It's the last day of February. The market bulls could have added a little window dressing to make their case, but, instead, stocks vacillated from the open until just before noon, with losses mounting through the afternoon and into the close.
Not only is this an end of month Monday, but it is also the start of "jobs week," wherein all eyes will be peeled open in anticipation of Friday's non-farm payroll report for February. The structure of the market and the charts suggest that the rally of the prior two weeks has not only stalled out, but lost its bearings, since oil was markedly higher on the day. Stocks did not follow.
The problem with the oil/stocks pairing is that they are not and should not be aligned. Lower oil prices, have, over time, proven to be a boost for economies, but not necessarily the stock market. In reality, lower oil and distillate prices should be an overall boon for businesses, lowering a variable cost, thus potentially boosting profits. With the massive, global oversupply of crude that exists presently, the natural price of oil should be closer to $20 per barrel than $30.
Since the oil/stocks dichotomy is likely a false paradigm, the decoupling exposes the rigged market for what it really is: front-running algos, insider trading, forced trades at stops, short-covering rallies on vaporish volume and insidious surprise rebounds off questionable low points.
That's what makes today's slide all the more concerning. Perhaps the masks are coming off and the knives are coming out. We are undoubtably at the beginning of a secular bear market, with the long-toothed bull dying back in May of 2015. It's been downhill - with assorted fits and starts - since then, and markets are still in a search for the bottom.
Perhaps a one-off isn't enough to convince the bulls that the party is over. Stocks may well resume their rally as the week continues. As noted in Money Daily's weekend recap, the rally should have legs through the FOMC meeting before capitulation commences. However, it won't be the first time to be proven wrong, and surely not the last.
S&P 500: 1,932.23, -15.82 (0.81%)
Dow: 16,516.50, -123.47 (0.74%)
NASDAQ: 4,557.95, -32.52 (0.71%)
Crude Oil 33.89 +3.39% Gold 1,239.30 +1.55% EUR/USD 1.0877 -0.50% 10-Yr Bond 1.74 -1.25% Corn 357.25 -0.63% Copper 2.13 +0.19% Silver 14.94 +1.50% Natural Gas 1.71 -4.63% Russell 2000 1,033.90 -0.32% VIX 20.55 +3.74% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.3919 +0.41% USD/JPY 112.7050 -0.88%