Saturday, December 28, 2019

Markets Hit Record Highs: Now What?

So, how did the markets do on Friday (Dec 27, 2019)?

Well, the Dow was up about 23.87 points (0.08%) to 28,645.26. The S&P 500 was unchanged at 3,240.02, but it still managed to lock down a fifth straight week of gains. The Nasdaq slipped 0.17% to 9,006.62. All three averages hit new intraday highs in yesterday's session.

The S&P 500 is set to break a historic record. Right now, it's gained 29.3% this year. If it can achieve the 29.6% (or better) mark, it will be the best year - ever. The last time it hit that benchmark was in 1997.

So now what? If you're invested in equities, do you sell? Or do you continue to hold? Or if you're not invested, do you buy? If you think the answer is to just buy and hold, you're in the wrong place. My philosophy is buy, hold, and sell. See my article Beware Your Broker to get started. The last bear market was a 57% decline and took 6 years to break even. I can't handle that for my retirement, can you?

So we will sell, when market conditions tell us to. The best method for most investors is to follow the trend. This doesn't mean you'll buy at the exact market low, or sell at the exact market high, but you'll catch most of the uptrends this way.

And there are two ways to look at trend.

1. When evaluating the trend change, you must remember the definition of a trend and objectively read price action to ensure what you are seeing meets the criteria. An uptrend is a series of higher lows in price followed by higher highs. A downtrend is lower highs followed by lower lows. Be careful not to look at every high and low. The trick is to be able to identify the impulse and corrective movements in the markets. The starts and ends of those movements are the highs and lows you want to use.

Looking at the trend change from 2007 into 2008’s bear market, prices were making higher lows and highs on the weekly chart until late 2007. The first indication of a new downtrend confirmation came by the end of Nov 2007. It would have been OK to exit the market at that point, or at least take 50 percent off the table. Once price made a lower low in January 2008, the bearish trend was confirmed. At this point, long positions should have been exited by now and shorts entered.

2. With a moving average, the daily variations in the market are smoothed out and it is easier to spot trends. During that same period from 2007 into 2008, you can see how the 50 and 200 day moving average changed, providing a valid reason to sell in late 2007.  Note when the crossover occurred when the red line crossed below the blue line in November 2007.

There is never any reason to hold through a bear market. As the bear market begins to lose strength and changes trend again (average about 15 months), then you'll see the same signs, but in reverse, telling you to get back in. 

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