Robert Rhea was a pioneering figure in the history of Dow Theory. Rhea was a master of “reading” the stock averages along with volume implications. Rhea started his great investment service in 1932. He modestly called his service, “Dow Theory Comment.” Rhea’s Dow Theory “voyage” ended with his death in 1939.
Rhea had a private following of investors, and this group kept in contact with Rhea through a single stockbroker. Rhea writes, “On July 21 when the Industrials closed at 46.50 and the Rails at 16.76, I asked my broker to tell my friends trading in various offices that I thought the Dow Theory implied heavy buying for the first time in over three years. On July 26, 1932, the opinion below was sent to perhaps fifty correspondents.”
Russell Comment - I include below the opinion that Robert Rhea sent to his correspondents on July 26, 1932. This was sent just a few weeks after the final bottom of the worst bear market in US history. I consider it one of the greatest calls in stock market history.
Robert Rhea Calls the Turn
The declines of both Rail and Industrial averages between early March and midsummer were without precedent. The thirty-five year record of the averages shows a fairly uniform recovery after every major primary action, and such recoveries average around 50% of the ground lost on the decline; are seldom less than a third and more than two thirds. Such recovery periods tend to run to about 40 days, but are sometimes only three weeks – and occasionally three months.
The time element is in favor of a normal reaction at this time – because the slide off was normal (the normal time interval of major declines being about 100 days).
The market gave the unusual picture of hovering near the lows for more than seven weeks, and might be said to have made a “line” during the latter weeks of that period.
Because of all these things, and because the volume tended to diminish on recessions and increase on rallies during the ten days preceding July 21, almost any one trading on the Dow Theory would have bought stocks on July 19th. Those who did not, had a clean cut signal again on the 21st. Since that date the implications of the averages have been uniformly bullish, and it is reasonable to expect that a normal secondary will be completed, even though the primary trend may not have changed to “bull”. So much for the speculative viewpoint.
However, the investor asks, “Have we seen the lows for the bear market?” According to strict construction of Dow Theory, we cannot yet tell.
Surely we have many things which might lead us to believe this to be true – we have surely had a considerable period of accumulation, but these periods frequently preface secondary reactions, or occur at some intermediate point in a secondary. Should this secondary reach normal limits with respect to recovery and duration, and a decline of some weeks follow, and this decline did not break the bear market lows, after which a recovery set in which carried above the high point of the secondary now in the making, it would seem reasonable to suppose that the lows had been passed. And should the secondary now forming develop a sideways drag beneath normal expected recovery points, making a clearly defined “line”, and should such line be broken topside with some healthy advances, it
would be a splendid buying signal.
July 25, 1932