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The market was on edge this week as the FOMC met on Tuesday and Wednesday and issued their announcement of a quarter point rate cut. This created some price volatility on Wednesday, but it appeared the net market assessment of the move was moderately positive. Then the other market hobgoblin, China trade negotiations, hit the markets on Friday. The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) opened higher on Friday, traded up to 3016 and held a positive gain until about 1:00 pm ET, when news hit the wires of the Chinese trade delegation cancelling a trip to Montana. SPX fell off rapidly and closed at 2992 for a 15-point loss on the day.

Trading volume continues to tell a bearish story in these markets. Even in the earlier part of this week, when price action was moderately positive, SPX trading volume was below the 50-day moving average (dma) and declined all week. Friday’s spike higher was an anomaly based on options and futures contract expiration. As the bulls drive this market higher, they do so carefully. They are not “all in”.

The volatility index for the S&P 500 options, VIX, opened this week at 14.9% and closed Thursday at 14.0%. But Friday’s China trade panic pushed volatility up, closing up 1.3 points at 15.3%.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) has traded far more weakly than its big brother indices all year. Russell surprised us with a strong 7.4% run higher from September 4th through this past Monday when it closed at 1585. The rest of this week has been a series of red candlesticks on my chart (maybe they are black on yours). Russell closed Friday at 1560, down 2 points. It was a tough week for small to mid-cap stocks and those are the stocks that lead bull markets.

The NASDAQ Composite index was almost perfectly flat this week, opening at 8122 and closing Friday at 8118. NASDAQ’s intraday lows came close to the 50 dma on Wednesday and Friday, but recovered to close higher. The 50 dma is the line in the sand to watch for NASDAQ. NASDAQ’s trading volume was below average all week, but it spiked significantly on Friday, due to options and futures contracts expiring.

The financial news has been filled with discussions of impending recession for the past several weeks. Journalists of all stripes, including financial journalists, now regularly show their political bias in their writing. Econ 101 will define a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Given our GDP growth of 2% to 3% over the past two years, talk of a recession is puzzling. This week’s Fed meeting provided additional support for a positive economic outlook.

Chairman Powell went out of his way during the news conference to deny that this latest rate cut was a reaction to prevent a recession. His comments were in reaction to several media questions asserting the danger of an imminent recession. Powell said the rate cuts were designed to “insure against downside risks to the outlook from weak global growth and trade tensions”. He clearly stated that the current economic data do not support any talk of a recession or a forecast of a recession.

Friday’s markets illustrated the price volatility I have repeatedly discussed over the past several weeks. This week’s markets were relatively calm and the price moves were modest, even surrounding the Fed announcement. That changed in a flash around 1:00 pm ET Friday, based on a change in the China trade delegation’s travel plans while here in the states. There could be good reasons for that change of plans, but no one seems to know. Traders assume the worst and sell.

As I have written in earlier newsletters, Traders exit the market in volume on the least provocation. This market remains nervous and therefore dangerous. It pays to be cautious. I am focusing on solid blue-chip stocks whose prices have held up reasonably well as we hit these down drafts, e.g., DHI, JPM, KLAC, LMT, MLM, SYK, TGT, TWTR,  and VMC.

This was a shortened week due to the Labor Day holiday, but the bulls came out in strength. The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) opened Tuesday at 2909, and closed today at 2979, an increase of 70 points or +2.4% in a single week. SPX had been caught in a trading range from 2822 to 2940 since August 8th, but the market gapped open strongly Thursday morning and solidly broke through the 50-day moving average (dma) at 2944. Lest we get ahead of ourselves, trading volume remains weak. Volume remained below the 50 dma until Thursday, but only touched the average then and dropped back lower today. As the bulls drive this market higher, they do so carefully. They are not “all in”.

When we plot the Bollinger bands on the SPX chart with two standard deviations above and below the 20 dma, it makes the significance of this move more apparent. SPX started the week near the center of the bands, but Thursday’s price spurt closed outside the upper edge of the Bollinger bands, a relatively rare event. And SPX maintained just enough bullish price action today to close right on the upper edge of those bands. From a statistical, random walk point of view, it will be hard for next week’s market to match this week’s strong climb higher.


