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The Standard and Poors 500 index (SPX) closed yesterday at 3895, up 87 points on the day or 2.3%. That close was very close to the 50-day moving average (dma) at 3904. Breaking out above the 50 dma would be a positive sign for the S&P 500 that has been trading sideways since December 19th. On the other hand, a break below 3775 and then 3700 would be a significant bearish signal. Trading volume has run along the 50 dma in this first week of January and that is a great improvement from the last two weeks.

VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened the year at 23% and closed yesterday at 21% with a decline of 1.3 points yesterday alone, based on the strong bullish gain on Friday.

I track the Russell 2000 index with the IWM ETF. IWM closed Friday at 177.58, up 3.90 on the day or +2.3%, but IWM was up less than one percent for the week. The next level of resistance for IWM is the 50 dma at 179, although Friday’s move was a definite departure from the sideways channel of trading since December 16th.

The NASDAQ Composite index closed at 10,569 yesterday with a gain of 264 points or 2.6% but closed the week essentially flat with a gain of less than one percent. NASDAQ’s trading volume ran consistently along the 50 dma during this first week of trading in January.

The period from Thanksgiving into the first of the year has historically been bullish and small caps have normally outperformed the blue chips over this period of time. That didn’t happen this year.
Yale Hirsch of the Stock Trader’s Almanac was the first analyst to define and publish the Santa Claus Rally. Hirsch’s famous saying was: If Santa Fails To Call, Bears May Come to Broad and Wall. The Santa Claus Rally is defined as the net gain or loss during the last five trading days in December together with the first two trading days in January. This year’s Santa Claus was weak, but positive, with an opening on 12/23 at 3815 and a close on 1/4 at 3853, or +1%.
The Stock Trader’s Almanac also tells us to watch the first five days of trading in January and the full month of January, known as the January Barometer, as additional signs of what the new year has in store. The first five days of January trading will be confirmed with the close on Monday.
In years when the Santa Claus rally, the first five days, and the full January results are all positive, the full year has been positive 90% of the time with an average gain in the S&P 500 of 17.5%.
I am not forgetting the pain of 2022 and I remain cautious. I will be entering fewer and smaller trades as I watch the market pattern develop this month.