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Searching For Clarity image

To be sure, uncertainty remains the name of the game in the stock market these days. And while I run the risk of sounding like a broken record here, it is the uncertainty surrounding the current state of the economy, the upcoming earnings season, and what the Fed is going to next (and perhaps more importantly, when they plan to do it) that is keeping the market bottled up in what appears to be yet another consolidation pattern.

Think of it this way. If you are a fund manager sitting on a couple hundred million in cash, do you really want to put that money to work in front what is expected to be a real bummer of an earnings season? And while the economists I know and trust believe that the economy and the jobs market are "doing just fine, thank you," doesn't the recent string of punk data make it tough to pull the trigger on putting money to work here?

And then there is the Fed. While the FOMC doesn't appear to have the data they have been yammering on about to trigger a rate hike in June, should Ms. Yellen's merry band of central bankers decide that they need to gain some credibility and start the "liftoff" sooner rather than later, the markets would undoubtedly respond with a spirited round of sell programs. And yes, that is just the type of uncertainty that might keep money on the sidelines instead of flowing into managers' favorite tickers.

So there you have it. Institutional managers are likely sitting on their hands waiting for some clarity. Clarity on the economic soft patch that was likely due entirely to the weather and the port strike. Clarity on the impact the greenback's recent joyride to the upside will have on earnings. And clarity on when Yellen & Co. are going to take action.

The good news is that, as I stated above, the economy will likely bounce back nicely now that the snow has melted. And there is a decent chance that much of that "savings" the consumer has purportedly stashed away over the last couple of months will find its way into the hands of store owners at the mall. Oh, and if this does turn out to be the case, you can expect traders to do some celebrating.

On the earnings front, if there is one thing we can always count on in this game, it is the propensity for Wall Street analysts to overshoot once a trend gets started. So, given the fact that earnings expectations have performed nothing short of a swan dive recently, there is a better than average chance that the estimates of the dollar's impact have been overdone. And yes, if the estimates have been cut too far and earnings are not the disaster they are expected to be, then, once again, we could see some fireworks at the corner or Broad and Wall (oops, sorry, make that Mahwah, NJ).But, until the uncertainty surrounding these three issues is resolved, stocks are likely to continue this rousing game of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Technical Take

It is said that a picture can be worth a thousand words. So, instead of me going on (and on) about the state of the market's technical environment, take a look at the chart below. Yep, this chart does indeed say it all. For the second time in just a little more than three months, the S&P 500 once again finds itself stuck in a "wedge" pattern. And until the index can make a convincing break out of the bounds of the pattern, the maddening up-one-minute, down-the-next game is likely to continue. Good times.

S&P 500 Index - Daily

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Turning to This Morning...

The question of when the Fed will begin to hike interest rates remains in focus today as we will get the minutes from the latest FOMC meeting this afternoon. However, it is important to note that the last meeting took place before the weak jobs numbers were released. In addition, Fed governors have been providing their views on exactly when rates should start to increase over the past week. The latest to weigh in this morning is Jerome Powell (a voting member of the FOMC this year) who stated that he sees the first rate increase happening later this year. Powell went on to say that the FOMC should look for "a little more proof than usual" that labor conditions are tightening. In other news, stocks surged in Hong Kong overnight, Greece appears to have enough cash to make the scheduled payments to the IMF and get through the end of the month, oil is moving down on inventory data, and the Q1 earnings season kicks off today after the close with the report from Alcoa. At this time U.S. stock futures are pointing to a flattish open on Wall Street.

Pre-Game Indicators

Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...

