Last Day Of The Year History (And Why Traders Need An Open Mind & Adaptability)

The last day of the year used to be consistently bullish for the market. But that has changed since the turn of the century. This is true across a number of indices. The most dramatic example is the NASDAQ, which I highlighted here on the blog a few years ago. I have updated the chart below.

2018-12-28

Closing up 29 years in a row is fairly astounding. Just as astounding is the abrupt reversal and move lower for 15 of the next 18 years. I have no good explanation for why such a formerly consistent edge changed, but it did.

This Nasdaq study is a great reminder though. The market is constantly changing and evolving. 2019 is just a few trading hours away. I’m not sure what it has in store for us, but I know it will play out in its own unique pattern. We will see clues along the way, and many of the truisms we’ve identified through studies over the last 11 years at Quantifiable Edges will continue to work. But some may flounder. And when something stops working, like the “last day of year bullishness” above, then I will do my best to recognize it early. Examining edges is more than just running numbers. Researches and traders need to keep an open mind, understand the market is continually evolving, and adapt. Best to all in 2019! I hope it is a prosperous year for you and I hope Quantifiable Edges proves helpful along the way!

 

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The little girl study and the horrid Crash of 87

Every once in a while I come across a study that reminds me an awful lot of Longfellow’s “The little girl”.

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After the strong and persistent selling over the last few days I decided to examine other times like now where the SPX dropped at least 1.5% for 3 days in a row. The study below looks back to late 1987 and shows all 10 occurrences over the time period, along with their 10-day returns. The consistency and size of the bounces over the next 10 trading days is “very good indeed”.

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But the prior instance noted at the bottom of the list was “horrid”.

 

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CBI Hits 20+ for the 12th Time – A Look at the Previous 11 Instances

The Quantifiable Edges Capitulative Breadth Indicator hit 20 on Friday. That is just the 12th time since 1995 that the CBI reached that high. A very high CBI reading implies that there is a substantial number of stocks that are undergoing capitulative selling and primed for strong reversals. A high CBI can also act as a signal that the market is about to bounce. The table below is taken from the CBI Research Paper. It examines all 11 previous instances, how long it took before an intraday and a closing bottom was reached, and what level marked the peak CBI for each instance.

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To learn more and see charts for all of these instances, you can download the CBI Research Paper (free). Instructions on how to do so can be found here.

 

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Why No Fed Action Is Needed For Lighter Quantitative Tightening In The Coming Months

The Fed meeting this Tuesday and Wednesday is being closely watched by Wall St. Policy changes and rhetoric about future policy could set the tone for trading. A rate hike is currently expected, though there is some doubt. Futures are currently pricing in about a 76% chance of a hike on Wednesday.

In addition to rate policy, the Fed could also look to make changes to its Quantitative Tightening (QT) policy. An easy way for them to move from a hawkish to a more dovish approach at some point would be to reduce the monthly QT schedule. The current schedule calls for allowing up $50 billion per month to roll off the books through expirations that are not reinvested. The breakdown of the $50 billion is $20 billion in AMBS and $30 billion in treasuries. But looking at the treasury expiration schedule shows us that we are now in a period where $30 billion of expirations is becoming rare. This can be seen from the table below, which is taken from the Fed’s website.

2018-12-16

December will see a $18 billion worth of treasuries maturing. January will be even lighter with less than $12 billion in expirations. And after a big QT amount in February, March will also fall well short, with $22 billion set to expire.

The big takeaway with regards to QT is that December and January will have greatly reduced amounts without any policy changes. There is little reason for the Fed to even consider changes here until the January meeting at earliest. And $50 billion per month will only be reached occasionally after that.

QT can serve as a headwind for the market. But that headwind will not be as strong the next couple of months.

To learn more about how these kind of Fed policies have impacted market movement over the years, you may download the Fed-Based Quantifiable Edges for Stock Market Trading for free. More info here.

 

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The Most Wonderful Week of the Year…2018 edition

Over several time horizons op-ex week in December has been the most bullish week of the year for the SPX. The positive seasonality actually has persisted for up to 3 weeks. I’ve shown the study below in the blog many times since 2008. It looks back to 1984, which was the first year that SPX options traded. The table is updated again this year.

