It’s not like U.S. stocks didn’t have enough to worry about today.
The bond market priced in the highest level of inflation expectations since May. Oil fell as Russia’s biggest producer Rosneft said it won’t cut output. Alcoa (AA), the company that traditionally kicks off earnings season, missed Wall Street estimates. Odds on an interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve continued to climb, sending the dollar up, oil and other commodities down, and pushing emerging market equities lower. The pound continued to fall, dropping another 2%.
For the day the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index closed at 2136.73, off by 1.24%. That was enough to push the S&P 500 below the 50-day moving average at 2166. The index has been flirting with that support level since early September.
Maybe in this context the warnings issued today by Wall Street technical analysts feel like piling on–or maybe they are exactly that they seem, that is warnings.
These warnings drew attention to what analysts call a “symmetrical triangle.” Such patterns, in which the index traces out a sequence of rising lows and falling highs, gets resolved one way or the other since the pattern of highs and lows is coming to a point.
In most circumstances that resolution is in the direction of the former trend, technicians say. That has been upward on the S&P 500 so the “in most circumstances” resolution would be to extend the upward trend in a significant rally.
But all the other context I mentioned at the start of this post has led some technicians to believe that this time the resolution will be to the downside as the triangle turns into reversal of the previous trend. If such a reversal takes place, technicians who warn of a reversal say, it could lead to a substantial correction of 7% to 10%.
I think the direction of any resolution of this triangle will largely depend on all that “context” with which I began this post. If inflation worries continue to pick up, if oil prices tick downwards on negative news about capacity cuts, if the third quarter earnings season that kicked off today disappoints as expected, if the dollar continues to climb and the pound, euro, and yen continue to fall, then, yes, I think a short-term downward move in U.S.stocks is likely. That’s been the case since the market starting pushing up the odds–now about 65%–on a December 14 interest rate increase from the Fed.
At the least, I think we can count on an increasingly nervous market. (Especially given the wild U.S. election.) The CBOE S&P Volatility Index, VIX, climbed 14.8% today to 15.36. The VIX has been volatile lately, up one day and down the next, but the net move has been higher, indicating increasing desire on the part of traders and investors to hedge their equity positions.