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The Standard and Poors index (SPX) incurred eight mini-corrections earlier this year with each one displaying a similar pattern: trading down over 3 to 4 trading sessions and then sharply turning higher and recovering the previous high in only 3 to 4 trading sessions. Last week we saw the ninth mini-correction but the pattern changed this time. In all of the previous pull backs, the market bounced back in short order. The “buy the dip” strategy had a near perfect track record. I expect some traders were testing the water last week as they saw SPX appearing to find support at the 50 day moving average (dma). SPX gave us a wicked surprise on Monday, gapping open downward about thirty points and then losing nearly one hundred points before recovering about half of that loss by the market’s close.

SPX began to strengthen Wednesday and closed today at 4455, up 7 points or +0.2%. Today’s close recorded a gain of 1.2% for the week and left the index about 91 points below the previous high. Trading volume spiked higher on Friday and Monday but settled down at or below the 50 dma for the balance of the week.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, spiked on Monday’s severe decline to almost 29% before pulling back a bit. VIX closed at 17.8% today and that remains a rather high level of volatility. Monday’s severe drop acquired the institutional traders’ attention.

I track the Russell 2000 index with the IWM ETF. The owners of Russell have priced everyone out of the Russell 2000 index and option data. That is why I plot the IWM prices. IWM has been extremely choppy for the past six months but followed the broad market higher this week, and closed today at 223.05, essentially unchanged from today’s open. But IWM posted a 2.9% gain for the week, the best of the broad market indices. IWM also managed to recover both its 50 and 200 day-moving-averages this week.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed today at 15048, down 5 points, but managed a nice gain of 2% for the week. NASDAQ’s trading volume was above average on Monday but dropped back under the 50 dma for the rest of the week.

I have been wondering when the buy the dip strategy might not work, and that has proven to be true thus far. But the market has been posting some nice gains over the past three trading sessions, so it may just take longer for the recovery this time.

The market remains wary of a possible inflationary spike, but Powell continues his attempts to calm the markets and write off the current price increases as an artifact of the disrupted supply chain. The market was reassured this week that the Fed doesn’t foresee a need to increase the federal discount rate until late in 2022. That appeared to be the principal factor behind the bullish trading for the past three days.

My conclusions for this week are very similar to my mindset at the end of last week. The whipsawing of the markets over the last nine months is wearing me down. Much of the basic economic data are headed in the right direction, but inflation fears overwhelm everything. The strong gains of the Russell 2000 index this week were good news. But I remain very cautious.

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The Standard and Poors index (SPX) made the ninth mini-correction this year last week but the pattern changed. In all of the previous pull backs, the market almost immediately bounced back. The “buy the dip” strategy had a near perfect track record. SPX continued to weaken this week and even sold off near the end of today’s market – an ugly end to two ugly weeks. SPX closed at 4433, down 41 points or 0.9%. Trading volume spiked today, due to quadruple witching.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, closed today at 21%. This was the peak of the weakness last Friday, but the mini-correction still has life in it.

I have plotted the prices of the IWM ETF below to track the Russell 2000 index. The owners of Russell have priced everyone out of Russell 2000 index and option data. That is why I plot the IWM prices. IWM has been extremely choppy for the past six months and has generally traded lower as we saw the broad market strengthen. That was the bearish advance signal for the past two weeks of trading. However, today was different. IWM closed at 222.48, up 0.29 or 0.1%. That is a small gain, but markedly different from the losses on the S&P 500 and NASDAQ. Perhaps there is hope for the bulls after all.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed today at 15044, down 137 points or nearly one percent. NASDAQ’s trading volume was above average through Wednesday but declined for the past two days.

We have now seen nine mini-corrections this year. Previous downturns only lasted a few days and then bounced back in a classic V pattern. I wondered whether the traders would come in to buy the dip one more time? The answer as of today is, “No, not yet.”

I think this week’s CPI report, documenting an increase of 5.3% over the past 12 months served to underscore inflation fears. The last two weeks of trading just reinforce my nervous attitude toward this market. Much of the basic economic data are headed in the right direction, but I think inflation fears overwhelm all else. The positive Russell 2000 prices today were essentially the only positive news this week.

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Powell’s speech this morning calmed traders and sent the markets soaring. The Standard and Poors index (SPX) closed at 4509, up 39 points or 0.9%. Today’s run set another all-time high and completed the week’s track record with a gain of +1.3%. Trading volume never touched the 50-day moving average (dma) at any time this week.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, spiked into the mid-twenties last week as the market traded lower, but proceeded to decline this week and closed today at 16.4%. However, it would be a mistake to put your portfolio on autopilot and take a nap. This remains a nervous and twitchy market.

I have plotted the prices of the IWM ETF below to track the Russell 2000 index. The owners of Russell have priced everyone out of Russell 2000 index and option data. That is why I plot the IWM prices. IWM has been extremely choppy for the past six months and declined severely in mid-July. IWM almost matched those July lows on August 19th while breaking down through the 200 dma. IWM has traded below the 50 dma since July 13th and flirted with that key moving average on Wednesday. IWM decisively broke out above the 50 dma in today’s strong market, closing up 2.8% at 226.41.

