Only Sentiment Holding Back Bulls

The markets begin a new week with a huge stream of earnings on tap including Intel, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The European Central Bank is scheduled to meet and there are a number of important economic releases with inflation being front and center. On Friday, it’s April options expiration.

The major indices look neutral to positive as the S&P 400 and Russell 2000 are a whisker away from all-time highs while the S&P 500, NASDAQ 100 and Dow are in the middle of their ranges, but still looking good. New highs should be seen across the board before long.

Stock market internals continue to show strength which should insulate the market from anything more than a single digit pullback. Sentiment on the other hand is stubbornly optimistic and that’s the only short-term concern now which could lead to a pullback. I do like the famed investor Mohamed El Erian publicly spoke about being all in cash and that the Wall Street Journal and USA Today both ran stories about the first earnings decline since 2009. But we still need to see more improvement from the overly bullish options traders and sentiment surveys before another big leg higher can launch.

On the sector front, consumer discretionary and its sub sectors, retail and housing, remain market leaders. Once again, the banks are at the top end of their range and will try to break out. However, over the past year, attempted breakouts have selling opportunities as the bears successfully rejected attempt.

While treasury bonds are stuck in neutral with a lower bias, high yield bonds look constructive and that bodes well for the economy and stocks over the intermediate-term.

Finally, I am going to be on Fox Business’ Making Money with Charles Payne on April 14 from 6-7 pm as well as on CNBC’s Closing Bell at 3 pm on April 16.

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Homestretch

This is it. Three more trading days and 2014 will be in the books as they say. Just 8 trading days ago, the bears were beating their chests yet again about how the bull market ended or the stock market was in 10%+ correction or a whole host of other nonsense. I wrote it right at the October bottom and I did the same thing 8 days ago; the bull market is old yet alive and weakness should be bought right away. Don’t count out Ole Saint Nick! If you followed that advice you were instantly gratified.

Dow Industrials – All time highs

S&P 500 – All time highs

S&P 400 – All time highs

Russell 2000 – All time highs

Reread that last one. Russell 2000 all time highs. The index that was left for dead by all the bears. Where are all those naysayers now? Awfully silent!

The only major index still waiting to celebrate the New Year at a fresh high is the Nasdaq 100. The odds do favor this laggard stepping up over the coming weeks to join its cousins.

Year after year, I have written about the many crosscurrents this time of year to go along with some very powerful trends. Are they perfect? Not even close. Do they win 9 out of 10 years? Nope. But they do provide a much better than average result when followed properly.

Interestingly and uncharacteristically, we don’t really have a standout leader index since the December bottom. All of the major indices have basically seen returns in the same range, something I do not expect to continue. I am sure you are now wondering if I think everything is hunky dory and we should just mortgage the house and go all in to stocks. Absolutely not. The time to do that was in October or last January or many other short-term bouts of weakness since 2012.

As I wrote about over and over and over during the fourth quarter, it is beyond unusual to see a major peak late in the year, especially during an uptrend. There is little impetus to sell. And let’s not forget about the pension and mutual fund managers trailing their benchmark and in dire need to pay performance catch up.

But the calendar is turning this week and I do see some minor market cracks that need to be fixed. I don’t like that over the past three days stocks lost momentum during the afternoon and closed in the lower end of the daily range. I also want to see the high yield bond market regain its footing in the face of volatile energy prices.

This won’t be the last time I write this next comment. 2014 was hard to lose a lot of money and it was a tough year to make a lot of money. I don’t think we have the same landscape in 2015. Things are about to get really interesting…

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Dow 18,000 Next as Twitter, Investors, Advisors and Media Root for Bears

Small Caps Play Catch Up in BIG Way

When we last left off, the major stock market indices were all playing nicely together except for the small cap Russell 2000 which had seen a full fledged 10% correction, but was beginning to bounce. The performance of that one index was a key ingredient to the bears’ negative stance on the market. At that time, here and on the blog, I dismissed the Russell’s warning and went so far as to call for all time highs before long.

On the first day of the new month and quarter, the Russell 2000 joined the S&P 500, S&P 400, Nasdaq 100 and Dow to score fresh all time highs. At the same time, the New York Stock Exchange Advance/Decline Line, which is a barometer of health on the NYSE also saw a new all time high along with many other sectors and indicators. This continues to be intermediate and long-term positive for the bull market.

More shorter-term, the market can best be described as grinding or creeping higher day after day. When you are on the correct side, there is nothing better. This kind of market has been seen many times since 2009 but rarely before that. The most common ending is a sharp and fast decline that wipes out a lot of gains in short order but does not end the bull market. At some point that scenario will become more likely.

The Market People Love to Hate

Remember, as I have now said for two years, this bull market may be old and wrinkly, but certainly not unhealthy or about to die. It continues to be the most unloved and disavowed bull market of my lifetime. Instead of friends asking me for the latest or greatest “hot” tip which I would expect at Dow 17,000, I am frequently pushed to opine as to when this all ends or when the big correction is coming.

And it’s not just individual investors. On a daily basis I speak with other advisors as well as the media. It really surprises me how many peers have been negative, are negative and will be negative. This is a market where people in my industry should be raising lots of money. Markets have been “easy”, meaning there has not been any significant downside since June 2012.

I think it’s very hard to run an investment management business being a perma-bear or holding on to the belief that although stocks have rallied, they remain in a secular (long-term) bear market that began in 2000 with the Dow at 11,750. That’s crazy in my humble opinion.

On the media side, they may have finally realized that I have a better face for radio than TV, but it certainly feels like they are not as interested in my bullish stance anymore now that the market has rallied. I have lost several opportunities lately because my opinion wasn’t bearish or I wouldn’t forecast some kind of doom (my word) on the horizon.

You can accuse the Fed of manipulation or supporting the market or anything you want. But the reality is that this has been one of the most powerful bull markets of all time. From my seat, as long as investors ask questions about the downside, advisors are bearish, the media only wants to sell negativity and my Twitter feed is full of bears, the bull market will live on.

How It Usually Ends

Yes, the market is 33 months from its last 10% correction and some surveys show complacency, but bull markets do not usually end with a whimper. There are typically many warning signs long before the bear comes out of its cave. Today, we have almost none. Additionally, the market historically sees a 10% correction where the end of the bull market is claimed by the masses, only to see yet another rally to new highs take shape. We haven’t even seen the correction yet. And before the 10% correction, there should be a modest 2-4% pullback.

Don’t get me wrong. Investors need to remain vigilant and active and on top of their holdings. Or hire someone like me to do it! (Shameless plug) Throwing caution to the wind and taking a “get me in at any price” mentality will likely end in ruin. Eventually, stocks will pullback, probably sooner than later, and finally correct 10% or more. But as I have been saying for years, any and all weakness remains a buying opportunity until proven otherwise. These kinds of markets are rare and should be fun. It’s too bad that so many can only see negativity.

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Squawk Box on Monday @ 6:30 am EDT

I am really excited and looking forward to being with Joe, Becky and Andrew on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Monday the 2nd @ 6:30am discussing the stock market’s latest surge on negative news. It should be a spirited discussion!

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