Thursday, March 8, 2007

One for the Bulls

Thursday will look like a fairly positive day on paper, but without the assistance of a daily chart, one would never know what really happened. The markets generally behaved just as the Dow did, gapping higher at the open then settling into a narrow 30-40 point range before selling off on heavy volume in the last 1 1/2 hours.

It appeared to be organized buying by the brokerages without much outside interest.

The upside trade was more pronounced on the NYSE than on the NASDAQ, where advancers beat decliners by a 3-1 margin. On the NASDAQ it was only 3-2. Still, the numbers look fairly solid all around. New highs outnumbered new lows 177-104.

Any hesitancy was likely attributable to tomorrow's much-anticipated monthly non-farm employment data for February. Investors stood pat rather than placing serious bets. With tomorrow being the end of the week, traders may not be ready to jump into what's still a troubled scenario. The wounds from last Tuesday's near-meltdown are still fresh.

Dow 12,260.70 +68.25; NASDAQ 2,387.73 +13.09; S&P 500 1,401.89 +9.92; NYSE Composite 9078.65 +79.45

It's worth remembering that today's higher close was only the third in the last 12 sessions. That little nugget is still firmly planted in the back of many a trader's brain. The markets will need a number of consecutive trading days or a test of resistance around the 12,350 range or both before confidence is restored.

With no support in this range, the next congestion point is likely to be around 11,450-11,500, which is why anyone with an eye for charts is a little worried. There's no support between here and there.

The good news for US equities is that foreign markets were also higher on the day. The bad news is that everybody would like to play follow the leader, but haven't yet determined who's leading.

Oil, gold and silver barely budged, though oil was slightly lower while the metals were up, an encouraging sign.

Tomorrow will be important not only for the labor news but whether the markets can string two winning days together.

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