Stock Exchange: Finding Your Trading Sweet Spot

Our last Stock Exchange (two weeks ago) discussed diverse ideas from our experts, and also explained why I vetoed one of the recommendations. When trading using models, you can link directly to a platform if you do many trades and have a very short time frame. Otherwise you should not blindly follow the model. A human who understands the factors used by the model can identify when a situation is truly exceptional.

The current market environment is all about Trump – perhaps excessively so. Everyone worries about what companies are vulnerable to a tweet (which we will call a T-WOP, HT @corporatecommie). Each day includes more speculation about companies that might benefit from policy changes.

How should traders find a sweet spot in this environment?

This week includes both new ideas and reviews of some past highlights. Everyone can benefit from finding the trading model most relevant for your own style.

Let’s look at the ideas from our experts. As usual, I will conclude with a brief observation.

Getting Updates

We have a new (free) service to subscribers to our Felix/Oscar update list. You can suggest three favorite stocks and sectors. We report regularly on the “favorite fifteen” in each category– stocks and sectors—as determined by readers. Sign up with email to “etf at newarc dot com”. Suggestions and comments are welcome. In the tables below, green is a “buy,” yellow a “hold,” and red a “sell.” Each category represents about 1/3 of the underlying universe. Please remember that these are responses to reader requests, not necessarily stocks and sectors that we own. Sign up now to vote your favorite stock or sector onto the list!

This Week—Finding Your Trading Sweet Spot

Holmes

This week I’m buying good ol’ U.S.A. Macys (M). This stock probably needs no introduction, main street retail store.

This chart strikes me as a great money-making opportunity. My major concern is that this stock keeps making lower lows, but in the meantime it can have some terrific rallies. I see no reason it can’t get back to the mid-30’s. It’s a little comforting to know that there are 18 analyst holds on this stock and their target price is STILL 36. That is consistent with what the charts are telling me.

I’m buying here with tight stop, 29.25, and looking for a move back into the mid-30s. Giving me a nice risk/reward setup.

J: I agree with you about ignoring the analyst ratings. I use it as a contra-indicator. Did you read that recent WSJ article?

H: You know that I do not read! I reach great conclusions from looking at charts. You humans read, but mostly to reaffirm your existing biases.

J: I am delighted that our clients caught this at a lower price, but do you realize the stock was up over $1.50 today?

H: No. I am enjoying the beach in Mexico. I sent in my pick, but that is like working overtime.

J: Oscar’s turf accountant would call your choice “past posting.”

H: Sorry. You are the one who set the schedule for Thursdays. I made the pick earlier, and it is still a good buy.

J: There is a rumor of a possible takeover. Did you know about that?

H: No. I just know a great rebound chart when I see one.

J: Are you going to have any trouble returning from Mexico? The U.S. is taking a hard look at those returning from other countries.

H: My papers are all in order. I’ll be back in the office in a week or so.

 

Athena

I admit it. I still have no new picks. We do not have the fresh, strongly-trending stocks that I prefer. I’m still holding most of my most recent picks, and I have room for one more buy.

J: Maybe you could give us an update on one of your current holdings.

A: Fair enough. I recommended United Rentals (URI) on 12/22, after buying it myself a few days earlier.

J: Isn’t this one of your few picks where I agreed?

A: Yes, I seem to remember that you said the pick was OK, but you did not own it yourself. I have held this one through a month or so of sideways movement, but now it’s starting to pay off in a big way. We’ve seen an increase of roughly 20% in the last two weeks. That means it’s about time for me to hop off this one (as fun of a ride as it’s been).

 

J: That certainly worked well. How are you doing overall?

A: Not as well as the fussy guy and the dog, but that will change soon. I think I am Vince’s favorite.

Felix

I will once again begin with my responses to reader votes for the favorites list.

My list provides rankings within each zone, as well as the basics about buy, hold, and sell. The list includes the top overall vote getters from our (free) subscription list as well as some new requests I got during the week.

