SPX Upleg Room to Run
The US stock markets have been on fire lately, still marching higher even after the S&P 500 powered to its best January in 15 years. Doubted from its very birth, this latest stock-market upleg continues to inexorably climb the proverbial Wall of Worry. But while bears keep on arguing for its imminent demise, today's upleg actually still has plenty of room to run higher. Despite the naysayers, it isn't too late to buy in yet.
To understand where the winds of probability are likely blowing the stock markets next, we first have to gain crucial perspective on where they have been. And good charts are worth far more than a thousand words. When the flagship S&P 500 stock index (SPX) is considered over short-term, cyclical, and secular time frames, a strong bullish case emerges for the stock markets even from today's recovered levels.
The SPX's latest upleg was born stealthily from the depths of despair in early October. After Obama's mind-boggling profligacy forced the first downgrade of the United States of America's credit rating in our nation's long history, the stock markets plummeted in early August. But although fear was actually more than extreme enough for that to have been the correction's bottom, a secondary low was in the cards.
After recovering sharply by late August, an erroneous US employment report (later completely revised away) helped ignite serious recession fears. By late September they had mushroomed into a full-blown recession craze, so bears were coming out of the woodwork forecasting another imminent SPX plunge. Excitable economists corroborated this outlook, misleading countless investors into selling near lows.
But as I wrote in early October right when everyone was convinced the sky was falling, the radical oversoldness plaguing the stock markets then was actually very bullish. But the only traders able to buy near lows to ride entire uplegs are the hardcore contrarians, who have spent many years steeling themselves to fight the crowd. Only we have cultivated the necessary discipline and courage to buy low in times of extreme fear and anxiety when few others will.
And indeed the stock markets soon started rocketing higher out of those hyper-oversold lows after fear slammed into its effective ceiling. Despite the financial media and economists entering October super-bearish and forecasting a stock-market swoon and a new recession, that month ended up enjoying the biggest monthly rally the SPX had seen since December 1991! It was the best October since 1982's!
The moral of this story is crystal-clear. Times riddled with fear and anxiety are the worst time to succumb to peer pressure to follow the herd and sell. The more uncertainty, the more scared traders as a group are, the better the buying opportunity. And while today's fear, anxiety, and uncertainty are nothing like early October's, there is still plenty out there. Uplegs don't top until these worrying emotions are eradicated.
New Europe fears, centered around ballooning sovereign-debt yields, dragged the SPX back down again in mid-November. But this short-lived swoon merely served to establish a higher low that defined the beautiful uptrend rendered above. An upleg is simply a period of time where major stock indexes gradually carve higher lows and higher highs. I discussed this nascent uptrend in early December.
But despite the SPX continuing to climb on balance, lingering pessimism from the recession craze remained popular in December. The bears rightly pointed out that the SPX couldn't break back above its critical 200-day moving average. 200dmas are the most important technical line of all, and often mark the demarcation between bull and bear. After months of challenging its 200dma, the SPX couldn't break out.
But all that changed on 2012's first trading day, when a relatively-modest rally drove this index decisively above its 200dma. And ever since then, the stock markets have been off to the races. Despite a mild pullback in late January, the SPX still achieved its best opening-month performance since 1997. The SPX's 50dma even climbed back above its 200dma, the fabled Golden Cross technical indicator.
Golden Crosses are famous because they often signal major new upside runs, and even entire bull markets. As more and more investors and speculators who had been languishing in zero-yielding cash realized this, capital continued returning to equities this month. By the middle of this week, the SPX back up to 1350 totally erased the great majority of the summer correction that so terrified everyone.
The mighty benchmark S&P 500 has now powered 22.8% higher in the 4.2 months since its early-October bottom. This exceeds the common technical milestone for defining "a new bull market" of a 20%+ move! But despite the SPX faring so well now, pessimism and bearishness still dominate discourse. The same brilliant luminaries who missed this upleg in the first place are now calling for it to roll over and die!
They were unquestionably dead wrong in early October when arguing for a new bear market, yet investors and speculators still eagerly listen to them today. It blows my mind, as credibility in trading is totally dependent on one's track record. At Zeal we were very publicly bullish in early August and early October when everyone was scared. Back in late June I argued why a new stock bear was pretty unlikely, and in early September I showed how the sharp August selling was nothing like that seen early in new bears.
If some analyst or commentator today is frightening you into not participating in this powerful upleg, check his track record for crying out loud! Go read what he was writing in late September and early October. Was he super-bearish right near the correction's bottom back then just like nearly everyone else? If he was, if he is not a contrarian, then there is no reason why he should influence you today.
The SPX's strong upleg since that fear climax is now set in stone on the charts. We've seen higher lows and higher highs despite formidable lingering fear and anxiety. Despite Europe's perpetual big-government problems, despite unfounded China growth scares, despite the Obama Administration pissing away taxpayers' hard-earned money (and borrowing trillions more) like drunken sailors, the stock markets are still rallying.
