Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bent But Didn't Break Today - More Downside Coming?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day almost exactly flat and the S&P 500 had a minor loss of about 0.34%. Under the surface, there was some extremely poor action, particularly in momentum names. Every one of the stocks on the Investor's Business Daily's IBD 50 was in the red, small caps underperformed badly and oil and commodities were pummeled.

Investors found some safe havens in names like WMT, AA and INTC, but if you were carrying stocks that have been leaders recently, you most likely were hit hard today. Breadth was a little worse than 2 to 1 negative but felt much worse. Volume picked up, providing some technical distribution.

Days like this can be quite challenging because on the one hand, the technical pictures of the S&P 500 and the Dow are still quite good. There doesn't seem to be any need to rush for the exits. On the other hand, your chances of suffering severe losses on individual stocks are quite high if you own anything other than some big-cap defensive names. The high beta, momentum names were slammed, and that is not the sign of a healthy market.

Anyone just casually glancing at the Dow is going to seriously misunderstand what happened in the market today. Unfortunately, it was much worse than it looked and that may produce selling pressure as more market players come to the realization that many key stocks are breaking down.

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