Stocks are testing the top of this summer’s range, an important level of resistance that could help determine the duration of the rally. The S & P 500 rose above the key 4,177 level Monday but was trading below it in the afternoon. That level was the high the index touched on June 2. “It’s kind of the most glaring level on the chart, and it was kind of where it peaked right before the June CPI print for May came out, which catalyzed the final leg lower in the washout for the market,” said Ari Wald, technical analyst at Oppenheimer. The S & P 500 hit a low of 3,636 on June 17 before heading higher. Wald noted the Nasdaq 100, which is represented by the Invesco QQQ Trust ETF, has already traded above its June high. “Whenever you revisit a prior high, it’s always important to see if sellers come back in there, or whether it pushes the door open for higher prices. I think it was important the S & P cash held the 8-day [moving average] which was 4,107 Friday,” said Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com. He said that move helped propel stocks early Monday because “there were a lot of people who are short and offsides.” But the market gave up early gains and was mixed in afternoon trading Monday. The S & P 500 was just about flat at 4,143. Redler said that while the S & P 500’s initial run at the June high got rejected, he expects it may make another move after Wednesday’s release of the consumer price index — if it’s in line with expectations or a bit softer. “The first time you see an important level, it often does get rejected,” he said. The CPI is expected to have risen by 8.7% in July, according to Dow Jones, a slight cooldown from June’s 9.1% surge. “It’s very key. If we got a hot CPI report, then I would think the market would retreat pretty fast,” said Redler. If the S & P trades above and holds the 4,177 to 4,180 level, there could be another test pretty quickly at around the 4,220 mark — a resistance level that was also an area of congestion in February. Wald said that, for him, the next big important level would be around 4,300. The 200-day moving average currently is at 4,336, and he expects that may prove to be a big zone of resistance. The 200-day moving average is simply an average of the past 200 closing levels on an index or a stock. If the index is below it, it is considered in a downtrend. The strategist expects that the market has already hit a bottom in June but that it could be choppy and head lower in the September-October period before heading higher into year-end. “For those more tactically oriented, we’re loosely saying to reduce around 4,300 and buy back at the 50-day moving average,” Wald said. That’s currently at 3,945 but could be at 4,000 by the time the index moves up toward the 200-day. Wald said he is also watching for capitulation by the bears. He expects the market to “break away” in the fourth quarter. BTIG technician Jonathan Krinsky is watching 4,177 and sees the market hitting a major resistance level once it reaches 4,200. “We must acknowledge that a close above 4,231 (50% retracement) would be a huge hit to the bear case,” he said in a note. He added that since 1950 there has never been a bear market rally that surpassed the 50% retracement and then went on to make new cycle lows. “To be clear, a close over 4231 would not mean we instantly flip bullish and buy everything as there are still many negative divergences and overbought conditions,” Krinsky added.
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