Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lagging Semiconductor Index Suggests Caution

Last Wednesday, the NASDAQ-100 index (NDX), which had been relatively weak compared to the SPX, put in a top and began to decline. The weakness in the NDX was one of the reasons I wondered aloud SPX 915 As a Top? – only to discover that while I had indeed found a top, it was in the NDX, not in the S&P 500.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, also known as the SOX, put in a top of its own before reversing hard and declining precipitously. The SOX ended the day down 5.6% and dragged down the NDX and the rest of the technology sector with it. Technology has been in a tailspin ever since the steep drop in the SOX.

The banks were successful in keeping the broader markets in a bullish mode on Friday without the help of the SOX and technology (see The Banks vs. Technology), but starting on Monday, the weakness in technology began to spread to other sectors, even the financials.

The SOX has long been considered a leading indicator, not just for technology firms but also for the market in general. Semiconductors are early cycle technology stocks and an unhealthy semiconductor sector does not bode well for economic recovery.

Going forward, a healthy rally should include the participation of semiconductors, as measured by the SOX and ETFs such as SMH. In an ideal rally, semiconductors should show strong absolute gains and also outperform the SPX on a relative basis. Until we see more strength from semiconductors, I am likely to have a bearish bias.

[source: StockCharts]

13 comments:

Dr. Holger von Jouanne-Diedrich said...

There is also an leading-leading indicator: the suppliers of the semiconductor-industry, like the builders of wafer-production-machinery. As I hear the situation there is getting more and more dramatic - it seems that the downturn is accelerating again :-(((

Anonymous said...

Bill,

my first impression and conclusions would have been the same, but market's history doesn't show any evidence for such a conclusion, at least not concerning the Semiconductor Index' out-/under-performance versus the S&P 500 and/or Nasdaq 100 Index.

I'll address this topic in a post today.

Best,
Frank
http://tradingtheodds.wordpress.com

Douglas said...

Frank / Bill

Have read both your posts. Does it depend on how far out from when you get these indications? i.e. if a few days then it's not very telling (Frank) but over a slightly longer period it does make a difference (Bill)?

I think you looked at just 5 sessions out Frank? Is that right?

Douglas

Anonymous said...

Douglas,

correct, 5 days.

I also checked different time frames as well (up to 1 month in the future), but I couldn't find any which would provide a noteworthy edge compared to the respective at-any-time probabilities and odds.

Best,
Frank

Douglas said...

Perhaps it just works on the bullish side. See post by Rob Hanna.

I have built my own simple model based on this.

http://quantifiableedges.blogspot.com/2009/02/sox-gives-intermediate-term-bullish.html

The precise framework of the study is probably important.

Anonymous said...

Douglas,

no, unfortunately that is not the point.

What sounds solidly bullish with 'If you look out 12 days there has been at least 1 close higher than the trigger day in 42 of 43 instances (98%)' (cit. from Rob's post) looses (some of) its significance if you'd additionally mention that the at-any-time probability for a higher SPX close during the following 12 sessions is already 88.50% (investing randomly or being always in the market without any kind of setup, since 01/02/1990). That is only a minor improvement compared to the at-any-time probabilities, and with 43 instances out of more than 3,000 sessions only a (very) small sample size (but nevertheless something to consider).

The bigger the sample size, and the more significant the delta between probabilities and odds concerning any survey and the respective at-any-time probabilities and odds, the better.

Best,
Frank

I

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Jeff Pietsch CFA said...

Nice interchange pushing everyone's thinking -- All too rare! Good work gang. Best, Jeff

Douglas said...

Thanks Frank.

Bill,

I think I've got the end of day numbers:
S&P 500 up 1.04%
VXO down 6.78%
VXV down 4.67%
and...
VXO down 9.47%!!

Would you say that is down to the 'time of the month'? If so, would you not also think it's quite a disproportionate drop relative to the index? What could cause this?

Anonymous said...

HELP - this is for anyone. What should I do. I have $50,000 in an IRA - should I remove all funds, pay the 10% penalty next year, plus the hit on income... and at least have something left. Or should I leave everything in the IRA accounts, and take the chance of losing all.

Anonymous said...

Just one man's opinion - like all the others. Haven't seen any experts who've given the right answers most of the time throughout this mess. I'm playing with the same amount of money, but it's not in the market at this moment. Everyone's been talking about the bottom and telling us it's the bottom or asking us if it's the bottom since November. They get paid for this? I've been looking for one more major bottom this year and I think the time has come for it. Looking to short stocks over the next few months, then start buying like many did in March. I would NOT take money from an IRA and take the hit. If you have control of where it goes, I would try to put it in something that's been relatively stable since November - something that maybe pays out dividends to overcome the possible loss on the stock. Two that come to mind are PWE and IWA. Everyone argues pros and cons of various stock and reasons not to stay with them, but those 2 have stayed in a range that hasn't hurt too bad, all the while paying decent dividends. If you're allowed to change to something that goes against the market, like SDS, I think we're looking for a major change there. And also go against the long term treasury bond with TBT - Ultra Short 20+ year treasury bonds. Once we see a turnaround from the next bottom, change back to buying again. Everyone's laughing, including me cause it's all easier said than done. If it was this easy, we'd all be rich.

John said...

Bill,
It was the early cyclicals and commodity related industries that have led us up off the March lows... Then the Financials have recently taken over. Semis within tech are also a "leading early-to-move off a trough and into a recovery" type of group whereas software and services within tech do better once a recovery is well under way and businesses are not afraid to invest and upgrade there.

I think what you are onto here is that the inventory refresh across chemicals, basic materials, and select manufacturing, including semis, happened and the stocks reacted. "Green shoots" and the beginning of a recovery have been popular cries from the bulls, but there are still not many signs of "true demand" showing up to continue the rally in those stocks. Their rally is getting over extended if we are only going to plug along at low manufacturing capacity for the next few months and the pundits who are pointing to them for leadership in a sustained rally might be disappointed by the time we are seeing 2Q and 3Q earnings.

VA Voter said...

Take a look at XHB - Homebuilders for a similar leading pattern but from a much higher bounce than SMH since 3/9/9.

VA Voter said...

To Anonymous @ 4:00<

WITHIN your IRA move yourself or instruct your broker to move to whatever you consider appropriately conservative.

In a self directed IRA there is no need to incur the penalty.

Good luck.

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