It feels like 10 years ago, but it's really only been about seven weeks since that fateful April 20, when a COVID-19-driven collapse in demand pummeled West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures. Prices hit the floor, fell through it, and landed in negative territory at -$37.63 a barrel.
In those seven weeks, WTI has rocketed almost 200%. The S&P Oil & Gas Exploration and Production Select Industry Index has risen nearly 70%, though it's still down more than 24% for the year.
Over the past few days, though, oil benchmarks have been creeping 2% and 3% lower, which in my experience is a big, neon sign saying "Selling Ahead." And several marquee energy stocks like Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Halliburton Co. are also flashing sell-off warnings.
This reminds me of the old Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Looney Tunes cartoons - remember them? One of the (many) cheesy running gags had Wile chasing Road Runner only to overshoot him at a cliff. Wile would hang there in midair for a second, have a "Maalox moment," and then drop.
That's not all that different than what's happening in crude right now. Both the commodity and most of its associated stocks entered what market technicians like me call "overbought" territory. Now they're dropping like rocks. Investors are starting to figure out if they're in over their heads.
How do I know? The answer is worth exploring because it can make you a sharper trader. There's one simple, small number you can look at in any stock chart that can tell you instantly how to play it.