“It’s not what you don’t know that kills you, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t true.”

I return to this statement over and over as I play the markets.  Mark Twain had unending wisdom.  The speculating public, usually not so much.  November’s stock market returns were a delightful 10% for the S&P 500 and an eye-watering 18% for the Russell 2000; thank you very much hard and fast sector rotation.

Major Indexes November Returns (12-2-2020)

Despite this, ambiguity still reigns supreme currently.  Context is critical.  So does the ambiguity matter to long-term investors?  No.  But if you’re swing trading any asset classes in these markets then the ambiguity matters a whole lot.

Let’s use some simple, classic technical analysis to better illustrate how muddy the waters have become.  We’ll start with the S&P 500.  Depending on your trend-line bias, there’s a few different ways to perceive current action.

SPX Weekly (12-2-2020)

It looks like a very legitimate breakout.  It’s been a hard chop since late July, but I thought we might see yet one more leg down to the high 3100s or low 3200s.  The reason for this was the curious inter-market activity among various asset classes.  Typical correlations weren’t holding up in November and the breakout just felt fake.  But therein lies the problem of using “feel.”  Obviously, I don’t just go with the gut when allocating capital but it has often paid to at least listen to it.

We know that one major, semi-new factor driving markets is option activity.  Never before has one had to care so much about option Greeks to simply trade the underlying.  Observe the enormous rise in single-equity options premiums as a result of the tidal wave of buying, most of that in Calls by retail and institutional.

Buy to Open Calls Spot Premium (10-18-2020)

Options activity has seen market makers make unparalleled purchases in the underlying stocks in order to hedge their Call sales books.  As a result, volatility has chopped right along with the markets as moves have been fast and furious.  So where is volatility possibly headed next?  Again, the trend lines paint a couple of different pictures.

VIX Weekly (12-2-2020)

We have the current liquidity flood and more coming in 2021 to support fund flows into risk assets.  There’s also the beginning of a sector rotational move into value.  I don’t think that’s a done deal yet.  I think growth i.e. tech still has legs left.  I hypothesize that the bounce in energy and small caps is only the first strike of sector rotation, but the growth of SaaS and big tech will soon parry in 2021 which should stunt recent returns in energy and small caps…at least temporarily.

The one asset class that continues to dominate my thoughts is the US dollar.  I’m reading tons of obituaries.  They feel premature.  A swift move up to the 95 area would not surprise me here; swift relative to its usual multi-month cadence.  A “swift-ish” move in the USD would drop a hammer on commodities, which wouldn’t bode well for the recent rotation into energy.

USD Weekly (12-2-2020)

The grains and sugar have been on an unfailing tear upwards.  Typical COT activity would have already seen correlated reversals in these crops.  I’ve seen insinuations that perhaps we’re in a regime change for those specific assets, but like the death of the dollar, that innuendo feels a bit premature.

For my own long-term portfolio of equities, I continue to evaluate the plays that many deem to have great forward looking prospects as not only technology evolves but society as well.  They may seem obvious, but it’s hard to shake what a well chosen play can mean for the potential of a portfolio.  This means gene-editing, cutting edge biotech, AI, data dissemination, and two of the oldest vices on the planet with tremendously long runways as a result of only barely being legitimized.

In the short-term, I think the commodity shorts present a most compelling current opportunity but so much rides on the USD’s anti-correlation.

If you really want to generate some returns with equities, consider after hours trading.  This has been widely reported on for a few years now, but just look at a recent chart put out by Bespoke to truly illustrate the marked difference in strategies.

Bespoke After Hrs. Trading Since Inception (Nov. 2020)

Of course, 2020 has flipped that on it’s head.  See below, but after-hours is starting to reassert it’s dominance.

Bespoke After Hrs. Trading Since Start of 2020 (Nov. 2020)

Stay sharp.  Recent choppy action may not be over just yet.  And with everyone predicting an amazing 2021, including myself, it might just take a little time to get the real momentum going next year.

Evaluating Markets Not Called Stocks

In my last financial post, I stated that I thought the market would move sideways for approximately 7 weeks before a catalyst would present itself to drive the market higher going into the beginning of the summer. So far, so good. Yes, the market is up about 1.5% but it appears to be the start of a sideways consolidation as the market exhales some energy.

I suspect we see a little downside move over the next week or two, as part of the sideways action, followed by a move back up to current levels about 3 maybe 4 weeks from now. By then, that catalyst should present itself for the resumption of the trend back up to new highs. Will my hot streak continue? If past is prologue…


Right now, I want to talk about the US dollar and its potential effects on various commodities. Specifically, we want to watch oil, precious metals, and the grains.


It’s easy to observe the stiff support at $94 and I think this time is no different. I suspect we get a slight bounce of about $4 up to about $98. This is in line with previous bounces off of $94 during this 15-month consolidation. There are plenty of analysts out there who think the USD bull will renew to move a lot higher. The thesis of the trade being a fear-based allocation in light of a pessimistic international outlook to various economies and the worthless, respective monetary policies currently employed by central banks.

I disagree. When the big one hits, the real correction across all markets, the USD will at first be a bastion of relative strength but that sentiment will be temporary. The problem with the thesis that we are in the early phases of a USD bull is that it runs counter to the other widely held thesis that the next financial crisis will be co-focused around an international collapse in confidence in the USD. That’s a discussion for a future post.

I believe the momentum has shifted for commodities. I suspect the worm has turned in the precious metals complex. Corn, wheat, and soybeans are potentially at the beginning of a spike. Oil has been unstoppable, but that DOHA meeting of the controlling powers will have a heavy influence on trading behaviors. It’s not inconceivable that the USD and commodities could run in the same direction but that belies decade’s worth of a consistently negatively correlated relationship.

Specifically, I’m referring to short-term action. Months not years. But let’s look at multi-year charts for gold and the grains, of which I’ll use my typical go-to trading medium of JJG.



What goes up generally comes down. Gold has held strong with a sideways move off the hard spike higher to start the year, but with the pending move in the USD, I think we’ll finally see the correction that many have been calling for. You can see that around $1,140 represents a stiff area of support. I suspect that could be gold’s next destination over the next several weeks or months, however that still represents a higher-low leaving a new uptrend intact. If one were inclined to trade, that’s $100 of movement to design a short-term, multi-month play as it moves lower and then begins a recovery. One pattern to watch, if you believe in such hokum, is the little head & shoulders that has formed since February. Will the break of the right shoulder-base be a catalyst?



I have had a lot of luck trading this grains ETF. Some of my biggest returns in the shortest amount of time have come from scalping the market for a nice rip on these multi-month grain rallies. Sentiment, professional hedging, and seasonality point towards the potential of another run. More importantly though, price action agrees. It looks like a based-low was established to start the year and last week represented a possible higher low. The price action was especially promising to end the week. Position accordingly.

But if the USD is about to bounce, won’t that hurt commodities? Even agriculturals? Not necessarily. Oil will very likely be affected but again the speculator positioning by huge players could potentially cause another squeeze as much as the DOHA meeting could negatively affect prices. Gold sentiment was stretched anyways. But the grains don’t always run counter to the dollar. In fact correlations between the USD and grains do not share an easily deciphered message. Grains can and do run in lockstep with the dollar at times. Have a look below.


In two of the last 3 rallies, the grains (blue-dotted) ran concurrent with the USD. Even though the USD is potentially beginning a bounce, so could be the grains.

As stocks continue their consolidation, the USD should be the dominant theme in the markets as it moves upward over the next several weeks. Watch associated commodities. If you’re feeling really brave, try trading the other currencies with a rising USD as your foundation for analyses. Good luck out there.