Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Market Continues Choppy Trading

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

Choppy trading is a sign of a troubled market. Within the last ten days, U.S. stocks have had a great deal of difficulty deciding which way they wish to go. As of today, the Nasdaq has either gapped up or down seven days in a row on the open. Intraday gaps, which are very rare and indicate a great deal of volatility, have also occurred.  This type of trading usually takes place at market tops or bottoms.

The problems in the U.S. stock market began intraday on Thursday, May 6th with the sudden market drop and rise around 3:00PM. In a span of approximately 16 minutes, there were multiple gaps on the downside and then multiple gaps on the upside on the major U.S. market indices on the one-minute chart. The Dow Jones Industrial Average moved 700 points in both directions in that short period. Fewer gaps appear on the five-minute and fifteen minute charts, but they are more pronounced. This was followed by a noticeable intra-day gap on the downside on all the very short-term charts on May 7th. Then there was a massive gap up on the open on Monday, May 10th, with the Nasdaq opening around 100 points higher than its Friday close. The ECB (European Central Bank) has admitted to a massive liquidity injection at that time and this money flowed directly into the stock market. Other central banks were probably involved as well.

Looking at the charts it can be seen that Nasdaq then gapped down on Tuesday, up on Wednesday, and down on Thursday on the open. The gap down on Tuesday was significant, but the other two were relatively minor and not really out of the ordinary. Then last Friday, there was an almost 30-point drop on Nasdaq when stocks began trading. That is very much out of the business as usual range. After that, there was a small gap on Monday and a somewhat larger gap up today. The market suddenly turned around in the middle of the day yesterday while trying to fill the huge gap from May 6th. This is atypical behavior (the gap was only partially filled) and has all the earmarks of central bank interference.

Markets like to trade in continuous patterns. When gaps occur, they almost always get filled (trading takes place in the price range that was skipped because of the gap). This commonly happens within a few days, but it can take weeks, months or even years.  Investors in general don't like choppy markets, although they are a boon to short-term traders. Trending markets tend to have smoother price movements and investors should be on the lookout for a return to this type of less volatile environment.

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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