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The Catalyst Is Clear, The Direction Is Not image

If the action seen over past couple weeks has told us anything, it is that (a) the worries over global growth have dissipated and (b) there appears to be some trepidation over the state of the current earnings season.

The first part of this analysis explains why stocks have blasted higher since the end of September (to the tune of +7.2% in just 9 days). Sure, short-covering probably had a LOT to do with the initial move - especially after the "retest" of the August low turned out to be successful. And according to BlackRock, investors were also excited about the Trans-Pacific Partnership as anything that will help global growth looks like it is being welcomed with open arms at this stage of the game.

However, just about the time traders dressed in their bull costumes began to break into a rousing chorus of "Happy Days Are Here Again," the short-covering/oil-induced rally suddenly stalled. And given that the bulls have tried but failed to break on through to the other side of the 2020 area on the S&P 500 for three consecutive sessions (with yesterday's action being particularly disappointing), it would appear that there is now a clear line of resistance.

The chart below marks the lines in the sand that each team has to deal with.

S&P 500 - Daily

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I will posit that the sudden loss of momentum seen over the past 3 days coincides with the start of the meat of the Q3 earnings parade. And with stocks positioned very close to what is now an important line in the sand (i.e. the resistance zone at 2020), it is highly likely that the quarterly results from the big names in the S&P will be the catalyst for the next important move - in one direction or the other.

Here's What We Know

So, with earnings looking to be the pivotal data in the next couple of weeks, it is probably a good idea to have an understanding of what traders are looking for.

First, recognize that expectations for earnings growth - or more appropriately, the lack thereof - have been falling hard for a couple months now. It wasn't that long ago that analysts were looking for combined earnings on the S&P 500 to be down 1% on a year-over-year basis in Q3. However, fast-forward to this week and analysts are now expecting to see earnings fall by 5.1%.

Next, we should note that much of the anticipated decline in earnings can be blamed on one area - the oil patch. But according to FactSet, if one looks beyond the energy sector, earnings are expected to come in flat at best. So, we can't simply blame all the bad news on oil.

Then there is the greenback. Assuming that the trend from last quarter continues (and it certainly has in the reports so far), there will be no shortage of CFO's blaming their shortfalls on "currency headwinds." So, in addition to oil, we will want to see how much blame the dollar takes this quarter.

In addition to declines in earnings, analysts now project that revenues will also experience a decline during the quarter. Remember that while EPS (earnings per share) are easily "manufactured" these days, revenues are much harder to fudge. Thus, watching the revenue results will continue to be important in the coming weeks.

And finally, we should remember that earnings also declined in the second quarter. So, if Q3 results come in as anticipated, it will mean that earnings will experience their first back-to-back quarterly decline since 2009.

The Bottom Line

The key here is to recognize that none of the above is new. It's simply the degree of the earnings shortfall that is now in question. Therefore, traders will be very interested to see if Wall Street analysts, who, for the record, rarely get their earnings projections even close to reality, have overdone it to the downside yet.

So, if the earnings season winds up being "not as bad as expected," we would not be surprised to see stocks rally a bit.

However, on the flipside, if the season is weaker than the street is looking for, disappointment might be the order of the day and some additional "price discovery" to the downside can be expected.

Then again, if reading earnings reports is not your thing, one can always just watch the lines in the sand. For in this business, the reason behind the move isn't always terribly important. No, it's getting the move right that matters.

The Pre-Game Indicators

Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...

Major Foreign Markets:
    Japan: -1.89%
    Hong Kong: -0.71%
    Shanghai: -0.95%
    London: -0.49%
    Germany: -0.49%
    France: -0.14%
    Italy: -0.45%
    Spain: -0.01%

Crude Oil Futures: +$0.04 to $46.70

Gold: +$0.70 at $1166.10

Dollar: lower against the yen and pound, higher vs. euro

10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.041%

Stock Indices in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    S&P 500: +1.85
    Dow Jones Industrial Average: +7
    NASDAQ Composite: +6.45

Thought For The Day:

Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can. -Richard Bach

Current Market Drivers

We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).

      1. The State of China/Global Growth
      2. The State of the Earnings Season
      3. The State of Fed Policy
      4. The State of the U.S. Economy

The State of the Trend

We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 6 months, and long-term as 6 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:

Short-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)

Intermediate-Term Trend: Moderately Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)

Long-Term Trend: Neutral
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 2 years)

Key Technical Areas:

Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:

  • Key Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 1995
  • Key Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): 2020

The State of the Tape

Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...

  • Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator (Short-Term): Positive
  • Price Thrust Indicator: Positive
  • Volume Thrust Indicator(NASDAQ): Positive
  • Breadth Thrust Indicator (NASDAQ): Positive
  • Intermediate-Term Bull/Bear Volume Relationship: Negative
  • Technical Health of 100+ Industry Groups: Moderately Positive

The Early Warning Indicators

Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.

