Investing with the Trend: Appendix

Note to the reader: This is a set of appendices for a series of articles I’m publishing here, taken from my book, “Investing with the Trend.” Hopefully, you will find this content useful. Market myths are generally perpetuated by repetition, misleading symbolic connections, and the complete ignorance of facts. The world of finance is full of such tendencies, and here, you’ll see some examples. Please keep in mind that not all of these examples are totally misleading — they are sometimes valid — but have too many holes in them to be worthwhile as investment concepts. And not all are directly related to investing and finance. Enjoy! – Greg

Appendix A: Passive vs. Active Management

Passive management means that the investor or manager does not change the portfolio components, except for occasional (usually based on the calendar) rebalancing to some preconceived ratio of stocks and bonds. Passive is prosaic, and often is designed just to replicate the market. An active investor or manager is one who attempts to invest in top-performing stocks or assets using some methodology to assist in that process. Often, it is difficult to tell the difference between some active managers and their benchmark. They have become benchmark huggers, often because of career risk. This is not a complete list, but does address the most popular strategies and while there is some overlap in some strategies, that is not unexpected.

Examples of Passive

Buy and hold. The concept of long-only investments is usually based on fundamental research. For decades, this was the much touted method to long-term success in the stock market, and, in fact, for most people, that is probably correct, especially if much of their holding period was during a secular bull market. Value investing is generally attributed to this type of investing. Sadly, buy and hold can be devastating during secular bear markets. Five of the strong arguments for buy and hold are:

  1. The market goes up over the long run.
  2. Equity returns will keep you ahead of inflation.
  3. The market always recovers from bear markets.
  4. Commissions, fees, and taxes are kept low.
  5. No one can time the market’s up and down moves.

This book is about why those arguments are false. Hopefully when you read them, you were aware that they are not strong arguments at all, but merely selling points for those who benefit from your decision to buy and hold.

Strategic asset allocation. A very popular process, which basically infers that the investor or manager sets up a portfolio of assets based on their individual risk to return measures. This concept has been the tenant of modern portfolio theory and, like buy and hold, works quite well in secular bull markets. The really sad part is that buy-and-hold probably will outperform strategic asset allocation in those secular bull markets. Strategic asset allocation almost always involves periodic rebalancing to the predetermined ratio. Personally, I find it hard to adapt to a strategy that sells its best performing assets and buys more of the worst. Peter Mauthe says strategic asset allocation does not have a tactic. Mauthe goes on to say that nothing gets better with neglect. My tire pressure is low, so I can be passive or active in attending to them. Health, relationships, customer relations, nothing I know of gets better with neglect. So why would my investments be any different?

Portfolio rebalancing seems flawed from its basic premise: selling the best performing assets and buying more of the worst performing assets. Or, selling the best and buying the worst hoping that mean reversion kicks in before you kick off.

Dollar cost averaging. The act of investing a fixed dollar amount on a periodic basis. This was addressed in more detail in The Hoax of Modern Finance – Part 3: Fictions Told to Investors.

Examples of Active

Momentum. A concept that selects the top-performing assets based on their price performance. While this sounds good, the process does involve determining the period of time to use to measure that performance and usually involves some sort of ranking capability.

Sector rotation. Somewhat similar to a momentum strategy, but restricted to market sectors and sometimes includes the industry groups. This technique is probably easier to put into practice, as it involves fewer issues to monitor and measure. One of the problems with this strategy is that it cannot protect you from bear markets, only reduce the pain. If this strategy is long only and the goal is to remain fully invested, then it was described in The Hoax of Modern Finance – Part 11: Valuations, Returns, and Distributions.

Alternatives. These strategies usually come to fruition during the mid-to-later years of secular bear markets, when investors realize that passive investing is no longer working. Futures, hedging, options, and a whole host of derivative products are used across the board in the alternatives category.

Absolute return. This falls under the Alternatives header and generally relates to strategies that are totally unconstrained in long, short, hedges, leveraged, and so on. They are not tied to any benchmark, hence, absolute return vs. relative return.

Tactical asset management. This was listed last as this is essentially what this book is all about. Tactical asset management infers that the investor or manager is unconstrained not only in which assets, but when to invest in them.

Table A.1 gives brief comments on the various strategies. With the benefit of hindsight, the market can seem predictable; however, many of these strategies are more useful in describing the market’s past than in anticipating its future.

Note: Active management is quite broad. At one end, it can be a manager who rebalances a portfolio once a year. This approach rarely uses stop loss protection and is always 100% invested, which means it does not ever hold cash or cash equivalents. At the other end of the spectrum is the tactical unconstrained manager, similar to my “Dancing with the Trend” strategy. This is an approach that utilizes stop loss protection, treats cash and cash equivalents as an asset class, and is determined to protect the downside.

Appendix B: Trend Analysis Tables

See the tables in Market Research and Analysis – Part 3: Market Trend Analysis.

Appendix C: Market Breadth

In 2006, McGraw-Hill published my book, The Complete Guide to Market Breadth Indicators. Breadth was an area I had spent a great deal of time on over the past 30-plus years. Breadth was almost totally ignored by the technical analysis community as most of the popular books on technical analysis usually only devoted a chapter to the subject of breadth. The book was in actuality a giant research project for me, one that took well over a year to complete even though I had been collecting breadth data and information since the 1980s. I tried to include every known breadth indicator or relationship in existence. I think I almost did that. The information following is from that book, and what I feel is the absolute most important part of the book. Enjoy!

Why Breadth?

  • It takes advantage of inefficient markets. If investors are irrational and prone to excessive optimism with the latest hot stocks and excessive pessimism with those issues that have suffered recently, then market capitalization weighting reflects those inefficiencies from its very definition of shares times price. Breadth, which is equal weighted, does not have that problem.
  • Avoid heavy concentration into a few stocks. Market capitalization weighting often causes a large portion of a portfolio to be concentrated in only a few issues—concentration risk. Breadth totally avoids this.
  • Get more exposure to small capitalization stocks. Merely by the concept of capitalization weighting, small stocks will have a smaller effect on the portfolio. True, they are generally considered riskier, but they have also had historically stronger performance. Breadth deals with large and small capitalization stocks equally.

Breadth analysis is like quantum mechanics, it does not predict a single definite result, instead it predicts a number of different possible outcomes, and tells us how likely each one will be. Breadth directly represents the market, no matter what the indices are doing. It is the footprint of the market and the best measure of the market’s liquidity.

Most breadth indicators are at best, coincident indicators, and usually somewhat lagging. Any of the indicators that are smoothed with moving averages are certainly lagging. Lagging means that the indicator is only telling you what is happening after it has happened. Lagging is not a problem, once you realize that picking exact tops and bottoms in the market is better left to gamblers. Th e confirmation of lagging indicators, however, is very important. Some breadth indicators, especially some of the ratios, can offer leading indications based upon the identification and use of previous levels or thresholds that are consistent with similar market action. An oscillator that reached a threshold level, either positive or negative, with consistency relative to market tops and bottoms is such an indicator. Many breadth indicators work in this manner.

A Familiar Breadth Indicator

Most investors are familiar with the long-running Friday night show, Wall Street Week, on Public Broadcasting hosted by Louis Rukeyser, who, every week would comment on his elves (his term for technical analysts) and the Wall Street Week Index. What you may not have known is that this index was a composite of 10 indicators, three of which were breadth-based. Robert Nurock, long-time panelist and Chief Elf, created it. Robert Nurock was the editor of the Astute Investor, a technical newsletter for many years.

The Arms Index was one of the indicators in the Wall Street Week Index. A 10-day moving average was used with bullish signals given when it was about 1.2 and bearish when it was below 0.8. The advances minus the declines were used over a 10-day period and bullish signals were from the point where the index exceeds 1,000 to a peak and down to a point 1,000 below the peak. Bearish signals were just the opposite. The third breadth indicator used was the new highs compared to the new lows. For bullish signals an expansion of the 10-day average of new highs from less than 10 up to 10-day average of new lows. Similarly, bearish signals were an expansion of 10-day average of new lows from less than 10 until it exceeds the 10-day average of new highs.

Breadth Components

Breadth components are readily available from newspapers, online sources, and so on and consist of daily and weekly statistics. They are: Advances, Declines, Unchanged, Total Issues, Up Volume, Down Volume, Total Volume (V), New Highs, and New Lows.

From one day to the next, any issue can advance in price, decline in price, or remain unchanged. Also any issue can make a new high or a new low. Here are more specific definitions:

  • Advancing Issues or Advances (A)—Stocks that have increased in price from one day to the next, even if only by one cent, are considered as advancing issues or advances.
  • Declining Issues or Declines (D)—Stocks that have decreased in price from one day to the next are considered declining issues or declines.
  • Unchanged Issues or Unchanged (U)—Stocks that do not change in price from one day to the next are considered unchanged issues or unchanged.

Note: Prior to July 1997, stock prices were measured in eighths of a point, or about 12.5 cents as the minimum trading unit. In July 1997 the NYSE went from using eighths to sixteenths. This made the minimum trading unit about 6.25 cents. On January 2, 2002, they went to a decimalization pricing that made the minimum trading price equal to one cent (a penny).

  • Total Issues (TI)—This is the total of all issues available for trading on a particular exchange. If you added the advances, declines, and unchanged issues together it would equal the total issues.
  • Advancing Volume or Up Volume (UV)—This is the volume traded on a day for each of the stocks that are advancing issues. It is the total volume of all the advances.
  • Declining Volume or Down Volume (DV)—This is the total volume for all the declines for a particular day.
  • Total Volume (V)—This is the total volume of all trading for a particular day. Total volume is the sum of Up Volume, Down Volume, and Unchanged Volume. To find Unchanged Volume subtract the sum of Up Volume and Down Volume from the Total Volume. Total volume is not generally considered a breadth component, but is many times used in a ratio with the up or down volume to alleviate the increase in trading activity over long periods of time.
  • New High (H)—Whenever a stock’s price reaches a new high price for the last 52 weeks it is termed a new high. New Low (L)—Whenever a stock’s price reaches a new low price for the last 52 weeks it is termed a new low.

Note: The NYSE new highs and new lows are now computed on a fixed 52-week moving time window starting on January 1, 1978. Before that, the new highs and new lows were computed on a variable time window of anywhere from two and a half months to 14 and a half months. This rendered the new high new low data prior to 1978 almost useless, and certainly confusing to use.

Breadth vs. Price

Breadth does not consider the amount or magnitude of price change. It also does not consider the number of shares traded (volume). And it does not consider the shares outstanding for individual stocks. Most stock market indices, such as the New York Stock Exchange Composite Index, the Nasdaq Composite Index, S&P 500 Index, the Nasdaq 100, and so on, weigh each stock based on its price and number of outstanding shares. This makes their contribution to the index based on their value and are some.times called market-value weighted indices or capitalization weighted indices. Because of this (at this writing), Microsoft, Qualcomm, Intel, Cisco, eBay, Nextel, Dell, Amgen, Comcast, and Oracle account for more than 40 percent of the Nasdaq 100 Index and its ETF, QQQQ. Ten percent of the components account for 40 percent of the price movement of the index. This can lead to an incorrect analysis of the markets, especially if some of these large cap stocks experience price moving events. Many times the reference to the large caps issues is that of the generals, while the small caps are referred to as the soldiers. As you will find out, the generals are not always the leaders.

Breadth treats each stock the same. An advance of $10 in Microsoft is equally represented in breadth analysis as the advance of two cents of the smallest, least capitalized stock. Breadth is truly the best way to accurately measure the liquidity of the market.

The Difference Between Daily and Weekly Breadth Data

You just cannot add up daily breadth data for the week to get the weekly data. Here is a scenario that will explain why.

Here’s the narrative: An advance or decline for the week should be based on its price change from the previous Friday close to the close of the current week. It has absolutely nothing to do with the daily data. Take a single stock; its previous Friday close price was $12. On Monday, it was up $1 to $13. It went up a dollar each day for the first four days of the week and closed on Thursday at $16. However, on Friday, it dropped $5 to $11. For the week it was down $1, which would be one decline for the week. However, on a daily basis, it accounted for four advances and one decline, or a net three advances.

