On Thursday the S&P 500 finished modestly lower after drifting sideways for most of the day. Headlines continue to be negative for Trump, but as expected, the market doesn’t care.
This is what I wrote Tuesday after the market initially dipped following Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and accusations against Trump:
I don’t expect the market to overreact to these Cohen headlines because anyone who was paying attention saw this coming a mile away. Remember, we fear what we don’t know, not what everyone else is talking about. There are real risks lurking out there, but this is not one of them.
The market is a little more vulnerable to these headlines simply because we are at the upper end of the trading range and a cool down was inevitable. If it wasn’t these headlines, it would have been something else. We are still stuck in the slower summer months and we won’t have the firepower to push a large directional move until institutional money managers return from their summer cottages. Until then we should expect these smaller directional moves to fizzle at the edges of the trading range or one reason or another.
The growing Trump scandal isn’t dampening the market’s mood and traders are not concerned about recent developments. These events first came out months ago and if prices were going to tumble, they would have done so back then. The fact we didn’t sell off initially tells us we don’t need to worry about these headlines today. If the market doesn’t care, then neither should we. The market’s benign reaction the last two days confirms that outlook.
It’s been a while since Turkey and trade wars made the headlines and our “no news is good news” market continues hovering near all-time highs. While confident owners have zero interest in selling the news, it is harder to convince those with cash to buy these highs and is why the gains have stalled. We are at the tail end of the slow summer season and it will be a few more weeks before we start seeing more meaningful buying.
Many money managers are underweight stocks because they sold defensively earlier in the year. These managers have been desperately waiting for a pullback so they could jump back in. Unfortunately, the market is not cooperating and this latest round of gains is pressuring them to chase prices higher. Once they give up waiting for the pullback, they are going to be forced to bite the bullet and buy stocks at all-time highs. The breakout is not imminent, but it is coming.
Even though the market is acting well, we are still vulnerable to near-term volatility. Risk is a function of height and it would be normal, even routine for the market to dip modestly here. Prices are responding well to these Trump headlines. That means we are more likely to go higher than lower, but the risks of a small dip are always there. As long as we know what to expect, we are less likely to overreact to a modest bump in the road.
At this point, any dip is a buying opportunity, not an excuse to sell stocks. Remember, we take profits by selling strength, not weakness. If someone is not sure they can sit through a small dip, they should take profits now. Otherwise, there is nothing to do other than patiently watch the profits pile up.
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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.