The Road To Hell

The biggest news yesterday was not that the Fed once again chickened out and left the federal funds rates untouched at zero. I could have told you that ahead of time. And guess what – I actually did on several occasions. No, real big shocker yesterday was some very carefully worded mention of negative interest rates. Say what? The sheer fact that these three words were uttered by Mrs. Yellen during her address speaks bounds about the growing fear deep inside the bowels of 33 Liberty St.


Who of us would have thought a year ago that we would be entertaining the thought of NIRP instead of raising interest rates perhaps for the second or third time by now? And that exactly is the crux of the matter isn’t it? There is absolutely no predicting as to what Fed will do next as its actions appear to be not only reactive but also fearful of causing a market dislocation years after resorting to ZIRP.


The big paradox however is that this is exactly what we may be getting. Had the Fed been crystal clear about the possibility of NIRP to begin with then it would have been part of the equation for investors and traders like us. And I’m not saying all this to complain – rather it’s to make a very important point. Clearly market participants are throwing in the towel here as confusion now reigns high. Overnight equity futures across the board have sold off heavily and one wonders if the speculators are now taunting Mrs. Yellen to cross the Rubicon and bring about NIRP.

You may have heard the old saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The deeper meaning of which is that a series of well meant decisions can sometimes put you on the path of accomplishing the exact opposite of what you set out to do to begin with. By mention of NIRP during a time when an interest rate hike was on the roster the Fed now has clearly signaled that it is afraid of a major market dislocation. Whether or not we will ever see NIRP is beside the point here. What matters is that we should continue to expect seeing the level of intra-day volatility we all have come to enjoy so much over the past year. And as traders that affects our daily reality quite profoundly. At minimum it means wider stops, smaller position sizing (those two usually go hand in hand), different campaign management (e.g. closer trail), and very stringent capital commitment guidelines (e.g. correlations, markets, etc.).


On to the setups: The EUR/USD is a possible long while it’s hovering near 1.4. In my mind that has been a long time coming and unless we hear some jawboning by Mr. Draghi in the near future I thing my days of enjoying a favorable exchange rate may have come to an end now. Just looking at the daily panel screams short squeeze to me. Of course the ECB could smash this chart in a heartbeat but thus far I have not seen/heard anything.

If we drop below 1.4 I’ll try to ride it lower back to the 100-hour SMA. But that one thus far has served as support quite well, and if that one gives I think the 25-day SMA is where the Euro specs will once again make their stand.

A few more goodies below the fold:

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Only The Paranoid Survive

Originally attributed to Any Grove, the founder of Intel Corporation, this has remained one of my favorite quotes and one that has kept me out of trouble over and over again in my time spent as a trader. It always pays to watch your six and if you think you live in turbulent times after following the ongoing Grexit saga over the weekend then think again. Here’s a quote by Andy which summarizes the first twenty years of his life:

By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a period of chaotic democracy in the years immediately after the war, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint. . . [where] many young people were killed; countless others were interned. Some two hundred thousand Hungarians escaped to the West. I was one of them.

So however bad you think you have it – think again. Things could be a lot worse. Of course not to diminish the situation in Greece right now. I often image myself living there, unemployed, broke, and standing in line in the smoldering summer heat trying to pull my last few Euros out of my bank account. In comparison I live a rather a sheltered existence – which of course could change at a moment’s notice (I reside in Spain). Which is why I personally employ a mixture of living in the now bundled with basic preparation and diversification.


And that should be a standard policy given what I expect in the months ahead. After indecision and a six months + sideways churn we are now seeing successive gapping action across various market verticals. That is not a sign of a healthy market and the wheels could come off here at any moment. So just because the almost reflexive BTFD perhaps worked for you last week doesn’t mean it’s a good idea moving forward.


Be cautious and avoid charts which signal uncertainty – the EUR/USD certainly is one of them. Given the weekend headlines the drop back to 1.1 is actually rather mild, just like when we gapped here last week. But we could see a huge jump or drop here at a moment’s notice (without the notice), and it won’t have anything to do with technical inflection points but rather political brinksmanship played for months/years finally coming to a sudden resolution. Remember that six sigma events happen when we don’t expect them. People have expected one for months here – and perhaps it will happen when everyone thinks the situation has been resolved. I personally don’t have a crystal ball but I do know a dangerous chart when I see one.