John McGinley, past editor of Technical Trends and sidekick of the late Arthur Merrill, sent this note: “I strongly believe that in creating weekly figures for the advance declines, one does not use the published weekly data for they disguise and hide what really went on during the week. For instance, imagine a week with 1,500 net advances one day and the other four days even. The weekly data would hide the devastation which occurred that dramatic day.”

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Breadth

Consider a period of distribution (market topping process) such as 1987, 1999, 2007, 2011, and so on. As an uptrend slowly ends and investors seek safety, they do so by moving their riskier holdings, such as small-cap stocks, into what is perceived to be safer large-cap and blue chip stocks. This is certainly a normal process and one that can’t be challenged. However, the mere act of moving from small- to large-cap stocks causes the capitalization-weighted (Nasdaq Composite, New York Stock Exchange Index, S&P 500) and price-weighted (Dow Industrials) to move higher simply because of the demand for large-cap issues. Breadth, on the other hand, begins to deteriorate from this action. It is said that breadth arrives at the party on time, but always leaves early. Another analogy is that the troops are no longer following the generals. There is a nice chart showing this concept in Figure 13.9.

Breadth data seems to not be consistent among the data providers. If you think about it, if a stock is up, it is an advance for the day, so why is there a disparity? Some data services will not include all stocks on the exchange. They will eliminate preferred issues, warrants, rights, and so on. This is fine as long as they tell you that is what they are doing. In the past few years, the number of interest-sensitive issues on the New York Stock Exchange has increased so that they account for more than half of all the issues. These issues are preferred stocks, closed-end bond funds, and electric utility stocks, to mention a few.

Many analysts such as Sherman and Tom McClellan, Carl Swenlin, and Larry McMillan use common-stocks-only breadth indicators. Richard Russell refers to it as an operating company-only index. Using stocks that have listed options available is another good way to avoid the interest-sensitive issues, since most stocks that have listed options are common stocks.

Each breadth indicator seems to have its benefits and its shortcomings. The fact that breadth measures the markets in a manner not possible with price is the key element in these conclusions. Breadth measures the movement of the market, its acceleration and deceleration. It is not controlled by General Electric, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, General Motors, and so on, any more than it is controlled by the smallest capitalized stock on the exchange.

Table C.2 shows the breadth components needed for calculation of the indicator, whether the indicator is better for picking market bottoms, market tops, trend analysis, and whether it is better for short- or long-term analysis. Keep in mind that short-term is generally some period of time less than five-to-six months. Identification of a market bottom can be an event that can last only a few days or launch a giant secular bull market. In Table C.2, the terms short- and long-term refer to the frequency of signals as much as anything. A number of the long-term indicators are good for trend following; in Table C.2, if neither Bottoms nor Tops were checked, it was because the indicator is better at trend analysis.

Some indicators are better at Tops, Bottoms, and both, and, at different times, but are only identified by Bottoms and/or Tops below. Great effort was made to determine if one appeared to be better at one or the other. If no difference could be ascertained, they were reported as being good for both Bottoms and Tops. Please keep in mind the nature of market bottoms versus market tops. Bottoms are generally sharp and quick and usually much easier to identify, whereas market tops are usually long periods of distribution where most market indices rotate through their peaks at different times. You will notice that considerably more indicators are noted as being good at Bottoms than at Tops. Add to that the subjective interpretation of the various indicators, and the table that follows should be viewed as a beginning guide only.

Favorite Breadth Indicators

Here is a list of breadth indicators that I believe are good ones to follow. Some are for daily analysis and some are used merely to be kept aware of their indications. There are some really good breadth indicators that have made some very good market calls over the years—they are marked as awareness-only below. I try to avoid noisy indicators that require too much interpretation and very short term in nature.

New High New Low Validation Measure

During my research on breadth, I became acutely aware that most analysts treated new highs and new lows in the same manner as they did with advances, declines, up volume, and down volume. A terrible mistake, as I will attempt to explain. This will help validate and show how to interpret new high and new low data. If you consider the facts relating to new highs and new lows, you will see the necessity for this. A new high means that the closing price reached a high that it had not seen in the past year (52 weeks). Similarly, a new low is at a low not seen for at least a year. This indicator tries to identify when the new high or new low is determined to be good or bad using the following line of thinking.

Consider that prices have been in a narrow range for more than a year. Something then triggers an event that causes the market to move out of that trading range to the upside. This will immediately cause almost every stock that moves with the market to also become a new high. New highs are generally the force that keeps good up moves going. The new lows in this scenario will dry up, as expected. Now consider that the market has had a steady advance for quite some time. The number of new highs will generally continue to remain high as most stocks will rise with the market. Of course, there will be drops as the market makes corrections on its path to higher prices. When the number of new highs starts to dry up, you will probably notice that the number of unchanged issues starts to increase slightly, because a lot of stocks will just cease to participate in the continuing rise. New lows will not happen for some time because the market is just starting to form a top. The number of new lows will increase as the market forms its broad top, while the number of new highs gets smaller and smaller. It will be the time frame of this topping action that determines when the new lows will start to kick in. Remember, you cannot have a new low until an issue is at a new low price over the last year.

When the market declines and you start to see fewer new lows, it means the market is losing its downside momentum. Why is this so? It is because some issues have already bottomed and are not continuing to make new lows. This is tied to the rotational effect, sometimes caused by various market sectors hitting bottoms at different times. Figure C.1 is an attempt to show this visually. Up spikes (solid line) equal to +2 represent good new highs. Up spikes (dashed line) equal to +1 represent bad new highs. Similarly, down spikes (solid line) at –2 equates to good new lows and –1 (dotted line) equates to bad new lows. You might read that again, since it is not obvious. I wanted to keep the new highs as the up spikes and the new lows as the down spikes. Short up spikes are bad new highs, and short down spikes are bad new lows. Bad, in this case, means they did not conform to the theory talked about above.

In Figure C.1, the top plot is the NYSE Composite index, with a 252-day exponential average overlaid. The bottom plot is the new lows, the next to the bottom is the new highs, and the second from the top plot is the New High New Low Validation Measure. It is the plot that has the tooth-like moves both up and down. The top of the up moves is at a value of 2 and represents valid new highs. The bottom of the down moves is at –2 and represents valid new lows. The smaller up and down moves are at +1 and –1 and represent new highs and new lows, respectively, which are good, but not as good as the ones at +2 and –2. Although this is a great deal of information to put into a single chart in a black-and-white book, you can look at the validated periods and compare them to the top plot of the NYSE Composite and see that they do a really good job of pointing out new highs and new lows that are meaningful.

This method of trying to determine when the new highs and new lows are truly good ones involves the rate of change of the market, a smoothed value of each component relative to the total issues traded, and their relationships with each other. For example, if the market is in a rally (rate of change high) and the new highs are increasing, any new lows that appear are not good ones. Similarly, if the market is in a downtrend, with high negative rate of change, then any new highs that appear are not good ones. The use of the term good ones refers to whether they are valid to use in any new high-new low analysis.

Appendix D: Recommended Reading

There are many great books available in the field of technical analysis and finance. However, I’m going to keep the list short and focused. The bibliography contains many other wonderful books on technical analysis, finance, and behavioral analysis, but if I had to pick a library of only four books, this is it.

Getting Started List

  • Kirkpatrick, Charles D., and Dahlquist, Julie R., 2011, Technical Analysis, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
  • Easterling, Ed., 2011, Probable Outcomes, Cypress House, Fort Bragg, CA.
  • Bernstein, Peter L., 1998, Against the Gods, John Wiley & Sons, New York.
  • Montier, James, 2010, The Little Book of Behavioural Investing, John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex, England.

Additional Recommended Reading

I’m not sure why I started this list, because there are so many great books on investing out there now that it is difficult to decide which to read. I guess I just answered my own dilemma, as I have read many, if not most, of them, and these are the ones I personally would recommend because they complement this book.

  • Pring, Martin J., 1985, Technical Analysis Explained, McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • Bernstein, Peter L., 1992, Capital Ideas, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.
  • Makridakis, Spyros and Hogarth, Robin, 2010, Dance with Chance, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England.
  • Mandelbrot, Benoit, 2004, The (Mis)Behavior of Markets, Basic Books, New York.
  • Shefrin, Hersh, 2002, Beyond Fear and Greed, Oxford University Press, New York.
  • Solow, Kenneth R., 2009, Buy and Hold Is Dead Again, Morgan James Publishing, Garden City, NY. 
  • Tetlock, Phlip E, 2005, Expert Political Judgement: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
  • Fox, Justin, 2009, Myth of the Rational Market, HarperCollins, New York.
  • Coleman, Thomas S., 2012, Quantitative Risk Management, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.
  • Weatherall, James O., 2013, The Physics of Wall Street, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, New York.

Thanks for reading this far. The conclusion to this series will publish in one week. Can’t wait? The book is for sale here.

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S&P 500 Still Bullish: This Is What You Should Watch For



  • Stock market unfazed by today’s jobs data
  • Yields rise, US dollar rises, and equities close the week relatively flat
  • Market breadth continues to be strong, indicating the stock market is still chugging along

It was a bit of a seesaw week in the stock market, but, overall, the market seems to think everything is looking good.

The May employment report indicated that the change in Non-Farm Payrolls (NFP) was stronger than expected. It came in at 272,000, significantly higher than the estimated 190,000. The unemployment rate climbed to 4%, and wages rose 4.1% in the past year.

The market’s initial reaction? Well, treasury yields spiked after the report was released, and equity futures turned sharply lower. However, that didn’t last long. At one point, the S&P 500 reached a new all-time high but closed lower. The number of added jobs weakens the probability of an interest rate cut. But isn’t that what the market is expecting? Long-term, things are looking fine. Let’s take a closer look.

Starting with the weekly chart of the S&P 500 ($SPX), it’s clear the trend is still bullish, as is momentum (see chart below). Until this changes, there’s no reason to think equities are setting up for a significant selloff.

CHART 1. WEEKLY CHART OF THE S&P 500 INDEX. The bullish trend is still intact and momentum continues to be strong.Chart source: StockChartsACP. For educational purposes.

The weekly perspective remains strong, with the S&P 500 trading above its 21-week exponential moving average (EMA). The index bounced off its 21-week EMA (red line), and, with the exception of a reversal last week—which didn’t put much of a dent in its bullish path—it continues to trend higher.

The Linear Regression Forecast (LRF) indicator (blue line) also indicates an upward trend. Since the LRF is based on the line of best fit, it can be considered a good indicator to measure the near-term trend. The last point of this indicator forecasts price direction, which, in the weekly chart, points higher.

Momentum also seems strong, with the moving average convergence/divergence trending higher and the stochastic oscillator well in overbought territory. So, from a weekly perspective, the S&P 500 looks bullish.

Does the picture change on the daily chart? Let’s take a look.

CHART 2. DAILY CHART OF THE S&P 500 INDEX. It may be a little more choppy than the weekly chart, but the trend is still bullish, and the momentum is strong.Chart source: StockChartsACP. For educational purposes.

The daily chart is a little more choppy than the weekly one, but it still suggests the S&P 500 is trending higher. The market had a bumpy ride at the end of May, but it recovered.

Watching a breadth indicator to see if it supports the trend is a good idea. There are several breadth indicators available in, such as the Advance-Decline Line, McClellan Oscillator, and the Bullish Percent Index (BPI).

The chart below displays the BPI for the S&P 500. When the BPI is above 50, it indicates that bulls have the edge, with 70 representing overbought levels and 30 oversold, although you can use different thresholds.

CHART 3. S&P 500 BULLISH PERCENT INDEX. The BPI indicates the S&P 500 is still bullish.Chart source: StockChartsACP. For educational purposes.

It’s interesting to note that the S&P 500’s BPI hasn’t been below 30 since the end of October. This suggests that the overall market continues to be bullish.

Another confirming indicator is the Volatility Index ($VIX), which continues to be low. Investors are not showing any signs of panic.

Bond Market Action

One interesting piece of the stock market puzzle is the bond market, which tends to move on the jobs data. With yields coming down, bond prices started to move up. The daily chart of the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) below shows that TLT broke out above its downward-sloping trendline and broke above its last significant high (May 16). But Friday’s price action sent Treasury yields higher, and bond prices fell below their May high.

