If we have an official Hindenburg Omen then a critical set of market conditions necessary for a stock market crash exists – and such occurred on Dec.2nd. We now have a much higher-than-random probability of a stock market crash, or at the very least a significant decline, starting sometime over the next four months.
The above introductory comments are edited excerpts from an article* by Robert McHugh Ph.D. (technicalindicatorindex.com) as posted on gold-eagle.com under the title We Got an Official Confirmed Hindenburg Omen December 2nd , 2014.
McHugh goes on to say in further edited excerpts:
This is the first Hindenburg Omen since September 19th 2014 which led to a 1,162 drop in the Dow Industrials over the next 27 days…and only the 9th since 2008…which led to the massive stock market crash in the autumn of 2008, and the 10th since the Bear Market started in October 2007. We got crashes after both the October 2007 and June 2008 Hindenburg Omens.
What is a Hindenburg Omen?
A Hindenburg Omen is the alignment of several technical factors that measure the underlying condition of the stock market — specifically the NYSE — such that the probability that a stock market crash (a decline greater than 15 percent) occurs is higher than normal, and the probability of a severe decline is quite high. Such an omen has appeared before all of the stock market crashes, or panic events, of the past 30 years except the mini-crash of July/August 2011... Without an official confirmed Hindenburg Omen, we are pretty safe. On the other hand, if we have an official Hindenburg Omen, then a critical set of market conditions necessary for a stock market crash exists.
What is the history of the origin and evolution of the Hindenburg Omen signal?
It was originally adopted by the late Jim Miekka… derived from a New High – New Low indicator developed by Gerald Appel many years ago. Because it signals the possibility of a stock market crash…the late Kennedy Gammage…dubbed it the Hindenburg Omen after the famous ill-fated aircraft associated with the word “crash.”
What are the conditions for a confirmed Hindenburg Omen?
The traditional definition of a Hindenburg Omen was based on 3 conditions, namely:
Condition #1: The daily number of NYSE New 52 Week Highs and the Daily number of New 52 Week Lows must both be so high as to have the lesser of the two be greater than 2.2 percent of total NYSE issues traded that day,
Condition #2: The NYSE 10 Week Moving Average is also Rising, which we consider met if it is higher than the level at any time during the previous 10 weeks and
Condition #3: The McClellan Oscillator is negative on that same day.
With just the above three filters defining a Hindenburg Omen, there were too many false positives to render the indicator useful. I conducted research, convinced that this indicator had strong potential to predict periods of extreme stock market declines, and came up with two more filters that vastly improved the predictive value of this indicator.
Condition #4: The New 52 Week NYSE Highs cannot be more than twice New 52 Week Lows; however it is okay for New 52 Week Lows to be more than double New 52 Week Highs. My research found that there were two incidences where the first three conditions existed, but New Highs were more than double New Lows, and no market decline resulted. There were no instances noted where if 52 Week Highs were more than double New Lows, while the first three conditions were met, that a severe decline followed, so condition # 4 becomes a critical defining component.
Condition #5: For a confirmed Hindenburg Omen, in other words, for it to be “official,” there must be more than one signal within a 36 day period, i.e., there must be a cluster of Hindenburg Omens (defined as two or more) to substantially increase the probability of a coming stock market plunge. My research noted 11 Hindenburg Omen instances over the past 30 years — using the first four conditions — where there was just one  isolated Hindenburg Omen signal over a thirty-six day period. In 10 of the 11 instances, no sharp declines followed. In only one instance did a sharp subsequent sell-off occur based upon a non-cluster single Omen, but in that case it was incredibly close to having a cluster of two Omens as the previous day’s McClellan Oscillator just missed being negative by a few points.
We have an unconfirmed Hindenburg Omen if the first four conditions are met, but the fifth is not — in other words we only have one signal within a 36-day period. Once a second or more Omen observation occurs, we then have a confirmed and official Hindenburg Omen signal with substantially higher odds that a subsequent stock market plunge is coming.
