Housing down, improvements up?

With yesterday’s National Association of Home Builder’s (NAHB) monthly reading of builders’ sentiment about the housing market sinking to 14, it is starting to become clear that the housing market is not getting better anytime soon.  The 14 reading is the lowest level since March 2009. Readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the market and the NAHB index has been below that 50 threshold for 51 consecutive months. At 14, the index shows that only about 1 in 7 builders have a favorable view of the housing market.

Unfortunately, with sales reports this week on new and previously owned homes in June widely expected to show the housing market remaining weak, conditions are not likely to improve anytime soon.  While most economists do believe that the overall economy is unlikely to dip back into recession, analysts are not expecting housing to recover for quite some time.  So, what might be a potential slow housing sales trade?

There tends to be the belief that when home sales drop, home improvements increase. Although I am never a fan of trading on “belief”, I definitely agree with letting the chart do the talking. One of the home improvement retailing stocks that I follow is Tractor Supply Company (TSCO). TSCO operates retail stores under both Tractor Supply Company and Del’s Farm Supply.  They also operate a Website under the name TractorSupply.com. Its stores are located in rural communities and offer a wide range of products including hardware and seasonal products, lawn and garden power equipment, truck, towing and tool products, work & recreational clothing and maintenance products for agricultural and rural use.

Please review the chart of TSCO below:


As you can see, TSCO has been stuck in a range between $60 and $70 over the past 3 months. This stock has also been stronger than the overall market over this same 3 month period in the way that it has not created the same “lower-lows” that the overall market has.

While TSCO has been holding strong, the homebuilder’s stocks such as LEN, KBH and TOL have broken drastically lower. So, it would appear that the idea that home improvement retailers might do better than builders during tough economic times could be true. Also, did you notice the jump in TSCO’s stock about a week into July? That jump was do to TSCO raising it’s earnings outlook, which are set to be released on Wednesday.

If TSCO’s earnings are received well, might the stock finally break up through the $70 resistance? And if the earnings are a dissappointment, could the $60 support be broken?

The Tale of the Tape:  TSCO has been stuck in a $10 range between $60 and $70 over the last 3 months. They have raised their earnings guidance and the stock could be poised for a breakout, or a breakdown. Although I would never want to be in the stock before the earnings are released, I would definitely want to see how the stock reacts to the company’s earnings report. If the stock breaks through the $70 resistance, entering a long position with a stop below $70 could be a nice trade. However, if the stock were to break its $60 support, you could short the stock instead with a stop above $60. Another potential trade might be a buy at $60 if the stock appears to be holding that support. Once again, a stop below the entry of $60 would be advised.

Waiting for the most opportune times that I have outlined above could provide you with the highest probability trading points. No matter what your strategy or when you decide to enter, always remember to use protective stops and you’ll be around for the next trade.

Good luck!

Christian Tharp, CMT

Trading Goldman Sachs

After the closing bell yesterday the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that it had reached a $550 million settlement with Goldman Sachs Group, Inc that will resolve its lawsuit against the firm. This is obviously good news for Goldman Sachs the company, but how does that translate to the stock?

Well, news of the settlement seemed to be received well by investors. Shares of Goldman climbed more than 4% yesterday and today they are currently up another 2%.  So, should you jump in the stock now, and if so, which side of the trade should you be on?

Below is a chart of GS (Goldman Sachs) for you to review. The chart is from June 2009 until June of this year. I wanted to highlight an important price for this stock.

GS – 1 YR – June ’09 to June 2010

As you can see, $150 has often been an important price to this stock. Prices such as $150 tend to be important to most stocks anyway, but it is very apparent with this GS stock. Once GS broke above the June 2009 resistance at $150 it became a strong area of support in January/February of this year. After breaking below $150 in April, the stock fell lower as expected. Now look at the present day chart of GS:

GS – 1 YR

Since bottoming at $130 earlier this month, the stock has slowly rallied higher. Yesterday’s SEC settlement has sent the stock shooting higher. So, being that the stock is back at the $150 level, wouldn’t we expect it to act as resistance? If the stock were to break above that level, wouldn’t we expect the stock to go higher again?

The Tale of the Tape: GS is approaching a key level at $150. If you believe that the stock will not break higher, or it doesn’t appear to be able to, this would be an excellent time to enter a short position with a stop above the $150 level. However, if the stock breaks above that key $150 level, entering a long position with a stop below $150 would be the higher probability trade.

Waiting for the most opportune times that I have outlined above could provide you with the highest probability trading points. No matter what your strategy or when you decide to enter, always remember to use protective stops and you’ll be around for the next trade.

Good luck!

