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The prospect of the markets making new highs seems to be elusive. SPX closed at $2099, up $2, after a trading day that was mostly underwater. RUT gained $8 to close at $1163. Volatility was flat with the VIX unchanged at 14.2%. The high for SPX from last November was just above $2110, and SPX touched that level intraday in mid-April, but fell back. This latest run higher now seems to have stalled. Trading volume remains below average at 2.0 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks; the 50 dma is 2.2 billion shares. The markets hit their lows for the day right after the open this morning and then slowly improved throughout the day. Some analysts attributed the improvement to prospects of an oil production deal from tomorrow's OPEC meeting, but it is anyone's guess what will come out of that meeting.

Economic data remain mediocre at best, even though the President began a pep rally tour on the economy in Indiana today. Yesterday, the Chicago PMI dropped from 50.4 to 49.3 for May. Today's ISM manufacturing index continues to flirt with that 50 level - the dividing line between economic expansion and contraction, coming in at 51.3 for May, up from 50.8. Over the past ten months, we have had five reports over 50 and five under fifty. Construction spending declined 1.8% in May after a 1.5% gain in April. This is the largest decline in construction spending in five years. The minutes from the last FOMC meeting, the Beige book, gave the economy faint praise as "showing moderate economic growth". The decline in construction spending has prompted several analysts to reduce their second quarter GDP estimates.

If we turn to a review of historical price data from the Stock Traders Almanac, we see that we are entering the weakest three months of the year for the markets, July through September. From 1971 through 2016, the NASDAQ Composite declines in June and hits negative numbers in September, before beginning to recover in October. Based on historical data alone, we might be well served to limit our involvement in the markets for the next couple of months. I think the uncertainties of the presidential election will add even more price volatility for the next few months. It will be hard for the bulls or the bears to take control of this market.

The S&P 500 index (SPX) closed at $2099 today, up 2.3% this week alone. The Russell 2000 Index (RUT) closed at $1150, up $11. This strong bullish week has a lot of people seeing only blue skies - is that appropriate? Today's close on SPX at $2099 is approaching the high set last month, so some traders are talking about a break-out. When we expand the SPX chart, the picture is much less bullish. The end of the dot com era ended with SPX around $1525 in March 2000. SPX beat that by a few points in October 2007 before the financial meltdown. In May of last year, SPX hit another all-time high around $2135. The bulls unsuccessfully attempted to break that high in June and July last year, but then the flash crash hit in August. But those persistent bulls, led by the Fed, pushed the SPX back to roughly $2115 last November. Should we be excited SPX is on the doorstep of that $2115 mark? My answer is no. Looking at the big picture, we see that the S&P 500 has been flat or declining since those highs in May 2015. I will want to see a couple of closes above $2135 before breaking out the champagne.

Consider the small caps in the Russell 2000 Index (RUT) and we see an even weaker picture. RUT hit its all-time high in June of last year around $1295, and it only made it back to $1205 last November, shy by 7%. RUT closed today at $1150; it would have to rally 13% to reach the 2015 high. Again, we see a similar picture to SPX in that RUT remains far off of its 2015 highs. But that deficit is much larger in the case of RUT.

Now add in today's weak GDP number for the first quarter (+0.8% growth) and the less than stellar earnings announcements of the past few weeks. And the FOMC appears to be doing its best to telegraph another interest rate hike at the June meeting. This doesn't look like the setup for the equity markets breaking out to new all-time highs.

In this environment, I think it prudent to take profits when they are available and be cautious. Consequently, I closed the June RUT iron condor from the Flying With The Condor™ advisory service this week for a 13% gain. That freed up capital to roll out and establish a new position in the August expiration. I feel safer when I have more time to hedge and adjust positions, especially in this market.

Enjoy your holiday with family and friends. But remember the true meaning of this Memorial Day. We have a lot to be thankful for due to some incredible sacrifices.

The equity markets took off higher today with SPX gaining $28 to close at $2076, near the December 2015 high just above $2080. RUT traded even more strongly, up $24 to $1135. Volatility dropped about 1.4 points to 14.4% on the VIX. Trading volume popped up as well with 2.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading, but remains below the 50 dma at 2.3B. Trading rose 11% on the NYSE and was up 3.5% on NASDAQ. The strength of today's move prompted IBD to shift to an assessment of "Market In Confirmed Uptrend".

