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Advance-Decline Lines Confirm New Price Highs

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There are negative divergences on a lot of indicators we track (price makes a new high, but the indicators makes a lower high), but the advance-decline lines for breadth and volume are actually confirming the recent new price highs. This is reassuring but, it does not guarantee that even higher prices are coming.

As Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot by just looking," and there is a lot to see on the following chart which shows the S&P 500 Index advance-decline lines for breadth and volume. I have annotated some of the variations of divergences and confirmations which can occur. Let me briefly discuss them.

First, I generally limit comparisons to periods of no more than about a year, because I don't think that comparisons over long periods are valid. For example, I am not concerned that the current volume level has not exceeded the 2007 volume top.

1999-2000: We had mixed signals. Breadth diverged negatively, while volume confirmed the price high.

2002: There was a reversal divergence on breadth and a negative divergence on volume - a thoroughly negative picture.

2007: There were negative divergences on both breadth and volume. Not a good outcome.

2011: A reversal divergence on breadth and a negative divergence on volume.

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The down-pointing arrows identify some of the times where a new high was confirmed by one or both of the advance-decline indicators. In those instances the price top was followed immediately by a price decline, or the confirmed top was followed shortly by a slightly higher top, marking the high before a significant decline. (Note: There are many other confirmations that resulted in positive outcomes. I'm only trying to illustrate that this not always the case.)

Conclusion: Indicator divergences should always inject a note of caution into our outlook, and it is best when the indicators confirm new price highs, but a confirmation doesn't always mean that there is no immediate danger.

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Carl Swenlin
About the author: is a veteran technical analyst who has been actively engaged in market analysis since 1981. He was the founder of Decisionpoint, one of the web's premier market timing and technical signal services, which was acquired by StockCharts.com in 2013. Carl has contributed his market commentary and expert analysis to StockCharts since then. He is a Member of the CMT Association. Learn More
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