About Andrew Thrasher, CMT

Andrew Thrasher, CMT is a Portfolio Manager for an asset management firm in Central Indiana. He specializes and writes about technical analysis as well as macro economic developments.

Price and Seasonal Weakness Plague Mid Cap Equities

Last week I discussed the growing divergence within the S&P 500 as the largest components of the index were outperforming the smaller $SPX stocks. To continue on that topic, below we’re going to look at the S&P 400 Mid Cap Index.

$MID recent made a run back to its prior 2017 high but was unable to breakout, creating a lower high in momentum, based on the Relative Strength Index. This creates the third major lower high since its December as momentum continues to weaken for this mid cap index.

While the 100-day Moving Average was able to provide some support during the low earlier in the year, price has unable to gain transaction along with the large cap U.S. equities. The bottom panel of the chart shows the relative performance of the S&P 400 vs. the S&P 500. With relative performance having peaked in December, the ratio line has been putting in a series of lower highs as mid caps struggle to keep up. While price is still well off its prior low, relative performance is beginning to creep closer to its 2017 low, a bad sign for mid cap stocks.

Looking at volume on this daily chart, we can see a recent increase in large selling days. In early April we saw three consecutive above-average days of selling as a short-term low was put in for $MID. However, more recently two more days of above-average down volume have taken place – a sign that many traders attribute to institutional selling.

Turning our focus to seasonality, this recent weakness in the mid cap index begins to make a little more season. Based on the below chart from EquityClock, over the last 20 years, the S&P 400 has put in a short-term high in early May before picking back up later in the month

Going forward I’ll be watching to see how $MID acts if price gets back to the prior ’17 low and if the relative performance ratio does in fact set a new low. This period of weakness does align with long-term seasonality and if the seasonal pattern continues to play out we could see mid caps weaken further until later this month.

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

A Growing Divergence in Performance for the S&P 500 Components

As we approach the final days of April, if you were to look back and try to put your finger on a theme for the last four months, one that you may select could be the growing divergence taking place in the S&P 500. What I’m referring to is the separation in performance that appears to be taking place among the largest of the S&P 500 stocks and the less large (smaller?) stocks that round out the index. Eyeing a long-term chart of the equity market there appears to have been a couple previous examples of this taking place, I’ll get into those later. First let’s look at present day…

Below is a chart of the S&P 500 Index (red line) and the ratio between the S&P 500 Equal weight ETF ($RSP) and the S&P 500 ETF ($SPY) which is cap-weighted. (yes I could have used the indices but I, no big reason why I chose not to. I just naturally gravitate to ETFs). I tweeted out this chart yesterday but I wanted to provide a little more commentary to what’s taking place.

When the Black line is rising that is telling us that the Equal Weighted $RSP is rising more (or falling less) than the cap-weighted $SPY, and when it’s declining the opposite is taking place. The latter is what we are seeing play out so far in 2017 with the largest of the S&P 500 components leading the charge higher.

Another instance we saw this play out was in 2012. During the initial bounce off the low in May we saw the S&P 500 begin making higher lows but it was being done on the backs of the largest components – as we can see with the black ratio line making lower highs from May through August. This divergence was ultimately responded with the market as a whole heading to new highs and the smaller S&P companies once again taking the lead.

The reason that we may attention to which parts of the market are leading and lagging is because it provides insight into the level of risk taking that’s occurring within the market. It’s commonly believed that the larger the company’s market cap, the less riskier the stock (obviously there’s plenty of examples of this not being 100% true all the time). When the market is trending higher many bulls want to see the more riskier portions of the market, such as small caps and mid caps show strong relative performance. And one way we can measure that is by looking at which parts of the S&P 500 are showing that relative performance – the largest weighted or the smallest weighted stocks within the index.

Here’s another example a divergence being formed between the two differently weighted ETFs. Let me first say, yes this is showing the 2007 peak in stocks before the Financial Crisis. No, I’m not calling for a long-term top in the S&P 500, this is just another example of a similar divergence. As with many major market peaks, the are lead by a narrowing of breadth, also known as participation. This showed up in the lack of relative strength among the smaller S&P 500 stocks in June 2007 through the rest of the year. And we know how that played out in the next twelve months….

So there are two examples of a growing separation in the largest and smallest stocks that make up everyone’s favorite equity index. One (2012) was resolved with the market going higher and another (2007) that led to a major bear market. Which one will we see? No idea, and there’s no reason we must replicate either of these instances. The important takeaway is the acknowledgement that the largest companies in the index are what have been leading it higher – that’s where bulls seem to be concentrating their efforts.

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.

CNBC and Investopedia Interviews

The response I’ve gotten back from my research on market volatility has so far been really positive and it’s now in the top 1% of papers downloaded at SSRN, which means a lot to me that so many have had a interest in reading my paper. I’ve also had the opportunity to discuss the Dow Award and my research in a couple interviews, which I’ve linked below.

(On a side note, I promise to get back to writing more on the blog – it’s been more a lack of time than a lack of insights I’ve wanted to share with you guys, so hopefully can start producing more content very soon.)

At the MTA Symposium I spent a view minutes talking with JC Parets of All Star Charts for Investopedia.

I also did an interview with Brian Sullivan for CNBC, discussing my work and some of the resent signals of narrowing dispersion in the volatility index.

Meet the Winner of the 2017 Charles H. Dow Award (Investopedia)
A new method for predicting volatility ‘tsunamis’ (CNBC)

Disclaimer: Do not construe anything written in this post or this blog in its entirety as a recommendation, research, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in the blog. Please see my Disclosure page for full disclaimer. Connect with Andrew on Google+, Twitter, and StockTwits.