A Tough Road Higher for the Nasdaq
By Mark Arbeter
Some buying late last week propelled the Nasdaq to a minor breakout, as the index played catch-up with its blue chip counterparts. The Nasdaq is attempting to move back into the trading range that existed earlier in the year, but in our opinion, faces some major hurdles just overhead.
The technology-heavy index bounced back above its 50-day exponential moving average, after trading below this key moving average since the beginning of July. Trading volume on Thursday, Sept. 9, was the heaviest the Nasdaq has posted since Aug. 11 and was well above its 50-day average, however volume was not that impressive relative to its 100-day average. The low trading volume in August brought the 50-day average down to 1.48 billion from around 1.7 billion in July.
The resistance overhead could be formidable in our opinion, with heavy chart resistance beginning in the 1,900 area and running all the way up to 2,150. A 50% retracement of the decline from the end of June until the recent low in mid-August also lies at 1,900 and a 50% retracement of the total decline since Jan. 26 comes in at 1,953. The 200-day exponential moving average is at 1,905 and the 200-day simple moving average is up at 1,968. Trendline resistance, drawn off the peaks in January, April, and June is up near 1,925.
Historically, major market bottoms are accompanied by both robust price and volume action. As we have said, volume for the most part has been below average during the current advance. The strength of the rally when focusing on price has also lacked real intensity. For instance, during the early stages of the March, 2003, rally, price momentum indicators quickly moved to extreme overbought readings. The 6-day relative strength index (RSI) jumped to over 80 while the 14-day RSI moved to 68. During the latest advance, the 6-day RSI on the Nasdaq moved to only 71 and the 14-day has only hit a high of 56. At the early stages of a potential, enduring advance, overbought readings are actually positive, and give clues to the potential durability of a rally.
The S&P 500 continues to trade in a wide area of chart resistance that runs from 1,090 up to 1,160. The index is currently in a very thick zone of chart resistance within this wider band, and that runs from 1,120 to 1,140. In our opinion, the chart pattern of the "500" remains more technically appealing than the Nasdaq, but the "500" continues to be in a formation of lower highs and lower lows, the basic definition of an intermediate-term downtrend. The index faces important trendline resistance up near 1,135. This trendline is drawn off the peaks in March and June, and has represented a ceiling for the S&P 500. The price peak in June of 1,144 also represents a key resistance zone for the index.
The "500"s daily chart has pushed some of its momentum indicators to minor overbought condition, but they are still lower than the rallies from this year and well below levels posted following major market lows. As we have commented recently, the breadth of the latest advance has been much stronger on the NYSE than the Nasdaq.
The NYSE advance/decline line remains in new recovery high territory, while the Nasdaq A/D line continues to trace out lower lows and lower highs, despite the recent strength. Along with these breadth statistics, the A/D line of the up/down volume has improved quite a bit, basically traveling sideways over the last four months while the A/D line of the Nasdaq's up/down volume continues to trace out a clear pattern of lower peaks and lower troughs.
Crude oil prices have pulled back fairly sharply, and have held at important support. The previous peak for oil back in early June was right around the $42 level. A 50% retracement of the latest advance also targeted the $42 area. Intermediate-term chart support lies just below the $40 level. With the recent pullback, the market has moved to an oversold condition on the daily charts. However, we suspect that the crude oil market will need to do some more backing and filling before the next strong rally will take place. The intermediate-and long-term trend of the oil market, in our opinion, is higher, and it will be interesting to see how the market deals with $50-plus crude, if that day comes.
The bond market looks toppy to us after a pretty large move since mid-June. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note has moved into an area of strong chart resistance between 3.9% and 4.25%. In addition, there is heavy trendline resistance in the 3.9% to 4% zone. A close above 4.4% would most likely indicate a trend change for bonds.
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Arbeter, a chartered market techniciam, is chief technical analyst for Standard & Poor's