Stocks Treading Water Amid Uncertainty Over Fed and Earnings

S&P 500 keeps going sideways – will upcoming data push it higher?

Monday’s trading session didn’t bring much change for the stock market, with the S&P 500 index gaining 0.32% and slightly extending its last week’s rebound. Yesterday, it was the highest since April 15 when it sold off after a failed rebound attempt.

On previous Friday, the index hit a new medium-term low of 4,953.56. This marked its lowest level since late February, with a decline of over 311 points or 5.9% from the record high of 5,264.85 on February 28. Last week, stock prices rebounded as tensions in the Middle East somewhat eased, and investors shifted their focus to the quarterly earnings releases.

This morning, the market is set to open flat with futures contracts down by 0.1%. Stock prices are likely to go sideways ahead of important upcoming data. Later today, earnings reports from AMD and AMZN will be released, followed by the FOMC Rate Decision tomorrow.

In my Stock Price Forecast for April, I noted, “Closing the month of March with a gain of 3.1%, the question arises: Will the S&P 500 further extend the bull market in April, or is a downward correction on the horizon? From a contrarian standpoint, such a correction seems likely, but the overall trend remains bullish.”

Last week, the sentiment worsened again, as indicated by the Wednesday’s AAII Investor Sentiment Survey, which showed that only 32.1% of individual investors are bullish, while 33.9% of them are bearish. The AAII sentiment is a contrary indicator in the sense that highly bullish readings may suggest excessive complacency and a lack of fear in the market. Conversely, bearish readings are favorable for market upturns.

The S&P 500 index retraced some more of its recent declines yesterday. However, it is approaching important resistance level marked by the early April local lows, as we can see on the daily chart.

Stocks Treading Water Amid Uncertainty Over Fed and Earnings  - Image 1

Nasdaq 100 – Closer to 18,000 Again

Recently, the technology-focused Nasdaq 100 index broke the 18,000 level, and on previous Friday, it briefly dipped below the 17,000 level, reaching a local low of 16,973.94.

Last week, it retraced some recent declines, but still trades below the 18,000 level. Today, the Nasdaq 100 index is expected to open 0.1% lower. Investors await key earnings releases: AMD and AMZN today after the session closes, and AAPL on Thursday.

Stocks Treading Water Amid Uncertainty Over Fed and Earnings  - Image 2

VIX Broke Below 15

The VIX index, also known as the fear gauge, is derived from option prices. In late March, it was trading around the 13 level. However, recent market volatility has led to an increase in the VIX. On previous Friday, it reached a high of 21.4, the highest since late October, indicating fear in the market. Last week, it was retracing that advance, reaching the 15 level on Friday. Yesterday, it closed below that level, indicating much less fear.

Historically, a dropping VIX indicates less fear in the market, and rising VIX accompanies stock market downturns. However, the lower the VIX, the higher the probability of the market’s downward reversal.

Stocks Treading Water Amid Uncertainty Over Fed and Earnings  - Image 3


Futures Contract – Short-Term Consolidation

Let’s take a look at the hourly chart of the S&P 500 futures contract. This week, it's mostly moving sideways after last week's volatility. Investors are eyeing key earnings and data releases, including tomorrow’s Fed and Friday’s jobs report. The resistance level remains at 5,160, and support level is at 5,100-5,120.

Stocks Treading Water Amid Uncertainty Over Fed and Earnings  - Image 5


The S&P 500 index rebounded last week, fueled mainly by the quarterly earnings releases from big tech companies. Recently, it was extending a correction from the March 28 record high of 5,264.85 on Middle East tensions, strong U.S. dollar. On previous Friday, it sold off below the important 5,000 level, and last week, it retraced a large part of the declines.

This morning, the stock market set to open virtually flat as sideways trading is preceding important earnings reports and the Fed release tomorrow.

Last Wednesday, I wrote “Was it an upward reversal? It still looks like an upward correction or consolidation following an almost 6% decline from the recently acquired new record high.

However, it might be a time for cautious optimism, as earnings releases appear to be driving stock prices higher.”

While earnings reports offer cause for cautious optimism, it remains uncertain whether last week's gains signify a true upward reversal or simply a correction of recent declines.

On April 2, I wrote that “In April, we will see a usual series of important economic data, but with the Fed leaning towards easing monetary policy, we should perhaps pay more attention to the quarterly earnings season. However, good earnings may be met with a profit-taking action this time. The market appears to be getting closer to a correction.”

Then, I added: “It appears that profit-taking is happening. Is this a new downtrend? Likely not, however, a correction towards 5,000-5,100 is possible at some point.”

For now, my short-term outlook remains neutral.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • The S&P 500 is likely to fluctuate again, ahead of the Fed news tomorrow and more earnings releases.
  • On Friday, April 19, stock prices were the lowest since February, indicating a correction of the medium-term advance.
  • In my opinion, the short-term outlook is neutral.

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Paul Rejczak,
Stock Trading Strategist