Two key levels on the S&P 500 will signal where it’s heading, market watcher says

By Keris Lahiff, CNBC

For all the talk of a trade war and an eager-to-hike Fed, markets haven’t moved much this summer. The S&P 500 is now back to where it was in mid-May.

Two key levels could bring about the next big swings on the S&P 500, says one market watcher.

“On the resistance level it’s the 2,800 level. That’s where we topped out in February, March and in June of this year,” Matt Maley, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Thursday.

The benchmark index moved as high as a record 2,872 in late January before falling back in early March. It bumped up against 2,800 again in mid-March but failed to hold the level.

“If we can break above that, that’s going to give a lot of upside momentum to the market and we should see a quick move up to the all-time highs. That’s going to be very bullish,” Maley said.

One level of support lies at its 100-day moving average of 2,705, says Maley. The S&P briefly touched that level in intraday trading in early July, but mostly held above it.

“The more important level, of course, is the 200-day moving average. It is one it’s bounced off of several times this year,” Maley said. “You break below that and I think it’s going to be a quick move down to the intraday lows of February.”

The S&P 500 currently trades 2 percent above its 200-day moving average of 2,679. It last broke that trend line in early May.

The risks to the S&P 500 are intensifying, says Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management. He sees the largest headwind in the trade conflict with China.

“The kind of very negative geopolitical implications of a trade war … could have very long-term ramifications that could basically destroy a lot of this recovery, so I think it’s a touch-and-go situation,” Schlossberg said on Thursday’s “Trading Nation.” “Until the political situation is kind of resolved and we have some clarity, it’s difficult to make a strong case for equities.”

The U.S. hit China with its first round of tariffs early Friday and has threatened more to come. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods and China immediately retaliated with similar tariffs on U.S. goods.