Positioning within an overbought market

Upside target for the S&P500 is at the old highs of 2135. That’s about 3% upside from here.  I am not providing a prediction here, but that is the obvious next target, should markets keep moving up. The S&P 500 hit and fell from that 2100-ish ceiling numerous times over more than a year. Based on that duration, it’s going to take a significant event to drive the markets up through old highs. But what could drive markets to accomplish new highs, and when could it happen?


Presidential cycles suggest that the second half of an election year is bullish. This makes sense, given the uncertainty that is lifted after that event. Further, whenever a new President or (in Canada’s case) Prime Minister is elected, markets can go through a bit of a “Honeymoon” phase. Plus, seasonality will come back into play in the fall. So that would be my guess as to when markets might start their next charge.

pres cycle

In the near term, markets are overbought. While the weekly chart shows encouraging RSI and MACD (mid to longer termed momentum), the shorter signals coming from stochastics are suggesting things have gone too far. And of course, we are nearing the end of the “best 6 months” period.


Drilling down to the daily chart, we can see that momentum oscillators are quite overbought across the board. You’ll also notice that on both the weekly and daily charts, the s&P500 is starting to outperform the TSX again—largely due to the retreat by oil – and other commodities.  If markets got ugly, the S&P could easily see the lows of last summer and this January—both around the high 1800’s. That’s an 8% downside. Again, not a prediction, but a potential based on an overbought condition, the presidential cycle tendency for chop in the final part of the first half of the year, and seasonal patterns coming to a close at the end of this month. And yes, markets could go lower than 1880, but I am using the most likely downside potential (not a prediction).

S&P nearterm


Stock market risk vs. reward

If the upside potential to 2135 from here represents a 3% reward, and the downside potential based on 1880 represents an 8% risk – I’d say we have more than a 2:1 reward: risk ratio. That’s unfavorable


VIX risk vs. reward

I’m beginning to leg into a VIX –related security, as noted in my last blog. Yes, (the VIX) can go lower.

Thus , I am only putting on a part position at this time. If the VIX got down to 11, as noted on my blog, I will buy enough to overweight the position. That level represents a very good risk/reward premium for the VIX. If it  drops a bit less, say into 12, I’ll buy enough to make a full position. If it heads up too quickly, I’ll just hold what I have.


The VIX near termed chart can be seen below. As you will note, 12-15 have been near termed support levels for the VIX. It’s around 14 today. My downside for buying today if it heads to 12 represents a 13% loss. Worst case is for the VIX to hit 10, which would be a 40% drop. My upside for the VIX, if it goes back to its recent trading highs of 18 is 28% (to 18) and as high as doubling my money (100%) if it goes to 28. Keep in mind, as one of our readers noted, contango on futures and ETF’s can mess with this equation a bit.

vix short

Also note that I am keeping half of my “normal” position powder dry on this trade. That is, I can buy another half at a lower cost should conditions described above play out.

But just to use my current purchase to compare it to playing the S&P 500: Worst case downside is 40% downside, best case 100% upside. That’s more than a double reward/risk ratio.

Compared to the double risk/reward ratio for the S&P500 (3% upside, 8% downside), its looking like a step-in strategy to the VIX may be prudent, despite the bigger numbers to the downside that are involved with the VIX.


  • I would have to believe that the current platforms of the US Presidential hopefuls are influencing the markets. The irrational and impossible promises being made to gain votes are already giving me to decrease my exposure to equities. I would think “smart money” is or will be on the sidelines until the dust settles in November. As we get closer to determining the final candidates, do you expect to have to take a more defensive position in the markets ?

    • Ken–excellent question.
      If you have read a few of my past blogs, you know I’m pretty interested in politics. But I can keep this one short: the election cycle happens because it doesn’t matter who it is that’s running, everyone is worried about potential change. Now, add in the fact that this time around the USA has some pretty extreme characters running–I would suggest more extreme than prior elections (Bush was right wing but not crazy, Obama had Obamacare spread the love thoughts but was fairly respected at the time).
      This time, we have some outright wing nuts (did I say that???) representing both sides, so its going to be more turmoil IMO as the summer comes around. And no–I dont have an opinion who will be elected or who would be better for the markets. I think it almost doesn’t matter.

    • I am legging into this and other bearish positions–no hurry, as the 200 day MA is not cracked. The market is overbought right now, and deserves to pull back. The big question is the 200 day MA. If the 200 day MA is broken, that will change things from just being overbought to “red alert”–that’s where I will pile into bearish strategies.

  • Keith, you are referring to SPX 200 d SMA at 2052 are you not?

    • William – the S&P 500’s 200 day SMA is at around 2015 as I write this–thus the market is above that line at this moment.

  • Thanks Keith, a timely blog as usual.

    I have the same concerns now after the impressive S&P rally from the Feb lows, i.e. short term overbought, early technical indicator warnings, and presidential cycle. I’ve taken steps to sell some positions and hedge the remaining. Yesterday I started buying (legging into slowly) some HSD. After reading your blog today, I was wondering if a VIX ETF wouldn’t be better then an inverse S&P ETF. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Ron
      I am doing very small increments at a time- so far I have a half position in Horizons VIX ETF, and a half position in HDGE. I like the horizons single inverse too. So I may buy a half position in that eventually. I expect to do this over the next few weeks, hoping to hit 10%-15% hedge holdings, in addition to somewhere near 40% cash. Ultimately my equity exposure will be low. But I prefer to step carefully rather than aggressively while the market remains over the 200 day MA.

      • Hi Keith,

        Yesterday end of day, was a good day to buy a bit of either as they pulled back and the S&P bounced a bit. I don’t know if you mentioned this in another blog, but I noticed the financials (US and Canada) are under performing a bit as well as the transports. Another sign of increased market risk I would think.


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