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Fridays are becoming the most exciting days in the market. The Standard and Poors 500 index (SPX) opened today at 3927 and traded higher for about 30 minutes before starting a steady decline to a low of 3810 around 1:30 PM ET. But then the bulls took over and drove the market into the close at 3901, essentially a flat day from Thursday’s close. What a ride! 

The end result for the week was a 2.8% decline in SPX. The intraday low today updates the correction to 21% since the January 4th open. Trading volume rose steadily all week and moved above the 50-day moving average (dma) for the last three days of the week.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened this week at 30%. I found it interesting that Wednesday’s rout of the market only spiked VIX to 31%. Thursday and Friday both saw intraday spikes up to 33%, but VIX settled down to 29% today. This certainly isn’t a low level of volatility, but it is lower than one would have expected for the significant decline we witnessed Wednesday. The large institutional players are not as spooked by this market as I am.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed at 11,355 today, down 34 points or 
0.3% today but down 3.2% for the week. Note how the intraday low was very close to the low last Thursday. Is NASDAQ finding support? Trading volume only reached the 50 dma today.

The overall market has been very volatile this year, but the overall trend has been lower. The Ukraine crisis, record levels of inflation, rising energy prices and increasing federal debt are some of the worries keeping traders up at night. Soon after we began to see inflation getting out of hand, a new worry appeared: the prospect of the feds raising interest rates to slow the economy and counter inflation, but perhaps risking a recession in the process.

Traders find themselves coping with two somewhat opposed issues: run away inflation and rising interest rates. We don’t want inflation to get out of control, but we also fear that the FOMC may raise rates too far and/or too fast and the economy will be effectively shut down.

One interesting recent price pattern is common to S&P 500, NASDAQ and the Russell 2000 indices this week. All of these indices rallied off intraday lows on May 12th. Again, all of these indices posted intraday lows today that were close to the intraday lows of May 12th. That may be a sign of the market stabilizing and finding support. The S&P 500 is off 21%; the NASDAQ Composite is off 30%; the Russell 2000 is off 25%. Do the current prices represent good value? One could argue that today’s recovery from intraday lows suggests that traders are starting to bargain hunt. But we have seen that before. Stay cautious. The second mouse gets the cheese. Let the market prices show us the way.

We don’t have solid answers to these questions today. Until we have those answers, we should remain largely in cash. Trade small if you trade at all.