December 2019 Looks Nothing Like December 2018

Chris Ciovacco profile picture
Chris Ciovacco


  • Last December is a painful memory for many investors.
  • We can learn quite a bit by comparing facts in December 2018 to facts in December 2019.
  • Many of the facts in 2019 are a bullish mirror image of the bearish facts in 2018.

Will It Happen Again?

Human beings tend to remember emotional events, especially painful events. December 2018 falls into the painful category, given the S&P 500 (SPY) lost 14.92% between the end of November and Christmas Eve. Thus, it was unnerving for investors to see red screens in early December 2019.

That Was Then

From a “what are the odds it happens again” perspective, it might be helpful to compare December 4, 2018 to December 4, 2019. In the 2018 case, the S&P 500 (VOO) closed below the 25, 39, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, and 200-day moving averages, which told us large institutions were very concerned about future market and economic outcomes.


This Is Now

In the 2019 case, the S&P 500 (IVV) is trading above the 25, 39, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150, 175, and 200-day moving averages, which tells us large institutions are optimistic about future market and economic outcomes. If we were taking a technical analysis test and were asked is the chart below an uptrend or downtrend, we’d think that’s easy, choose uptrend, and move to the next question. In real time, it is a bit more difficult because of the news cycle and our personal biases; regardless, the answer is still easy and it is still uptrend.


How About Weekly Trends And Momentum?

In the 2018 case, the S&P 500 was below a 50-week moving average that had a “we are concerned” look. Weekly MACD was in a “bearish cross” state and below zero, which told us the intermediate-term trend was at a higher risk of flipping to a sustained bearish trend.


Weekly Looks Much Better Today

The concept of a mirror image comes to mind when comparing the 2018 chart above to the 2019 chart below. In the 2019 case, the S&P 500 is above the 50-week moving average that has a “we have been getting more confident” look. Weekly MACD is currently in a “bullish cross” state. Weekly MACD is above zero, which tells us the intermediate-term trend is up and recent pullbacks have been countertrend moves.


Monthly Trends And Momentum

On December 4, 2018, the S&P 500 was below a “flattish to in jeopardy of rolling over” 10-month moving average. The market had recently experienced a bearish monthly MACD cross, telling us a bearish countertrend move was taking place.


2019 Looks Much Better

Once again, the evidence we have in hand today is a polar opposite to what we had a year ago. Instead of being below the 10-month, price is above. Instead of an indecisive/rollover look, the 10-month has a bullish/turning-up look. Instead of a recent monthly MACD bearish cross, the S&P 500 recently printed a bullish monthly MACD cross.


Odds Today Vs. 2018

It is extremely important to note, the look of all the 2018 charts shown above was BEFORE the S&P 500 lost an additional 12.64%, telling us the odds of really bad things happening was significantly higher a year ago relative to the present day.

These Concepts Were Helpful In January 2019

Charts cannot predict the future; they simply help us assess the probability of good things happening relative to the probability of bad things happening. December 2018 was the worst December since 1931 and the plunge in Q4 was rare from a magnitude perspective. It would have been easy to remain in cash for the first few months of 2019, given the weak data on December 31, 2018 and the severity of the Q4 2018 decline. Charts like the ones shown above were helpful in terms of helping us get back in line with the market. For example, the charts below were covered in a January 11, 2019 video and presented as part of a bull/bear road map that proved to be valuable throughout 2019.

Bull Bear Guidepost Charts Jan 11 2019 small.png

The chart in the middle of the image above is dated January 10, 2019. If we looked at the same chart on April 1, 2019 (below), we can see how the evidence gradually improved between January 10, 2019 and April 1, 2019. The chart below said the odds of a sustainable uptrend were quite a bit better on April 1 relative to early January. Thus far, the uptrend has remained in place, meaning the April 1 chart was helpful.


Is it possible all the 2019 charts shown above begin to morph into more concerning looks similar to the concerning looks on December 4, 2018? Yes, it may happen and it may happen soon, but it has not happened yet.

Other Forms Of Helpful Evidence In 2019

While it is never easy navigating near a major low (December 2018), the market has provided numerous “this does not look like a bear market” and “this does not look like a recession is underway” clues since January 1, 2019. The links provide examples from previous Seeking Alpha posts:

Moral of The Story

The evidence we have in hand continues to favor higher highs in the months ahead relative to a prolonged series of lower lows in the stock market (VTI).

This article was written by

Chris Ciovacco profile picture
Chris Ciovacco is the founder and CEO of Ciovacco Capital Management (CCM), an independent money management firm serving individual investors nationwide. The thoroughly researched and backtested CCM Market Model answers these important questions: (1) How much should we allocate to risk assets?, (2) How much should we allocate to conservative assets?, (3) What are the most attractive risk assets?, and (4) What are the most attractive conservative assets? Chris is an expert in identifying the best ETFs from a wide variety of asset classes, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and precious metals. The CCM Market Model compares over 130 different ETFs to identify the most attractive risk-reward opportunities. Chris graduated summa cum laude from The Georgia Institute of Technology with a co-operative degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Prior to founding Ciovacco Capital Management in 1999, Mr. Ciovacco worked as a Financial Advisor for Morgan Stanley in Atlanta for five years earning a strong reputation for his independent research and high integrity. While at Georgia Tech, he gained valuable experience working as a co-op for IBM (1985-1990). During his time with Morgan Stanley, Chris received extensive training which included extended stays in NYC at the World Trade Center. His areas of expertise include technical analysis and market model development. CCM’s popular weekly technical analysis videos on YouTube have been viewed over 700,000 times. Chris’ years of experience and research led to the creation of the thoroughly backtested CCM Market Model, which serves as the foundation for the management of separate accounts for individuals and businesses. Copy and paste links into your browser: Market Model: More About CCM: YouTube: Twitter: CCM Home Page:

Disclosure: I am/we are long SCHX. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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