The volatility index for the S&P 500 options, VIX, opened this week at 21% and closed today at 15%. I regard 15% as the “line in the sand”. Volatility levels below 15% are relatively benign, but I start to raise the caution flag above that level. So we are right on the edge: not panicky, but not calm either.

It is old news to observe that the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) continues to trade far more weakly than its big brother indices. Whereas SPX gained 2.4% this week, Russell’s close today at 1505 represented an increase of only 0.7% for the week. RUT is bouncing off resistance at its 200 dma. That is weak. Russell would have to gain 7.3% just to return to its May highs. And those May highs are far from the all-time high set in August of last year at 1741, almost 16% above today’s close. These small to mid-cap stocks are the “risk on” stocks – a sobering thought.

The NASDAQ Composite index ran parallel to the S&P 500 index this week, opening at 7906 and closing today at 8103, up 197 points for the week or +2.4%. NASDAQ gapped open on Thursday and solidly broke out above the 50 dma, but it gave back about 14 points of those gains today. NASDAQ’s trading volume ran below the 50 dma all week, and was especially low today. The same thing occurred last week and I attributed it to the holiday weekend. This isn’t the beginning of another holiday weekend. The bulls may be buying, but they are playing safe.

The China trade negotiations continue to be the principal worry for traders. We are caught in a particularly dangerous market. It will spike higher or lower in seconds on the basis of a tweet or even a rumor. But this market recovers quickly from each rumor or tweet inspired panic, demonstrating a fundamentally bullish posture. Traders exit the market in volume on the least provocation. It remains a twitchy, and therefore dangerous, market.

In my trading group, we play moderately conservative trades. The riskiest trades we enter are plays on a stock’s earnings announcement. These trades are riskier than our usual trades simply because they are binary trades – you are either right or wrong. There is no time to hedge or adjust the trade. It is over in 24 to 48 hours.

Earnings trades may be thought of as relatively safe in this volatile market. Getting in and out quickly has a certain appeal. The overall market’s twitches are less relevant to these trades. Hence, we only entered three trades this week: two earnings trades on PANW and one earnings play on LULU. I closed one PANW position the next day for a 61% gain. The other PANW trade and the LULU trade will expire worthless this weekend for gains of 18% and 14%, respectively.

This is analogous to the day trader. We commonly think of day trading as very risky, but at the end of the trading session, the day trader is safely out of the market. When we are in a volatile and unpredictable market, entering and exiting quickly has its merits.

Limit your trading to stocks that are demonstrating steady strength in the midst of this volatile market. I believe the following stocks meet those criteria: CMG, CTAS, HSY, ICE, and SBUX.

My advice remains the same. Position your stops conservatively and don’t hesitate to trip those stops. Don’t wait and hope in this market.

During my lifetime, one would only hear from the president of the United States on rare occasions. And each of those events would be highly scripted and carefully managed. None of us really knew who he was or what he was thinking. We only saw and heard the carefully managed persona. The internet hit the White House of President Obama. That was the first time I recall the White House having a web page and hearing people discuss what they had read there. The Twitter phenomenon certainly preceded President Trump, but I think he has been the first president to use this technology to communicate with the people in an almost continuous manner. Increased transparency is a good thing, just as I thought Bernanke initiating periodic news conferences helped us better understand the goals and activities of the FOMC. Greenspan was an excellent poker player but that left us in the dark most of the time.

The price volatility of the stock market has been increasing for many years. I have attributed much of that to the growth of large-scale algorithmic trading. President Trump’s tweets have added to this increased volatility. I am sure those computer programs track his tweets closely, looking for key words to trigger some lines of code. My acquaintances seem to be of two minds about the president’s tweets. Some welcome it as open and candid communication. Others complain that it isn’t “presidential”. There is truth in both perspectives. But one result is undeniable. The market reacts to President Trump’s tweets. Today was one more example. I keep thinking that the market will become accustomed to the president’s candor, but it is hard to teach computers to use different filters to parse language of different people. You and I do it all the time. Of course, it doesn’t help that the news media feign panic and outrage regardless of what President Trump tweets.

