Tuesday, February 27, 2007
This blog recently recommended the ProShares UltraShort QQQ (QID) as its February Pick o' the Month (read the full post). This ETF aims to go up twice as fast as the NASDAQ 100 goes down and vice versa. Lately this trade was going against us as the NASDAQ moved to a new 6-year high and QID dropped accordingly. I was seriously considering throwing in the towel. Then today QID moved up over 9% and provided some small consolation while the rest of my portfolio tanked.
For the post where I initially discussed the use of leveraged long/short ETFs to profit in bear markets, click here.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Weekly Market Call
Not much news this week and what there was was not particularly positive. As a result, the Dow and the S&P took a bit of a breather while the NASDAQ decided to perk up and hit a new 6-year high. The Russell 2000 also tacked on another one percent this week and now leads all the major indexes with a year-to-date gain of 4.9%
Probably the biggest news of the week was that the core CPI for January was up 0.3%. This was the largest gain since June but did not do much to ignite fears of inflation and the market largely shrugged it off.
In other news, commodity prices continued firming and oil pushed above $61 per barrel. Once again, the market shrugged it off. A few large caps reported earnings and it was a non-event. Fed policy committee meeting minutes were released on Wednesday. They were a bit more bearish in tone than Bernanke's recent remarks but appeared to have little effect on the market.
Indexes - If you are watching the ETFs that track the major indexes, it appears QQQQ has now joined the party and is setting new highs as SPY and DIA have been doing so consistently lately. The TradeRadar SELL signal has now been definitely reversed.
Commodities - With oil up this week, XLE gained but is still a way from making a new high or even establishing a clear up trend. Caution is advised.
Technology - XLK is still looking a lot like QQQQ but stopped just short of making a new high this week. XLK continues to benefit as rotation out of energy continues and money looks to move into the next undervalued growth area which the market thinks is tech.
Housing - XHB slipped this past week and on the basis of several weeks of lackluster performance now merits a weak TradeRadar SELL signal. The unstoppable IYR has run into some headwinds but is nowhere near generating a SELL signal. The turmoil in the sub-prime mortgage lending market seems to be having at most just a small effect on these two ETFs.
Biotech - XBI was up this week, continuing its recovery from its early January low. It continues to flash the TradeRadar potential BUY signal that was first mentioned last week. An excellent article discussing the various ETFs in the Biotech sector can be found here.
TradeRadar Stock Picks
The Pick o' the Month for February, which called for selling QQQQ and buying QID, the UltraShort QQQ ETF, continues to look like a pretty dumb move. Having closed the week at $50.25, we are now down $2.43 or 4.6%. During this time period QQQQ gained 2.8%. This is a real disappointment. I felt confident that these kinds of plays using TradeRadar could be done when both the long and the short ETFs are showing strong signals. In this case, TradeRadar did show a good SELL signal for QQQQ and showed a pretty decent BUY signal for QID. My sense that this was a real contrarian position caused me some trepidation and it now appears that I should have exercised more caution about about going short in a rising market.
Luckily, some of the other picks fared better this week. Generex (GNBT) closed the week at $1.90 yielding a gain of 12% after receiving a Buy recommendation from the Jesup & Lamont brokerage. Tarragon Corp. (TARR) also closed up this week at $12.77 and we are now showing a gain of almost 10%. PacificNet (PACT) regained some of the ground lost last week and managed to close at $6.17. Our gain in PACT has dwindled to only 18% but, having reported two new contracts this week, I still feel this one is worth holding on to.
In summary, the TradeRadar stock picks are not setting the world on fire but we seem to be in positive territory for all of them except QID.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The first reason, of course, is that unforeseen events often drive prices in unexpected directions. That is something we can't change and it often makes all of us technical traders crazy. On the other hand, sometimes an unforeseen event is a prelude to a new trend. A stock spikes up on a what seems to be a one-time piece of good fortune and soon falls back. Does it start making its way back up or does it resume a previous down trend?
The conflict within trend reversal indicators is that, though they can definitely tell when prices change direction, they suffer from two problems. One, they often can't determine how significant that move in prices actually will be. Two, they are often lagging indicators. As such, they can be late in providing a signal, sometimes leading the investor to miss a significant portion of a price move.
