MARKETS

It seems like everyone's playing a bit of a waiting game in anticipation of this week's FOMC meeting, including MoneyShow's Tom Aspray, who offers some plays to make, since there will be an almost guaranteed new amount of market volatility after Wednesday's announcement.

Stocks put in a fine performance last week ahead of the much anticipated FOMC meeting this week. Basically, stocks only corrected a month from the August highs before, again, turning higher. Though quite a few stocks did undergo double-digit declines from their recent highs, the major averages did not.

The cooling of the situation in Syria has taken some of the pressure off the global markets, even though it may be transitory. Investors seem to be more comfortable now with the range of potential outcomes.

The majority of technical concerns about the stock market were resolved last week, but still, the market action needs to be watched closely over the next few weeks. It will be important to see technical precursors of upward acceleration to confirm sharply higher prices.

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Many are still concerned about another major market decline, such as we saw in 2010 and 2011, while some even expect something worse than 2008. One measure of economic stress is the St. Louis Fed Financial Stress Index, which is "constructed from 18 weekly data series: seven interest rate series, six yield spreads, and five other indicators."

The chart shows that the Index formed a top in late 2002, (point 1), and then started a multi-year decline, finally bottoming in 2007. The Index broke through its resistance, line a, in early 2008 at the start of the recession.

The spike high reading of 6.154 came on October 17, 2008, (point 2), right in the middle of the financial panic. As stocks were bottoming in March 2009, it was down significantly at 4.14, consistent with less financial stress, even though stock prices were lower.

The stock market's lows in both September 2010, (point 3), and in October of 2011, (point 4), were accompanied by peaks in the Index. The chart of the NYSE Composite shows how the peaks in the Index corresponded to lows in the NYSE Composite. This includes the major low in 2009.

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The Index hit a low of -0.908 in March 2013, and is in a slight uptrend now. It closed last week at -0.357. A move above the 2010 and 2011 highs, line b, would be a cause for concern. This Index and other great economic indicators can be found at the St. Louis Fed's Web site.

On the global economic front, the news continues to get better from the Eurozone, and there seems to have been a sentiment change on emerging markets as well. Just a few weeks ago, I thought there might not be a contrary opinion trade until 2014.

Some of the emerging market ETFs are already up 7%, so far, this month, as it seems like others are drawing the same conclusions. Robert Kapito, co-founder of BackRock, Inc. (BLK), which has assets of $3.9 trillion, said that "The emerging markets are going to account for about 60 to 65% of the world's growth over the next 20 years."

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So far, in 2013, the Asset Performance chart shows that the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is still down 8.4% for the year, but it was down over 19% in June. It has risen above the dismally performing bond market (TLT) and gold (GLD). This week's plunge in gold has dropped its yearly performance to -21%, but it was down over 27% in June. I reviewed both gold and the gold miners in last Friday's column.

The US stock market is still leading with the Spyder Trust (SPY) up 18.6%, while the European markets (VGK) are now up close to 10% for the year, as they have gotten a nice boost in the past three weeks.

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Tickers Mentioned: Tickers: SPY, QQQ, DIA, IWM, IYT