China issued a trade announcement this morning, announcing new tariffs on U.S. companies. As many have learned over the past two years, you cannot poke at this president and not expect a reaction. President Trump responded by increasing tariffs from 10% to 15% on some products and from 25% to 30% on other products. The market panicked.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) closed at 2847 today, down 76 points or almost 3%. The only good news was a small bounce near the end of the trading session. Large down days that close at the low of the day are ominous. Today’s drop causes me to focus on that support level at 2820 formed about two weeks ago. Today’s carnage didn’t reach that level. As one might expect on a day like this, trading volume spiked today after running below average all week.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed down over 47 points at 1459, a loss of over 3%. Russell closed at 1487 on August 5th and even closed a bit lower at 1462 in the retest of the correction on August 15th. Today’s close even broke the low set on May 31st at 1465. It is interesting to note that the February 2018 correction hit a low of 1464, but the December 2018 correction bottomed out at 1267.

The NASDAQ Composite index behaved more like the S&P 500, not quite matching the August 5th low at 7726. NASDAQ lost 240 points or about 3% in today’s closing at 7752. I would draw the support line at the intraday low of August 5th, around 7663. If NASDAQ breaks that level, this could be much more than a transient, tweet inspired panic. NASDAQ’s trading volume ran below the 50 dma all week, but spiked today on this rapid pull back.

The China trade negotiations took center stage with President Trump’s tweet on August 1st and that led to the correction low on August 5th before bouncing. The markets recovered somewhat since then, but SPX and NASDAQ never regained their 50 day moving averages. Russell was even weaker in that it never even recovered to the 200 dma.

I have to admit I was caught by surprise today. It appeared like we had largely recovered from the August 5th correction, but that recovery was short lived. One conclusion is obvious. This market is fundamentally bullish. It quickly recovers from each rumor or tweet inspired panic. When we get some kind of trade deal signed with China, it will likely be full speed ahead. Until then, we are in a nervous and dangerous market. I will be watching the market very closely on Monday. I expect at least a small bounce Monday due to the extreme reaction of the markets today.

Be extremely diligent. Watch your positions carefully. In all cases, trip your stops aggressively. Don’t wait and hope in this market.

I enjoy roller coasters. It’s a thrill. Somehow, it isn’t quite as thrilling to have my money taking that wild ride. That phenomenon has become very common in recent markets. After hitting a high of 2952 on May 1st, the S&P 500 index dropped 7% in 23 trading sessions. But then the market turned and recovered all of those losses in only 13 trading sessions. This is typical of the modern “V” shaped correction: a rapid, scary ride down followed by an incredibly rapid recovery in short order.

We witnessed part of that pattern again over the past two weeks. The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) closed at 3026 on July 26th and then proceeded to lose 6% through the close on August 5th. Thursday’s close recovered half of that loss in only three days. SPX closed yesterday at 2919, down 19 on the day.

Trading volume has run below average since the July 4th holiday, but that changed with this correction. Trading volume in the S&P 500 companies spiked on July 31st and only dropped back close to the 50-day moving average (dma) yesterday. It is significant that the only increases in trading volume are coming with market declines, not bullish runs higher. Money remains on the sideline as the market rises, but traders take profits quickly at the least sign of trouble.

The volatility index for the S&P 500 options, VIX, spiked as high as 25% on the worst day of the correction and has declined since then, closing yesterday at 18%. That remains a relatively high level of volatility. All is not yet calm.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) continues to lag behind SPX and NASDAQ. Russell began the correction at 1587 on 7/31 and closed down 6.3% at 1487 on 8/5. By Thursday, Russell had recovered almost half of that loss, but it gave much of it back yesterday, closing at 1513, down 19 points. Russell never fully recovered from the December correction lows last year. Before this most recent correction, RUT had not yet even regained its high from early May of this year. Yesterday’s close remains over 15% below RUT’s 
all-time high. This chart’s bearish nature is a significant caution sign for the bulls.

