What a week!
had a meeting, and it made everyone nervous. The fighting in Kosovo escalated, and it got everyone excited. The first quarter ended, and that got everyone skittish. But the big worry is still out there: Friday's all-important employment number.
And this month there's a great deal to worry about with regard to that number. This turns out to be one of those rare times when the bond people come to work and the stock folks stay home (it's usually the other way around). You can bet most of those stay-at-home equity people will be glued to the screen on Friday morning anyway. What if the bonds rally off the news? What if they fall on the news? Either way, stock folks will have to wait till Monday morning to trade equities again. And that probably means most traders will go home flat on Thursday, giving us another volatile day to end the week with.
A short review of where the indicators stand today is in order. There are several mixed messages. Sometimes it means we're seeing the early signs of improvement. Sometimes it means we're about to roll over. And sometimes when they're mixed it means we're just going to churn.
The worst indicator we have is no longer the advance/decline line, better known as market breadth (more on that indicator later). Now it's the number of stocks making new 52-week lows. Yesterday's late-day selloff brought with it the highest reading we have had since the middle of October -- 176. This statistic tells us that there's an awful lot of stocks which are underperforming in a huge way here, which means there are many portfolios which are not making money.
Could this indicator have been skewed by the end-of-the-quarter window dressing that takes place? Maybe money managers just wanted to sell those dogs in their portfolios so they don't show them at the end of the quarter. It's entirely possible, and we cannot rule it out. Now that the quarter has ended, we should have a clearer picture.
There is another indicator which may also be skewed by the end of the quarter this week. It's the advance/decline line. During these past few trading days this week, the
have been up and down, making them essentially flat on the week so far. This is a pattern we have seen a lot of in the past few months. Typically when we've had this pattern (big up Monday, give it back the rest of the week), the A/D line has been worse than the averages, with decidedly negative readings.
This week the A/D line, too, is flat so far. I'm not sure if I should make a big deal over this or not (with this being the end of the quarter, thus making the A/D line skewed for a few days), but it is the first time we've seen this action and therefore I thought it worth noting. If this more positive action in the A/D should continue in the next few days, it's likely we will begin to see it carry over to the other indicators.
This brings us to momentum. That overbought/oversold oscillator is still sitting in a moderately oversold condition. Sure it can get more oversold, as they say a truly weak market will get oversold and stay there. However, I am taken with the fact that the market has fallen this week and yet our oscillator has held firm. It has not gotten more oversold; it has stayed flat. This tells us there is still a chance for the market to rally some more.
The list of positive stocks is shrinking again.
base is still good and buyable.
Johnson & Johnson
pushes higher, slow and steady.
Procter & Gamble
should settle down and be OK after this dip. The same is true for
is still OK.
is still the best driller into this pullback.
is the best retailer.
On the negative side,
is still not acting well.
disappointment really spoiled the chart, but it still has yet to make a new low.
has gotten worse. Clearly no one believes
business is getting better.
stopped right at its 66 resistance.
has started to falter in here; breaking 66 would really spoil it.
has likely gone about as far as it should go. And I'm still worried about
Is all this bullish? Not really. It likely means we can continue to expect more of the same action that we've seen since mid-January. Lots of up, lots of down. Mostly, lots of going nowhere. They say the trend is your friend. Well, with no trend lately, this market has not been very friendly.
Author's note: I will be on vacation next week. My next full column will run on Tuesday, April 13. However, please look for an update of my Daily Chartist column for Monday, April 5.
Helene Meisler, based in Singapore, writes a technical analysis column on the U.S. equity markets on Tuesdays and Fridays, and updates her charts daily on TheStreet.com. Meisler trained at several Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs and Cowen, and has worked with the equity trading department at Cargill. At time of publication, she was long AT&T, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. She appreciates your feedback at