These Three Strong Financial Stocks Look Ready To Surge Higher

KEY

TAKEAWAYS

  • 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

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, StockCharts.com
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 StockCharts.com 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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These ETF strategies won big in 2023. How one analyst sees them doing next year.

Hello! This is MarketWatch reporter Isabel Wang bringing you this week’s ETF Wrap. In this week’s edition, we look at ETF strategies that have exploded in popularity in 2023, and whether they will continue to gain momentum in the year ahead.

Please send tips or feedback to [email protected] or to [email protected]. You can also follow me on X at @Isabelxwang and find Christine at @CIdzelis.

Sign up here for our weekly ETF Wrap.

U.S. exchange-traded funds have had a strong 2023, attracting around $580 billion in net inflows with assets climbing to a record $8.1 trillion as of December 27, according to FactSet data.

ETFs tracking the large-cap benchmark S&P 500 index
SPX,
which has risen 24.6% this year, have seen the strongest net inflows in 2023 among the nearly 700 funds MarketWatch tracks, according to FactSet data.

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust
SPY,
the world’s largest and oldest ETF with $493 billion assets under management, has recorded the largest net inflows of over $47 billion this year to date, followed by the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF’s
VOO
$41 billion and the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF’s
IVV
$36 billion over the same period, according to FactSet data. 

In terms of year-to-date performance, technology-related stock funds have shown a remarkable turnaround in 2023 after facing a tumultuous bear market the year before. Some of the ETFs tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 index
NDX
as well as semiconductor stocks are on pace to finish 2023 with gains of more than 50%, thanks to the rise of the “Magnificent Seven” stocks.

The Fidelity Blue-Chip Growth ETF
FBCG
has jumped 58.7% in 2023 to become the best-performing U.S. fund, excluding ETNs and leveraged products, according to FactSet data. The WisdomTree U.S. Quality Growth Fund
QGRW
is up 56.2% this year, while the Invesco QQQ Trust Series I
QQQ
has risen 55.6% in 2023. Gains in all of these funds were fueled by a massive rally in mega-cap technology stocks such as Apple Inc.
AAPL,
+0.22%

and Nvidia Corp.
NVDA,
+0.21%
,
which have surged 49% and 239% this year, respectively, according to FactSet data. 

Will these ETF strategies continue to thrive in 2024? Will others emerge to deliver greater returns next year? Here’s how one CFRA ETF analyst sees things shaping up in the new year. 

Tech-driven growth ETFs will continue to stand out in 2024

The recent strong performance of technology and growth-driven ETFs is likely to continue in 2024, although with higher volatility, according to Aniket Ullal, senior vice president and head of ETF data and analytics at CFRA. 

The table below summarizes the best performing ETF sub-categories in 2023, excluding leveraged and inverse ETFs. The best ETF sectors have featured tech- and growth-related themes like fintech, cryptocurrency, semiconductors, software and the metaverse. “These themes are very likely to continue to have a strong year in 2024,” said Ullal.

SOURCE: CFRA ETF DATABASE, DATA AS OF DECEMBER 18, 2023

One concern for investors is whether ETFs linked to technology sectors can continue to appreciate in 2024. But CFRA’s analysts think that some of the largest tech firms have strong balance sheets and cash flows, so they should be “safe havens” with “a growth tilt” next year.

“Despite the AI-driven recent run-up, the tech sector is still growing into its multiple, and ETFs like the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLK
do not yet have frothy multiples,” Ullal said in a Friday client note. 

See: ‘Magnificent Seven’ up for another bull run? What to expect from technology stocks in 2024.

Meanwhile, the massive amounts of cash parked at U.S. money-market funds could also keep the bull-market rally chugging along next year.

As of December 20, there was still $5.9 trillion sitting in U.S. money-market funds, according to data compiled by the Investment Company Institute. But given the stock-market rally in 2023 and the “likely pivot” to interest-rate cuts next year by the Federal Reserve, Ullal and his team see investors moving money out of cash-like instruments and migrating back to 60/40 portfolios by increasing their equity exposure next year, he wrote. 

