Bill Schmick | @theMarket: The market's line in the sand

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Over the last two weeks, as Americans returned to work, the stock market climbed rapidly. It has now reached, and breached, an important historical technical indicator. If it can remain above it, investors will begin to believe that the worst is over.

The S&P 500 Index, as opposed to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is what most professionals consider the benchmark index. This week, buyers pushed that index above the 3,000 level for the first time since the pandemic caused the markets to crash back in March. Why is that important?

That is the level that coincides with what is called the Two Hundred Day Moving Average (200 DMA). The 200 DMA is where investors historically draw a line in the sand. It is considered a long-term indicator of the health of the stock market. The indicator appears as a line on a chart of stock prices. It moves higher and lower along with the longer-term price movements of the financial instrument it follows; in this case, the S&P 500.

As long as the index is above the 200 DMA, stocks are considered to be in a long-term uptrend. If that sounds a bit like voodoo, so be it, but that little line has proved to provide uncanny support for stocks time and time again. Below the 200 DMA (where we have been for the last few months), technicians and chartists would say that markets are still in a down trend.

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Now, remember, this is far more of an art than a science. Sure, this week we have closed above the 3,000 level two days in a row. That is a good sign, but I would feel more confident if we remained above that level for a few more days. Friday should give us a good test case of the market's willingness to remain above the line, thanks to President Donald Trump.

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I gave readers a heads-up last week on the concerns I have over the president's ploy to switch the market's (and the nation's) attention from the pandemic to blaming China for almost everything, including his own failures. In a classic Trump tactic, he is pointing his finger at the Chinese for reneging on the trade deal, for starting the pandemic, for changing the rules of the game in Hong Kong and, if we wait long enough, who knows what he will come up with.

That is not to say that the Chinese are blameless, because they are not. My beef is that Trump's timing is off.

The problem with China is that its leadership has shown in the past that it neither bluffs easy, nor gives in to threats, especially where it perceives its national interest is threatened. If Trump wants to go down the road of sanctions, trade duties, etc., so will the Chinese. Ask yourself, "Do we really need another potential trade embargo, or another disruption in supply chains on top of what our economy and workforce are already grappling with?"

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Up until now, investors have focused almost entirely on the pandemic, the economy and its aftermath. The consensus seems to be that, barring another resurgence of the virus, the economy and the markets have weathered the worst and things are looking up.

Enter Donald Trump, stage left, and his new beef with China. Depending on the outcome, which will, hopefully, be revealed sometime later today at his news conference, investors will either run for the hills, or stay put. Readers will know the verdict by simply watching the 200 DMA.

Bill Schmick is now the "Retired Investor." After working in the financial services business for over 40 years, Bill is paring back and focusing exclusively on writing about the financial markets, the needs of retired investors like himself and how to make the last 30 years of your life your absolute best. You can reach him at billiams1948@gmail.com or leave a message at 413-347-2401.


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