Christian Tharp, CMT

No bottom in sight for housing

Well, it seems like the news on housing just keeps getting better. Yesterday the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported that the number of mortgage applications for home purchases had dropped to its lowest level in 14 years last week. Application volume for mortgages fell a seasonally adjusted 3.1% for the week ending July 9, compared with the week before, pushing volume to its lowest level since December 1996 according to the MBA. Now, I’m not sure what all that means for the future of housing, but it sure doesn’t sound good!

According to the MBA’s weekly survey, applications for mortgage refinancing fell a non-seasonally adjusted 2.9% for the week ending July 9, compared with the week before. Also, refinance applications were almost 79% of all applications. The MBA survey covers about half of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted since 1990.

I can think of one possible reason for the plunge in purchase applications: The disappearance of the home-buyer tax credit? It’s quite plausible that the tax credit pulled a lot of sales from future months into the recent past, thus we’re losing would-be home sales now.

Another note of interest: The home-buyer tax credit expired at the end of April, right when the stock market started it’s current sell off. Coincidence?

Below is a chart of the XHB that I posted last month when new and existing home sales dropped to record lows. The XHB is the SPDR Homebuilders ETF. This ETF is a way for investors to invest in the housing sector, somewhat similar to a mutual fund. Specifically, this ETF is a collective investment in industries, such as homebuilding, building products, home furnishings, home furnishing retail and home improvement retail. This ETF is also a great way to gauge the market’s “thoughts” on the housing market. As you can see, the market seemed to have been already anticipating the wonderful housing news we’ve been getting as of late.

XHB – 1 YR (As of June)

Now, take a look at an updated view of the XHB:

XHB – 1 YR

I made notation of when I showed the first chart and my belief that there was a short opportunity on this ETF, or on individual home building/retail stocks. Well, doesn’t it appear that there might be another chance to enter a short position now? On the other hand, what would it tell you if the XHB breaks through the down trending resistance line (red) that I have shown on both charts?

The Tale of the Tape: The XHB had broken down from its up trending support (blue) back in the beginning of June, which pointed toward lower prices. That has in fact happened. Now, the XHB has a strong down resistance line (red), which it is presently sitting at. As with the last time the XHB hit that resistance, the highest probability trade at this time would be to short either the XHB or individual homebuilder stocks such as TOL, LEN, KBH or others. You could also look to short housing retailers such as TSCO. If you decide to short the XHB itself for a more conservative trade, you would want to set a stop above that resistance line. If instead the XHB were to break above that resistance, you could then start looking for long positions in the same stocks or the XHB!

Waiting for the most opportune times that I have outlined above could provide you with the highest probability trading points. No matter what your strategy or when you decide to enter, always remember to use protective stops and you’ll be around for the next trade.

Good luck!
Christian Tharp, CMT

Back to the bull, or still a bear?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a newsletter making the case for the start of the renewed bear market. Take a look at the chart below and I think you will get the point of that newsletter. You will notice an important notation in red, which is a key break of support.

S&P 500 – 1 YR

The break of that support, combined with all of the headlines and the obvious lower-lows & lower-highs of the past 3 months seemed to paint a clear picture. But as you may already know, the market is very seldom “clear”.

Flash forward to now, and as of today, the market has completed a 6-day rally culminating in an 8% gain for the S&P. So, the question on a lot of investors’ minds is: Is the worst over or is there more to come?

Although only history will answer that question, a lot of times we can get a sense of what may be to come by analyzing the chart the market itself. Please take a look at the chart of the S&P I have shown below. You will notice that I’ve added the 50-day SMA (simple moving average), a 200-day SMA and the support level from the chart I have shown above.

S&P – 2 YR (3/2007 – 3/2009)

For anyone who is not familiar with a SMA, it is simply a line that plots the average price of a security for the last 50 days. As the current daily price is added to the average, the 51st day past is dropped. So, as the price of a security drops or rises, the SMA will rise or fall accordingly. The same process can be applied to the 200 day time period, as I have done above. As you can see, the shorter time period of the SMA, the quicker the average adjusts. Moving averages can help to smooth out a trend, but they can also commonly be used as trading “signals”.