CHART 4. DAILY CHART OF ISHARES 20+ YEAR TREASURY BOND ETF (TLT). After breaking above its last high, bond prices declined. It remains to be seen if this is a correction or a sign that bonds are still struggling.Chart source: StockChartsACP. For educational purposes.

While one day’s action doesn’t signify a trend reversal, it’s a good idea to watch the action in the bond market. Add this chart to your ChartLists and keep an eye on whether TLT breaks above its May high. If it does, it could further confirm that bonds are trying to come off their lows.

Another point not to be missed is the action in the US dollar, another asset that reacts to jobs data. The greenback spiked in today’s trading. So, we have a situation where bond yields spiked, the dollar spiked, and equities were relatively flat. On the other end of the spectrum, metals got clobbered. Do metal traders know something about the inflation data?

Everything rests on next week’s action, which is a data-heavy week. There’s the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and FOMC meeting. Given that today’s jobs data showed that wages data came in higher, you can bet the CPI data will be watched closely.

Let’s see what the Fed says next week. The CME FedWatch Tool shows a small probability of a rate hike in the September meeting, but that could change. The key point to listen for is whether inflation is coming down at the rate the Fed wants to see. The market has priced in one rate cut possibility this year. If we hear otherwise, the market could react either way.

The Takeaway

Technical indicators look good, which suggests that the stock market is still bullish. But watch market breadth and the VIX. If they start to turn—it has to be a significant reversal—then you can start worrying. In other words, if you think the stock market is toppy and it’ll sell off, wait for the confirming indicators to show you the market will sell off.

End-of-Week Wrap-Up

  • S&P 500 closes down 0.11% at 5,346.99, Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.22% at 38,798.99; Nasdaq Composite down 0.23% at 17,133.13.
  • $VIX down 2.86% at 12.22
  • Best performing sector for the week: Technology
  • Worst performing sector for the week: Utilities
  • Top 5 Large Cap SCTR stocks: NVIDIA (NVDA); MicroStrategy Inc. (MSTR); Super Micro Computer, Inc. (SMCI); Vistra Energy (VST); Applovin Corp. (APP)

On the Radar Next Week

  • May CPI
  • Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision and press conference
  • May PPI
  • June mortgage rates
  • June Preliminary Michigan consumer and inflation expectations
  • Fed speeches (Goolsbee, Cook)

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

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Stock Market Shows Its Magic: An Exciting Finish



  • The stock market has wrapped the week on a positive note
  • Consumer Staples stocks may start to show strength in the near future
  • More macro data is on deck for next week

What a turnaround! Today’s PCE data, which was in line with expectations, initially sent the stock market higher. Then, it experienced a significant selloff, but things changed in the last 30 minutes. Equities pushed higher into the close, revealing that investor optimism isn’t dead. The S&P 500 ($SPX) and Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) closed higher, and the Nasdaq Composite ($COMPQ) was flat.

Today’s stock market behavior shows how it can turn on a dime, and there’s no way to anticipate what it’ll do. The PCE came in as expected, which, realistically, shouldn’t have altered investor sentiment. The expectation of possibly getting one rate cut in 2024 is still in play, so it made sense to see the selloff for most of the trading day. But that big push higher shortly before the close makes it difficult for an investor to be pessimistic.

A Closer Look at the Trading Action

For most of the day, Tech stocks sold off significantly. The weekly chart of the Nasdaq Composite (see below) shows that, if it hadn’t been for the rise at the end of the trading day/week/month, the index could have closed below its first support level (blue dashed line). Instead, it was able to close well above the support level.

Follow the live chart.

Could that mean the index will try hitting a new high next week? It’s something to anticipate, but always be prepared for the market to go either direction.

CHART 1. WEEKLY CHART OF NASDAQ COMPOSITE. The index looked like it would close below its first level, but buying pressure dominated, and the index closed for the week on a relatively optimistic note.Chart source: For educational purposes.

Not much has changed. The Nasdaq is trading above its 21-day exponential moving average (EMA), which is trending upward, as is the 50-day simple moving average (SMA).

Follow the live chart.

Like the weekly chart, the daily chart of the Nasdaq Composite also shows some clear lines in the sand. Today’s range was significant and, while it looked like there could have been some short-term technical support breaks, the index ended the week without much to worry about.

CHART 2. DAILY CHART OF NASDAQ COMPOSITE. There are clear lines of sand in the daily chart of the Nasdaq, and there is enough buying interest to keep the index above the initial support levels.Chart source: For educational purposes.

Follow the live chart.

You can blame the tech stock selloff on semiconductors. To understand this better, it makes sense to bring up a chart of NVIDIA (NVDA), since the price action of the stock tends to correlate with the price action in the Nasdaq and S&P 500.

The daily chart of NVDA below shows a clear resistance level. From March to May, NVDA’s stock price hit resistance at around $965 and a few times before it gapped higher.

CHART 3. DAILY CHART OF NVDA. Could the stock fall to its previous resistance level?Chart source: For educational purposes.

NVDA’s recent earnings saw the stock price surge higher, but the buying seems to have exhausted. The question is whether NVDA’s stock price will retrace back to the $965 level. For a while, it looked like that could happen. We’ll have to wait until next week to see which way investor sentiment leans.

A look at the StockCharts MarketCarpet gives a good visual of today’s market action. You can clearly see that NVDA and Amazon, Inc. (AMZN) experienced the largest losses, but, overall, there was a lot of green. The dark green squares represent the largest percentage gainers, and one that stands out in the Tech sector is, Inc. (CRM). After falling almost 20% on Thursday after a dismal earnings report, the stock gained 7.5% on Friday.

CHART 4. THE BIG PICTURE. The StockCharts MarketCarpet gives a good overview of how the market performed.Chart source:

Follow the live chart.

Interestingly, it wasn’t so green in the Tech and Communications Services sectors. But the other sectors were doing relatively well. Two stocks that should be on your radar are Gap Stores (GPS) and Deckers Outdoor Corp. (DECK).

CHART 5. RETAIL STOCKS SURGE. Gap, Inc. (GPS) and Deckers Outdoors (DECK) are seeing significant strength. These two stocks should be on your radar.Chart source: StockChartsACP. For educational purposes.

GPS rose on strong Q1 earnings and strong guidance. DECK’s shares have been rising on the popularity of their Hoka shoes. The rise in these stocks indicates the retail sector continues to be strong.

The Takeaway

Overall, May ended on a positive note. Maybe the “Sell in May and go away” strategy will have to wait. Next week, there will be some earnings, but the focus will be on macro data. Will the data be enough to move the needle? The jobs number will probably have the largest impact if it comes in hot.

End-of-Week Wrap-Up

  • S&P 500 closes up 0.80% at 5,277.51, Dow Jones Industrial Average up 1.50% at 38,686.32; Nasdaq Composite down 0.01% at 16,735.02
  • $VIX down 10.71% at 12.92
  • Best performing sector for the week: Energy
  • Worst performing sector for the week: Technology
  • Top 5 Large Cap SCTR stocks: MicroStrategy Inc. (MSTR); Vistra Energy Corp. (VST); NVIDIA (NVDA); Super Micro Computer, Inc. (SMCI); Robinhood Markets (HOOD)

On the Radar Next Week

  • May Manufacturing PMI
  • May Services PMI
  • April JOLTS Job Openings
  • May Non-Farm Payrolls
  • Earnings from CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD), Hewlett Packard (HP), and Lululemon Athletica (LULU)

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan

About the author:
Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan is Director of Site Content at She spends her time coming up with content strategies, delivering content to educate traders and investors, and finding ways to make technical analysis fun. Jayanthi was Managing Editor at T3 Custom, a content marketing agency for financial brands. Prior to that, she was Managing Editor of Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities magazine for 15+ years.
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From Summer Doldrums to Year-End Surge: How to Profit from Seasonal Trends in Precious Metals and Bitcoin



  • Bitcoin, gold, and silver exhibit similar seasonality patterns.
  • Bitcoin, gold, and silver prices largely reflect economic expectations.
  • If you’re bullish on bitcoin, gold, or silver, there are critical levels to watch.

Safe-haven investments like gold, silver, and now Bitcoin have had a bumpy and uncertain rise, but they’ve all ascended despite mixed opinions from analysts. This rise is due to fears of inflation (or slow growth with inflation), record-high US national debt, changing Fed rate expectations, and record purchases by central banks, especially among the BRICS nations.

Except for Fed rate cuts, which might happen sometime toward the end of the year, much of everything mentioned above is likely to continue in the direction they’ve been going—which is against the US dollar(‘s value of).

Bearish Near-Term, Bullish Long-Term

Aside from interest rates remaining steady, if not another hike (depending on the upcoming trio of inflation reports), there’s another reason to anticipate a potential dip before the next leg up: seasonality.

Gold, silver, and Bitcoin all experience summer doldrums. So, based on this expectation, should this seasonal pattern repeat this year, let’s assume there might be a dip in the near-term followed by a potential bullish surge toward the end of the year. If you want to get into any of these safe havens, might this summer be a time to load up on positions?

Tools for Analysis

The objective is to examine the seasonality outlook and compare it to the current price context. To do this, it helps to look at StockCharts’ Seasonality tool and the tools in StockChartsACP to fine-tune your analysis. This article will use the Fibonacci Retracement tool and the Money Flow Index (MFI) to fine-tune its analysis.

Seasonal Hot Summer “Dips” in Gold, Silver, and Bitcoin

Since you’re likely a stock trader or investor, let’s not just look at each asset’s seasonality by itself, but compare its seasonal performance against the S&P 500 ($SPX) to see its historical performance against the broader market (which may bear similarity to your portfolio).

Using StockCharts’ Seasonality tool, pay attention to the following two figures and note that we’re looking at a 10-year seasonality cycle:

  • The bars (and numbers above them) represent the % frequency of the asset closed higher, in this case, relative to the S&P.
  • The % figure at the bottom of the bar reflects the average return over 10 years relative to the S&P 500.

CHART 1. SEASONAL 10-YEAR CHART OF BITCOIN AGAINST THE S&P 500. Note the higher-close rate versus the average returns.

Bitcoin’s higher close rates and returns in June and July are decent, with August being the worst-performing month (summer doldrums). But almost all months tend to get dwarfed by the October higher close rates and returns (89% higher closes and a 22.5% average return).

Now, let’s look at silver’s ($SILVER) performance.

CHART 2. SEASONAL 10-YEAR CHART OF SILVER AGAINST THE S&P 500. Note the weakest performances in June and November vs. its outperformance in December.

Not quite as brilliant as Bitcoin, but silver ($SILVER) is the neglected sibling among the three. Compared to the S&P 500 (remember, we’re not looking at each asset’s seasonality on its own), June through November tend to hover from negative to almost no movement despite the higher closing rates in August and October. November is the worst month for silver, but December is the month the white metal tends to outshine the broader market, with a 67% higher close rate and a 4% return. Again, this supports the bearish to bullish pattern that the market tends to be expecting on a fundamental basis.

And finally, gold.

CHART 3. SEASONAL 10-YEAR CHART OF GOLD AGAINST THE S&P 500. December and January are the strongest months for gold compared to the broader market.

Relative to the S&P, gold’s ($GOLD) performance looks similar to that of silver’s, with November being the worst month and December (but also January) exhibiting the strongest relative performance, with a 67% higher close rate and a 2.3% average return over the last 10 years.

So, if you reshuffle your portfolio with these safe-haven assets, you’d have to figure out which assets you’d be overweight and when while maintaining your broader market portfolio.

CHART 4. DAILY CHART OF BITCOIN. The crypto is in a trading range, but momentum is declining.

According to some analysts, during the traditionally slower summer months, prices may seek a new catalyst, potentially causing Bitcoin to drop below $50,000. Also, note the slight bearish divergence in the declining Money Flow Index (MFI) line and the almost flat range, signaling a drop in buying momentum. Assuming that’s the case, prices would first have to break below support a few points above the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement level (see blue arrow). A drop below this level would likely find support above the 50% Fib level (see blue arrow), below which we see the $50,000 price mark.

There’s likely to be some technical buying activity near this level. However, should prices continue drifting lower, the range between 50% and 61.8%, an ideal buying range, would also coincide with a four-week historical congestion range (see blue rectangle) above which there may be strong support. You should reassess your bullish outlook if the price falls below this level.