Continued growth in options-based ETFs

ETFs using options-based strategies, such as covered-call ETFs or defined-outcome ETFs, have exploded in popularity in 2023. They have “long-term staying power” in sustaining investor interest in the year ahead, said Ullal. 

Specifically, the largest U.S. covered-call ETF, the $31 billion JPMorgan Equity Premium Income ETF
JEPI,
has seen $13 billion in net inflows so far this year and is among the top-five funds attracting the most capital in 2023, according to FactSet data.

A covered-call ETF, or an option-income ETF, is a fund that uses an options strategy called covered-call writing to generate income through collecting premiums. In a covered-call trade, investors sell a call option on an asset they hold, which gives the buyer of the option the right, not the obligation, to purchase the asset from them at a specified “strike” price on or before a certain date.

When the price of the asset goes down and doesn’t reach the “strike” price before the expiration date, the call option will expire as buyers walk away, but investors could still keep the premium as their payout.

That’s why the covered-call strategy usually performs well in a sideways or choppy market environment, because investors will be compensated for giving up the upside in stocks with a higher options premium. 

More on covered-call ETF: This type of ETF is designed to hedge against volatility and help investors navigate a stormy stock market

Ullal attributed the growing popularity of options-based ETFs to the success of JEPI as well as ETF firms relentlessly expanding their covered-call and buffer-ETF suites in 2023, even though these strategies tend to underperform in a rapidly rising stock market. 

“The flows are probably moderate [in 2024] relative to what we’ve seen so far, but I don’t think the flows will be negative or this category will go away,” Ullal said in a follow-up interview with MarketWatch on Thursday. “What’s happening is there are investors who are willing to trade off or sacrifice some [stock] performance for income or downside protection.” 

With that backdrop, Ullal sees options-based ETF strategies continuing to grow in 2024, though they will be put to the test if the current bull-market trend continues. 

Also see: An ETF that can’t go down? This new ‘buffer’ fund is designed to provide 100% protection against stock-market losses

Emerging-markets ETFs without China-related drag

ETF investors may want to “unbundle” their emerging-market exposure by reconsidering China-related assets in their ETF portfolios, according to Ullal.

Having a high exposure to China in emerging-market holdings was challenging for ETF investors in 2023, as China significantly underperformed other emerging markets this year due to a slower-than-anticipated post-Covid economic recovery, weakness in the country’s property sector and geopolitical tensions with the U.S., Ullal said.

China exposure in two of the most popular emerging-market ETFs, the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF
VWO
and the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF
IEMG,
stands at 31% and 24.4%, respectively, according to FactSet data. In turn, VWO has risen 8.3% this year, while IEMG has climbed 10.7% in 2023.

Meanwhile, the SPDR S&P China ETF
GXC
has slumped 12.8% year to date, per FactSet data. But the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ex China ETF
EMXC,
which has no China exposure, has advanced 18.9% over the same period.

One option for investors would be to calibrate their exposure by combining emerging-market ex-China ETFs like EMXC with China-focused ETFs, Ullal said.

Alternatively, investors could construct the EM sleeve of their portfolios with country-specific ETFs, or use active ETFs like the KraneShares Dynamic Emerging Markets Strategy ETF
KEM,
as that fund’s China exposure is dynamically adjusted based on fundamental, valuation, and technical signals, he added.

Rising demand and competition in active bond ETF category 

The U.S. fixed-income ETF sector is dominated by funds passively tracking Treasury bonds like the 10-year Treasury note
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y,
which has seen declining yields lately as discussions around the Fed’s interest-rate path, and a possible pivot to rate cuts, continue to take center stage heading into 2024.

But MarketWatch reported last week that demand for active bond ETFs has picked up, with Vanguard launching two new active bond funds earlier this month. The desire for active bond ETFs among the firm’s clients has grown significantly over the past two years, John Croke, Vanguard’s head of active fixed-income product management, told MarketWatch.

Meanwhile, the firms that dominate the indexed and active bond ETF categories are different, Ullal noted. In the indexed bond ETF category, Vanguard competes with traditional rivals BlackRock and State Street, while in the active bond ETF category where it is now expanding its footprint, Vanguard is competing with managers like JPMorgan, First Trust and PIMCO. 

“This competition will put pressure on the incumbent players, but will be good for investors, and will be an important trend to watch in the next year,” said Ullal.

