Oh...we are in a very interesting place. The market as represented by the S&P 500 does not want to go down , yet for the past week it is struggling to go up. We have been stuck in the 1540/1555 range, unable to break lower and failing to launch higher. I can just hear Uncle Benny (Bernanke) singing the classic Englebert Humperdinck (We can talk about that name later in the shrink's office) - "Quando, Quando, Quando" (When, When, When!)

"Tell me when will you be mine, Tell me quando, quando, quando, We can share a love divine, Please don't make me wait again......Ev'ry moment's a day, Ev'ry day is a lifetime, Let me show you the way, To a joy beyond compare...."

I mean can you see it? Maybe he could perform it at the White House Correspondents Dinner - Isn't that where they do little skits to make very subtle points?

Yesterday, stocks continued to consolidate with asset managers/traders taking some profits out of the banking and technology sectors. After the frenetic pace of Dow gains since early March, yesterday was another pause in the action. All the indexes moved around the flat line all day, leaving us to wonder whether the Dow would break its 7 day winning streak?  It didn´t happen, and in the final mins we saw the it make another record high close, + 2 pts to end the day at 14450.06 as investors continue to reach for the safety, durability and liquidity of the American Blue Chip. Further, with almost zero economic news, most participants stayed in bed as reflected in the lack of trading volume which yesterday, was in fact the WORST trading volume so far this year. Given that volumes are so apathetic, how can we expect the S&P to break to new highs. There is not enough momentum, or MOJO, especially considering that global macro data continues to frustrate and concern investors.

Do you remember Oct 2007 when the S&P 500 made a new all time high and the media signaled this as a key buying opportunity? All the while housing was beginning to stumble and Uncle Benny was assuring Americans (and the world) that housing would not cause a recession, and in fact it was "well contained", that subprime mortgages and the housing bubble (due to easy money) were not the cause and that over leverage, unstable funding and "deficient risk management and supervision" were the vulnerabilities that led to the crisis. And today? Where are we? We are now over regulated, with near zero interest rates, a Fed balance sheet on the verge of implosion, hard working Americans that are trying to re-group from the GFC (Great Financial Crisis), 14 mil unemployed hard working Americans looking for a well paying job, gridlock and the inability of elected leaders to compromise and a fragile economic recovery. Regardless of all this, the market signals FULL STEAM AHEAD! There is a complete disconnect for now. Could that be the reason for "failure to launch"?

Yesterday's pullback was unconvincing, leaving open the possibility of a renewed push to pierce the highs. A stronger pullback will not really be confirmed unless we break the 1535 level, potentially taking us back to 1525 or even 1490 (50 DMA).

What is gold saying? Well it continues to move lower in a broader downtrend but has managed to stabilize a bit for now. Perhaps a challenge back to the declining 50 DMA at 1635 would not be out of the question and any move higher than that will depend on developing global macro data. I wonder, as money comes out of gold, will it look for opportunities in global equities?

We are about to find out if Q1 can expand from a zero GDP or whether it will continue to trend lower as we are seeing in Europe and Asia. Remember early this quarter, Brent crude hit $119/barrel and WTI traded as high as $98.60/barrel. Will we see damage to the economy as a result? Is it inevitable as we begin to get a feel for Q1 earnings?

Today we get Advanced Retail sales and what will we learn? The fiscal cliff did not halt spending, the imposition of the 2% tax hike supposedly did not stop the consumer. I would argue that the consumer had not really felt it then. The sequester and the looming cuts have had no impact yet as this is the Feb report,  not the March report. Analysts say that higher housing prices and higher stock prices will encourage the consumer to spend, spend, spend. The couple of data points already in suggest a mixed report. Recall the WMT "total disaster" email? Expectations for today's report is +0.5%, less autos and gas at +0.2%. In addition we will get mortgage approvals and business inventories.

Overnight in Asia – markets finally took a bit of a breather. Investors took profits as concern mounts over the developing regional data. The recent run up caused traders to book some profits ahead of what could be a near term 'correction.' This should not be construed as a shift in psychology, but more of short term fatigue causing a small pullback before the next lunge forward. Japan -0.61%, Hong Kong -1.46%, China -1% , ASX -0.50%

In Europe, markets are also a bit lower as they react to a key bond auction in Italy. The country's 3 yr borrowing costs rose to their highest levels in one year and the 10 yr bond rose 7 bp. This, along with the continued political situation is causing a bit of angst today. The FT warns of stagflation in the UK as inflation is now running at 3.3%. Euro markets are awaiting US retail sales data..... FTSE -0.82%, CAC 40 -0.41%, DAX -0.2%, Eurostoxx -0.53%, Spain -0.7% and Italy -1.36%

In the US – futures are once again pointing a bit lower in premarket trading, currently -3.70 at 1543. The tone this morning feels a bit cautious as we await the all important retail data.....The market has made some assumptions to date. I wonder, will today's data confirm or deny? Another key measure will be Apple - as IDC forecasts that Ipad sales will fall below Android sales for the first time ever. Take note that Apple is already down some 40% from the highs of $706/sh. Short term trading range remains - 1535/1565. Will today be the day that we launch or the day we break lower?

Maltagliati Pasta w/Cannelloni Beans & Sweet Sausage

Fresh Maltagliati pasta is a pasta which is made from scraps and left over after other pastas have been made. The random shapes of maltagliati pasta have become so popular in some parts of Italy that some companies actually deliberately manufacture this pasta. Maltagliati literally means “badly cut” and refers to the odd shapes – and although originated in Emilia Romana – you can be sure that Italians have been using their freshly made pasta scraps for many years- because – Why would you throw out perfectly good pasta? In the event you cannot get it – you can just as easily break up lasagna to make the “Maltagliati”.

For this you will need: Maltagliati Pasta, Cannelloni beans, water, olive oil, garlic, onions and s&p and sweet sausage (removed from the casing).

Begin by sauteing some crushed garlic in olive oil on med heat – careful not to burn the garlic – now add I diced onion – sauté some more – maybe 10 mins. Now add the sausage and brown nicely. Once browned - remove the sausage - leaving as much of the onion and garlic behind. set aside.

Next - 2 cans of Cannelloni beans – do not strain. Add three cans of water – season with s&p - bring to a boil and then turn heat to simmer. Stir occasionally. After 20 mins….remove 2 ladles of beans and set aside….now in a food processor – blend the remaining beans to form a thick soup – return to the pot and add back the beans and the sweet sausage. Now – take your fresh pasta and add directly to the soup and cook*. Fresh pasta will cook in like 3 mins….so be careful……Serve immediately in warmed bowls with plenty of fresh grated Parmigiana cheese.

Buon Appetito.

*In the event that it looks like you may need a bit more water to accommodate the pasta – feel free to add here and bring to a boil before you add the pasta…..but in the end – you do not strain it – you cook the pasta directly in the pot and then – “Mangia bene”.

If you use box pasta - boil the pasta SEPERATELY for about 7 mins...strain - reserving 2 mugfuls of the pasta water. Add 1 mug of the pasta water to the beans , then add back the semi cooked pasta to finish cooking in the "soup" If it thickens too much - add the other mug of water.....