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The Standard and Poors 500 Index (SPX) closed today at $2133, unchanged after a wild ride higher in the morning; but all of those gains were lost by the close this afternoon. SPX opened the week at $2160, so the net price action was lower on the week. SPX flirted with the lows from early September yesterday, but recovered to close at $2133. The September low at $2120 is the new lower edge of the sideways trading channel, with an upper edge at $2195, set back in August.

The markets have been characterized by this sideways churning since mid-July. Market analysts are unanimous in one aspect – they are all nervous. Some blame the Fed and their concern about the prospect of higher interest rates. Some blame the presidential election, and one can easily find traders who are concerned about the prospects of either candidate winning. A Wall Street Journal survey of economists was published today, and gave a 60% probability of a recession within the next four years. That report was featured on all of the financial networks. What all of these analysts have in common is a high level of anxiety, and the looming specter of another market crash is always on traders minds during the month of October. We are seeing the net effects of all of these worries in the churning, directionless market.

The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed today at $1212, down $3 today and down about $27 or 2% for the week. RUT’s close today is essentially at its low when the market traded lower in early September. The question is whether RUT will break down through $1210 next week or continue to trade within the channel of $1210 to $1265. Russell has traded more weakly than SPX and the NASDAQ Composite all year. RUT has not even approached its high from 2015 at $1296. RUT’s price action continues to communicate a bearish signal.

I summarized the market last week as:

Nothing much has changed in this market for several months now. The GDP growth rate is minimal, corporate earnings are mediocre and the forward guidance has been bleak. The uncertainties surrounding the presidential election are piled on top to collectively hold the bulls in check. But the near zero interest rates are holding the bears in check. The result is a choppy, nervous, sideways market.

Nothing has really changed. If anything, traders are even more nervous. Be careful. This may be a good time to take a break if you can’t watch this market closely.