A very common long term trading signal is when the 50-day SMA crosses above or below the 200 day SMA. When it crosses above, it can tend to be a good indicator of an upturn in the markets and vice versa for when the 50-day crosses below the 200 day SMA. You will obviously notice in the chart above that the 50-day SMA had recently crossed BELOW the 200-day SMA, signaling a potential change in trend. Of course, that expected change in trend would be from up to down. For an example of the last occurrence of a 50/200 “crossover” (or “cross-under” depending on your terminology) for the S&P, please look at the chart below:

S&P – 2 YR

You will notice that the last time we had a 50/200 crossover on the S&P was at the beginning of our current rally. The 50-day SMA crossed back ABOVE the 200 day SMA signaling the trend was changing. If you look at the next chart, you will see the previous time in which the 50-day SMA crossed BELOW the 200-day SMA:

S&P – 5 YR – 2004 to 2008

The last time the 50-day SMA crossed below the 200-day SMA, well, we all know how that turned out. However, there may be a glimmer of hope to this current downtrend. In the above chart I have outlined (2) “fake-outs” that occurred during that bull market. In both of those instances, the 50-day SMA did cross under the 200-day SMA briefly, but quickly rose back above it within a couple of weeks. If you are looking for a confirmation of a renewed uptrend, the 50-day SMA would need to get back above the 200-day soon. If we continue to fall lower, the any idea of a fake-out could be extinguished. Want to see the previous (2) 50/200 crossovers and how they turned out?

S&P – 5 YR – 1999 to 2004

As you can see, the last (2) 50/200 crossovers were also very reliable signals of trend change in the market. The 50/200 crossover in 2003 started one of the longest bull markets in history and the one in late 2000 was the start of the preceding bear market.

The previous (2) charts also show another common occurrence, which is that it is not uncommon for the 200-day SMA to act as either support or resistance for the 50-day SMA. Just something to keep in mind for future reference when using these particular moving averages.

So, the markets are rallying higher and if they can continue their run, could this recent 50/200 crossover just be another “fake-out”? Well, there’s one little hurdle standing in the way. If you look at the next chart, you will see that there is significant resistance standing in the market’s way:

S&P –

Just like the moving averages can act as support or resistance for each other, they can also act as support or resistance for the market itself. You can see how either the 50-day or 200-day SMA has acted a resistance for the S&P for the last 2 months and before that they tended to act as support for the market. Now that we are approaching BOTH the 50-day and the 200-day SMA, will this stop the market in its tracks?

The Tale of the Tape: The S&P is fast approaching both the 50 and the 200-day SMA. Both of these averages can be expected to act as resistance for the S&P. The 50-day SMA has crossed below the 200-day SMA, which tends to signal a downtrend in the overall market. Unless the S&P can manage to break above both averages, and quickly bring the 50-day SMA back above the 200-day SMA in the process, the trend should remain down for quite some time. If this ends up being the case, the highest probability trades will be on the short side. Just remember, the trend is your friend.

No matter what your strategy or when you decide to enter, always remember to use protective stops and you’ll be around for the next trade.

Good luck!
Christian Tharp, CMT

Market Watch?

With the increase in market volatility over the last couple of months, it can become confusing to know how to successfully navigate a profitable trading strategy. Stocks you may be following seem to be jumping higher very quickly and just as quickly drop all of the sudden. One of the first steps I recommend before entering any trading position is to analyze the market itself for the best potential entry points. I might look at the Dow, the Nasdaq, or my personal favorite, the S&P. By analyzing the S&P I can look and find the most opportune points at which to enter my trading positions.

If you notice the chart I have highlighted below, you will see it is the current 1 yr. chart of the S&P 500. I have added 2 details to this chart that I find of most interest at this time. The red line is the 200-day moving average (MA) of the S&P 500. The second is a simply line of support that has been created by this index.

S&P 500 -1YR

First, take a look at the MA. You will notice that the 200-day MA has been acting as a resistance for the S&P over the last several weeks. The 200-day MA can tend to be an important level for the S&P, as you see back in June and July of last year when it acted as support. The next thing I would like you to notice is the black support line I have added to the chart. The S&P has been “bouncing” on this support level since February. These (2) price areas can be very useful in constructing a trading plan.

So, how might one trade this market based on the information we see above? Here are some of the questions I’d be asking:

1)   “Can we hold the 200-day MA?” Today we are currently holding this level, and if I believe it will continue to do so, this might be an excellent opportunity to enter a long position.

2)   What if the move above the 200-day MA is just a fake-out (as with the support tests back in June/July) and we break back below that MA? If that were to happen, I would expect the S&P to fall back down to the support line. So, if we cannot hold the 200-day MA, wouldn’t that be a great opportunity to enter a short position?

3)   If we fall down to the support line, wouldn’t this be a possible chance to enter long positions in which to expect another bounce higher?

4)   Lastly, what if we fall down to the support line and do not hold it? I would expect more selling, thus giving me another excellent short opportunity.

The range between the 200-day MA and the support line is a very tight range. With the recent volatility in the market, it can be a very challenging process to try to trade within this range. Waiting for the most opportune times that I have outlined above could provide you with the highest probability trading points. No matter what your strategy or when you decide to enter, always remember to use protective stops and you’ll be around for the next trade.

Good luck!

Christian Tharp, CMT