As usual, here’s your look at the top- and bottom-performing ETFs over the past week through Wednesday, according to FactSet data.

The good…

Top Performers

%Performance

AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis ETF
MSOS
12.7

Amplify Transformational Data Sharing ETF
BLOK
10.5

SPDR S&P Biotech ETF
XBI
9.9

ARK Genomic Revolution ETF
ARKG
8.3

ARK Innovation ETF
ARKK
6.4

Source: FactSet data through Wednesday, Dec 27. Start date Dec 21. Excludes ETNs and leveraged products. Includes NYSE-, Nasdaq- and Cboe-traded ETFs of $500 million or greater.

…and the bad

Bottom Performers

%Performance

iMGP DBi Managed Futures Strategy ETF
DBMF
-2.9

Vanguard Total International Bond ETF
BNDX
-2.2

iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond BuyWrite Strategy ETF
TLTW
-2.1

VanEck BDC Income ETF
BIZD
-1.2

Vanguard Short-Term Inflation-Protected Securities ETF
VTIP
-1.2

Source: FactSet data

New ETFs

  • TCW Group filed to convert its TCW Artificial Intelligence Equity Fund TGFTX into the TCW Artificial Intelligence ETF, and is seeking to convert its TCW New America Premier Equities Fund TGUSX into the TCW Compounders ETF, according to the fund’s prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

Weekly ETF Reads



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Here’s where ETF investors could turn to hide as Treasurys sell-off upends U.S. stocks

Hello! This is MarketWatch reporter Isabel Wang bringing you this week’s ETF Wrap. In this week’s edition, we look at how ETF investors can navigate the choppy financial markets which remain on edge after a sell-off in U.S. government bonds drove long-term borrowing costs to the highest level in more than a decade, undercutting stock prices.

Sign up here for our weekly ETF Wrap.

A renewed rout in the U.S. government bond markets that sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond to 16-year highs as a new era of higher-for-longer interest rates takes hold, is leaving ETF investors scrambling for the exits on a wide range of exchange-traded funds in the past week, most notably the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF
TLT.
 

TLT, one of the most popular fixed-income ETFs that tracks a market-weighted index of the U.S. Treasury bonds with maturities of 20 years or more, earlier this week suffered its lowest close since the early days of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The yield on the 10-year Treasury 
BX:TMUBMUSD10Y
slipped 2 basis points to 4.715% on Thursday, after reaching 4.801% on Tuesday, its highest closing level since Aug. 8, 2007, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

See: Bond investors feel the heat as popular fixed-income ETF suffers lowest close since 2007

The bond market, particularly the U.S. Treasury market, has historically been less volatile and and has often performed better than other financial assets during economic slowdowns. However, that doesn’t mean bonds don’t come without their own risks.

Rising yields reflect a diminishing price for the securities when interest rates rise, and hit existing holders of Treasuries.

See: Rising Treasury yields are upsetting financial markets. Here’s why.

The surprising strength of the U.S. economy, as demonstrated by this week’s labor-market data, coupled with hawkish talk from Federal Reserve officials indicating the central bank may need to keep tightening monetary policy, have led to the bond sell-off this week.

Meanwhile, a positive Treasury term premium, or the compensation that investors require for the risk of holding a Treasury to maturity, have also contributed to a steep sell-off as a ballooning U.S. budget deficit and the Treasury’s need to issue more debt have pushed Treasury prices to 16-year lows.

TLT
TLT
has fallen over 50% since its peak in August 2020, according to FactSet data. The losses are “pretty much” what the equity-market loss was from peak to trough during the global financial crisis, said Tim Urbanowicz, head of research and investment strategy at Innovator ETFs. 

“It is not insignificant… It really makes you think about how you’re doing risk management because you can’t have the piece of the portfolio that’s supposed to be the risk mitigator falling the worst we’ve ever seen in the equity-market fall. That’s a big issue,” Urbanowicz told MarketWatch. 

That’s why ETF investors have very few options when developing or adjusting their asset allocation play in the higher-for-longer rates environment, but there are still some shockproof assets for safety, according to ETF strategists. 

