All the Reasons in the World to Pull Back

 | Apr 28, 2013 | 7:00 PM EDT  | Comments
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Stock quotes in this article:

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ibm

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Here comes May. How many times do you think we'll hear that old adage, "Sell in May and go away?" After all, we've heard the phrase "spring swoon" roughly a million times in the past several weeks as folks look for a repeat of the market action in 2010, 2011 and 2012. While the market hasn't exactly swooned so far this spring, there were plenty of reasons for it to do so.

On the fundamental side, look at how many companies missed their profit or sales targets. I don't have the statistics on it, and there is too much pre-earnings maneuvering to manage expectations lower, anyway -- but I can name several companies off the top of my head that either missed on revenue or earnings or lowered expectations. That list includes Proctor & Gamble (PG), Caterpillar (CAT), Target (TGT), IBM (IBM), Amgen (AMGN), Amazon (AMZN), Qualcomm (QCOM), Bank of America (BAC) and 3M (MMM).

So we're looking at a consumer-products company, an industrial/cyclical name, a tech outfit, a consumer name, a financial, a biotech and a retailer. For anyone who had sought an earnings problem, I'd say they got what they were looking for purely on fundamentals. It simply failed to translate into a broad pullback.

We certainly got a dose of Europe-related problems, as well. Almost every metric shows the European economy in recession. There was the Cyprus incident, Slovenia and Italy's political situation, to boot. All the bad news out of Europe is present and accounted for, yet still the markets still won't go down.

Outside purely economic matters, North Korea's threats arrived right on schedule for the spring. Then, earlier this month, we witnessed the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Meanwhile, President Obama has established a "red line" in the Syrian civil war to trigger deeper U.S. involvement -- the "systemic" use of chemical weapons -- that may well have been crossed this past week.

We even saw a crash in precious metals, and commodities took it on the chin. Anyone predicting that had been spot-on, as well. But did the stock market go down? It did not.

On the technical side, the deterioration in the intermediate-term indicators have all pointed to a "spring swoon," but all we've gotten has been group rotation. Even the Russell 2000, with the terrific week it just had, is still trading at mid-February levels.

In sum, there was plenty of news that might have taken the markets lower in most other environments; the indices simply did not follow. Many readers would like me to explain how so many Dow stocks can gap down without bringing the Dow itself with it. I cannot.

But I do believe that's why we find ourselves with a market at the highs that lack any giddiness. We even saw plenty of bearishness a week ago, though that sentiment has subsided. So if we now see some market downside, we'll be sure to hear all those "Sell in May" calls, and sentiment is bound to switch right back to bearishness.


 

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