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The markets opened strongly this morning and just kept on climbing the mountain all day. SPX closed at $1865, for a gain of $35, and RUT rose $18 to close at $972. A strong measure of the strength of a rally is the lack of profit taking. SPX just continued higher, closing precisely at its high for the day. That suggest that traders are expecting this rally to continue next week. Yesterday's markets were encouraged by comments from one of the OPEC countries appearing to be open to reducing oil production. That comment wasn't really relevant since it didn't come from the Saudis, but it caused oil to trade up yesterday and that trend continued today.

Let's consider that for a moment. We have been told that declining oil prices suggest weak industrial demand so stock prices should sell off. But when someone suggests that OPEC may cut oil production and therefore lower oil supplies, the stock market trades higher? An abundance of oil supplies has nothing to do with reduced industrial production. This point and several others illustrate how emotional and irrational this market has become. I was watching an interview this afternoon and when the interviewee assigned a low probability of an upcoming recession in the U.S., the talking head spoke over him and began to excitedly chatter on about the weak fourth quarter GDP number and so on. She seems to have forgotten that a recession is defined as two successive quarters of negative GDP growth. We have yet to have the first one. Sensationalism has invaded the financial media. Fear sells.

Retail sales increased modestly in January, up 0.2% and the University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey reported 90.7 for February, down from 92.0.

I would argue that we are seeing many signs on the charts of this market finding support. But the lack of rationality about the connection of oil prices to the U.S. stock market, and the excessively pessimistic financial press worry me. One could make a contrarian argument here for the bounce, but it seems as though the shrill cries from the "sky is falling" crowd are drowning out a rational discussion. Markets may easily go to extremes and stay there longer than expected; it is simply human nature.

I closed the remaining put spreads in my February SPX iron condor this afternoon. I can easily make the case for the bottom being behind us and this bounce continuing next week, but the excessive irrationality and wild swings back and forth worry me. So I closed Feb for a loss. We have already closed the January position for a nice gain; assuming our March position does well, we should be back to break-even shortly.

The markets will be closed Monday. Enjoy your long weekend.

 

The markets were rallying reasonably strongly today, until Yellen spoke. SPX traded as high as $1882 before losing all of its gains to close unchanged at $1852. RUT was also unchanged at $963. Volatility contracted about three tenths of a point with VIX closing at 26.3%, but VIX was down to 24% before Yellen spooked traders with talk of negative interest rates.

Today's market action underscores why the Fed should have stayed out of this market. The painful adjustments would have been made and we would be long past the financial crisis. Instead we have traders anxiously perusing every word from anyone associated with the FOMC. More importantly, FOMC intervention has introduced great uncertainty because we have no historical basis to even guess the implications of the Fed's intervention. Free markets are comparatively easy to evaluate. External manipulations always have unintended consequences.

Trading volume in the S&P 500 stocks dropped back to the 50 dma today at 2.9 billion shares. Trading on the NYSE dropped 7% and trading on NASDAQ was flat.

SPX still appears to be holding support around $1850. RUT is behaving similarly at $960. So one could reasonably argue that we have seen the worst of the correction. But today's pull back demonstrates the fragility of this market. It could go either way. However, I don't see the economic drivers for a new recession. I think the doom and gloom crowd have been given the headlines too often. It sells papers, as they say.

Keep in mind that we have a three day weekend coming up. Global markets will be open Monday, so that always introduces the possibility of large moves in the U.S. markets Tuesday morning.

The markets swung back and forth today, but ended up essentially unchanged on the day. SPX lost one dollar to close at $1852 after trading as low as $1835 and as high as $1868. RUT declined $5 to $964. Trading volume contracted somewhat with 3.3 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading, but this remains well above the 50 dma at 2.8B shares. Trading declined 10% on the NYSE and also dropped by 10% on NASDAQ. The lock step between oil prices and stocks prices seems to be weakening. As oil prices declined farther this afternoon, SPX began its climb higher. And oil ended the day at $28, down about $1.35.

Today was a slow day for economic data; JOLTS job openings came in at 5.607 million for December, up from 5.346 million.

So we are left with the big question: are we testing support here or just pausing before we fall off the cliff? The price action hints at that scenario, but we can't be sure until we see some strong bullish days. Yesterday's bullish recovery was encouraging, but today didn't present the follow through one would like to see.

 

What can I say? Scary? Roller coaster? Volatile? Impossible to rationalize? I have run out of words to describe this market.

The markets dealt us another one of those days, plunging like there was no bottom, but then recovering much of the loss in the last hour of trading. One of the lessons I am learning is not to panic early; wait until late in the day to hedge positions. Of course, I still closed several stock positions this morning, but I waited to see if hedging my condor put spreads on SPX and RUT was necessary.

