Stretched to the Limit

There are good reasons to suspect that the bull market in US equities has been stretched to the limit. These include inter alia: high fundamental valuation levels, as e.g. illustrated by the Shiller P/E ratio (a.k.a. “CAPE”/ cyclically adjusted P/E); rising interest rates; and the maturity of the advance.


The end of an era – a little review of the mother of modern crash patterns, the 1929 debacle. In hindsight it is both a bit scary and sad, in light of the important caesura it represented. In many ways the roaring 20s were the last hurrah of a world in its death throes, a world that never managed to make a comeback. The massive expansion of the State that had begun in the years just before WW1 resumed in full force as soon as the post-war party on Wall Street ended. The worried crowd that formed in the streets around the NYSE in the week of the crash may well have suspected that the starting gun to profound change had just been fired. [PT]


Near the end of a bull market cycle there is always the question of when a decline will begin, and above all, how large will it be. I believe it possible that the retreat in prices will begin soon and that it could possibly even start out with a crash. I will explain in the following what led me to draw this conclusion.


2015 – 2018: the S&P 500 Index Moves Up Along a Well-Defined Trend Line

Let us first look at a chart of the S&P 500 Index over the past three years including the major  trend line formed by its rally. Prices moved up steadily along this trend line for a long time, until the advance suddenly began to steepen significantly in January of 2018. Thereafter prices plunged very rapidly in early February, followed by a swift rebound. This rebound appears to have ended earlier last week.


S&P from 2015 to 2018 with trend line providing support: for now the trend line still holds.


In 1987 the Market Crashes after Breaking Through a Similar Trend Line

Let us now compare the developments of recent years to a chart showing the move in the DJIA from 1986 to 1987 (focus on the general shape of the move rather than details such as percentage gains and duration). The similarities between the patterns are quite stunning.


DJIA with trend line, 1986 – 1987. After breaking through the trend line, the index quickly plummeted.


In 1986/87 prices also moved up along a rising trend line; there was a similar acceleration of the rally into the peak, followed by an initial test of the trend line and a rebound. After a short while the trend line was tested a second time. When it failed to hold, the crash commenced, soon culminating in a loss of almost 23% in a single trading day on October 19 1987.


Whiplash… the bull market mascot one week after the initial trend line test. [PT]


DJIA in 1929 – The Market also Crashes Right after Breaking a Major Trend Line

Let us ponder a chart of the DJIA from 1928 to 1929 as our next example, once again with the major trend line that supported the advance. Once again there are strong similarities to both the current situation and the pattern observed in 1987.


DJIA with support trend line, 1928 – 1929; once again the market crashed right after it tested the trend line that defined the uptrend for a second time and broke through it.


Just as happened both in 1987 and very recently, the market rose along the trend line until the rally suddenly accelerated and peaked; this was followed by sharp pullback and a first test of the trend line, a rebound, and eventually a second test that failed and immediately morphed into a crash.

A particularly dire bear market ensued in this case – by the summer of 1932, the market had lost almost 90 percent from the early September 1929 top (peak on Sept. 03 1929: 381.17 points; low on July 08 1932: 41.22 points).


1990 –  A Similar Pattern and Trend Line Break Precede the Crash in Japan’s Nikkei

What about non-US equity markets? One of the biggest bear markets of all time has been underway in Japan since 1990. The next chart shows the Nikkei 225 Index, also including the trend line that served as support in the final years of its bull market advance.


Nikkei 225 with major support trend line, 1987 – 1990; prices decline strongly after the trend line is broken.


Once again prices rose along a well-defined trend line, and once again the rally accelerated into the peak, after which an initial test of the trend line and a rebound followed. On the second test the Nikkei broke through the trend line and a lengthy and severe bear market began. The decline eventually reached a staggering 82% (the low was made in 2009, almost twenty years after the top).


When is the Crash Danger Acute?