J: The list has some interesting changes. I see that AAPL (which we own) is still in “hold” territory despite the major rally after its earnings report.

F: My ratings came before the report. How about AMZN? That did not do so well. My approach is geared to the long term, usually more than one year.

J: Fair enough. Do you have something new for us this week?

F: No.

J: What? I took a long weekend, but the rest of you were supposed to keep working. Only Holmes was on vacation.

F: I worked, but there are no new choices. Patience is called for.

J: Are you trying to get dropped from the weekly discussion?

F: You would not dare! My performance leads the group. In addition, I provide updated information to my many fans. You should be giving me a raise. I am on the job while the dog is in Mexico.

J: OK, we’ll let the readers decide whether they still want your opinions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar

My pick for this week is the Defense sector, shown here by the SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF (XAR). I liked this one back in early December too – but I got out before the downslide. Now that the price has had a few weeks to level out, I feel more comfortable getting back into this sector.

For my next “investment” – I’ll bet that Belichick can’t put together a defense to stop the Falcons. But that really is another subject…

Here are my ratings for the top reader interests. Keep the questions coming. My sectors are aggressive, but have less risk than Felix’s picks. I avoid the bad news from random, single-stock moves.

J: Interesting. Do you see evidence of that?

O: I hear about it. People are very worried about something called “tweets” that seem to hit their stocks for no reason. Playing sectors reduces that risk.

J: Interesting. The Tweeter-in-Chief has T-Wopped a few of the defense stocks, but most still believe in his support for higher defense spending.

O: I only follow sports tweets, but I know which sectors have legs, and which will fail down the stretch.

J: You really like the Falcons?

O: My week’s pay is on the line!

 

 

 

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert or stock.

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Conclusion

The current trading environment is treacherous. Many frustrated traders are bailing out. Or have blown out. Political opinions about policy have proved to be a dangerous foundation for trading and investing.

Our models provide a range of diverse ideas, all successful. Pick one that you like. Use it as a counterpoint for your own method. And keep control of position size and risk.

The Stock Exchange does not have all the answers, but it provides good ideas and a stimulus for your own trading.

Stock Exchange: Great Trading has a Foundation of Focus and Discipline

Last week’s Stock Exchange was about how emotion and symbols affected technical analysis. Could our charts help us when the picture displayed involved some psychological event like Dow 20K?

This week I turn from the charts themselves to the trader who must interpret them. Successful trading requires focus and the discipline to stick with successful methods – even through a bout of bad luck.

Dr. Brett Steenbarger, the leading expert in trading psychology, puts it this way:

A topic that has arisen in recent conversations with traders is the importance of focusing on what has been making you money and sizing up those trades, rather than taking many kinds of trades throughout the day or week and watering down your edge.  So often, the difference between profitability and unprofitability is eliminating marginal trades and trading more confidently with our core strengths.  Perhaps most damaging in taking those marginal trades is that we don’t accumulate those small wins that allow us to go after larger ones.  It’s difficult to build confidence when oscillating between winning on good trades and throwing money away on so-so ones.

Dr. Brett writes almost every day about helping human traders achieve their best results? Does this have meaning for our models? Let’s start with a look at their current ideas.

Getting Updates

I have offered a new (free) service to subscribers to our Felix/Oscar update list. You can suggest three favorite stocks and sectors. We will report regularly on the “favorite fifteen” in each category– stocks and sectors—as determined by readers. Sign up with email to “etf at newarc dot com”. Suggestions and comments are welcome. In the tables below, green is a “buy,” yellow a “hold,” and red a “sell.” Each category represents about 1/3 of the underlying universe. Please remember that these are responses to reader requests, not necessarily stocks and sectors that we own. Sign up now to vote your favorite stock or sector onto the list!

This Week— Focus and Discipline in Trading Systems

Holmes

I love chances to buy on a dip, and this is quite a dip. United Health Services, Inc. (UHS) is down 8% in the last month alone – more than likely an overcorrection. While I like it for short term turnaround potential, I’m not just going to buy and hold. If things keep going south, my active approach to trading stops will get me out of this position before I take too big of a hit.

