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Tilted Arrows



This morning I noticed something stranger than usual. For some reason I flipped open the New York Times Business section to the Markets page and scanned the markets summary and the small, printed index charts. It was a tiny but new compulsion, one of many I suffer throughout a typical day. I rarely, if ever, look at this page. It's so... barbaric; like starting your car from under the hood with a screwdriver, unnecessary and even a little dangerous if you're uncomfortable with voltage surges.

At a Minyanville family dinner several weeks ago, Barron's Michael Santoli and I talked a bit about the data tables that are rapidly disappearing from daily newspapers. The data tables still appear in Barron's, of course. If you ever visit a public library on any given Saturday, you'll see gentlemen of a certain age waiting patiently for a copy of Barron's so they can peruse the data tables, the final holdouts in the game of rapid information delivery, a bit like the last few customers to take delivery of a case of milk on their front porch from a milkman's truck; how quaint. For most of us, and that probably includes you since you are reading this Online, certain information is easier to assimilate and process when gathered online. Markets are dynamic, so they benefit from a dynamic delivery system.

Anyway, so I have the Business section open to the Markets page today, for some reason, when I notice something stranger than usual. The index summary has the closing price of the major broad market indices, of course, but next to the name of the index, before the daily change, there's a weird tilted arrow. Almost immediately I can sense something is... off about the page. But it takes a moment for it to register. Ah, yes, the arrows. When did they change the arrows? Typically the arrow is vertical, either pointing up, or pointing down, or absent if there was no change. But these arrows are definitely askew.

"That's weird," I thought, "these arrows are tilted." It made me feel a bit uneasy. Tilted arrows, pointing slightly up and to the right for the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500. I suppose the message is that the market was "up," but not straight up. If it were straight up, the arrow would be of the normal vertical variety. But a tilted arrow is printed proof that markets don't go straight up. Sure, Gold felt straight down yesterday, lower by nearly $5, but the arrow was tilted down and to the left. So even if it felt straight down yesterday afternoon, this morning's Times confirms that no, it was really only tilted slightly downward, a big move, but not the impending sense of permanent doom implied by a solid, vertical arrow down. Perhaps the editors save the vertical arrows for the big days. Maybe they changed it 15 years ago and I just noticed this morning. Certainly that's a possibility.

I'm living for the day in the future, at least I would like to believe I am, when our portfolios will be surgically implanted in our forearms at the broker's office. The surgically implanted portfolios will then interact with our body chemistry so that we'll feel physical symptoms of excessive risk or unbalanced holdings. Ho ho, no, I'm just kidding about all of that. A dangerous world that would be indeed. But I did think the tilted arrows were weird enough to share with you this morning; they're oddly emblematic of the path these markets seem headed on, something tilted, something slightly... askew.

This morning in our online community of information exchange and delivery, we enter the market with the contextual indicators positive, the S&P 500 Equal-Weight Index, S&P 600 Small Cap Index and Russell 2000 among the handful of broad indices that have managed to push through their March highs. Lagging below are the most watched capitalization-weighted or price-weighted indices, the S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow.

Hoofy looks at this as confirmation of his Stealth theme as long as the broad context as measured by the percent of stocks on point & figure buy signals remains positive. Despite the technical damage that occurred in the broad indices and select large cap stocks heading into the July 4th holiday, the broad bullish percent measures of actual participation moved slightly higher. As long as that continues, our bull will be compelled to exercise his right of authority and scan for longs, while Boo will operate in a more selective manner, picking his spots and doing less in general. When the context changes, our critters will change as well.

Quite a dynamic crew we have here, when you think about it. No need for tilted arrows or newsprint. This is real time.

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