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Dow 17,000 is more than just another 'big round number'

Jeff Macke

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) hit yet another record on Wednesday propelled by decent earnings from Apple (AAPL) and Pepsi (PEP). For the year the total return of the S&P is approaching 10%. Since the generational lows of March 2009 the benchmark measure of the stock market has gained more than 200%.

If your first reaction to that reminder is to pitch a fit over what stocks “should” be doing you’re missing the point, and probably the rally as well. "Should" isn’t a concept that carries much weight around Wall Street. The market is about absolutes not intent. The key to getting in front of the tape isn’t figuring out what should happen but determining why a rally is taking place. Only after you’ve done that can you decide whether or not you want to get involved.

In the accompanying clip Clearpool Group’s Peter Kenny says investors are liking what they’re hearing from the companies reporting earnings this month. “The narrative that’s driving investor confidence and the decision making process is earnings,” Kenny tells me. “When you see the geopolitical risk it’s looked at in a very short-term window.”

By short-term Kenny means about one day. That’s how long it took for the stock market to digest the horrific news flow last Thursday when MH17 was shot down and the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated into a hot war. In response the stock market had its first 1% move since April, a drop that was quickly reversed the next day.

Kenny is striving to find the money-making balance between being cognizant of the risks without stuffing all his cash under the mattress then hiding under the bed. One way to do that is through technical levels. Fundamentally the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJIA) staying above 17,000 may not mean much but Kenny says it’s important on a technical basis. Yes, he is making the argument that traders who willfully ignored missiles landing in Tel Aviv will get freaked out by a close of 16,800 on the Dow. While we’re at it a close below 1975 on the S&P 500 would trigger a collective freakout by bulls.

If that seems nuts to you you’ve already forgotten the first rule of trading in 2014: “should” has nothing to do with what is going to happen.