For about three weeks now we have had a similar pattern of little movement at the open. With the exception of just two days during that period buy programs have triggered in the final hour and closed the indices near the highs. The Nasdaq 100 ETF (QQQ) has been a bit of an exception, but for the overall pattern of action is amazingly consistent.
This morning we have another slow start but breadth is running a little negative with about 3,000 gainers to 3,200 decliners. New highs are still plentiful but the pockets of momentum are harder to find. It is a market for stock pickers but it is more difficult because the themes are muddled.
I'm seeing some good strength in biotechnology names again. Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) , for example, is active due to a filing showing that Stevie Cohn has a big position.
My Stock of the Week, Antares Pharma (ATRS) , is a small biotechnology name and is trading up 5% so far. While the overall market has a surprising low level of volatility the stock-picking remains quite good. That is largely a function of outperformance by small-caps but that is the place to be.
(Antares Pharma is a holding in TheStreet's Stocks Under $10 portfolio. Click here to learn more about this product.)
If you are looking for a negative spin to the action you can argue that when the market expends a high level of energy and only manages small gains it is a sign that momentum is slowing and a reversal is approaching.
That is a very logical argument but so far we are not seeing any proof that it works. I'm staying focused on stock-picking and have some names such as AVEO Pharmaceuticals (AVEO) and GDS Holdings (GDS) on my radar.
The QQQ is lagging again while small-caps are leading. That supports a focus on stock-picking. When the small-caps start to lag that will be the time to focus more on defense.