J: Do you realize that the new President is going to repeal ObamaCare?

H: We have a new President? What is ObamaCare?

J: I know, I know. You do not read news; you just look at charts. But you might have a point here. The original repeal will be rich in symbolism, but is not likely to end insurance for millions of people. There is a lot of selling in this stock based upon fear – not actual knowledge of what will happen. You could have a winner.

H: I usually do.

Athena:  I generally go for stocks that are already popping upwards. This week’s pick, United Rentals, Inc. (URI) is no exception. A substantial jump over the past two months really put this one on my radar, and I like the potential for future growth in the next 4-6 weeks. The rankings on the Relative Strength Index don’t particularly scare me. A high-volume event could push the stock well above the current price, yielding a tidy profit.

J: This idea also has some support from the fundamentals. The FAST graph shows the strong earnings growth and the underlying value.

A: I know you look at P/E ratios and such, but that is not necessary to find a great trade.

J: Shouldn’t you have bought this one in 2015? It has doubled from the bottom?

A: I did not exist in 2015.

J: You were just a glimmer in Vince’s eye.

A: You must learn to look forward. We can all wonder why we did not take some action in the past. That is a waste of time. It is more important to make good decisions in the future.

Felix

I will begin with my responses to reader votes for the favorites list.

As you can see from my presentation, which is neater and more informative than Oscar’s, I show the answers for last week as well as now. I also provide rankings within each category so that you can see which stocks are moving from one group to another.

Bristol Myers (BMY), for example, became a marginal “buy” while Apple (AAPL) dropped into the “hold” group.

J: You have nearly twice as many stocks listed as we agreed upon.

F: I am giving my readers more information. Do I get paid more for that?

J: No. And you must start reducing the list. Just go with the top vote-getters. What is your featured stock for this week?

F: I like Rice Energy, Inc. (RICE) as a long-term investment. A couple sharp declines in the past quarter put the 50-day moving average on a downward trend, but we’re still up on the 200-day moving average. My bet is we’ve bottomed out on this one, and it should be a solid holding looking 10-12 months ahead. That said, a few additional drops wouldn’t surprise me. This is a solid pick if you don’t panic, and keep your timeframe in mind.

J: Isn’t selling losers a part of trading discipline? The other models all do it with trading stops or a similar technique.

F: It is also part of my method. I am just not so quick on the trigger. My performance is similar to that of the others, but has a longer holding period. Some people must pay taxes, and prefer long-term gains. Oscar does not think about that.

J: What about Holmes and Athena?

F: Dogs and goddesses do not pay taxes.

 

Oscar

Here are my ratings for the top reader interests. There are still five open slots, so keep the questions coming.

While no one asked about it, I’m big into trucking this week – think of your power running backs from Alabama. For our purposes the IYT Transport ETF will do. This area has experienced broad-based gains through the last quarter. I’m of the opinion we have some time before we peak. When you come across a 200-day moving average this flat, it’s hard to believe you’ve hit the ceiling.

J: How often do your ratings change? Are these listed in any particular order?

O: Any changes are strictly the result of the stock chart. If the markets change, my ratings will as well. I report the list in order of my strength ratings.

J: Are those like the ratings you use for your fantasy football team? I see that you switched to college football for this week’s column.

O: My fantasy teams depend upon a different algorithm, but it is also a good one.

J: Is that available to our readers?

O: Not unless you give me a raise!

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities. Each week features a different expert or stock.

Questions

If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Conclusion

Human traders are constantly at war with their own emotions. Losing streaks are inevitable – just part of the job.

Our models do not know, of course, when they are in a bad performance streak. Using models is a great way to maintain focus and discipline. That is not, however, the final word. As long as humans remain in control, there will be psychological issues. Is your model still “working?”

Maintaining confidence in your model or trading system is just as important as confidence in your own trading skill.

