A Double Top on the S&P 500?

I rarely put much emphasis on technical analysis of individual stocks. Reading charts can work, but only in the absence of material new information. Without meaningful newsflow, technical indicators will often hold up because everybody is looking at the same thing and traders will act similarly, thereby allowing the technical analysis to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, as soon as the company reports earnings, receives an analyst upgrade, or announces a merger (among dozens of other possible catalysts), chart reading goes out the window in favor of a necessary revaluation of the company’s shares based on new revelations.

With indexes, however, technical analysis has a bit more merit. Many hedge funds trade the indexes as a whole, as well as individual stocks. Newsflow for an entire index, the S&P 500 for example, doesn’t occur. The S&P doesn’t report earnings. Wall Street research departments don’t have analysts covering indexes. As a result, the double top that formed recently on the S&P 500 could be concerning.

Traders focused on indexes could very well use that formation as a reason to sell, and not only their index ETF’s and futures, but their stock holdings as well (based not on company fundamentals but rather index technicals). Despite a nice move higher in February, the market is still down for the year, as January’s drop has yet to be fully recouped.

If we can’t break the overhead resistance in the 1,212-1,213 area on the S&P, the recent rally might not continue very much longer. Interestingly, the market opened the year at 1,212, which turned out to be the high for this week before we headed south once again.