FOMC Decision January 2008

I normally don’t post on weekends. But Monday’s post is likely to be a long one because I shall be reassessing the S&P technical picture. So today I am passing on what I consider an interesting insight by John Mauldin ( See his latest post: “What Does the FED Know?”

I had assumed that with their .75% cut, Bernanke and Company had reacted to the decline in world equity markets, a decline now known to be have been precipitated by Societe Generale’s panic unwinding of its futures positions in a market that was already falling and nervous!

John posits an alternative view that is worth reading. In essence he argues that: “..the monoline insurance companies like Ambac and MBIA are in worse shape than most realize….(John believes) that the concern that there is the potential for a much worse credit crisis than we are currently experiencing is what is driving the FED”.

It seems to me that unless we see a rate cut of .75% or greater, the equity markets will tumble after Wed. The problem is one of perception. The FEDS are now perceived to be responding to rescuing equity prices so that a rate cut that fails to satisfy market expectations will result in negative prices – whatever may be the true economic picture. The scuttlebutt is the market is expecting at least a .5% cut and some pundits are calling for a 1% cut. Speaking for myself, any cut less than 0.75% will probably cause a decline in days to come.

A cut of 0.5% may cause a rally on Wednesday but I doubt the sustainability of any such rally. This is only an opinion but this thinking forms part of my context in asssessing the technical picture.


With last night’s price action, we are left with a probable 3-wave structure on the 18-d. If the bear market is to be confirmed, we’ll see a successful retest of the breakout zone: from the end of the Primary Buy Zone at 1421 and the Maximum Extension at 1382 (all figures basis cash).

Figure 1 shows that there is a mass of resistance in the 1382 to 1386 zone:

  • Maximum Extension: 1382
  • The 38.2% of the 1576 high to the 1270 low: 1386
  • The 50% of the Market Profile directional move (IPM) 1495 to the low 1270 low: 1384
  • There is a MIDAS line coming into the 1380 area probably by end of trading Tuesday.

The volatility died down last night and I expect more of the same tonight. The pre-market is calling a gap up but I doubt if the market will finish heavily on the plus side. Given it’s a Friday and given the volatility of the past few days, I’d expect to see a flat to down close.

Next week Jan 30, we have the FOMC rate decision. The market may move Monday, then I’d expect it to be quiet till after the FED decision. If the FED cuts less than 0.5% will see a sell off? Who knows?Certainly I won’t be doing anything until after their decision.

From my perspective, I am looking for:

  • Volatility to return to normal i.e. a True Range of around mean of 22 +/- 10. (Before the FED decision).
  • The market hold at or below 1406 (this will keep the 13-w Whole Point Count alive – we need 7 consecutive weekly highs at or below 1416 to give us the Whole Point Count. If we hold below 1416 this week, it will be week 1.

Nine consecutive daily highs at or below 1406 will give us a Whole Point Count on the 18-d. Today will be the 7th day. The Whole Point count is my time filter to confirm the start of the bear trend. So if we can hold at or below 1406 till Tuesday, we’ll have a confirmed monthly change in trend from up to down.

The 12m sell trigger needs a close at or below 1337 to confirm the change in trend in the yearly trend from up to down).

  • I would prefer to see the resistance area at 1382 to 1386 hold and
  • Then the market generates a setup and entry pattern.

Q: What if the market just blows through to above 1421?
A: I do nothing. I’ll let the market settle down and I’ll participate only if I see high probability setups. 01-25-2008-zones.jpg

FIGURE 1 S&P Resistance Zones


Today I continue tracking the S&P. I’ll do this until the S&P either confirms or negates the bear market scenario. I expect this will occur sometime next week.

In today’s blog all numbers are basis cash.

The market followed the 80-min (daily trend) roadmap until the last 80-min bar whose direction I anticipated but not its magnitude. By moving above 1340, the market broke the symmetry with wave-2 (65.25 magnitude) and skipped a degree. Figure 1 shows this.


FIGURE 1 80-min S&P Daily Trend

Figure 2 shows the next degree in the Ray Wave Count: 5-day (weekly trend). For this count to remain valid, 1346 needs to hold i.e. we will not see a print at 1346. Such a print (1346) will invalidate the count and bring us to the next degree.


