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The market put on a strong finish to this week, with the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) closing at 2489, for a gain of 3.3% for the week. However, a large portion of that gain occurred on Friday. SPX gapped open higher in the morning and broke out above the 50 day moving average (dma). Trading volume for the S&P 500 companies ran below the 50 dma all week and just touched the average level today. The enthusiasm appeared to be generated by a combination of positive news from GILD on remdesivir, Boeing’s announcement of resumed production on April 20th, and President Trump’s announcement of guidelines for reopening the economy.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened the week at 44.6% and steadily declined all week to close today at 38.2%. Declining volatility is welcome news, but this level of volatility is normally near the peak of severe corrections, so remain vigilant. The large institutional players remain on edge.

IWM, the ETF based on the Russell 2000 group of companies, gapped open higher Friday and closed at 122.06. In spite of the strength in IWM, it ended the week very close to unchanged. IWM remains well below its 50 dma. The Russell stocks are small to mid-cap stocks that may be more susceptible to significant economic damage resulting from the economic shutdown. That may be the reason IWM is trading less strongly than the S&P 500 companies or the NASDAQ Composite. Normally, these stocks would be leading a strong bullish move like we have seen over the past two weeks.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed Friday at 8650, up 118 or 1.4% on the day. NASDAQ gained 6.4% for the week. NASDAQ gapped open yesterday, pulled back during the day, but recovered to close near its open. This intraday recovery was a strong bullish signal. NASDAQ broke above its 50 dma on Tuesday and confirmed that breakout yesterday and today. Trading volume varied this week, exceeding the 50 dma twice and closing today just below average.

The high levels of volatility should give us pause. This market will continue to fluctuate widely based on daily news and rumors. It is fair to say that the depths of the correction were definitely oversold and those overreactions are normal for the market. The critical question is determining what stock prices will be justified once all of the damage to the economy has been clarified. We know it is bad, but how bad? It would not be reasonable to expect the market to recover to the pre-correction levels anytime soon, but it is unclear at this point what market levels are sustainable.

I do not subscribe to the extreme market bulls who believe reopening the economy will get us back on track in short order. However, the doomsday gurus are out in force with their dire predictions. Reality will be somewhere in between these extremes.

Stay calm and remain disciplined. Take small positions and place your stops aggressively. It is possible to make a lot of money in high volatility markets, but keep one perennial point in mind. High volatility correlates with high potential gains, but those gains are always accompanied by higher risk.