SPX lost $27 when the dust settled, closing at $1853. SPX hit a low earlier today at $1828, very close to the low hit intraday on January 20th. RUT traded similarly, closing at $956, down $16. Today's intraday low on RUT was $956, very close to the January 20th intraday low. The price action in the markets certainly looks like a retesting of correction lows, but the constant drumbeat of "end of days" commentary is disconcerting. The implied volatility on SPX, the VIX, rose to 26% today - hardly panic levels. Normally, I would interpret this volatility as suggesting that the large institutional players aren't that concerned. But that doesn't match any of the financial commentary.

Trading volume was mixed with increased volume of the S&P 500 stocks trading at 3.9 billion shares vs. the 50 dma at 2.8B. Trading on the NYSE was down 8%, but higher by 12% on NASDAQ.

What is a trader to do? In short, hide. I still have a few positions open, but I am mostly in cash. I thought we were seeing the bounce January 20th, and I ventured out and took a hit. I will be far more cautious about getting back in the market.

There wasn't any significant economic data out today. Oil prices were down modestly. It's unclear what drove the intense selling this morning. Speculation of an imminent recession here in the states was common as were the usual worries about China.

Take two aspirin and go to bed. I'm going to study my thesaurus. You millenials will have to Google that.

The weak jobs report this morning seemed to trigger a strong sell-off in the markets, even though the jobs report wasn't that bad. Economists were predicting a weaker number at +190k, and it came in at +151k. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% and hourly wages improved, so that was encouraging. But look at the big picture of the jobs numbers:

 Jobs data

Today's number was less than the last three reports, but in line with the two previous reports which were lower than the 200k+ reports last summer. Looking at the longer term picture leaves us concluding that the creation of jobs is roughly flat, so why the extreme market reaction this time? This is just one more data point for the general psychological state of the market - nervous, pessimistic, and obsessed with the Fed. I even read once again today of the Fed's plans to raise interest rates four times this year - have we not debunked that nonsense yet?

Another data point is the reaction to LNKD's earnings report. Market analysts appear to be consistently pleased with the results, but the market focused management guidance that they would be developing some projects with longer time frames that would ultimately make LNKD a stronger company. The result was a bloodbath. LNKD traded down $84 or 44% off of Thursday's close, and this bled over into the tech sector in general. Again, it seems the "sky is falling" crowd is in control.

SPX lost $35 to close at $1880 and RUT closed down $29 at $986. Trading volume was slightly lower for the S&P 500 at 3.4 billion shares. Trading volume declined 5% on the NYSE, but increased 14% on NASDAQ, reflecting the tech sector massacre.

Support roughly in the neighborhood of the August flash crash continues to hold for SPX; in fact, today's close was about $10 above the flash crash lows and about $20 above the lows set January 20th. RUT closed at support set at its recent low of January 20th. I can't see the future any more clearly than you, but the price action so far remains consistent with the choppy retesting of support after the lows of the correction. This period of back and forth trading lasted about a month after the August flash crash.

It's hard, but try to put this craziness behind you and enjoy your weekend. Reflect on what's really important.

Well, here we are again with one more extremely volatile day in the markets. SPX opened at $1907, traded down $35 and then reversed course and traded up by $41 to close at $1913, up $10 on the day. RUT traded similarly, closing at $1010, up one dollar. Volatility contracted a bit with the VIX closing down three tenths of a point at 21.7%. Trading volume popped up with 3.6 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading today. Trading volume rose 16% on the NYSE and increased 13% on NASDAQ.

ADP reported an increase of 205 thousand private payroll jobs. This is an encouraging sign for Friday's jobs report. The ISM services index declined in January to 53.5 from last month's 55.8. But numbers over 50 denote expansion. Services are doing better than manufacturing, which is contracting.

January 20th was a significant day in the markets when the major indexes traded down to new lows, but then recovered significantly into the close. Those lows continue to hold today. RUT's intraday low today at $989 is very close to its intraday low on 1/20. SPX behaved similarly, hitting $1872 as the low today before recovering significantly. But SPX's intraday low on 1/20 was quite a bit lower at $1812. Was this the retest of the correction lows? Remember the trading following the August flash crash. We thrashed about for almost a month before resuming a bullish trend. However, the economic data may not justify a strong bullish trend this year. Perhaps the recovery from the correction is just for a sideways market, at least until the election.

The linkage of the stock market to oil prices appears to be weakening. Oil prices were up all day today, while the stock market traded down most of the day, recovering in late afternoon trading.

In the meantime, lay on the couch and get your feelings out. Tomorrow is another day on the roller coaster.

