Why we have exactly the fuel we need for a year-end rally

Market participants are trying to make sense of the recent stock market volatility. They want to know why it happened, why was there a significant drop in so many growth stocks, and was this recent sharp pullback just a shakeout before a year-end rally or the start of a bigger correction? Of course, no one knows the answer to the last question, but I’m leaning towards a year-end rally for the following reasons.

Technicals – During the recent drop, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite found support around their 50-day moving averages. Since this is traditionally an area of institutional support, it is important to note that the large institutions were buying near these levels. 

Chart is provided by MarketSmith.

Strong Seasonality — November, December, and January are historically three of the stronger months of the year. Specifically, the second half of December tends to be strong, as seen in the chart below (courtesy of @RyanDetrick

Stock Leadership — It’s hard to get bearish when many Mega Cap growth leaders such as Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) and Tesla (TSLA) continue to hold logical support levels. In addition, Apple (AAPL) is the most widely held stock and it surged to an all-time high this week. Finally, I consider Semiconductors as a true indicator of the economy, and many stocks in this sector are approaching or already at new highs.

Sentiment Many sentiment measures reached extreme bearish levels last week. A casual observer might not understand why this happened with the major indexes near all-time highs, but beneath the surface, it has been a bloodbath. Most people don’t just own the index. They own growth stocks, and especially get married to the ones that have greatly appreciated in price over the past year or two. When these stocks become “too crowded,” the market conveniently destroys these names, and that kills the morale of many traders.

This leads me to the first two questions I posed at the beginning of this article. The selloff was partially related to uncertainty fears around the new Omicron variant, and it was also a normal pullback to shake out some of the excess created in the prior six weeks. However, the main reason had to do with Fed Chair Powell changing his tune from dovish to more hawkish.

Since early April 2020, I’ve been writing articles to stay bullish because of the insane amount of liquidity the Fed was pumping into the system. In the spring of 2020, the Fed made more Treasury purchases in the six weeks following the pandemic than they did in the nine years combined between 2009-2018. They continued with $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, but now need to reduce or “taper” these purchases. In last week’s testimony to Congress, Fed Chair Powell discussed speeding up the taper and the market interpreted his language as hawkish and started to price in two to three rate hikes in 2022. There’s a reason why Wall Street legend Martin Zweig created the phrase “Don’t fight the Fed.”

Many people are concerned that we might see a all of 2018 scenario. In October 2018, Fed Chair Powell said he planned on raising rates 3 to 4 times in the upcoming year. The market clearly could not handle this and then proceeded to drop 20% in the following few months. In January 2019, Powell took back his words and that ended the market correction. I don’t see this scenario happening now because even if the Fed tapers more quickly than people expect, they are still providing a low-interest rate and equity-friendly environment. In fact, Powell never really has to raise rates. He can just say that he will, watch the market drop, and then retract his words.

Bottom line, the strong technicals combined with the favorable seasonality and extremely negative sentiment could be the fuel needed for a year-end rally. As far as 2022 goes, we’ll worry about that next year.

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