While this short-term perspective decisively proves this upleg's strength, the longer cyclical and secular perspectives argue for its staying power. It is crucial to realize that all bull-market uplegs climb a wall of worry, doubters and naysayers constantly challenging their validity. So we have to discount all that bearish noise, it is always there. Long-term technicals continue to overwhelmingly declare that this upleg is righteous and still has plenty of room to run higher.
This next chart compares the SPX's current cyclical bull that was born out of the secondary stock-panic lows in March 2009 with a key technical indicator, the Relative SPX. Based on my simple, powerful, and very profitable Relativity trading system, the rSPX restates the S&P 500 as a multiple of its own 200dma. These multiples are perfectly comparable in percentage terms over time and tend to form nice horizontal trading ranges.
All cyclical bull markets flow and ebb, exciting uplegs are followed by challenging corrections. This dynamic is absolutely necessary for keeping sentiment balanced, which ensures a healthy bull with maximum longevity. Excessive greed after major uplegs can only be erased by corrections and the excessive fear they spawn. And out of those fear climaxes the next major upleg is born, the cycle begins anew.
Today's young upleg is actually the third of this SPX cyclical bull's. The first rocketed 79.9% higher in 13.5 months, its massive gains largely a function of the preceding deeply-oversold secondary stock-panic lows. This dragged the rSPX to very overbought levels over 1.10x, the SPX was trading more than 10% above its 200dma. So the first correction immediately followed in mid-2010, a 16.0% swoon over 2.3 months.
Just after that correction, much like today, ostrich investors reigned supreme. Scarred by 2008's epic once-in-a-century stock panic, investors are so gun-shy that they believe every material selloff is going to cascade into another panic-like event. But this is incredibly irrational, as the next 100-year storm certainly isn't due a few years after the last one. So the usual bull-market wall of worry paralyzes them into inaction, their capital languishes in cash yielding nothing. Inflation actually erodes their capital!
But as the second upleg of this SPX cyclical bull subsequently proved, sidelined investors miss out on huge gains. The SPX climbed another 33.3% in 9.9 months, peaking in spring 2011. By then once again the SPX was overbought per the Relative SPX technical indicator, spending much of early 2011 trading above 1.10x. We and our subscribers capitalized on this greed by selling many trades we had bought cheap the previous summer after the first correction for very large realized gains.
As I warned in April 2011 when everyone was bullish and greedy without a concern in the world, another SPX correction loomed. Did your advisors warn you about topping stock markets as that second upleg matured? Go back and read what they were writing in April 2011. If they were super-bullish like everyone else at that major topping, why on earth would you trust their pessimism and anxiety today?
While that second correction was slow in coming, it finally arrived with a vengeance in early August when Obama's horrific overspending came home to roost in the USA's once-vaunted credit rating. By the time that secondary recession-craze low arrived in early October, the SPX had tumbled 19.4% in 5.2 months. And out of that very despair and extreme fear, today's third upleg of this bull was born.
Take a look at this third upleg in the context of this entire cyclical bull's chart. It's still pretty small in the grand scheme, right? It has only rallied 22.8% in 4.2 months compared to the earlier uplegs' 33.3% in 9.9 months and 79.9% in 13.5 months. Granted, that first upleg was far larger than average emerging out of those radically-oversold secondary stock-panic lows. But today's mere 22.8% in 4.2 months is still much too small even for an average cyclical-bull upleg.
And though the SPX is nearing new cyclical-bull highs again (exceeding April 2011's post-panic peak of 1364), it hasn't even hit this bull's uptrend resistance yet. As the second upleg was topping, the SPX spent the better part of a half year over this line! And look where the last Golden Cross happened, in late 2010. At that point as the SPX neared new bull highs, much like today, the second upleg still remained very young. Odds are today's third upleg is similarly young relative to the recent Golden Cross.
When the second upleg was peaking, the SPX spent several months in overbought territory exceeding 1.10x its 200dma. Today the SPX isn't even overbought, having yet to get anywhere close to even approaching this overbought metric based on the latest 5 calendar years of trading data. The more I study this chart, the more silly the bears' endless worries today about this upleg's staying power seem.
Despite their excellent January and nice 4-month run, today's US stock markets are certainly not overbought within cyclical-bull-to-date context. And the recent technical action looks absolutely nothing like that seen near the toppings of this cyclical bull's first and second uplegs. It is illogical and irrational to assume mere anxiety and the usual wall of worry will slay today's young upleg so prematurely.
This final chart is probably the most valuable perspective of all, and the hardest to obtain. It zooms out to the secular time frame, showing the entire secular stock bear since 2000. This secular analysis was the major reason why I correctly argued against the crowd in summer 2011 to declare this cyclical stock bull almost certainly wasn't finished yet. If you understood this before the latest correction, there was nothing to fear but fear itself.
Secular stock bears are gigantic 17-year sideways grinds driven by Long Valuation Waves. In this chart the SPX's current secular bear since 2000 is superimposed over the last secular bear straddling the 1970s. Within these giant secular trading ranges, an endless series of shorter cyclical bears and cyclical bulls alternate. Investors and speculators who understand these can earn fortunes in secular bears!
