There is a first time for everything and yesterday was the first time this year the S&P 500 registered a closing gain on a Monday, rising 0.5% to 1525.20. The Dow for its part registered its second-highest closing level ever at 14127.82.
The bulk of the market's gains came in an afternoon buying spree that pushed the S&P 500 into the environs of a key technical resistance zone in the 1525-1530 area.
It was another head-scratching rally because it had mostly a defensive hue to it.
Large caps outperformed small-cap and mid-cap stocks.
Every countercyclical sector -- utilities (+1.0%), consumer staples (+0.8%), telecom services (+0.7%) and health care (+0.6%)-- outperformed the market. The consumer discretionary (+1.0%) and financial sectors (+0.9%) did as well, but the growth-sensitive technology (+0.2%), basic materials (+0.1%), industrials (-0.1%) and energy (-0.2%) sectors did not.
Granted bond prices were lower yesterday, but so were oil prices.
The complexion of the move, however, didn't seem to matter as much as the direction. Rising stock prices in the US set a constructive tone today for foreign markets, which are up across the board.
China rallied back 2.3% after outgoing Premier Wen Jiaboa reaffirmed the country's 7.5% GDP growth target and pushed a 2013 budget that incorporates a 10% increase in government spending.
Most European bourses are up between 1.0% and 2.0%. Better-than-expected January retail sales data for the eurozone and word that a bailout for Cyprus could be in place by the end of the month have helped push things higher. There are reports, too, that better-than-expected Services PMI data for a number of countries, including Germany, has aided in the advance.
Lost in the hoopla about the Services PMI headlines is that activity was down in February. The composite PMI reading for the eurozone slipped to 47.9 from 48.6 in January. That was better than the preliminary 47.3 reading, yet the drop reflects an accelerating contraction.
We will get some insight into the services sector in the US at 10:00 a.m. ET when the ISM Services report (Briefing.com consensus 55.4; prior 55.2) is released. That is the only piece of data on the calendar today.
At the moment, the market isn't fearing any bad news. The S&P futures are up six points and are trading 0.5% above fair value. Word from Qualcomm (QCOM) that it is boosting its quarterly dividend by 40% and instituting a new $5 bln share buyback program has provided some added support.
If the current indication holds, the cash market will be on course to push above resistance at 1530 when trading begins. That could invite some technical pushback or, conversely, added buying interest in the battle to reach new highs.
It should be an interesting day of trading.