ChartWatchers Newsletter

Kickin' It Up Globally

In my Chartwatchers article for March 4th, I was focused on some Country Indexes like Germany's $DAX and India's $BSE. The commentary revolved around watching these markets for potential breakouts. You can follow this link to check it out. 5 Foreign Markets Are At Must Watch Levels. There was a big push in overseas markets on the back of the Fed meeting and the following day. Rather than show the foreign markets, it might be better to point to some ETF's that are investable here.

The iShares Germany ETF (EWG) is pushing higher this week and looks to be breaking out of a wide base.

Continue reading "Kickin' It Up Globally" »

Ignoring Signals is the First Step to Taking Signals - How Well do you Know MACD?

 Two Indicators in One

Indicators generate lots of signals and many of these signals are just noise. It is imperative that chartists understand how their indicators work and exactly what these indicators are saying. Understanding the ins and outs of an indicator will help chartists determine which signals to take seriously and which signals to ignore. Today we will look at MACD, one of the most popular momentum indicators. 

MACD, which stands for moving average convergence divergence, measures the convergence and divergence of two exponential moving averages by subtracting the longer EMA from the shorter EMA. The moving average crossovers make MACD a trend indicator, while the moving average differential adds a momentum aspect. In fact, MACD is really two indicators in one. 

MACD as a Trend Indicator

Moving averages are classic trend indicators and MACD can be used to identify moving average crossovers. The trend turns up when a shorter moving average moves above a longer moving average and down when a shorter moving average moves below a longer moving average. Using the default settings, this means MACD turns positive when the 12-period EMA moves above the 26-period EMA and negative when the 12-period EMA moves below the 26-period EMA. Thus, MACD, in its purest form, is simply a trend indicator that identifies moving average crossovers. The chart below shows Accenture with MACD turning positive  (uptrend) and negative (downtrend). Notice that the EMA crossovers coincide with MACD crossing the zero line. 

MACD as a Momentum Indicator

The convergence and divergence of these moving averages captures the momentum aspect of MACD. The chart below shows Medtronic with four different combinations. The first two examples show MACD moving from uptrend to downtrend (positive to negative). First, the positive difference between the two EMAs is narrowing when MACD is in positive territory and falling. This means upside momentum is slowing, but the trend is still up. Second, the negative difference between the EMAs is widening when MACD is in negative territory and falling. A downtrend with increasing downside momentum is the most bearish combination for MACD. 

The next two examples show a move from downtrend to uptrend (negative MACD to positive MACD). First, the negative difference between the two EMAs is narrowing when MACD is in negative territory and rising. This means downside momentum is slowing, but the trend is still down. Second, the positive difference between the EMAs is widening when MACD is in positive territory and rising. An uptrend and increasing upside momentum is the most bullish combination for MACD.  

Beware of Trends that are Simply Slowing

The momentum aspect of MACD is a double-edged sword. Decelerating momentum seems to warn of a an impending trend reversal, but does not always result in an actual trend reversal. The chart below shows Microsoft with MACD and the MACD signal line, which is a 9-period EMA of MACD. First, notice that MACD surged in July when the stock surged over 20% and then plunged in August when the stock traded flat. This is typical for momentum oscillators because they gravitate towards the centerline during a consolidation or flat trading period. This can be expected because momentum is essentially flat during a trading range. Thus, a surge-plunge sequence in MACD is not always bearish because a consolidation after a sharp advance is just a rest designed to alleviate overbought conditions. 

Looking further down the chart, Microsoft traded flat into October and then resumed its advance with a gap. Again, MACD surged as upside momentum accelerated and then fell back as momentum decelerated the next five weeks.  Upside momentum in late November was not as strong as in late October, but MACD was still positive and the trend was still up. The same thing happened in December as MACD surged, fell back and flattened. Again, upside momentum in February was not as strong as in December, but the trend was still up and decelerating momentum did not derail the uptrend. 

