Is It Too Late?

Heather Cullen

Heather Cullen

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In The Money

Heather Cullen Blog Too Late

Is it too late?

A question I am being asked a lot recently is:

I missed the golden cross – is it too late to buy in now?

Just to refresh your memory, here us a chart with the golden cross marked on it, and when we would have got into the market after confirmation, if we were following the ITM strategy.

Heather Cullen Blog SPY Chart

Since entry, SPY has risen strongly but not spectacularly, and is now up 5%. If you are using 100% leverage (i.e. you have a strike of $215 – $220) then you will be up 10%, and more if you had chosen a higher strike. We are now only $2 off the post-bear market high we reached in July, although not yet back to the all-time high of $477 at the start of 2022. I can’t help but reflect that it has been a pretty awful 2 years, trading-wise, I mean, after that lovely post-GFC bull market.

So, is it too late?

Obviously, we can’t tell the future, but we can look at what has happened in the past. I have quoted Jesse Livermore (the original wolf of Wall St) many times before, because I am amazed at how many of his quotes resonate 100 years later.

“Don’t take action with a trade until the market, itself, confirms your opinion. Being a little late in a trade is insurance that your opinion is correct. In other words, don’t be an impatient trader.”

Jesse Lauriston Livermore

So, let’s look at the bull markets for the last 40 years to see if it is too late:

  1. August 1982 – August 1987:
    • Duration: 5 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +229%
  2. December 1987 – July 1990:
    • Duration: 2.5 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +68%
  3. October 1990 – March 2000:
    • Duration: 9.5 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +417%
  4. October 2002 – October 2007:
    • Duration: 5 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +101%
  5. March 2009 – February 2020:
    • Duration: 11 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +529%
  6. March 2020 – January 2022):
    • Duration: 1.75 years
    • S&P 500 Gain: Approximately +114%
  7. March 2023 – present
    • Duration: ongoing, so far 8 months.
    • S&P 500 gain: Approximately + 16%

When does a bull market start?

There are various ways to determine when a bull market starts. One of the most popular is when it rises 20% from its low point in the previous bear market. This was in October last year, when SPY reached a low of $356.56, which would mean that the bull market started when it reached $428, or in June this year, 2023. However, looking at the chart it is clear that the uptrend started before this.

That is why I am counting the start of the current bull market as being in March 2023, when the downtrend line was broken, and we got the golden cross entry signal.

But is it too late to enter?

That is, of course, for the individual trader to decide – I can only tell you what the strategy says and read the charts. But if the past is anything to go by, then this bull market has quite a way to run. Most bull markets typically last for several years; much longer than bear markets. Unless something worldwide and unexpected happens, like another pandemic, on past experience we should expect this one to continue for some time yet.. I am probaly tempting fate by saying that – the market makes fools of us all.

 

Given how quickly we bounced back from the covid bear, we could theorize that if the pandemic (or rather government responses to it) hadn’t happened it was getting to be about time the bull market ran out of puff in 2022– after all it would have been going for 13 years! 

We could look at the covid bear as an aberration in a bull market that lasted from 2009 – 2022., which would make it the longest bull market in history, and we have yet to reach the heights that it reached at its peak.

“One of the most helpful things that anybody can learn is to give up trying to catch the last eighth – or the first. These two are the most expensive eighths in the world.”

Jesse Lauriston Livermore

To The Markets:

Well, we have been back in the market for two weeks now, with no major setbacks. ‘Normal’ market behavior would be to take a bit of a breather after such a strong rise – but when does the market listen to humans telling it what it ‘ought’ to do?

SPY Chart

Looking at the current chart, we are reaching resistance, but no other indicators are showing warning signs. But let’s look at how SPY (and other ETFs and stocks), often behave when they reach resistance.

Heather Cullen Blog SPY Chart

Here we can see a resistance line (the green dashed line) which is tested in March, then again in April / May before finally breaking through resistance at the end of May. And here is where it gets interesting. After trading over resistance for more of June it retreats and tests it. It bounces off, showing that the resistance line has become the new support line, then continues on its way north.