My research has also noted that plunges can occur as soon as the next day, or as far into the future as four months (about half occurred within 41 days). In either case, the warning is useful. It just means, if you want to play the short side after a confirmed signal, or move out of harms way, you must be prepared to see it happen as soon as the next day, or four months from now.
How many confirmed Hindenburg Omen signals have there been over the past 30 years?
Based upon the five parameters noted above...there have been only 35 confirmed Hindenburg Omen signals over the past 30 years. September 2014’s is the 35th. This is amazing when you consider that during that time span, there were roughly 7,500 trading days. Of those 7,500 trading days where it was possible to generate a confirmed official Hindenburg Omen, only 228 (3.04%) generated one, clustering into 35 confirmed potential stock market crash signals. This is a very rare alignment, a rare but potentially dangerous condition in the stock market.
How has the Hindenburg Omen signal performed over the past 30 years, since 1985?
If we define a crash as a 15% decline, of the previous 35 confirmed Hindenburg Omen signals:
- 8 (22.9%) were followed by financial system threatening, life-as-we-know-it threatening stock market crashes
- 3 (8.6%) more were followed by stock market selling panics (10% to 14.9% declines),
- 4 more (11.4%) resulted in sharp declines (8% to 9.9% drops),
- 7 (20.0%) were followed by meaningful declines (5% to 7.9%),
- 9 (25.7%) saw mild declines (2.0% to 4.9%), and
- 4 (11.4%) were failures, with subsequent declines of 2.0% or less.
Put another way, there is:
- a 22.9% probability that a stock market crash — the big one — will occur after we get a confirmed (more than one in a cluster) Hindenburg Omen’
- a 31.5% probability that at least a panic sell-off will occur (a decline greater than 10%),
- a 42.9% probability that a sharp decline greater than 8.0% will occur, and
- a 62.9% probability that a stock market decline of at least 5% will occur.
- Only one out of roughly 8.8 times will this signal fail.
All the major stock market crashes over the past 30 years, with the exception of the July/August 2011 decline, were preceded and identified by the Hindenburg Omen signal as defined by our five conditions.
- It was present and accounted for a few weeks before the stock market crash of 1987,
- it was there 3 trading days before the mini crash panic of October 1989,
- it showed up at the start of the 1990 recession,
- it warned about trouble a few weeks prior to the L.T.C.M and Asian crises of 1998,
- it announced that all was not right with the world after Y2K, telling us early 2000 was going to see a precipitous decline;
- it gave us a three month heads-up on 9/11 (2001), and told us we would see panic selling into an October 2002 low,
- it warned in October 2007 that a multi-month plunge (16%) was about to start, from the DJIA’s all-time high and
- it was on the clock three months before the stock market crash of the autumn 2008 into spring 2009 that wiped out 47.3% of the stock market’s value.
- In September 2005, the Fed pumped $148 billion in liquidity from the first week in September, just before the Hindenburg Omens were generated — to the third week of October, an 11 percent annual rate of growth in M-3 (2.5 times the rate of GDP growth and 5 times the reported inflation rate), to stave off a crash. The liquidity held the market to a 2.2 percent decline from the initiation of the signal.
- In April 2004, the Fed pumped $155 billion in liquidity from the last week in April — right after the Hindenburg Omens were generated — to the third week of May, a 22 percent annual rate of growth in M-3, to stave off a crash. Even with the liquidity, the market still fell 5.0 percent.
- The 12/23/1998 signal barely qualified, as the McClellan Oscillator was barely negative at –9, and New Highs were nearly double New Lows. Had this weak signal not occurred, condition # 5 would not have been met. This skin-of-the-teeth confirmation may be why it failed. It says something for having multiple, strong confirming signals.
Additional observations on the above data
- The actual stock market declines are often greater than the measures in the prior data chart because, oftentimes, the decline from a top has already started before the Hindenburg Omens have been generated. These percent declines are only measuring the declines from the first Omen in a cluster. If we measured declines from the tops, it would be worse in many cases. For example, the September 2005 signals came after the September 12th high of 10,701. The autumn decline of 2005 into October 13th, 2005 bottom ended up being 545 points (5%) even with all the liquidity pumping by the Fed.