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The stats are extremely strong. This year I also decided to throw in the 5-day equity curve.

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The 2 sizable dips you see were 2000 and 2011. And even with those shown, it is a very persistent move higher. Price action has been tough lately, but the bulls should have seasonality on their side next week.

 

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90 Years Of Death Crosses

The SPX could complete a “Death Cross” formation today or tomorrow, in which the 50-day moving average crosses below the 200-day moving average. In the past I have looked back to 1960 when examining Death Crosses. This time I decided to use Amibroker with my Norgate database, which goes back to 1928, and examine Death Crosses back as far as I can. This made for an interesting starting point, because the 1st instance, in 1929, came shortly after the 1929 market crash that was followed by the Great Depression. It was also followed by the most substantial decline – by far. Let’s first look at a list of all the Death Cross formations and how the SPX performed while they were in effect.

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Below are summary stats for the above trades.

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Interestingly, 33 of the 46 instances (72%) actually saw the SPX realize gains while the Death Cross was in effect. The problem is the losing trades were very large. And even most of the winners saw a sizable round-trip lower before they were able to carve out some gains. The average drawdown for these 46 trades would have been 13.3%. And there were 5 separate instances that saw drawdowns of at least 45%.

Even though the giant losers were relatively rare, their impact is large. And the fact that the 1st instance was the worst instance also provides a great example how devastating large drawdowns can be. The profit curve below shows a hypothetical portfolio of only being invested in the market during SPX Death Crosses.

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The 1st instance from 1929 – 1933 saw the portfolio rise to $120k before falling down as low as about $20k and then finishing that trade with a value of about $34k. And it has never managed to get back to breakeven. The 72% “win rate” on the Death Cross tells me it is NOT a reliable timing device. But the few instances of massive losses show just how valuable it can be to protect gains and avoid large portions of nasty bear markets. If we get into a big bear market, I won’t actually be sitting out of the market for several years. But it does allow traders to adjust strategies, exposure and other risk parameters. The Death Cross / Golden Cross on its own is not a great system. But it can help traders put the market into a context where they can better evaluate opportunities. And I have also found in helpful when combining with other timing indicators.

 

Note: The Quantifiable Edges Market Timing Course does look at the Golden Cross / Death Cross in combination with other timing indicators.

 

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When SPX Closes Higher On Bad Breadth

While the SPX closes higher on Tuesday, NYSE breadth was weak – both from an % Up Issues and % Up Volume standpoint. This triggered the study below from the Quantifinder. I also discussed it in last night’s subscriber letter.

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Here we see numbers suggesting a substantial bearish edge over the next 1-4 days. Below is the full list of instances and their 4-day returns.

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Aside from the one trade in 2012, the moves lower have been generally strong and very consistent. Traders may want to take this into consideration when setting their bias for the next few days.

 

 

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Why Wednesday’s Disappointing Afternoon May Be Bullish

After a couple of large down days and a big gap up Wednesday morning, the rest of Wednesday was a disappointment for the bulls. But the failure to follow through on the morning strength is not necessarily a bad sign looking out over the next couple of days. The study below from the Quantifinder was shown in last night’s subscriber letter.

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Instances are very low here, but we see some examples of powerful buying over the next few days. While I am seeing a mix of studies right now, this one favors the bulls. Traders may want to keep this in mind as they consider their trading bias.

 

 

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Thanksgiving Week Seasonality – An Updated Look

The time around Thanksgiving has shown some strong tendencies over the years – both bullish and bearish. I have discussed them a number of times over the years. In the updated table below I show SPX performance results based on the day of the week around Thanksgiving. The bottom row is the Monday of Thanksgiving week. The top row is the Monday after Thanksgiving.

