High volatility marked Thursday’s headline-driven session. Stocks opened higher but then sold off sharply on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments that there was not enough time to put together a deal that would avoid the fiscal cliff. However, with one hour of trading remaining, a report that the House of Representatives would meet on Sunday, Dec. 30, to consider new strategies resulted in a rally that almost took back all of the early losses.
At the end of a highly volatile day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 13,096, off 18 points, the S&P 500 fell 2 points to 1,418, and the Nasdaq lost 4 points, closing at 2,986. The NYSE traded 566 million shares and the Nasdaq crossed 298 million. Decliners led advancers on the Big Board by 1.2-to-1 and on the Nasdaq by 1.4-to-1.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), also known as the “fear index,” shot up to almost 21 Thursday — the highest reading since July. But headlines lifted it and headlines drove it lower in one of the most volatile days this year.
High volatility also showed up on the Dow’s chart. Its intraday low penetrated both the 50-day and 200-day moving averages but closed above both. However, MACD flashed a sell signal despite the late rally.
The Nasdaq is the weakest of the major indices, but even it managed to avoid a breakdown by closing between the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Its MACD is also on a buy signal.
Conclusion: The stock market’s gyrations are now totally controlled by the goings-on in Washington. Volatility is high and traders can take advantage of the daily extremes and, if nimble, make quick money. But the average investor, and even institutional investors, are absent from the market as indicated by the extremely low volume.
A fiscal cliff deal of any sort will probably lead to a rally, but if the politicians fail to come to terms by Monday, Wall Street could give them a thrashing.
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.