Figure 2 5-day S&P Weekly Trend

Figure 3 shows the retracement levels for the current Market Profile’s directional move; a move I call the Initial Price Movement (IPM). The minimum retracement is 33% (1347) and any development should hold below the 50%, 1385. Note that a move to 1385 means a move above 1346 and a triggering of the last Ray Wave degree (18-day, monthly trend) if there is a bear market in progress.


FIGURE 3 Market Profile Retracements

Returning to the 5-day analysis: Since wave-(2) was simple, we can expect wave-(4) to be complex. The most common complex formation is a sideways pattern.

In the light of the Ray Wave structure doubt (lean against which degree?), and the high uncertainty of the zone in which to take a trade, I am in no hurry to initiate short positions. I’d be looking to next week to indicate the level at which I’ll be looking to take a trade.

In any event, I would not initiate any shorts in the current climate. The volatility is too rich for my blood. Prior to this move, the ATR was about 22 +/- 10. Yesterday the pit session had a 69 point range (greater than mean +3 standard deviations) and the day before, we saw a range of 47 points (greater than mean +2 std). And that’s only the pit sessions!

Another way I measure volatility is with Bandwidth ( Figure 4 shows the context to the current volatility. It shows we are at 0.15 magnitude of difference between the bands and the start of Black Swan territory (i.e. outlier territory). You see two red lines. The first marks the threshold of where the market has been so volatile that I expect to see a shrinking of volatility. The second represents volatility that suggests I exit all positions.


FIGURE 4 Bollinger Bandwidth

All in all, for me, patience is the key to these markets, at least for the moment.

Trauma of Loss/Roadmap S&P

I hope you all have kept safe. Tonight I write on two topics. I touch on the trauma of wipeout and I look at the S&P’s roadmap for the coming week.


Many sent me this link: (you may need to copy and paste)

It also appeared in a number of blogs: e.g. Dr. Brett Steenbarger’s “Traderfeed”:

Watching it re-ignited some deep-set memories, memories of the many failures and of repeated lessons unlearned. I am full of admiration for the traders who learned from one dramatic failure; my journey took 7 years of losses and rehashing the same mistakes before I turned things around. Watching the video brought up the thought that ‘but for the grace of God and the patience and support of Chrisy (my wife) go I today’.

The video is a stark reminder that success in this game rests on the trinity: ‘Plan x Risk Management x Psychology’. Note that multiplication signs: a zero in any factor results in failure.


Speaking of plan let’s have a look at a roadmap for the S&P for the week and possibly next week:

Figure 1 shows the S&P basis cash with an 18-day Swing (the monthly trend), a completed Ray Wave Count and a Market Profile Structure. The first question is: what is the trend of the 18-day?


FIGURE 1 S&P 18-day

To answer that, let’s turn to the 12-M (the yearly trend). The 12-Month has triggered a possible Upthrust change in trend from up to down (See Figure 2). To complete the signal I need a monthly bearish bar close below 1455. Right now that looks the case but only an end of month bearish close will confirm. In the meantime, if we assume the start of a bear market, how should the 18-d unfold?



Normal technical analysis theory suggests that breakouts are retested. I have found that the retest zone is generally (in a downtrend) between the upper boundary of the Primary Buy Zone (1406 basis cash) to the Maximum Extension (1360) (see Nature of Trends for definitions). There is also 13-w resistance (13-w breakdown point at 1370/1371). This is a pretty wide zone but does serve as a starting point (See Figure 3).


FIGURE 3 18d Breakdown Points

Figure 4 shows a projection of a likely termination zone for the first wave down assuming a 3-wave structure. I consider the old wave-5 as the new wave-(2). A 69% retracement is equivocal on whether we see a 5-wave or 3-wave 1st move. We do know that a 3-wave move will not exceed 1.618 wave-(1). This provides a target to 1238 basis cash. I’ll assume the more conservative 3-wave target until the market says different.


FIGURE 4 Wave-(3) Target

Figure 5 shows the 80-min Ray Wave Count. For this count to be correct, the market needs to hold below 1334.20. Wave-2 was simple; Wave-4 will be complex and the structure as at the close on Tuesday 01-22-2008 has qualified as a complex wave-4. If so, wave-5 ought to begin tonight.


