Friday, December 26, 2008

When Can We Expect A Sustainable Price Move?

Most market participants seem to focus on picking that elusive bottom. You here it on CNBC all the time and just about everywhere you go after the market has a good pop off its lows: Is this the bottom?

Rather than focusing on the bottom, market participants would do well just to focus on when there will be a sustainable multi month -possibly multi-year - price move. Identifying the market bottom is hard enough even after the fact. On the other hand, being "in" at the bottom does have its benefits, and it is likely to result in significant market outperformance.

But this article isn't about picking bottoms. It is about identifying that sustainable price move. And to do this I will assume that a sustainable price move starts when prices cross their 200 day moving average. This doesn't mean that I am defining a bull market by price's relationship to its 200 day moving average. I am not. All I am saying is that at some point in a bull market prices will cross the 200 day moving average and stay above this level for a long time.

Wednesday's close on the S&P500 is at 865.42. The 200 day moving average is at 1192.92. The current price is 327.5 points (or 27.45%) below its 200 day moving average. Historic by any measure.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that the S&P500 closes at 865.42 for the foreseeable future. If this were to occur, then it would take 171 trading days (or about 8 months) for the S&P500 to cross above it's 200 day moving.

Or let's assume (as I believe), the market trades in a range as defined by the price swings of the last two months. The average price on the S&P500 since November 3, 2008 has been 879.6. The highs occurred on November 3 at S&P500 1007.51 and the lows occurred on November 21 at S&P500 741.02. There is a 25% spread between these highs and low marks. If for the forseeable future the S&P500 were to close at the average price (i.e., 879.6) seen over the last two months, it would take 163 trading days for prices to close above their 200 day moving average.

Predicting market bottoms is a difficult business. A sustainable, multi-year price move is likely to result in prices greater than their 200 day moving average. If prices were to stay within their current price range, it will take almost 8 months for prices on the S&P500 to be above their 200 day moving average. In essence, it is going to take time before a new bull market rally is upon us.

No comments: