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Participation Climax

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    September 8, 2012

    For a month we have been waiting for a news event to trigger a break up or down out of the narrow, miserable trading range. Thursday brought  “positive” news regarding new plans to deal with the European debt crisis. It was the kind of news we refer to in shorthand as pure BS. Or as Macbeth said: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    (This article excerpts themes from recent blogs for Decision Point subscribers.)

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    Specifically, a debt problem cannot be solved until the debtor begins running a budget surplus that allows him to begin retiring the debt. Period. Printing money ain’t going to do it, but the geniuses who run the world know better. So the market is constantly on edge, waiting for the next bright idea for ending the crisis with no pain. The news comes, triggers a brief rally (a lot of short-covering). Then reality sets in again. On the chart below we can see the effect these swings between fantasy and reality have had on price.

    On Thursday we got a nice market rally, and the Participation Index-UP reached climactic levels. The Participation Index (PI) measures short-term price trends and tracks the percentage of stocks pushing the upper or lower edge of a short-term price trend envelope. The PI has no breadth or volume component — it is strictly derived from price movement. In this article we will only be addressing Participation-UP.

    Climactic activity on the PI is generally in the 60 to 80 range, and climaxes generally signal that the immediate advance is ending and that there will be a period of consolidation or correction — a pause to refresh, so to speak. There are instances where price just keeps rising after indicators climax, but that kind of price power is normally associated with the beginning of a new bull market. Thursday’s climax is more likely a signal that the news-induced advance is nearly over.


    Conclusion: The S&P 500 has advanced about 13% since the June low, but it has been a choppy ride because the news suffered from a lack of sustainability. Climaxes of the Participation-UP have been occurring at or near short-term tops, and I think that will prove to be the case this time as well.

    Images: via Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author

    Carl SwenlinCarl Swenlin is a self-taught technical analyst, who has been involved in market analysis since 1981. A pioneer in the creation of online technical resources, he is president and founder of DecisionPoint.com, a premier technical analysis website specializing in stock market indicators, charting, and focused research reports. Mr. Swenlin is a Member of the Market Technicians Association.