2018 is sizing up to be a very volatile year. Including today, there have been 11 2% down days this year. There were 0 in 2017, 0 in 2006, and 11 in 2007.
The major indices are currently holding their lows from late October and Thanksgiving week, approximately 2625 on the SP500. The interim highs were just over 2800, a 6% swing.
The big question of the quarter is if the highs or lows will break first. Volume today is extremely heavy, so if the markets can close in the top half of todays range, that should bode well for the next few days.
Looking at the big picture, the 200- and 100- day moving averages are flat, the 50 day is sloping downward. We see the longer term trend is flat while the short term trend is down. The 50 day and 200 day are at the same level and the 100 day is near 2815. The averages are clustered together near current prices while the markets intraday are given to large swings in both directions.
Concurrent news topics are the recent good news item of a 90- day trade war truce, and the bad news topics are the problems with Brexit, and the arrest of the vice-chairperson of Huawei, China’s largest cell phone maker. She is a Party member, daughter of the founder who is also a Party member and has close ties to China’s military. Maybe not the best person to arrest if one is trying to negotiate a Trade Truce.
My forecast from late 2017 was for large swings in market prices and we have certainly seen this play out. When compared to past market tops, 2001 and 2007, one can plainly see plus and minus 10% moves as the market tops out then finally breaks down. Its my opinion that a bear market has likely started, and we have a few opportunities to sell at “high” prices, and get positioned for 2019.
Fundamentally while employment and earnings are good, these are backwards looking indicators. These are the results of a good economy, not indicators it will persist. Housing and autos are slowing; defensive stocks are outperforming growth stocks, and forecasts for 2019 earnings range from 0% to 8%, a far cry from 2018’s +20% earnings growth rate.
So, what to do? Is it more difficult to ‘sell high’ or ‘buy low’? One is fraught with fears of missing out, the other fears of further declines. Selling into market strength and perceived ‘resolutions’ to our economic headwinds might be the best bet. Especially considering the chart below, where in 2019 the global Central Banks will be withdrawing liquidity until further notice, while the Fed insists on raising rates further.