Stocks need to cross two hurdles before the market can find its bottom: PNC

Deep into November, the stock market has still not been able to shake its October blues.

From heavy losses on Monday to intraday indecision on Tuesday, the Dow and S&P 500 have failed to return to the highs recorded a little less than two months ago.

Jeffrey Mills, co-chief investment strategist at PNC Financial Services Group, said history suggests a few market moves need to happen before the bottom is in and the march higher can continue.

"We're still working through this corrective phase a little bit and I think that could take some time. We haven't quite seen the internal thrust that we like to see off durable lows," he said Tuesday on CNBC's "Futures Now."

In a post-midterm election rally a week ago, for example, the move higher had a ratio of 4 to 1 advancers to decliners. Mills said a stronger "internal thrust" is seen when that ratio reaches at least more than 5 to 1.

Historical data also suggest markets have to return to October lows before they reach a bottom, said Mills.

"Go back to 1981, we've seen 21 declines of 10 percent or more and typically over 70 percent of the time you see a retest of that initial low so I think that's what we're living through right now but fundamentals still support us moving higher through 2019," he explained.

The S&P 500 has moved more than 4 percent higher since it bottomed out at 2,603 on Oct. 29. At those lows, it had fallen more than 11 percent from its record high of Sept. 21.

Even after the S&P 500 bottoms out, Mills expects elevated volatility for markets that could spook investors. Typically, the late stage of a cycle is characterized by tightening monetary policy and flattening yield curves, two factors that tend to roil markets.

"I think there's a road higher, but … I think it could be bumpy," Mills said. "We're moving into this market phase where higher volatility is probably here to stay to some degree."

The S&P 500 remains nearly 2 percent higher for the year, while the Dow has added almost 3 percent.

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