Is this going to happen to SPY now? I can’t say, just point out that it would not be unexpected if it did. If you want to time the market you might want to put in a buy order at the current support level of $445 and hope that it comes back to test support. Am I advocating that you do that? No. Personally, I wouldn’t do it, as once I have decided to get into a trade, I get into it.

Too many times have I put in a buy at where I think the market OUGHT to come down to, and then watch it ignore my order and continue to go up – and I am on the sidelines. I am just pointing out that that is a strategy some traders use. As always, it is your choice and your responsibility.

SPYG Chart

As for SPY, SPYG is coming up against resistance at $63. It is a well defined resistance line which held in late July, then again in late September.

SPYG has risen very strongly over the last month, and since the low on late October it is up 10%. Can it continue? The discussion above about SPY also holds for SPYG.  

QQQ Chart

Heather Cullen Blog QQQ Chart

QQQ has broken through resistance and is now at its post-2022 bear high of $390, and is approaching its previous post-covid high of 400.

VIX Chart

Heather Cullen Blog VIX Chart

The VIX continues to decline, and is now extremely low – in fact the lowest it has been in 5 years.

ITMeter

Heather Cullen Blog ITMeter

Backtesting

I have decided that I need to be more structured in my approach. I have so many backtests on the go that I am having trouble remembering which one is which! So, I’ve drawn up a structure about how I am going to approach it, one that will enable me to more easily and  quickly test new strategies with different combinations of parameters indicators as they are suggested.

So – if you have an idea that you think may improve or beat the ITM strategy please feel free to let me know (via the comments, otherwise things get lost, I get hundreds of SPAM a day). Just outline what you think it could look like so that it is nice and easy for me to understand, and I will put it on the list.

The week ahead

This week has been a shortened week due to Thanksgiving, so I am expecting an increase in trading activity. At this time, 12 hours to market open, the futures are looking down, but this frequently changes nearer to the time.

Heather Cullen Blog Futures

It won’t be surprising if we have a bit of a retracement, and as long as it stays above support at $445 then I wouldn’t be worried. We have a long way to go before there is a death cross, around a $30 drop, so unless something catastrophic happens there is unlikely to be any actions required this week.

As usual, fingers crossed for a good week!

Heather

Comments & Questions

As always, happy to answer questions and receive comments (just be kind!)

14 thoughts on “Is It Too Late?”

  1. Hi Heather. Love your work and the clarity and ease of understanding in regards to your books. Based on your response to a comment on your recent post, are you saying it’s better to switch to 50% leverage now or to use a shorter expiry? Also, seems like a dice roll as to whether to enter a buy currently or not for a new follower.
    Thanks,
    George

    1. HI George – if it were me I would choose a closer expiry date. It just means you have to roll 2 or 3 times a year rather than just once.
      If you look at the bottom of these comments then you will see part of the chain and my recommendations for another reader – Wayne – who was asking the same thing.
      Hope that helps.
      + – I have seen your other submission with a lot of questions. If it is OK I will take them bit by bit in the comments of the latest blog post.
      Hope this helps
      h

  2. George Halongton

    Dear Heather,

    Happy holidays and happy December to you and investors and traders in here. As always thank you for your weekly updates and I always look forever to trading it. Speaking of leveraged ETFs and your mentioning of day trading using $5k, we can sell weekly cash secured put or sell weekly covered call on TQQQ and collect weekly premium to accumulate TQQQ shares. The reason I choose TQQQ because it is the largest leveraged ETF. Please only use $5k and try this trading strategy.

    Sincerely,
    George Halongton in Los Angeles

    1. HI Brian
      I get the raw data from Yahoo Finance – here’s a link: https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/SPY/history/ You can also get it from here: https://www.nasdaq.com/market-activity/etf/spy/historical
      Having said that Yahoo can be temperamentsl – sometimes it lets you download data right back for 1929, other times it restricts you to 10 or 30 years, not sure why. The Nasdaq also restricts how far you can go back. If you can’t download it yourself I can share my datasets on this website.
      Re the actual backtesting – I do that myself, mainly using Excel as I can’t find any software that does what I want.
      Hope this helps.
      h