New home sales may have had a role in today's strong market, as they reported an annualized rate of 619 thousand homes for April, up from March's 531 thousand. This is the highest new home sales number since January of 2008.

We closed the volatility trade we entered on ULTA in the trading group on May 6th for a 23% gain. This trade began as a diagonal call spread and was predicated on the June options rising in implied volatility as the earnings announcement approaches. Join us in our next trading group meeting June 2nd.

We have two positions open in the Flying With The Condor™ service; the Jun RUT iron condor at 1010/1020 and 1220/1230 stands at a net gain of 14% and the July SPX condor at 1860/1870 and 2170/2180 is up 10%.

The second estimate of first quarter GDP will be reported Friday. Will that pull the market back into the sideways channel? Or will that report be revised upward and energize the bulls? SPX is close to resistance around $2080, the high from last December. The next resistance level is $2110, the high from November of last year.

The markets were trading higher until the release of the FOMC minutes from the last meeting. SPX traded up to $2061 before the release, plummeted to $2034 after the release and then recovered to close at $2048, within a few cents of being unchanged for the day. RUT gained $5 to close at $1103. Trading volume on the S&P 500 was up a bit to 2.5 billion shares, above the 50 dma at 2.3 billion shares.

The minutes from the last FOMC meeting were released this afternoon and the market turned sharply lower. The minutes revealed a general discussion of the prospect of raising the interest rates at the June meeting. This surprised traders who had been expecting the next rate hike later this year. The concern is that the economy is too weak to absorb higher interest rates. However, some economists believe higher interest rates would stimulate the housing market by encouraging banks to lend. But higher rates make capital investment more expensive for business. Capital investment has remained low in spite of low interest rates. Why? Is that because of weak economic forecasts or burdensome regulations? Now fast food businesses are starting to roll out automated order entry systems to lower labor costs after minimum wage law increases. Politicians need to refresh their understanding of the Law Of Unintended Consequences.

Our June condor position on RUT in the Flying With The Condor™ service is up 6% and the July position on SPX is up 7%. The markets continue to trade sideways. RUT is trading very close to its August flash crash levels from last year. SPX seems to be trading in the channel of $2040 to $2110.

The retail sales numbers that were released today appeared to put a damper on the market, but the market has really been lackluster for the last three days. We seem to be in a "three days up and then three days down" pattern - not really, but you get the point. The market is going nowhere. SPX closed down $18 to $2047 and RUT closed down $6 to $1102. Volatility inched up almost one point on the VIX to 15.1%. Trading volume declined with 2.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume declined 8% on the NYSE and declined 13% on NASDAQ. So we have declining prices on declining volume - not very inspiring for the bulls or the bears.

Retail sales came in at a modest +1.3% for April, up from -0.3% for March. FactSet reported that internet sales were up in the first quarter (year over year) 143%. Next best was home improvement at +12%. Department stores were down 48%. The Producers price Index (PPI) reported +0.2% for April, up from last month's -0.3%. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey increased from 89.7 to 95.8 in May.

The bulls have just enough strength to hold support (so far), but not enough strength to push to new highs. On the other hand, the bears can't seem to take control to break major support levels. We may be stuck in this sideways channel until after the election.

Have a great weekend.

Consider the last three days of trading in the S&P 500. On Tuesday, SPX gained $25, but turned around and gave back $20 yesterday. Today, SPX closed at $2064, effectively unchanged (more precisely, down thirty five cents). RUT lost $6 to close at $1109. Volatility decreased a bit with the VIX closing at 14.4%. Trading volume was slightly up with 2.3 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume was only up 1% on th NYSE and was up 4% on NASDAQ.

SPX traded down to touch its 50 dma at $2054, but then executed a textbook bounce off support to close unchanged on the day. RUT broke its 50 dma during today's trading, but recovered to close precisely at the 50 dma of $1109. So we continue to watch a market that seems to be trapped in a sideways consolidation pattern. Perhaps traders will be treading water until after the presidential election? This scenario also conforms with historical patterns of lackluster trading through the summer (the "sell in May and go away" pattern). The Stock Traders Almanac has documented the historical strength of being long the market from November through April. $10,000 invested during those months would have grown to $838,486 for the past 65 years as compared to a $221 loss for May through October. This November, we will have the additional factor of a possible dramatic change in the White House. I can't predict who will be elected, much less how the market will react, but I think we have many forces that are uniting for a sideways market leading to November.

