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Here’s what could trigger more stock market pullbacks this year, says Schwab trading pro

A record-setting August for stocks has set the bar high, but September may be off to an upbeat start, led by technology.

The big question for investors is whether the equity market will keep up the momentum?

That brings us to our call of the day from Schwab Center for Financial Research’s vice president of trading and derivatives, Randy Frederick, who thinks the stock market may finally deliver on some much-needed corrections.

“Obviously these things are difficult to pinpoint, but a 2%-3% decline sometime in the next couple of weeks wouldn’t be at all surprising to me. I continue to believe that the SPX
SPX,
+0.75%

[S&P 500] can reach 3,700 (+14.5%) by year-end, but probably not without three or four small pullbacks along the way,” he told MarketWatch in an interview and follow-up email.

“We haven’t had anything of that nature at all since going all the way back to early June, when we had that big drop-off. We’re clearly way overdue on that,” Frederick said. And while 3,700 sounds “pretty remarkable from a bottom-of-the-virus return,” on a year-to-date basis that 14% gain for the S&P 500 is fairly average, he noted.

When those smallish pullbacks come along, though, he advises against panic (he urged no panic in early March too), saying “they will be and should be used as buying opportunities.” That is because there is nowhere else for investors to put their money as any Federal Reserve interest rate increase is years out, said Frederick. And investors should learn from those who panicked out of the market in 2008 and missed out on an 11-year bull market, he added.

One potential correction trigger is technical, as he says 2020 has been closely tracking the action in 2009. That year saw three pullbacks — 3.5%, 4.3% and 5.6% in the last few months of 2009 — as his chart shows:

A “substantial pullback in earnings could also trigger a pullback,” he said, noting that second-quarter S&P 500 earnings per share came in far better than expected.

Frederick is watching the coronavirus pandemic as a potential trigger, with schools opening across the country and the potential for a dramatic uptick in the case count spooking markets, while trade issues with China shouldn’t be dismissed, as they also have the power to unhinge markets.

Another stick of dynamite for stocks is continued wrangling over enhanced unemployment benefits in the U.S. “That’s a big issue that needs to be resolved on what they should do to support workers and small business going forward,” said Frederick.

Read: Investors may be betting the wrong way on the U.S. election, says JP Morgan

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