Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Is the Dow Rally a New Impulse Wave or a Bull Trap?

The Dow Industrials average has been on a tear since November 7th, rising over 990 points in two-weeks.  The question we have to ask, though, is if we're seeing the start of a new bullish impulse wave or if this represents an end-of-year bull trap.  Let's look at the daily chart:

Dow Industrials Daily Chart
A short but very productive impulse wave started on February 11, 2016, and that wave pushed the market to a high on April 20th.  If we consider that Wave 1, then Wave 2 ran pretty much through the remainder of 2016.  It was a fairly flat consolidation that culminated with a very tight two-month congestion leading up to the US presidential elections.

The current impulse wave - which may very well be Wave 3 - started November 7, the day before the election.  From there, the market surged skyward, gaining 990 points in a week.  This flagpole formed the foundation for a classic pennant pattern that we appear to have broken yesterday.

Now, the rosy interpretation of this chart places a price target at 19,920 for that flagpole pattern, and it should be obtained relatively quickly - no more than a week or two.  Similarly, the target for Elliott Wave 3 is 20,500, and that lines up rather well if the flagpole target ends at a sub-wave consolidation before continuing to the peak. 

All of this is plausible, especially as we head into a period traditionally marked by a Santa Claus Rally.  That's when this could get a bit ugly, though.  The alternation rule states that Wave 2 and Wave 4 must differ in form and time.  Wave 2 was long and relatively flat.  Therefore, Wave 4 must be short and deep.  Expect a very sharp correction that takes out anywhere from 50% to 61.8% of the Wave 3 gains, and expect it to happen very quickly.  That's as much as a 1650 point drop before Wave 5 commences.

Are there other warning signs on the horizon?  Certainly.  The Dow just achieved an all-time high, but it did so on relatively low volume and with two consecutive narrow range bars.  This implies there really wasn't a lot of enthusiasm pushing the rally, and we may shortly see some climactic action as the large investment houses wind down for the holidays.  This rally would have been much more convincing if accompanied by high volume.

There are also a couple of major events on the horizon that could easily turn this rally into a bull trap.  First, it's a near certainty that FOMC will raise interest rates when they meet on December 14.  In fact, the futures market has priced in a 98.2% chance of a rate increase.  Fed Chair Janet Yellen has also signaled an intent to raise rates twice more in 2017 (data permitting, of course.)  So that would likely mean a June and December hike, and that's precisely what you see if you look at the futures market.

In the midst of this slight tightening of US monetary policy, the UK will be moving towards an Article 50 invocation.  Prime Minister May has targeted the end of March for that major milestone, although the UK courts have added a measure of doubt to the timetable.  Whenever it's done, however, it will certainly have a sobering impact on the EU and British markets.  The combination of Brexit and US interest rate hikes will certainly send shock waves through the world markets. 

So, what does all this mean for us as traders?  Well, that we are in a bullish impulse at the moment cannot be doubted.  We're going to continue playing the long side as long as that impulse remains in effect.  Now, Friday's an early close and will be ultra-low volume, so I'll be sitting that one out.  But once the market opens on Monday, my bias will be to the long side.  The closer we get to 19,500 and then 19,900, however, the tighter my stops will be, and the more I'll be watching for sub-wave 4.  That sub-wave and then the actual Wave 4 will be two that we will want to catch to the short side.  Both will be deep, but both will be short, so remain vigilant.  There won't be much of an opportunity to hop into those waves once they are in full swing.

For now, have a Happy Thanksgiving here in the States, enjoy a nice 4-day stretch away from trading, and let's see where the market decides to take us next week.

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