiting to see how price action reacts to the news flow today.

S&P 500

If I had to guess, I continue to believe that the S&P 500 will get back to test the key 1,250 – 1,280 price level. While this resistance level is apparent, Mr. Market will be able to tear up traders if price jams into that resistance zone. Mr. Market loves nothing more than to shake people out of positions. If price works higher I would expect the 1,250 – 1,280 price range to offer just enough risk / reward to get investors and traders involved in a choppy trading environment. The key upside levels on the S&P 500 are shown below on the daily chart of the S&P 500 Index ($SPX):

The flip side of that argument would see the S&P 500 jamming into recent resistance around the 1,230 price level. If prices rolled over and momentum picked up, a test of the recent August lows would likely transpire and could produce a breakdown and a lower low.

When looking at recent price action, the S&P 500 Index has put in a series of higher lows which is a bullish signal, however the S&P 500 has a long road ahead to break out above the 2011 highs. If the S&P 500 carves out a lower high on the S&P 500 Index at 1,230, 1,250, or even 1,280 and subsequently takes out the August lows then the secular bear will be back. The weekly chart of the S&P 500 Index ($SPX) shown below illustrates key support levels:

For now I am just going to sit in cash and wait for Mr. Market to provide me with some better clues. The trading range is pretty wide going from around 1,100 to 1,280. What I will be watching for is a strong move supported with volume that pushes price out of this range. As of the close today, price action was trading around the middle of this range but depending on how price action reacts to the news that comes out this Wednesday it is possible that in coming days we could see a breakout in either direction.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

It will likely surprise long time readers that I am actually going to comment on the Dow. I will keep this brief, but I wanted to point it out to readers as I have not heard much mention of this pattern in the main stream financial media.

Over the weekend I was looking at some longer term charts and I accidentally stumbled across this head and shoulders pattern on a weekly chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I rarely pay much attention to the Dow as I monitor the S&P 500 closely. However, I could not ignore what I was seeing. I also noted that a similar pattern also exists on the S&P 500.

I am generally not the kind of trader who tries to predict where price action will arrive in the distant future. However, I am not going to ignore clear chart patterns that I recognize regardless of the time frame I am looking at.

For those not familiar with a head and shoulders pattern, it is a very ominous signal. Head and shoulders patterns are generally topping formations that if triggered result in violent sell-offs. On this chart the pattern is obvious and if the pattern were triggered the forthcoming price action would be decisively negative for domestic equities. The long term monthly chart of the Dow is shown below:

If the pattern is triggered on an undercut of the March 2009 lows, the head and shoulders formation would produce selling pressure that would target the 3,800 – 4,000 level on the Dow. Yes, you read that right! I want readers to recognize that this pattern is not a given and it could play out over a long period of time. The pattern would suggest that a test of the 2009 lows is possible, but I will leave the likelihood of that test up to Mr. Market.

I view this pattern as a potential warning signal for long term equity positions. Consequently, it is far too early to jump into a plethora of short positions or sell every equity position owned simply because of this pattern. While I do not know where price goes from here or if this pattern will ever trigger, I think market participants should be aware of its existence.

It would take the perfect concatenation of events to push prices down to the March 2009 lows, but unfortunately the condition of social mood paired with all of the risks facing financial markets is notable. The recent sell-off in August came on the heels of a head and shoulders pattern that was triggered. We all know how August played out, but this pattern on the Dow Jones Industrial Average has a long way to go before it can even trigger. Time will tell, but readers should at the very least put this chart pattern on your radar!

U.S. Dollar Index

The U.S. Dollar Index has ripped higher by more than 5% since August 29th. The strength in the Dollar has likely been precipitated by fear based on the European sovereign debt and banking crisis. While the Dollar certainly has long term flaws, it may simply be the best of the worst.

If the situation in Europe begins to break down further based on any number of events it could likely push the U.S. Dollar Index considerably higher. My trading partner Chris Vermeulen has been riding this strong impulse wave with his subscribers Swing trading the UUP etf and thinks there is big potential still if Euro-Land fears continue to rise.

The daily chart of the Dollar Index futures is shown below:

Mid-Week Market Trend Conclusion

Wednesday will be filled with a variety of news and headlines. The Greek government is meeting and a news release regarding the conference will likely come out around the time domestic markets in the United States open. The news has the potential to move markets considerably.

In addition, the Federal Reserve is set to end its September meeting and market participants will be sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear from the Federal Reserve about any stimulus the central bank may provide.

Overall, the news and headlines this Wednesday will certainly impact the current conditions of financial markets.

By Market Trend Forecasting