Stock prices jumped higher before the opening of U.S. markets sparked by comments from China's commerce ministry. The rally proved to be broad based, as over 300 of the S&P 500 stocks gapped higher for the day, and about half of them opened more than 1% higher than they closed on the previous day. Unsurprisingly, nine of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average did the same thing. Furthermore, that same number of stocks closed higher for the day.
What is surprising, however, is that such a broad market rally was not accompanied by a high volume of trading. Stocks and indexes accomplished this feat on slightly less than average volume. While this may be a function of declining volatility in the markets, historical studies show that, statistically speaking, there is less follow-through on days when markets gap up on lower volume.
Unlike recent days, this market rally was led by small-cap and technology stocks. During most of August, these stocks lagged the rest of the market on a day-to-day basis.
Small-Cap Index Shows Impressive One-Day Strength
When indexes, or individual stocks, rise on low volume, the resulting upward trend (if any) is often not sustained for very long. The conventional wisdom goes that there weren't enough investors enthused about the news – whatever it was – that sparked the move. However, today's action may prove to be an exception to that rule, and there are at least two points of evidence to support that notion.
The first point of evidence is that small-cap and technology stocks closed the day higher than large cap stocks. While that may not seem like a meaningful data point considering just one day's activity, consider that this is the first time this month that the Russell 2000, tracked by the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM), and the Nasdaq 100, tracked by the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ), both outperformed the S&P 500 on a day with a bullish signal.
The second point of evidence is that August volume was abnormally high during the past month, so it may make today's volume look unusually small. Compared to the previous month, however, the volume amount looks about average or maybe slightly higher. Could it be that markets are returning to a normal pattern of trading in the near future?
Dollar General Surprise Shows Yet More Retail Strength
Several indications of select retail strength have shown up in the markets over the recent two weeks. Notably companies such as Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSM), The Home Depot, Inc. (HD), Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW), Target Corporation (TGT), Starbucks Corporation (SBUX), and several others are all showing a strong upward move. Investors can now add Dollar General Corporation (DG) to that list as well.
The company reported a surprisingly strong revenues and profits, as well as offering an optimistic forecast for the company's future. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since Dollar General acts as the de facto Walmart Inc. (WMT) in towns across America with less than 10,000 people more than 30 minutes from the nearest big box retailer. These people, helped by the current administration's policies, have a little more money to spend that analysts may have realized.
The Bottom Line
U.S. stock indexes jumped higher today, showing a gap pattern across a broad swath of stocks. Small caps participated strongly in the action, showing that risky trades may be back in favor. Retail stocks continue to surge, with Dollar General the latest one to report surprisingly good earnings.
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