After watching what was easily the most
volatile day in the
Nasdaq Composite Index's
history, and one of the most frightening, participants obviously want to know whether this was it for the Nasdaq: the bottoming out; the market's version of regurgitation after several shots of tequila; the capitulation.
Strategists and technicians were unwilling to offer that comfort, but they say it's about as good as it gets.
"We went down to 3700, which was a pullback to what we technicians we call a
200-day moving average, and that's very healthy," says Ralph Acampora, chief technical analyst at
. "It was painful, but it did it."
Several factors lend credence to the idea that yesterday was a capitulation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Comp at one point was down 575 points. Yes, 575. In three hours, the Nasdaq rebounded 500 points from that loss -- that's a 13.7% rebound after lunch (which will no doubt be referred to as "buying the dip"). Technically, the Nasdaq went into a bear market and zoomed back into a mere correction in half a session.
'A Pretty Healthy Thing'
"To me, this is a pretty healthy thing, potentially getting it all over and done with in a short amount of time," says Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at
George K. Baum
in Kansas City, Mo.
And that half-session nearly qualified as a full session. A massive 1.2 billion shares changed hands from 1 p.m. EDT, right around when the Comp bottomed out at 3649.11, the lowest level since Dec. 16. Total volume on the
Nasdaq Stock Market
yesterday was 2.84 billion, making it easily the most heavily traded day in Nasdaq history. That, to technicians, is an important way of ratifying any trend.
Also heartening to strategists was the leadership displayed in a number of important Nasdaq stocks, such as
, which finished
after yesterday's wild session. Belski thinks that's proof enough to call this a bottom.
"For evidence," he says, "just look at the high-quality stocks this bull market continues to reward: the
OK, let's look. Cisco opened at 74, dropped to an intraday low of 64 and recovered to finish at 73 1/8; Intel opened at 131 1/2, at one point traded as low as 119 and closed at 132 3/4, up 2 3/16. Qualcomm, which at one point was down more than 16 points to 124, ended the day up 5 9/16 to 146 5/8. Sun Microsystems plunged 18 points to 71 3/4 before finishing up 3/16 on the day to 90.
Don't Exhale Yet
However, the quality of yesterday's rebound, in a sense, can only be compared with the quality of yesterday's selloff, which for many investors around midmorning was driven by fear: fear of margin calls, fear of more margin calls and panic. It's harder to trust the point at which selling stops, because the selling itself was just as blind as the bandwagon rally that preceded it.
"There's no way to dispute the fact that panic played a part," says Todd Gold, technical strategist at
. "When that's happening, no one's looking at technical
support levels. People are just selling to sell. For that reason, it's very difficult to pinpoint a bottom."
At least now, they've got a starting point. It's hard to determine what would have been a support level to begin with, but the 3650 area is what folks like Acampora are looking at. He's hesitant to call this a bottom, saying he'd be "surprised if it went straight up from here."
Technicians expect the market to perhaps rally in the next few days, but then drop down and retest the lows established yesterday. Acampora believes volume will tail off due to an increased level of uncertainty and nervousness. "There'll be less intensity and a lighter volume low, and it'll be the kind of double bottom you like to see," he says.
But if the market gets heated up again and, in a few days, investors are again scanning their screens looking at a Comp that's off by another 200 points, that kind of analysis may not be much comfort. Often, technical analysis is a sport of looking at past performance to try determining what future gains will be.
"There is always some technical support or trend line you can point to after the fact," says Ricky Harrington, chief technical analyst at
. "Before the fact, we went through a number of support levels on the way down."