The NASDAQ Composite index broke out above its 50 dma last Friday and continued a strong run this week, closing today at 15,130, up 184 points or 1.2% for the day and up 3.8% for the week. NASDAQ’s trading volume has consistently run under the 50 dma since July 20th.

The overall market trends of the S&P 500 and NASDAQ have tracked higher this year, but it has been a rough ride. In eight months we have experienced eight mini-corrections of 2-6%. In each case the downturn only lasts a few days and bounces back in a classic V pattern. Many traders are betting on a strong economic recovery, but the fears of runaway inflation are weighing on the market. Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole soothed the market’s fears and caused a strong bullish run today. But it is anyone’s guess how long that lasts before we see another twitch. Historically, strong bull markets require the leadership of the small to mid-cap stocks, typical of the Russell 2000 index. I am encouraged by Russell's strong performance today and this week. Russell has an uphill climb to get back in sync with its big brothers, but this is the best it has looked all year. Maybe we are turning the corner?

I continue to trade cautiously. I started the week 70% in cash and ended the week at 62% cash. I was a little more aggressive this week, but I have too many scars from these
mini-corrections tripping my stops and then leaving me behind.

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This wasn’t a banner week in the market and the losses accelerated Friday. The Standard and Poors index (SPX) closed at 4460, down 35 points or 0.8%. The holiday shortened week posted a dismal 1.7% decline. Trading volume rose slightly, but never touched the 50-day moving average (dma) this week.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened Tuesday at 17% and closed Friday at 21%. The pattern of a mini-correction roughly every month continues.

I have plotted the prices of the IWM ETF below to track the Russell 2000 index. The owners of Russell have priced everyone out of Russell 2000 index and option data. That is why I plot the IWM prices. IWM has been extremely choppy for the past six months and declined once again this week, closing Friday at 221.62 for a 1% decline on Friday and a 2.7% decline for the week.

The NASDAQ Composite index set another high on Tuesday but declined the rest of the week, closing Friday at 15115, down 0.9% on the day and down 1.7% for the week. But NASDAQ’s trading volume surprised me, finally breaking its 50 dma on Friday (first above average break since July 20th).

I have previously noted the eight 
mini-corrections of 2-6% we have experienced this year. I guess we were overdue. Friday’s close on the S&P 500 marks a pullback of 1.7%. Previous downturns have ranged from 2% to 6%, only last a few days and then bounce back in a classic V pattern. Will traders come in to buy the dip one more time?

Fears of runaway inflation continue to haunt the market. However, Friday’s strong pullback appeared to be triggered by a court ruling that went against Apple and, by extension, may hurt Google as well. Will that be forgotten on Monday? This week just reinforces my nervous attitude toward the market this year. These mini-corrections of 2-3% plague conservative traders more than most because those stop losses are tighter. It is the basic nature of conservative trades – small potential returns with tight break-evens. I didn’t close as many positions in light of market weakness this week. I may regret that next week.

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The Standard and Poors index (SPX) appeared to bounce off support around 4389 on Thursday and closed Friday at 4442, up 36 points or 0.8%. SPX opened Monday at 4462, so it recovered much of the week’s losses and ended the week down 0.4%. Trading volume spiked above the 50-day moving average (dma) on Thursday but remained below average the rest of the week.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened the week at 17.1%, spiked up to an intraday high of 24.7% on Thursday and closed Friday at 18.6%. It appears the mini-correction is over, but I will be watching very carefully on Monday.

I plot the prices of the IWM ETF to track the Russell 2000 index. The owners of Russell have priced everyone out of Russell 2000 index and option data. That is why I plot the IWM prices. IWM has been extremely choppy for the past six months and declined severely in mid-July. IWM almost matched those July lows on Thursday while breaking down through the 200 dma. IWM bounced upward strongly on Friday, closing at 215.52, up 3.58 points or +1.7%. Even with Friday’s strong close, IWM lost 1.9% this past week. The Russell 2000 would have to gain 3.5% to regain its 50 dma.

The NASDAQ Composite index broke down through its 50 dma on Wednesday and didn’t recover that benchmark until Friday when it closed up 173 points at 14715. This resulted in a decline of 0.4% for the week. NASDAQ’s trading volume has consistently run under the 50 dma since July 20th.

The overall market trends of the S&P 500 and NASDAQ have tracked higher this year, but it has been a rough ride with frequent and sudden pullbacks. We are caught between bullish expectations for the economy’s recovery and the fear of inflation. The Russell 2000 chart is downright ugly. It is difficult to see the overall market continuing higher without the leadership of the small to mid-cap stocks. I continue to trade cautiously. I started the week 58% in cash and ended the week at 70% cash. This shift is primarily the result of my closing out this month’s Conservative Income positions. I was unwilling to roll them out to next week. I preferred the safety of cash for the weekend.