Traders work on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Stocks are in a troubled period right now, and technical analysts say they look like a short-term retreat.
Strategists say it makes sense if this week’s sell fits the pattern of many pullbacks, 3% to 5% decline.
However, the season of corporate earnings could determine the fate of the sell-off that led the S&P 500 to close at 4,134 on Tuesday, a 1.2% decline from Friday’s record highs.
“This is the quick step down to relieve the overbought nature of the market,” said Scott Redler, chief strategic officer at T3Live.com. It follows the short-term technical data of the market. “A normal pullback can see 3,983 to 4,000 and still be healthy.”
Redler said the 50-day moving average of 3,985 has been a medium level of support since November, and the S&P 500 has not traded more than a session or so below since then.
If the index falls below the 50-day moving average, it could be a sign of negative momentum.
“Last week was frustrating … the S&P was at an all-time high while many of the growth stocks were hit,” Redler said.
He said while it appears the sell-off will be flat, it’s still not clear that it will be.
Strategists said 4,000 could support the S&P 500.
“It’s a refreshing break,” said Ari Wald, head of technical analysis at Oppenheimer.
“It doesn’t change our longer-term outlook that the bull market is still intact. It’s a run of mill consolidation after a run-up in the S&P 500,” he added.
Redler said the sell-offs of high-growth names, including special-purpose acquisitions companies and clean energy stocks, and volatility in cryptocurrencies have been viewed as possible warnings of a wider market decline – but that remains to be seen.
“If that were so, the FAANG names that have been strong for the past two weeks would really be reporting in the next few days,” Redler said.
The first FAANG company to report was Netflix, which posted profits after Tuesday’s close of trading. The stock fell well below the 6.4 million expected after reporting 3.98 million new subscribers.
Other FAANG names – Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook – are reporting next week.
“The next three or four days here will determine whether we go to S&P 4,000 where only the previous outbreak is being tested,” Redler said. He said Netflix could weigh on high-growth technologies.
The market sell-off follows the seasonal pattern expected for trading in April, where the S&P 500 is typically higher but the first half of the month is the stronger period. The index has risen by around 4% so far this month.
“It suddenly got overbought,” said Quincy Krosby, chief marketing strategist at Prudential Financial. “It’s healthy to see the sell-off. Obviously, you’re always worried about a deeper sell-off, but most likely not.”
She said it was a change of tone if shoppers didn’t walk in and buy the dip right away.
“The fact is, we have an overbought market that is going to sell off when we look at some of the metrics we use,” said Krosby. “Then you have recovery concerns. You have Covid concerns. You have vaccines concerns.”
Some of the defensive sectors have done better lately. Utilities are up 0.8% in the last two sessions and more than 9% in the last month. Real estate investment trusts had their best results of the week, up 1.5%.
Consumer Discretionary, Financials and Energy are down more than 2% this week.
Krosby said she was concerned about defensive utilities outperforming but noted that energy companies that will benefit from infrastructure spending are getting higher prices.