This column was originally published on RealMoney on April 13 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Traders and journalists are natural contrarians, looking warily for the opposite outcome in every market scenario that screams one specific result.
After all, we're programmed to think the majority is never right and consensus won't pay the bills. But sometimes the trading signals work perfectly, and the markets act just as expected.
Remember all the catcalls we heard after a number of technical analysts, including this writer, laid out their cases for a top in the
I pointed out the
considerable risk and predicted the index wouldn't get over the cluster of reversals from 1999-2001.
Guess what? The much-hyped rally fizzled out a few weeks later, and the Dow reversed at resistance.
This is a big problem, because there's plenty of room to the downside. The venerable index already traded down to 10,661 this year. That's almost 400 points below its current level.
Fortunately, a decline to that low-water mark should take a few more months at least.
Red flags get raised whenever the Dow leads other major indices to higher ground. Consider that late-cycle rallies are noted for their narrowing leadership.
In these "last gasp" environments, tired investors focus their attention on a handful of big-caps while broad areas of the market fail to participate.
Rising prices and weak breadth are never good for the market, as we learned the hard way last week.
It could be the Dow was trying to tell us something when it stalled at the top of its long trading range.
Of course, we may not know the real significance, if there is any, until later this year.
Index components may offer clues about the Dow's direction in the second quarter, so let's take a look at the five weakest stocks. Surprisingly, three of them aren't the same laggards that have kept a tight lid on the index for many months now. This is bad news -- it suggests the index is headed for more trouble in the weeks ahead.
is making a surprise appearance near the bottom of the Dow barrel. It's on the loser's list after breaking multiyear support at $50 over a year ago, and failing two attempts to remount that key resistance level. The outlook for this former juggernaut is guarded. Once perennial growth stories stop working, they often stop working for good.
was firing on all cylinders a year ago, with growing speculation that the company would break up into smaller pieces and separate out its tobacco business. That hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, though, tobacco suits all over the world are working their way slowly through the courts, and a string of smoker victories are giving investors a lot of sleepless nights.
Johnson & Johnson
is a blue-chip stock that should be going up year after year. After all, it's a household name and defense play that's synonymous with investor safety during hard times. But just take a look at this miserable weekly chart. The stock is falling in a steady downtrend that shows absolutely no signs of letting up.
The collapse of
over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary. Take a cutting-edge company, add a convoluted product line that no one understands and finish up with shoddy engineering. Who's to blame for the decline of this once-shining blue chip, and why aren't they being held accountable for their blunders?
is at the bottom of the Dow loser list. It's been in a death spiral for the last six years. Why on earth is the stock still listed as a component of the blue-chip index? Replacing it with a company that has serious prospects of long-term survival would underpin the entire market and lift the other 29 boats.
P.S. from TheStreet.com Editor-in-Chief, Dave Morrow:
It's always been my opinion that it pays to have more -- not fewer -- expert market views and analyses when you're making investing or trading decisions. That's why I recommend you take advantage of our
premium Web site, where you'll get in-depth commentary
money-making strategies from over 50 Wall Street pros, including Jim Cramer. Take my advice --
Alan Farley is a professional trader and author of
The Master Swing Trader
. Farley also runs a Web site called HardRightEdge.com, an online resource for trading education, technical analysis and short-term investment strategies. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Farley appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.
click here to sign up for Farley's premium subscription product The Daily Swing Trade brought to you exclusively by TheStreet.com.
TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Trader's Library under which it receives a portion of the revenue from purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.