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6 Rules for a Negative-Momentum Market

by | Dec 6, 2022 | Market Outlook

Market momentum turned negative Monday afternoon for the first time since October.

It had been the longest stretch of positive inflows and price gains for the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 since late 2021.

Momentum — in my world — is a measurement of capital inflows and outflows. I measure thousands of stocks, and bring everything down to a single measurement rating: Red, Even or Green.

I use a variety of technical indicators to determine how money is moving — but none are more important than the Money Flow Index, the Relative Strength Index, the MACD and the ADX 14.

And when the colors change… all hell can break loose.

Understanding Our Big Drop 

This week’s negative turn has stunned many market participants.

However, the sudden sell-off is rooted in two specific elements: the technical and recession narratives.

The technical narrative is simple… The S&P 500 came off lows of 3,500 in September, and barreled in a low-volume burn toward 4,100 last week. Then, following a bounce off the 200-day moving average, many traders took profits and walked away for the rest of the year.

Meanwhile, the recession narrative is more complex…

We’ve shifted from a conversation about the Federal Reserve’s taming of inflation to the Fed’s impact on the economy with higher interest rate hikes.

In the past 48 hours, several banks — who also have traders shorting this market — have said a recession is inevitable.

For example, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) said Tuesday that a recession would start in the first quarter of 2023.

Everyone panic!

Momentum turned negative after the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSE: IWM) fell under 183, and the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY) dunked under 395.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation in the days ahead. However, I now anticipate we’ll see some nasty price movement — similar to previous sell-offs in January, April, June and August. It might be fast and furious. The good news is that cash is your friend.

Here are my six rules for negative momentum…

Rule 1: Cash Is My Friend

I move to cash when momentum turns negative. I know that sounds crazy. I sell everything? Well, I don’t sell everything in my retirement account. But my trading account? Yes… I move to heavy cash.

I’m out of long positions, and I position my cash for buying opportunities. Since I’m an active trader and investor, I focus on key technicals that allow me to focus on new entry points. The move to negative momentum is very important as I protect as much capital on the balance sheet as possible. This is how I can buy for a dollar and sell for two dollars multiple times a year.

Rule 2: Don’t Sell Puts, Unless… See Rule 6

If I find myself selling put spreads as an entry point, now is not the time for me to open new positions… If I sold previous cash-secured puts or put spreads, I entered this with the mindset that I was willing to buy the stock at a lower price. If I’m up on my current position, now would be a good time to take profits. If I’m down, now might be the time to assess whether I want to sell spreads at an even lower price.

When momentum goes negative, selling can be indiscriminate. That means nothing is safe. The last thing I would want to do is have exposure to a $50 put when the downside for a stock is much lower.

Rule 3: Learn Implied Volatility Rank

One of the great rules that I learned from my time with Tastytrade and Tom Sosnoff was how to know the difference between cheap and expensive options. I use a tool on tastyworks called Implied Volatility Rank (IVR). This measures the implied volatility of a stock TODAY compared to its IV during the previous 52 weeks of the year.

If a stock has an IVR of 25, its implied volatility is lower than the 75% of the trading days over the past year. If it’s at 80, that means it’s higher than 80% of the days in the past year. The general rule is that if IVR is under 25, it’s cheap to buy calls or puts. If it’s over 30, I might want to sell calls and puts. And if it’s really elevated, that’s the time for me to do exotic trades like iron condors. This can also tell me which stock to trade, and how to trade it compared to other ideas.

Rule 4: Sell Credit Spreads in Negative Momentum

If a stock is expensive to short with a long put, there are other “options.” I can sell vertical call spreads on stocks with a high IVR, and benefit if the stock trades sideways or declines in value. I’d be selling someone the right to purchase a stock from me at a higher price. If the stock price falls, the underlying call will fall as well, thereby reducing the value of the call spread.

I use a higher call on the trade to protect myself against any surprise upside on a stock — think a buyout or sudden momentum reversal.

Rule 5: Look for Oversold Levels on the SPY and IWM

Finally, the market tends to sell off fast and furious in negative momentum environments. From June 8, the S&P 500 ETF went from overbought to oversold in about seven trading days. Following the SPY’s move on the Relative Strength Index (RSI) to under 30, the market was oversold. Oddly enough, no one had the guts to buy stocks.

Want to know who purchased shares in oversold conditions and made a fortune? Robots.

Algorithms — which have no emotion or fear — scooped up stocks in deeply oversold conditions and kept buying for a month. The market’s momentum didn’t turn positive for a month — until July 18 — but low-volume buying produced terrific gains for investors.

Rule 6: Wait… Sell Puts in Very Specific Conditions

The oversold territory is also a very good place to sell puts on stocks I want to own when we’ve reached a period of “peak fear.” If the RSI on a stock is at 25, and it’s a great blue-chip company, I use the high volatility and the fear to sell puts on a stock maybe 15% to 20% lower than its current level.

If the stock does fall to that point, I’ll have an absolute bargain. But if the stock does rebound from overbought, I can repurchase the option for less and pocket the difference.

With that, I’m ready for battle. It’s time to trade momentum.

To your wealth,


WRITTEN BY<br>Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin

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