A Major Bear Market Signal

In 2013, I published an essay called “The I Hate Stocks Trading Plan“. It was aimed at my many friends who are buy-and-hold traders. Whatever the market does, they ride it up, they ride it down, they ride it back up, and they ride it back down again.

(Click on the title above to read it, or click here.)

That’s a lot of potential profit being chewed up by the bear markets.

The “I Hate Stocks” plan, as I presented it, is extremely conservative. It relies on the 12-month moving average — that’s right, “month”. The chart under this plan is checked once a month, on the last day. If it close above the 12-month moving average, then it is in a bull phase. If below, then it is in a bear phase.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, traders with skin in the game do well to take notice.

By this measure, the S&P 500 and it’s top index fund, SPY, entered signaled a bear market at the end of October. Here’s what it looks like on a five-year chart, where each bar covers a month. The yellow line is the 12-month simple moving average (“simple” means, no weighting in favor of the newer readings).


The 12-month moving average method won’t have you jumping in and out like a demented jackrabbit. It will, like all signals, occasionally give false alarms. But generally, a signal means that we’re in for a change in trend that will be with us for awhile — months, and maybe years.

The last time the S&P 500 gave such a bear signal was in August 2015. It moved back into a bull signal in March 2016. In both cases, the signal was read on the last day of the month.

That was a relatively short correction, a bit more than half a year. There’s no guarantee that they’ll all be that short.

The bear signal of late 2008 kicked off a bear market that lasted until mid-2009, and the market took years to really get going. It didn’t return to its prior levels until 2013, five years later.

Here’s a 20-year monthly chart of the S&P 500, again with monthly bars.


Note that under this plan, the trader won’t avoid all of the decline, but will escape most of it. And the trader will won’t catch all of rise, but will profit from most of it. Like all signals, the 12-month moving average is a lagging indicator. But even with the lag, used properly it increases profits.

Full disclosure: I don’t use the “I Hate Stocks Trading Plan” in my own trading. Truth is, I love stocks, especially in the form of their options, a derivative. Using stock options, I can make money in a downtrending market just as handily as I can make it in an uptrending market. And I trade often, almost every week, sometimes almost every day.

But when there’s a signal of this magnitude on the slow-moving 12-month moving average, I take notice. And the signal tells me to be extra-bearish and extra-cautious in my trading.

By Tim Bovee, Portland, Oregon, Nov. 1, 2018

Tim Bovee, Private Trader tracks the analysis and trades of a private trader for his own accounts. Nothing in this blog constitutes a recommendation to buy or sell stocks, options or any other financial instrument. The only purpose of this blog is to provide education and entertainment.

No trader is ever 100 percent successful in his or her trades. Trading in the stock and option markets is risky and uncertain. Each trader must make trading decisions for his or her own account, and take responsibility for the consequences.


All content on Tim Bovee, Private Trader by Timothy K. Bovee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Based on a work at www.timbovee.com.L

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