The most common trend reversal indicators are Moving Average Crossovers and Moving Average Convergence/Divergence (MACD).
Moving Average CrossoversMoving Average Crossovers work by showing when a faster moving average crosses a slower moving average. A bullish trend, for example, is revealed when the faster moving average crosses above a slower moving average. When the faster moving average crosses below the slower moving average a bearish trend has been identified.
These indicators can be tuned to be more or less responsive. Given that moving averages are lagging indicators, the stronger the filtering (the more days that go into calculating an interval of the average) the slower the indicator will respond to price movements. For example, many traders use the 20-day and 50-day moving averages to look for crossovers. In this case, the 20-day is the faster moving average and the 50-day is the slower moving average. For longer term trends, you might use the 50-day and 200-day moving averages.
MACDTo calculate the MACD, moving averages are turned into a momentum oscillator by subtracting the longer moving average from the shorter moving average. The resulting plot forms a line that oscillates above and below zero, without any upper or lower limits. The most popular formula for the "standard" MACD is the difference between a security's 26-day and 12-day Exponential Moving Averages (EMAs).
How MACD is DisplayedUsually, a 9-day EMA of MACD is plotted along side to act as a trigger line. A bullish crossover occurs when MACD moves above its 9-day EMA, and a bearish crossover occurs when MACD moves below its 9-day EMA. The histogram represents the difference between MACD and its 9-day EMA. The histogram is positive when MACD is above its 9-day EMA and negative when MACD is below its 9-day EMA. (Click here to see an example illustrating both moving average crossovers and MACD. The vertical blue bars are the MACD histogram.)
How to use MACDMACD provides three methods of interpretation.
- The trend of the MACD signal itself - if the signal is going up when the stock is going down, you should be on the lookout for a reversal in price from bearish to bullish
- Moving Average Crossover - as described above, if the MACD crosses above the 9-day EMA, a bullish move is predicted and vice versa.
- Centerline Crossover - this is exhibited when the MACD and the histogram cross the zero line. It is bullish when they are going in a positive direction and bearish when going in a negative direction.
The TroubleUnfortunately, both of these systems suffer from the fact that they are lagging indicators. The trading signal is often just too late and the investor misses out. Even though it tries to anticipate trend reversals, the MACD histogram is even worse as it is a lagging indicator of a lagging indicator (for you calculus buffs out there, you can think of it as a second derivative). To reduce the lagging effect you can, of course, reduce the amount of filtering. This will increase responsiveness to rapid price movements but will have the unfortunate effect of generating more false signals and whipsaws. The technical analyst will need to adjust his filter parameters to suit his style of trading and the past action of the stock being analyzed.
A Different ApproachThe TradeRadar software was developed as an attempt to avoid some of the drawbacks of the systems described above while still providing the benefits; ie, the ability to reliably identify trend reversals. TradeRadar starts out by identifying the maximum or minimum points on a price chart. It then applies a formula to price action around the maximum or minimum to determine if a trend reversal is taking place.
Indicators that identify local maximums or minimums are pretty much always correct about picking out when a stock has peaked or bottomed within the window of observation. Where it gets complicated is determining whether the trend is truly reversing. In order to identify a reversal, it turns out we need to apply our old friend the filter. The filtering takes into account what price action is occurring AFTER the absolute high or low. Every chart will have an absolute high or low point but not every chart will flash a BUY or SELL signal.
In an attempt to create a responsive but reliable trading signal, several unusual concepts were applied.
- A transfer function is applied to the price data. This is how the peaks around local maxima or minima in the price data are generated. A peak in the signal data can only be generated when prices change direction. (Click here to see an example of a peak generated as a BUY signal in the lower chart in the image)
- The filtering is applied to the signal data, not to the underlying price. This filtering has the effect of shifting the peak slightly to the right of the actual maxima or minima. It also has the important effect of helping to determine whether the signal is reliable. It shows whether price action after the max or min is strong enough to indicate a serious change in trend direction by smoothing out variations in the signal.
A better mousetrap?So, at the end of the day, is the TradeRadar signal superior to the Moving Average Crossover or MACD systems? Well, we're getting some decent results but the jury is still out. There appears to be a need to develop a familiarity with how to set the filter and sensitivity controls for most reliable performance. And there is a definite need to develop a feel for how to interpret the auxiliary indicators generated by the signal software. These auxiliary indicators include Signal Strength, Signal/Noise Ratio and Kurtosis (an indication of how "peaked" the signal peak's shape is).
