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Should Traders Reevaluate Their Game Plan for the Second Half?

The market received some much-needed good news last week as the European summit provided a breakthrough of sorts to the debt-crisis stalemate. Bulls responded in kind, pushing the markets higher

The market received some much-needed good news last week as the European summit provided a breakthrough of sorts to the debt-crisis stalemate. Bulls responded in kind, pushing the markets higher to close out the first half of the year on a high note. Whether or not the upward move is short-lived or has a longer shelf life remains to be seen. With earnings season around the corner as well as several still-looming headwinds in the U.S. and overseas, traders and investors are far from in the clear.

This week, we asked Toni Turner of TrendStar Trading Group for her thoughts on whether now is a good time to take profits, as well as her thoughts on using the holiday-shortened week to prep for the second half of 2012.

EQ: The first half of 2012 is in the books. The market saw a huge swing to the upside in the first quarter, with a nearly equal move to the downside in the second quarter. How are you approaching the second half and what are you watching for to confirm the market’s direction?

Turner: It appears that for the near term here we may get a nice bounce. I’m watching the S&P 500 to make sure it stays above 1300 to 1325 levels. I’m also watching commodities like oil, copper, and some of the base metals to see if they’ll continue higher. There should be a confirmation in those, and if they continue higher, then maybe this rally that started last week is for real. I’m also going to watch the retail industry group through the SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) to see if the consumer can stay strong here. If consumers can stay strong, then at least for now, we have a possibility for a nice up move.

EQ: The Supreme Court upheld the healthcare mandate last week, and you noted that the market did not like the ruling initially. Sub-industries in the sector were pretty mixed as the law has different impacts on each. Are there any groups here that you’re looking at closely?

Turner: Like everyone else, I looked at the overall Healthcare sector as soon as the report was being analyzed by the markets. We saw that hospitals had the clearest advantage to the upside, and some of the pharmas looked like they could do well. A lot of the hospital equipment companies backed off, but then started higher. Of course, the insurers were mixed while Medicaid-focused insurers like Amerigroup (AGP) did well. However, a group that I have liked and will continue to like–as long as it stays in an uptrend–is biotechs and the SPDR S&P Biotech (XBI). Biotechs dance to the beat of their own drummer. They were down temporarily when the decision was announced but have rebounded, and broken to the upside. I would possibly wait for a pullback or consolidation here before jumping in, but that’s where I’m keeping my focus.

EQ: The market popped higher Friday with news that the EU summit was resulted in significant progress in the debt crisis. Could this be a good opportunity to take some profits off the table or should traders and investors ride it out a little longer?

Turner: It all depends on your timeframe. For people who are longer-term investors, I would say hold on and make sure you have stops on your positions. For short-term traders, I took quite a few profits on Friday but also raised my stops under those that I left some on the table. Right now, I’m looking at some stocks and ETFs that could be in bottoming patterns here, like PowerShares Global Clean Energy (PBD). Alternative energy stocks have really gotten taken to the woodshed and now maybe ready to start up here if oil keeps moving higher.

EQ: With the end of the first half/start of the second half of 2012 upon us, as well as an odd week because of the holiday, is this week a good time for traders to reset and reevaluate their strategies?

Turner: It really is, and I think it’s a great thing to do right now because sometimes the market can get quiet during the day in the summer months. Now is a perfect time to revisit the goals that we made in January and see how we’re doing with them. We can make adjustments if needed or investigate some of our challenges to alter our techniques. Most of all, it’s important to find ways to strengthen our strengths. It’s much easier to build on our strengths than to try to fix our weakness. Besides, if we view this in a positive manner, it can fun to revisit our goals, reshape them as needed, and plan for the upcoming second half.

As the markets put the debt ceiling debacle in the rearview mirror, more than a few issues remain open.