Market Preview: Too Quiet
Updated from 7:57 p.m. ET to include commentary on Tuesday's economic data .
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average and its frustrating quest for 13,000 is getting more digital ink, but the bulls are likely paying more attention to the S&P 500 and its inexorable march higher.
So far in 2012, the S&P 500 has finished up nearly 70% of the time on a daily basis, rising in 26 of 38 trading sessions. The index closed at a multi-year high of 1367.59 on Monday, staying at pre-financial crisis levels, and the intraday peak of 1371.94 was a new high for the past year, eclipsing a level last seen in early May 2011.
The big question now is when will investors who have ridden this market up more than 20% since the October lows take some profits? What will the S&P 500 do now that it's coming up against some chart resistance ? Things are just a bit too quiet for comfort at the moment.
Both volume and volatility are low, and the violent swings that dominated market action from August through October are off the menu. Everyone's bullish from Dr. Doom to the Oracle of Omaha, who might do with a reminder from one of his old shareholder letters.
"Investors should remember that excitement and expenses are their enemies," Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.B) faithful back in 2004. "And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful."
The market sentiment right now is up, up and away for equities, i.e. greedy, and that would seem to indicate it might be smart to be at least a little afraid. Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ , had this take on the market's mood on Monday.
"How can a more-than 4% month-to-date (through February 24) advance in the S&P 500, on top of a 4.4% gain in January, cause investors to feel a bit unnerved?" he asked. "Answer: When it comes during a more than a 24% surge off of the October low, with the last 2%+ single-day decline occurring on December 8 and the results for the second-worst month for the market have been anything but."
That about it sums it up. Stovall notes that this February has been the best one for the S&P 500 since 1998, and that overall, the index is off to its strongest beginning since 1991, the year grunge broke. What's more, history seems to indicate more good times ahead in the next few months now that the S&P 500 has wiped out last year's correction.
"Following the conclusion of all corrections since World War II, the S&P 500 advanced an average of 9.8% over the coming 121 days (four months) before experiencing another decline of 5% or more," Stovall wrote, adding later: "So if history should repeat itself, and there's no guarantee it will, even though a minor digestion of recent gains may occur at any time, the S&P 500 could climb to just above 1400 or as high as 1500 in the coming one-to-three plus months before enduring another decline of 5% or more."