Market closing prices run up and run down faster than summer lightning strikes and rain pours. One day, investors are encouraged; the next day, investors are disappointed. Does the market mislead investors one day to sucker the same investor the following day? Or, does the stock market inform beyond immediate perception?

The difficulty facing investors involves delving below the obvious market numbers. When the market makes accelerated pricing moves is there a warning message underlying the number? All conversations involve the spoken or obvious message and the unspoken underlying message. Getting to the “what is really being said” challenges everyone listening to the language of the stock market. As someone told me once, “The real message is always the message behind the message.” Here are some messages within the message of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Intra-day stock market activity

Most investors ignore the opening, few glance at sidewalk tickers or hear intra-day TV or radio stock market reports. Markets drift or make wild intraday moves. In most cases, intra-day stock market price moves get their momentum from news. For example, “Stocks drifted lower in aimless trading Tuesday as mixed earnings news overshadowed an unexpected jump in consumer confidence and left investors cautious about extending the prior session’s sharp advance.” Each explanation references a news item. News moves the markets durng the day; company stock transactions provide the most obvious example of what news does to intra-day stock trading.

Trading Volume

The number of shares traded by a company stock or the equity market indices tells us the most. Volume matters in nearly every life-category. Often, I tell my children to “turn down the volume.” No matter what direction the market moves, turning up the volume makes the message clearer. A company’s stock price moves or broad market moves can be misleading. If a corporate stock reaches a new price high on lower volume, you may think all is well. In fact, the stock must make that new high price with strong volume (perhaps 3 times the daily average volume) to demonstrate strong buying activity. The same principle holds for market indices. High volume on the upside over successive trading days (no less than 3) recommends market strength; high volume on the downside suggests otherwise.

Industry Groups

Every bull market reveals industry group leadership. is one source of information about industry group strength or weakness. On this day, home entertainment software leads up while air freight and logistics shows weakness. You can also track 197 industry groups as an Investor’s Business Daily reader.

Leaders and laggards

Every group has its leaders and laggards. When the broad market indices shift out of a bull (down) market, a new group of stocks will emerge as leaders. Watching these stocks during a bull market provides investors with insights about a bull market phase. When leading stocks suffer pricing weakness, investors should stay alert to broad market shifts on the downside. Stock leadership cycles from bull market to bear market to bull market.

Making a correction

Commentators provide multiple excuses for the days when markets endure losses. Every bull market requires a 10% to 20% correction. This shakes out overly optimistic investors. Knowing when to get “in” and “out” of the market stymies stock market gurus. Some do it right some of the time, and others do it wrong all of the time. No matter what direction the market takes, equity/stock and debt/bond investors put their money somewhere. Usually, stock selling means bond buying. If stocks and bonds are sold, cash becomes the default investment. It all depends on the benefits perceived from any asset class.

Charles Dow’s “Theory” known as the “Dow Theory” provides some investment wisdom. Today’s market activity (Dow Jones up with the Dow Jones Industrials “down”) reminds us of 100 years of Dow’s investment wisdom. His successor was William P. Hamilton (the fourth editor of the Wall Street Journal.

* Hamilton’s bullet points on Charles H. Dow’s theory are helpful. “The Averages discount everything.”

* “The primary trend cannot be manipulated.”

* “Both the Industrials and Rails (the modern day Transports) must confirm each other in order for the signal to have authority.”

* “A rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average must be ‘confirmed’ by the Dow Jones Transportation Average in order for the rise in the market to be sustainable.”

* Dow Industrials are companies that make; Dow Transportations are companies that deliver. If the transports are down, the industrials may be in trouble. Today, the Industrials are up (52 points); the Transports are down (80 points)

Asset Class Correlation and Manager Style

Asset allocation across and within asset classes allows investors to endure the downs while waiting for upward moves. It is more likely for asset classes to gain value in a bull market, but all asset classes will not participate at the same time. This is what an investor wants: one asset class up when another may be down. Within asset classes, trading styles should differ. Each of these functions adds value to portfolio performance.