Four heads are worse than one, apparently.
This morning’s selloff has broken an unusual chart formation: four separate head-and-shoulders patterns on the S&P 500. Usually just one of these can be a bad sign. Four is darkness-on-the-horizon ominous. “It’s not often when the same pattern appears across various time frames,” Instinet’s Frank Cappelleri wrote on Friday.
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The head-and-shoulders pattern is a pretty familiar one in technical analysis, and a pretty easy one for laymen to grasp as well. It has three distinct phases: a rise followed by a drop, another rise that hits a higher high than the first, followed by yet another drop, and then a third rise. The three tops of the three ascents roughly resemble like the shoulders and head of a person, thus the name. The danger comes when the market falls under the lows of the pattern, the so-called “neckline.” It’s an ominous sign, because breaking below the neckline is a sign that a series of concerted buying sprees have been exhausted.
The four specific charts, which you can see below, are measured on 15-minute, 60-minute, daily and weekly charts, meaning the formations stretch from last week (the 15-minute chart) to the beginning of 2014 (the weekly chart). They all converged at the same place: about 1870-1880 on the S&P 500. In other words, just about at Friday’s close.
“This morning’s weakness will put the [S&P 500] below each of the necklines,” Mr. Cappelleri wrote in a Monday note before the bell rang. Breaking the formations yields downside targets, and as you might imagine, they all point increasingly further down. The 15-minute charts points to 1815 he said, only three points off the 1812 intraday low from Jan. 20. The other targets are 1800, 1620, and 1600.
Mr. Cappelleri isn’t necessarily saying those targets are guaranteed to be hit, and even he acknowledges that 1600 seems a very far shore right now. “But as long as the [S&P 500] remains below the cited necklines, the downside risk needs to be respected in my opinion,” he said via email.
Here are the four charts. The first is a 15-minute chart:
This is a 60-minute chart:
This is a daily chart:
Here, lastly, is the weekly chart:
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