Random Thoughts: Will the Market Retest the 2009 Lows?

By Todd Harrison  AUG 04, 2011 10:15 AM

The lifeguards begin to take on water.


It's not your fault, Will Hunting; it really is that tough out there.

So says a trading pal whose been doing this for a long time. "I'm hearing that a few big funds are blowing up," he said, "which might be responsible for the end-of-day action of late." I wouldn't be surprised; when margins call and redemptions sing, they tend to do so for a lot longer than most folks expect.

I said to him, as I wrote yesterday, that A) there is an upside "window" for a trade if S&P 1250 can remain underfoot (as it stands, all bets are off) and B) I conceivably foresee a retest of the March 2009 lows, although that may not happen (if it happens at all) until 2013.

Therein lies "the path we take vs. the destination we arrive at" we often speak of. There are a multitude of ever-changing variables in play. That isn't a hedge, it's what is. That’s why I employ a stair-step approach to risk management. Everybody trips, the goal is not to fall.

While that long-term scenario may or may not evolve, I'll say this so it's officially said -- if we get "there," I plan to close my eyes and buy everything in sight (in both my long- and short-term buckets). While you may be thinking, "Way to put it out there, sport; I'd buy everything too if it were trading at 50 cents on the dollar," I'll say with a high degree of certainty that it won't feel like an opportunity -- it will feel like the end of the world.

I don't enjoy being bearish on the big picture. I feel like that annoying guy at the craps table who bets on the "no pass" line (yes, that's bad momo). And no, I don't talk about this much as folks will think I've fallen out of my tree (deja vu all over again!). With that said, all a man has is his name and his word, and I would be remiss if I wasn't forthright (which is a different conversation than being right).

I've always believed I would be the most bullish guy in the room when the shvitz really hit the fan, if and when we’re allowed to get there. While a snapshot of the short-term trading picture finds a fair share of bears, the opposite of love isn't hate -- it's apathy -- and there is way too much emotion for this to be anything close to the low.

As my astute trading pal said to me when I shared the above thesis, "there's a lot of trading between here and there" and he's spot on. The true test won't be P&L, in my view, it'll be engagement and, to be frank, financial survival. I'm not trying to put a scare into ya, I'm just attempting to edge you into the mindset of "anything can happen" and it most likely will.

Putting that aside, S&P 1250 remains the line in the sand for the upside window, and that "matters" on a closing basis. Keep an eye out for margin calls, which hit the market at 3:30. If they can't take 'em down and keep ‘em down, they'll likely scramble up.

The financial markets have morphed into a matter of national -- and international -- security, and every central bank in the world is motivated to win The War on Capitalism.

See both sides and remember not to underestimate the power of a caged and cornered animal.

Random Thoughts


Twitter: @todd_harrison

No positions in stocks mentioned.