The Nasdaq just hit a major milestone after a record run, but one technician sees some yellow flags

The records have been rolling in for the Nasdaq since 2016 and the index just hit a new milestone.

When adjusted for swings in inflation over the last two decades, the Nasdaq composite is just now touching its 2000 peak, according to an analysis by LPL Research. The tech-heavy index is just 2 percent above the level reached before the dot-com bust.

While current levels have provided a measure of support, founder Todd Gordon cautions that further highs could be difficult to attain.

"The shape of this pattern to me looks like we're seeing a pattern of sort of this consolidation. There's not as much urgency to the upside," Gordon told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Thursday, referring to a chart of the Nasdaq. "You're going to see divergences. The rate of change is decreasing and so we're losing upside momentum."

The Nasdaq's moving average convergence-divergence line fell below zero during the early February sell-off before returning to above that level on Feb. 21. A move to below zero indicates a change in momentum direction, usually a downtrend. The index's relative strength index, a measure of overbought conditions, is high at just above 60. By comparison, the S&P 500 has an RSI of 53.

The PowerShares QQQ, a market-weighted ETF of 100 stocks in the Nasdaq, is also showing signs of fatigue, says Gordon.

"The QQQ, this is the Nasdaq, you're going to see that the volume has been very unhappy," said Gordon. "We're not seeing a lot of volume on the topside here in the Nasdaq here."

Volume in the QQQ has generally been in decline since the beginning of the month. The measure hit the year's high of 118.54 million shares traded on Feb. 6 and ended Thursday's session at 28.81 million. Volume started March at 76.81 million.

The Nasdaq's long-term fundamentals picture looks sunnier to Michael Bapis, partner and managing director at the Bapis Group at HighTower Advisors.

"The difference between now and 2000, 2001, all these companies are making money," Bapis said on "Trading Nation." "Most of these companies have a P/E that's a reasonable P/E, aside from some of the crazy trading names like Netflix."

The Nasdaq trades at around 22 times forward earnings, while major components such as Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft all trade at a multiple under 30.

"Apple, Amazon, a lot of those companies, they're going to continue to make money," said Bapis. "Long term it's going to be higher."

But, the headwinds coming for tech and broader markets are going to be difficult to navigate, Gordon said.

"The credit quality, this move up in interest rates, this loss of a four-decade uptrend in bonds, downtrend in yields, that's the source of the volatility which I think far surpasses these amazing developments technology has come across in the last couple of decades," said Gordon. "That's going to be the key that we're going to watch."

Bapis predicts that this time next year the Nasdaq will be higher, but warns that it will likely be "choppy and volatile along the way."

The Nasdaq hit a record high Monday and is up 3 percent in March. Its 8 percent year-to-date gain makes it the best-performing benchmark index of 2018.


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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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