The NASDAQ Composite index set a new all-time high of 8330 on July 26th, but lost over 7.3% in this recent correction. NASDAQ recovered some of that loss this week, closing Friday at 7959, down 80 points.
NASDAQ’s trading volume has trended even weaker than that of the S&P 500 index since the July 4th holiday, but volume rose above the 50 dma during this correction and has remained above average throughout this week.

Traders were buoyed by the prospects of a rate cut coming out of last week’s FOMC meeting and were somewhat disappointed by the quarter point cut, but the markets remained positive. Then the China trade negotiations took center stage once again with President Trump’s tweet last Thursday. The markets have recovered somewhat since then, but remain very fragile.

My suggestion to my most conservative clients is to remain largely on the sidelines. Focus on conservative blue chips. Selling ITM calls is a good strategy for income and providing 3-4% percent of protection.

I have worked through a large number of stock charts this week, focusing on stocks that have not broken their 50 dma during this correction. A finer screen would be those stocks that were trading sideways or higher yesterday. The following stocks met both criteria, remaining above the 50 dma during the correction and trading higher on Friday: CMG, EW, HSY, and SBUX.

Be extremely diligent. Watch your positions carefully. In all cases, trip your stops aggressively. Don’t wait and hope in this market.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) opened slightly higher this morning, but began a steady climb late morning that continued until only a few minutes before the close. SPX closed at 3026, up 22 points on the day and setting a new all-time high in the process. SPX opened the week at 2982 and tacked on 1.5% for the week.

Trading volume in the S&P 500 companies continues to run lower than average. It managed to break the 50-day moving average (dma) yesterday, but only came in at 1.7 billion shares today, under the 50 dma at 1.9 billion shares. The markets are setting new highs, but these are fragile highs. Lower trading volume on these new highs suggests a lot of money is on the sidelines. Traders are waiting on the resolution of some key issues: China trade and the Fed’s decision on interest rates.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) continues to lag behind SPX and NASDAQ. Russell opened the week at 1550 and closed at 1579, gaining 1.9% this week for a strong showing. RUT took quite a tumble on Thursday, but regained all of that today. Russell never fully recovered from the December correction lows last year. RUT’s all-time high was set at 1741 in late August, 2018. Russell remains over 10% below that all time high. The recent high was set in early May at 1615, about 2% above today’s close. Russell’s bearish inclination is a significant hindrance for a strong bull market. Until these high beta stocks start to accelerate, the bulls are clearly not on a strong “risk on” path.

The NASDAQ Composite index broke its May 3rd high of 8164 on July 10th, but broke down below that support level last Friday. NASDAQ opened above that level on Monday and traded up 1.9% to close today at 8330. Today’s new all-time high for the NASDAQ Composite broke the previous high from this past Wednesday, which, in turn, had broken the high from July 15th. NASDAQ’s price chart pattern is much stronger than Russell’s and even slightly stronger than SPX.
 NASDAQ’s trading volume is low, even weaker than that of the S&P 500 index, having remained below its 50 dma since the July 4th holiday. It is hard to get too excited about strong market days like today when trading volume is downright dismal.

The prospects of a rate cut coming out of next week’s FOMC meeting appears to be the primary bullish motivation for this market. Public interviews by Powell and other FOMC members a couple of weeks ago had convinced many market analysts that a rate cut was on the table for next week’s meeting. That pushed the indices higher. The discussions documented in the last Fed meeting’s minutes (last week’s Beige book) seemed to throw doubt on that prospect and that weakened the market last week. Did today’s GDP number of +2.1% encourage the bulls that a rate cut might be probable after all? Is that what drove today’s bullish run?

