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The markets continued to trade in low volume and largely sideways today as traders await the announcement from the FOMC tomorrow afternoon. SPX traded down as far as $2005 before recovering to close at $2016 for a $4 loss today. RUT didn't recover, closing down $18 at $1067. Volatility was flat with the VIX unchanged at 16.8%. Trading volume was flat with two billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading, identical to yesterday's volume. Trading volume rose 2% on the NYSE and also rose 5% on NASDAQ.

Retail sales reported a decline of 0.1% for February, but that was an improvement over the -0.4% decline in January. What is everyone doing with their savings at the gas pump? The PPI for February declined 0.2%, down from a 0.1% increase in January. The Empire manufacturing survey (New York Federal reserve) increased to 0.6 in March, up from last month's -16.6.

Economic data continue to be pretty weak. It doesn't seem likely that the Fed will increase interest rates at this meeting, but who knows? I don't think we will see much movement in the market between now and 2 pm ET tomorrow.

The markets were quiet today as traders begin to anticipate the FOMC announcement on Wednesday. The prevalent opinion of the Fed watchers is that no interest rate hike is on tap, but many observers are worried.

SPX backed off three dollars to close at $2020 and RUT closed down $3 at $1084. Volatility rose a bit as traders begin to hedge positions; the VIX closed at 16.9%, up about 0.4 points.

There were no significant economic data reports today. The PPI, CPI, industrial production figures, capacity utilization, and weekly unemployment claims come later in the week, but the gorilla in the room is the announcement from the FOMC Wednesday afternoon.

Trading volume was down today with only two billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading today. Trading volume declined 14% on the NYSE and was down 18% on NASDAQ.

If the Fed announcement is a non-event for the market, will the bullish run of the past several weeks continue? SPX is holding right at the 200 dma, and depending on how one draws the bearish trend line from the November, December and January highs, SPX is at or slightly below that trend line. Traders are watching for a break-out above that trend line to be confident that the bulls are back in charge. Otherwise, the conventional wisdom is that this has been a short-lived rally within a bearish trend. It is hard to predict the market's reaction to the Fed's announcement. Every word will be parsed.

Yesterday, it seemed as though the market wasn't too happy with the ECB's announcement and Mario Draghi's news conference. But after some reflection, the bulls came out swinging this morning and never backed off. Apparently, negative interest rates are the friend of the bulls.

SPX closed up $33 at $2022. RUT closed at $1088 for a gain of $24. Volatility pulled back with the VIX dropping two points to 16.5%. Trading volume contracted a bit with 2.4 billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading today. Trading volume dropped 9% on the NYSE and declined 8% on NASDAQ. SPX closed right at the 200 dma. I was surprised it didn't bounce off the 200 dma. We'll see on Monday. Breaking that level will confirm the end of the correction and send the doomsday folk to the back room.

There wasn't any significant economic data reported today. Traders will begin to focus on the FOMC meeting and announcement next week. We have long list of economic data coming out next week: PPI, CPI, retail sales, housing starts, building permits, and several others. But the Fed announcement is the biggy (technical term).

Have a great weekend. We are actually having some nice weather in Chicago.


The markets appeared to be just treading water today as they anticipate the meeting tomorrow with Mario Draghi and the ECB.

SPX closed up $10 at $1989 and RUT increased $5 to $1073. Volatility relaxed a little with the VIX falling about a third of a point to 18.3%. Trading volume continued to decline with 2.3 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading volume declined 12% on the NYSE and also dropped 9% on NASDAQ.

No significant economic news came out today. Will Draghi's actions tomorrow push our markets higher? Or will it serve as a reminder that the central banks are running out of bullets? It is hard to predict the direction, but it will likely move our markets.

SPX has run up against resistance at $2000. That level and the 200 dma at $2020 are the levels that need to be broken before we can be reasonably confident the downdraft so far this year has been curtailed. Many analysts have drawn a bearish trend line from the December highs, and that trend line is very close to the 200 dma. So that level on SPX is crucial to watch.

So we wait on Mario...

Markets opened lower, traded even lower, recovered, and then sold off in the last two hours of trading to close at the lows of the day. SPX lost $23 to close at $1979. RUT fell $26 to $1068. Volatility rose with the VIX adding 1.3 points to 18.7%. Trading volume fell again today with 2.5 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume declined 2% on the NYSE and declined 6% on NASDAQ.

No economic data were released today. Are traders pulling back a bit in anticipation of the Fed meeting next week? Most analysts believe additional interest rate hikes are off the table, but the market may be apprehensive.

I had hedged my March and April iron condor positions Friday, but removed those hedges today.

No significant, market-moving economic reports are due this week. Will the market remain weak until after the Fed meeting?

The bulls have been on a strong run higher for the past couple of weeks. Today's slowing only seems natural. SPX broke through the magical $2000 level with a close at $2002, up two dollars on the day. RUT continues on a tear with a twelve dollar gain to $1094. When one thinks of the small caps as the "risk on" stocks, RUT looks very bullish. But RUT has far more to make up from the correction than does SPX. Even with the strong moves higher the past couple of weeks, RUT remains below the lows hit in the initial flash crash on August 24th.

Volatility was largely unchanged with the VIX at 17.2%. Trading volume pulled back today with 2.6 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading volume on the NYSE declined 20% and trading on NASDAQ dropped 6%.

