I think it’s safe to say that the bulls took back control of the stock market, at least for now. After what seemingly was the beginning of a meaningful market correction in late January, stocks closed the month of February at or near record levels. For the month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) finished up 3.96%, the tech focused Nasdaq (chart) closed up almost 5%, the broad based S&P 500 (chart) closed at a new record high of 1859.45 and was up 4.3% in February, and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) finished the month in the green by 4.6%.
So what changed from the apparent sell-off in late January to today? In my view, absolutely nothing. We still have a very accommodative Fed, interest rates remain near zero and a new Fed chairwomen that essentially emulates the former head of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and his policies. Hence, markets remain flush with cash with no where else to go but into higher yielding assets. This in my humble opinion is why equities snapped back from their January declines and why new highs are occurring. The bears are wondering how much longer can this go on without sparking a potential problematic inflationary environment. The bears are also growling about the bubbly type market we find ourselves in with valuations beginning to get stretched a bit and the apparent stratospheric $19 billion price tag that Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) recently paid for the 55 employee app company WhatsApp. Then you have electric car maker Tesla this week receiving a price target boost from Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) to $320 dollars, which is more than double what Morgan’s previous target price was. Other data supporting the bear thesis is margin interest remains at all time highs and the retail individual investor is coming back to life according to online trading discount brokers TD Ameritrade (NYSE: AMTD) and Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) which are seeing a surge in trading activity. Some pundits argue that this is the type of market behavior that is conducive with market tops. All valid points. My take is both the bulls and bears have valid points, but personally I cannot bet against the power of the central bank and their incessant support of the markets. When and only when the asset purchase program concludes and when interest rates begin to rise, we can then have a different type of discussion.
That said, we can easily see pullbacks and corrective type actions in the marketplace like we witnessed in late January. When volatility does come back, I would expect a similar pattern of market participants coming in looking for potential bargains, and thus placing yet another floor under these markets. On the technical front, it appears that all systems a go with none of the key indices in overbought territory yet according to the Relative Strength Index (RSI) however, yesterday we did see a “quasi-reversal” of sorts in where we closed well below the sessions highs after the S&P 500 (chart) hit an all time intraday high. This reversal was apparently due in large part to the increasing tensions in the Ukraine late Friday afternoon, which is something I will pay close attention to next week. In closing, whether you are bullish or bearish, make sure to always consider having protective stops in place with your positions which is designed to protect your portfolio against unexpected losses.
Have a great weekend 🙂