FIGURE 5 80-Min S&P

Wave-5 will be either the longest or the shortest wave. If the shortest wave, we’ll probably see it end at 1276 to 1248 with the most likely level to be 1258 to 1276. 1258 is the maximum extension of wave-4; 1276 is the minimum projection for wave-5.

This is the preferred scenario. If correct, I expect to see a rally of 1.97% to 2.22% (with a lesser probability of 2.66% to 2.83%) off yesterday’s close. This figure ties in with a wave-(4) around 1324 to 1350. I’ll consider the alternate count (wave 5 is the longest if the need arises).

To summarise: if we do get a wave-5 terminating around 1258 to 1276, we can expect a rally to 1324 to 1350 with the preferred target being 1335 to 1345. This is an area where I’d look to go short IF VOLATILITY has returned to normal. For the moment, I’ll abstain from trading the US stock indices.

[The 1.97% to 2.83% was taken off a study done by the Quantifiable Edges site:

(Thanks Brett Steenbarger [] for the heads up to the excellent Quantifiable Edges site)]

That’s the roadmap for the coming week in the S&P. It’s only a roadmap and I am sure that there will be detours as reality pans out. But by having a roadmap, each detour will provide information to make a more accurate picture against which to take a low risk trade when the current rally ends.

Volatility and the Trader

I was told when I first began trading that ‘volatility is the life blood of a speculator’. Like all trading truisms, this has an element of truth. Imagine trying to eek out a living when ranges are tiny and market direction flat.

But there are times when markets become ‘too volatile’: the meaning of ‘too volatile’ is personal and varies from individual to individual. The important thing is to have some measure of ‘too volatile’. My definition is two consecutive days of ranges greater than an ATR of mean + 3 standard deviations. The definition is instrument specific so that I can have, say the ES being too volatile while BPJY may not be.

Once I see a ‘too volatile’ reading in an instrument, I cut all positions (usually profitable ones; losing trades have probably been stopped out). The reason I do this is twofold:

  1. Quantitatively, my setups are validated by price action that is ‘normal’. When markets get too volatile, the population has been too small to date to draw meaningful conclusions. So in accordance with my first philosophical rule for trading (preservation of capital), I take myself out of the market.
  2. Qualitatively, my psyche is comfortable with only so much volatility. Beyond a certain point, I know I am likely to think the dollar value of the tic fluctuation rather than dwell on the info the market is providing. I can become accustomed to increasing volatility if the increase is gradual. But too rapid an increase places my in a zone of discomfort.

The message I am pushing here is take care if you are feeling uncomfortable with the ranges and market movement.

In line with the theme of this post, let’s turn to the ES.

To identify the boundaries for this structure (in Market Profile Terms – distribution) are off the 13-w swing low prior to the sideways price action (development). I notice that although the swing low occurred June 14 2006, the directional move did not start until July 18 2006. I prefer to anchor the July low to start my retracement levels.

The Primary Buy Zone lies within 1272 to 1229 (basis the CSI perpetual contract). The current difference between the CSI-p and ESH8 is about 5 points (ES is lower than CSI-p by 5). This makes the Primary Buy Zone 1267 to 1225.


FIGURE 1 S&P Primary Buy Zone

Last night we edged into the Primary Buy Zone. This is an area where I usually par my position size to no more than 1/3 the initial size.

In addition, the last time the market reacted so strongly, Greenspan came in and cut rates prompting a 5% rally. Now this does not mean Bernanke will cut rates today but he might. Whether or not he does, will only provide more fuel to a market that is volatile.

All in all this is a good time to put some $ in your pocket. Oh sure, the market may head lower but then again it may not. I’ll part with this story: A student was long gold and sitting on some very nice profits. He was looking to exit at the Primary Sell Zone. The market got to within about a dollar of the minimum price.

To say he was excited …well that would be putting it mildly.  As he pointed out, the weekly bar looked good (opening near the lows and closing near the highs). Based on it, there was every reason to believe that the profit levels would be reached. However I did warn him that the daily’s painted a weaker picture and that he should establish some level beyond which he would cut the position.

He decided to place a breakeven stop but I could tell that he did not feel his stop would get hit. Well it did. The market opened lower on the Monday and proceeded South.