Major Foreign Markets:
    Japan: +0.76%
    Hong Kong: +3.80%
    Shanghai: +0.85%
    London: +0.38%
    Germany: -0.33%
    France: +0.01%
    Italy: +0.28%
    Spain: +0.23%

Crude Oil Futures: -$1.14 to $52.84

Gold: -$3.70 at $1206.90

Dollar: higher against the yen, lower vs. euro and pound

10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 1.893%

Stock Indices in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    S&P 500: +1.80
    Dow Jones Industrial Average: +18
    NASDAQ Composite: +4.15

Thought For The Day:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. - Leonardo da Vinci

Current Market Drivers

We strive to identify the driving forces behind the market action on a daily basis. The thinking is that if we can both identify and understand why stocks are doing what they are doing on a short-term basis; we are not likely to be surprised/blind-sided by a big move. Listed below are what we believe to be the driving forces of the current market (Listed in order of importance).

      1. The State of Fed/ECB Policy
      2. The State of the U.S. Economy
      3. The State of the Earnings Season
      4. The State of the U.S. Dollar

The State of the Trend

We believe it is important to analyze the market using multiple time-frames. We define short-term as 3 days to 3 weeks, intermediate-term as 3 weeks to 3 months, and long-term as 3 months or more. Below are our current ratings of the three primary trends:

Short-Term Trend: Neutral
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 1 month)

Intermediate-Term Trend: Moderately Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 6 months)

Long-Term Trend: Positive
(Chart below is S&P 500 daily over past 2 years)

Key Technical Areas:

Traders as well as computerized algorithms are generally keenly aware of the important technical levels on the charts from a short-term basis. Below are the levels we deem important to watch today:

  • Key Near-Term Support Zone(s) for S&P 500: 2040
  • Key Near-Term Resistance Zone(s): 2120

The State of the Tape

Momentum indicators are designed to tell us about the technical health of a trend - I.E. if there is any "oomph" behind the move. Below are a handful of our favorite indicators relating to the market's "mo"...

 

  • Price Thrust Indicator: Positive
  • Volume Thrust Indicator: Negative
  • Breadth Thrust Indicator: Neutral
  • Bull/Bear Volume Relationship: Neutral
  • Technical Health of 100+ Industry Groups: Moderately Positive

    The Early Warning Indicators

    Markets travel in cycles. Thus we must constantly be on the lookout for changes in the direction of the trend. Looking at market sentiment and the overbought/sold conditions can provide "early warning signs" that a trend change may be near.

    • S&P 500 Overbought/Oversold Conditions:
            - Short-Term: Neutral
            - Intermediate-Term: Neutral
    • Market Sentiment: Our primary sentiment model is Neutral .

    The State of the Market Environment

    One of the keys to long-term success in the stock market is stay in tune with the market's "big picture" environment in terms of risk versus reward.

    • Weekly Market Environment Model Reading: Moderately Positive

    Wishing you green screens and all the best for a great day,

    David D. Moenning
    Founder and Chief Investment Strategist
    Heritage Capital Research


    Indicator Explanations

    Trend and Breadth Confirmation Indicator (Short-Term) Explained: History shows the most reliable market moves tend to occur when the breadth indices are in gear with the major market averages. When the breadth measures diverge, investors should take note that a trend reversal may be at hand. This indicator incorporates an All-Cap Dollar Weighted Equity Series and A/D Line. From 1998, when the A/D line is above its 5-day smoothing and the All-Cap Equal Weighted Equity Series is above its 25-day smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +32.5% per year. When one of the indicators is above its smoothing, the equity index has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when both are below, the equity index has lost +23.6% per year.

    Price Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator measures the 3-day rate of change of the Value Line Composite relative to the standard deviation of the 30-day average. When the Value Line's 3-day rate of change have moved above 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day average ROC, a "thrust" occurs and since 2000, the Value Line Composite has gained ground at a rate of +20.6% per year. When the indicator is below 0.5 standard deviation of the 30-day, the Value Line has lost ground at a rate of -10.0% per year. And when neutral, the Value Line has gained at a rate of +5.9% per year.

