Volatility was the buzz word this week in the stock market. The averages moved up and down by a percent or so on a daily basis but ended the week on a high note. Can we expect more of the same?
Traditionally, at least the first two weeks of this month have been volatile, so the good news is that we are half way through that period and so far there has been scant damage to the averages. At one point this week the S&P 500 Index was down about 4% from its highs but stocks found support around the 1935 level and bounced from there.
Friday the markets were galvanized by a jobs report that showed 248,000 job gains in the month of September. That drove the unemployment rate down to 5.9%, finally dropping below that elusive 6% number. In celebration, the markets liked that data point and added another percent or so in performance.
Of course, some worry that if the economy gains further strength too quickly that the Fed may begin to raise interest rates earlier than the expected date of mid-March, 2015. So far that is simply supposition. But among Federal Reserve Governors there is growing debate on whether or not to raise rates sooner. Two, and maybe three members (after today’s employment number), of the Federal Open Market Committee are petitioning for a faster rate rise. But the buck stops with Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who has not indicated that an early rate rise is in the cards.
While we here in America are winding down our quantitative easing, over in Europe Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, is wrestling with increasing their own QE program. He disappointed investors this week when he failed to announce additional stimulus measures on the heels of stimulus announced just last month. I keep reminding readers that decisions in Europe take much longer than in the U.S. Nonetheless, European markets sold off as a result.
In the meantime, the dollar keeps climbing, gold and silver continues to fall, with at least one analyst at Ned Davis Research predicting that the precious metal could ultimately fall to $650/ounce.
Over in Asia, Hong Kong protests continue against the Mainland’s heavy-handed tactics to reduce the quality of democratic elections on the island. Readers, however, should remember that prior to the peaceful transition of Hong Kong to China; Hong Kong was a colony of Great Britain. As such, its democratic rights were limited during that period as well. That doesn’t make it right but it is the facts. Although it makes great headlines and sound bites, I don’t believe that these protests will turn into some kind of “Asian Spring” where the entire region falls into turmoil. Comparing what is happening in Hong Kong to the events in the Middle East is comparing apples to oranges, in my opinion.
As for our markets, I expect to see the rebound continue. In this volatile environment that means that we could reach 1,975 on the S&P 500 and 17,927 on the Dow quite easily. After that, there are two options: first, we drop back and re-test the recent lows between 1,910 and 1,935. There is a lot of technical support at those levels. If we break that, expect to see a long-overdue test of the 200 day moving average come in to play.
Or we could meander around the 1,975 level before trying to take out the historic highs. That is exactly what happened in every market dip so far this year. However, it is absolutely necessary for all the indexes to make new historical highs before the threat of another big dip is removed for the remainder of this