Thursday, November 12, 2009

S&P Confirmation Not Enough; Markets Trumped by Strong Dollar

As much as one would like to believe Tim Geithner's commitment to a strong dollar policy, skepticism will remain high until there's actual action behind his words. In the absence of official US action to strengthen the greenback, finance officials of other nations have apparently taken action over the past few days, boosting the dollar from a low of 74.8 on Wednesday morning to a high of 75.76 just before 4:00 pm ET today.

Continued weakness in the US dollar has been causing all manner of market distortions, especially in commodity and US equity markets. The trade over the past 6 months has been an easy inverse relationship between the dollar and US equities. Cheaper dollars made stocks cheaper to purchase, fueling a powerful rally in stocks. However, the relationship is eventually unsustainable, though breaking the vexing inverse trade will take more of the kind of quiet intervention witnessed today.

Leading the charge was the Euro, which fell sharply against the US dollar. It's almost a European mandate, as the high Euro is making European products more costly, thus, less competitive in world markets. There seems to be a concerted effort to strengthen the dollar - despite the subdued protestations by US officials and stock traders - at the expense of the Euro, the target level appearing to be somewhere above 76 on the dollar index. The target would appear to be somewhere below 1.45 Euros to the US Dollar, which will take some doing, as the Euro currently trades at 1.4842 to 1 US Dollar. The result will be a more competitive environment for European products and a moderation in the prices of US stocks.

Eventually, the weak dollar trade must be unwound because it is entirely wrong for the US. It's akin to selling the same products at lower and lower prices in each business cycle in a fire sale environment. The US standard of living would continue to fall as the currency is debased. As much as the Fed and Treasury are attempting such a debasement - with grand success thus far - our trading partners are not happy with the arrangement. While the eventuality of a debased US currency may be a fait acompli, current movement in the forex markets are forestalling the event as much as possible.

As the dollar gained strength today, stocks fell, cutting short the nascent rally which began last week. Markets once again seem to have topped out temporarily, and it may actually be time for a serious reversal, much of which will have little to do with fundamental valuations and more to do with technical levels driven by the dollar trade.

Confirmation of the new Dow Industrial highs, which were narrowly confirmed by the S&P yesterday, weren't enough to stop stocks from skidding lower. The Dow Transports fell sharply in non-confirmation, setting the stage for more downside in stocks.

Dow 10,197.47, -93.79 (0.91%)
NASDAQ 2,149.02, -17.88 (0.83%)
S&P 500 1,087.24, -11.27 (1.03%)
NYSE Composite 7,063.05, -92.31 (1.29%)

declining issues danced all over advancers on the day, 4558-1285, or about 5:2. There were 273 new highs to 86 new lows, a margin significantly narrower than yesterday's. Volume remained tepid.

NYSE Volume 4,341,626,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,219,716,750

Commodities were slammed by the dollar rise. Crude oil fell $2.34, to $76.94, with more downside indicated, as warm weather in the US Northeast and slack demand helped push down prices for all energy products. Gold was off $8.00, to $1,106.50, with silver falling 28 cents, back to $17.27.

The deflation trade reared its head once again, and it probably won't be the last time.

No comments: