Stock Exchange: How to Trade an Overbought Market

For the last three weeks, the term “overbought” has been frequently used to describe the overall market as well as many specific stocks. What does this really mean?

It has a dangerous sound, and that is indeed the common message. A stock, or a sector, or the overall market has rallied more than expected over an extended time.  What does that mean for traders?  Or for investors?

It is an excellent question for our experts.


Our last Stock Exchange focused on trading sector rotations, Oscar’s regular mission. There was an excellent discussion. It provides special value when readers engage with our crew of “technical analysts.”

To encourage this discussion and diversity we will have some visiting experts for the next two weeks:

  • Brian Gilmartin of Trinity Asset Management, a leading expert on corporate earnings and fundamental analysis reported at his blog, Fundamentalis.
  • Robert Marcin of Defiance Asset Management. Bob is an oft-quoted legend, a deep value manager, and a curmudgeon par excellence.  While I often do not agree with him, I always listen carefully in our discussions on Scutify.  You will enjoy the banter and can keep your own scorecard.

Today’s Theme

An extended stock move is often described as overbought or oversold.  For most observers, an overbought stock or market is poised for a selloffSome technical analysts measure this in terms of relative strength measures (RSI).

How important is this warning sign?

Pension Partners warns of an “optical illusion,” citing multiple prior examples and then considering the current NASDAQ 100.  Look at the interesting evidence in the entire article leading to this conclusion:

If one is going to predict anything based on extreme overbought levels (and I would advise against doing so), it would be further gains. I realize that doesn’t conform to the prevailing narrative of “overbought is always bearish,” but the truth in markets rarely does.

Chris Ciovacco has a nice chart pack of prior overbought conditions.  The mixed results are a warning to anyone thinking about trading on this approach – despite the recent somber warnings from the NYSE floor via Art Cashin.

What do our Stock Exchange experts think about overbought markets?  We will hear them out and, as usual, I will conclude with a brief observation about the key points. I will begin with Athena, who specializes in short-term momentum trades.

This Week—Trading an Overbought Market.


My approach is to find winners and ride the gains.  Fundamental analysts are skeptical of momentum, but trend-following is one of the strongest historical methods.  The “trend is your friend” is not just a cliché. Principal Financial Group (PFG) is a great example; it has been on tear for a month. That is enough to put it on my radar. The sharp increases may be off-putting to some, but they are mistaken.  The trend line is strong. I’m looking for an increase of 2-3% over the next 2-4 weeks.

J:  Are you concerned that the stock might be overbought?

A: In my evaluation methods, the price action is a sign of strength.

J:  At what point would a major gain worry you?

A:  I like stocks that are showing strength, but I am ruthless when it comes time to get out.

J: So, you do not worry about overbought conditions on the entry?

A:  Some of the best trades come when an “overbought” stock gets more overbought.

J:  For a welcome change, your choice is also attractive on a value basis.

A:  Value?  What does that mean?

J:  You can see it in the fine chart from F.A.S.T graphs.  Let us turn to Felix, who also follows a momentum strategy.


I will once again begin with my responses to reader votes for the favorites list.

My list provides rankings within each zone, as well as the basics about buy, hold, and sell.  The list includes the most recent reader questions as well as former requests where my rating has moved.

J: AMD is still on top?

F: It leads the reader list, but not my own.

J:  I have had some questions about that.  Readers want to know your own top picks.

F: If I talked about that here, I would be revealing what I recommend for your clients.

J: That is a problem.  I want to be helpful to readers, but emphasizing that it should be a start for their own research. We did have a couple of questions last week.  What do you think about reader Jim Irving’s questions about CRX and CXRX, which he identifies as debt-laden drug companies?

F:  He is right to be concerned.  CRX is on my sell list and CXRX is a very weak hold.  I wish that more readers would submit such questions.  I need my incentive bonus to kick in.

J:  Do you have anything fresh for us this week?

F:  Nothing new, since my focus is longer than the others.  Let me take up a holding that some are worried about, NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA).  This was one of my long-term picks in early December of 2016. We’ve had two major spikes in price since then, followed by decline in February. Those with a short-term mindset are worried.  Since I’m interested in holding out for the long haul, I haven’t been preoccupied by the dips. I’m up about 10% here after nearly a full quarter in the position – nothing to sneeze at!

J: Would you call this an “overbought” stock?

F:  Not on my time frame.  The definition of overbought should adjust to your investment purpose.



We haven’t hit March Madness yet, so I am mostly thinking spring training.  For many teams the question is whether to play big ball or small ball. In small ball baseball, players trade the long odds on huge plays in favor of more manageable base hits.  Sometimes the small ball approach generates more runs and winning baseball.