Ultra short-term bond funds 

ETF investors that still favor bonds can consider hiding in ultra short-term bond funds to avoid duration risk as the Fed may still need to raise interest rates to curb inflation by the end of 2023, said Neena Mishra, director of ETF research at Zacks Investment Research. 

The SPDR Bloomberg 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF
BIL,
which tracks all publicly issued U.S. Treasury Bills that have a remaining maturity of less than 3 months and at least 1 month, offers a yield of 5.43%. The fund attracted over $1 billion of inflows in the week to Wednesday, the largest inflows among over 800 ETFs that MarketWatch tracked in the past week, according to FactSet data. 

Meanwhile, Mishra said investors who want active management with “better navigation to the markets” can consider the JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF
JPST,
which is an actively managed fund that invests in a variety of debts including corporate issues, asset-backed securities, and mortgage-related debt as well as U.S. government and agency debt. JPST recorded $15 million of inflows in the past week and has yielded 5.76%, according to FactSet data. 

Flows into longer duration bonds, utilities sector

Despite the bond rout hitting the popular TLT fund hard as the 10-year Treasury yield surged, some retail traders have already started to buy the historic dip of the fund devoted to longer-dated Treasuries, said a team of Vanda Research data analysts led by Marco Iachini, senior vice president.

TLT attracted a total of $686 million flows in the week to Wednesday, ranking the 8th out of over 800 ETFs that MarketWatch tracked in the past week, according to FactSet data. 

Along with the strong “dip buying” in TLT, retail traders have also poured an “unprecedented amount” of capital into the utilities sector, Iachini and his team said in a Thursday note. The Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLU
recorded $141 million of inflows last week, according to FactSet data. 

“While purchases of utilities stocks are typically of a significantly smaller scale than purchases of tech stocks, the inflow seen over the past week is far larger than any other prior 5-day stretch, easily surpassing inflows into the sector at the onset of the Covid downturn,” the Vanda team said. “The flip side of this dynamic is that institutional investors have likely lightened up their utilities exposure during this bond sell-off episode, making the sector a potentially more appealing equity bet should rates be nearing a local peak.” 

See: Utilities stocks ‘decimated’ by rising rates fall into uncommon trading territory, Bespoke chart shows

Small-caps are ‘cheap for a reason,’ so don’t buy them too soon

Many small-cap stocks have traded at a significant discount to their larger-company counterparts, creating an attractive entry point for some investors who think the forward price-earnings ratio for small-caps are low enough to offer potential for outperformance in the longer run. 

However, small caps
IWM
are by nature more sensitive to higher interest rates compared with a lot of the larger-cap stocks which have the ability to be “nimble” with strong cash flow, said Urbanowicz.

“It is really important right now not to just rely on a specific sector but really have that built-in risk management at the index level to take a lot of that guesswork out of the equation,” he added.

See: Small-cap ETFs may look attractive as recession concerns fade, but blindly chasing the rally is not without risk

Defined-outcome ETFs

That’s why Urbanowicz and his team at Innovator ETFs think the increasingly popular defined-outcome ETFs, or the “buffer” funds, could limit the downside risk and help investors navigate a stormy rates environment.

See: An ETF that can’t go down? This new ‘buffer’ fund is designed to provide 100% protection against stock-market losses

For example, the Innovator Equity Defined Protection ETF
TJUL,
the “first-of-its-kind” fund, aims to offer investors the upside return of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust
SPY
to a 16.62% cap, as well as a complete buffer against its downside over a two-year outcome period. 

Meanwhile, the Innovator Defined Wealth Shield ETF
BALT
offers a 20% downside buffer on the SPY every three months, which is a “very shortened outcome period” and doesn’t require the equity market to actually go up for the strategy to appreciate a value, Urbanowicz said. 

“A big reason [to consider this strategy] is it gives investors a place to not only maintain equity exposure, but also to hide out because they [funds] have known levels of risk management that are in place,” he added. 

As usual, here’s your look at the top- and bottom-performing ETFs over the past week through Wednesday, according to FactSet data.

