An Odd Market Day

 | Mar 20, 2014 | 4:36 PM EDT  | Comments
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Stock quotes in this article:

creg

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biof

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qtww

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sva

The market experienced some of the oddest action we've had in a while. It wasn't bad at all but it was quite peculiar. Breadth was just about flat and most of the stocks that have been recent leaders did very little. What led today were financials and old technology names like U.S. Steel (X), AT&T (T), Citigroup (C) and Microsoft (MSFT).

It is better to have buying interest in these stodgy names, but the more important question is whether this is a sign of a healthy market. Seldom do these stocks lead the market for very long. In a good market, there are always names with better growth that will have better relative strength. We might see financials lead for a day or two, but eventually they will lag as the market stumbles or something else starts attracting the momentum money.

There was some speculative action in junk small-caps under the surface -- China Recycling Energy Corp. (CREG), BioFuel Energy (BIOF), Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide (QTWW), Aastrom Biosciences (ASTM) and Sinovac Biotech (SVA). That sort of action seems healthier to me than this surge in financials and 1990 technology because it reflects an appetite for higher risk.

We'll see where this action leads but I find it more worrisome than positive. We need good growth names like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG)to lead again, but they aren't doing much at all.

Have a good evening I'll see you tomorrow.


March 20, 2014 | 2:34 PM EDT

Back on Track

  • Seldom have we had a strong market led by such a strange brew.

The indices are back on track but it is an odd brew of action. Banks are leading as traders anticipate stress-test results and the ability to increase dividends, and conservative big-caps Microsoft (MSFT) and U.S. Steel (X) are leading to the upside. Breadth is running about even and the names we usually look to for leadership, Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and Tesla (TSLA), are doing little.

The best markets tend to have good speculative action in small-cap names and tend to have strong themes or sector movement. A few things are moving but, overall, the money is flowing in new directions.

The bulls say that this is a healthy rotation, but seldom have we had a strong market led by the likes of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and money-center banks.

Of course, looking for flaws in this market has been a fool's game for a long time. The right approach has been to focus on what can go right rather than what is wrong. We'll see how we close, but I'm not interested in buying right now.


March 20, 2014 | 10:34 AM EDT

Fed Worries Don't Take Hold

  • Dip-buyers show up again.

Did you really think the dip-buyers weren't going to show up again? We never seem to stay down on Fed worries for long, but there is a shift in the action as market players buy old stodgy technology names like Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Intel (INTC). Banks are also seeing interest while favored momentum names and small-cap speculative plays are very choppy.

The dip-buying action is sucking in some chasers and squeezing anticipatory bears. This sort of action has played out repeatedly, and it just goes to show how Fed worries aren't taking hold.

I don't have much new going on. I started a position in BioFuel Energy (BIOF), but I'm not willing to pay up for entries until later today. We have odd leadership and lagging breadth, which typically doesn't favor the sorts of stocks that I trade. We definitely are seeing signs of underlying support, but I want to see if they persist.


March 20, 2014 | 8:24 AM EDT

Conditions Ripe for a Change in Mood

  • The action hasn't been all that healthy this week.

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.

 --Thomas Jefferson

In early December, many folks were worried that the market would sell off when the Fed announced that it would start to taper off its quantitative easing (QE) program. When the first round of tapering was announced on Dec. 18, 2013 the market rallied sharply and we finished the year with a strong run.

2014 started off a bit rocky but the market bounced big in February and has run back up the highs. The Fed's tapering program has been a nonevent as the market has come to believe that the economy is strong enough to handle it and the Fed will relent should conditions change.

Yesterday, the Fed announced its second round of tapering. It was well anticipated but the market mood turned sour as Janet Yellen was quite clear about how tapering would continue and interest rates will eventually go up six months or so after the bond buying stops.

None of this is surprising, but it reminded the market that the Fed isn't going to supply cheap money forever. Those who have abided by the old adage "don' fight the Fed" have done extremely well for years now, and we have to recognize that that dynamic is not going to last forever.

Typically, the market has done a very good job of shaking off these sorts of worry quite quickly but we have some technical challenges and slowing momentum to deal with. We had a very good two day bounce on Monday and Tuesday which had many bulls comfortable that our old friend, the V-shaped bounce, would have us sailing to new highs but after yesterday we have to consider the chances that we may see a failed bounce now.

The key here is that the market holds above last week's low. For the S&P 500, that is around 1840 and for the Nasdaq the level is around 4240. We have some room about those levels and we did see the dip-buyers step up late yesterday. However, the conditions for a change in market mood are high.

Despite the good bounce earlier this week, the market action hasn't been that healthy. The bounce came on low volume, we continue to lack leadership and the pockets of momentum have become increasingly sparse. We have had quite a few technical distribution days and there just isn't the same buying pressure we saw during the month of February.

I don't want to sound too negative as that is the easiest mistake to make in this market. Just when it looks like the market is about to roll over, it seems to find our footing and forgot all the cares and worries. One day that isn't going to happen and a real correction will kick in, so we need to be vigilant but we don't want to be overly anticipatory.

We have a slow start this morning and we'll see what the dip-buyers can do as they shrug off Janet Yellen and her reminder that maybe the Fed won't always be there to support us.

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