The S&P 500 index (SPX) closed at $2099 today, up 2.3% this week alone. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed at $1150, up $11. This strong bullish week has a lot of people seeing only blue skies - is that appropriate? Today's close on SPX at $2099 is approaching the high set last month, so some traders are talking about a break-out. When we expand the SPX chart, the picture is much less bullish. The end of the dot com era ended with SPX around $1525 in March 2000. SPX beat that by a few points in October 2007 before the financial meltdown. In May of last year, SPX hit another all-time high around $2135. The bulls unsuccessfully attempted to break that high in June and July last year, but then the flash crash hit in August. But those persistent bulls, led by the Fed, pushed the SPX back to roughly $2115 last November. Should we be excited SPX is on the doorstep of that $2115 mark? My answer is no. Looking at the big picture, we see that the S&P 500 has been flat or declining since those highs in May 2015. I will want to see a couple of closes above $2135 before breaking out the champagne.
Consider the small caps in the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) and we see an even weaker picture. RUT hit its all-time high in June of last year around $1295, and it only made it back to $1205 last November, shy by 7%. RUT closed today at $1150; it would have to rally 13% to reach the 2015 high. Again, we see a similar picture to SPX in that RUT remains far off of its 2015 highs. But that deficit is much larger in the case of RUT.
Now add in today's weak GDP number for the first quarter (+0.8% growth) and the less than stellar earnings announcements of the past few weeks. And the FOMC appears to be doing its best to telegraph another interest rate hike at the June meeting. This doesn't look like the setup for the equity markets breaking out to new all-time highs.
In this environment, I think it prudent to take profits when they are available and be cautious. Consequently, I closed the June RUT iron condor from the Flying With The Condor™ advisory service this week for a 13% gain. That freed up capital to roll out and establish a new position in the August expiration. I feel safer when I have more time to hedge and adjust positions, especially in this market.
Enjoy your holiday with family and friends. But remember the true meaning of this Memorial Day. We have a lot to be thankful for due to some incredible sacrifices.