The S&P 500 index has traded in a narrow range for the past month, fluctuating between resistance at its 100-day moving average and support at its 200-day moving average, unable to establish any clear direction. The failure of stocks to push higher can be traced to a variety of concerns, including rising interest rates, trade tensions and signs of slowing global growth. At the same time, a strong first quarter earnings season has kept stocks from falling below their longer-term trend. The net result has been directionless trading, in search of a catalyst to break the stalemate.
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Stocks once again succumbed to the rising trade tension between the U.S. and China, as the S&P 500 index fell 1.4 percent last week, with equal parts of the selling pressure coming at the start and at the end of the week on Monday and Friday. It was the third weekly decline in the last four, and leaves the index lower on the year by 2.6 percent. From its January 26 peak, the index is now lower by 9.3 percent. The good news is that the uptrend remains intact, as the index closed on Friday at 2604, just above its 200-day moving average at 2593, after having tested it several times during the week. Nevertheless, not even some soothing comments on Friday from Fed Chair Powell regarding the pace of rate hikes were enough to shift the focus away from trade.