On that theme, I’m looking closely at the Russell 2000 Index (IWM). Small caps and large caps performed very differently in 2016. Large caps were generally in favor due to their relatively low volatility and risk. However, I see potential for growth in the small caps over the next several weeks. From the looks of the chart, I’m probably not alone!


J:  Are you worried that small cap stocks might be overbought?

O: What I see is strength?

J:  What if the small-cap sector fades?

O:  As I always do, I’ll dump it and move to what is working.  I always like to have my money working.

J:  Does that mean that you are getting ready for March Madness?

O:  That is where a longshot can really work.

J:  I suppose we are going to hear more on that subject.

O:  You can count on it!

J:  Do you have your updated sector ratings?

O: Yes.  I monitor about 40 sectors and hold positions in the top three.  $IWM is a new holding.  It is not on the list because no readers asked about it.



This week I’m buying YELP, an internet content & information provider in the U.S. (34.66)

Although it traded at 97 in 2014, I have no illusions that is going back there. Instead I like this stock because it’s showing some resilience at 32.5 level. Trading down to 32.5 in late October this stock rebounded all the way 42.5 before getting pounded again down towards the 32.5 price, BUT, it didn’t get there before turning up. So now we have a stop, (32.5), and a price target 42, with a current price of 34.66, I like the risk/reward this setup provides. Plus, I like the name, it reminds me of my pack when I was a young pup.

J:  Are you worried about overbought stocks.

H:  Never!  I let others chase the recent winners.  I find strong stocks experiencing a temporary setback.  I don’t need to worry about “overbought” market conditions.


The term “overbought” can mean many different things.  Effective trading systems use recent trends and technical indicators in quite different ways.  No single method has a monopoly on success.  Drawing upon expert systems, let’s highlight three key conclusions.

  1. Overbought need not spell danger. Overbought stocks and sectors often get even more overbought.  This might even be the best part of the move, augmented by short covering.
  2. You must gauge your reaction and stops to your price target, loss tolerance, and time frame.
  3. Your system must fit your trading personality, as illustrated by our four models.

If you like selling the rips and buying the dips, do not take a momentum approach.  Check out our post on dip-buying.  If you are contrarian and flexible, consider this week’s advice about various ways to deal with momentum.

We welcome comments, suggestions, and followers for each character.  Even Jeff.  I try to have fun once a week in writing this, and I hope you get a chuckle or two from reading it. Here is how to join in.

Background on the Stock Exchange

Each week Felix and Oscar host a poker game for some of their friends. Since they are all traders they love to discuss their best current ideas before the game starts. They like to call this their “Stock Exchange.” (Check it out for more background). Their methods are excellent, as you know if you have been following the series. Since the time frames and risk profiles differ, so do the stock ideas. You get to be a fly on the wall from my report. I am the only human present, and the only one using any fundamental analysis.

The result? Several expert ideas each week from traders, and a brief comment on the fundamentals from the human investor. The models are named to make it easy to remember their trading personalities.


If you want an opinion about a specific stock or sector, even those we did not mention, just ask! Put questions in the comments. Address them to a specific expert if you wish. Each has a specialty. Who is your favorite? (You can choose me, although my feelings will not be hurt very much if you prefer one of the models).

Getting Updates

We have a new (free) service to subscribers to our Felix/Oscar update list.  You can suggest three favorite stocks and sectors.  We report regularly on the “favorite fifteen” in each category– stocks and sectors—as determined by readers.  Sign up with email to “etf at newarc dot com”.  Suggestions and comments are welcome.  In the tables below, green is a “buy,” yellow a “hold,” and red a “sell.”  Each category represents about 1/3 of the underlying universe.  Please remember that these are responses to reader requests, not necessarily stocks and sectors that we own. Sign up now to vote your favorite stock or sector onto the list!

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  • John Rathbun March 3, 2017  

    Since you mentioned Wilder’s RSI at the top of the article, perhaps some of your readers will be interested in this blog post:

    • oldprof March 3, 2017  

      Thanks, John.

  • Bruce March 7, 2017  

    Speaking of overbought…..was PANW overbought just before it cratered last week ? Was Holmes stopped out? I followed him into the trade, and, thankfully, followed his advice for a stop ! Is he barking around this one again ?

    • oldprof March 7, 2017  

      Holmes did stop out the position. So far, he has not indicated fresh interest.

      I like the sector, but the company does not seem to be handling the growth effectively.

      Glad you got out safely.