April 14, 2014 - Workday - A case study

About 3 weeks ago I readied a post regarding how I felt it was time to short Workday (WDAY). I instead decided to shelve it and published something else. The reason I decided against it was because as a Registered Investment Advisor the SEC views anything I post on a public forum (my blog for example) as an advertisement.  Since I was not suggesting readers short the stock (rather just the fact I was going to) I had to pull the post so as not to put myself at risk.  Investment advisors walk a fine line posting publicly because if something is written and a reader views, takes action and then loses money they are at risk of being sued.

A little bit about Workday … It’s a good company, they have good products, a good business model and just as importantly, if the execute they have a bright future.  I have owned their stock for both my personal holdings and my client’s. At the time I wrote the original post I just didn’t like the price action.

I find it valuable to go back and look at examples of market crashes and booms and what can be learned.  I am not picking on WDAY as they are no different than hundreds of other stocks that go through the exact same scenario. Its human emotion that drives these repeatable patterns and until human emotions change (it hasn’t since the beginning of time) it’s going to happen again. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.  Because of this, those who recognize and take action can find it immensely profitable.

Now let’s dig into the WDAY’s chart and look at the numerous warning signs it provided. These are presented in order of occurrence. As you can see the stock was in a steep but linear uptrend and contained within its (second) channel defined by the blue trend lines from November of last year until March of 2014. 

Point #1 - At the end of February the stock gapped up more than 15% in one day and moved above the channel it was in. A huge move in a short period that changes the shape of the uptrend from linear to parabolic should be viewed with major skepticism. Next, notice that the entire 15% move up was completely taken back within the next two days. This was the first indication that those who were long should be looking to exit and those who weren’t long could consider a short position. Such strong moves up will consistently be confirmed by a major overbought condition and WDAY was no example as you see in the falling RSI.

Point #2 - We had huge volume on both that huge single day up and the following move down which was the confirmation the move was a temporary flash and warned of exhaustion. As a reminder exhaustion buying is when all buyers have purchased and the only people left are sellers.

Point #3 - Price moved back into the original channel which was constructive for WDAY bulls. The concern at that point was whether or not the selling was over.  If so, we would expect price would resume its prior linear move up.

Point #4 – a few days later the bottom of the channel provided support as price stopped exactly there … but only for one day. We found out the following day the bears were still in control as selling resumed in earnest. That provided the next signal to those who were still long should be recognizing the boat was taking on massive water and it was time to jump ship (unless you were the captain of course who are paid to stay with the ship). Those who were short got what they needed, further confirmation to hold their position as selling pressure would most likely push price down to the next support level.

Point #5 - This was the next major support line once the channel was broken to the downside. There was a brief rally  in between the two support/resistance lines where price went right back up to test the resistance line (remember support lines once broken becomes resistance) and once again began its fall all but confirming much more downside was to come.  Those who weren’t short found another good entry point at the retrace back to the top resistance line. Those that were still long and had missed prior opportunities to sell were given a gift to unload their shares before the onslaught of further selling took hold.

Point #6 - This was the next level of support below point 5. Once again price stopped right on the line .. but just as with point 5, it only lasted one day and the fall resumed.

Point #7 – This was the start of a short counter trend 3-day rally that brought price up to the green 200 day moving average. As expected that provided resistance and price commenced to the downside.

Point #8 - This takes us to today where prices are still in free fall. When I wrote this post initial my final worst-case target for this decline was the 200DMA (point 7) or if it got really bad, point 8 which is a major support level from one year ago.  As you can see we closed very close to that level on Friday.

Besides being a WDAY proponent I have also been one of their biggest stock price skeptics of late solely because of fundamentals.  Any company with zero earnings yet share price > $100 in my opinion cannot sustain that level forever. We learned in 2000 and 2008 for example, when the bull market gets long in the tooth that fundamentals eventually matter.  This recent correction is a humbling experience to those who were heavily aboard the momentum stock train. The companies with good earnings, solid balance sheets and good fundamentals have barely a scratch.

What I have attempted to do here by analyzing WDAY price movement is identify those very repeatable stock price patterns that occur time and time again. Investors who recognize and identify this action should now have a framework on what to expect and the right course of action.  In a nutshell anytime you see the following all occurring you should seriously consider taking evasive action:

1.       A parabolic move up followed by

2.       Volume confirming price action followed by  

3.       Continued violation of multiple major support lines (price is especially vulnerable in long running bull markets)

Regarding WDAY right now ... it has moved into oversold territory and is creating positive momentum divergence which is telling me this major selloff should soon be coming to an end.  Once this near term bottom has been found it should provide a nice lower-risk, short-term opportunity on what is now a much more attractively priced stock.