You could get lucky and catch the right direction or you could find your trading account severely diminished one morning. To see the five year bonds paint such gaps is certainly disconcerting – especially if you understand how damn huge the bond market is (almost twice that of all equities combined). Gaps like that cost a lot of people a lot of money…


Of course there are still charts out there which seem to benefit from the overall increase in volatility but aren’t flagging alert signals. The AUD/USD did a bit of gapping down but makes for a decent short term long this morning. However I’ll be pretty nimble here in the coming days – meaning small position sizing and being quick to take profits.


Soybeans on a rampage – we did ride some of that beautiful advance recently. After an obligatory 3.0+ standard deviation reversion it may be ready to continue its way higher. I’m long 1/2R here with a stop below 1016. However I’m only playing half an R because…

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… I also like soybean meal. It’s facing an hourly NLBL plus its 100-hour SMA. No guarantee for a low but as good a chance as any we’ll get technically speaking. So I’m long another 1/2R with a stop below 342.


Natgas – it’s always been a volatile bitch but compared with equities it seems almost serene these days. At least we’re seeing clear trading ranges and it seems to be observing LT support levels. Which is why I’m trying 1/2R long here with a stop below 2.73.


AUD/NZD is my final victim for now – I like the combination of the daily and hourly charts. However I could be a bit early here so I’m only taking 1/2R. I would try again with a full position if it drops lower and kisses its 25-day SMA.


That ought to keep you guys entertained for a while. See you guys later this afternoon.


Wrapping Up The Year

And here we are – the last trading session of 2014. It’s been an exciting year to say the least with plenty of nasty traps along the way. But we made it through just fine, consistently banking coin all year, by simply sticking to our guns (i.e. charts) and of course by persistently honing our game. Trading is a constant arms race and stagnation equals slow death – the sharks are constantly circling. I for sure am a better trader today than I was last time I drafted my final post for the year. I am glad you all were along for the ride and hope your accounts are better for it. Now let’s wrap things up Evil Speculator style – with an exhaustive long term perspective of where we’ve been and what the new year may hold in store for us.


We have a lot of contenders but the most salient chart of the year clearly was crude. Rarely have I witnessed such a concerted and systematic sell off, even in futures. I say rarely because if you look back it has happened once before in 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. That drop took us from over 140 all the way to 40. But this time was completely different in that we didn’t see any major market dislocations and in my mind this clearly was a message to Putin from our friends at the State Department.


Which makes it a bit harder to propose any technical support levels – many have tried and failed over the past few months (I wasn’t one of them – knowing the cost of engaging in long term predictions). However there are inherent dynamics in the production and supply chain of crude which suggest that prices below the 50 mark would be difficult to maintain for extended periods.

Our P&F chart originally suggested a price objective of 82, which has been far exceeded. So technically speaking we don’t have much to hang our hats on and it’s quite possible that we may see an exhaustion spike lower before crude is ready to paint a floor. Plus we just triggered a bearish triangle break down two days ago and that’s not the time you want to start accumulating long positions. Remember that markets can remain ‘irrational’ a lot longer than you can remain solvent – that rule applies to both the up and downside. By all means buy the fear but make sure you have at least some technical context to back you up.


It’s not been an easy ride in equities this year and by all definitions we are in the late stages of an historic five year bull market. But it’s those late stage that often prove to be the most treacherous, as they are paved with increasing volatility on both the up and down side. The 25-week SMA was tested five times this year but the bears only managed to breach it once. It was the most serious medium term correction we had seen since late 2012 but the counter response speaks to the more volatile market conditions we should also expect for 2015.


A few weeks ago I posted this P&F chart and mused that the rallies proceeded faster and more violent than the preceding corrections. Usually, meaning 95% of the time, it’s the other way around and there’s a reason why they call it the ‘wall of worry’ and the ‘slope of hope’. Medium and long term bull markets grind higher and then eventually correct relatively quick. A contrary situation implies that we are indeed in the late stages of a bull market. So I don’t think 2015 is going to be an easy year for equities. Now for us evil speculators this may actually be good news as there will be plenty of opportunities to play the swings. To all you investors however I suggest that you prepare yourself for rougher waters ahead.

Quite a bit more waiting below the fold – secret decoder ring required.

More charts and commentary below for anyone donning a secret decoder ring. If you are interested in becoming a Gold member then don't waste time and sign up here. And if you are a Zero subscriber you get free access to all Gold posts, which gives you double the bang for your buck!

Please login or subscribe here to see the remainder of this post.


And with that I would like to wish all my readers and in particular all my intrepid subscribers a very happy near year. Prosperous? Well, that goes without saying, after all that’s what we are here for. Scott and I will be continue to work hard to steer you through the coming year, banking coin as always, and most definitely enjoying a few good laughs on the way.


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