Why Can't The Dow Close Above 16,000?
So, why can't the Dow Jones Industrial Average hold above 16,000? Or the Standard & Poor's 500 Index close above 1,800 or the Nasdaq Composite Index move smartly above 4,000?
The short answer on Wednesday was that the Federal Reserve got in the way. But there's a longer-term answer. Whenever the market reaches an important number milestone, it takes investors some time to believe there's a reason to bid stock prices above an important milestone like a 1,000-point.
And sometimes they don't see the point, and stocks tumble.
So, the situation with the U.S. stock market is this: The Dow crossed 16,000 for the first time on Monday, but couldn't hold that level through the close. It crossed 16,000 on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. But, again, it couldn't hold the level. The S&P 500 crossed 1,800 for the first time ever on Monday, but, like the Dow, it couldn't stay above this new high.
Wednesday's pullback was mostly because of the minutes of the Fed's October 29-30 meeting, released in the afternoon. The minutes suggested the central bank could taper its $85-billion-a-month bond buying program even if the jobs data -- the key indicator the Fed is watching -- says jobs are still weak.
The Dow closed down 66 points to 15,901. The S&P 500 fell nearly seven points to 1,781. The Nasdaq dropped 10 points to 3,921.
Traders in the stock market are afraid that tapering means interest rates are headed higher, even if Fed officials insist they aren't. Wednesday, in fact, the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.792 percent from 2.712 percent on Tuesday and 2.709 percent on Friday.
The 2.792 percent yield isn't a new high. That came on September 5, when it reached 2.98 percent. But the market's reaction to the Fed minutes displayed the fears clearly. The Dow fell as many as nearly 102 points before stabilizing.
That said, there is still the other question to consider: What about the fact that the Dow and S&P 500 don't seem able to push above 16,000 and 1,800, respectively?
It happens. It happened in February. The Dow closed at 14,009.79 on February 1. It fell back the next day and did not finish above 14,000 again until February 12. It had short stays above 14,000 until February 27, when it surged and set it itself up to close above 15,000.
It's a consolidation phenomenon. You sell winners and buy laggards until they move up. And then the whole market moves.
Unless something else is going on, like a market top.
Market tops start quietly. The indexes reach what looks like a plateau, tread water and then fall. You can see such phenomena in the 2000 top and the 2007 top. The Dow has fallen for two straight days. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have fallen for three days in a row.
Many many people believe the market is too expensive and close to a bubble if not in a bubble. And a bubble, they say, must pop.
Maybe. Remember: The Fed wants businesses and individuals to invest, arguing that new investments mean new jobs. It doesn't want to upset the recovery. So, we'll see.
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