    Volume Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses NASDAQ volume data to indicate bullish and bearish conditions for the NASDAQ Composite Index. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of NASDAQ daily advancing volume (i.e., the total volume traded in stocks which rose in price each day) to the 10-day total of daily declining volume (volume traded in stocks which fell each day). This ratio indicates when advancing stocks are attracting the majority of the volume (readings above 1.0) and when declining stocks are seeing the heaviest trading (readings below 1.0). This indicator thus supports the case that a rising market supported by heavier volume in the advancing issues tends to be the most bullish condition, while a declining market with downside volume dominating confirms bearish conditions. When in a positive mode, the NASDAQ Composite has gained at a rate of +38.3% per year, When neutral, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +13.3% per year. And when negative, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -8.5% per year.

    Breadth Thrust Indicator Explained: This indicator uses the number of NASDAQ-listed stocks advancing and declining to indicate bullish or bearish breadth conditions for the NASDAQ Composite. The indicator plots the ratio of the 10-day total of the number of stocks rising on the NASDAQ each day to the 10-day total of the number of stocks declining each day. Using 10-day totals smooths the random daily fluctuations and gives indications on an intermediate-term basis. As expected, the NASDAQ Composite performs much better when the 10-day A/D ratio is high (strong breadth) and worse when the indicator is in its lower mode (weak breadth). The most bullish conditions for the NASDAQ when the 10-day A/D indicator is not only high, but has recently posted an extreme high reading and thus indicated a thrust of upside momentum. Bearish conditions are confirmed when the indicator is low and has recently signaled a downside breadth thrust. In positive mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +22.1% per year since 1981. In a neutral mode, the NASDAQ has gained at a rate of +14.5% per year. And when in a negative mode, the NASDAQ has lost at a rate of -6.4% per year.

    Bull/Bear Volume Relationship Explained: This indicator plots both "supply" and "demand" volume lines. When the Demand Volume line is above the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bullish. From 1981, the stock market has gained at an average annual rate of +11.7% per year when in a bullish mode. When the Demand Volume line is below the Supply Volume line, the indicator is bearish. When the indicator has been bearish, the market has lost ground at a rate of -6.1% per year.

    Technical Health of 100 Industry Groups Explained: Designed to provide a reading on the technical health of the overall market, this indicator takes the technical temperature of more than 100 industry sectors each week. Looking back to early 1980, when the model is rated as "positive," the S&P has averaged returns in excess of 23% per year. When the model carries a "neutral" reading, the S&P has returned over 11% per year. But when the model is rated "negative," stocks fall by more than -13% a year on average.

    Weekly State of the Market Model Reading Explained:Different market environments require different investing strategies. To help us identify the current environment, we look to our longer-term State of the Market Model. This model is designed to tell us when risk factors are high, low, or uncertain. In short, this longer-term oriented, weekly model tells us whether the odds favor the bulls, bears, or neither team.


    Disclosures

    The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Moenning's opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations. The analysis and information in this report is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed nor any Portfolio constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program.

    Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her investment adviser. Do NOT ever purchase any security without doing sufficient research. There is no guarantee that the investment objectives outlined will actually come to pass. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Neither the editor, employees, nor any of their affiliates shall have any liability for any loss sustained by anyone who has relied on the information provided.

    The analysis provided is based on both technical and fundamental research and is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Although the information contained is derived from sources which are believed to be reliable, they cannot be guaranteed.

    David D. Moenning, an advisor representative of CONCERT Wealth Management Inc. (CONCERT), is founder of Heritage Capital Advisors LLC, a legal business entity doing business as Heritage Capital Research (Heritage). Advisory services are offered through CONCERT Wealth Management, Inc., a registered investment advisor. For a complete description of investment risks, fees and services review the CONCERT firm brochure (ADV Part 2) which is available from your Investment Representative or by contacting Heritage or CONCERT.

    Mr. Moenning is also the owner of Heritage Capital Management (HCM) a state-registered investment adviser. HCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Neither HCM, Heritage, or CONCERT is registered as a broker-dealer.

    Employees and affiliates of Heritage and HCM may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Editors will indicate whether they or Heritage/HCM has a position in stocks or other securities mentioned in any publication. The disclosures will be accurate as of the time of publication and may change thereafter without notice.

    Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.