I invite readers to visit the TradeRadar site or blog and take a look at the investment results thus far. If you would like to experiment with the TradeRadar signal I encourage you to download the software or, if you're running Microsoft Internet Explorer, try the online version.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Weekly Market CallFederal Reserve Chairman Bernanke testified before Congress this week and his outlook was not as grim as some the Fed members who had spoken earlier this week. The market took his more benign tone as a cue to rally. The NASDAQ turned in a good performance but, unlike the Dow and the S&P 500, did not make a new high.
Economic results this week were not particularly noteworthy and, in any case, provided a mixed view of where we are going. There is still nothing to dispute the view that earnings growth is slowing. Commodity prices have firmed lately (oil is up just shy of $60 a barrel again) and interest rates are essentially flat with no expectation of a rate cut anytime soon.
The feeling is that the markets have no reason to be rallying but they are anyway. It appears that the advance/decline ratio has been shaky since December which indicates there are pockets of strength and the rest of the market is just muddling along. The NASDAQ, in spite of moving higher again this week has clearly lost momentum. I take that as a lack of confirmation in the overall up-trend.
Bottomline: the Dow and the S&P are continuing their upward trend. The NASDAQ is stuck in a trading range and may be forming a top. The TradeRadar SELL signal on the NASDAQ 100 (QQQQ) appears to be coming undone; however, with the current economic backdrop and the confusion in the SELL signal, I will opt for the contrarian camp and stick with my prediction that the NASDAQ is poised for some poor performance.
ETF CommentsExhibiting slightly better performance than the QQQQ, XLK, the tech ETF, moved up this week but is short of a new high. With growth in networking, as personified by Cisco and Juniper, the only clear macro trend in technology at this time, it is unclear to me why tech is getting so much attention. The preponderance of poor guidance from companies that recently reported earnings is not building confidence either and I would not be a buyer here.
Interestingly, XLE, the energy ETF, has moved down for the last two weeks in spite of firming oil prices. This could be the result of oil's failure to break above the psychologically important level of $60 a barrel. With the energy sector providing much of the juice in the market averages' up-trend over the last year or two, losing energy as a driver is another factor that speaks to the uncertain future of this rally.
Housing has been all over the place lately. Former Fed Chief Greenspan indicated he thinks the bottom has been reached. It was reported that January new home starts were down 14.3% (down 37.8% from January 2006 levels), a larger-than-expected drop though probably the weather had something to do with it. Two big builders announced new orders have fallen sharply as have mortgage applications. Yet XHB, despite weakening over the last couple of weeks, remains firmly in a gentle up-trend. IYR, spooked by rate jitters last week, seems to be coming back and resuming its upward trend.
Some interesting action has been taking place in the SPDR Biotech ETF, (XBI). Monday it moved up strongly on a day when the rest of the market wasn't doing much of anything. The remainder of the week XBI managed to hold on to Monday's gain and tack on a bit more. After establishing an intermediate term bottom at the beginning of January, XBI has been moving up in a ragged pattern and is now sitting on top of its 50-day moving average. The TradeRadar software is rating this one a potential BUY (as opposed to a strong BUY) and I will be following this ETF more closely to see how it plays out.
TradeRadar Stock PicksOK, so the call to sell the QQQQ and buy QID, the UltraShort QQQ ETF, has not yet worked out so well and we are down a bit over 3%. As I indicated above, though, I am in the contrarian camp with respect to the NAZ and I am willing to hang in there a bit longer.
