How Much Worse? Market Experts Say We Still Haven't Hit Bottom

Market analysts - at least of the cable TV variety - seem to tiptoe around the obvious: if you don't cull the herd of insolvent banks and let the market bottom out, you won't be able to start the climb back up.

NEW YORK, Feb. 20 -- With the Dow Jones industrial average plunging past its lowest point since the financial crisis began, panicked investors are asking: How much uglier can it get?

Many market analysts and technicians armed with reams of historical data say that even though the Dow has given back all its gains -- and more -- from the five-year bull market that ended in 2007, it is unlikely the market has hit bottom.

Mark Arbeter, chief technical strategist at Standard & Poor's Equity Research, said the current market environment is showing few of the signs that have characterized previous lows -- high price volatility, high volumes of trading and even higher levels of fear.

"Bear market bottoms tend to be violent affairs," he said. "You sell hard, you rally hard, you go down hard and then you're off to the races. And that's not what were seeing right now. Until this week, the market was really drifting sideways."

And for all the jitteriness out there, Arbeter added, the options market, where investors trade contracts that bet on the future direction of the stock market, is not showing the fear that signals that true capitulation has arrived. Many market participants think capitulation -- when investors take their losses and get out of the market altogether -- must precede a major market recovery.

"We have not reached high enough levels of fear in the options market to suggest that this test of the lows is going to be successful," Arbeter said.


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