Positive Bias in Place

The markets need positive headlines from the war front to make a significant move higher

By Paul Cherney

The markets need positive headlines from the war front to make a significant move higher. Downside still appears limited. On a purely technical basis, there is still a positive bias in place.

Comments in the previous column about the potential for a bullish ABC pattern to unfold remain valid, but it would take a close above Nasdaq 1425.73 or S&P 500 895.90 to signal increased odds for upside.

Friday has the potential to be a day of great caution as coalition troops move closer to Baghdad. There might be a reluctance to carry positions into the weekend, especially if there are no positive headlines from the war inside the trading day.

On Friday, the March employment report will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. The Street is looking for a decline of 40,000 or 50,000 in the nonfarm payrolls number and a small uptick of 0.1% in the unemployment rate to 5.9%.

Intraday Supports: Immediate intraday support for the S&P 500 is now 880.51-876.41. The index has additional support at 875.80-873.47; technically, a case can be made for support all the way to 866, but the chances for jagged trading with some downside risk would increase if the S&P 500 were to print below 873.

If prices break below the following price levels for more than four minutes on Friday, odds will increase for a short-term shakeout. If the Nasdaq prints below 1379.61, there could be an intraday rebound which might garner some follow-through, but if the index spends more than four minutes below this level or if there is an intraday rebound (after hitting 1379.61) which runs out of momentum and rolls over, the second move below this level could generate some follow-through and prices could test support at 1357-1341. Similar price points for the S&P 500 would be the potential breakpoint of S&P 500 874.50, which carry risk to print at the support of 861-853.

The S&P 500's substantial support is 852-826, with a focus of 848-839.

The Nasdaq's substantial support is 1352-1326.49 with a focus of 1347-1333.

Cherney is chief market analyst for Standard & Poor's

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