Keep the Big Trend in Focus

Chartists must also analyze the actual price chart to put MACD signals into perspective. MACD, after all, is just an indicator and indicators are secondary to price action. The chart below shows Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) breaking down in May with a move below support and the 200-day SMA. The long-term trend was clearly down at this stage and this means chartists should ignore bullish signals. In other words, do not fight the bigger downtrend. Even though MACD turned positive from mid July to late August, a look at the price chart revealed a bounce back to broken support, which turned into resistance. ANF was just retracing a portion of the prior decline with a counter-trend bounce. 

MACD fell sharply when ANF plunged in late August and then started moving higher in October. Downside momentum decelerated and MACD even edged into positive territory in late November. The move into positive territory was not a robust signal because the bigger trend was down. Conversely, the subsequent moves back below zero were robust signals (gray oval) and foreshadowed a move to new lows in the stock. 

Qualify Signal Line Crossovers

The signal line crossover is by far the most prevalent signal - and the most dangerous. MACD can cross its signal line at the high end of its range, at the low end and in the middle. This means signal line crossovers should be qualified with other chart information. At the very least, chartist should consider signal line crossovers when MACD is near the centerline (zero line), not when MACD is at extremes. Consider bearish signal line crossovers when price is below the 200-day moving average and MACD is near the zero line. Consider bullish signal line crossovers when price is above the 200-day moving average and MACD is near the zero line. 


MACD and other momentum indicators can add value to the analysis process, but chartists must first understand what they are implying and when to ignore signals. Decelerating upside momentum does not always lead to a sustainable trend reversal. Similarly, decelerating downside momentum does not always reverse the downtrend. Even crosses of the centerline should be viewed in context with the bigger trend. In short, chartists should focus on robust bullish signals when the bigger trend is up and robust bearish signals when the bigger trend is down. Ignore the rest! 

Follow me on Twitter @arthurhill  - Keep up with my 140 character commentaries.

Thanks for tuning in and have a good day!
--Arthur Hill CMT

Plan your Trade and Trade your Plan

Two-Year Treasury Yield Reaches Seven-Year High, Dollar Turns Up

Chart 1 shows the 2-Year Treasury yield climbing above 1.30% on Thursday, for the first time in seven years. That shorter term yield is more sensitive to the potential for a rate hike than longer-range maturities. That suggests that fixed income traders are taking expectations for a March rate hike by the Fed more seriously. Fed fund futures Wednesday placed the odds for a March hike near 66%. That suggests that bond yields in general are probably headed higher as well. That's also giving a big boost to the U.S. dollar.

Chart 2 shows the U.S. Dollar Index ETF (UUP) climbing to the highest level in six weeks. The dollar is following the 2-Year Treasury yield higher on increased expectations for a March rate hike. Chart-wise, the UUP was due for an upturn anyway. Previous messages showed the UUP having retraced 50% of its August/January rally, which put it in a logical support point. Chart 2 also shows "gap support" formed in mid-November right after the election (see box). One final point. The numerals show that the UUP has been in a "wave four" Elliott wave correction since the start of the year. Uptrends usually have five waves. That makes the 2017 decline a correction in an ongoing uptrend. That increases the odds that a "wave five" advance is starting.

5 Foreign Markets Are At Must Watch Levels

The USA has been a bit of an island in terms of the global markets. It continues to push above previous all-time-highs and usually leads global markets higher. This week is an interesting week as Germany, India, Canada, and Australia are all trying to break through to new highs. Notice the spike in the German market on the last high in 2015. It rolled over the next week and it has taken two years to get back there. India in the lower panel is trying to close at new 52-week highs. India is about a 1100 points from all time highs.