  3. I’ve just finished reading ITM Bull Market Strategy. When I looked at the SPY options (using Fidelity) I found that the strikes at about 60% of the SPY were trading with an effective cost that was around 2-3% higher than the SPY not the 1% target that you discuss in your book and use in your backtesting. The SPY closed today (11/29/23) at 454.61 today and the average of the bid and ask for the Dec 20, 2024 275 strike is (188.67 + 192.51)/2 = 190.59. [ (275 + 190.59) / 454.61 – 1 ] = 2.41%. If instead I use the June 21, 2024 275 strike, the effective cost is still 1.35% above the SPY. Am I missing something or is it not possible to get a strike at 60% of the SPY for which the effective cost is only 1% above the SPY?

    Thanks in advance for your help. I really enjoyed ITM Bull and am looking forward to reading ITM Bear.

    1. Hi Wayne
      yes. options are more expensive now that they were when I wrote the book. Have been doing backtesting with 50% leverage (which is relatively easy to come by) and the results are still impressive. I am going to bring out a 2024 edition with updated testing and strategies. (well, that’s the intention!)
      Re why they are expensive and what to do about it – we have discussed that in a few blog posts, here is a link to the last one: https://heathercullen.com/riding-the-market/
      Basically, to come within the ITM parameters in these days of higher interest rates we have to either go with less than 60% leverage OR choose a closer expiry date, which means that you will have to roll more often than once a year.
      I have just had a look at today’s option chains and have picked out some suitable options, and put them in a table at the bottom of the comments (you can’t put an image in a comment)
      The ones in red are more than 1% away, the rest are possibles. I have left on in that is 1.15% over as I think it is a possible also.
      Hope this helps – please get back to me if not.
      h

    1. Hi Matt,
      I know that using a leveraged ETF sounds the same as following the ITM strategy, but in reality it is quite different. Leveraged ETFs are not desined for longer term investing because of the daily reset. If SPY goes up, say, 3% in a day then the 2X ETF will go up 6%. But that is where it stops. If SPY went up 3% over a month you cannot expect it to return 6% for the month.
      I have detailed this in the ITMB (bear book) Chapter 3, and in a previous blog post. Here’s the link: https://heathercullen.com/why-not-use-a-leveraged-etf/
      Hope this helps
      h

  4. Hi Heather,

    Sorry for the confusion – let me reword this.

    Is there a relationship between the mental ease/difficulty of placing a trade and its ultimate profitability?

    For example, some trades are very easy to place (i.e. if I think we’re at a bottom – the trade “feels” good) and some are very difficult to place (if I think the market is topping out – the trade “feels” painful to place). It seems to me (I have no journal to prove this) that the difficult ones are the profitable ones.

    Thank you,
    Ronny

    1. Ronny – great question, but the short answer is I don’t know! I did keep diaries some years ago, but didn’t find them terribly useful, so haven’t done for years.
      I know some trades are easier to get into that others, but whether they tend to be the most profitable I really don’t know.
      But I have been pondering while I am backtesting – by having a purely rule-based system are we missing out? I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Blink’ a few years ago, and was quite intrigued. He looks at rapid, intuitive decision-making, when we make quick judgements on limited information. He things that our unconscious mind is capable of processing information quickly and making accurate assessments in the blink of am eye. He looks at situations where it has worked well, and others where it has led to errors and biases.
      I have spent many hours stepping through charts day by day trying to predict what is going to happen past the right side of the screen, and didn’t achieve more than about a 50% hit rate. But during the daytrading experiment when I was following Tom Hougaard, many times my mind was screaming ‘don’t do it!’ (i.e. follow him into the trade) and usually I was right as the trades went bad. Maybe we are better at seeing dangers rather than opportunities?
      So – I recommend the book – would be interested in what you think about applying it to trading.
      h

  5. Just finished reading In The Money Bull Market Strategy this weekend. I couldn’t put the book down. Loved all of the quotes at the end of the chapters and can’t believe how lucky I am to have read your book. I have been option trading for almost 30 years and have been fortunate enough to have done well. Everything you are saying is so true from the emotions that trading the market invokes to eventually achieving the fu balance that changes your life for the better. Thank you!

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