Head & Shoulders Pattern in Small Caps

There seems to be a lot of discussion about the current bearish pattern that’s taking place in the Russell 2000 ($IWM). While there are likely tens if not hundreds of price patterns found throughout technical analysis, few are as popular or often discussed as the Head & Shoulders pattern. There is good reason for is this as it has lead to some major declines in financial markets. For example there was a Head & Shoulders pattern that lead to the peak in the Dow back in 2007.

Should we be concerned about this bearish pattern? Does it hold any relevance? One good resource is thepatternsite.com, which does a great job looking at the data of varies candlestick and price patterns. According to Bulkowski’s analysis, the Head & Shoulder pattern ranks number 1 among 21 well-known pricing patterns. This is based on the 4% failure rate and 22% average decline calculated by Thomas Bulkowski.

So it appears we may have good reason to take these types of setups seriously, so what defines a Head & Shoulders top? There are few better resources to turn to than Robert Edwards and John Magee’s, Technical Analysis of Stock Trends – often considered the bible of Technical Analysis. Edwards and Magee seem to agree with Bulkowski stating in their book, “This [the Head & Shoulders] is one of the more common, and by all odds, the most reliable of the major Reversal Patterns.”

They continue in their writing to define what they believe is the “ideal” Head & Shoulders top:

A. A strong rally, climaxing a more or less extensive advance, on which trading volume becomes very heavy.

B. Another high-volume advance which reaches a higher level than the top of the left shoulder, and then another reaction on less volume which takes price down to somewhere near the bottom level of the preceding recession.

C. A third rally, but this time on decidedly less volume than accompanied the formation of either the left shoulder or the head, which falls to reach the high of the head before another decline sets in.

D. Finally, decline of price in this third recession down through a line (the “neckline”) drawn across the Bottoms of the reactions between the left shoulder and head, and the head and right shoulder, respectively and a close below that line by an amount approximately equivalent to 3% of the stock’s market price. This it he “confirmation” or “breakout.”

We now know what we are looking for with respect to the bearish reversal pattern in $IWM. Now lets see if the latest price action meets the above mentioned criteria. Below is a daily chart of the iShares Russell 2000 ETF ($IWM). I’ve marked the two shoulders and the head as well as the horizontal neckline at $108.

In the bottom panel we can see that volume has been declining with the formation of the head and right shoulder. Based on the work done by Edwards and Magee, we would need to see a breakdown to roughly $104.76, which would be 3% under the neckline. Volume on the break can also be an important ‘tell’ as bears will be looking for a strong move on heavy volume to help confirm and complete the pattern.

IWMWith this type of pattern we can calculate the expected measured move by looking at the distance from the head of the pattern to the neckline. This would take us nearly 10% low down to $98. However, it’s important to note as Bulkowski stated, only 55% of the patterns actually complete their expected measured move.

While these types of patterns garner much attention nothing matters until the neckline is broken, which Edwards and Magee point out that roughly 20% of necklines are “saved,” meaning the pattern is not 100% completed. Going forward I’ll be watching the $108 level and see if we get a break on heavily volume and if price is able to drop to $104 to confirm the move is not in fact a false breakdown. But until then we must be a patient.

Source: Technical Analysis of Stock Trends by Robert D. Edwards and John Magee (ninth edition)
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.

Weekly Technical Market Outlook 9/8/2014

It has been a couple of weeks since I’ve written a Technical Market Outlook, so it’s good to get back to updating these charts again. Last week the S&P 500 ($SPX) finished 0.22% higher, the Russell 2000 ($IWM) ended the week down 0.15%, and Emerging Markets ($EEM) had a strong finish, closing out on Friday up 1.75%.


As the S&P 500 continues to head higher and hit new highs, the trend is of course still positive. We remain above both the 20-day and 100-day Moving Averages as well as the long-term trend line.


As the equity market has been strong over the last couple of weeks, we have seen momentum apparently hit some headwinds. A small divergence has developed in the Relative Strength Index as well as the MACD indicators on the daily time frame. While the momentum indicators have not begun turning lower, they have also not confirmed the new highs seen in price.


