An Ironic Market

NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain. --Mr. Spock of Star Trek

Despite worse-than-expected weekly unemployment claims Thursday, the market bounced straight up and caught many players by surprise. The strength was attributed to a number of things, including renewed hopes of further quantitative easing and optimism about economic growth in China, but I suspect it was mostly due to market players making a consistent pattern of action self-fulfilling.

We have seen this sort of bounce action routinely the last few years and many market players just embrace it automatically rather than fight it. Logically, it may make sense to look for a failed bounce after a technical breakdown like we had on Monday and Tuesday, but the pattern is exactly the opposite.

What typically occurs is that after a fairly good bounce, market players start to think that is enough, and look for us to roll over again. They are out of position for further strength, and when it kicks in, we go straight up as they scramble to add long exposure and the bears are squeezed. We just keep on going and, before you know it, we are back at recent highs.

Is that pattern going to play out again? Do we go straight back up as if nothing happened, or does the bounce fall and a new round of selling set in?

To answer that question we will need to focus on the reaction to earnings, as they will be used as the justification for whatever the market does next. If we roll over you can bet the headlines will read that earnings are disappointing and if we run it will attributed to good reports.

In the early going, the reaction to the three major earnings reports that are out, Google ( GOOG), JPMorgan ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC), is rather tepid, although the numbers were pretty solid. Given the run-up we have had in the first quarter of the year, the danger of a "sell the news" reaction is high, but valuations aren't particularly aggressive, which should keep downside contained.

I'm not going to look for the market to quickly fall apart again. The V-shaped action just has too strong of a tendency and with a slew of major earnings reports hitting next week, I am looking for bids to remain under the market. Hopefully, we'll see a shift to stock picking and we'll have less correlated action, but looking for failed bounces simply has not worked in this market so I'm going to focus instead on individual stocks and not be overly concerned about the macro movement.

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