URBN was trading very strongly the past few days, probably in anticipation of its earnings announcement this evening. I entered this trade and shared it with my trading group today: URBN Mar/Apr 25/28 diagonal call spread for $234. Due to the high volatility before the announcement, I was able to sell the Mar call for 39% of the price of the long April $25 call. Even though the earnings announcement is a dicey time to go bullish on any stock, we hedged our downside nicely by selling so much premium to significantly reduce the cost basis in the long April call. In after hours trading, URBN has traded up to $31.44, so it looks like we have a big winner.

Now the market debate has turned from "the sky is falling" to "how high can it go?" I think both extremes are wrong. The basic economic data don't support a strong bull market. But those same data don't justify all of the doom and gloom of the past few weeks either. We may also see some treading water in the markets as the FOMC meeting next week comes into focus.

The markets continued their climb higher today. SPX gained $7 to close at $1993. RUT tacked on $10 to arrive at $1076. Volatility continued to contract with VIX losing 0.4 points to 16.7%. Trading volume was slightly higher with 2.8 billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading today. Trading volume on the NYSE was up 9%, but trading volume on NASDAQ was only up 1%.

Initial unemployment claims came in at 278k, essentially flat with last week's 272k. Continuing unemployment claims were also flat with 2.257 million, slightly higher than last week's 2.254 million. Factory orders increased 1.6% in January, up from the 2.9% decline in December. The ISM services index was flat for February at 53.4; January's number was 53.5.

The jobs report comes out before the market opens tomorrow. Will it matter to this bullish market?

I'm in Orlando for the Money Show. I have been impressed by the quality of the speakers. I recommend you check out the next Money Show. I have learned a lot over the past two days. If you are in the neighborhood, send me a note; we can meet, share a coffee, and discuss this market.

The futures were up about $10 when I first checked them early this morning, and the market did follow through with a positive open. Often those positive opens are met with selling, but not today. The markets just kept on pushing steadily higher all day with SPX gaining $46 to close at $1978. RUT gained $21 to close at $1054. SPX rose 2.4% today; RUT rose 2.0%, but the NASDAQ composite rocketed higher by 2.9%. Trading volume was higher across the board today with 2.9 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading rose 4% on the NYSE and increased 13% on NASDAQ. Volatility made a huge move today with the VIX dropping almost three points to 17.7%. Where did those bears go?

Construction spending increased 1.5% in January, a nice improvement over December's +0.6%. The ISM manufacturing index came in for February at 49.5, up from January's 48.2.

It appears this positive economic data finally broke the pessimistic hold the bears had on the market. SPX has finally decisively broken resistance at $1940 from January 29th. Over the past week, SPX has flirted with that level, closing alternatively above and below $1940. But today's run was decisive. But I'm not betting on a strong bullish run to new highs. First of all, the economic data aren't that great, and secondly, this presidential election is giving many traders the jitters. Socialism used to be a bad word...


SPX opened higher this morning and traded up to $1958, but then started a steady decline and closed at its low for the day - not a good sign. SPX closed down $16 at $1932 and RUT lost $3 to close at $1034. SPX reached $1940 on 1/29 after hitting the correction low on 1/20. Then SPX turned and set a new lower low on 2/11 at $1829. That is why many technical analysts were watching for the resistance at $1940 to be broken. SPX did indeed have three closes above $1940 last week, but it couldn't hold those levels today. Volatility tacked on almost a point with the VIX closing at 20.6%. Trading volume was up a bit with 2.7 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading today. Trading rose 0.6% on the NYSE but dropped 2% on NASDAQ.

The Chicago PMI issued its February report at 47.6, down from 55.6. Pending home sales declined 2.5% in January, down from December's +0.9%.

The jobs report will issue on Friday, but it seems early for the market to be stalling in advance of that report. Maybe the fundamental issue is that there aren't sufficient strong economic data to fuel a bull market. On the other hand, I don't think the data are weak enough to justify a bear market. Maybe the sideways thrashing back and forth will be the norm, at least until we get the elections behind us.

The various headlines I have used over the past 12 to 18 months to describe these wild roller coaster rides in the markets are getting old. Wild reversals are now almost commonplace. SPX traded down as low as $1891 today before reversing to close at $1930, very close to its high of the day. RUT outperformed SPX, trading up $10 to close at $1022. Trading volume popped up with 2.7 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading volume rose 12% on the NYSE and increased 13% on NASDAQ. The VIX ran higher this morning but then pulled back to close at 20.7%, down 0.3 points.

New home sales declined in January to an annualized rate of 494 thousand, down from December's 544 thousand.

It appeared as though oil prices drove today's stock market, lower at the open and then reversing higher. But the transition wasn't smooth; the correlation is unraveling.

I continue to find the speculation about another 2008-type of market crash surprising. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that we are missing a stimulus like the huge subprime mortgage disaster that drove that crash. The doomsday gurus speak of banks holding too much oil related debt. That seems unlikely since the Fed have tightened up all of the reserve requirements significantly since 2008. That is part of the reason you cannot get a mortgage today. One analyst on Fast Money today was matching the shapes of the last several months of the price chart to the time just before the 2008 crash. He thought the matching shapes of the charts were predictive even though there is no comparable economic trigger for a crash today. Consider the 2000 bear market. It was driven by the dot com bubble. The 1987 crash was purely a price correction from very high price multiples. None of those conditions exist today.