Pushing the Pause Button

Last week the S&P 500 managed a mixed bag – down for the week, with positive trading days both Thursday and Friday. What does it mean?

Technically, it looks like the up-trend has been interrupted by a sideways trend.

A couple weeks ago, when markets were aggressively recovering from the September slump, we discussed a possible push to new highs… OR… and this is the gotcha, we could see a side-step if you will — a sideways market with little significant commitment either way.

The up-trend was primarily driven by the hope for more stimulus. As those hopes have faded, a bit more of a wait-and-see attitude has emerged. This makes sense given the election is now just over a week away. (Markets aren’t known for their patience, but in this case, the policy differences between the two candidates are night and day, so absent a really good reason to ignore it, we may as well pay attention).

The underlying disposition of the BigFoot database contintues to improve. However, that rate of change has also slowed dramatically. So at this point, the momentum has stalled.

Given this stall, there’s little that would appear to drive the markets materially higher or lower for the week. That sets up a sideways range that likely stays between 3517 on the high side, and 3375(ish, this number is a little more vague) on the low side.

The bigger concern this week is some form of noteworthy bad news. Given the minimal downside support right now it’s possible the 50-day moving average would fail and the index could take a more aggressive rip down to the 100-day moving average at 3300. That’s close to a 5-percent decline. It’s a lot — but not for a year like 2020. Fortunately the odds of that happening still look pretty low. But… did we mention 2020?

More than likely this week will drift sideways and we’ll see a spike up in volatility. With the election being too close to call — and polling data becoming the next back-up plan if we run out of toilet paper — the markets are looking less at who is predicting what outcome and more at outside systemic threats. Of course, the thing about looking for black swans (systemic threats) is, by definition you don’t know they exist until after you find them. So it’s not particularly clear how one watches out for them.

On this we seem to have learned the hard way: every time you challenge 2020 by suggesting it can’t get worse… Never mind. Let’s not jinx it.

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