2018-11-19

Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week do not show a strong, consistent edge. But the data for both Wednesday and Friday looks quite strong. Both of those days have seen the S&P 500 rise over 70% of the time between 1960 – 2017. The average instance managed to gain about 0.3% for each of the 2 days. (This is shown in the Avg Profit/Loss column where $300 would equal a 0.3% gain.) That is a hearty 1-day move. Meanwhile, the Monday after Thanksgiving has given back over half the gains that the previous 2 days accumulated. It has declined 66% of the time and the average Monday after Thanksgiving saw a net loss of 0.37%.

Of course I am not the first person to notice this. Strong Thanksgiving seasonality has been noted by many analysts over the years. So one (valid) concern that traders have with well-known seasonal tendencies is that they can be easily front-run. If people know there is a good chance that the market will rise Wednesday through Friday, they will look to get long on Tuesday. And if all the people buy ahead of the bullish period, then that may either dilute or eliminate the seasonal edge.

From 1960 – 1986 someone who bought Tuesday’s close and sold Friday’s close would have seen the SPX decline only 1 time. But from 1987 – 2017 there were 8 instances where SPX did not close higher on Friday than it did on Tuesday. So perhaps the edge became so well known that it was diluted by front-running.

To determine whether the Wednesday – Friday Thanksgiving edge may have been front-run a particular year, you could examine price action. I have repeatedly found that a market that is oversold going into a strong seasonal period will perform better than a market that is overbought going into a strong seasonal period. A very simple metric that could be used in this case would be to see whether the market closed in the top or bottom half of its intraday range on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. To do this I used SPY instead of SPX, because it had better intraday data.

Since 1993, I found that years in which SPY closed in the top half of its intraday range on Thanksgiving Tuesday posted a 9-5 record from Tuesday’s close to Friday’s close. When SPY closed in the bottom half of its range on Tuesday the performance over Wednesday to Friday was 10-1. And the average instance posted a 0.8% gain these years versus a 0.1% average gain the other years. So Tuesday’s action appears worth watching as we approach this potentially seasonally bullish period.

 

 

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The History of Russell 2000 Death Crosses & SPX Performance Following Them

I have seen a fair amount of hubbub about the Russell “Death Cross” that is happening today and the potential bearish implications for the market. A “Death Cross” is a catchy (though perhaps not terribly accurate) term for when the 50-day moving average of a security cross below its 200-day moving average. It is being promoted as a warning of a potential bear market. Of course all bear markets will see this happen at some point, because a bear market is an extended decline. But the real question when considering the implications of the Death Cross are whether it serves any value in predicting a bear market. To answer this I did an examination of past Russell Death Crosses, and what they meant for the S&P 500.

Both of my data sources show Russell data back to late 1987. And since I need 200 days to calculate a 200-day moving average, the earliest the study could look back to was 1988.

Here is the list of all Russell Death Crosses and how the SPX performed from the time of the initial cross until the Russell Death Cross was no longer in effect (meaning the 50-day moving average closed back above the 200-day moving average).

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Eighteen winners. Only three losers. So 86% of the “predictions” were wrong. Here is a look at the summary stats and a profit curve for this setup.

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I am having a hard time seeing the Russell 2000 Death Cross as a bearish indication. You would have a much easier time convincing me this is a bullish indication for the intermediate-term.

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A 20-Day Closing High On A Follow Through Day (FTD) Has Provided A Bullish Edge

One notable bit of evidence that emerged on Wednesday was the fact that it qualified as an IBD Follow Through Day (FTD). I have done a lot of research on FTDs over the years. Much of that research can be found here on the blog. Unusual about this FTD is that it occurred in conjunction with SPX making a new 20-day high. This triggered the study below, which I last discussed in the 10/19/2011 blog.

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Results here are impressive over both the short and intermediate-term. To get a better feel for the short-term returns I have listed the instances below.

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The run-up to drawdown ratio here is quite impressive. I’ll also note that 10 of the 13 instances went on to have “successful” rallies. (“Success” means it either hit a new 200-day high or at least rose 2x as much as it had already risen off the bottom.) The 3 instances whose rallies did not succeed (circled in red) all saw run-ups of at least 2% before they eventually rolled over and made new lows.

