The latest weakness in the US stock market raises a question: Is this the start of a bear market or just a correction in an ongoing bull market? For the moment, there’s a good case for arguing that the latest bout of weakness is of a temporary nature. Why? Long-term momentum, although losing altitude, is still average. The analysis is subject to change, of course, and so the week ahead may be decisive for adjusting our outlook.
For now, the sight of stocks suffering a bout of selling shouldn’t be all that surprising. It was bound to happen. Indeed, US equities have been at or the near the top of the performance horse race for some time. Even after the previous swoon, stocks returned to form after a brief timeout, as I noted back in late-February.
But the bears are back, at least for now. Using a methodology I outlined last week (this time based on crunching the numbers from 1991 onward), short-term price momentum has fallen sharply and is now bumping around at roughly the 20th percentile. Long-term price momentum for the S&P 500, by contrast, is holding up better.
February was the last time we saw a hefty drop in short term price momentum for US stocks. Notably, long-term momentum wavered but never fell convincingly below its average range. That was a sign that the market was in a short-term correction rather than in the early stages of something darker.
Is it different this time? In search of answer, I’ll be looking to see if long term momentum continues to stumble. In that case, equities may face a deeper level of trouble in the months to come.