The bulls are still driving this market, but anticipation of the restart of the China trade negotiations on Tuesday and the Fed announcement on Wednesday is on everyone’s minds. Therefore, my outlook remains unchanged. Trade with expectations of a sideways to slightly bullish market, but be prepared to hit the stops earlier rather than later. More conservative traders would be well advised to wait until after the Fed announcement on Wednesday before moving additional capital into the market.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) gave back most of last week’s gains this week. SPX closed Friday at 2977, down 19 points on the day, and down 1.4% for the week. The support level to watch is from the early May high around 2950. A secondary support level would be the 50-day moving average (dma) at 2900.

Trading volume in the S&P 500 companies hit a low after the July fourth holiday and has steadily risen for the past two weeks, but remains below the 50 dma. This reinforces the lack of conviction among the bulls. They may not be selling off strongly, but they certainly aren’t buying aggressively either. The Fed meeting next week will eliminate some of the uncertainty holding this market in check. As long as the uncertainty of the China trade negotiations remains, the bulls will remain largely on the sidelines.

VIX spiked up to 14% on Wednesday after opening at 12.6% that morning. Friday afternoon’s sell-off spiked VIX up to 14.5%. I regard volatility levels below 15% to be relatively benign, but this increased level of VIX confirms a moderate level of concern on the part of traders.

Small to mid-capitalization stocks, as represented in the Russell 2000 Index (RUT), may be regarded as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. These are high beta stocks, meaning they will rise faster than the S&P 500 in a bull market and lose value faster in a bear market. Russell stocks are the classic “risk on” and “risk off” stocks, leading bull markets higher and bear markets lower. Russell closed the week at 1548 after opening the week at 1571, down 1.5%, a touch more than SPX’s decline for the week. RUT has been in a steady decline since the beginning of July. SPX and NASDAQ eclipsed their May highs during July, but RUT has yet to recover even its February highs.

After breaking its May highs last week, the NASDAQ Composite index broke that support level on Friday, closing down 61 points to 8147. The pattern in trading volume is similar to the S&P 500, running steadily below the 50 dma since the July fourth holiday. NASDAQ was down 1.4% for the week.

The broad market indices were being cautiously held up by the prospects of a rate cut coming out of next week’s FOMC meeting. The FOMC discussions documented in the last meeting’s minutes were released this week, and it appears that the committee sees the economy as moderately strong, so a rate cut is unlikely. Basic economic data would have to cause the Fed some concern, and the data are pretty solid.

I see three evidences of a nervous market:


•    Consistently below average trading volumes


•    Modestly higher volatility


•    Sideways to lower trending in the small caps, as represented by the Russell 2000

Therefore, my outlook remains unchanged. Trade with expectations of a sideways to slightly bullish market, but be prepared to hit the stops earlier rather than later. More conservative traders would be well advised to wait until after the Fed announcement on Wednesday before moving additional capital into the market.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) traded steadily higher this week, closing Friday at 3014, up 1.1% for the week. Friday’s trading seemed a little subdued in the morning, but rallied late in the day to push to a new all-time high at 3014. But new all-time highs must be tempered by the weak trading volume. Trading volume in the S&P 500 companies started July almost precisely at the fifty-day moving average (dma) of 2 billion shares. But that was the high for the month thus far. The low trading volume after the holiday last week was to be expected, but trading volume has continued to meander along at low levels this week. This isn’t the sign of a confident bull market.

VIX hit an intraday high on Tuesday at 14.7%, but steadily declined the balance of the week, closing the week at 12.3%. VIX is often called the fear indicator and the market is not panicked by any measure, but it isn’t perfectly calm either. This is a bullish, but nervous, market.

Market analysts watch the small cap stocks carefully as a measure of the market’s comfort with taking on more risk. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) is composed of small to mid-capitalization domestic companies. Russell closed the week essentially unchanged at 1570 after opening the week at 1574. In fact, without Friday’s strong intraday move of eleven points, RUT would have posted a very negative week. This stands in contrast to the steady gains of the S&P 500 stocks. Russell’s price chart is another indicator of a nervous market.