In summary, there are very strong similarities between the chart formation that is in place right now and the patterns that could be observed at the pre-crash peaks of the DJIA in 1929 and 1987 and the Nikkei in 1990.

This raises the question whether there are also similarities in the temporal sequence of these patterns. Below is a table that shows the time periods between the most important turning points of the patterns in calendar days after the peak.


Time periods between major turning points in past crash patterns


The line designated “initial trend line test” shows how many days it took to decline from the top to the first test of the trend line. In 1929 it took 30 calendar days, but recently it took just 13 days (peak on January 26 2018, first test completed on February 08). In short, the length of time elapsing between these two turning points was quite different in these cases.

The second line designated “peak of rebound” shows the number of days from the top to the peak of the initial retracement rally. In the three historical examples of the US in 1929 and 1987 and in Japan in 1990, it was reached after 37 to 39 calendar days, i.e., these turning points were actually quite close to each other.

Currently this would be equivalent to March 02, March 03, or March 06 (at the moment it appears as though the rebound peak may have occurred on February 26. On Feb 27 the market very briefly traded above the range of Feb. 26, but closed lower).

The last line, designated “break of the trend line”, shows how many days elapsed from the peak to the second test, when the trend line was broken and the crash wave began. It is interesting that this happened between 45 to 53 calendar days after the respective bull market peaks of the three historical examples.


Important trend line acrobatics… [PT]


Once again these events happened quite close to each other; the time interval between the top and the failing retest was almost of the same length. Currently the equivalent time interval would target the time period from March 12 to March 20 for the retest.

More important than the precise number of days is the break of the trend line as such though. For instance, in the sharp decline in 1998 no such trend line break occurred, after the benchmark indexes had rallied along similar well-defined uptrend lines for a very long time;  the strong advance in prices quickly resumed.


The Preconditions for a Crash are in Place

Readers may well wonder why such strikingly similar price patterns tend to occur at all. There are probably psychological reasons for these similarities. At first prices rise steadily over a lengthy time period, until euphoria (and the “fear of missing out”) lead to an acceleration of the rally, producing a major peak. Such a phase could be observed in January of 2018, when   the ratio of bullish to bearish advisors according to Investors Intelligence reached an all time high.

What then happens is the opposite of what most investors expect, as prices suddenly decline sharply; initially the pullback tests the trend line successfully. This is what happened in early February this time. By the time the trend line comes into view, sentiment has pivoted completely and has become very bearish, which promptly triggers a rapid rebound. Investors quickly become optimistic again, which paves the way for the decline to resume.

In short, expectations are suddenly disappointed at every turn. The subsequent retest of the trend line is the decisive moment though. If it is broken, there is a significant danger that a crash will ensue. Its psychological function is to thoroughly destroy the faith of investors in perennially rising stock prices.

Will a crash happen this time as well? Crashes happen only very rarely after all – depending on one’s definition, one could well say that a real crash happens perhaps once every few decades. However, the factors discussed above suggest that crash probabilities must at the very least be regarded as elevated in coming weeks.


The beast is ever so slightly bruised, but far from vanquished… Crashes are indeed quite rare, and nigh impossible to predict, since sharp run-of-the-mill corrections that don’t end up violating important trend lines cannot be differentiated from those that do ahead of the event. But when a combination of several factors that are known preconditions for crash waves is in evidence, then it is definitely worth to consider the possibility. It is irrelevant that crashes are “normally” rare events. For one thing, they are less rare when the above discussed confluence of price patterns, sentiment and valuations is present; and secondly, if a low probability event harbors very large expected effects, it is definitely a good idea to actually be prepared and have a plan. Why risk ending up as yet another deer in the headlights? The landscape will already be well stocked with those if push actually comes to shove. [PT]


