A frantic, algo-churning, late-day rally brought the US averages back to respectability, but stocks ended the week - and the month of April (no window dressing) - on a sour note Friday, with all the averages losing, but especially the NASDAQ, down more than 2.5% on the week.
The week's events included an ostensibly neutral FOMC policy meeting midweek, at which the Fed kept rates at their unusually-accomodative level, prompting speculation that their next meeting (June) might indeed move the federal funds rate from its current level of 0.25-0.50, another 25 basis points higher, to 0.50 to 0.75.
With credibility becoming more and more of an issue for central bankers globally, the rationale for another rate hike is obvious, though the wisdom of one would be suspect. A rise in rates would likely trigger another waterfall event in equities, something which the Fed wishes to avoid with all due intent.
However, with CPI running below their desired level of 2.0% and news Friday that first quarter GDP was an anemic 0.5%, barely above recession level, the assorted Ph.d. crowd in Washington seems trapped once more.
Looking ahead, the big number for the week will be Friday, when non-farm payrolls for April are released prior to the market open. In the interim, more companies will be reporting first quarter results, which have been moribund for the most part.
If trends continue at the current pace and in the same direction, there would be almost no reason for the Fed to raise rates in June, excepting that the almighty dollar may be coming under further pressure. The unwind of the USD/JPY pair carry trade is putting downward pressure on the dollar and doesn't appear to be abating.
If there was one bright spot for the manipulators-in-charge, it was in the oil patch, with WTI crude trading at multiple-month highs. With an enormous glut still affecting worldwide prices coupled with the refusal of major producers to slow their production speaks volumes to the lack of democracy in what should be a strict supply-demand market. Prices have nearly doubled since touching down in the $26 range earlier in the year, a move that may prove problematic and unsustainable.
More challenges to the status quo will appear this week and beyond, as there is almost nobody who believes in the tortured figures the BLS produces for jobs. Any uptick in the unemployment rate will be a shock and a body blow to the Fed's plans, with the potential not only of a complete stoppage rate increase talk, but a potential reversal and the specter of NIRP (negative interest rate policy), the same that has swept Japan and Europe to - and possibly over - the edge of the monetary cliff.
Meanwhile, the herd appears to be turning to investments without counter-party risk and no interest: gold and silver, which don't pay dividends but also do not require storage by a bank (unless in enormous quantity). It certainly seems that the age of fiat money is wobbling badly.
For the week:
Dow: -229.97 (1.28%)
S&P 500: -26.27 (1.26%)
NASDAQ: -130.87 (2.67%)
S&P 500: 2,065.30, -10.51 (0.51%)
Dow: 17,773.64, -57.12 (0.32%)
NASDAQ: 4,775.36, -29.93 (0.62%)
Crude Oil 45.99 -0.09% Gold 1,296.30 +2.36% EUR/USD 1.1452 +0.88% 10-Yr Bond 1.82 -1.03% Corn 391.50 +0.06% Copper 2.28 +2.04% Silver 17.88 +1.63% Natural Gas 2.14 +3.03% Russell 2000 1,130.84 -0.84% VIX 15.72 +3.29% BATS 1000 20,677.17 0.00% GBP/USD 1.4610 +0.04% USD/JPY 106.3900 -1.58%