The NASDAQ Composite index paralleled trading in the S&P 500 this week, setting a new all-time high on Friday at 8244. The pattern in trading volume was also similar to SPX, coming in below the 50 dma since the first of July, and even declining the last three days of this week. NASDAQ set a new all-time high, but without much conviction.

The broad market indices are being cautiously held up by reasonably positive reports concerning the trade negotiations with China, but that could change at any moment with the next news story or rumors from either side of the table.

The prospects of a decrease in the federal discount rate at the upcoming FOMC meeting on July 30-31 is encouraging a bullish mood for the markets, but I think that prospect is unlikely. Interest rates are historically low, and lowering rates is one of the most powerful tools available to the Fed. Basic economic data would have to send up some alarms before the Fed pulls that lever. And economic data is positive on virtually all fronts.

That leaves the China trade negotiations as our principal concern. Given the fact that it could rain on that parade at any moment, the nervousness of this market is not surprising. We see the signs in three principal areas:


•    Consistently low trading volumes
•    Modestly higher volatility
•    Sideways trading in the small caps, as represented by the Russell 2000

Therefore, my outlook remains unchanged. Trade with expectations of a sideways to slightly bullish market, but be prepared to hit the stops earlier rather than later.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) declined over the first three days this week, but recovered most of those losses by the end of the week, closing at 2942 today, essentially flat for the week (actually down nine points or 0.3%). The recovery over the past two days seems to suggest that traders are expecting a resolution to the trade negotiations this weekend.
Trading volume ran below average all week, until today when volume spiked to 2.7 billion shares, well above the 50-day moving average (dma) at 2.0 billion shares. I find it curious that we have seen trading volume spikes for the past two Fridays, but below average volumes in between those spikes. Is this the result of bullish expectations for trade news over the weekends?

The volatility index for the S&P 500 options, VIX, was running above 16% earlier this week, but declined to close at 15.1% today. That puts volatility right on the edge. Values below 15% are reasonably complacent, but higher values start to get my attention. The markets are bullish, but not relaxed and confident either.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) gapped open higher this morning, closing up twenty points at 1567. In two trading sessions, Russell wiped out four days of losses. This is the most bullish signal we have observed in the small cap index in some time. This is very encouraging because the small caps normally lead bull markets higher. But we need to get a trade deal done with China before we jump on the bulls’ bandwagon.

The NASDAQ Composite index gapped open higher this morning and closed at 8006, up 38 points. NASDAQ outperformed SPX in trading volume with a huge spike up to 4.1 billion shares, well above the 50 dma at 2.1 billion shares. The China trade negotiations continue to be the principal dark cloud hanging over this market. The prospect of an agreement this weekend encouraged traders, resulting in today’s spike in the markets on increased volume.

But that bullish attitude may be premature. Until we see a definitive resolution of the China trade negotiations, this market will be volatile. And that may be especially true this coming week. Even if we have a confirmed trade agreement on Monday, it isn't clear which way this market will move. I remain very cautious.

The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) came back to life and took another step higher this week, closing at 2950 today and up 2.1% for the week. SPX is attempting to break out above the highs set in early May, but thus far that resistance level is holding. S&P 500 trading volume rose with the bull market this week. Today’s volume spiked up to 2.9 billion shares, much higher than the 50-day moving average (dma) at 2.0 billion shares. One must go back to March 15th to find higher trading volume figures.

This week’s bullish run resulted in SPX running just below the upper edge of the Bollinger bands for the last four days of this week. Will next week repeat the pattern of the past two weeks and take a pause after this week's run higher? A slower rate of increase is probably the best the bulls may expect, but a flat week of treading water may be more likely in view of the G20.

