Is 1600 The Next S&P500 Support Level?

August 31, 2013

Investors and traders alike are heading into the long weekend with a variety of potential risks facing them. The media has made us aware of the situation that is going on in Syria and that the United States may be planning a military strike.

Since the current Syrian situation arose, we have seen some strong volatility return to U.S. financial markets. The observed volatility has included both realized volatility and implied volatility in many of the various option chains. There are pundits who will surmise a variety of outcomes, but frankly no one knows for sure. Will oil prices spike if military action occurs in Syria? Will oil prices fall on a military action(s)? What will happen to gold? What will happen to risk assets? Will they find Jimmy Hoffa?

I have recently received several emails asking these questions. I have answered them all in the same manner. I have no idea what is going to happen in financial markets for sure. Anyone who says they do does not respect the randomness of markets. We can look at option based probabilities for some clues, but there is no definitive answer.

Instead I want to look at a very powerful tool that is available on most trading software platforms. Volume by price is a powerful tool to determine where key levels are in an index or price chart. The S&P500 Index is shown below.

As can clearly be seen above, the obvious price points where we saw the most volume trade are highlighted. If price breaks below the current support level the 1580 – 1600 support zone is likely going to act as a magnet for price action.

Currently I think there is a high probability that we at least test the 1600 price level in the next few weeks. The current probability that the 1600 price level will be at least touched before the September SPX option expiration (expire in 20 days) is around 65% on Friday morning. The probability that the SPX touches 1600 before the October SPX option expiration (48 days) is over 76%.

Clearly the implied volatility in the SPX option chain is telling us that odds are greater than 50% that prices work below the current support level over the next 3 – 7 weeks. Additionally we have strong volume by price data that indicates that the 1580 – 1600 price level will act as support.

I do not believe that making predictions is a great way to trade, but I think assumptions based on obvious support / resistance level as well as implied volatility based probability assumptions keep traders from making just pure guesses based on very little facts.

Back on August 16th I displayed the following chart in an article that was titled “Will 1650 Offer Buying Support for the S&P500?”.

Unlike many market prognosticators, I will tell readers when I was wrong, when I was right, and when I was close. On August 16th I called for a bottom to play out around 1650 and I was close. The bottom was actually formed intraday on August 21st. The forthcoming bounce rallied roughly 30 points before reversing back to the downside to our next support level around 1630.

Ultimately we have the long weekend ahead and with Syria remaining in the forefront and the United States government fiscal debate looming down the road, markets could become quite volatile over the next 6 – 8 weeks. Traders need to act accordingly and manage risk through appropriate position sizing. Market conditions could get very interesting in the near future.

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This material should not be considered investment advice. J.W. Jones is not a registered investment advisor. Under no circumstances should any content from this article or the website be used or interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any type of security or commodity contract. This material is not a solicitation for a trading approach to financial markets. Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her registered investment advisor. This information is for educational purposes only.

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