In a year in which stock prices mostly have been driven by news rather than fundamentals, three things stood out last week. First, terrorism has taken on an unsettling new face -- the stay-at-home mom down the street or your long-time co-worker at the plant -- as the dark side of the exponential growth in social media rears its ugly head (with something much more sinister than porn sites or online bullying). Second, with the strong jobs report on Friday, the Federal Reserve seems to have all their ducks in a row to justify the first fed funds rate hike in nine years.

Some weeks when I write this article there is little new to talk about from the prior week. It’s always the Fed, global QE, China growth, election chatter, oil prices, etc. And then there are times like this in which there is so much happening that I don’t know where to start. Of course, the biggest market-moving news came the weekend before last when Paris was put face-to-face with the depths of human depravity and savagery. And yet the stock market responded with its best week of the year.

The Fed’s decision to not raise the fed funds rate at this time was ultimately taken by the market as a no-confidence vote on our economic health, which just added to the fear and uncertainty that was already present. Rather than cheering the decision, market participants took the initial euphoric rally as a selling opportunity, and the proverbial wall of worry grew a bit higher.

The dark veil around China is creating a little too much uncertainty for investors, with the usual fear mongers piling on and sending the vast buy-the-dip crowd running for the sidelines until the smoke clears. Furthermore, Sabrient’s fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings have been flashing near-term defensive signals. The end result is a long overdue capitulation event that has left no market segment unscathed in its mass carnage.

Even with many of the global issues pushed off the front page, eager bulls found yet another reason to keep the troops in the barracks. The only newsworthy items are related to corporate earnings reports, which have been mixed at best, interspersed with the occasional spectacular report -- primarily from mega-caps like Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), or Amazon (AMZN). Some of the bulls have taken their chips off the table until after Labor Day, while others have merely scaled back to scalping some trades. Either way, stocks appear destined to thrash about for the rest of the summer.

We all know the big news stories that have kept both corporate leaders and investors in a semi-state of paralysis. They involve the future of Greece in the Eurozone, China’s growth and stock market stability, and the Federal Reserve’s plan for gradually normalizing the fed funds rate. I noted in my article last week that the technical picture appeared to be firming up for the bulls as the 200-day moving average kicked in with solid support and traders seemed to be doing an orderly retreat-and-retrench rather than panic-selling.

Of course, all eyes have been on Greece in an ongoing saga that, although critical to the Greeks, is mostly just an annoying distraction for global investors -- partly because it has been going on for so many years, with the proverbial can of inevitability continually being kicked down the road, and partly because there can be no winners in this intractable situation.

Two weeks ago, bulls seemed ready to push stocks higher as long-standing support reliably kicked in. But with just one full week to go before the Independence Day holiday week arrives, we will see if bulls can muster some reinforcements and make another run at the May highs. Small caps and NASDAQ are already there, but it is questionable whether those segments can drag along the broader market. To be sure, there is plenty of potential fuel floating around in the form of a friendly Fed and abundant global liquidity seeking the safety and strength of US stocks and bonds.

After a brief pullback to retest support levels, it appears that bulls may be preparing to take the market higher. Although retail investors are still hesitant, risk-taking among institutions is apparent. Cheap cash from abundant global liquidity is hungry for higher returns. Margin debt is high. Credit spreads are low. Subprime loans are back in vogue. Small caps and the banking sector in particular look ready to resume a leadership role.

Early last week, stocks broke out, with the S&P 500 setting a new high with blue skies overhead. But then the market basically flat-lined for the rest of the week as bulls just couldn’t gather the fuel and conviction to take prices higher. In fact, the technical picture now has turned a bit defensive, at least for the short term, thus joining what has been a neutral-to-defensive tilt to our fundamentals-based Outlook rankings.

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