Market Preview: A Rough Patch (Sort of)
Updated from 8 p.m. ET to include information on the after-hours trading session .
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Once again, the resilience of this market is evident even when stocks slide a bit.
The S&P 500 has fallen in the past two sessions. This is just the fourth time this year that the index has strung together consecutive losses, with the longest such stretch coming at the end of January when it finished in the red four days in a row.
On Tuesday, the modest selling was blamed on fears of a slowdown in economic growth in China sparked by comments from a mining company executive. Not exactly a disappointing jobs report. Wednesday's swoon was laid at the feet of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who basically said that Europe isn't out of the woods yet. No surprise there.
All told, the S&P 500 has lost roughly 7 points in the past two days, closing Wednesday at 1403. If that's what passes for a rough patch in 2012, the bulls have to be pretty pleased. The bait was there to cobble together an excuse for a healthy bout of profit-taking and very few traders stepped up and took it.
Or else maybe they got wind of the rather poetic pro-stocks call from Goldman Sachs on Wednesday. The firm made a case for investors to leave bonds behind in favor of equities, dubbing the trade "the long good buy" and a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.
Retail investors though just aren't seeing it. Or at least they weren't a week ago when Mom and Pop continued to pull money out of long-term mutual funds investing in U.S. stocks for a fourth week in a row, despite the major U.S. equity indices conquering all those big, round numbers last week.
According to the Investment Company Institute , funds investing in U.S. stocks saw outflows of $2.88 billion during the week ended March 14. Over the past four weeks, these funds have seen total outflows of $7.65 billion, while funds investing in bonds saw inflows of $42.49 billion.
There's reasons aplenty to be at least a little nervous about getting caught in a downdraft of sudden selling. Top of the list has to be oil prices, which are already starting to weigh on the consumer with the average price of a gallon of gas approaching $4, but aforementioned concerns about China and Europe as well as a sloppy first-quarter earnings season set to start next month could also be the proverbial bad guy that brings this party to an end.
Meantime, S&P Capital IQ raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1450 from 1400 late Wednesday but the firm included a smattering of caveats along with its call, saying that the unseasonably warm weather this winter may have juiced recent economic data and noting that six of the 10 sectors it tracks are expected to post a decline in profits year-over-year in the first quarter. It also broke down the impact of higher oil prices on consumers.