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The Standard and Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) closed today at 3216, down 0.2% for the week. Today’s close broke down through the earlier high set at 3232 on June 8th. The question on everyone’s mind is whether this is merely the breather we expect during a bullish trend higher, or if the market is changing direction. Trading volume for the S&P 500 companies has been running below the 50 dma consistently since June 26th. As I have written before, I believe this indicates that traders are apprehensive about the state of this economy and whether the market has correctly priced in the economic damage. Large amounts of cash remain on the sidelines. Traders are reluctant to “go all in”.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, declined earlier this week to 24%, but popped up slightly to close at 26% today. We often regard VIX as the fear index. On that basis, the general level of anxiety is elevated, but not rising. That tells me that fingers are poised over the sell button on any negative news. Don’t be lulled into complacence.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed today at 10,363, down 1.5% for the week. Today’s decline appeared to find support near the index value from last Tuesday, 7/14. If NASDAQ breaks down through that level next week, there is a congestion of support around the 50 dma at 9933. Trading volume has been running below the 50 dma over this entire NASDAQ bullish run. And that didn’t change this week.

Two very different conclusions from our market analysis are possible at this point. The more positive assessment is the standard observation about bull markets taking the stairs higher and frequently pausing for a breather. A less optimistic conclusion might suggest that market analysts are beginning to realize the amount of permanent economic damage that has been caused by the economic shutdown.

Over sixteen million people are on unemployment. We have not seen these numbers in my lifetime. The final bankruptcy count is still out, but many small businesses will not reopen.  Market price averages that suggest the damage is only on the order of 5% seem naïve.

I am more optimistic by nature, but I have to take the pessimistic view of this market. I am happy the market has rebounded so strongly, but I don’t understand how that makes sense.

Carefully weigh the risks of this market. There is money to be made but manage the risk prudently.