What if they gave a correction, and nobody came?
In just three trading sessions, the
Nasdaq Composite Index
has dropped 9.2% from Friday's peak, and today's close marks the third straight triple-digit loss for the tech-heavy index.
But while the
prolonged retrenchment has eroded confidence in the so-called Old Economy stocks, market players are finding it harder to be afraid of the Nasdaq's recent woes.
It's too fast, and too soon to tell whether this is the beginning of something larger, or if it's the kind of action that's invariably brushed off as profit-taking, consolidation or any of a number of favored catchphrases. Strategists generally believe the latter -- that the Nasdaq's three-day backslide, viewed in light of the staggering rally, is relatively benign in nature.
"We have not seen enough damage to really unsettle traders to where they change their mentality from positive to negative," says Ricky Harrington, technical analyst at
in Charlotte, N.C. "It's the 'buy the dip' mentality prevailing still."
The Nasdaq's been terribly volatile since October, adding on more than 2,000 points in just over four months. The top 10 largest point increases in the Comp have all taken place in the last four months, as have eight of the 10 largest point declines.
Following the new year, the Comp quickly fell 9.8%, once it became apparent that Y2K (remember that?) did not mean the end of the world, and that the
had more interest-rate hikes in mind. Yet the index recovered, and between Jan. 5 and last Friday had risen by 30%, weathering an additional 5% drop during that period.
"It's been going through frequent declines and forceful rebounds since October," says Arun Kumar, market strategist at
. "The profit-taking was acceptable."
Some say today's 320-point rally in the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
is evidence that despite the Nasdaq's recent gyrations -- and the Dow's prolonged decline -- the investing community's faith in stocks hasn't been shaken, even for the near-term. Flight-to-quality buying in bonds hasn't emerged; instead, investors used today as an opportunity to purchase beaten-down Dow stocks.
"I think investors want to be someplace," says Ed Nicoski, chief investment strategist at
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
. "If we can see a rotation from technology into the depressed rest of the market, it would be a healthy situation -- it would correct the extreme excesses that are out there."
But investors fleeing the Nasdaq -- at a time of both record participation in the stock market and of record inflows to U.S. stocks by foreigners -- is potentially very unhealthy, says Jerry Hegarty, chief analyst at
Cape Market Research
. Those flows have been focused on one thing -- riding momentum -- rather than strategic, focused investing in a variety of stocks. A move away from that style of investing is potentially dangerous for the overvalued technology sectors.
"Those blue-chips appear to have more value and to be more attractive, but that hasn't been what's worked in the market for the last 18 to 24 months," Hegarty says. "It's been momentum and upside breakouts in things like
, and trading at 100 to 1,000 times earnings hasn't discouraged anybody."
But it's going to take a little more selling -- and perhaps a few disappointments in some of these companies -- to shake the market's resolve. After tacking on two grand in about one winter, a few hundred points isn't scaring anybody.