CHART 5. DAILY CHART OF SILVER. Note the strong surge in silver. Is it topping or does it have more room to run?

The slight divergence in the MFI shows a stronger price surge against slightly weakening momentum. Still, it makes you wonder if silver may be topping. As an industrial metal, in addition to being a monetary metal, silver has a different fundamental path. Nevertheless, it has a similar seasonality profile to Bitcoin and gold—summer weakness and end-of-year strength.

If prices top at the current highs, silver would have to break below its swing low (see blue dotted line), coinciding with the 23.6% Fib level. A break below this would likely find support at the 38.2% line coinciding with former resistance (see blue arrow). The next swing low, also an ideal buying range for those looking to go long, would be near $26.25, where the 61.8% Fib level sits.

CHART 6. DAILY CHART OF GOLD. Gold looks like it’s topping. But there’s plenty of clear support below it.

It looks like an intermediate-term double-top pattern, but whether this ends up being a correction or a much longer decline depends on several factors, one of which is the Federal Reserve’s rate actions.

Assuming a correction, the blue arrows indicate clear market-based support (and potential resistance-turned-support) levels. These coincide with the 38.2%, 50%, and 61.8% Fib retracements. Similar to the Bitcoin example above, you can also see a downsloping MFI line from the overbought range, indicating a slight weakening in buying pressure. If you’re following the seasonal narrative, near-term weakness followed by a bullish run toward the end of the year, the range between the 50% and 61.8% Fib levels may be a favorable entry. Just be sure to buy when technical conditions, from patterns to momentum,  indicate a strong bullish reversal.

The Takeaway

When “buying the dip,” identify strong reversal patterns and signs of bullish momentum. Despite the mixed opinions analysts may have on these three safe-haven assets, they have all responded to inflation, changing Fed rate expectations, and strong central bank buying (concerning gold, but also as an indication of challenges in the global economy and the US dollar).

Seasonality-wise, these assets often experience summer doldrums, potentially leading to near-term dips before a bullish surge towards the end of the year. If you’re considering going long, this summer might present an opportunity to buy. Keep an eye on the Fib levels.

How to Access the Seasonality Tool

There are different ways to access the seasonality tool in StockCharts. 

  • Click the Charts & Tools tab at the top of the StockCharts page, enter a symbol in the Seasonality panel, and click “Go.” 
  • Enter the symbol in the ChartBar at the top of the page and select “Seasonality” from the dropdown menu on the left.
  • From Your Dashboard, in Member Tools, click on Seasonality.
  • Below the seasonality chart, you’ll find links to instructions and quick tips that give more detailed instructions.

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

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Here Are 4 Steps To Improve Your Trading Process and Results

Let’s jump right in. For me, everything starts at the TOP. I take a top-down approach to trading. And when I say “the TOP”, I mean market direction.

Step 1: Is it a Bull or Bear Market?

Listen, this is a very easy step to me. Look at a LONG-TERM chart of the S&P 500. Are prices moving UP from left to right? Or are they moving DOWN from left to right? It’s that simple. Stop trying to figure out why it’s going up or down. Don’t interject your own personal biases into it. Just look at the chart and answer the question:

I have stripped out nearly all technical indicators. There’s no volume. There are no momentum indicators like the PPO, MACD, RSI, or Stochastic. There are no moving averages. This is nothing more than a 10-year weekly price chart of the S&P 500, NASDAQ 100, and the broader NYSE. What do you see as you look across this chart from left to right? Is there a debate here? The stock market has been moving higher for YEARS (with occasional weakness)!!!! If you find yourself constantly being in cash or, worse yet, trying to short sell stocks, because YOU think stocks are overvalued, you have missed out on creating enormous personal wealth. STOP doing that!

We are heavily influenced by listening to news, whether you believe so or not. I remember my parents talking about the enormous debt of the U.S. back in the 1970s and that discussion has never ended. Meanwhile, $1 invested in the S&P 500 on January 1, 1980, is now worth $50 (prior to adjusting for inflation). So the absolute FIRST STEP in becoming a better investor/trader is to understand that your odds of making money are MUCH, MUCH BETTER on the long side than on the short side. Shorting stocks should be considered very infrequently and only when the chart is moving DOWN from left to right. Calling for repeated tops in a bull market is financial suicide. The trend is your friend, right?

Step 2: Sectors, Industries, and Stocks Are Not Created Equal

The Semiconductors Index ($DJUSSC) is an industry group loaded with high-octane, growth companies. As our economy and GDP grow, many of these companies find very exciting growth opportunities and take full advantage of them. This allows the LEADERS within this rising group to post gains that make accumulating massive wealth in the stock market possible. But not every group is high-growth like the semiconductor group. Companies in those slower-growth areas will never post that type of sustainable earnings growth. Yet we put way too much faith that the short-term growth rate in other industries will evolve into long-term growth like the semiconductors. It simply doesn’t happen that way and we lose money waiting for it.

Let’s compare semiconductors to several other industry groups within the aggressive sectors (XLK, XLY, XLC, XLI, and XLF) over a 20-year period. The 9 “other” industries are software ($DJUSSW), specialty retailers ($DJUSRS), gambling ($DJUSCA), internet ($DJUSNS), broadcasting & entertainment ($DJUSBC), fixed line communications ($DJUSFC), airlines ($DJUSAR), insurance brokers ($DJUSIB), and banks ($DJUSBK). The chart below is a 20-year weekly chart and each industry is shown as a ratio chart, relative to the benchmark S&P 500. See if you notice differences:

Look at these 10 different industry group RELATIVE charts. If you were to trade a stock in one of these industry groups, would it matter to you which of the industry groups above that it belonged to?

If I looked at the above charts and I was contemplating a trade in one or more of them, the very first question I’d consider is “what’s my time frame?”. If I’m thinking about a long-term swing trade, I would very much prefer for the stock to be in one of those industry groups in BLUE above – those showing much better long-term track records. If I were to look at a trade in say gambling, it would very likely be a quick, short-term trade. And if I did let the stock run, because it was performing well, I’d absolutely want to keep a trailing stop in play. The falling relative strength lines tells me that money is rotating AWAY from this RED group and into groups like those above in BLUE.

So, short-term I could trade stocks in any of the 10 groups, but from a longer-term perspective, I’d clearly be much more interested in the BLUE groups that are uptrending vs. the benchmark S&P 500.

I think that makes common sense, but I would bet that most traders don’t consider this.

Step 3: Trade Leading Stocks

There are a number of ways to evaluate relative strength, but one simple way that’s already a part of the trading platform is to view top SCTRs (acronym for StockCharts Technical Rank). Personally, I would only tend to use the SCTR if I was looking at very recent performance. If you study the formula for the SCTR calculation, you’ll quickly realize that none of the formula is based on performance beyond 5-6 months. It’s a very near-term relative strength indicator, but a powerful one nonetheless, especially for those that are trading momentum in the very near-term.

You can pull up ChartLists using the Summary view and add the SCTR column. For instance, on our Raised Guidance ChartList (RGCL) that we research for our members, here is how I can look for internet stocks that have raised their guidance in the past quarter, while also listing their SCTR score in order from strong to weak:

Personally, I’d concentrate much more on trading the above stocks with SCTRs at or above 75 and ignoring the rest. Remember, leading stocks in leading industry groups. That’s how you’ll improve your trading success.

Step 4: Exercise Patience and Use Great Timing Techniques

An impatient trader that simply wants to have money invested at all times is generally a bad trader. Buy stocks at YOUR price, not the price market makers want you to buy. In my experience, “chasing” trending stocks has resulted in my biggest and quickest losses. Many times, a stock becomes a leading stock after an excellent quarterly earnings report that’s accompanied by a gap higher in price. Chasing such a stock can be a big problem, especially if that stock “fills its gap”, or returns to the prior closing price before the gap. We try to coach our members to “stalk” stocks. Find stocks you like and then wait, wait, and wait a little bit longer. Buy them at key price/moving average support with tighter stops. That won’t eliminate poor trades, but it’ll certainly reduce your risk at the time of purchase.

Conclusion: Examples

Every weekend (or nearly every weekend), I provide my Fab 5 on YouTube, which is essentially 5 trade setups. Keep in mind that the risk of any trades you make is yours and yours alone, but I believe if you time your trades similar to these setups, you’ll experience better trading results over time. Check out this video:

Fab 5: 5 Stocks You Should Be Stalking Right Now

If you like these setups and would like additional setups more often, please SUBSCRIBE to our FREE EB Digest newsletter with only your name and email address. We provide “Charts of the Day” 3 times per week and the newsletter is absolutely 100% free! You may unsubscribe at any time.

Have a great holiday-shortened week ahead and happy trading!


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Stock Market Ends Week on Optimistic Note, With a Few Surprises



  • The stock market started out slow, sold off, and then recovered some of those losses to end the week on an optimistic note.
  • Market internals continue to be strong indicating that the stock market has a bullish bias.
  • Several stocks made new highs including NVDA, FSLR, and DELL.

It was a roller-coaster week in the stock market, a reminder that, when markets are trading at their all-time highs, it pays to be cautious. Any negative news can trigger emotions, resulting in a domino effect reaction.

In the early part of the week, the stock market was pretty lethargic, with investors waiting for Nvidia’s earnings. When NVDA earnings were announced after the close on Wednesday, the stock price soared in after-hours trading. The upside move continued when the market opened on Thursday, with the stock price closing at a record high on Friday.

However, despite NVDAs’ rally, the rest of the market threw some surprises. On Thursday, there was a significant selloff, which threw many investors off. The broader equity indexes fell, as did precious metals.

The May Purchasers Manufacturing Index (PMI) came in higher than expected, which may have reminded investors that the strong economy could mean higher rates for longer. The FOMC minutes this week suggested that Fed members aren’t confident that inflation has come down enough to warrant rate cuts any time soon.

On Friday, the S&P 500 ($SPX) and Nasdaq Composite ($COMPQ) recovered some of Thursday’s losses. This was a surprise; you’d think the selloff would continue ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Follow the live chart!

Another interesting area is the price action in US Treasury yields, which seem to. be going through a consolidation pattern. Until they break out of this pattern, there’s no telling which way yields will go. The Fed is committed to bring inflation to 2%, but we don’t know how long it’ll take to get there.

CHART 1. 10-YEAR US TREASURY YIELDS IN CONSOLIDATION. Yields could break out in either direction. A lot depends on future economic data points. Chart source: For educational purposes.

A comforting thought is that the CBOE Volatility Index ($VIX) is low, indicating that investors aren’t fearful. This supports a bull market thesis. It’s challenging to forecast which direction the stock market will move, and we could see continued sideways movement for a while, especially after the FOMC minutes.

You can sense the presence of investor enthusiasm as stocks continue to reach all-time highs. Over 100 stocks hit an all-time high (check out the New All-Time Highs Predefined StockCharts scan). The New Highs-New Lows index ($NYHL) also shows more new highs than lows, although the number of new highs is not as high as it was in recent weeks (see chart below).

CHART 2. NEW HIGHS – NEW LOWS. The number of new highs is greater than the number of new lows. Chart source: For educational purposes.

A Few Stocks to Note

Follow the live chart!

Look at how First Solar (FSLR) performed this week. The stock surged, surpassing its last high of around $230 about a year ago. Despite FSLR’s rise, its relative strength compared to the S&P 500 index is at -32.81%. It’s got a lot of catching up to do.

CHART 3. FSLR JUMPS ON THE AI RIDE. The AI infrastructure needs to depend on energy companies and

What makes the stock appealing? FSLR has attracted the attention of analysts as a company that will benefit from the AI revolution. There’s a lot of talk about how the increased capacity of data centers will require energy, and FSLR could be one company that would benefit from the increased demand.

FSLR made it to three StockCharts Predefined Scans—New 52-Week Highs, Moved Above Upper Price Channel, P&F Double Top Breakout.

Another stock that hit a new high is Dell Technologies (DELL), again because of its contribution to the AI space. From the daily chart of DELL (see below), the stock is in an upward trend, and its relative strength index (RSI) has just crossed above the 70 level.

Follow the live chart!

The stock also reached the top 5 SCTR stocks (see end-of-week wrap-up below). Will the strength continue? We’ll find out when the company announces earnings next week.