  • S&P 500 Overbought/Oversold Conditions:
          - Short-Term: Overbought
          - Intermediate-Term: Moderately Oversold
  • Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is Neutral .

The State of the Market Environment

One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward.

  • Weekly Market Environment Model Reading: Neutral

Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

David D. Moenning
Founder and Chief Investment Strategist
Heritage Capital Research


Indicator Explanations

Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator (Short-Term) Explained: History shows the most reliable market moves tend to occur when the breadth indices are in gear with the major market averages. When the breadth measures diverge, investors should take note that a trend reversal may be at hand. This indicator incorporates an All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 5-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 25-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +32.5% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost +23.6% per year.

Price Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator measures the 3-day rate of change of the Value Line Composite relative to the standard deviation of the 30-day average. When the Value Line's 3-day rate of change have moved above 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day average ROC, a "thrust" occurs and since 2000, the Value Line Composite has gained ground at a rate of +20.6% per year. When the indicator is below 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day, the Value Line has lost ground at a rate of -10.0% per year. And when neutral, the Value Line has gained at a rate of +5.9% per year.

Volume Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses NASDAQ volume data to indicate bullish and bearish conditions for the NASDAQ Composite Index. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of NASDAQ daily advancing volume (i.e., the total volume traded in stocks which rose in price each day) to the 10-day total of daily declining volume (volume traded in stocks which fell each day). This ratio indicates when advancing stocks are attracting the majority of the volume (readings above 1.0) and when declining stocks are seeing the heaviest trading (readings below 1.0). This indicator thus supports the case that a rising market supported by heavier volume in the advancing issues tends to be the most bullish condition, while a declining market with downside volume dominating confirms bearish conditions. When in a positive mode, the NASDAQ Composite has gained at a rate of +38.3% per year, When neutral, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when negative, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -8.5% per year.

Breadth Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses the number of NASDAQ-listed stocks advancing and declining to indicate bullish or bearish breadth conditions for the NASDAQ Composite. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of the number of stocks rising on the NASDAQ each day to the 10-day total of the number of stocks declining each day. Using 10-day totals smooths the random daily fluctuations and gives indications on an intermediate-term basis. As expected, the NASDAQ Composite performs much better when the 10-day A/D ratio is high (strong breadth) and worse when the indicator is in its lower mode (weak breadth). The most bullish conditions for the NASDAQ when the 10-day A/D indicator is not only high, but has recently posted an extreme high reading and thus indicated a thrust of upside momentum. Bearish conditions are confirmed when the indicator is low and has recently signaled a downside breadth thrust. In positive mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +22.1% per year since 1981. In a neutral mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +14.5% per year. And when in a negative mode, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -6.4% per year.

Bull/Bear Volume Relationship Explained: This indicator plots both "supply" and "demand" volume lines. When the Demand Volume line is above the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bullish. From 1981, the stock market has gained at an average annual rate of +11.7% per year when in a bullish mode. When the Demand Volume line is below the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bearish. When the indicator has been bearish, the market has lost ground at a rate of -6.1% per year.

Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups Explained: Designed to provide a reading on the technical health of the overall market, this indicator takes the technical temperature of more than 100 industry sectors each week. Looking back to early 1980, when the model is rated as "positive," the S&P has averaged returns in excess of 23% per year. When the model carries a "neutral" reading, the S&P has returned over 11% per year. But when the model is rated "negative," stocks fall by more than -13% a year on average.

Weekly State of the Market Model Reading Explained:Different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Market Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.


Disclosures

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Moenning's opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations. The analysis and information in this report is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed nor any Portfolio constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program.

Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her investment adviser. Do NOT ever purchase any security without doing sufficient research. There is no guarantee that the investment objectives outlined will actually come to pass. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Neither the editor, employees, nor any of their affiliates shall have any liability for any loss sustained by anyone who has relied on the information provided.

The analysis provided is based on both technical and fundamental research and is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Although the information contained is derived from sources which are believed to be reliable, they cannot be guaranteed.

David D. Moenning is the owner of Heritage Capital Management (HCM) a registered investment adviser. Advisory services are offered through Heritage Capital Management, Inc. For a complete description of investment risks, fees and services review the HCM firm brochure (ADV Part 2) which is available from your Investment Representative or by contacting HeritageHCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Neither HCM or Heritage is registered as a broker-dealer.

Employees and affiliates of Heritage and HCM may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Editors will indicate whether they or Heritage/HCM has a position in stocks or other securities mentioned in any publication. The disclosures will be accurate as of the time of publication and may change thereafter without notice.

Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.