Charts by: StockCharts, ShareLynx, Dimitri Speck


Chart and image captions by PT where indicated


Dimitri Speck specializes in pattern recognition and trading systems development. He is the founder of Seasonax, the company which created the Seasonax app for the Bloomberg and Thomson-Reuters systems. He also publishes the website, which features selected seasonal charts for interested investors free of charge. In his book The Gold Cartel (published by Palgrave Macmillan), Dimitri provides a unique perspective on the history of gold price manipulation, government intervention in markets and the vast credit excesses of recent decades. His ground-breaking work on intraday patterns in gold prices was inter alia used by financial supervisors to gather evidence on the manipulation of the now defunct gold and silver fix method in London. His Stay-C commodities trading strategy won several awards in Europe; it was the best-performing quantitative commodities fund ever listed on a German exchange. For in-depth information on the Seasonax app click here (n.b.: subscriptions through Acting Man qualify for a special discount. Details are available on request).




Emigrate While You Can... Learn More




Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.


Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA


2 Responses to “US Stock Market: Conspicuous Similarities with 1929, 1987 and Japan in 1990”

  • jks:

    Another parallel between now and the 1929 market crash is trade protectionism. It was the threat of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that pushed the market over the edge. The Cato Institute wrote an article outlining the sequence of events leading up to the crash that should be required reading to all the trade scapegoaters:

  • killben:

    “However, the factors discussed above suggest that crash probabilities must at the very least be regarded as elevated in coming weeks.”

    Add in the following facts…

    1. ZIRP and NIRP world over with the Fed trying to desperately raise rates and others not in a position to follow suit
    2. Coordination action by the central banksters from 2008, now all-in. What happens when they all try to get out?
    3. Market has conditioned the Fed (and other central banksters) to come running with its tail between its legs the moment it sneezes
    4. Global debt has increased by $57 trillion in the seven years following the financial crisis (source:, making it almost impossible to raise rates
    5. Pension funds in distress due to ZIRP and NIRP
    6. Central banks bloated balance sheet
    7. Markets at elevated levels, meaning to saying anything can be the last straw that broke the camel’s back
    8. The epicenter for the next crisis could well be Europe. Goodbye EU, Welcome ENU (European Non-Union)
    9. Central banksters on the ropes
    10. Papering over may not work for ever.

    Interesting times indeed!