The point of the story is this. If you have profits in the ES, Gold etc, identify a level beyond which you will cut the position: Nothing feels worse than letting large profits turn into losses. When I say ‘identify’, I mean treat the loss as having occurred – feel it – rather than just give lip service to the level.

S&P Blog Monday Jan 21

Sorry for the break in continuity. I guess I am too unfit to be travelling as much as I do. I’m either going to have to get fitter or stop travelling as much. For the moment, I have opted for a personal trainer to create the habits to improved fitness!

Today I shall be writing about the S&P but whereas in the past, I focused on my thought processes, today, I’ll focus on my tools. Figure 1 shows the matrix of tools.


FIGURE 1 Matrix

I replaced the matrix with this one from Hank Pruden’s “The Three Skills of Top Trading”. The difference between the approach I use and that of Hank’s is Hank uses a more quantitative process. The matrix serves as a check list to make sure I am trading what I see rather than what I hope to see.

In the S&P, the most sensitive of my indicators, the Sentiment Indices are beginning to register oversold readings. We need to remember that these tend to lead prices by at least 2 weeks and up to 6 weeks. I use the tools to put me on notice not to get too aggressive. The time to be aggressive is when the Sentiment Index is no worse than neutral.

My main tools are in the Price Matrix. The yearly trend (12-month swing), has registered a possible Upthrust Change in Trend – an uptrend that began in 1982. However the Volume configuration is not there: the high on the Oct 2001 high was much higher than the volume on the Mar 2000 high. Nevertheless, if the signal is confirmed by a monthly close below the Primary Sell Zone (1455), we can expect minimum target of 787 to 613. Figure 2 shows the 12-M swing


Figure 2 12-M S&P

The 13-week (quarterly trend) and the 18-day (monthly trend) need Whole Point Counts (WPCs) at or below their respective break down point to confirm the change in trend in those timeframes (see Figures 3 & 4). Strictly speaking we don’t need the WPCs given that the 12-m line has turned down; but I prefer to see WPCs in the respective lower timeframes as a final confirmation.


Figure 3 13-w S&P


Figure 4 18-d S&P

If the trend is down, what would invalidate the possible signal? Preferably without the WPCs forming, acceptance above the Primary Buy Zones of the 13-w and 18-d. These are 1431.6 and 1422 respectively basis cash.

Volume and momentum all suggest further downside. The Ray Wave structure suggests 1289 to 1290 (basis ESH8) a possible area for a bounce. The 5-d impulse stats show the 5-d line has gone almost mean + 3 standard deviations as at Fri’s close. The cycle services I subscribe to indicate a cycle low this week, Tues to Thurs. If we do get a bounce, the quality of the bounce will tell us whether or not a bear market has started.

Assuming the bounce has a bearish structure, a preliminary resistance area would be 1366.5 to 1354.5 (basis ESH8). The next level to watch is the 1388 (basis ESH8), the start of the directional move down on the 30-minute Market Profile (See Figure 5). The 1388 is well below the Primary Buy Zone but given the momentum and volume to this downside move, acceptance above the 1388 would give me cause to re-evaluate.


Figure 5 30-Minute Market Profile ESH8

The question I am usually asked is: “I did not get short before the break. Should I short the market now?”

My answer: “I don’t know what the market will do. But on a risk-reward basis, with possible support coming in for both price (statistically for the 5-d and on the Ray Wave targets) and time (cycles, this week), I’d treat a short now as a high risk rather than low risk trade.

The time to get short was when the market failed at the top of the Value Area providing a possible Ray Wave Failed 5th (See chart 6). For now, wait for the bounce, whenever it may come but it will come.


Figure 6 Ray Wave 18-d Failed 5th

A Review of the S&P 01-09-2008 II

I often get asked: “Why do you set out so many scenarios when preparing your trade? Why not create a simple plan e.g. buy at xxxx.xx with a stop at xxxx.xx?”

I answer: “It’s because I don’t know what future will bring”.

By this I mean how a market does something, is at least as equally important as how it does it. Yesterday’ price action in the S&P is a great example of what I mean.