The good…

Top performers

%Performance

YieldMax TSLA Option Income Strategy ETF
TSLY
6.2

United States Natural Gas Fund LP
UNG
2.0

Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF
IVOL
1.6

Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund
XLK
0.9

ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF
BITO
0.9

Source: FactSet data through Wednesday, October 4. Start date September 28. Excludes ETNs and leveraged products. Includes NYSE, Nasdaq and Cboe traded ETFs of $500 million or greater.

…and the bad

Bottom performers

%Performance

AdvisorShares Pure U.S. Cannabis ETF
MSOS
-11.3

Sprott Uranium Miners ETF
URNM
-10.6

Global X Uranium ETF
URA
-10.2

VanEck Oil Services ETF
OIH
-9.2

SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF
XOP
-9.1

Source: FactSet data

New ETFs

  • J.P. Morgan Asset Management Friday announced the launch of a new actively managed hedged equity ETF, JPMorgan Hedged Equity Laddered Overlay ETF
    HELO.
    The outcome-oriented ETF invests in U.S. large-cap equities with a laddered options overlay designed to provide downside hedging relative to traditional equity strategies.

  • Zacks Investment Management Tuesday announced the launch of the Zacks Small and Mid Cap ETF
    SMIZ,
    which seeks to generate positive risk-adjusted returns by investing in small and mid-cap companies.

  • Calamos Investments LLC Wednesday announced the launch of the Calamos Convertible Equity Alternative ETF
    CVRT,
     the first product of its kind to provide ETF investors with targeted access to equity-sensitive convertibles.

Weekly ETF Reads

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The Smart Money Changes Gears; As Tech Weakens, New Leaders Appear

The Fed is flying trial balloons about the end of the interest rate hike cycle, but the technology sector is ignoring them as the smart money move to energy continues.

Last week, Philadelphia Fed Governor Patrick Harker, in a Philadelphia speech, suggested the central banks should pause their rate hikes. Moreover, even though the CPI inflation numbers were relatively tame, markets seemed to focus on the more negative details inside the report, such as persistently high rents and car insurance prices.

Interestingly, producer prices (PPI) rose as well, but much of the climb was due to an increase in fees by money managers – hardly a widespread expense as compared to gasoline and food. Meanwhile, consumer confidence is flat and inflation expectations are improving.

Still, money flows in bonds and stocks suggest otherwise. That’s not a good turn of events, if not reversed, especially when the Fed is trying to gauge the market’s response to a potential extended pause on its rate hikes.

As Tech Weakens, New Leaders Appear

Last week in this space, I noted “short sellers are starting to smell blood in the water in the tech sector.” This week, the evidence piled up further as the bloom is wearing off the AI rose, at least for now. You can see that sellers have gained the upper hand as the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) has broken below its 50-day moving average, as both Accumulation/Distribution (ADI, increasing short sales) and On Balance Volume (OBV, buyers turning into sellers) have also rolled lower.

But QQQ is not alone. A more focused picture of the selling in AI and robotics-related stocks can be seen in the shares of the ROBO Global Robotics and Automation ETF (ROBO), which has fallen back to what may be long-term support near $54. If ROBO fails to hold in this general area, which features two very large Volume-by-Price bars (VBP) and the 200-day moving average as key markers, the decline will likely accelerate.

A stark example of how rising costs are impacting emerging technology companies was the collapse of solar tech company Maxeon Solar Technologies (MAXN), whose shares cratered after the company missed its earnings estimates and lowered forward guidance, citing “falling demand” for its products while partially blaming the situation on higher interest rates.

Meanwhile, shares of energy stocks, such as refiner Valero Energy (VLO), continue to power higher as the fuel supply and demand balance is steadily tipping toward the energy patch. This view is supported by the steady downward pace in the weekly oil rig count. There are now 125 fewer active rigs in the U.S. compared to the same period in 2022.

VLO is emerging above a stout resistance shelf, marked by a large cluster of Volume-by-Price (VBP) bars extending back to the $107 area. A move above $140 would likely lead to higher prices in a hurry. I recently discussed how to spot the smart money’s footprints and how to turn them into profits; you can check out the video here.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve asked whether it’s time to sell the tech rally. What should you do with your energy holdings? And what about the homebuilder stocks and the REITs? The answers are in the model portfolios at Joe Duarte in the Money Options.com, updated weekly, and via Flash Alerts as needed. You can have a look at all of them and my latest recommendations on what to do with each individual pick FREE with a two week trial subscription. And, for an in-depth review of the current situation in the oil market, homebuilders and REITS, click here.

