The stock market rose Thursday, led by the technology sector. Techs have lagged recently, and traders were refreshed to see Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) show some life.
The hush surrounding the fiscal cliff negotiations led some strategists to conclude that something good was about to happen, but there was little on which to base that thought. Jobless claims fell 25,000 to 370,000, which was lower than the consensus expectation of 382,000.
At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 40 points to 13,074, the S&P 500 gained 5 points at 1,414, and the Nasdaq rose 16 points to 2,989. NYSE volume was not available, but the Nasdaq traded 364 million shares. Advancers led decliners by a slight margin on the Big Board, but decliners were slightly ahead on the Nasdaq.
While the Nasdaq and the techs have been fighting the bear and losing (see Thursday’s Daily Market Outlook), the S&P 500 has been holding above its 200-day moving average for almost three weeks.
It has had some scary moments, like the intraday low of Nov. 28, which touched the 200-day’s line. But its overall performance, while Washington has been in a highly charged political battle, has to be considered slightly more bullish than bearish. It would become much more bullish if it could slice through its 50-day moving average on a big-volume day.
Conclusion: The fiscal cliff hangs over the market like wet blanket. Meanwhile, as the negotiations continue to drag on, the market’s internal momentum has flattened. This can be seen on the fast line of the stochastic for the S&P 500.
But don’t mistake this sideways movement for apathy; instead it is like a coiled spring that is tightened every day that a resolution is delayed.
If the fiscal cliff negotiations are not settled by Christmas, look for a sharp sell-off. But if an agreement is reached, the market’s internal spring could thrust the indices to new highs in just hours.
What’s a trader to do? Wait it out, since the risk is high for both bulls and bears.
Today’s Trading Landscape
To see a list of the companies reporting earnings today, click here.
For a list of this week’s economic reports due out, click here.