Treasury Yield

On July 10th I tweeted the below chart showing the divergence that was taking place between the 10-year Treasury Yield and the ratio between the U.S. Dollar and Emerging Market Currency Bonds. Jeff Gundlach once said that he watches the relationship between the U.S. dollar and emerging market’s as a leading indicator for the direction of U.S. Treasury yields. Back in July the ratio between the Dollar and Currency Bonds was heading lower, which ultimately followed by the continued drop in the 10-year Yield to.

Now we are seeing the correlation between the 10-year Yield ($TNX) and the ratio once again break down as the dollar strengthens against Emerging Market Currency Bonds with $TNX not responding in-kind. While the 10-Year Treasury Yield has found support at the 100-day Moving Average, I’ll be watching to see if it begins to react to the rise in the dollar against emerging market currency’s or if this divergence becomes more severe.

usd emerging bonds


Like momentum, we have a slight divergence in the NYSE Common Stock-Only Advance-Decline Line, which has yet to take out its previous high. However, I will note that the S&P 500 ($SPY) Advance-Decline Line (not shown) has confirmed the new high. We are also not seeing much strength in the Percentage of Stocks Above Their 200-Day Moving Averages, as the indicator remains under 70%.


60-Minute S&P 500

Looking at the intraday price action of the S&P 500 ($SPX) the strength in price does not appear to be being confirmed in the RSI or MACD momentum indicators. We last saw an example of this in Late July which led to price dropping a couple of percent and eventually creating a bullish divergence in momentum and sending price right back and to a new high. 1990 has acted as support recently, so that’s the level I’ll be watching if price does weaken this week. If we can’t hold on to that then price may see some more selling.

60 min

Small Caps

Dana Lyons has become one of my favorite follows on Twitter and Tumblr accounts to follow. Dana produces some really interesting research and is someone definitely worth a follow. Last week Dana wrote an interesting post looking at the duration of the divergence between small and large cap indices. While this topic of lack of confirmation in small caps has gotten discussed quite a bit this year, the length of time of the divergence, based on the work done by Lyons’, actually doesn’t lend itself to a complete bearish argument. Dana writes that  the “Long-duration S&P 500-Russell 2000 divergences have not led to the calamitous types of events one often hears warnings about. 10 of the 11 such historical precedents have led to only moderate hiccups in the market. The two most similar to our present divergence, however, have had split results, including a bear market.”

The chart below shows the previous examples of previous 100+ day divergences between small and large caps while the large caps were making new 52-week highs.

Small cap divergence

Last Week Sector Performance

Once again, Utilities ($XLU) lead the way last week, followed by Consumer Staples ($XLP) and Financials ($XLF). The Energy ($XLE) sector was the big under-performer for the week, followed by Materials ($XLB) and Technology ($XLK).

sector week

Sector Performance Year-to-Date

While Utilities had faulted a couple of weeks ago, it has moved back to being the best performing sector YTD as it just barely beats out Health Care ($XLV). Consumer Discretionary ($XLY) and Industrials ($XLI) round out the bottom of the pack.

sector YTD

Source:  Is the duration of the small cap divergence a concern? (Dana Lyons)

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.

Will Small Caps Continue To Weaken?

Understanding where weakness and strength are coming from is often a critical component in analyzing the stock market. Right now it looks like Small Caps are one of the ugliest pigs in the pin. On its face value, the Russell 2000 iShares ETF ($IWM), looks fine:  It’s near its all-time high, in a clear up trend and above its major moving averages. It’s when we look under the hood of the car that we can see what’s going on with the Small Caps.

The chart I’ll be talking about today is a weekly chart $IWM going back to 2007.

I’m going this far back to show past examples and compare them to today of when Small Caps have come under fire. Looking at the peak in 2007 we can see that $IWM created a double top at $77.50, very similar to what happened in 2011 and the current price action.

In this piece I continue to discuss the other similarities between the 2007 and 2011 high compared to the current price action.

To see the chart and to keep reading: Will Small Caps Continue To Weaken? (See It Market)