A number of warning signals are flashing in the stock market, and while not indicative of an imminent crash, they’re telling investors to exercise caution, say market strategists.
Stocks finished higher last week, ending on a choppy Friday highlighted by the release of a better-than-expected job report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA +0.19% advanced 0.8%, the S&P 500 Index SPX +0.05% rose 1% to close at another record high of 1,878.04, and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP -0.37% finished up 0.7% for the week. All except the Dow are higher for the year, which is still down 0.8% in 2014.
The gains haven’t come without a share of fretting that the good times can’t last. Among the warnings signs: The indexes’ string of record highs; high levels of margin debt, or borrowings to finance stock buys; the slim number of prior bull markets that have lasted past this point; and valuations that are close to levels when stocks last peaked.
Margin debt, which tends to spike alongside stock rallies and pullbacks, has been rattling investors for months . “As that debt goes up, the market’s foundation gets shakier and shakier,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial. “The correction could be deeper.”
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