U.S. markets settled mixed as the choppy trading throughout the week continues to back-and-fill last week’s gains. News that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, caused some of the nervousness.

The Dow gained 0.5% after trading to a high of 25,053 but was unable to hold the 25,000 level for a second-straight session.

The S&P 500 slipped 2 points, or 0.1%, after testing a low of 2,741 while closing below its 50-day moving average for the first time in four sessions.

The Nasdaq made a run to 7,525 before declining 0.2% while closing below the 7,500 level for the second-straight session.

The Russell 2000 was the weakest link after falling 0.5% and tapping a low of 1,572. However, the index is still 1% above its 50-day moving average that remains in an nice uptrend.

Industrials rose 0.3% and Tech added 0.1% to lead sector strength. Materials sank 1.3% while Consumer Staples and Energy stumbled 0.8% and 0.5% to pace sector laggards.

Global Economy – European markets closed higher across the board following upbeat comments from the European Central Bank. Germany’s DAX 30 rallied 0.9% and France’s CAC 40 rose 0.7%. The Belgium20 advanced 0.6% while
the Stoxx Europe 600 climbed 0.5%. UK’s FTSE 100 added 0.1%.

ECB Governing Council member Villeroy de Galhau said that the ECB sees a welcome alignment of stars against a background of robust recovery across Europe and gradual progress on inflation, although any escalation in protectionism would be a real risk to the global economy.

EU February new car registrations rose 4.3% year-over-year to 1,125,397 million units and year-to-date are up 5.8% to 2,378,965.

Asian markets closed mostly higher following opening weakness as interest in cheap buying opportunities started to push back concerns over trade protectionism.

South Korea’s Kospi and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng were higher by 0.3% and Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.1%. China’s Shanghai added a quarter-point, or 0.01%, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.2%.

Initial Jobless Claims came in at 226,000 for the week of March 10th, slightly below the forecast for 228,000 first-time claims.

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey decreased from a reading of 43.3 in February to 32.8 this month. The index has been positive for eight consecutive months and remains at a relatively high reading.

Empire State Manufacturing Survey for March checked in at 22.5, topping expectations for a reading of 15.

Import Prices rose 0.4% month-over-month in February, versus expectations for a rise of 0.2%, while Export Prices grew 0.2%, compared to a forecasted increase of 0.3%.

NAHB Housing Market Index for March came in at 70, versus expectations for a reading of 72.

Market Sentiment – The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) made a run to $120.49 before a flat finish with resistance at $120.50-$121 and the 50-day moving average holding.

A close above the latter would be a continued bullish development. Support remains at $119.50-$119.

Market Analysis – The Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) slipped for a 3rd-straight session following the recent failure at the $160 level and late January resistance.

A double-top formation could be developing on continued weakness with today’s low tapping $156.37. A close below $156 would be a continued bearish development towards $155-$154.50 and the 50-day moving average.

Near-term resistance is at $157.50-$158 with a close above the latter leading to a possible push towards $160 again and fresh all-time highs.

RSI is in a downtrend with near-term support at 50. A close above this level would be a bearish development. Resistance is at 60-65.

The Dow Jones Transportation Average ($TRAN) traded up 10,648 with short-term resistance at 10,700-10,750 and the 50-day moving average holding.

A close above 10,800 and late February resistance would be a bullish development. Support is at 10,550-10,500 with a move below 10,400 being a bearish development.

RSI is trying to hold near-term support at 50 with risk to 40 on a move back below this level. Resistance is at 60.

Existing Position Update

AAPL remains firm and unless there’s disappointing news on the horizon the odds are strong that our bull put spread will expire worthless tomorrow as planned.

FB is at the 50 day moving average and I’m expecting more congestion over the next few weeks…this should cause options to continue decaying.

TSLA iron condor should bounce back into mid range level – since stocks appear to be choppy and remain near 50 day line…this should avoid major volatility and cause options to decay.

I’m also expecting price to begin trending – which will cause relatives strength to buy over the near term.

Roger Scott