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Is the Canary in the Gold Mine Coming to Life Again?
      A Chirp from the Deep Level Mines Back in late 2015 and early 2016, we wrote about a leading indicator for gold stocks, namely the sub-sector of marginal - and hence highly leveraged to the gold price - South African gold stocks. Our example du jour at the time was Harmony Gold (HMY) (see “Marginal Producer Takes Off” and “The Canary in the Gold Mine” for the details).   Mining engineer equipped with bio-sensor Photo credit: Hulton Archive   As we write these...
  • Fed Credit and the US Money Supply – The Liquidity Drain Accelerates
      Federal Reserve Credit Contracts Further We last wrote in July about the beginning contraction in outstanding Fed credit, repatriation inflows, reverse repos, and commercial and industrial lending growth, and how the interplay between these drivers has affected the growth rate of the true broad US money supply TMS-2 (the details can be seen here: “The Liquidity Drain Becomes Serious” and “A Scramble for Capital”).   The Fed has clearly changed course under Jerome Powell...
  • Are Credit Spreads Still a Leading Indicator for the Stock Market?
      A Well-Established Tradition Seemingly out of the blue, equities suffered a few bad hair days recently. As regular readers know, we have long argued that one should expect corrections in the form of mini-crashes to strike with very little advance warning, due to issues related to market structure and the unique post “QE” environment. Credit spreads are traditionally a fairly reliable early warning indicator for stocks and the economy (and incidentally for gold as well). Here is a...
  • The Gold Standard: Protector of Individual Liberty and Economic Prosperity
      A Piece of Paper Alone Cannot Secure Liberty The idea of a constitution and/or written legislation to secure individual rights so beloved by conservatives and among many libertarians has proven to be a myth. The US Constitution and all those that have been written and ratified in its wake throughout the world have done little to protect individual liberties or keep a check on State largesse.   Sound money vs. a piece of paper – which is the better guarantor of liberty?...
  • Fed President Kashkari Hears Voices – Are They Lying?
      Orchestrated Larceny The government continues its approach towards full meltdown. The stock market does too. But when it comes down to it, these are mere distractions from the bigger breakdown that is bearing down upon us.   Prosperity imbalance illustrated. The hoi-polloi may be getting restless. [PT]   Average working stiffs have little time or inclination to contemplate gibberish from the Fed. They are too worn out from running in place all day to make much...
  • US Stocks and Bonds Get Clocked in Tandem
      A Surprise Rout in the Bond Market At the time of writing, the stock market is recovering from a fairly steep (by recent standards) intraday sell-off. We have no idea where it will close, but we would argue that even a recovery into the close won't alter the status of today's action – it is a typical warning shot. Here is what makes the sell-off unique:   30 year bond and 10-year note yields have broken out from a lengthy consolidation pattern. This has actually surprised us, as...
  • Switzerland, Model of Freedom & Wealth Moving East – Interviews with Claudio Grass
      Sarah Westall Interviews Claudio Grass Last month our friend Claudio Grass, roving Mises Institute Ambassador and a Switzerland-based investment advisor specializing in precious metals, was interviewed by Sarah Westall for her Business Game Changers channel.   Sarah Westall and Claudio Grass   There are two interviews, both of which are probably of interest to our readers. The first one focuses on Switzerland with its unique, well-developed system of  direct...
  • Exaggerated Economic Growth of the Third World
      Exciting Visions of a Bright Future Fund Managers, economists and politicians agree on the exciting future they see in the Third World. According to them, the engine of the world’s economic growth has moved from the West to what were once the poverty-stricken societies of the Third World. They feel mushy about the rapid increase in the size of the Middle Class in the Third World, and how poverty is becoming history.   GDP of India vs. UK in 2016 – crossing...
  • Choking On the Salt of Debt
      Life After ZIRP Roughly three years ago, after traversing between Los Angeles and San Francisco via the expansive San Joaquin Valley, we penned the article, Salting the Economy to Death.  At the time, the monetary order was approach peak ZIRP.   Our boy ZIRP has passed away. Mr. 2.2% effective has taken his place in the meantime. [PT]   We found the absurdity of zero bound interest rates to have parallels to the absurdity of hundreds upon hundreds of miles of...
  • Why You Should Expect the Unexpected
      End of the Road The confluence of factors that influence market prices are vast and variable.  One moment patterns and relationships are so pronounced you can set a cornerstone by them.  The next moment they vanish like smoke in the wind. One thing that makes trading stocks so confounding is that the buy and sell points appear so obvious in hindsight.  When examining a stock’s price chart over a multi-year duration the wave movements appear to be almost predictable.   The...
  • How Dangerous is the Month of October?
      A Month with a Bad Reputation A certain degree of nervousness tends to suffuse global financial markets when the month of October approaches. The memories of sharp slumps that happened in this month in the past – often wiping out the profits of an entire year in a single day – are apt to induce fear. However, if one disregards outliers such as 1987 or 2008, October generally delivers an acceptable performance.   The road to October... not much happens at first - until it...
  • Yield Curve Compression - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Hammering the Spread The price of gold fell nine bucks last week. However, the price of silver shot up 33 cents. Our central planners of credit (i.e., the Fed) raised short-term interest rates, and threatened to do it again in December. Meanwhile, the stock market continues to act as if investors do not understand the concepts of marginal debtor, zombie corporation, and net present value.   The Federal Reserve – carefully inching forward to Bustville   People...

Support Acting Man

Item Guides

Austrian Theory and Investment


The Review Insider


Dog Blow


THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts


Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from]


Mish Talk

Buy Silver Now!
Buy Gold Now!