CHART 4. DELL HITS NEW HIGHS. The stock has been gaining strength and is trading well above its 50-day simple moving average. Will earnings push this stock higher? Chart source: For educational purposes.

Closing Thoughts

With NVDA earnings in the rearview mirror, could FSLR or DELL be the next stock investors will get excited about? You can’t rule it out. This market hits you with surprises, so be prepared for anything. Even though the market went through its ups and downs this week, the overall sentiment appears to be bullish, a good way to start the holiday weekend.

End-of-Week Wrap-Up

  • S&P 500 closes up at 5,304.72, Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.01% at 39,069.59; Nasdaq Composite up 1.1% at 16,920.79
  • $VIX down 6.66% at 11.92
  • Best performing sector for the week: Technology
  • Worst performing sector for the week: Energy
  • Top 5 Large Cap SCTR stocks: MicroStrategy Inc. (MSTR); Vistra Energy Corp. (VST); Super Micro Computer, Inc. (SMCI); Vertiv Holdings (VRT); Dell Technologies (DELL)

On the Radar Next Week

  • Earnings from Salesforce (CRM), Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF), Dell Technologies (DELL).
  • March Home Prices
  • Consumer Confidence
  • April PCE
  • Fed speeches

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial professional.

Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan

About the author:
Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan is Director of Site Content at She spends her time coming up with content strategies, delivering content to educate traders and investors, and finding ways to make technical analysis fun. Jayanthi was Managing Editor at T3 Custom, a content marketing agency for financial brands. Prior to that, she was Managing Editor of Technical Analysis of Stocks & Commodities magazine for 15+ years.
Learn More

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Rules-Based Money Management – Part 5: Security Selection, Rules, and Guidelines

Note to the reader: This is the twenty-first in a series of articles I’m publishing here taken from my book, “Investing with the Trend.” Hopefully, you will find this content useful. Market myths are generally perpetuated by repetition, misleading symbolic connections, and the complete ignorance of facts. The world of finance is full of such tendencies, and here, you’ll see some examples. Please keep in mind that not all of these examples are totally misleading — they are sometimes valid — but have too many holes in them to be worthwhile as investment concepts. And not all are directly related to investing and finance. Enjoy! – Greg

Pullback Rally Analysis

The Pullback Rally Analysis is not a ranking measure, but a technique for determining the relative strength of issues by looking at the most recent rally from a previous pullback. To summarize, in pullback rally analysis, you measure the amount of the pullback in percent, then measure the current rally up to the current date in percent. The concept is fairly simple; those issues that dropped the least in the pullback, will probably outperform in the following rally.

This concept measures the percentage move during the pullback, the percentage to date of the current rally, and the percentage to date from the beginning of the pullback. This is a great method to see strength outside of the snapshot of the ranking measures. Figure 14.23 shows an example on how to determine the dates for the beginning and end of the pullback. From the chart, you can see a peak at point A with a pullback down to point B. The rally is then measured from point B to the current date.

A ratio of the percentage move of the current rally to the percentage move of the previous pullback is calculated. Another calculation is percentage the current price is from the beginning of the pullback (previous high). This data, when ranked, will help you determine strength in the rally as compared to the previous pullback. Often the stronger issues in a pullback are the leaders during the rally.

Table 14.1 shows the data for the Pullback Rally Analysis. You can see from even a quick glance at Table 14.1 that the international ETFs are outperforming, not only in the rally phase (% Rally), but also how almost all are now above where the previous high (beginning of pullback) began (% Prev. High). The iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund also performed well during the pullback phase, with the only international ETF displaying a gain for that period of 2.95%, while the others were losses. The Ratio column shows the ratio of the percent of rally compared to the percent of pullback. The pullback is completed, so only the extent of the rally is unknown.

This ratio will show ETFs that performed in a couple of ways. One is that, if the ETF did not decline much during the pullback and rises quickly in the rally, it will have a large ratio. For example, in the Broad category, the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF Trust (MDY) has a ratio of 1.40, highest in that category. This is because it was the best performer (least decline) in the pullback phase and ranked third in performance in the rally phase. This would indicate that MDY is a strong performer and a candidate to consider for buying. The last column, % Previous High, will also show you which ETFs are making new highs from the beginning of the pullback. This method of selection shows which issues are strong on a relative basis. In fact, it will also tell you which sectors and styles are strongest if you use ETFs that are tied to those strategies.

Pair Analysis

I remember following Martin Zweig years ago, and in fact used one of the techniques he described in his book, Winning on Wall Street, in the mid-1980s. In it, he described a really simple technique using his unweighted index (ZUPI) and on a weekly basis trading it whenever it moved 4% or more. If it moved up 4% in a week, he bought; if it moved down 4% in one week, he sold. Positions were held until the next opposing signal—just that simple. The problem I had back then was not only not following it, but trying to tweak it into something better. Eventually experience told me that he had already been down that road and I was the beneficiary of the results.

Anyway, I took this concept and used it on Index/ETF pairs, actually calculating the ratio of Index/ETF pairs and using the weekly movement of 4% to swap between the numerator and the denominator. It really works well with asset classes that are not correlated, such as equity vs. fixed income or equity vs. gold, and so on. Figure 14.24 shows an example of this pair strategy the S&P 600 small cap index (IJR) vs. the BarCap 7-10 Year Treasury index (IEF). The ratio line is the typical price line, with the binary signal line overlaid while the lower plot is the percent up and down moves for each weekly data point. Remember, this is a weekly chart. Whenever the ratio line moves by 4% in a week, as shown by the lower plot moving above or below the horizontal lines shown as +4% and -4%, the binary line overlaid on the price ratio changes direction. Repeated moves in the same direction are ignored.

The ratio significantly outperformed each of the individual components (IJR and IEF) and the S&P 500. Figure 14.25 shows the performance of the ratio (with the numerator and denominator swapped whenever there was a move of 4% or greater), the performance of the individual components that make up the ratio, and the S&P 500.

Table 14.2 shows the annualized performance statistics from 01/02/1998 until 12/28/2012 (weekly data). The Sharpe Ratio is slightly modified, in that the return is used as the numerator without a reduction for risk-free return. The Ratio rotation strategy outperformed in annualized return, and, when compared to the equity component, it reduced the Drawdown (DD) considerably, improved the Sharpe Ratio, and lowered the Ulcer Index.

I also found that smoothing the ratio with just a two-period moving average greatly enhanced the performance because it reduced the number of trades. Trying different percentages other than Zweig’s 4% worked well occasionally, but, overall, the 4% on weekly data yielded the most robust results time and time again.

The real advantage for a pair rotation strategy is when it is used as a core holding situation. In other words, if a strategy required a core holding percentage but that core could be actively managed, this would give an actively managed core holding that would have much lower drawdowns than a buy-and-hold core, and with considerably better returns. Table 14.3 shows the pairs used with an equal allocation of 25% each given to the four pairs. This adds up to an allocation of 100%, but, in this example, it means 100% of the core and the core percentage of total allocation is determined by the strategy, often 50%.

Figure 14.26 shows the results using the four different pairs in a core rotation strategy compared to buy-and-hold of the S&P 500. The drawdown in 2008 was limited to only 14%, and other than that was a nice ride. The average drawdown (see Table 14.4) is only 20% of the maximum drawdown. I was curious about the lack of performance in 2012 and found it was the fact that in the Gold/20-Year Treasury pair gold was the holding the entire period.

Table 14.4 shows the performance statistics for the Core Rotation Strategy (CRS) compared to the S&P 500. In this rotation strategy example, each of the pairs were smoothed by their two-period average prior to measuring the 4% rate of change. This process removes many of the signals and, while not affecting the results that much, reduces the number of trades significantly.

Figure 14.27 is the drawdown of the core rotation strategy compared to the S&P 500. You can see that the cumulative drawdown for the rotation strategy is considerably less than the drawdown of the index. The average drawdown for the rotation strategy was -3.39%, while the average drawdown for the S&P 500 was -15.88%. This would make for a very comfortable core, considering the exceptional returns and reduced risk statistics from just holding the index in a buy-and-hold situation. This core rotation strategy still meets the requirement of an always invested core while actively switching between four pairs of equity, gold, and fixed income ratios.

Ranking and Selection

Ranking and Selection is another critical component to a rules-based model. Once you have measured the market, you need to determine what to buy. This is the technical process of determining securities that meet the rules when the time to buy arrives.

Mandatory Measures

Once you have your collection of ranking measures, you need to determine which are to be used, along with the rules and guidelines as mandatory ranking measures. This means that you predefine the value range that they must be in before you can purchase that ETF. This is necessary to keep the subjectivity out of the process.

Tiebreaker Measures

Once you have determined your mandatory ranking measures, the remaining ranking measures are considered tie-breaker ranking measures. These are used to help in the selection process, especially when there are hundreds of issues that qualify based on the mandatory measures. You can further reduce these into categories if desired, such as frontline tie-breakers, those you use more often than the others.

Ranking Measures Worksheet

Table 14.5 is a partial view of the ranking measures worksheet. It only shows the top 50 to 60 issues as an example, since there are more than 1,400 ETFs in the full listing. One really important concept to grasp when looking at technical values in a spreadsheet is that you are only seeing a snapshot in time. Here is an example: let’s say that the Trend value is of primary importance and you have two ETFs, one with a Trend of 60 and one with a trend of 70. Which would you choose? Well, the quick answer is probably 70 as that is a stronger trend measure than 60. However, don’t you also need to know which direction the trend indicator is heading? If the trend that was at 60 was in an uptrend, while the one with the trend measure at 70 was in a downtrend, a completely different picture is presented. This is why all of the mandatory ranking measures also show their individual five-day rate of change, so that you can glean from the spreadsheet not only the absolute value of the ranking measure, but also the direction it is headed. It should be noted that any short-term period for rate of change will work.

Ranking Measures Are All About Momentum

Throughout this chapter it should be obvious that the ranking and selection process is centered on the concept known as momentum. Simply said, I want to buy an ETF that exhibits an upward trend that is determined by a number of different technical measures.

A final thought on momentum is that every day, in almost every newspaper’s business section, there is an excellent list of stocks to buy. It is called the 52-week new high list, or often stocks making new highs. If you were to only use this readily available tool, along with a simple stop-loss strategy, you would probably do much better at investing in the market. Sadly, many investors think about buying stocks like they think about buying something at Walmart, they look for bargains. Although this is a valid method also known as value investing, it is very difficult to put into action and seems better in theory. When you buy a stock, you buy it simply because you think you can sell it later at a higher price, I think momentum will work much better in that regard.

Rules and Guidelines

Rules and guidelines are a critical element to a good trend-following model. Once you have the weight-of-the-evidence measure telling you what the market is currently doing, the rules and guidelines provide the necessary process on how to invest based on that measure. If there was a simple answer as to why they are necessary, it is to invoke an objective approach, one that does as much as possible to remove the frail human element in the model. Rules are mandatory, while guidelines are not. That being said, if a guideline is to be ignored, one needs to ensure there is ample supporting evidence to allow it. Basically, the strategy I use is one of a conservative buyer and an aggressive seller.

After many decades in aviation and the always-increasing use of checklists, the rules and guidelines are no different for maintaining a nondiscretionary strategy than a checklist is for a pilot. In aviation, checklists grew in length over time because as accidents or incidents happened a checklist item was created to help prevent it in the future. There is an old axiom about checklists that said behind every item on a checklist, there is a story. Same philosophy goes for rules and guidelines in an investment strategy. A checklist (rules) ensures portfolio managers follow all procedures precisely and unfailingly. This overcomes the problem with experienced managers thinking they can accomplish the task and do not need any assistance. That attitude is costly.

Buy Rules

B1—If asset commitment calls for an amount greater than 50%, then only 50% will be committed, with the remainder the next day, ensuring objectives remain aligned. Forty percent can be the maximum per day if necessary for Guideline G6. This rule keeps the asset purchases to a maximum for any single day. It would not be prudent to go into the market at 100% on one day.

B2—No Buy Days are (1) FOMC announcement day, (2) First/Last day of calendar quarter, (3) days in which the market has reduced hours. FOMC announcement days are typically high-volatility days and the end/beginning of a quarter involves a lot of window dressing. Leave the noise alone.