PacificNet (PACT) has been doing reasonably well but this week they announced that their CFO had resigned and the stock dropped 10% in one day. Losing a CFO can sometimes be the result of something unsavory going on with the financials or a case of the CFO getting out before he becomes tainted with whatever trouble the company is in. Thus far, there is no indication of trouble and the hiring of an interim CFO was immediatlely announced. An extremely weak SELL signal has been flashed by TradeRadar but, given the improving fundamentals of the company, my take is that we should ride this out. Our gain has been reduced to 11.8%
Tarragon (TARR) had a good week and closed at its highest price for 2007, $12.49. We now have a measurable gain of 7.4%. Generex (GNBT) was down a few cents from last week and in general is exhibiting a weak chart. Nevertheless, we still show a very slight gain in the stock.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The new lineup of content is as follows:
- Seeking Alpha
- Ticker Sense
- Business & Finance from Digg.com
- ETF Trends
- Schaeffer's Daily Market Recap
- Market Calendars from MSN-Money and MarketWatch
- Schaeffer's Daily Market Blog
- Financial blog posts from Tailrank
- Yahoo Business News
- Motley Fool Headlines
- MarketWatch.com - Stocks to Watch
- Wall Street Journal - Earnings
- Two from SmartMoney - Top Stories and Sector Patrol
- Investors Blog Network (of which I am a member)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Weekly Market CallAll the major indexes moved nicely higher this week until Friday when things got ugly. Cisco reporting good earnings and providing positive guidance gave the market a lift on Thursday but it wasn't enough to carry through to the end of the week. I am reminded of when Apple announced the iPhone and the NASDAQ hit a new high, only to fall back soon after. As I said then, it seemed unlikely the market as a whole could rise on the back of a phone or on the results of just one stock.
So what precipitated Friday's swoon? Three Fed officials did say that though they expect inflation to moderate later in the year, the risk of higher inflation remains. The Dallas Fed president even indicated there was a potential for further rate hikes. Not a message the market wants to hear.
Earnings season is about over now. A number of large-caps reported good earnings this week including the aforementioned Cisco as well as Prudential, Disney, Marriott and News Corp. The bad news is that, based on recent guidance, the expected first quarter growth rate for earnings is expected to fall to just 5%. After a string of double digit gains, this is not making investors comfortable.
In any case, all the indexes were down Friday but the only one showing a TradeRadar SELL signal is the NASDAQ 100. TradeRadar has been flashing SELL for three weeks in a row now and, as a result, I have advised selling QQQQ and buying QID, the ProShares UltaShort QQQ ETF, to profit from the expected drop in the NASDAQ. With many traders saying the market is overdue for a correction and many analysts quoting a statistic about the Dow and the S&P 500 not having had more than a 2% pullback since July, it is no wonder that a bearish attitude is creeping into the market.
ETF CommentsThe technology ETF, XLK, has not been correlating closely with the NASDAQ and is still not generating a TradeRadar SELL signal. On the other hand, it is certainly not looking like a buy here.
Oil climbed this week but did not break through $60 a barrel so XLE, the energy ETF, did not advance. If we don't soon see XLE move past the $59 to $60 range we can expect another leg down and, perhaps, a confirmation that the long-term peak in energy is behind us.
I have been watching the housing/real estate ETFs lately, especially after recommending Tarragon Corp. (TARR). IYR, the US real estate ETF, has really been accelerating upward. After a modest pullback on Thursday, it took a bigger hit on Friday, probably the result of the rate jitters discussed above, but still managed to close the week up half a buck. Nevertheless, IYR now looks like it is starting a pullback. As for XHB, the homebuilders ETF, it closed down over $2 lower than last week. After moving slowly but steadily up since mid-July of last year, XHB is now threatening to flash a SELL signal. Having already fallen through support at $39-$38, it can next expect support in the $35-$36 range so there may not be too much more damage.
TradeRadar Stock PicksA bit of movement in Generex (GNBT) which closed the week up less than a dime over the previous week. Tarragon (TARR) had an interesting day on Friday, swinging over a 5% range but finishing the day and the week practically where it started. PacifiNet (PACT) moved down but closed the week off only about $.30. QID, a leveraged ETF that moves inversely to the NASDAQ 100 and a recent addition to the list of picks, finished the week up about half a buck. Friday's bearishness affected all these stocks negatively and provided a boost only for the ultra-short ETF.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Keep up to date on the releases - I have added a number of features that make it easier to use and I recently fixed a bug in the Signal Strength calculation for SELL signals. Full installs and upgrades are available on the Download page.
