The stock-market bull is still on its feet

The factors driving the US markets

Charles Schwab and Co. Senior Vice President Liz Ann Sonders on the state of the markets.

The story of Juan José Padilla must be legend within the Spanish bullfighting community. Blinded by a bull in one eye in late 2011 after badly losing his footing in a bullring, the matador made a stunning comeback to the arena about six months later, much to the utter shock of fans.

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Similarly, Wall Street investors find themselves facing off with a bull of their own, one that is in its ninth year and, despite being beset by a cavalcade of concerns, appears on the verge of resuming the second-longest run since WWII.

That is perhaps much to the consternation of bears and the confusion of nervous optimist alike.

On Friday, the 13th no less, the S&P 500 index finished above 2,800 for the first time since Feb. 1, piercing a psychological, round-number level that had proven a source of key resistance for the market since it stumbled badly into correction territory on Feb. 8.

Indeed, the S&P 500 finished Friday's session 0.1% higher at 2,801.31, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.4% at 25,019.41, while the Nasdaq Composite Index mustered sufficient momentum to eke out back-to-back finishes at an all-time closing high at 7,825.98, up less than 0.1%.

The S&P 500 sits just 2.5% from its Jan. 26, record, while the Dow stands 6% short of its closing peak from earlier in the year.

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The recent uptrend has come in fits and starts, but come it has, amid the aforementioned headwinds. Those factors include:

"The market has been able to grind higher and it's been able to do so even with these headwinds," Michael Arone, chief investment strategist for State Street Global Advisors told MarketWatch in an interview.

The State Street strategist views trade conflagration as a concern that may have fallen to the wayside even if it continues to be a situation that unspools over weeks and months.

"The trade discussion has been a bit longer than folks had been anticipating and it might be longer still — and a bit messier," Arone said.

He added: "This week there seems to be a changing sentiment that much of the trade threat in terms of the escalation of the tariffs is being used as a tool to bring the sides together."

In the end, sentiment may be improving as reflected by the stock market's recent action; but there are many who have cautioned against being too complacent. Scott Minerd of Guggenheim (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-rally-in-stocks-is-a-last-hurrah-warns-guggenheims-minerd-2018-07-09) and Ray Dalio, the founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, appear to be warning (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/founder-of-worlds-largest-hedge-fund-says-first-day-of-the-war-with-china-has-begun-2018-07-06) that escalating trade disputes could still be a major problem for the market.

With the admonishment of those high-profile investors in mind, it is worth reflecting on the one-eyed Padilla's comeback. Just a few days ago, the flamboyant picador suffered an even more horrific injury at the horns of another bull after once again losing his footing. This episode came about a year after being gored back in March 2017.

Observers can say what they will about bullfighting, or investing for that matter, but the lesson here may be that over long periods, the bull eventually wins.

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