The stock market is back at new highs, but champagne corks aren’t popping on trading desks

Trader Talk

The markets are at new highs, so why does it feel like August?

The large beats on earnings from companies as diverse as Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, Pulte and Whirlpool are propelling the S&P 500 to a new high. In addition to earnings well above expectations, we see China bottoming, Europe at least showing some signs of stability, and the Fed remains accomodative.

Doesn’t get much better than that. So what’s next?

We have earnings reports from Banks (fair) and Industrials (better than expected) and a smattering of consumer names like Kimberly Clark and Procter & Gamble (also better than expected). To keep the momentum going, we need to hear from Technology, Energy, and especially Health Care, which has suddenly become the problem child for the markets.

Good news after Tuesday’s close: Texas Instruments, one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies, reported earnings above expectations and provided guidance for the second quarter that was roughly inline with expectations.

This is all good news, but if you think Wall Street is celebrating, try calling around on a trading desk: you won’t hear any champagne corks popping.

“It’s not just today, it’s been dead for weeks,” one sell-side trader told me. “It’s the opposite of euphoria.”

This is an age-old Wall Street complaint: stock traders do not view a new high as really valid unless there is some serious action — some serious volume, some serious volatility, some kind of, well, serious hoopla.

And that is what is missing from the rally.


1) With the S&P 500 sitting an historic high, there are only 13 stocks in the S&P 500 at new highs. The market is being pushed up by a small group of super-performers–so traders believe the rally needs to broaden out.

2) No one is scrambling to buy stocks: volume has been abysmal since the end of March.

3) No one is panicking either: the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is sitting near the lowest levels of the year. No one seems particularly worried that the market may drop suddenly.

The lack of euphoria or its opposite — the lack of worry — is one reason many traders are enthusiastic about the near-term future. It means many are still sitting on the sidelines, and they may now be dragged into the markets after seeing the new high headlines.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *