Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekend Recap: Wild Wall Street Ride Continues Push Higher

Amid the swirling winds of Washington's political circus, the nation's financial sector continued to take all the body blows, low blows, and talking head shots dished out by the deep state in perfect stride, carrying the averages to new highs on Wednesday following President Trump's speech before a joint assembly of congress.

With one eye on the political process and the other on the Federal Reserve, stocks continued to dance forward into March, with two key dates upcoming: Friday, March 10, when the February non-farm payroll report is released, and, Wednesday, March 15, the conclusion of a two-day FOMC meeting largely expected to result in an increase in the federal funds rate, from 0.50-0.75 to 0.75 to 1.00.

The jobs report will be crucial in terms of setting the agenda for the Fed governors. If expectations are met and job growth continues to be robust, the Fed will almost certainly announce a rate hike. Falling short of expectations could lead to another month of inaction on interest rates.

In any case, stocks were pumped after the presidential address in which Mr. Trump reiterated promises to build a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States, repeal and replace Obamacare, and set forth an overall economic agenda that will include budget cuts to various agencies, a trillion dollar infrastructure plan and a rejiggering of the tax code.

Should the President succeed even marginally on his lofty economic goals, stock pickers may well find themselves in a condition to ignore any moves by the Fed, freeing speculators from the tired monologue that has led the market for the past eight years running and continue the now third-longest expansion in stock market history.

Shrugging off such ancient notions as fundamental valuations and price-earnings ratios, investors have taken the stock markets literally to uncharted territories. The US dollar remains the currency of choice in most of the world and with that oil and most commodity prices have slumped and/or stabilized. Bonds continue to vacillate, though short term rates are beginning to show signs of stress, especially in consideration of upcoming budget and debt ceiling debates. Also on the minds of many in the investing community are elections in the Netherlands (in two weeks) and France (April 23) where populist candidates in the Donald Trump style are engaged in hotly contested races.

The populist surge sweeping the globe is unlikely to be quelled soon, either by technocrats in the European Union or entrenched politicians across a wide swath of nations, from Malaysia to Japan to Italy and Germany. The middle class in developed nations, having been squeezed financially by globalization, is in nearly full revolt. All the while, giant corporations appear confident that they will weather the ongoing stormy crises.

At the Close, 3.3.17:
Dow: 21,005.71, +2.74 (0.01%)
NASDAQ: 5,870.75, +9.53 (0.16%)
S&P 500: 2,383.12, +1.20 (0.05%)
NYSE Composite: 11,598.37, +22.46 (0.19%)

Since the election in early November, the NYSE Comp. and S&P 500 have closed higher 12 of 17 weeks, the Dow and NASDAQ, 13 of 17.

For the week ending 3.3.17:
Dow: +183.95 (0.88%)
NASDAQ: +25.45 (0.44%)
S&P 500: +15.78 (0.67%)
NYSE Composite: +57.08 (0.49%)

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