A bounce could be in the cards for US stocks this week as bulls defend a key technical level and managers buy the quarter's winners to prop up their books.
But gains coming from health care, staples or other defensive sectors that have outperformed the market in the last several months would only support the notion that the US stock market needs to complete its correction phase and panic selling must occur before a more sustained comeback develops.
"We want to see more fear," said Ari Wald, equity strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.
But be careful what you wish for.
The sources of the recent decline, including Greece's slow march toward a default on its debt, weak US economic data and the creeping deadline to lift the US debt ceiling, are far from being resolved.
Despite a drop that dragged the S&P 500 as much as 8.2 per cent below its three-year high hit in early May, the index held above its 200-day moving average a major line in the sand as the bulls and bears battle for control of the market.
The slide had been telegraphed for weeks and the market's by-the-book performance pulling back to a widely followed level seems too well choreographed for some analysts.
"The fact that we went to the 200-day ... seems just a little too perfect," said Marc Pado, US market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co in San Francisco.
He said the timing of the move was supportive, as the market creates a technical base before resuming its upward move on the back of strong earnings.
"You might get an attempt at a shakeout move," Pado said. "But sometimes the majority is right."
Even if they are right, they don't seem too convinced. So far this quarter on track to be the first in the red for the S&P 500 in the last year daily volume on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq has averaged 7.22 billion shares.
That is down from the 7.94 billion shares traded daily during the first quarter, when the S&P 500 gained 5.4 per cent. Commitment to the market has waned. The frantic selling, the flushing down of day traders seems absent so far in this corrective phase.
Despite holding above that level, the market has not cleared the danger zone of dipping under its 200-day average. The curve has a steep slope, as the S&P 500 took roughly two years to notch a 100 per cent advance from its March 2009 lows.
The 200-day moving average now stands at 1,263.47, less than 0.4 per cent below the S&P 500's close on Friday.
"Every time you test a resistance or support level, you make it weaker," said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist of the ConvergEx Group in New York. "It's almost like a piece of metal. Every time you hit it, it grows more fragile and that's why people are really worried the third or fourth time."
After three straight days of declines, the S&P 500 fell 0.24 per cent for the week and finished at 1,268.45 its seventh decline in the last eight weeks.
The Dow industrials lost 0.58 per cent for the week, closing on Friday at 11,934.58, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.39 per cent for the week to end at 2,652.89.
The next two weeks, before quarterly earnings season starts in earnest, could be marked by wild swings like the ones seen recently.
From / Gulf News