The S&P 500 has been rallying in recent weeks, recovering all of the ground it lost in January and February. The sharp rebound has been impressive, inspiring optimists to claim that the old bull market has been revived and upside momentum is once again in the driver’s seat. Perhaps, but the true test awaits. Hanging in the balance is the question of whether the latest pop is a dead-cat bounce in a bear market or a genuine revival that makes fools of tactical asset allocators who turned cautious in recent months.

As usual with real-time analysis of market activity, there’s a conflicting set of numbers to consider, leaving a gray area for deciding which set of indicators are legitimate… or not. All is obvious in retrospect, of course, but the clarity of the past gives way to the murkiness of the present as we struggle to interpret previous patterns for current conditions. That said, the current state of market affairs looks unusually precarious. It appears that we’re at the put-up-or-shut-up moment that could be decisive for the medium-term future. But, hey, no pressure.

Let’s start with the positive. As the chart below shows, there’s a strong tailwind blowing for US equities in recent weeks. The S&P 500 has inched into positive territory on a year-to-date basis for the first time this year. But there’s a long way to go before the 50-day moving average recovers lost ground relative to the 200-day average. Yes, those are arbitrary numbers for defining momentum—the same applies for all moving averages, for that matter. In any case, the current profile of the 50- and 200-day averages imply that a genuine momentum signal that convincingly falls into the bullish column is still a ways off.

Keep in mind that the trouble for the long-running bull market in US stocks hit its biggest challenge last August, when China’s central bank triggered a bearish change in global sentiment with a surprise currency devaluation. It’s been a rocky road for US equities ever since, albeit with two major recovery attempts. The first—in the last quarter of 2015—ended in failure. The second is in progress, with an unclear outcome at the moment.

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