The MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) Indicator is one of many tools in a market technician’s toolbox. The indicator takes two moving averages (usually the 12 period and the 26 period exponential moving averages) and converts them into a momentum oscillator by subtracting the longer period from the shorter period. There are a variety of ways to interpret the MACD indicator, but for right now we are focusing on signal crossovers. To do that we also create a 9 period exponential moving average of the MACD for use as a signal line.
One branch of technical analysis studies the relationships between asset classes to determine the health of the financial markets. John Murphy has written extensively on this subject and I have gathered a lot of my own wisdom through his teaching. With that in mind, here are a few relationships that I am watching right now to help determine the health of the U.S. stock market.
If you could return to May 2012, would you invest your money in Europe or the United States? It may come as a surprise, but Europe is actually outpacing the S&P 500 with returns of 40% and 33% respectively. Headlines continue to beat the negative drum that ‘problems still loom in Europe;’ that may be true, but those problems also might be hiding the strong gains realized in those markets. The markets still look healthy from a technical perspective, and I’m particularly intrigued by the financial shares.
In the world of technical analysis, the symmetrical triangle represents a battle between bulls and bears. Neither side gains ground while the market forms this pattern, and the result over time is lower highs and higher lows. However, the direction of the next major move can be determined following a valid breakout of the pattern.
There is an entire school of investing that would have you screening for stocks that are making new lows in price on the assumption that the best values can be found in that group. I recently wrote about the strange psychological wiring of value investors who believe that they can outsmart Mr. Market and find investment ideas that are mispriced by the crowd. They are supported in their belief by the study of momentum and crowd psychology which shows that investors often over react to bad news and sell securities at prices well below their intrinsic value. With steely nerves and an ability to see value that the rest of the market doesn’t see, value investors are the heroes of the professional investment universe (foremost among them, of course, is Warren Buffett).
J.C. Parets with Allstarcharts.com does fantastic technical work, and he is telling his readers to watch the Yen/USD exchange. The chart below shows this relationship; a falling line means that the Yen is gaining against the U.S. Dollar. The Yen is rallying hard today on the back of a manufacturing miss here in the U.S., and is pushing below some key technical levels. The short term uptrend marked in white has been broken, the $94 support/resistance level has been broken, and the 50 day Moving Average has been broken. A stronger Yen seems to be the play here.
One concept that is common in the investment world is the idea that assets will typically revert to the mean or mean reversion (the average). This may seem a bit contrarian since it essentially means that when an asset price returns in excess of its long term average return profile, over time it will likely reverse course and return to that long term average. Imagine a rubber band that gets stretched…. and then eventually snaps back to its normal size.
Every now and then I scan various Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) options to find out what is working to determine if new trends are emerging. During this scanning process I recently came across a very interesting industry that looked quite promising to me. It has been wise for investment professionals to ignore this industry over the past six years, but this year could be different. Fair warning: Before I proceed, you need to leave your opinion at the door.
It is commonplace in the business news community to talk about ‘Golden Crosses’ and ‘Death Crosses’. If you’re unfamiliar with these terms, they refer to moving averages (MA) crossing each other. More specifically they describe the movement of a security’s short term MA moving above the long term MA (Golden Cross) and the short term MA moving below the long term MA (Death Cross). A strong signal is issued when using the 50 day MA and the 200 day MA as it is generally considered a move away from bears to bulls or bulls to bears (respectively).
A client with a technical eye recently sent me a chart of the S&P 500, wondering what I thought about the classic triple top pattern that had formed through September and October. So it was perfect timing when the guys at the Stock Trader’s Almanac (who produce great work) wrote about this pattern in their latest piece. They believe it’s an ominous sign for the markets, especially as we enter 2013, and this seems to be a popular opinion among technicians.