Initial unemployment claims rose this week to 294 thousand from last week's 274 thousand. Continuing unemployment claims also rose by 37 thousand to 2.161 million. That is the third week in succession of rising weekly claims; that may not be statistically significant yet, but I still find it concerning.

AMZN is representative of this market. Some stocks like AMZN and FB are making surprising moves higher, but others are lethargic or being pummeled after a mediocre earnings announcement. But AMZN's influence was the key today. SPX closed today at $2084, up $26. RUT followed with an increase of $11, closing at $1129. VIX fell a point to 13.6%. Trading volume fell off a bit with 2.1 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading. Trading volume declined 5% on the NYSE, but rose 9% on NASDAQ.

As I look at SPX's chart, I have to wonder if we aren't locked in a sideways channel from about $2040 to $2110. Maybe the bulls and bears are at stalemate.

I'm at the Money Show in Las Vegas. It has been great to see many of my friends and clients. The program has been first class. I'm glad to say that my talk was full with people standing all around the room. But I need to get back to the meeting.

The jobs report came in this morning well under analyst estimates with 160 thousand jobs, down from last month's 208k. The markets opened lower, but recovered to post gains for the day.

SPX gained $7 to close at $2057, while RUT closed up $7 at $1115. Even more encouraging for the bulls was a drop in volatility with the VIX closing at 14.7%, down 1.2 points. SPX dipped down to touch support at $2040, but then bounced to close seventeen points higher. SPX also closed  above the 50 dma at $2045, which often acts as support. Some analysts interpreted the market's strength in light of the weak jobs report as traders presuming that the Fed will delay raising interest rates as a result of the weak employment numbers.

Trading volume was flat to weak with 2.2 billion shares of the S&P 500 trading, well below the 50 dma at 2.4B. Trading volume fell 2% on the NYSE, but rose 2% on NASDAQ.

I conclude that the stalemate between the bulls and the bears is likely to continue.

Have a great weekend. If you are going to the Money Show in Las Vegas next week, let me know so we can get together.

Markets continued lower today, but trading volume declined. SPX closed at $2051, down $12 and RUT lost $9 to close at $1113. The VIX increased a half point to 16.1%. This decline seems to be slowing as though it will settle into support at $2040, where the market hesitated in the first couple of weeks of April, before moving higher. The 50 dma is also at $2041. In three of the last four trading days, SPX has traded down to lows for the day and then recovered into the close. Closes at the lows for the day are the scary signs of a pull back that may turn into a correction.

Trading volume fell off today with 2.3 billion shares of the S&P 500 stocks trading. Trading volume was flat on the NYSE and declined 3% on NASDAQ.

ADP's private payrolls report came out at 156 thousand jobs for April, down from March's 194k. If that is a sign of a weak jobs report Friday, this recent market decline could get worse. Factory orders were up 1.1% for March, a big improvement over February's 1.9% decline. The ISM Services survey increased slightly to 55.7 for April, up from 54.5.

I closed the SPX May condor in the Flying With The Condor™  service for a nice gain of 16%. The June condor is positioned delta neutral in the Russell 2000 Index and is up 5%.

Today's trading volume decline may carry into tomorrow as traders look to the jobs report on Friday.


This market keeps traders on edge. I am starting to think that day traders may be better off than long term investors. At least, they may sleep better.

After Thursday and Friday's declines, Monday's rally was welcome. But then we gave it back today. SPX closed down $18 to $2063 and RUT lost $19 to close at $1122. The common denominator between Friday and today's trading was the late recovery. SPX dipped to $2055 today, but then recovered somewhat to close at $2063. That suggests that the bulls are still in the game; they haven't panicked and headed for the exits just yet. Maybe this is just a sideways consolidation market with high levels of price volatility. Many of us have been remarking on the exceptional price volatility for a couple of years now. Maybe it's time to admit this is part of the new world. Blame it on high speed computer algorithms or whatever, but it is what it is. If we are going to play this game, we have to accept the basic nature of the market.

The decline in implied volatility as measured by the VIX yesterday was given back today with VIX closing at 15.6%. Trading volume increased today with 2.5 billion shares of the S&P 500 companies trading. Trading increased 4% on the NYSE and increased 6% on NASDAQ.

We didn't have any significant U.S. economic news today. Tomorrow brings the ADP private payrolls number that many view as a precursor to the jobs report Friday. Sleep well...