Interpreting the indicators on the Buy-Sell Indicators screen - the Dashboard is intended to help evaluate how good the BUY or SELL signal is by using a red/yellow/green scheme to provide a quick determination at a glance. This is a ballpark estimation. You may not agree with the color indicated. For example, a Signal Strength of 55% may be good enough for you but TradeRadar characterizes that as yellow (caution). That's OK if you can confirm your decision by evaluating other data. I often look for economic or fundamental data to confirm what TradeRadar says. This may lead you to follow what TradeRadar suggests or ignore it. The Variance is a quantity calculated as part of the statistical evaluation within the TradeRadar software. I find that I don't really pay much attention to this number. Signal/Noise ratio tends to be the one indicator that is always pretty high. If it is not above 90%, trading must be very choppy, without much of a trend indication. Be very cautious in these cases. The Slope is a value that I generate in order to evaluate whether there is a trend at work. It is a simple linear regression (click here for an explanation of linear regression) of the data in the window. It is also intended to help determine if there is a trend present. Usually, the bigger the number, the stronger the trend and the more interesting the potential reversal will be.
Using the Start and End settings on the Buy-Sell Indicators screen - setting up the window to evaluate is extremely important. If the window contains too many large peaks and valleys, you will get BUY or SELL signals too far in the past and the current signal may not be apparent. The best approach when looking for a BUY signal is to set the Window Start at the top of the most recent peak and the Window End at the most current day's data point. If you are looking for a SELL signal, do the opposite: set the Window Start at the most recent low. To find the appropriate high or low point to use for the Window Start, I usually start out with two years worth of data and zero in on the area of interest. Don't forget the feature that allows you to click on the price line or signal line to set Start or End points. Hold down the mouse button where you want to set the Start or End and when the Point Select dialog box pops up, click on the appropriate button (this is in the new version of TradeRadar only).
Generating Signals - in the drop-down at the top of the Buy-Sell Indicators screen you can choose the type of signal you want to evaluate. The Raw Buy Signal will always identify the lowest point within the window and the Raw Sell signal will always identify the highest point. Warning: DO NOT use these to determine trades or signals. You MUST use the Smooth Buy or Smooth Sell signal to base your trades on. The filtering used by the smoothed signals takes into account what price action is occurring AFTER the absolute high or low. Every chart will have an absolute high or low point but not every chart will flash a BUY or SELL signal. The Normalized Prices setting shows you the transformed data that TradeRadar will use to generate its signal.
Using the Filter and Sensitivity controls on the Buy-Sell Indicators screen - as you may have noticed, the default settings are the midpoints of each control. The Filter affects the amount of filtering on the TradeRadar signal, not on the underlying data (closing prices). This why we sometimes see TradeRadar showing unexpectedly weak SELL signals after a stock plunges. Reducing the amount of filtering in these cases will get a more realistic signal. Because the TradeRadar software uses a transfer function (click here for an explanation of transfer functions) to generate its signals, we can alter the performance of the signal by moving our data back and forth through the area of the transfer function. The Sensitivity control does this for us. When setting the Sensitivity to a higher number, it has the effect of exaggerating the strength of the signal. These two controls can be used together adjust the performance of the signal software. Experimentation and back-testing may be necessary to obtain confidence in the settings you choose. I tend to use the default at all times as that allows me to do an apples-to-apples comparison when looking at different stocks or different time periods for the same stock.
Amount of data needed - when the amount of data to evaluate gets too small, the signal is not as useful. This can be problematic if a stock suddenly falls soon after buying it based on a TradeRadar BUY signal and you want to know whether TradeRadar is now flashing a SELL signal. Another issue related to amount of data is the Kurtosis indicator. It will tend to be wider when there are smaller amounts of data to process. Here is another example of how the Dashboard gives a quick evaluation but the user may need to do the final interpretation of the indicators. In any case, TradeRadar typically likes at least a few weeks worth of data to chew on.
Hope this helps. Good luck pinging the market!
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Weekly Market Call
Earnings continued this week as they did last week: decent numbers coupled with down-beat outlooks for coming quarters. Over 60% of the S&P 500 have reported by now so we can say we know the tone of this quarter's earnings season: so-so though it looks like aggregate earnings might just barely cross into double digits.
Other events of interest included a rise in oil prices and the Fed Open Market Committee meeting. The closely watched Fed statement was essentially the same as the last one and, as expected, they held rates steady.
