With stocks waffling back and forth seemingly on a daily basis, the question of the day is who/what is driving this bus? In other words, what are traders watching to determine which way the trades are to be made on any given day? Is it Greece, the economy, the Fed, China, interest rates, the dollar, oil, earnings, or something more fundamental like inflation?
The short answer is, all of the above. Well, okay, to be honest, nobody REALLY cares too terribly much about Greece anymore. Fool me once, shame on you – but fool me twice (or maybe even three or four times), shame on me, right?
Sure, even the IMF is talking publicly about a “Grexit” and the ECB has apparently been working on contingency plans for when/if Greece leaves the Eurozone. But in reality, the U.S. stock market is no longer hanging on every twist and turn of the latest Greek drama.
However, traders DO seem to be fairly sensitive to the combination of the state of the U.S. economy, when the Fed is going to start lifting rates, the state of the dollar rally, and the expectations for inflation.
For example, the S&P 500 began last week’s holiday-shortened trade a stone’s throw from an all-time high. But then concerns about the potential for the dollar to resume its recent rally and some really crummy economic data (GDP went negative in Q1 and the Chicago PMI miss was nothing short of eye-popping) put the fear of what might come next back on the table.
Is Uncertainty Back?
As such, it would appear that uncertainty is back in the game. Just when everyone was in agreement that the economy was “doing just fine, thank you” and that the Fed would start hiking rates sometime in the second half of 2015, the data starts to stink up the joint. The consumer decides to do less. And inflation starts to perk up – ever so slightly.
All of which means one thing – uncertainty is back. Awesome.
It is for this reason that once again, stocks were sold once the major indices either hit or approached new highs. It is for this reason that once again, the latest breakout has become yet another “breakout fakeout.” And it is for this reason, that once again, stocks find themselves stuck in a range of sorts.
The Two Important Trends To Watch
But this just in… Don’t look now fans, but it you remove the hysterics evident on the daily high-low or candle charts and focus on the closing prices of the S&P 500, there are not one, but two important trends to pay attention to on a chart basis.
S&P 500 Index – Daily
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The first is the uptrend line that can be drawn from the March low on the daily chart of the S&P 500. While the action has been very messy on an intraday basis during the last two months, this trend is as clear as day when one looks at the chart on a closing basis.
While a break below 2090 might not appear to mean much on an intraday chart basis, such a move would indeed violate this uptrend line. And although this may not be a reason to sell, it would certainly be an indication that the intermediate-term environment could be rated as no better than neutral.
The other important level on the chart right now is the 150-day simple moving average. While using this type of indicator is borderline moronic from a timing standpoint, the 150- and 200-day MA’s are very helpful in determining the state of the overall environment.
In short, if price is above the MA and the MA itself is moving higher, all can be considered right with the world. And to be sure, such is the case right now. So, a meaningful break below 2065 on the S&P 500 would also be something that traders will definitely be watching. (In case you are curious, the 200-day currently resides at 2041.)