Lots of folks out this morning trying to explain why U.S. stocks are up so strongly today after Thursday’s thrashing and two lackluster trading session on Friday and Monday. One explanation I’m hearing a lot is that President Donald Trump sounded “more” presidential in last night’s speech laying out his secret plan for continuing the war in Afghanistan. Another explanation that I’m hearing is that there are rumors of progress in Washington on the Republican tax plan.
To which I say, Please…
It’s August when lighter trading volumes magnify every wrinkle into the Rockies. The most likely reason that the market is up today is that it was down on Thursday and today the buy the dip trades that didn’t work on Friday and Monday are back on–with the difference that they’re working, sort of, today.
As of 2 p.m. New York time today the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up 0.80% to 2447.94.
The big event of the week, the one that actually could affect the direction of the market, is still the Jackson Hole conference sponsored by the Kansas City Fed. Both Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi are scheduled to speak on Friday. And it’s possible that they could say something concrete about their plans to end quantitative easing, reduce their purchases of government debt, and begin to pare back the size of their balance sheets.
Possible, yes. If these two very cagey practitioners of the art of saying nothing at great detail make a mistake.
Meanwhile, though, I’d draw you attention to the trends in this market that are still visible beneath the randomness of today’s action. Several important market leaders were near breakdown levels yesterday–and it will be important to see how they behave after today’s bounce. For example, Alphabet (GOOG) went into today’s trading near the $920 level that has provided support for the stock since May. A break below the support would open the stock to a quick fall toward the next support at $825. Today, as of 2 p.m., Alphabet is up 1.76% or $15.98 to $922. If the stock builds on that strength, even modestly, tomorrow, then I will conclude that the market has stabilized. If, however, traders see the move above $920 as an opportunity to short the stock, then I think the market is setting up for a further decline.
Same logic on Amazon (MZN), which also was near support yesterday at $953 and has gained 1.17% to $964 today. Next stop on the downside for Amazon is also in the $825 level.
And one final price to watch. The Select Sector SPDR Financial ETF has been in retreat for the last couple of weeks. (Which makes it very hard for the S&P 500 to move higher since the financial sector carries so much weight in the index.) The XLF is up 0.77% today to $24.74. If it moves up from that level in the next few days, it would be a big plus for the markets. If traders use today’s bump as an opportunity to short the sector, then I think we’re looking at renewed weakness.
And don’t forget tonight’s random August news: President Trump is holding a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona. If we can judge from other Arizona rallies, the President will focus on immigration. He could well say something that revives memories of last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville and the President’s deeply inadequate response to the violence in Virginia.