Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fed's Bullard Fails to Halt Market Decline; Fed Credibility Nil; Correction, Potential Crash in Motion

At last!

After weeks of churning, uneventful trading, Wall Street delivered a most interesting session on Wednesday.

Instead of the usual down in the morning, up in the afternoon routine that's been de rigueur of late, this was a dip that virtually nobody was buying.

Stocks began the session quietly, but soon fell to their lows of the day, shortly before the close of European markets. Money that had heretofore been jumping from European equities into US stocks did not manage to materialize, as they have over the past few weeks.

Instead, stocks languished in negative territory, with the Dow down between 60 and 90 points most of the midday. Another bump lower between 1:00 and 2:00 pm EDT left the Dow at its lows of the day, the S&P and NASDAQ following it down, though on a lower percentage basis.

At 3:15 pm, St. Louis Fed president James Bullard, one of the more effeminate and dovish Fed members, laid out his pre-arranged meme to calm markets in an unofficial speech to a Rotary club in Paducah, Kentucky, saying that he Fed needed more data in the second half before embarking on any kind of bond purchase tapering and that the Fed should hold press conferences after every FOMC meeting, in order to facilitate a more open, quick response to markets.

Initially, stocks moved upward on his comments, but quickly fell back, signaling that traders and markets have become weary of the differentiating tone of the Fed, one day favoring tapering, the next day softening their stance. The market response to Bullard's comments was clearly a sign that fundamental market analysis was overtaking the Fed's manipulation by word of mouth and that the Fed was clearly stuck in a box from which there was no salvageable escape.

Truth is, the economy is not improving to any noticeable degree, and even a partial winding down or "tapering" of QE would cause a selloff in stocks and likely another round of interest rate hikes devoid of any influence from the Federal Reserve. Nearly disarmed and out of ammunition, the Fed is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can declare the economy improving and crash the market (because it isn't) or hold tight to their insane strategy of pumping $85 billion a month in bond purchases for a longer time period, a strategy that has caused distortions and dislocations of magnificent proportions.

Traders, usually quick-thinking and thick-skinned, have found no solace in Fed utterings of late, and are taking action on their own, mostly on the side of selling, to the utter dismay of the proponents of central planning and controlled economic reality.

Stocks suffered fairly severely, though still are floating on a sea of liquidity supplied by the ever-present Fed, a condition which - whether it changes or not - seems to have run its course. Valuations are such that further gains need a serious catalyst in the form or fundamentally strong data, which has yet to materialize. Thus, booking profits off the outsize gains from the first half seems to be the prudent strategy prior to the next FOMC meeting in September, and there's little the Fed can do to stem the waves of selling pressure now appearing in all sectors.

A slew of fiscal and geopolitical risks also conspire against the Federal Reserve and the stock market, making the condition ripe for a serious, sustained correction. The cyclical bull, inspired off the first round of QE and ZIRP in March 2009, is now 54 months old, and getting a bit weary.

Only fools would rush in to this market, but as is well known, Wall Street and investment types are replete with foolish folks, so a quick pop prior to a reversal would not be a surprise, though the odds for a solid correction of 5-10% are rising quickly.

Though losses were not large, the Hinderburg Omen strategy remains the most powerful. The advance-decline line was humbled on today's session, the losing streak has all indices down for the month and new lows overwhelmed new highs (as shown below) for the first time in two months. Gold and silver made substantial gains both during NYMEX and electronic trading, with silver the shining out-performer of the day.

All of this sets up for a bearish tone tomorrow and into next week, with key data releases on Thursday, including the closely-watched weekly unemployment claims.

Cisco (CSCO) reported after the bell, beating earnings per share by a penny with revenues roughly in line with estimates. Before the opening bell tomorrow, McDonald's reports with expectations of 1.25 pr share and revenue of 118.25 for the second quarter. Same store comps will be closely monitored as those fell in the previous quarter from a year ago.

Dow 15,337.66, -113.35 (0.73%)
NASDAQ 3,669.27, -15.17 (0.41%)
S&P 500 1,685.39, -8.77 (0.52%)
NYSE Composite 9,593.34, -37.23 (0.39%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,546,362,000
NYSE Volume 3,126,848,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2451-4038
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 217-272
WTI crude oil: 106.85, +0.02
Gold: 1,333.40, +12.90
Silver: 21.79, +0.444

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