What The Extremely Low Volume On Monday May Mean

I’m seeing more and more bearish signs. In the Quantifiable Edges Subscriber Letter on Sunday the intermediate-term outlook moved from slightly bullish to slightly bearish. The move was based on recent research, some of which appeared on the blog while some was for subscribers only. Today’s action did nothing to make me feel more bullish.

Let’s take a look at the S&P 500. It rose 1.1% today on the lightest volume since the week between Christmas and New Years. I looked back in history to see how the market performed any time the S&P 500 rose 1% or more on the lightest volume in at least 20 days. Results looking back 30 years below:

As you can see the implications are quite bearish over the next 12 days. One issue when looking at low volume studies, though is holidays. Six of the instances happened on a shortened session near either 4th of July or Thanksgiving. Those were 7/3/1997, 7/3/2000, 11/24/2000, 11/23/2001, 7/5/2002, and 11/23/2007. Two things are notable about these dates: 1) 7/5/2002 was followed by a massive 19% selloff over the next 12 days which skewed the above results negatively. 2) Most of the other holiday instances were followed by rallies which skewed results positively. I re-ran the study excluding these instances. Those results over the last 30 years are listed below:

From a winning percentage standpoint this is quite a bit worse for the bulls. Even eliminating the massive 7/2002 outlier the remaining results have a strong bearish tilt.

For those who would like to read more about the bearish case, check out Bill Luby’s latest chart and some of Dr. Steenbarger’s findings here and here.