The volatility index for the S&P 500 options, VIX, declined early in the week, as one might expect in a rising market. But the situation changed yesterday. VIX hit an intraday low of 13.2%, but then moved up to close at 14.8%. Today’s market took volatility a bit higher, closing up a little over half a point at 15.4%. This is a VIX divergence, with VIX moving higher as the market moved higher. This often foretells a drop in the market in the next trading session.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) has steadily traded higher since June 1st. In fact, RUT’s pattern of gains has been steadier and more consistent than SPX or NASDAQ. Russell gained 1.8% this week, but traded lower today, closing down 14 points to 1550.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed today at 8032, down 20 points, but rose 2.7% this week. On Tuesday, NASDAQ gapped open higher and solidly broke through its 50 dma. Perhaps more importantly, NASDAQ held that breakout through the rest of the week. Similar to SPX, NASDAQ’s trading volume spiked today to 2.9 billion shares, well above the 50 dma at 2.1 billion shares.

We enjoyed a pretty strong bull market this week, but several warning signs are concerning:

•    Today’s trading volume spiked on a weak market, and this was amplified by the same pattern in SPX and NASDAQ.
•    The volatility divergence for the past two trading sessions; VIX is trading higher with a flat to increasing market.

•    Russell declined more strongly today, as compared to SPX and NASDAQ.

Today’s spike in trading volume could represent some profit taking as the large institutions saw the market flatten. They also may be hedging their bets ahead of the G20 Economic Summit and that may be raising VIX as they buy protection.

The China trade negotiations are the principal dark cloud hanging over this market. The announcement that Trump will meet with Xi Jinping while attending the G20 buoyed the market, but I think traders worried about it as the week wore on. A scheduled meeting is certainly a positive development, but it doesn’t guarantee an agreement on terms to end the trade tariff threats.
I expect this next week’s market to trade flat or possibly even slightly lower simply as traders pause to wait for news from Trump and Xi. I remain in a moderately bullish, but cautious stance. Until we see a definitive resolution of the China trade negotiations, this market will be volatile. And that may be especially true this coming week.

This is the key question that keeps coming up since the first of the year. The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) broke down through the 200-day moving average (dma) on March 8th, but immediately turned back higher and closed this past Thursday at 2855, a market high since the September and October highs before the corrections last fall. In total, SPX had gained 504 points or 21% since the low point on December 24th. But then the market tumbled Friday and, even more ominously, closed at its low for the day at 2801, down 54 points or 1.9%.

Before we panic too much, let’s check the trading volume. Volume rose slightly this week, but it barely exceeded the 50 dma, even on Friday with this perceived run for the exits. I conclude that we are seeing some minor profit taking, not wholesale unloading of positions by the large institutional trading firms.

The S&P 500 volatility index, VIX, increased slowly this week and spiked Friday up to 17.5% before pulling back to close at 16.5%. This level of volatility doesn’t reflect panic mode at all, but it is moderately cautionary. Economic data and corporate earnings remain very positive, but the trade negotiations with China worry traders. The growing economic slowdown in Europe has raised concerns about possible negative effects on our economy.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) continues to trade more weakly than the broad market. RUT never did break through the 200 dma, and after Friday’s sell off, Russell has even broken below its 50 dma. Russell closed Friday at 1506, down 56 points or 3.6%. By contrast, the S&P 500 declined 1.9% on Friday. Russell’s weakness is the principal bearish signal for the current market.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed Friday at 7643, down 196 points or 2.5%. NASDAQ remains well above its 200 dma at 7490, but remains far off of the September and October highs around 8100. Trading volume in the NASDAQ stocks rose steadily this week and spent the last four days of the week above the 50 dma.


Corporate revenues and earnings reported during this earnings cycle have been excellent, but traders are worried about the Mueller probe, the China trade negotiations, and slowing economic conditions in Europe. With the release of the Mueller investigation report Friday, we may put some of these anxieties to rest, although I expect much of the political turmoil to continue. The trade negotiations with China may be making progress, but that isn’t clear. I think this remains the primary concern for market analysts. All of these factors will result in continued market volatility.

In volatile markets, the best advice is cautionary. When you face a choice in your investments, take the conservative alternative.