Two Market Scenarios for the Quarter

In the last issue of Street$marts, I wrote about stocks being in a “murky” period for the next few weeks. I am going to pat myself on the back and say it has certainly looked “murky” since early October although I wish I had been more aggressive in taking action. The dark clouds have recently dissipated and the sun is starting to pop out. Once the decline began, it looked like the second half of October would see a low and that’s been confirmed.

I recently shared research that indicated a 15% chance of a 8-11% decline during the Q4. This was based on the S&P 500 seeing a fresh high in September or October which usually insulates the market from much more than a 10% decline. So far, on a closing basis the Dow and S&P 500 have dropped almost 7% and 7.5% respectively, and 8.6% and 9.4% on an intra-day basis. The other major indices have seen more significant weakness.

Either by skill or luck, I am always happy to nail a low as it occurs, especially now, when so many others were calling for much more serious damage. With the world fixated on Ebola, Europe’s economy, earnings and ISIS, fear was prevalent last week, the likes of which we haven’t seen since mid June and in some cases, 2011.

So far, all we know for sure is that “A” bottom was achieved. Whether it was “THE” bottom remains to be determined. If prevailing sentiment becomes “sell the rally”, the upside is likely to continue. However, if the masses believe that we just saw the final bottom of 2014 on the way to new highs, a more difficult path will be in store as I discuss below.

I continue to watch two scenarios as the most likely paths over the coming months. The green line in the chart below is obviously the more bullish of the two. It has last week’s low as “THE” low from which the year-end rally has already launched and all time highs are to be seen within a few months. The orange line forecasts a lot more volatility with the currently rally petering out shortly and marginal new lows seen within a few weeks. From there, the real rally begins, similar to 2011, with higher prices down the road.

 What is obviously missing from the scenarios above is a truly bearish one that has the bull market already over and this current rally representing a good selling opportunity leading to sharply lower prices right into the New Year and beyond. At this point, I just don’t see it. We simply do not have enough dead canaries to warrant such a negative outcome. And speaking of dead canaries, I will update the Canaries in the Coal Mine next week.

For now, the takeaway is to watch for signs that the rally is hitting stumbling blocks. High yield (junk) bonds had a truly epic day on Friday, recovering five days worth of declines in one day. That nascent advance must live on. Good sector leadership needs to emerge and not from consumer staples, utilities and REITs. Although the banks are a bellwether sector, the bull market can live without them for a while longer, but that will likely lead to the eventual demise.

Before I finish this article, there are things that concern me. It’s not all roses out there! After 67 months, the bull market is showing its age. Traditional Dow Theory just gave its first negative trend change in some time as both the industrials and transports closed below their August secondary lows. That’s long-term problematic unless both make fresh all time highs in the coming months. What would bother me even more is if one index scores a new high, but the other one does not. Anyway, we have time to explore this further next week.

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