In yesterday’s blog, I set out four scenarios. The one I felt to be most probable was the one speculating on a smaller than normal range day. At time that I was writing the piece, the market was up about 9 points. Hence I focused on what I would look for if the market broke the highs. I suggested that the level representing 50% of the gap would hold. This was the second favoured scenario.

However, by the time the market opened yesterday, it was only 1.5 points up. At the open this is what we knew:

  • Tuesday’s high was 1436.5 and its low was 1396.5;
  • On Jan 9, Wed, the ESH8 opened at 1398.

Given the above, at the open on Jan 9, the greatest probability occurrence was the 1st scenario that provided for a small range day but now we’d be looking for a breach of the lows. Notice that although, I shifted from looking for a breach of the highs to one looking for a breach of the lows, the essential nature of the scenario remained unchanged – I was looking for a smaller than normal range day.

What does ‘normal’ mean? I define normal as being mean +1 to mean 0.5 standard deviation.

A more important point: recall that I had, as a third scenario, canvassed the possibility that the market would break to new lows. For the reasons stated in Tuesday’s blog, I had decided not to participate in any further shorting.

Now, let’s turn to the picture when yesterday, the market broke to new lows on two occasions: (Market Profile’s) ‘E’ period and then the ‘I’ period. When we broke for the first time, (‘E’ period), we had a True Range of 16 points. This was in keeping with what I was expecting – a smaller than normal range. Mean 25 points and we have a standard deviation of 10. Hence I was looking for a range no more than mean -0.5 stdev i.e. 20.The ‘I’ period extended the True Range to 22: we now had normal and when it rotated back into the day’s range, it raised alarm bells for my short positions.

Here’s what I noted:

  1. Yesterday was the 9th consecutive day of lower lows and lower highs. On a 1-day swing, the market was statistically overbought.
  2. The market was in the Primary Sell Zone: an area that would support a rejection of the down move IF the uptrend was still intact.
  3. If the market now extended the range up, we’d have a Market Profile Neutral Day. If a Neutral Day closes in the middle, we have a balanced day that warns us of a possible trend change; a close in the top quartile is stronger evidence of a reversal since it provides for Free Exposure.

So when the market returned to the day’s range, I decided to:

  • Place stops on half my remaining shorts above the day’s high
  • Place stops above the Tuesday’s high on the balance
  • Exit if the market closed in the top quartile.
  • Go ¼ size long if the market closed in the top quartile.

Given the close, I ended the day being ¼ size long. I’ll manage the trade using Free Exposure guidelines.

The blog today I feel is one of my most important ones. It sets out how I manage trades using present tense information.

Chart 1 shows the Profile


Chart 1 Market Profile

A Review of the S&P 01-09-2008

I believe we have tipped over the edge on the S&P. In this post, I’ll set out why I say this and suggest some parameters to monitor.

To summarise this blog, the Ray Wave count suggests that we have topped out with a 5th Failure and ‘normal’ technical analysis’ supports the view.  The one drawback: The Whisper Number’s sentiment reading is oversold as are the other SI readings but not to the same extent as Whisper Numbers; this is an amber signal for me not to get too aggressively short.


The chart below shows the Ray Wave Count on the quarterly trend (13-week swing) 


CHART 1 13-W Ray Wave

In the next chart I zoom in on the price action and go down to the 18-day (monthly trend)


Chart 2 18-D

The S&P reached the Primary Buy Zone at 1370.6 to 1431.6 (basis cash) after reaching a swing on 12-11-2007. But note that the swing high failed to reach the minimum 78.6% retracement area in an established sideways market.

Ideas corner: when you are in a sideways market, the market moves from high to low, low to high; if the market returns to an extreme without first achieving the opposite extreme’s minimum target, we can expect the opposing the price boundary to be breached. In this case, we are at the Primary Buy Zone without having reached the minimum upside target. I am looking for 1370.6 to be breached.

Chart 3 shows the ESH8. You’ll notice that the price action on Jan 4th created a gap on the day the market popped into the Primary Buy Zone. The question in my mind was whether the gap was common gap or a breakaway gap. Last night’s price action suggests the latter.

When yesterday, the market open gapped up after a rest day, and failed to close the gap in the 1st 90 minutes, I thought the S&P would rally. I closed out my shorts and went long at the bottom of the developing value area with a stop for the longs below the lows of the day. You know I got stopped out. However once the lows were violated, the probability of the gap being a breakaway gap substantially increased. I waited for a rally to reinstate and increase my shorts. 