B3—No buying unless 50 (this can also be a percentage) tradable ETFs (not counting non-correlated) have:

Weight of the Evidence = Weak: Trend>60, Intermediate: Trend>55, Strong: Trend>50

I call this the “soup on the shelf” rule. If you have been to a large grocery store lately and strolled down the aisle that has soup, you probably noticed there are thousands of cans of soup with hundreds of blends, styles, and so on to choose from. Now imagine your spouse has sent you to the store to buy soup. When you turn down the soup aisle, you notice they are essentially empty except for two cans of rhubarb turnip barley in cream sauce. You probably aren’t going to buy any soup that day. The market is similar, especially during the early stages of an uptrend, there just isn’t much to choose from. In addition, the early stages have stricter buying requirements, so the number of issues to pick from could be very small, if any. Because you never violate the rules, a rule to protect you during this period was created, hence rule B3.

B4—No buying on days when stops on current holdings are hit and assets sold. This is usually the first hint that the ensuing uptrend is faltering. It just doesn’t make sense as a trend follower to be buying on the same day as you are selling something that has hit its stop. The argument that one holding might not be correlated is weak in this example, as, with proper trading up, weak holdings should have been previously traded.

B5—No buying on days when the Nasdaq or S&P 500 is down greater than 1.0% (the indices used need to be tied you what you are using in the trend measures). Simply put, this means that if the market as determined by the S&P 500 and/or Nasdaq Composite is down more than 1% during the day, something is wrong with the uptrend and it is better to not buy that day. An argument from bargain hunters or value investors would be that one would get a better price on that day if the uptrend resumed. I can’t argue with that, but I ‘m not a value investor or a bargain hunter. It seems many investors want to buy stocks at bargain prices and I can understand that. However, we are not buying soap at a discount store; we are buying a tradable investment vehicle whose price is determined by buyers and sellers. Moreover, you only want to buy what is going up.

Sell Rules

S1—If stops are hit with End of Day data and still in place at 30 minutes (this time period is based solely on your comfort level) after the open the next day, a sell is initiated; if not in place at the 30-minute point, the issue falls under intraday monitoring (see S2).

S2—Intraday monitoring of Price and Trend (between the hours of 30 minutes after the open until 60 minutes before the close) will invoke a Sell order sent to brokers for execution. Once an issue hits its stop, then a 30-minute period is allowed before it is sold. With the constant barrage of Internet and financial media trying to be first with breaking news, often the story is presented incorrectly, and it can have an effect on a large stock, an industry, or even a sector and cause a big sell-off. Usually, if the story was reported in error or incorrectly, and then reported correctly, the issue quickly recovers. Most of this happens in a very short period of time. The 30-minute rule will help avoid most of these short-term sell-off with quick recoveries.

S3—In a broad-based sell-off and stops are hit, holdings hitting stops can begin liquidating before the 30-minute limit.

S4—If a holding has experienced a sharp run-up in price, once it reaches a 20% gain, sell 50% of the holding and invest in another holding or a new holding. This is just a prudent way of locking in exceptional gains.

S5—Any holding that is still being held after experiencing S4, once a gap open (above previous day’s high) occurs, can warrant a further reduction in the holding. Additionally, this can also anticipate a blow-off move or island reversal, while protecting most gains but still allowing for more upside, although with limited exposure. This is not a good process when trading only one issue, but is prudent when trading many issues with the ability to always find something else to trade.

Trade Up Rules

T1—With Weight of the Evidence strong: If stops are hit, but limited to single sector/industry/style, replace next day as long as the Initial Trend Measures are all indicating an uptrend.

T2—With Weight of the Evidence strong: If stops are hit on more than one sector/industry/style, reenter when Initial Trend Measures are all indicating an uptrend or Initial Trend Measures are improving, as long as there is no deterioration in the weight of the evidence.

T3—With Weight of the Evidence at an intermediate level: If stops are hit, but limited to single sector/industry group, replace next day as long as Initial Trend Measures are all indicating an uptrend.

T4—With Weight of the Evidence at an intermediate level: If stops are hit on more than a single sector/industry/style, the normal Buy rules apply.

 T5—There is no trading up when weight of the evidence or initial trend measures are deteriorating. Clearly, in this situation, there is something not good about the uptrend and it is not a time to trade up.


Note: Guidelines are used as reminders and offer the opportunity to be ignored, but only after considerable deliberation and examining all other possibilities. The absolute most important guideline is the first one, G1.

G1—In the event a situation arises in which there is not a rule or guideline, a conservative solution will be decided on and implemented based on immediate needs. A new guideline or rule will be developed only after the event/conflict has totally passed. This is a critically important guideline to ensure the “heat of the moment” is not used to create or change a rule. The absolute worst time to create or change a rule is when you are emotionally concerned about something that just seems to not be working correctly. In the 1970s, the Navy F-4J Phantom jet had analog instruments and, compared to today’s electronic technology, was antiquated. We had to memorize what we called initial action items for emergency procedures; these were designed to handle the quick and necessary steps to shut down an engine because of fire, no oil pressure, and so on. During simulator (talk about antiquated compared to now), many would pull the wrong lever or shut off the wrong switch during the emotional surge that comes with bright red flashing lights and loud horns. I was not excluded from that group, but found that, when something happened that required immediate action, winding the clock (they weren’t electric back then) for a few seconds to rid yourself of the adrenaline rush would allow you to perform better during the procedure. Beside the reasons given for S1 previously, this falls in line with that thinking.

G2—Try to adhere to this if possible: Weak Weight of the Evidence: SPY, MDY, DIA (ensure liquidity); Intermediate Weight of the Evidence: Styles and Sectors; Strong Weight of the Evidence: Wide Open (a pilot term meaning full throttle). The mandatory ranking measures will dominate this guideline.

G3—European ETFs need to be monitored closely after 1pm Eastern Time to ensure adequate execution time. This is because when the Europe markets close, liquidity in those issues becomes a problem.

G4—Every day when invested, trading up needs to be evaluated. Often, this involves selling the poor-performing holding and buying additional amounts of current holdings.

G5—All buy candidates should be determined by A) rising mandatory ranking components using a chart of the Ranking Measures, and B) an awareness of the issue’s price support and resistance levels.

G6—Always be aware of the Prudent Man concept. This is sort of a catchall to make one think about an action that has not been adequately covered with rules or guidelines. If deciding to do something as far as asset commitment or ETF selection, one needs to be prepared to stand in front of the boss and explain it.

There are a host of additional rules and guidelines that can be created. I would caution you on trying to develop a rule for every inconsistency or disappointment that surfaces while trading with a model. There is probably a good equilibrium about the depth and number of rules is best. I strongly suggest adding rules rationally and unemotionally.

Asset Commitment Tables

In addition to measuring what the market is doing (weight of the evidence) and a set of rules and guidelines to tell you how to invest based on what the market is doing, you then need a set of tables for each strategy to show you the asset commitment (equity exposure goal) levels to be invested to for each Weight of the Evidence scenario.

Table 14.6 is an example table showing the Initial Trend Measure Level (ITM), Weight of the Evidence (WoEv), the Points assigned to each level, and the Asset Commitment Level Percentage (Asset Commitment percent). This is merely a sample and should be based on your risk preferences and objectives. As you can see, even with the WoEv at its lowest level, as long as the much shorter-term trend measures (ITM) are all saying there is an uptrend, one can commit equity to the market.

An alternative and more conservative asset commitment table is shown in Table 14.7. It is easier and a more simple process to divide the WoEv into only three levels, with the middle or intermediate level being the transition zone.

The rules and guidelines offer a few exceptions to the above table of asset commitment, but only based on fairly rare events. Following the rules and commitment levels will lead to an objective process, which is the ultimate goal.

This article contains many measures one can use to determine which holdings should be bought. Many are only valuable in assisting in the selection process. If you consider the fact that you might only need to purchase a few holdings and there are more than 1,400 available, you need a strong set of technical measures to help you reduce the number of issues into a more manageable number. There are some that were identified as mandatory measures, which means these are the ones that have the best track record at identifying early when a holding is in an uptrend. I am positive there are many momentum indicators that are not in this chapter, but these are the ones that I have used for many years. Just keep in mind what the goal of this is: to remove human input into the selection process.

Thanks for reading this far. I intend to publish one article in this series every week. Can’t wait? The book is for sale here.

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These Three Strong Financial Stocks Look Ready To Surge Higher



  • XLF on strong RRG-Heading, rotating back into leading quadrant
  • XLF price approaching overhead resistance after short setback
  • Three major financial stocks ready for upward breaks to lead the sector higher

The Relative Rotation Graph for US sectors shows long tails for XLE and XLU. Both are on a strong RRG-Heading toward or into the leading quadrant. Also inside the leading quadrant are XLB and XLI, though they have rolled over and are starting to lose a bit of relative momentum.

Sectors on negative RRG-Heading and inside the lagging quadrant are XLRE, XLY, XLV, and XLK, with the S&P 500 moving higher in the last three weeks.

For this article, I want to focus on the Financials sector (XLF). The tail for XLF just completed a short rotation through the weakening quadrant and is now returning into the leading quadrant.

The Weekly Chart

The chart above, in combination with the RS-Line and the RRG-Lines, shows what is happening presently. At the dashed vertical line, both RRG-Lines had crossed above the 100-level, pushing the XLF tail into the leading quadrant on the RRG. At the start of 2024, the green JdK RS-Momentum line started to roll over and lose some strength, causing the XLF tail to roll over while still inside the leading quadrant. At the start of the red-shaded box, the RS-Momentum line dips below 100. This has pushed the XLF tail into the weakening quadrant. Note that the red JdK RS-Ratio line remains above 100. At the end of the shaded box, the RS-Momentum line crosses back above the 100-level, which pushes the tail back into the leading quadrant.

When you study the raw RS-Line, you see that it is moving inside a narrow uptrend channel. The period covered by the shaded area reflects a flat period of relative strength inside that channel, after which the rhythm of higher highs and higher lows continues. This rotation on the RRG reflects the continuation of an existing relative uptrend, making it much less risky than the turnaround from a downtrend to an uptrend, which happened at the dashed vertical line.

The Daily Chart

The recent dip to 39.50 and the subsequent rally show up in more detail on the daily chart. This week, XLF takes out its most recent high, starting a new series of higher highs and higher lows. The next resistance level is at the all-time high of 42.20 at the end of March. The setback off of that all-time high has caused relative strength to correct slightly, causing the (daily) RRG-Lines to dip below 100 and push the XLF tail into lagging on the daily RRG.

With the price chart already back on the way up, relative strength is expected to follow shortly. As soon as the daily tail starts to turn back into a 0-90 degree RRG-Heading, relative strength for XLF is expected to improve further, making it one of the leading sectors in the S&P 500.

Individual Stocks

The RRG for individual stocks inside the financials sector shows an evenly-distributed universe around the (XLF) benchmark. Going over the tails for the individual stocks, I found a few names that are definitely worth a closer look.

This RRG shows the tails at a strong heading, narrowing the search for good stocks. While checking out the individual charts, I found several promising names. The three that I want to mention here are not only at strong rotational trajectories, but also (close to) breaking out, AND they are some major names in the sector.

Morgan Stanley

MS is breaking a double resistance level this week, as the horizontal barrier over the most recent peaks and the falling resistance line coming off the 2021 peaks coincided. This unlocks fresh upward potential for MS, with intermediate resistance waiting around 100 before nearing the area around the all-time high at 105.

Subsequently breaking these barriers will push this stock further into the leading quadrant, making it one of the leaders in the sector.


Citigroup is still trading below its previous high. However, given the recently-formed higher low and the strong rally out of it, an upward break is likely. Such a break is supported by the recent relative rotation back into leading from weakening.

Just like MS, C is also one of the bigger names in the financials sector. Strength in big names is usually what drives a sector up.

Bank of America

BAC is also close to breaking overhead resistance, after which there is plenty of upside. Relative strength is coming out of a long downtrend that started early in 2022, making this a major reversal. Taking out the barrier at 38 opens the way for a further move toward 50, which is substantial. But unlike you may think, that area is NOT the all-time high for BAC… that was set around 55 in October 2006.

