STOP THIS MADNESS

I exited the market in the fall of 2000.  I became incensed  as the NASDAQ was falling over the next 2 years and the media pundits were telling  us to buy and hold and to go after the bargains.  Day after day they were wrong and yet people continued to listen to them.  I remember one adviser who recommended Exodus Communications when it was down to 65 from the 80’s, and continued  praising its virtues all the way down until the company was finally de-listed.  And yet this person had the nerve to come back each week and opine on the market and to offer his picks.  The tragedy was that many persons lost their savings and their plans for early retirement. 

So has anything changed since then?  Today, in spite of the strong downtrend in the general market, the media gurus of the day are looking for safe stocks to buy–the few defensive stocks that will hold up.  Maybe they would lose their audience if they came out and told people to sell their stocks and stay in cash, never mind sell short.  They just keep telling us to look for the safe stocks–the needle in the haystack. But the bear devours everything before it is through.  Why do they insist on fighting the trend?  I certainly will not–the decline continues.  Over the years I have noticed that the market seers do not declare a bull or bear market until about 6 months after it has begun.  The NASDAQ topped out in January and the DOW in March.  When will we hear the first declaration of a bear market from the talking heads?  Stop this Madness.

My short positions made money today.  The housing stocks continue to crack.  This is probably just the beginning.  My lone long, MHS, did not hold up well today.  I may be stopped out tomorrow.  Over and over, I learn that to fight the trend is folly.  Don’t buy stocks now–any stocks.  I am mainly short and in cash.  Nothing feels better than to be in synch with the trend.

My primary trading strategy is to buy growth stocks trading at or near new highs.  I rode Yahoo up 100 points on two occasions and sold out above 400.  I buy high and sell higher.  But a hard lesson to learn is that the strategy that does beautifully in a bull market fails miserably in a bear market.  (Check out the book by Nicolas Darvas, How I made………, for a nice description of this phenomenon.) A good indication that things are souring is when the types of trades I have been profiting from suddenly produce a string of losses.

There are several other indicators that tell me when my growth stock strategy is unlikely to work.  First of all, if there are not at least 100 stocks on the NYSE or NASDAQ that are making new 52 week highs, the market is not strong enough.  These days, new lows are more common than new highs–a very bad sign.  Second, IBD (Investor’s Business Daily) publishes a chart each day of  the IBD mutual fund index.  This index tracks the performance of 23 growth mutual funds.  I have found that if this index is below its 50 day moving average, then I cannot make money trading growth stocks.  In other words, if the pros running these funds cannot make money I will not.  These managers are the ones who drive these growth stocks higher with their huge resources.  Currently, the IBD index is below its 50 day average and even in jeopardy of penetrating its 200 day average.  (The 50 day moving average is simply the average of all closing prices during the past 50 days.  It changes or moves each day as a new close is added and the oldest close is dropped.)  As of Wednesday, the index was down 6.15% for the year. In this climate do we really want to risk our money buying growth stocks?

I have also used TC2005 (go to Worden.com to learn about this impressive charting program) to compute a new index of the strength of stocks that are hitting new  highs.  I scan each of the 4,000 stocks in my stock universe (active stocks trading above $5) and count the number of stocks that hit a new 52 week high 10 days ago that have closed today higher than they closed 10 days ago when they hit the new high.  If stocks that hit new highs cannot continue rising, the future for new highs is bleak.  When I first computed this index in March, I found that over 100 stocks met these criteria.  Today, there were only 12 stocks out of 4,000 that hit a new high 10 days ago and closed higher today than 10 days ago.  With odds of 12/4000, why would anyone seek to buy stocks that are hitting new highs with the expectation of seeing them climb higher? I will continue to compute this index and report on any significant changes.

Before I close, let me share with you my thoughts about another ploy for scaring people from getting out of the market.  Ever read those analyses that say that if you were out of the market during the "X"  days of biggest gains, you would have missed most of the bull market move.  I think most people accept this logic at face value.  But I think it is absurd.  For example, say the market climbs 100 points in one day and you were out of the market.  The market could decline and retrace much of that move  on the subsequent days or weeks, when you could have bought in.  You did not necessarily lose the full 100 points.  Furthermore, given that we cannot predict the market’s daily moves, who in  the world would be so unlucky so as to miss all or most of the days of big moves?  I stay out of the market during times like these or go short.  There is always time to catch a genuine bull move.  Am I missing something here?

Send me your comments and questions. 

Extraordinary response–thank you!

The response to my first two posts has been unexpected and welcome.  Thanks to a link from a most valuable investing blog (www.thekirkreport.com), I received over 1400 hits Tuesday.  Some emails/comments asked for more trading details.  That will come as I become accustomed to this medium.

I have found that the daily news breaks cause only minor effects on the market– temporary deviations from the market’s trend.   So I do not pay much attention to tonight’s earnings announcements from INTC and YHOO.  Yes, we may get more of a bounce in the techs, but still within a solid downtrend.  A 56 point rise after a 400+ point drop in the Dow is quite puny and reflects a sick market.  The DOW could rise another 300 points and still not break the downtrend.  The NASDAQ composite would have to rise to 2,000 before I would begin to question the bear trend. 

After the market confirms a real turn, there is plenty of time to get on board with buys.  We are interested in a trend that lasts months not days.  I don’t let the pundits scare me into the market prematurely–there is plenty of time to ride a real bull. The successful traders say there is a time to be out of the market–why trade long before the market meets my conditions for maximum success.  Real bottoms typically take time to form with at least one re-test of the lows.

So, right now I am sitting with puts in stocks in housing, auto-related, employment related and mortgage related industries.  My puts are good through June or beyond, so I can wait for the decline to resume.  (I buy deep in the money puts so there is little time premium to pay, but more risk.)

XMSR is looking sick to me—maybe the decline in car sales will hurt their subscription growth.  I originally bought XMSR when it was $2/share and traded it several times.  The company still has no earnings. (I don’t have a position in it now.)

Because I swim with the tide, I should own no stocks now.  However, I could not resist nibbling on a drug store stock (MHS) that has been hitting new highs. I think new medicare prescription benefits will take effect early next year.  Perhaps MHS and LDG are benefiting from this.  I set a close stop one point below my purchase price–I know the odds against a long profitable rise are against me.  In a weak market traders take profits quickly, thus truncating the rise.

I have no reluctance to take quick small losses.  I make a purchase and set a sell stop and forget it–take the emotion out of it.  Every loss brings me to the next gain.  It took me 30 years to get to this point.  Trading is about making money not being right.  A big ego gets in the way of successful trading.  More on all of this later.

Thanks for listening.