End of Day Update
Stocks plunged on a double dose of international headlines. The S&P500 gave up more than 1%, making this the biggest selloff in multiple months. In spite of anxious selling, we are still above 1,950 support and curiously, the volume was the lowest we’ve seen in three days.
Clearly this was a sell first, ask questions later kind of day, but the relatively light volume is noteworthy for such an outsized move. There are two ways to interpret this. Either there are still a lot of hopeful owners left to drive out of the market, or alternately, most owners are not interested in selling these headlines and today’s move was driven by a small minority impulsively reacting to headlines.
As for the individual headlines, anyone paying attention over the last few years knows there are periodic flare-ups between Israel and the Palestinians and tensions have been coming to a head in recent days. This shouldn’t be a big surprise and it is unlikely to lead to a material disruption in the US economy or earnings for US listed equities. While these stories are never pleasant, we’ve been here before and few people will change their economic forecast based on these events. That means this headline is largely a non-issue for US markets.
What happened in Ukraine is quite a bit different. Shooting down a civilian airliner is anything but routine and it clearly escalates the tension between the East and West. While many feel this will deteriorate the already fragile situation, I’ll take the other side. This tragedy could actually defuse things. If it turns out Russia or Pro-Russian separatists were involved, that creates an indefensible position for Putin and he will have little choice but to dial back his rhetoric. This was an appalling act and there is no way he can defend the people who pulled the trigger, killing nearly 300 innocent people. Putin could very well distance himself from the separatists following this cowardly act and without their major ally, their resistance will likely fizzle.
But even if tensions remain elevated in Ukraine, the market came to terms with these risks months ago when the situation first developed. Honestly I think we should be more fearful of what is going on in Iraq than who fired the missile today. If the market doesn’t care about what is happening in Iraq, then this Ukraine story won’t matter in a couple of days either.
While these clouds will likely pass once most traders realize they will have limited impact on corporate earnings, we could see near-term weakness as traders continue selling before thinking. But given how quickly the market blew off more serious headlines out of Iraq and Portugal, I doubt today’s weakness will last more than a couple of days and this creates yet another buying opportunity.
The market has largely been ignoring escalating geopolitical risks. At some point hoping for the best will no longer work and we could be in the middle of that if the situation Israel and Ukraine continues to deteriorate.
Support lies back at 1,950. While we might dip under this key level if selling continues early Friday, closing above it is supportive of this market. It tells us the wave of reactive selling has stalled and we likely have another buyable dip on our hands. But if we slice through 1,950 and keep going, all bets are off and a test of 1,920 support seems likely.
Plan your trade; trade your plan
Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and writer who has successfully traded stocks and options for more than a decade. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA and M.S. Marketing from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes manufacturing engineering at Fortune 500 companies, structural engineering, small business consultant, collegiate instructor, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two young children.