Is the Market Confused?

Sep.12.08 | About: SPDR S&P (SPY)

Depending on the framework you use to understand the market, at times it is possible for the market to be “confused” or even “wrong”. Of course, according to some, the market is the perfect amalgam of all relevant information so that isn’t possible.

But then again, any student of the financial markets can easily call up many examples where the market exhibited what can perhaps be best described as collective temporary insanity.

As I look across this market, checking the advance decline breadth, the highs and lows, the VIX, put call ratios, and all the other technical indicators, I can’t shake the feeling that it is a bit confused. Or perhaps, it just can’t make up its mind and is trying to hedge its bets as best as possible.

Just look at the past few trading days! Up, down, up, down, up, down… ending up at pretty much the same place we started.

I’ve been accused of having a penchant for the bullish side so I’m trying to be more than careful in scrutinizing the weight of the evidence, on both sides. And for the most part, there is really no compelling reason to be in either camp right now.

Maybe (gasp) the retail investors are right and cash is the best spot right now.

The market certainly feels heavy, but while intuitively I think it wants to go down, I don’t see any strong reasons to push it down with my own measly contributions.

Here is a snapshot of the sort of thing I mean. This chart shows the percentage of S&P 500 stocks trading above their 10 day moving average. Notice how in mid July, as the market was pulled sharply lower, this very reliable indicator (check out the research report from Lowry’s), did not perform its usual magic:

percentage stocks SPX 10 day moving average september 2008Click to enlarge

Is it too much of an obvious to say that this market is being driven by the financials? They were responsible for the mid July spike down in the behemoth S&P 500 Index. Pull up a chart of the 90 day Treasury Bill and you can see the epicenter of the quake that shook the markets.

I’ll go more in depth in Saturday’s weekly sentiment overview and we’ll see if we can make any sense out of this crazy tape.