The long and the short of the current environment may be that U.S. companies, particularly consumer-oriented corporations, may not be able to increase their profit margins by charging more for products. That leaves cost-cutting and share buybacks as the primary ticket for "goosing" results until employment gains translate into wage gains.
Bearish prognostications notwithstanding, the easiest way to deal with the uncertainty is to monitor a popular consumer barometer like VCR. If VCR falls below and stays below its long-term 200-day moving average - if highly correlated funds like XRT and SPDR Sector Select Consumer Staples (XLP) struggle in the same fashion -- broader market trouble may be afoot. In contrast, if ETFs in this arena can recapture their shorter-term 50-day trendlines, "buy-the-dip" fans will have beaten the bears yet again.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.