March may be the best chance yet for a stock market rally

March may be the best chance yet for an SP 500 rally if you ask Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James. History and an energy shift at the market’s gut level could be the triggers.

Saut believes the stock market bottomed in February. “The first week of March should see the market’s ‘internal energy’ rebuilt for another try on the upside,” he said in a report.

The strategist relies on a proprietary formula to gauge the market’s energy and based on this indicator, projected that the SP 500

SPX, -0.81%

is on the cusp of a big move.

Timing is also important in his outlook.

Traditionally, the period between the 28th of a month to the 6th of a new month has been very strong for the stock market. Those few days tend to generate all of the SP 500 gains going back to 1950, according to Saut.

There’s more history on the market’s side. Over the past 65 years, the SP 500 has risen 42 times in March and fallen 24 times, with average return of 1.06%, according to Moneychimp, a financial education website. That makes March the fourth best month for stocks after December, November and April. The average return for February, on the other hand, is a dismal negative 0.05%.

In fact, the first five days of March have all posted positive annualized returns going back to 1950, Saut said.

Annualized returns going back to 1950
Raymond James

March tends to be kind to the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -0.74%

too. The Dow posted average gains of 1.36% in March with positive returns 14 of 20 times over the past 20 years, according to Bespoke Investment Group, writing in a note to investors.

Bespoke Investment Group

“I’m pretty confident that the market is headed for an upside breakout,” Saut told MarketWatch, projecting the SP 500 will punch through resistance at 1,950 over the next few days. He expects the SP 500 to eventually knock around between 2,000 to 2,040 before it will be able to establish a next breakout.

Still, his rosy view of the market comes with a warning.

“The near-term negatives are that the recent rally has left the markets overbought, and some pundits note that the rally has come on low volume,” he said.

Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist at BTIG, expects initial resistance for the SP 500 near 1,980, which could hurt the market’s upward momentum.

Breakouts tend to be a bullish sign but this one may not get much mileage due to a lack of follow-through buying, she said.

Indeed, if the market fails to overcome near-term selling pressure, it’s not expected to see buying interest revived until the SP 500 falls below 1,820.

“This creates a good deal of downside risk once short-term momentum deteriorates,” said Stockton.

U.S. stocks failed to extend gains from last week into Monday’s session, with the SP 500 slipping 0.1% to 1,945 in the wake of less than stellar economic data.

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