Chart 3 ESH8


1) The S&P has been down for 8 consecutive days (excluding one inside day); it’s time for a breather and I would expect another inside day today. For this reason, I have created Primary Zones base on yesterday’s open and close. I’d expect those zones to hold.

2) If the market breaks above yesterday’s high, then the key areas to watch are 1447 to 1443 (basis cash). Apart from being 50% of the gap, there are a number of other ratios coming into this area.

Acceptance above 1147 suggests the gap will close. That in turn suggests the market is heading back up the Primary Sell Zone. I rate this the lowest probability scenario.

3)  A more likely scenario is the market will break above yesterday’s high and the 1447 to 1443 zone will hold. Should the market reach 1447 to 1443, I’d lean against this area to go short and look for intraday setups and triggers to enter.

4) The second lowest probability scenario is another strong day down. Acceptance below yesterday’s low on volume would warn us this is occurring. Since I dislike jumping on board a directional move once the 1-d swing is statistically overbought, I’ll give trading the ES a miss if this occurs; I’ll be content to manage my current short position.

Best of luck and do take care!

Routine & Habits VII: The Routines and Habits

Well folks this is the biggie. All I have written before in this series comes down to this post.

It’s my belief that participants attending seminars would obtain greater benefit from a seminar if they adopted, for 30 days after the seminar, a set routine to internalize the seminar concepts. At the end of the 30 days, the routine would become a habit and the seminar participant is then free to choose whether to adopt all, some or none of the content. The key point is that until he has internalized the seminar content, he is not in a position to choose.

I remember my first Market Profile seminar. I flew from Sydney with two mates: one was a technical trader working as a technical analyst for a broking firm (let’s call him John); the other was a day-trader (let’s call him Paul).  Paul and I ‘lost’ John pretty early in the piece. By the middle of the first day, John was doodling and post session discussions revealed that he had taken the view that the Profile was not for him – it was too far removed from what he knew.

Paul and I liked the idea of the Profile but we struggled with the application. It took me 9 months before I got comfortable trading the Profile way – what enabled me to persevere was the fact that I set a daily routine to follow. Each day I set the goal for that day and followed the set routine.  Part of the routine involved reviewing whether I achieved the day’s goal and if not what I had to do the next day to complete it. I would not move to the next topic until I was satisfied I had mastered each day’s goal.

Trading routines have a similar objective. Their outcome is to produce habits of success. The routine you set is one that is personal to you. Below is the one I follow – it suits my personality; treat it simply as an example.  Experiment with a routine, content, time of day, order of activities until you find one that sits comfortably.

Monthly Routines: 

  • Review summary of the psychology and equity journals. Are there any empowering patterns? Are there any disempowering ones? I look for the patterns under the headings: setups, instruments, and personal behavioural patterns. For example: is there an instrument that bore the preponderance of losses for the month? If so, did the losses occur for a particular setup? What was the difference between the current environment and the most recent environment that I made money in this instrument? In this setup?
  • Review equity journals to determine if I am on track. I look to make about 22% per year so I am looking to make about 2% per month. If I am not on track, where can I make improvements? What has to happen for me to return to budget? Etc……

It’s important to understand that I make these enquiries from a stance of curiosity – there is no question of blaming myself for errors or feeling anxiety because I am behind the eight-ball. True if I have had 4 consecutive losing months or more than 12% loss in any rolling period, I take an enforced holiday of at least a week. But this is in the form of a breather to put a space between the losses and me and not as a form of self-punishment.


  • Analysis of markets with a view to preparing a short list of possible trades in the coming weeks and a watch list where trades are unlikely but possible if certain events occur.
  • Analysis of psychology journal – summary of daily entries for possible patterns (see above entry in Monthly Routines).
  • Analysis of equity journal – to ensure that there are no out of boundary losses.


  • Download and update data
  • Update psychological journal
  • Update equity journal
  • Prepare for trades – plan, and visualize
  • Ensure day’s activities are planned around trading activities.
  • During the trading day, a series of routines to ensure my ‘rat brain’ is not running my trading.

That’s it. I hope you have enjoyed the series.