Below are three near-term risks to the market:
1) Complacency – Complacency levels are getting extremely high as the fears of four weeks ago quickly shift to greed. This has been most notable in the very bullish posturing of US portfolio managers (see here) and the Volatility Index. Portfolio managers are now sitting on record low cash levels and haven’t been this bullish since the 2007 highs and the January highs. The VIX has plummeted back to levels just before the January sell-off began. The VIX has now fallen in 17 of the last 19 sessions.
2) Catalysts – Q4 earnings season is now officially over and Q1 reporting doesn’t start until the middle of April. The next few weeks could be characterized by a market that is lacking a catalyst to move higher. Aside from a Fed meeting on March 16th, the economic calendar is relatively light over the next few weeks when compared to the last few months. Markets need positive catalysts to drive prices higher.
Without a catalyst to cling onto, the market could drift or slide lower on any surprises.
3) China – While most equity markets have rebounded substantially over the prior month the Chinese market remains well off its highs and has actually made a series of lower lows. In addition, the Chinese market remains below its 200 and 50 day moving averages – still in bear market territory based on a purely technical definition. China has been the engine of the global recovery and Chinese investors are becoming increasingly concerned about the durability of the recovery.
If Chinese stocks continue to trend lower they will almost certainly pull all markets down with them.