Stock Exchange: The Experts Like Energy

Technical experts are a rich source of new stock ideas. Our models, Felix, Oscar, and Holmes each specialize in a different time frame and level of risk. Before their weekly poker game, they spend a few minutes trading ideas. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” Here is the cast of characters:

Felix is fussy, precise, and very cautious. He looks for what is working, but it also must have upside potential. He is an investor who thinks long term. Felix will not usually announce new picks, but he will answer questions, saying what he thinks about specific stocks.

Oscar is naturally optimistic and a bit excitable. He definitely likes to go with winners, and focuses on a one-month time frame. He trades either sector ETFs, or a basket of stocks (equally weighted) that reflect a sector. Oscar will mention a favorite sector each week, and will also answer questions about sectors.

Holmes is a trader, but a cautious one. Holmes emphasizes asset protection through profit taking, stops, and trailing stops. He is careful in selecting new positions, and generally looks at an intermediate time frame. There is no set holding period, but two or three months is not unusual. Holmes will tell us one stock recommended that week. For those who sign up for his email list (no charge, privacy respected, holmes at newarc dot com) he will report exits with a one-day delay.

Jeff sometimes joins the discussion with some comments about stock or market fundamentals.

This Week’s Ideas

My purpose is to show how different approaches – all sound methods – often lead to different conclusions. Technical versus fundamental, trader versus investor, short-term versus long-term — all make a difference. I hope you will find the weekly discussion interesting and become a part of it.

Each member of the group, independently, comes up with an idea. To my surprise this week was all about energy.

Felix

I am liking oil and gas this week. I particularly like SM Energy (SM). There is a lot of movement and great long-term opportunity for more growth.

 

Oscar

I’m still holding onto Regional Banks, but my latest sector pick is Refiners. Just a glance at this YTD chart for CRAK and you’ll see a strong element of seasonality in this sector. I don’t think we’re anywhere near this year’s peak just yet.

Most stocks in this area have been quietly jogging through this low volatility period, waiting to break out into a sprint. I know I’ll be watching when they cross the finish line. Will you?

Holmes

I do not talk as much as Felix and Oscar, but my stock picks are still ahead of the humans. Last week’s bumpy ride has not changed my bullish outlook. Here is one I bought this week: Solar City (SCTY).

Jeff

The aptly named CRAK focuses on the key element for refiners, the crack spread. This tracks the difference in price between their input, crude oil, and the refined product they sell. When oil prices fell most people missed the opportunity in refiners. One way to keep an eye on this is to watch the forward curve on crack futures. Yes, there is such a thing. The spread declines seasonally into the end of the year, and looks nicely higher net year. Oscar might be disappointed in how long this takes.

Felix seems to think that SM Energy will return to the good old days when it traded 80. Time will tell. In last week’s question about AAPL he thought the chart was too messy, but I liked the stock. I would point out who is leading on that question, but it is best not to talk trash around Felix.

Holmes picked Solar City, which is showing some volatility. Holmes is quick to exit trades that are not working.

Questions

Each week we will answer questions. Feel free to address any of us.

One reader noted insider selling in CAH. This can be an important fundamental factor, more typically when there is buying. Holmes does not consider it because the information is not released quickly enough to be helpful in his time frame.

Another reader suggested that the group needed a female perspective. That is interesting, since there will be a new member of the poker group soon. She is quick-thinking and fast-trading. She knows a good chart when she sees one.

An Important Note to Readers

Felix, Oscar, and Holmes are all models, carefully engineered and tested by one of the leading developers of the last thirty years. They are highly-modified momentum models, with different time frames and features.

I humanize them because it makes it easier to understand the characteristics in their design. I always remind readers that my posts are informational, not investment advice, but special emphasis is needed here. While we are trading based upon all three models, we are always watching and can act quickly when necessary. The models are not suitable for all investors.

The conversation is light-hearted, but the stock analysis is serious. We own positions in each of the stocks mentioned.