Like MS and C, BAC is also one of the more important stocks in the Financials sector. Another important name in the sector is GS, which I did not include as it is already well underway after breaking higher.

When such important names in a sector are all starting to break higher, it is good news for that sector.

#StayAlert, –Julius

Julius de Kempenaer
Senior Technical Analyst,
CreatorRelative Rotation Graphs
FounderRRG Research
Host ofSector Spotlight

Please find my handles for social media channels under the Bio below.

Feedback, comments or questions are welcome at [email protected]. I cannot promise to respond to each and every message, but I will certainly read them and, where reasonably possible, use the feedback and comments or answer questions.

To discuss RRG with me on S.C.A.N., tag me using the handle Julius_RRG.

RRG, Relative Rotation Graphs, JdK RS-Ratio, and JdK RS-Momentum are registered trademarks of RRG Research.

Julius de Kempenaer

About the author:
Julius de Kempenaer is the creator of Relative Rotation Graphs™. This unique method to visualize relative strength within a universe of securities was first launched on Bloomberg professional services terminals in January of 2011 and was released on in July of 2014.

After graduating from the Dutch Royal Military Academy, Julius served in the Dutch Air Force in multiple officer ranks. He retired from the military as a captain in 1990 to enter the financial industry as a portfolio manager for Equity & Law (now part of AXA Investment Managers).
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Rules-Based Money Management – Part 4: Security Ranking Measures

Note to the reader: This is the twentieth in a series of articles I’m publishing here taken from my book, “Investing with the Trend.” Hopefully, you will find this content useful. Market myths are generally perpetuated by repetition, misleading symbolic connections, and the complete ignorance of facts. The world of finance is full of such tendencies, and here, you’ll see some examples. Please keep in mind that not all of these examples are totally misleading — they are sometimes valid — but have too many holes in them to be worthwhile as investment concepts. And not all are directly related to investing and finance. Enjoy! – Greg

It is not uncommon for investors to believe that the more information they have, the better their chance at choosing good investments. Financial websites offer alerts on stocks, the economy, and just about anything you think you might need. The sad part is that the investor thinks every iota of information is important and tries to draw a conclusion from it. The conclusion may turn out to be correct, but it is usually not.

The issue is that investor is trying to tie each item of news to the movement of a stock, which generally never seems to work; just a few minutes watching the financial media should tell you that it doesn’t work. Human emotions make the investor feel good about having news that supports their beliefs, but rarely do those emotions contribute to investment success. I find it amazing how many times I go into an office and find the financial television playing, sometimes muted, but probably only when they see me coming. Too much information can lead to a total disarray of investment ideas and decisions. Keep it simple, turn off the outside noise, and use a technical approach to determine which issues to buy and sell. You’ll be healthier.

Ranking Measures

Ranking measures are the technical indicators used to determine which issues to buy based on their trendiness. They can be assigned as mandatory or tie-breaker ranking measures. The mandatory ones are the ranking measures that have to meet certain requirements before an issue can be bought. The tie-breaker ranking measures are there to assist in issue selection, but are not mandatory.

Ranking measures can be used with individual stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and bonds; however, there must be a process for selecting them, if for no other reason than to reduce the number down to a usable amount. For example, in an exchange-traded fund (ETF)-only strategy, consider that there are nearly 1,400 ETFs, and a fully invested portfolio might only have positions in 20 ETFs. Ranking measures are indicators, mainly of price or price relationships that assist in the determination of whether an issue is in an uptrend.

Throughout this section, the charts show the exchange-traded fund SPY in the top plot whenever possible, the ranking measure in the bottom plot, and the ranking measure’s binary overlaid on the SPY in the top plot. Some exceptions to using SPY are when volume is needed for the ranking measure, in which case another broad-based ETF will be used. A discussion of the parameters that can be used for each ranking measure is also included. I do not go into excruciating analysis on each chart, as the concept is really simple. The binary is the signal line, and it only represents the ranking measure’s signals exactly. Not all ranking measures have a binary signal, as they are used for confirmation of a trend direction.

The discussion for each ranking measure is varied as some are fairly simple to understand and won’t involve a detailed discussion. I certainly am not the type that discusses the wiggles and waggles of each indicator.


Trend is the name given to a derivative of an indicator originally created by Jim Ritter of Stratagem Software. He wrote about it in the December 1992 (V. 12:12, 534–534) issue of Stocks & Commodities magazine, in the article “Create a Hybrid Indicator.” Trend is a simple concept, yet is a powerful combination of two overbought oversold indicators: Stochastics (%K) and Relative Strength Index (RSI). The indicator uses 50% of each one in combination, and while both are range-bound between zero and 100, the combination is also range-bound between zero and 100. Stochastics, normally much quicker to react to price changes, is dampened by the usually slower-to-react RSI. In combination, you have an indicator that shows strong trend measurements whenever it is above a predetermined threshold.


The Stochastic needs to be much longer than when used by itself, while RSI can be used close to its original value. The Stochastic range of 20 to 30 should work well, with the final value determined by the length trend you want to follow. The RSI range can vary, but you don’t want to make it too long, as it is already a slower-reacting measure. Finally, the threshold used for Trend should be in the 50 to 60 range, again dependent on how soon you want the signal, remembering that early signals will also give more whipsaws.

 The examples of Trend in Figure 14.1 have the threshold drawn at 50, which is a good all-around value. The concept is simply that whenever Trend is above 50, the ETF is in an uptrend, and whenever Trend is below 50, it is not in an uptrend. The binary is overlaid on the price plot (top) so that you can see the signals better. Notice that when prices are in an uptrend, the binary is usually at the top, and when prices are not, it is at the bottom. Also note that, in the middle of the plot, there were a number of quick signals in succession; this is why one should not rely on a single indicator for analysis.

Trend Rate of Change (ROC)

This is merely the five-day rate of change of Trend. Why would you use that? When viewing a lot of data on a spreadsheet that does not contain any charts, and you see the value for Trend is 65, you also need to know if it is rising through 65 or declining through it. A snapshot of the data can be dangerous if you don’t also look at the direction the indicator is moving.

Figure 14.2 is a chart of the five-day rate of change of Trend. You can see that while Trend is still slightly positive (above the 50 line), it is declining (see Figure 14.1). Then, when you compare it with the Trend ROC in Figure 14.2, it is showing significant weakness. Of course, showing the five-day rate of change of an indicator without showing the indicator itself is foolish; it was done here so that you could see the measure being discussed.


This can be almost any value you desire based on what you are using it for. I used it here to see the short-term trend of an indicator, so five days is just about right. If you were using rate of change as an indicator for measuring the strength of an ETF or an index, then a longer period would probably be more appropriate. I use 21 days when I use ROC by itself.

Figure 14.3 shows the Trend with the five-day rate of change of Trend overlaid (lighter). This is the way that all the mandatory ranking measures and some of the tiebreaker measures are shown. You can see from this that the Trend is above 50, but the five-day rate of change is deteriorating and is well below zero (negative).

Trend Diffusion

This is also known as Detrend, which is a technique where you subtract the value of an indicator’s moving average from the value of the indicator. It is a simple concept, actually, and not unlike the difference between two moving averages with one average being equal to 1, or MACD for that matter. Technical analysis is ripe with simple diversions from concepts and often with someone’s name attached to the front if it— don’t get me started on that one.

Figure 14.4 is the same Trend as previously discussed, except that it is the 15-day Detrend of Trend, or Trend Diffusion. The middle plot is the Trend, with the lighter line being a 15-day simple moving average of the Trend. The bottom plot is the Trend Diffusion, which is simply the difference between the Trend and its own 15-day moving average. You can see this when the Trend moves above its moving average, the Trend Diffusion moves above the zero line. Similarly, whenever the Trend moves below its 15-day moving average in the middle plot, the Trend Diffusion moves below the zero line in the bottom plot. The information from the 15-day Trend Diffusion is absolutely no different that the information in the middle plot showing the Trend and its 15-day moving average, just easier to visualize.


The example in Figure 14.4 uses 15 days, which is three weeks. Parameters need to be chosen based on the timeframe for your analysis. A range from 10 to 30 is probably adequate for Trend Diffusion.

Price Momentum

This indicator looks back at the price today compared to X days ago. It is created by calculating the difference between the sum of all recent gains and the sum of all recent losses and then dividing the results by the sum of all price movement over the period being analyzed. This oscillator is similar to other momentum indicators, such as RSI and Stochastics, because it is rangebound, in this case from -100 to +100.


Price Momentum is very close to being the same as rate of change; generally the only difference between the two is the scaling of the data. Momentum oscillates above and below zero and yields absolute values, while the Rate of Change moves between zero and 100 and yields relative values. The shape of the line, however, is similar. With momentum, the threshold is shown at 50, but could be higher if requiring more stringent ranking requirements.

Figure 14.5 shows the Price Momentum ranking measure (dark line) and its five-day rate of change (lighter line). You can see that the Price Momentum is weak and the ROC is negative and declining.

Price Performance

This indicator shows the recent performance based on its actual rate of change for multiple periods, added together, and then divided by the number of rates of change used. In this example, I used three rates of change of 5, 10, and 21 days, which equates to 1 week, 2 weeks, and 1 month. Simply calculate each rate of change, add them together, and then divide by three. This gives an equal weighting to rates of change over various days.


Like many indicators, the parameters used are totally dependent on what you are trying to accomplish. Here, I am trying only to identify ETFs that are in an uptrend.

Figure 14.6 shows the Price Performance measure using the three rates of change mentioned above. There is no need to show the typical five-day rate of change of this indicator, since it is in itself a rate of change indicator.

Relationship to Stop

This is the percentage that price is below its previous 21-day highest close. This is an extremely important ranking measure, and here’s why.

If you are using a system that always uses stop loss placement (hopefully you are), then you certainly would not want to buy an ETF that was already close to its stop. This is the case when using trailing stops; if using portfolio stops, or stops based on the purchase price, this measure does not come into play. I like to use stops during periods of low risk of 5% below where the closing price had reached its highest value over the past 21 days. If you think about this, this means that, as prices decline from a new high, then the stop baseline is set at that point and the percentage decline is measured from there.


In most cases, this is a variable parameter determined by the risk that you have assessed in the market or in the holding. I prefer very tight stops in the early stages of an uptrend, because I know there are going to be times when it does not work, and when those times happen, I want out. The setting of stop loss levels is entirely too subjective, but I would say that as risk lessens, the stops should become looser, allowing for more daily volatility in the price action.

Figure 14.7 shows the 5% trailing stop using the highest closing price over the past 21 days. The two lines are drawn at zero and -5%. When this measure is at zero, it means that the price is at its highest level in the past 21 days. The line then continuously shows where the price is relative to the moving 21-day highest closing price. When it drops below the -5% line, then the stop has been hit and the holding should be sold.

Please notice that I did not beat around the bush on that last sentence. When a stop is hit, sell the holding. Like Forrest Gump, that is all I ‘m going to say about that.

Relative Performance

This indicator shows the recent performance of an ETF relative to that of the S&P 500. Often, there is a tendency to show the performance relative to the total return version of the S&P 500. This is only advisable if you are actually measuring and using the total return version of an ETF. In addition, most measurements are of a timeframe where the total return does not come into play. However, purists may want one over the other, and the results will be satisfactory if used consistently.

Usually the data analyzed is price-based; therefore, the relative performance should be using the price only S&P 500 Index. Also, when comparing an ETF to an index, one must be careful when comparing, say the SPY with the S&P 500 Index, two issues that should track relatively close to each other. The mathematics can blow up on you, so just be cognizant of this situation. Hence, the example in the chart below has switched from using SPY to using the EFA exchange-traded fund.

Finally, you cannot simply divide the ETF by the index and plot it, or you will have a lot of noise with no clear indication as to the relative performance. I like to normalize the ratio of the two over a time period that is appropriate for my work; in this case, over 65 days. This can further be expanded, similar to the Price Performance measure covered previously, and also use another normalization period, say 21 days, then average them. Additionally, you can then smooth the results to help remove some noise. Remember, you are only trying to assess relative performance here.


This, like many ranking measures, is based totally on personal preference, and also on the time frame you are using for analysis. In this example, I normalized the ratio with 65 and 21 days, then smoothed the result with the difference between their 15- and 50-day exponential average.

