Friday, January 31, 2014

Stocks End January in Ugly Fashion with All Major Indices Down for the Month and Year


Friday capped off an extremely volatile week in stocks and world economics, though astute investors and money managers should have known this kind of activity was coming all along, as soon as the Fed began reducing its bond purchases last month.

With January in the can, one might be obligated to kick it, for it was one of the worst months in some time, in fact, the January decline was the worst since February of 2009. It was also the first January decline for stocks since 2011, and that turned out to be a very rocky year, so caution is advised for those with a bullish bent. Fund flows from emerging market stock and bond funds were massive over the past two weeks, as were equity outflows in US-based funds.

What really troubled markets this morning, when the Dow fell by more than 220 points in early trading, were outflows of capital from emerging markets everywhere, from Russia, to Hungary, to Poland, South Africa, Turkey, Argentina, Indonesia, India, Brazil and China, and that's just a partial list.

Adding to the woes was an earnings warning from Wal-Mart (WMT), which is viewing the passage of the farm bill in the House of Representatives as very detrimental to their business, as it will strip out $8 billion in food stamps, the life-blood of the Wally World economy.

As the Fed is committed to slowing their bond purchases and eventually ending quantitative easing (QE) over the next six to eight months, it will be instructive to view the new chairmanship of Janet Yellen, who has inherited the legacy of Ben Bernanke's reckless money printing and zero-interest rate policies of the past five years. Yellen, who by some measures is even more dovish than the white-tailed Bernanke, will, as is usually the case with a new Fed head, have to deal with a crisis condition in her first days as chairwoman and beyond, and there's really no telling how she may react to financial upheaval in not only the emerging economies, but also the developed ones.

Looking forward to next week, markets will have to digest official China PMI, released later tonight, then work through central bank policy meetings in England, the EU, Australia, Poland and the Czeck Republic before dealing with the potentially-devastating January non-farm payroll report on US jobs, due prior to the bell on Friday, making the first week of February no less nerve-wracking than all of January.

Here's how the major averages ended the week:
Dow -180.26 (-1.14%)
S&P 500 -7.70 (-0.43%)
NASDAQ -24.29 (-0.59%)

...and the month:
Dow -877.81 (5.3%)
S&P 500 -65.77 (-3.6%)
NASDAQ -72.71 (-1.7%)

It's not pretty, and, as expressed through post after post on Money Daily this month, it's almost certain to get worse, as huge imbalances turn into ugly dislocations of capital in every nook and cranny of the finance. The Fed, in its infinite wisdom, has gone too far since 2009 in trying to fix things that were broken by covering them up with wild slugs of capital and debt. Now, it is time to pay the piper, so to speak.

View the video below for Jim Grant's explanation of how the Fed distorts markets. His simple explanations provide deep insight for anyone who believe Keynesian economics has met its match in Ben Bernanke and the current crop of central bank "experimenters."

While this short clip is indeed concise and to the point, perhaps the most eloquent statement made on live TV by Mr. Grant was when he chided the erstwhile Steve Liesman with this pithy piece of pragmatism: "The FED can change what things look like, but, the FED can never change what things are." Our hats are permanently tipped to Mr. Grant. And with that, enjoy the weekend and the Super Bowl. The world may look the same come Monday, but, if one could see through eyes unclouded by hubris and propaganda, what a wonderful world it might be. DOW 15,698.85, -149.76 (-0.94%) NASDAQ 4,103.88, -19.25 (-0.47%) S&P 1,782.59, -11.60 (-0.65%) 10-Yr Note 100.86 +0.71 (+0.71%) Yield: 2.66 NASDAQ Volume 2.09 Bil NYSE Volume 4.05 Bil Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1941-3780 Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 129-128 WTI crude oil: 97.49, -0.74 Gold: 1,240.10, -2.10 Silver: 19.12, -0.006 Corn: 435.00, +0.50

No comments: