Why a Spike in Buying Climaxes Could Spell Short-Term Trouble

Buying climaxes among SPX stocks popped above 8% last week, which could be a bearish short-term signal

Dec 6, 2016 at 3:23 PM
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We've seen a recent spike in weekly buying climaxes for stocks, with more than 8% of S&P 500 Index (SPX) components hitting a buying climax last week. A buying climax is when a stock hits an annual high during the week, only to end the week lower. Last week's 8% figure marks the highest reading since September, when buying climaxes popped to 10%. At that time, Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White ran a study to see if such a spike has historically been a bullish or bearish indicator.

White ran the numbers again today, considering previous instances when buying climaxes met or exceeded 8%. You can see previous signals in the SPX chart below, going back to 2006. The red line represents the 8% level for buying climaxes.

Buying Climaxes Chart December 6

In the tables below, we compared the performance of the SPX after a signal -- that is, when buying climaxes reach 8% -- to the SPX any time, going back to 2010. Based on the 20 previous occurrences, it's safe to say the SPX has tended to underperform after these signals, at least in the short term. For example, the SPX has seen an average one-month return of negative 0.1% after a signal, compared to a one-month anytime return of positive 0.8%.

Longer term, however, things appear to normalize or even improve after a signal. At the one-year mark, the post-signal SPX averaged an 11.4% gain -- slightly higher than the 11% anytime return. What's more, the SPX was positive 95% of the time at one year post-signal, besting the usual 86% positive.

SPX Buying Climaxes Since 2010 Dec 6

Going back further reveals an even clearer trend. The following tables examine the same data, going back to 2000 -- which encompasses 44 signals. Again, post-signal performance lags over the first month.

But here we see things picking up by the three-month mark, with significant outperformance by one year after the signal. Specifically, the SPX tacked on 8.4% and was positive 91% of the time at one year post-signal, compared to a 5.3% average gain, with 73% positive returns, over any one-year period.

SPX Buying Climaxes Since 2000 Dec 6

Putting it all together, this data suggests it's likely the SPX could be in for a month or more of below-average returns. Longer term, however, it looks like we could see some outsized gains.

Finally, to break it down a bit further, the table below lists the sectors with the highest percentages of buying climaxes. Just as this signal in the broader market could mean short-term trouble ahead, extreme buying climaxes in individual sectors could indicate a sector is about to roll over. Out of 36 designated sectors with at least 20 stocks each, below are those with the highest percentage of stocks making climaxes last week.

Sector Buying Climaxes Dec 6

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