Economic news was mixed with fourth quarter GDP being revised upwards to 3.5% and January employment data caming in lower than expected. This last was offset by an upward revision for December. Reported wage gains were modest, thus providing a case for lower inflation.
Economically speaking, it appears that we are on track for a soft landing with growth continuing amid modest inflation. Based on earnings season, however, a contrarion case can be made for slowing growth. The percentage of companies beating expectations is lower than has been typical in recent quarters and, more noteworthy, forecasts for first quarter aggregate earnings are much lower than usual.
The Dow and S&P 500 continued plowing upward this week. The NASDAQ 100 (as tracked by QQQQ), however, appears to be trying to get going but rose only a bit this week (1.7%) on lackluster volume. The TradeRadar SELL signal that I was reluctant to embrace last week has continued to flash and I am considering that two weeks in a row is confirmation that the NAZ will be under pressure and likely to drop over the next few weeks. The star of the week was the Russell 2000 which gained 2.7%
This week, interestingly, the technology ETF that I track, XLK, has stopped correlating so closely with the NASDAQ 100. Though not a screaming buy, XLK is clearly not flashing a SELL signal in the same way QQQQ is.
XLE, the energy ETF reflects this week's rise in oil and is continuing an up-trend that began around January 16. In a previous post I made the point that it will probably bounce up off its 200-day moving average and so it has. If the cold weather persists, we could see a new high very soon.
The housing market showed some firming this week so XHB, the homebuilders ETF, caught an enthusiastic bid. IYR, the real estate ETF, rose but did not gain quite as much in percentage terms as XHB. This chart has been very interesting for a while now and has quietly moved up 30% since its lows back in July/August/September of last year. This might be a trend to jump on as it now looks as if it won't be going lower from here.
TradeRadar Stock Picks
Not much movement in Generex (GNBT). Tarragon (TARR) moved up in concert with XHB. Its chart very much resembles that of XHB, as a matter of fact. PacifiNet (PACT) moved up a bit though it is off its highs for the week. The new addition to the list is QID, the ProShares UltraShort QQQ, a leveraged ETF that moves inversely to the NASDAQ 100. This was purchased in reaction to the TradeRadar SELL signal on the Q (read the post describing the TradeRadar Pick o' the Month).
Thursday, February 1, 2007
As I mentioned in my post yesterday, however, I have fixed a bug in the Signal Strength calculation for SELL signals in the TradeRadar software. The new version gives the same SELL signal (click here to view full size) on the QQQQ but now it looks strong enough to give me the confidence to act upon it. QQQQ sell signal. As a result, I turned around and purchased the ProShares UltraShort QQQ (QID). The "Ultra" classification means they are trying to achieve twice the daily performance of the associated index; in this case, the NASDAQ 100. So if the QQQQ is going to go down, QID should start moving up and moving up smartly.
I have been considering doing this for a while, at least since mid-December when TradeRadar first started giving indications the up-trend in the QQQQ might be coming to an end. The signal seemed to confirmed when one tech company after another, despite reporting good earnings, provided dismal guidance for the coming year. But with the Dow and the S&P 500 making new highs (and even the Q struggling to a new high during that time), I have been reluctant to move into the bearish camp. Finally, I decided to trust TradeRadar and go for it. QID closed at $52.68 today. Now we'll see how it plays out.
Recent weakness in ISM is also portending a move down with the number falling below 50. This indicates a sign of contraction in manufacturing (read more at RGEMonitor). This week the GDP number for 4Q2006 was revised upward to 3.5% but looking at the components of the number does not actually provide much support for the bullish outlook as the gain was mostly attained on the back of consumer and government spending (read more at The Big Picture).
More food for thought on the ProShares Ultra Long and Short ETFs: click here for some interesting charts on QLD and QID by Mike Branco.
- ► 2011 (40)
- ► 2010 (189)
- ► 2009 (312)
- ► 2008 (266)
- QID - Shelter from the Storm
- Weekly Market Update - Minor Decline
- The Trouble with Trend Reversal Indicators
- Weekly Market Update - Bernanke Speaks
- Expanded Daily News Pages
- Weekly Market Update - Uncertainty turning to Bear...
- Tips for TradeRadar Users
- Weekly Market Update - Mostly More of the Same
- Pick o' the Month - QID
- ▼ February (9)
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