9:00am (EST)

The bears made a strong move past the first wave of support on Thursday to win their second-straight session and gain firm control of the week but the bulls made some noise after the close that could help or hinder today’s session.

The Dow dropped 81 points, or 0.6%, to settle at 14,537.  The blue-chips traded up to 14,650 on the open but the bulls were struggling to hold 14,600 as the late session low came in at 14,495.  The action opened the door for a possible test to 14,400 if the bulls can’t reclaim 14,600 today.

The S&P 500 slipped 10 points, or 0.7%, to finish at 1,541.  The close below 1,550 is a major concern and we said to watch for a dip below 1,540 as a clue for a test to 1,525-1,500 might be coming.  Yesterday’s low was 1,536 but if the bulls can reclaim 1,550 by the close it would be mildly positive.

The Nasdaq lost 38 points, or 1.2%, to end at 3,166.  The paper thin support at 3,200 was in danger after the open as the bulls could only muster an 8-point run to 3,212.  We mentioned the bulls needed to hold 3,175 or they faced further risk down to 3,150.  Thursday’s low checked in at 3,154.

The Russell 2000 gave back 5 points, or 0.6%.  The small-caps held 900 after trading to a low of 898.  We mentioned Wednesday’s low of 899 was a March low and yesterday’s bottom was a late February low.  A close below 895 would be bearish for a drop to 875 over the near-term.

The S&P 500 Volatility Index ($VIX, 17.56, up 1.05) closed above the 17.50 level after peaking at 18.20.  We said Wednesday’s close above 15 could lead to a test to 20 so it will be important for the bulls to finish the week strong.

Futures are up following a mixed bag of earnings after the close yesterday.  Microsoft (MSFT, $28.79, down $0.04) and Google (GOOG, $765.91, down $16.65) beat Wall Street’s estimates while International Business Machines (IBM, $207.15, down $2.52) missed their marks as earnings and revenue fell short of expectations.

Here is how futures look as we head to press:  Dow (+39); S&P 500 (+7); Nasdaq 100 (+12).

We have a lot to cover with our current trades so let’s get on it.  Subscribers, check the Members Area for the updates.