BullBear Trading: Stock and Financial Market Technical Analysis

Bearish Monthly RSI Divergence 100% Accuracy Rate; Occurred at 91.6% of Stock Market Tops

Relative Strength Index is one of the most widely recognized and followed technical indicators.  The most common use of RSI is the identification of divergences:

Developed J. Welles Wilder, the Relative Strength Index (RSI) is a momentum oscillator that measures the speed and change of price movements...According to Wilder, divergences signal a potential reversal point because directional momentum does not confirm price. A bullish divergence occurs when the underlying security makes a lower low and RSI forms a higher low. RSI does not confirm the lower low and this shows strengthening momentum. A bearish divergence forms when the security records a higher high and RSI forms a lower high. RSI does not confirm the new high and this shows weakening momentum.  StockCharts.com


The monthly chart of Dow Jones Industrial Average has registered a bearish divergence at the 2011 and 2012 highs:

I went through the monthly data on INDU going back to 1971.  In 100% of occurrences of the signal an average decline of 27.9% lasting an average period of 10.8 months resulted.  Since 1971 in all 11 occurances of a bearish monthly RSI divergence a significant decline of at least 16% followed.  There was only one top of significance that did not register this signal and that occured in 1973.  That means that during a forty year period starting in 1971, 91.6% of all significant tops recorded this technical signal.  That is a period that encompasses two bear markets and a major bull market as well, which means there is a firm record of this technical condition resulting in serious bear markets under a wide range of well identified market conditions. 

Here's a list of the tops regsitering a monthly RSI divergence and the subsequent percentage decline.  Click on the link to see a chart of the occurrence:




1976,   -28%, 5, 19

1980,   -21%, 5, 2

1981,   -25%, 4, 17

1983,   -17%, 6, 8

1987,   -41%, 16, 3

1990,   -22%, 10, 4

1997,   -16%, 7, 3

1998,   -16%, 11, 3

2000,   -39%, 8, 34

2007,   -54%, 4, 18

2012,   -??%, 11, ??

  • The average percentage decline is 27.9%
  • The average duration of the bearish divergence (difference in the number of months between each price top) is 7.91 months.
  • The average numbers of months of the decline is 10.8
  • The average monthly decline is 3.58%.
  • Removing the outliers of 54% and 16% the average percent decline is 26.13%
  • Removing the outliers of a 16 month divergence in 1987 and a 4 month in 1981, the average duration of divergence is 7.4 months.
  • Removing the outliers of 34 months and 2 months, the average length of decline is 7.5 months.

The current bearish monthly divergence took 11 months to develop, about  3.5 months longer than average.  This is the second longest build to a bearish monthly RSI divergence, the first being the 16 month period leading up to the 1987 top and decline of 41%.  The current market is only 5 weeks off the divergent price top or 38 weeks short of the average and the maxium decline to date is about 9.8% or 18.1% less than the average drop.  Altogether this suggests the probability of considerable more downside in terms of time and price yet to come in this bear market.

The average percentage retracement following a monthly RSI divergence is 57.6%.

The nearest Fibonacci retracement percentage level of the prior wave which it corrected for each signal is shown: 


1976-1978  61.8%

1980         100%

1981-1982  78.6%

1983-1984  38.2%

1987          61.8%

1990          50.0%

1997          23.6%

1998          23.6%

2000-2003  38.2%

2007-2009  100%

If this occurance of the Monthly RSI Divergence results in an average retracement it would entail a decline to Dow 9380 or a drop of 26% from current levels and it would bottom in December of 2012 at about 9290.

The usefulness of this signal for identifying major tops which result in an average bear markets of 27% is evident.  On its own it would be a powerful cause for investors to evaluate their market position.  Since it is accompanied by an extensive raft of other strongly bearish technical indications, it should be taken as an actionable signal.

While a short term, news driven bounce is likely, it should be regarded as the last, best chance for investors to exit the market before a major decline ensues.  Front running the announcement of "easing" by global monetary authorities may work for a period ranging from a few days to a month or so but it is likely to be punished severely in the end.




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Comment by Sunil Sharma on June 18, 2012 at 7:58pm

Very well done Steven. Let's see how far this declines goes. The three major declines of more than 30% - 1987 (41%), 2000 (39%) and 2007 (54%) - following the divergence also coincided with some other major calamitous economic event or bubble. Or put it another way, a divergence coupled with a major economic event led to declines of more than 39%. All other declines were followed by garden-variety bear market, recession or market correction.


This time, if the European crisis is not contained soon enough then it may too become another catastrophic economic event. The question is will that lead to a decline of more than 39%? Or will it follow the trend of past two divergences of 10 & 11 month durations (22 & 16% declines respectvely). 

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