Way back in early 2000, the first cyclical bear of this secular bear (which I predicted in 2001) started hammering the stock markets lower. It ultimately led to a brutal 49.1% loss in 2.6 years. And out of that despair, a new cyclical bull within the secular bear was born. It ultimately powered 101.5% higher in 5 years by late 2007. With the SPX back up at its pre-secular-bear highs, another cyclical bear was due.
And indeed it started out normally in late 2007 and early 2008, but then that crazy stock panic greatly accelerated it. By the time the dust settled after that once-in-a-lifetime fear superstorm, the SPX had plunged 56.8% in just 1.4 years. But at least that cyclical bear was over. Out of those lows, today's cyclical bull was born. As you'd expect after a stock panic, it has been exceptionally strong. As of its latest high in April 2011, this cyclical bull had catapulted 101.6% higher in merely 2.1 years!
Now the normal rule of thumb for the cyclical bear-bull cycles within secular bears is they cut the stock markets in half before doubling them again. A cyclical bear usually leads to 50%ish losses, and the subsequent cyclical bull usually leads to 100%ish gains. The net result is a gigantic sideways grind, but it is still super-profitable to trade if you take the time to understand the underlying cyclical bear-bull cycles.
But the secondary stock-panic lows ushered in by the new Obama Administration's withering attacks on investors and capitalism in early 2009 dragged the SPX lower than the usual 50% cyclical-bear losses. So today's cyclical bull launched from a much-lower base than precedent. Thus the doubling we've seen in the SPX since then is a bit misleading. Cyclical bulls tend to carry the SPX back up to its secular resistance, which is around 1500 in this secular bear.
Thus as long as the S&P 500 is below 1500 or so, as long as this secular resistance doesn't threaten this upleg, it still has plenty of room to run. Thanks to the stock panic, the preceding cyclical bear was considerably larger and deeper than normal. And therefore of course the mean reversion out of such an ultra-rare event, the subsequent cyclical bull, ought to be proportionally larger to the upside.
So as I've argued since summer 2009, today's cyclical bull is highly likely to challenge 1500 before it rolls over into a new cyclical bear. And with the SPX merely around 1350 this week, we still have lots of room to run before secular-bear resistance looms. There is also one more important secular argument in favor of today's cyclical bull not being mature yet, the average duration of mid-secular-bear cyclical bulls.
As I discussed back in June, the average lifespan of mid-secular-bear cyclical bulls during our current secular bear and the previous one straddling the 1970s was nearly 3 years each. At our current cyclical bull's latest interim high last April, it had only run for 2.1 years. It was far too young to give up its ghost! And after a stock panic, the odds heavily favor the rebound cyclical bull actually being longer than average rather than shorter. That is necessary to help rebalance away the extreme panic sentiment.
These secular arguments in favor of today's SPX upleg having room to run yet are very powerful and compelling. Not only is this benchmark stock index still well below today's secular-bear resistance near 1500 that is the highest-probability cyclical-bull upside target, but this cyclical bull remains too young relative to average mid-secular-bear cyclical bulls. There is no reason to fear a new cyclical bear yet.
There you have it, and perspective is everything for successful investing and speculating. While the bears fall all over themselves fretting about the latest Greece debacle, and economists froth at the mouth trying to conjure a recession into existence from isolated data points, longer-term technicals and sentiment resoundingly declare today's SPX upleg is far from over. But the incessant daily noise is distracting traders, keeping them cowering in fear, hiding in cash, and losing out on huge gains.
But thankfully it is not too late to participate. While the easy general-market gains have already been earned, great opportunities exist elsewhere as other sectors start racing to catch up with the SPX. My favorite is the commodities stocks, which continue to be incredibly unloved due to excessive US dollar strength. But as this SPX upleg continues gradually climbing, the safe-haven dollar will keep rolling over igniting a heck of a fire under beaten-down commodities stocks.
And few can help you thrive in this sector like we can! At Zeal, we are dedicated students of the markets and therefore hardcore contrarians. We walk the walk in buying low when others are scared, and selling high when others are greedy. Since 2001, during this brutal secular stock bear when the SPX was flat, all 598 stock trades recommended in our subscription newsletters have averaged stellar annualized realized gains of +48%! You too can share in the hugely profitable fruits of our labors.
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The bottom line is despite the bears and naysayers, today's SPX upleg still has plenty of room to run higher yet. This upleg remains way too small and short-lived by cyclical-bull-to-date standards, and the SPX is nowhere close to being overbought yet. The recent technicals we've seen look absolutely nothing like the topping events at the ends of this cyclical bull's first and second uplegs.
And from a longer secular perspective, the SPX is still well below its secular bear's resistance of 1500. On top of that, today's cyclical bull following a once-in-a-century stock panic hasn't even reached average duration yet. All this means the odds remain heavily in favor of both this cyclical bull and its current upleg still having plenty of room to run. It isn't too late to buy in if traders can overcome their fears.