The Market Is Coiling, but Which Way Will It Break?

By Todd Harrison  FEB 12, 2013 11:15 AM

The tape trades great -- will the eyes have it?

 


Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

Many have I loved, and many times been bitten, many times I've gazed along the open road.
--Led Zeppelin

Last week, we scribed two missives: Three Things the Bears Need to See, and Three Little Bears Foresee a Stock Slide.

In an effort to work 'smarter not harder,' I won't regurgitate those vibes, but rather, I'll summarize: Some well-known bears (such as Dr. Marc Faber) turned bullish, while some smart cookies—including Jeff Cooper, Doug Kass, and Michael Gayed—were growing increasingly cautious.

During my commute this morning, I saw that Dr. Faber—whom I have great respect for—offered that stocks will either correct meaningfully (soon) or grind higher until July or August—before a possible repeat (crash) of 1987.  The good doctor hasn't earned the nickname "Dr. Doom" for nothing, but I felt compelled to share the updated view as we touched on his thoughts last week.

Separately, this morning on Minyanville's Buzz & Banter, Jeff Cooper updated his take, as all traders must dynamically do if they're to be successful, and asked: "Can the S&P (INDEXSP:.INX) spike toward the 1550 (155 SPY strike) by Friday’s option expiration with Friday being 1547 calendar days from the November 21, ’08 crash low?"

That's not a shift in stance, mind you; it pertains to timing, including a potential "melt-up" (through S&P 1520) to really shake out the remaining shorts (before a potential downside comeuppance).

As I've detailed in real-time over the last several sessions, I've been tapping the short side in the S&P—intra-day last Thursday, before wisely covering up into the close, and a few round trips on Friday, before going home short this S&P into the weekend.  Yesterday was more or less a push—although I did drip some theta, or time decay—but I've been thinking through my risk, poking holes in my view so to speak, which is par for the course.

First and foremost, the "history repeats" chart we highlighted on Friday and Monday (below) draws attention to a pattern that began 25 years ago. The longer the time period, the "fatter" the crayon needed to draw a line of resistance. In this particular case, one could argue that defined risk won't really arrive until S&P 1575-1580 (which ties into Jeff Cooper's thinking above).



Second, with expiration arriving on Friday, there will be a lot of unforeseen influences pushing stocks around; that's not bullish or bearish, per se, but it is something to factor into our process, particularly given expiration influences manifest (through increased volatility) in the days preceding the actual put and call funerals.

Finally, while this is Turnaround Tuesday, I have an uncanny knack of being early (or wrong, if I'm no longer there to collect on my bet) on smelling cusps, and after 22 years of trading the tape, I should probably count down from 100 (backwards by primes) before slapping risk on.

As it stands, I continue to hold some S&P puts as my chosen defined risk is a few points away (above S&P 1520; the target we touched on in December 2012) for as we know, we can do anything as long as we're disciplined.

Timing  Is Everything!

The DNA of this market is a lot different than it was 20, 10, five years ago—HFT, the government hand, our interconnected world—and I strive to remain humble in my trading efforts lest the market will do it for me.

I once told a story—in Ojai during MIM2 and again in my book—about a stretch in 2003 when I made a big bet that cumulative financial imbalances would outweigh the central bank agendas; I was short Fannie Mae at $70, convinced the banks were well over their skis and spit-fire sure that Wall Street would take one in the teeth. 

While some may say I was "right, but early," I will tell you I was dead wrong, for I was forced to punt my Fannie puts a few weeks before it began its journey to seventy cents

The timing cost me a ton of money and taught me a heckuva lesson: Price is the arbiter of variant financial views, and the market can remain "irrational" longer than most folks can remain solvent (that last one is, of course, a quote courtesy of John Maynard Keynes).

So, it's not enough to be right on a directional basis; you've got to be right on the timing side too—particularly if you're trading options (as I often do).  It's too early to tell if my current bet will be rewarded or if I'll be forced to cover once again, but that's not the point.  Nobody—not me, nor anyone else—has a crystal ball, and while there are a litany of educated opinions, your financial risk is yours and yours alone; think, and act, wisely.

I will say this, however: As I look at the "Triple Lindy" chart we highlighted earlier, I remember how bullish many (not all) folks were at the peaks (2000, 2007) and how bearish many (not all) people were at the bottom (2003, 2009). 

Don't get caught up in the vernacular—emotion is the enemy when trading—just do the voodoo that you do, hit for average not power, follow our Ten Trading Commandments, and let's find our way to better days and easier trades.

Random Thoughts
R.P.

Twitter: @todd_harrison

Position in SPX.

Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at todd@minyanville.com.

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