SPX opened lower today and then accelerated even lower as oil prices fell. SPX closed down $36 at $1903, while RUT gave up $24 to close at $1009. SPX traded as low as $1897, but bounced during the last 45 minutes of trading. Significantly, oil prices didn't bounce. Perhaps this oil/stocks correlation is weakening, as it should. The glut in oil supplies is driving down the price of oil. That grossly overstates the slowdown in the global economy as suggested by lower demand for oil. Big oil has survived very low oil prices in the past; it isn't clear to me why this time is different. Virtually everyone else benefits from lower oil prices. However, the market for doomsday pundits is very strong. We need an ETF to trade them. I don't see the basis for the beginning of a bear market, but I could be wrong. I think it is more likely that we are in the test/retest cycle that is common immediately following the bottom of a correction (see the month of trading following August 24th last year).

Trading volume popped up today with 3.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume rose 4% on the NYSE and increased 13% on NASDAQ.

Volatility rose with the VIX closing up a little over two points at 22%.

One bullish data point I saw mentioned today: as we neared the close, it was reported that over 600k shares were queued up for close of market buy orders. That sounds like some traders are betting on the bounce. For the record, I considered buying SPX calls at the close, but thought better of it. That's too close to gambling for my style. Now watch it gap up higher in the morning...

Investors Business Daily declared Friday that the uptrend has resumed. I am inclined to agree, but I remain wary (old scars). SPX had a huge day Friday, so the bears were looking to take it back today, but it didn't happen. SPX opened at $1937, traded down as far as $1920, and then recovered to close at $1939, down one dollar on the day. This resulted in another of those candlesticks with a long lower shadow, a bullish sign. RUT had a similar day, closing down $3 at $1032. Volatility contracted just a bit, closing down 0.3 points at 19.9%. VIX has only been under 20% one other day this year. Trading volume fell off from Friday with 2.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume on the NYSE dropped 10% and trading on NASDAQ was also down 10%.

Construction spending for December increased 0.1%, not great, but better than November's 0.6% decline. The ISM manufacturing index came in at 48.2 for January, up slightly from 48.0. Recall that numbers on this survey less than 50 represent contraction, not expansion.

ADP's private payrolls and the ISM services report are due on Wednesday, and the jobs report will be issued Friday morning before the open.

I think we have seen the worst of the correction, but I don't see much to fuel the bulls for a strong rally, so we may be in for some choppy sideways trading for a while.

There have been several signs that we may have been settling into support and ready to bounce since the big intraday dip on January 20th. Today's price action appeared to be the follow through we were expecting. But remember that markets tend to come back and test the lows before truly heading higher, so be cautious. SPX had a huge 47 point day, closing at $1940. RUT followed the lead with a gain of $32 to close at $1035. Volatility contracted with the VIX losing over two points to 20.1%. There was probably a lot of short covering and trading volume bounced higher with 3.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading today. Trading on the NYSE increased 16% and trading on NASDAQ rose 13%.

The first estimate of fourth quarter GDP was reported this morning at +0.7%, resulting in a full year gain of 1.7% - tepid, but far from a recessionary value. Analysts pointed to the Bank of Japan's negative interest rates for starting this rally, but the market action was somewhat muted this morning and accelerated as the day wore on. About half of today's increase came after noon.

I took the opportunity to add to my March put spreads on SPX, but I would still recommend caution. The price action of the past few days has pushed SPX above the middle of the Bollinger bands. You wouldn't know it from all of the negative commentary, but the markets have recovered quite a bit.

I think I liked the old Greenspan days better when the market was basically left to figure out things on its own. Bernanke and now Yellen are trying to be more transparent, and market analysts are behaving like spoiled children wanting more candy. This morning, oil prices rose, and the markets followed suit. After studying the FOMC announcement, the market decided the door was left open to further rate hikes and the tantrums began. SPX lost $21 to close at $1883 and RUT closed down $15 to $1003. That leaves both indexes close to the support level that has appeared to be developing over the past few trading sessions. Volatility rose about six tenths of a point to 23% - moderately high, but not too high.

Trading volume rose with 3.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Volume rose 10% on the NYSE and rose 12% on NASDAQ.

New home sales increased to an annualized rate of 544k for December.

The Fed announcement left interest rates unchanged, and said future rate hikes would be small and would depend on the data (same old story). New language spoke to market volatility and global economic conditions and said the FOMC will be monitoring those issues closely - duh. It should be obvious that the urban legend circulating about four rate hikes in 2016 is toast given market conditions since the first of the year plus some mediocre economic numbers on top as dressing. But the Fed didn't explicitly make any promises and the market didn't like that. We'll see if that mood continues tomorrow. Maybe a good night's sleep will help.