For those waiting to buy the big stock market dip, good luck
Investors hoping for the much-ballyhooed market correction to take hold so they can jump in at sharply lower prices may have a long wait.
Talk of a 10 percent or better dip has been a dominating factor in market talk, particularly since the spring of 2013 when the Federal Reserve began chatter about reducing and finally eliminating its monthly stimulus program.
But each dip since then has been met by more buyers, and those thinking that there is a great day of reckoning where the market goes on sale could end up meeting the same unfortunate fate that often awaits market timers.
"Across-the-board declines appear to have gotten everyone's attention, raising the inevitable question of 'Should we buy or bail?'" Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, said in a note to clients. "Our recommendation is to do nothing, at least for now."
Year to date, the S&P 500 has surrendered 3.6 percent after its staggering 29 percent gain in 2013.
A few things have changed regarding market conditions in the new year: The Fed has decided to reduce the pace of its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion, a move that many market pros expect to continue until the central bank wraps up its quantitative easing program that has caused its balance sheet to swell past $4 trillion.
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January featured a major shock in employment data, with just 74,000 new jobs created in December.
Most recently, currency runs in Argentina, Turkey and other emerging market countries have caused tremors on Wall Street, which fears the beginning of a crisis brought on by over-aggressive global central banks.
Yet just when it looked like the market was in freefall, the averages bounced back Tuesday with a modest gain that showed the rinse-and-repeat cycle of buying on virtually any dip remains in vogue.
Bespoke Investment Group studied correlations among emerging market corporate debt and found that a bottoming pattern already is in effect.
"The bottom line is that concerns over EM are justified, but the recent correction is more likely to be at least a short-term buying opportunity regardless of whether or not emerging markets have more longer-term downside in store," Bespoke said in an analysis.
Technical indicators also do not point towards that 10 percent plunge that would indicate an official correction.
Mark Arbeter, S&P Capital IQ's chief technician, echoed a wave of cautiousness from the firm in saying that a break on the S&P 500 below the 1,768-1,775 range could point to a "choppy" market that "lasts well into the middle of this year, potentially longer."
Similarly, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is advising clients to watch trends such as advance-decline lines, which likely indiate a a rocky ride but any correction still a ways off.
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Charts are pointing "to a late 1Q/early 2Q peak and a 3Q low. 2014 could be a 'sell in May and go away' year but we would look to buy into a mid-term year correction given last year's bullish secular breakout. Sentiment remains the standout negative as surveys (Investors Intelligence) and put/call ratios suggest that investors are too bullish and/or complacent. This is contrarian bearish."
But choppy implies something less dramatic than a major market fall.
Even the ever-bullish Bob Janjuah at Nomura expects that the worst of the market isn't likely to come until 2015, with this year featuring "painful counter-trend rallies, perhaps even to marginal new highs" before the real damage hits.
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxCNBCcom.