After struggling for some time now, the S&P 500 finally broke through its intraday all-time high, only to drop precipitously in the moments after, as investors are still cautious about the economy and the concerned about the long-term fallout from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Stock indexes and index ETF are mixed on Tuesday after witnessing the S&P 500 drive through a historic intraday high shortly after the open, passing the old February 19th high of 3393.52. While the index broke to new ground by just a point or so, the new level was soundly rejected, and the index dropped about 1% from its new high before attempting to regain the level as of noon EST.

The S&P 500 advanced 0.2% along with the Nasdaq Composite which rallied 0.52%, aided by slight gains in tech shares. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is underperforming its fellow indices, dropping 0.12%.

The major stock index ETFs are trading mixed to higher along with their underlying benchmarks Tuesday. The  Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) and SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), are both showing moderate gains while the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA) has declined slightly, down 0.13%.

“It’s like the messenger from Marathon who crumples from exhaustion after the long run,” Sam Stovall at CFRA Research said of the S&P 500.

Stovall explained that after such a significant event, investors should prepare for some modest profit-taking.

While the messenger from that story is well-known to have died, Stovall doesn’t expect that to happen:  “No bull market has ever fallen immediately into a new bear market,” he told me.  “They typically fall into a pullback or a correction [a 10% decline]”, noting that the average decline after a new high was 8%.

Of course, anything is possible, as it has been a year of unexpected surprises, where markets drove right into a bull market after plummeting from the February highs, for the fastest recovery time in history. It was the shortest bear market since 1929, lasting just 33 calendar days.

Miller Tabak + Co.’s lead strategist Matthew Maley believes equities could easily drop 10% to 15% shortly. An overbought stock market that has been driven largely by mega-cap technology stocks, combined with concerns over a new stimulus plan, lukewarm U.S.-China relations, and worries over a fresh pandemic wave should give investors jitters, Tabak says.

Stovall, however, along with Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin, projects the S&P will finish out the year higher, but with a warning:  “We need upward revisions to third and fourth quarter earnings to justify these valuations,” he told me.

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