- Oftentimes equities will rally after a Hindenburg Omen occurs, faking folks out, then the plunge comes on the other side of the hilltop. 1987 is a perfect example of that.
- Once you get two solid Hindenburg Omens in a cluster, the probability of a severe decline does not seem to increase as more Omens occur within the cluster. Sometimes a two signal cluster produced a worse decline than a 5, 11, or 17 signal cluster. What can be said about multiple signal clusters, however, is that the warnings are being given further out in time, keeping us on the alert. More signals also assure us a greater likelihood of better quality signals, which seems to matter. Multiple signals are telling us things are not getting better, that something continues to remain wrong with the market.
What does a confirmed Hindenburg Omen mean for traders and investors?
A confirmed Hindenburg Omen is not a guarantee of a stock market crash. The odds of a crash based upon the history since 1985 is 23.5%. That means the odds we will not have a crash are quite high, at 76.5%.
However, since a stock market crash is akin to economic death in many circles, you can look at the situation like this:
- If you were hearing from your doctor that the surgery you are contemplating stands a 23.5% chance of you dying, that becomes a very high percentage probability – one you likely do not want to take if the surgery is not absolutely necessary. A 23.5% probability of a stock market crash is extremely high when you consider that there have been only 8 over the past 30 years, and the normal odds of a crash happening randomly are only about one-tenth of one percent [ 0.01%].
- You now also have to factor that the Fed is pumping liquidity to prevent crashes once these signals occur. That clearly occurred after the December 2010 Omen signal, QE 2 so you do not want to go short the farm. It is interesting to note, however, that even with the heavy liquidity the Fed has been pumping around the time of the past two signals, the odds of a 5% decline or more remain pretty high at 61.7%!
- You may want to think about taking prudent precautionary action according to your investment advisor given the much higher than normal odds of a crash. That may not mean shorting. It may mean increasing cash positions or hitting the sidelines for a while – or it may mean a carefully constructed shorting strategy developed with your advisor that limits losses, and invests only the amount which you can afford to lose.
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We do not think it is wise to listen to folks who minimize the risk in markets pointed out by the Hindenburg Omen.
- We disagree with the argument that, since so many of the listings on the NYSE, especially those of the New High “stock” group recorded for the Omen, are some type of fixed income product (ETFs, preferred stocks, etc) that the Omen isn’t really capturing “stocks” when it says “we got x % New Stock Highs,” therefore the Omen is irrelevant.
- Our position is that the argument that the “stock market Omen” isn’t measuring the internals of the “stock” market is false. Here is why:
- A huge percent of NYSE stocks are financials (banking firms and firms such as General Electric which is essentially a financial firm, although many people would not think of them that way) and financial firms hold substantial positions in bonds. Almost every bank listed on the NYSE carries a fixed income bond portfolio somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of their entire balance sheet, and have for years, going back far beyond the past 30 years of our research, a period of time when the Hindenburg Omen worked just fine, thank you very much. Bond and other fixed income products are prevalent throughout the distribution of companies listed NYSE, and have been for years.
- The Hindenburg Omen has worked for at least the past 30 years. It accurately called the stock market crashes of 2007 and 2008 when the NYSE included many stocks holding significant positions in fixed income instruments. It does not matter. Our entire economy has essentially moved from a manufacturing base to a financial base. This makes the Hindenburg Omen relevant.
We believe it would be unwise to ignore this potential stock market crash warning.
Editor’s Note: The author’s views and conclusions in the above article are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original post. Furthermore, the views, conclusions and any recommendations offered in this article are not to be construed as an endorsement of such by the editor.
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*http://www.gold-eagle.com/article/we-got-official-confirmed-hindenburg-omen-december-2-2014 (Copyright © 2014 Gold-Eagle, All rights reserved)
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