Fabulous February Taunting The Ides of March

By Andrew Nyquist
The 2012 global financial markets are roughly two months old and it’s clear that the bulls are having their cake and eating it too. Headlines rage on about “Dow 13K,” “Nasdaq 3000,” and “DAX 7000” – and the party hats are already on pre-order. Current sentiment is high, but proving it can stay elevated for longer than most expect. And, further, with the Nasdaq already up 12.8% YTD and the S&P 500 clocking 9.3% YTD, it shows.

But, it is for this very reason that many are also wondering if the Ides of March will bring some additional volatility, and possibly a near term top. It is with this question in mind that I point you to the true meaning of March: It’s a Grudge Match!  “And fighting out of the red corner… And fighting out of the blue corner…”

You see, the bulls easily forget that they got their teeth kicked in by the bears from April 2011 to September of 2011. And it’s their recent run from October 2011 to February 2011 that has them dancing all over the bears faces. And let’s give the bulls some serious props for managing to turn a typically tough market month of February into a bull dance. They have the momentum and are hoping to pour some salt in the bears wounds. Yet, through it all, many global indices (aside from tech) are back in and around their 2011 highs, and ready for a good old-fashioned grudge match.

But before you choose a side, let’s look at the tale of the tape… it’s sum of the risk factors that will determine the overall level of risk that one takes being bullish, and conversely being bearish into March. Let’s sum up some of these risks:

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Bear risks:

-Technical continuation   Stair step climbing the bullish channel

-European wall of worry continues   Partial resolution that tempers market sentiment, preventing a deeper pullback

-Dollar weakness   Weak dollar tends to benefit equities

-Tech leadership   Investors love the Snazzy Nazzy

-Election Year strength   Self explanatory

-Early March & Triple witching   According to the Stock Trader’s Almanac, both the first week of March and the week of triple witching have leaned bullish in recent years. Note that triple witching is the third Friday of every third month and it includes stock index futures, stock index options, and stock options that all expire on the same day.

Bull Risks:

-Greece Resolution   IMF to discuss Greece at upcoming meeting on March 13. Could lead to disappointment / sell the news event.

-Sentiment Froth / Overbought reading   Stocks remain overbought, but this can only go on for so long without a pullback. Bulls may be feeling a bit too good, especially if early March gives some more love.

-Big Round number trouble   Big round numbers like Dow Jones Industrials 13,000 and Nasdaq 3,000 have historically given the markets trouble, especially upon initial impact.

-Russell 2000 lagging   The small cap index has been caught in a sideways pattern, lagging other major indices. Is this the canary in the coalmine?

-Apple of my eye   If the Apple falls from the tree, the market may not be far from it.

-Technical Inverse Head & Shoulders Targets   The S&P 500 has hit in and around its target 1365-1370 and the Dow has a 13,200 target. That wouldn’t leave much upside, if the formations hold.

So there you have it, a short list of risks on both sides of the ledger. Please feel free to add more in the comments below or send via email. Joking aside, I think March will be an emotional month as both sides dig in and defend their respective views. Because of this, I’m taking the easy way out and betting on a doji candlestick (one of indecision, going both up and down but ending the month near where it started. The wild card for all being a black swan event (something unexpected). Have a great weekend.

Related Reading:  Just What the Heck Happened in 2011?


Your comments and emails are welcome.  Readers can contact me directly at andrew@seeitmarket.com or follow me on Twitter on @andrewnyquist or @seeitmarket.  For current news and updates, be sure to “Like” See It Market on Facebook.  Thank you.

No positions in any of the mentioned securities. Position in S&P 500 and Nasdaq related short index funds SH & PSQ.

Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of his employer or any other person or entity.