Continue reading "5 Foreign Markets Are At Must Watch Levels" »

Treasury Yields Rising As Home Construction Breaks To 10 Year High

The FOMC will be meeting to discuss a potential rate hike in less than two weeks.  A hike would continue the hawkish tone that began when the FOMC increased interest rates in December 2015 for the first time in nine years.  It was about six months later that the 10 year treasury yield ($TNX) began its ascent after first printing a double bottom.  Check out this 10 year weekly chart:

Continue reading "Treasury Yields Rising As Home Construction Breaks To 10 Year High" »

Actual Price Action versus Relative Price Action

The price relative tells us how a stock is performing relative to a market benchmark, such as the S&P 500. Even though this relative performance indicator is good for measuring relative momentum, it does not always tell the entire story. A stock can show weakness in relative momentum, but still have a bullish chart and a bullish setup worth taking. Let’s investigate further. 

Chartists can measure relative performance by plotting a ratio of two symbols. This ratio plot is also known as the price relative or the relative strength comparative. The BA:SPY ratio shows us how Boeing is performing relative to the S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Boeing is rising at a faster rate (outperforming) when this ratio rises because the numerator (BA) is increasing relative to the denominator (SPY). Conversely, Boeing is falling at a faster rate (underperforming) when this ratio falls. The chart below shows Boeing underperforming SPY from late March to mid September as the price relative (BA:SPY ratio) fell. Boeing started outperforming in the second half of September as the price relative turned up. 

Continue reading "Actual Price Action versus Relative Price Action" »

Chart Spotlight: Exxon-Mobil (XOM) Reveals Possibilities

During the DecisionPoint Report webinars I've added a "chart spotlight". For those of you who were members of the original DecisionPoint website, you probably remember Carl's "Chart Spotlight" on Fridays. Viewers and readers offer up some symbol suggestions via Twitter (@_DecisionPoint) and I determine, based on the chart, whether there is useful information to glean using our trusty Price Momentum Oscillator (PMO) and Trend Models. Last Wednesday a viewer suggested I look at Exxon-Mobil (XOM). It was a great suggestion! Lots of information to be gained looking at the daily and weekly charts for XOM.

Continue reading "Chart Spotlight: Exxon-Mobil (XOM) Reveals Possibilities" »

Patience in an Overbought Market

The rise in the major indexes since the election has been stunning. The S&P alone is up over 15% in just over 3 months. That would be a terrific year by any measure. The Dow was up 18% since the election at its all time high on Wednesday, And the NASDAQ was up 17% during the same period when it hit its all time high on Wednesday.

In looking at the Dow I am seeing things that I haven't seen since 1987, 2000 and 2007. In other words, overbought technicals that come along rarely. Just look at the chart below and you will see that at its high last week the Dow had stochastics of close to 100 and a RSI of near 90. And it's the second time in just a few months the Dow got so overbought and lasted for a lot of days in a row, the most recent 13 straight days higher, something that has not happened since 1987 when the market experienced a major correction.

We all know that the market can remain overbought for an extended period of time; we're witnessing that right now. But being so extended makes it very tricky to get aggressive to the long side when the market could correct significantly with traders' holding the bag.

This is why we have gotten very defensive at EarningsBeats, holding off issuing any new trading alerts for the past few weeks now. There's no way I would short this power house of a market so the next best thing is moving to cash - which is a position - which is exactly what we have done. This can result in some frustrating moments like when the Dow surges 300 points in one day. But that was followed by a 100+ point down day as traders started to smell a near term top.

I've decided to conduct a Webinar this Tuesday, March 7 at 4:30 PM eastern. I will be joined by Senior Technical Analyst Tom Bowley and we will be talking about stocks that recently beat earnings expectations and could be strong trading candidates, especially on any pullback, as well as the overall market in general; a snapshot review. In fact, we will be adding over 100 stocks to our "Candidate Tracker" of stocks that beat earnings expectations that will be made available to our members and will share some of those with webinar participants. If you want to join us for this Free Webinar just click here to register. We expect a packed house so try to sign up soon.

It is very tempting to jump all in when the market is rising and showing such powerful momentum. But when the market gets too overbought you've got to be patient, not worrying about missing every penny. Having cash ready to deploy on a pullback makes a lot of sense and if done right can be quite profitable.

At your service,

John Hopkins