Stocks have been on the fast track to multi-month highs, but some strategists say the market could be getting ready for a pit stop.
BlackRock's Robert Doll is one of those. "I don't want to sound bearish because we have made a turn, but I guess what we hear in my voice is that we could take a pause," Doll told me in an interview.
"I think we're going to have backing and filling to create more of a platform in order to go higher," said Doll.
The Dow finished the week up 1.9 percent at 12,986; the S&P 500 was up 2.7 percent to 1425.35, and the Nasdaq rose 2.4 percent to 2528. The S&P is up 12 percent from the 2008 low it made on March 10. The best performing S&P sectors were materials, up 5.6 percent, and energy, up 4.3 percent. Financials, up 1 percent, and health care, up 0.71 percent, were the laggards.
"We've come a very long way in a short period of time. We've got to be up 12, 13 percent from the bottom two months ago...I just think the world has not improved as much as the 12 percent increase suggests," said Doll.
"I'm still of the view that March 17 was a bottom, but I don't think this is a 'V' bottom and we go straight up."
Doll said he likes technology, as well as energy, health care and industrials. He said he likes higher quality, higher cap, U.S. multinationals. He says he really is cautioning that investors should not get too exuberant -- and that they consider that earnings will be challenged in the coming quarter and there are still issues with a sluggish economy and weak housing market.
Doll said he thinks the economy will grow at a very slow rate. "Not a recession, but not normal," he said. He also points out that five of 10 sectors in the S&P had double-digit growth. "The second quarter is likely to be the last of the negative earnings comparison quarters," he said.
"I think the market's runup is less about 'the economy is better and oil doesn't matter' and more about systemic risk isn't there, and therefore we can own more stocks than we did before because the world's not going to end," he said.
In the week ahead, there will be some important economic news, including new inflation data in the form of producer prices Tuesday; the Fed's last meeting minutes Wednesday and existing home sales Thursday. Several Fed speakers are making the rounds. There are also a few important earnings reports from Home Depot, Lowe's and Hewlett Packard.
The rising price of oil could also be a factor. The world is also watching China, as it deals with the tragic aftermath of last week's earthquake. There is concern in commodities markets (aluminum, zinc and energy) -- not only about supply disruption from China, but new demand inside China.
Stocks made some very important moves in the past week that are important in setting the stage for the week ahead. One of those was the S&P 500's rise above the 1420 level. To technicians, that number was key for the market to recapture.
John Roque is a technical analyst at Natexis Bleichroder. He told us in the past he'd been targeting 1420 on the S&P 500, so I called him to see what he sees now.
His new target is 1517 to 1535. "It looks like it can go higher... We try to look at other indexes for clues," he said. "The mid-cap index is through its 200-day moving average and the FTSE is through its 200 day moving average." So, why not the S&P?
Data to watch in the week ahead include leading indicators, released at 10am ET Monday. The PPI is Tuesday at 8:30am; the FOMC minutes are Wednesday at 2pm. Oil and gasoline inventory is also released that day at 10:30am. Weekly jobless claims are Thursday as usual, and existing home sales are 10am Friday.
"I think PPI will be more important than usual this week. I think what we've learned is that a lot of the energy and all of the food cost is going to get passed on and ultimately will become part of the CPI data," said CNBC's Rick Santelli.
Oil prices hit another new high this past week -- finishing at $126.29 per barrel Friday. It set a new intraday high of $127.82 per barrel in Friday's session.
There are just a few earnings reports this week. Lowe's reports Monday, as does Campbell Soup. Home Depot and Target report Tuesday morning, and Hewlett Packard reports Tuesday afternoon. Gap reports on Thursday.
Around the World
Brazil stocks hit yet another record and the country's currency bounded to a 9-year high Friday. The Bovespa index is up 14 percent for the year and has broken record after record, as investors bet on a booming economy and an emerging-markets commodities play.
HSBC's Thomas Del Zoppo, head of cash equities for the Americas, says Brazil is drawing in buckets of new capital after S&P stamped it with an investment-grade rating April 30. Like other emerging markets that have been upgraded, Brazil could now be due for a pullback now, but Del Zoppo says there are other factors that could counter that. For one, he says, it's likely Fitch will also soon upgrade Brazil.
"I was quite impressed by the strength of the real against the dollar, and that goes directly to what's going on in the rest of the country. There's new money flowing in since the S&P upgrade..It's basically commodities versus credit, and it's energy versus financials. Where do you want to be in the world?," Del Zoppo said.
"Brazil is so well positioned in the world. They've got everything the world wants. They've got oil. They've got mining. They've got the largest iron ore pellet maker in the world," he said.
Also bullish is the major offshore oil find that could make Brazil one of the biggest oil producers in the world, and between oil and ethanol it should become self sufficient. Del Zoppo says a play worth looking at in Brazil is the banking sector, since the country's been looked at as mostly a commodities play.
"The problem with Brazil is going to be inflation," he said.
Brazil's boom has obviously spilled over into other stocks. UBS initiated coverage of deepwater drillers this week and plans to host a global oil and gas conference featuring a number of those companies in Austin, Texas this coming Tuesday.
But it was a Bloomberg report that Brazil's Petrobras is trying to tie up as many deepwater rigs as possible that really interested investors and helped stocks like Transocean and Diamond Offshore.
On Tuesday, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn speaks in New Orleans on the economic outlook at 9am. Fed Governor Kevin Warsh speaks Wednesday on using the federal funds rate in extraordinary times at 1pm. Fed Governor Randall Kroszner speaks at 9pm Thursday on the prospects for recovery and repair of mortgage markets at a conference of state bank supervisors in Florida.
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