A Strong Headwind for Stocks

Overhead resistance is thick, which suggests that any move to the upside will be hard-fought

By Paul Cherney

Price action on Wednesday and Thursday was indicative of a market uncommitted to go higher or lower. News that a plane had flown into a high rise building in Milan, Italy, only saw Nasdaq prices drop to test critical support at 1779 for 2 minutes. The earnings reports should tend to be supportive of prices but the markets are finding nothing to spur two-fisted buying and the overhead resistance is thick which would suggest that anything to the upside will be hard-fought. These markets are not demonstrating any ability to trend.

The Nasdaq has support 1806-1778. The 1806-1799 area still has importance, but Thursday's price action has extended this area of support to the 1793 area so I consider immediate intraday support to be 1806-1793. If the index prints below 1778.10 (Thursday's intraday low after reports of the plane accident crossed the tape) for more than 3 or 4 minutes without attracting buyers to lift prices back above the 1793 level then downside risk is for a test of the next layer of support 1772-1751 with a focus 1761-1754.)

The Nasdaq has immediate resistance 1812-1873. There are two focuses of resistance: 1824-1832 then 1840-1853. The 1824-1832 area is thick, but a close above this level would convert it from resistance to support.

The S&P 500 has immediate resistance 1120-1133.31. Its descent from the beginning of March has been stair-step and that creates multiple steps of resistance above the current prices. I think it would be short-term bullish if the index could close above 1133.31 but understand that due to the nature of the descent, it is unlikely that the index will simply move higher each day. There are plateaus of selling interest above the current prices and that should make for a labored advance. But I do expect an advance. Next stairstep above 1133.31 is 1142-1157. The importance of the 1133.31 level as resistance was reinforced in Wednesday's action as the S&P 500's intraday high was 1133.00 before prices were turned down.

If the S&P 500 were to print below 1121 for more than 3 or 4 minutes without attracting buyers to lift prices, then there would be downside risk for a test of the 1114-1102 level (not expected). This is still true, and on Thursday, after the 1121 was broken, the intraday low (after the headline about the plane which was originally though to be a terrorist attack), the S&P 500 printed a low of 1109.29 right in the expected support of 1114-1102. This acts as confirmation of the support level. Unfortunately it is not apparent what is going to compel real buying to push prices higher.

Cherney is market analyst for Standard & Poor's

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