Bonds, Oil, and Stealth Inflation

The lack of enthusiasm from bond traders about the CPI numbers, quirky PPI numbers and a Fed governor suggesting the central bank may stop raising rates soon suggests there is more going on than meets the eye. The answer may be future inflation related to limited supplies of products and services, which are not likely to increase anytime soon, along with the unknowns about the future of global energy prices.

The U.S. Ten-Year Note yield (TNX) briefly dipped below 4% on the CPI news. But the rally didn’t last. And by week’s end, yields were once again moving toward the higher end of the trading range, which has been in place since October 2022.

More concerning is the lack of interest from bond traders regarding deflationary news from China a day earlier, which suggests the bond market is not a believer in the notion that inflation is slowing to the point where the Fed can stop raising rates.

In the present, you can blame their disbelief on the oil market, where volatile supply data and demand news, combined with ongoing reports that U.S. oil production is being curtailed, is moving prices higher.

Moreover, as evidenced by the action in MAXN, above, it’s becoming evident that the ongoing transfer from traditional energy to renewable energy will be more expensive than initially thought. All of which suggests that inflation is becoming stealthily embedded into the system. When you factor in the expected rise in U.S. Treasury bond issuance by the U.S. Treasury and the increasing budget deficits, the indifference from bond traders makes sense.

In other words, even though CPI may have slowed its gains for now, the bottoming of PPI may be a prelude to the near future. Thus, forward-looking bond traders may be considering future shortages of key minerals, the energy to fuel the transition to clean energy, and tight labor.

Specifically, along with poor demand for solar technology, the bond market may be quietly worried about the ongoing problems in the wind energy industry, where costs are reportedly out of control, to the tune of having climbed 20-40% since February 2022. Meanwhile, reports of major technical problems with turbines continue to plague the industry, while governments are beginning to evaluate how much more money they’re willing to put into subsidies.

NYAD Struggles, Major Indexes Extend Losses

The long-term trend for stocks remains up, but the short term is weakening further. The New York Stock Exchange Advance Decline line (NYAD), has broken below its 20-day moving average and may be headed for a test of its 50-day, and perhaps the 200-day, moving averages.

The Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX) has broken below its 50-day moving average and looks headed for a test of the 15,000 level. Accumulation/Distribution (ADI) and On Balance Volume (OBV), remain weak, as short sellers are active and sellers are overtaking buyers.

The S&P 500 (SPX) remained below 4500, and its 20-day moving average, as it approaches a test of its 50-day moving average. Both ADI and OBV are nowhere near uptrends. Support is now around the 4400 area.

VIX Struggles at 20

I’ve been expecting a move higher in VIX, and it seems to have arrived as the index finally moved above the key 15 resistance level. The good news is that the index has yet to break above 20. A move above 20 would be very negative, as it would signal that the big money is finally throwing in the towel on the uptrend.

When the VIX rises, stocks tend to fall, as rising put volume is a sign that market makers are selling stock index futures to hedge their put sales to the public. A fall in VIX is bullish, as it means less put option buying, and it eventually leads to call buying, which causes market makers to hedge by buying stock index futures. This raises the odds of higher stock prices.

Liquidity Remains Stable

Liquidity is stable, but may not remain so for long if the current fall in stock prices accelerates. The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), which recently replaced the Eurodollar Index (XED), but is an approximate sign of the market’s liquidity, just broke to a new high in response to the Fed’s move. A move below 5.0 would be more bullish. A move above 5.5% would signal that monetary conditions are tightening beyond the Fed’s intentions. That would be very bearish.


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Joe Duarte

In The Money Options


Joe Duarte is a former money manager, an active trader, and a widely recognized independent stock market analyst since 1987. He is author of eight investment books, including the best-selling Trading Options for Dummies, rated a TOP Options Book for 2018 by Benzinga.com and now in its third edition, plus The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book and six other trading books.

The Everything Investing in Your 20s and 30s Book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It has also been recommended as a Washington Post Color of Money Book of the Month.

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