In case you were feeling less than brilliant because you don't have a clue what the market was really saying this week -- don't. No one else does, either. Consider the put/call ratio as monitored by the Chicago Board of Trade. The 21-day moving average climbed for a while, but has now stalled out around 0.67. Since a higher number reflects negative sentiment, you could take the flattening as a positive sign. On the other hand, it also means the market has yet to reach a bottom, says Joe Sunderman, director of trading at Schaeffer's Investment Research. In May, by contrast, the index reached 0.70, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq took off, he said. So, how to weigh this development? "The big problem with trying to game negative sentiment is that it is extremely difficult to judge when it is so great that the market has to turn," wrote contributor James "Rev Shark" De Porre in a RealMoney.com missive Friday morning. One of the major trends bugging market pros is the extreme volatility we've experienced. In fact, volatility in the tech sector increased 11.9% this week as evidenced by the CBOE Nasdaq Volatility Index (VXN) while volatility in the broader market decreased by 1%, says Stacey Briere, chief options strategist at Susquehanna Financial Group. It's likely that some of the wild swings can be attributed to heavy hedge fund activity and subsequent activity by short players. But more important than the spasms of the always nimble hedge-fund traders, is an underlying lack of conviction. "This is the most fickle market I've seen in years. One day the focus
of options activity is on consumer stocks, then back to energy and back again to retail," says Briere. Options activity in technology, however, is lighter than it has been at any point this year, with the notable exception of Motorola ( MOT) and Nokia ( NOK), the beneficiaries of ongoing strength in handhelds, says Briere.