Is This Market Running Out of Steam?
With tech stocks and financials canceling each other out, the likelihood of a sideways move is increasing.

Low volume and a lack of consistent leadership led to another day of mixed results. The financial sector took back almost all of Wednesday’s gains. Had it not been for strength in the technology sector, there would have been broad losses.

The NYSE again failed to trade over 1 billion shares, with just 898 million shares traded, while the Nasdaq crossed just 457 million shares. Decliners were ahead of advancers on the Big Board by 1.5-to-1 while the Nasdaq was a break-even.

SPX Chart

Trade of the Day Chart Key

The S&P 500 failed to penetrate its immediate resistance at 1,220, continuing the reversal down that began in the last 90 minutes of trading on Wednesday. Its next support is the 50-day moving average at 1,172. The longer the index remains below a significant point of resistance, the more significant the line becomes. Note that as it lingers, the stochastic’s fast line (red) is beginning to arch over — not an encouraging sign for the bulls.

XLF Chart

Trade of the Day Chart Key

Disappointing earnings from JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) before the opening yesterday led to a rough day for the financial stocks. The Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLF) not only reversed from resistance at $13, but closed below its 50-day moving average at $12.50. The financial sector has been a drag on the broad market for months, and many analysts hoped that Q4 would start with strong earnings for JPM. Instead it looks like more of the same for both the group and the market.

QQQ Chart

Trade of the Day Chart Key

Despite Research In Motion’s (NASDAQ:RIMM) umpteenth “disruption in service” and its subsequent fall from grace, the technology sector performed well yesterday. Much of the gain was due to a run on Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), up over 6% in anticipation of a strong earnings report after the close. Google reported $9.72 versus average estimates of $8.74. 

The PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ:QQQ), which consists primarily of technology issues, was strong yesterday, but failed to break the September high at $57.35. Note the declining volume of this important ETF. Unless volume improves, it is unlikely that it will be able to make a clean break and have enough pulling power to draw the broad market along with it.

Conclusion: Technology stocks minus financial stocks, equals no gain. The likelihood of no more than a sideways move for the broad market is increasing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make money. If you’re looking for profitable option trades this earnings season, check out my colleagues, Chris Johnson and Jon Lewis.

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.

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