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Was Friday's Price Action in Gold Signaling a Top in the S&P 500?

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Nearly every indicator is screaming that stocks are overbought across all time frames, making the US dollar look a bit more attractive.

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You can't feel the heat until you hold your hand over the flame.
You have to cross the line just to remember where it lays.

-- Rise Against, "Satellite"

Friday morning traders and market participants awaited the key January employment report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The reaction to the supposedly wonderful report was a surge in the S&P 500 E-Mini futures contracts as well as several other key equity index futures.

The overall tenor among the financial punditry was predictable as wildly bullish predictions permeated the morning session on CNBC and in the financial blogosphere. However, after the report had been out for several hours, notable independent voices such as Lee Adler of the Wall Street Examiner came out with information that suggested the numbers were an apparition of manipulated statistics.

I am not going to spend a great deal of time discussing the report, but the reaction to the news was decisively bullish on Friday. The question I want to know is whether Friday was a blow-off top. In the recent past, the S&P 500 has seen several key inflection points and intermediate-term tops form on nonfarm payroll monthly announcements.

I follow a variety of indicators to help me decipher more accurately when the market is getting overbought or oversold. For nearly two weeks, the market has been extremely overbought, but now we are reaching truly astonishing levels. The following charts represent just a few signals that the market is due for a pullback and a top is likely approaching.

Percentage of NYSE Stocks Trading Above Their 50-Period Moving Average



The chart above clearly illustrates that as of Friday's closing bell (February 3), over 89% of stocks were trading above their 50-period moving averages. Consequently that reading is one of the highest levels that we have seen in the past three years. In addition, over 73% of stocks that trade on the NYSE are currently priced above their longer-term 200-period moving averages. Another extremely overbought signal.

S&P 500 Bullish Percent Index Weekly Chart



The S&P 500 Bullish Percent Index is another great tool for measuring the overall position of the S&P 500. It is without question that the longer-term time frame is reaching the highest level of overbought conditions in the past three years.

McClellan Oscillator Divergence with S&P 500 Price Action





The two charts shown above present an interesting situation regarding the divergence in the McClellan Oscillator and the price action in the S&P 500. The most recent example of this type of divergence occurred in October of 2011, and prices immediately reversed to the upside after several months of selling pressure. In fact, this correlation between reversals in the S&P 500 and divergences in the McClellan Oscillator works relatively well historically.

Clearly there are bullish voices arguing for the 2011 S&P 500 Index high of 1,370.58 to be taken out to the upside in the near future. Additionally, several market technicians in the blogospere have been pointing to the key resistance range between 1,350 and 1,370 on the S&P 500 as a likely price target.

Obviously if those price levels are met, strong resistance is likely to present itself. However, as a contrarian trader I have found that the more obvious price levels are, the more likely it is that they either will not be tested or they will not offer significant resistance.

It is obvious that Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve have embarked on a massive fiat currency printing campaign that has helped buoy risk assets to the upside. Through a combination of reducing interest rates on safety haven investments like Treasurys and CDs, the Fed has forced conservative investors and those living on a fixed income into riskier assets in search of yield.

This process helps elevate stock prices and creates the desired outcome for the Fed, which involves the perception by average individuals that they are wealthier. The Fed calls this the "wealth effect" and seems poised to ensure that US financial markets continue to ride upon a sea of cheap money and liquidity.

Ultimately the Fed's most recent announcements have served to help flatten the short end of the yield curve further while providing a launching pad for equities and precious metals. However, issues persisting in Europe could have an adverse impact on the short- to intermediate-term price action of the US Dollar.

Right now everywhere I look I hear market prognosticators commenting on how hated the US dollar is and how Bernanke will not allow the dollar to appreciate markedly in order to protect US exports and financial markets. I think that the dollar has the potential to rally in the short to intermediate term. Right now the US Dollar Index (UUP) appears to be trying to form a bottom.

US Dollar Index Daily Chart



Obviously there is good reason to believe that the US Dollar Index could reverse to the upside here. Whether it would have the strength to take out recent highs is unclear, but a correction to the upside not only seems unexpected by most market participants, but it seems plausible based on the weekend news coming out of Greece.

Monday morning the Greek government is set to determine if it will agree to the demands of the Troika in exchange for the next tranche of bailout funds. If the Greek government and the Troika do not come to an agreement, the euro could sell off violently.

Additionally there are already concerns about the next long-term refinancing operation (LTRO) offering from the European Central Bank. The measure is to help provide European banks with additional liquidity, but there are growing concerns that the size and scope of the LTRO could have a dramatic impact on the euro's valuation against other currencies. Time will tell, but there are certainly catalysts that could help drive the US dollar higher.

Another potential indicator that the dollar could see higher prices in coming days was the largely unnoticed bearish price action on Friday of precious metals. Both gold and silver have been on a tear higher over the past several weeks. Both precious metals have surged since the Fed announced that interest rates would remain near zero on the short end of the curve through 2014.

However, on Friday gold and silver were both under extreme selling pressure. The move did not get much attention by the financial media. The price action in gold and silver on Friday could be another indication that the US dollar is set to rally. The daily chart of gold is shown below.

Gold Futures Daily Chart



Obviously the reversal on Friday in gold futures was sharp. The move represented nearly a 2% decline for the session on the price of gold. However, as long-term readers know, I am a gold bull. I just do not see how gold and silver do not rally in the intermediate to longer term based on the insane levels of fiat currency printing going on at all of the major central banks around the world. The macro case for gold is very strong, but the short-term time frame could reveal a brief pullback.

At this point, I suspect a pullback will present a good buying opportunity for those that are patient. However, I think it is critical to point out that this move in gold on Friday could be a signal that the US dollar is going to find some short- to intermediate-term strength. If the dollar does start to push higher, it will likely put downward pressure on risk assets like equities and oil.

While Friday's price action may not mark a top, nearly every indicator that I follow is screaming that stocks are overbought across all time frames. Pair that with the Greece uncertainty and LTRO considerations, and suddenly the dollar starts to look a bit more attractive. Ultimately I am not going to try to pick a top, but the evidence suggests that it might not be too many days/weeks away.

Editor's Note: Chris Vermeulen offers more content at his site, TheGoldAndOilGuy.com.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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