Market Watch: Is the S&P 500 Overdue for a Pullback?

TipsForTraders | March 11, 2024

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The Stock Market’s Surge: Navigating the Wave of Optimism and Caution

The remarkable ascent of the stock market, notably the S&P 500, has captivated investors and analysts alike, with the index soaring 25% from its October 2023 nadir. This surge has not only rewarded the bullish but also silenced the skeptics predicting a downturn. However, the rapid rise is now drawing a cautious eye from market technicians, suggesting a potential overextension that could signal a forthcoming buying opportunity.

Market technicians, experts in analyzing market trends and charts, express growing concern over the S&P 500’s current trajectory. The index now stands 12% above its 200-day moving average, a notable increase from the 9% premium observed at the beginning of 2022, which preceded a significant market correction. John Roque, the head of technical strategy at 22V Research, highlights the index’s “stretched” condition, suggesting that a corrective phase is not just possible but likely.

Despite the index’s record high in the previous week, signs of momentum waning are becoming apparent, with the S&P 500 showing little movement and experiencing dips without clear triggers. Market observers, like Katie Stockton of Fairlead Strategies, point to “upside exhaustion,” suggesting that investors are increasingly opting to secure profits from the recent rally.

Historically, betting against the market’s upward momentum has proved futile, with the S&P 500 marking 16 new highs since November 1st. Even so, the calm indicated by the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX), which remains below its long-term average, does not negate the growing likelihood of a correction, as observed by market analysts like Craig Johnson of Piper Sandler. The market’s internal weakening and overbought conditions call for a “reality check,” he suggests, rather than a bearish outlook.

Technicians anticipate any correction to be mild, pointing to the resilience of the market in recent months. Yet, should the S&P 500’s 20-day moving average begin to decline, it would signal an acceleration in selling pressure, warranting closer attention to potential support levels for the index. The first critical support is projected around 4800, with a further drop potentially signaling a more significant buying opportunity, especially if the index approaches 4600.

In light of current market conditions, investors might consider diversifying into small-capitalization stocks. The S&P 500’s valuation, at 3.9 times that of the S&P Small Cap 600, suggests potential for small-cap outperformance in the coming year. Historical data supports this view, with small-caps showing significant gains following periods of comparative undervaluation.


As the stock market navigates through a phase of optimism and elevated valuations, the voice of caution from market technicians serves as a critical reminder for investors. The anticipation of a mild correction presents not a deterrent but a strategic opportunity for portfolio adjustment and diversification. With small-cap stocks positioned for potential relative gains, investors have a compelling case for considering broader market participation beyond the headline indices. Ultimately, the key to navigating the current market landscape lies in balanced optimism, informed caution, and strategic diversification.