 

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Midterm Elections Have Not Provided A Reliable Short-Term Market Edge

Today I decided to look at SPX performance following past mid-term elections. I did not find much that suggested a strong edge. Below is a look at results since 1970 following mid-term elections.

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The numbers suggest perhaps a mild inclination for the market to “celebrate” the results on Wednesday. After that there does not appear to be a strong tendency in either direction. Below are the 1-day instances listed out for those that are interested.

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This Incredibly Bullish Seasonal Period Has Just Begun

With the calendar moving from October to November, it has now entered its “Best 6 Months”. The “Best 6 Months” tendency was first published by Yale Hirsch, founder of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, in 1986. The concept behind the “Best 6 Months” is simple. Seasonality suggests that over the last several decades the market has made a massive portion of its gains between November and April. And during the remaining 6 months, it has generally struggled to make headway.

Additionally, the market shifted into the 3rd year of the Presidential cycle. Here at Quantifiable Edges we measure the Presidential Cycle years from November – October rather than January – December. That allows the cycle years to better match up with the elections, which take place in early November. It also makes for easy evaluation when combining it with the “Best 6 Months” cycles. The 3rd year of the Presidential Cycle has been a strong one.

When the Best 6 Months and the 3rd Year of the Presidential Cycle have been active at the same time, the results since 1960 have been outstanding. In the table below I have listed out each instance.

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All 14 instances since 1960 have shown gains. Of course there have been drawdowns along the way. The 1974-75 period saw SPX pull back 13.2% from its October closing price before rebounding and finishing April 18.1% above the October closing price. And in 2002-03 there was a 10.85% drawdown from the October close before finishing April 3.5% above it. But overall the stats have been incredibly lopsided. The average 6-month period saw a net gain of 15.5%. The average run-up (from the October close) was 17.7% and the average drawdown just 3.1%. Long-term seasonality does not get any better.

Much more information is available on these indicators in the Quantifiable Edges Market Timing Course. (Get 30% off with the coupon code “November” between now and Monday, 11/5.) Also included in the course are price-based indicators that combine very well with the seasonals, along with possible long-term approaches to utilizing different combinations of price and seasonality. Code, supporting spreadsheets, and access to pages with indicator updates are also included in the course.

 

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Elevated CBI And New SPX Low Carry Bullish Implications

As we approached the close I noted on Twitter (@QuantEdges) that the Quantifiable Edges Capitulative Breadth Index (CBI) was starting to spike. And the closer we got to 4pm EST, the higher it got. At the end of the day, the CBI finished at 10, which is a level I have long considered bullish. The combination of a 10+ CBI and a 50-day closing low is something I have shown in the past to be bullish for both the short and intermediate-term. The study below is taken directly from the CBI Research Paper, which I recommend checking out if you have not read it before, or reviewing some of the tables and charts to get a deeper understanding of market action both during and after such broad, strong, selloffs as we are currently seeing.

2018-10-25

These are very appealing results, from Day 1 right through day 20. And 20 days out there was just one loser and it only lost 0.2%. Meanwhile, the average gain of the other 18 instances was a sizable 5.7%. The CBI is suggesting we are in a bottoming process right now, and that the market is likely to move higher in the coming days and weeks.

Update: Below is the full list of instances along with their 20-day returns for those traders that wish to see the details.

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Why Tuesday’s Strong Reversal Suggests A Short-Term Edge For The Bulls

The market tested its recent lows on Tuesday, and that may have washed out the sellers, at least temporarily. Tuesday did not see a “turnaround” with a higher close, but it did manage to rally strongly off the lows. And the big gap lower, reversal upwards and higher close triggered a few interesting Quantifinder studies. The study below is one example of what I am seeing.  It simply looks for gaps to 50-day lows and partial reversals.

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These numbers are impressive, especially over the 1st couple of days. Below is a look at a 2-day profit curve.

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The move from lower left to upper right serves as some confirmation of the edge implied by the numbers. This suggests the rebound Tuesday was strong enough, and from a low enough level, that there is a good chance the market will continue to rally over the next few days. Short-term traders may want to take this into consideration when establishing their trading bias.

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