Figure 14.8 shows EFA relative to the S&P 500 Index. Whenever it is above the horizontal zero line, then EFA is outperforming the S&P 500. This would be considered an alpha-generating ranking measure if your benchmark is the S&P 500.

Power Score

This is a combination indicator that takes four indicators into account to get a composite score. Those indicators are Trend, Price Momentum, Price Performance, and Relationship to Stop. Additionally, the PowerScore also factors in the five-day rates of change of the Price Momentum and Trend measures.


There are not really any parameters to discuss with PowerScore, as it is created by using four of the mandatory ranking measures. The concept here can be as broad or as narrow as needed. Using only the mandatory ranking measures seems reasonable; however, the PowerScore is unlimited in what components can be used.

Figure 14.9 shows the PowerScore with a horizontal line at the value of 100. Based on the calculations of the components for this indicator, whenever PowerScore is above 100, then it is saying that the components are collectively saying the ETF is in an uptrend. This could be considered a composite measure, but, unlike the ones referred to in the weight of the evidence components, this one uses all components.

Efficiency Ratio

This ratio shows how much price movement in the past 21 days was essentially noise. It is a measure of the smoothness of the 21-day rate of change, created years ago by Perry Kaufman. It is an excellent ranking measure, but you need to know that it is an absolute measure of how an ETF gets from point A to point B; in this case, from 21 days ago until today.

Figure 14.10 is an example of how to think about this. If you were interested in two funds, fund 1 (solid line) and fund B (thicker dashed line), measuring their price movements of the same period of time, then which of the two would you prefer? The one that smoothly rose from point A to point B, or the one that had erratic movements up and down but ended up at the same place? I think everyone agrees that the smoother ride, or the solid line, is preferable.


I use 15 or 21 days, but as always, this is more dependent on your trading style and time frame of reference. The value should closely mirror what the minimum length trend you are trying to identify, independent of direction.

Figure 14.11 shows the 21-day efficiency ratio for SPY. You can see that whenever the ETF is trending, the Efficiency Ratio rises, and when the ETF is range-bound and moving sideways, the Efficiency Ratio remains low. In other words, a high efficiency ratio means the ride is more comfortable. It is moving efficiently.

Average Drawdown

If you read the section in this book on Drawdown Analysis (Chapter 11), then you know exactly what this ranking measure accomplishes. The concept of average Drawdown for analysis and using it for a ranking measure are considerably different. To utilize average drawdown as a ranking measure, you need to use a moving average drawdown, such as over the past year. This is because an issue that has been in a state of drawdown for a number of years will not give you the ranking data that is needed for a frame of reference over the past few months. A moving average of drawdown will help reset the drawdown as time moves forward.


I like to see the average drawdown over the past year, which is, on average 252 market days. This is enough time for a measurement, but short enough to get a feel for how long it remains in a state of drawdown.

Figure 14.12 shows the average drawdown over the past 252 days. The horizontal line is drawn at -5% as a reference. The lower plot is the cumulative drawdown, with the horizontal line being the long-term average.

Relative Average Drawdown

Figure 14.13 shows the difference between the average drawdown of the issue compared to that of the S&P 500 Index. This is shown here only as an example of another type of ranking measure, and certainly would never qualify as a mandatory ranking measure.

Price x Volume

Figure 14.14 shows the 21-day simple average of the volume times the close price. The purpose here is to show if the issue has enough liquidity to be traded. The ranking measures should always give a quick view on a variety of indicators, and this one might show you immediately if there is enough trading volume to give you the liquidity you would need to trade it. Of course, the ideal solution is to have a good relationship with the trading desk that you will be using, as they can give you up-to-date information on what volume you can trade.

Adaptive Trend

Adaptive Trend is an intermediate trend measure that changes based on the volatility of the price movements. The Adaptive Trend measure incorporates the most recent 21 days of market data to compute volatility based on a true range methodology. This process always considers the previous day’s close price in the current day’s high–low range to ensure we are using days that gap either up or down to their fullest benefit. When the price is trading above the Adaptive Trend, a positive signal is generated, and when below, a negative signal is in place.

The chart in Figure 14.15 shows the Adaptive Trend as an oscillator above and below zero, so that when it is above zero, it means the price is above the Adaptive Trend, and when below zero, price is below the Adaptive Trend. The top plot shows the Adaptive Trend binary. If you prefer, the horizontal line at zero is the adaptive trend, similar to the Trend Diffusion discussed earlier.

Weighted Performance

Figure 14.16 is a weighted average of the 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, and 21-day rates of change. One can argue that it is difficult to decide which exact period to measure for performance, and I would not disagree. The method takes a number of periods into consideration and averages them for a single result. One could carry this concept further and weight each of the measurements and have a double-weighted performance measure.

You should, however, try to keep things simple, as complexity has a greater tendency to fail.

Slow Trend

This measure, shown in Figure 14.17 , is similar to Trend, but uses a longer period for its calculation. This concept can be used on many of the ranking measures as a second line of defense or confirmation. The faster version is good for initial selection, and the slower version is good for adding to positions (trading up).

Ulcer Index

The Ulcer Index (Figure 14.18) takes into account only the downward volatility for an issue, plus uses price crossover technique with a 21-period average. This concept was first written about by Peter Martin in The Investor’s Guide to Fidelity Funds, in 1989.

Sortino Ratio

Figure 14.19 shows the downside risk after the return of the issue falls below that of the 13-week T-bill yield. It is a risk-adjusted return like the Sharpe Ratio, but only penalizes downward volatility, whereas the Sharpe Ratio uses sigma (standard deviation). This is also similar to the Treynor ratio, which uses beta as the denominator and expected return for the numerator.


Figure 14.20 is the issue’s beta based on the past 126 days (6 months). The same issue exists here as with the Relative Performance earlier. You cannot measure beta unless it is measured against something, in this case the S&P 500. Therefore, be careful when comparing a large-cap ETF to a large-cap benchmark, small-cap ETF to a small-cap benchmark, and so on.

Relationship to Moving Average

Figure 14.21 shows the percent above or below the simple 65-day exponential moving average. This is similar to detrend or diffusion. I think here the value is that one should always pick a moving average period to use and stick with it, so that you get a feel for its action during certain market movements. In other words, you become accustomed to how this moving average works over time. I equate this to using only one wedge in golf instead of multiple ones. Most of us cannot devote the time to practice with multiple wedges, so learn one and stick with it.


Correlation is an attempt to find a close relationship with an index such as the S&P 500. This is another one of those ranking measures you need to be careful not to compare a like ETF to a similar index. For example, the mathematics of correlation would blow up if you tried to compare the ETF SPY with the S&P 500 Index.

In Figure 14.22, whenever the line is near the top of the plot, then it is saying the correlation of the top plot is correlated to the benchmark being used. When the market is advancing, you want highly correlated holdings. When the market is declining, or you see it begin to roll over in a topping manner, you want to move into less correlated holdings. You must keep in mind that you are still a momentum player and, even though you want less correlation to the market, they still must be advancing on an individual basis.

Correlation is not always causation, but don’t try explaining that to your dog when he hears the can opener. — Tom McClellan

Thanks for reading this far. I intend to publish one article in this series every week. Can’t wait? The book is for sale here.

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Diverging Tails on This Relative Rotation Graph Unveil Trading Opportunities



  • Comparing equal-weighted and cap-weighted sectors on a Relative Rotation Graph can offer interesting insights
  • When the trajectory of the tails and their position on the chart differ significantly, further investigation is warranted
  • At the moment, two sectors are showing such divergences

All on the Same Track… or?

The difference between equal-weighted sectors and cap-weighted sectors is obvious. Namely, the cap-weighted variant is much heavier and is impacted by the changes in some heavy-weight, often mega-cap, stocks. Nevertheless, when you plot these sectors on Relative Rotation Graphs, you will often find that their tails generally move in the same direction and/or follow the same path.

When that does not happen, when the tails of the two versions of the same sector are on different paths or in completely different positions on the RRG, it’s time to investigate.

The RRG above shows the two universes, cap-weighted and equal-weighted, plotted on the same RRG and against SPY as the benchmark. Looking closely, you will find most sector pairs on the same trajectory. If you have a SC account, you can click on the graph, open the RRG in your own account, and do a closer inspection.

*You can save RRGs as bookmarks in your browser. By doing that, you can create your own custom RRGs and save them for later retrieval. Scroll to the bottom of the page, click “permalink,” and then copy and save this link as a bookmark in your browser.

Zooming In

To get a better handle and a clearer picture, I have removed the sectors where both tails are on similar trajectories and positions and only left the tails on the graph where they differ. As a result, two sectors remain: Consumer Discretionary and Communication Services.

Consumer Discretionary

Both tails are inside the lagging quadrant. However, that is as far as the comparison goes. XLY is moving higher on the RS-Momentum scale, indicating an improvement in relative momentum, while RSPD is moving lower and is on a negative RRG-Heading. Also, the tail on XLY is substantially longer than on RSPD, indicating the power behind the move.

Looking at the composition of the sector, it’s obvious which stocks inside Consumer Discretionary are causing the difference.

AMZN, TSLA, HD, and MCD comprise 50% of the index, while AMZN and TSLA are already 38%.

Looking at the performance over the last five weeks (tail length on the RRG), we can see how the sector’s performance has shifted to the large names. The table above shows the top 50 stocks in the discretionary sector. AMZN and TSLA are in the upper end of the range, and MCD is just above XLY, which is at position 17 out of 50. This implies that most stocks are performing worse than that sector index.’

Roughly the bottom half is at double-digit declines. While AMZN and TSLA are “only” up 2.4%, they drag the sector index up to around 1/3 of the entire universe, even with HD showing a 12.5% decline over that period.

Now, look at the same table. Instead of using XLY as the benchmark, we are now using RSPD as the benchmark.

RSPD is showing up at position 27 / 50, right where you’d expect an equal weight benchmark — in the middle of the universe, balancing out all the performances.

The bottom line is that XLY has been picking up recently only because of TSLA, AMZN, and MCD. But, under the hood, most discretionary stocks are going through a horrible correction.

From a trading perspective, such observations can offer great pair trading ideas.

Communication Services

The tails for XLC and RSPC are also far apart on the RRG. XLC is still inside the weakening quadrant and has just started to show the first signs of curling back up. RSPC is deep inside the lagging quadrant at a really low reading on the RS-Ratio scale overall, and is picking up relative momentum, but no relative trend (RS-Ratio) yet.

Over the five-week period, XLC lost 2.8%, while RSPC lost 4.3%. The composition for this sector is even more top-heavy than Consumer Discretionary.

META is listed as the top holding in XLC at 21%. But when we add up the weights for Alphabet A and B, it comes out to 26%. So together, the top two stocks in XLC are a whopping 47% of the sector.

Looking at the same table for XLC, we find Alphabet at the top of the list over the last five weeks. Meta is in the lower part at -9%. The sector (XLC) comes in at -2.8%, which means that META is UNDERperforming (-9% + 2.8% =) -6.2%. But Alphabet Class A is OUTperforming (10.4% + 2.8% = ) 13.2% and Alphabet Class C is OUTperforming (10.6% + 2.8% = ) 13.4%. This is a way stronger upward pull for the index than the drag caused by META.

Changing the benchmark to the EW version of Communication Services shows this table.

Again, we see the equal-weight benchmark (RSPC) dropping to near the middle of the list, balancing out the return more evenly.

All in all, this provides a similar pair trading opportunity.

This relative trend is much more mature than the XLY:RSPD pair, but, as long as the rhythm of higher highs and higher lows continues, buying the dips in this relative line offers opportunities.

Most of the time, the cap-weighted and equal-weighted versions of a sector will move more or less in tandem. But when they don’t, they’re worth investigating, as they may offer interesting trading opportunities.

#StayAlert and have a great weekend, –Julius

Julius de Kempenaer
Senior Technical Analyst,
CreatorRelative Rotation Graphs
FounderRRG Research
Host ofSector Spotlight

Please find my handles for social media channels under the Bio below.

Feedback, comments or questions are welcome at [email protected]. I cannot promise to respond to each and every message, but I will certainly read them and, where reasonably possible, use the feedback and comments or answer questions.

To discuss RRG with me on S.C.A.N., tag me using the handle Julius_RRG.

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