Friday, December 29, 2017

Stocks Sink to End Year as Santa Claus Rally is Kidnapped by Grinch; Gold, Silver Push Higher

As trading drew to a close for 2017, a banner year for stocks was blemished buy a final bout of selling which rendered three of the four major averages lower for the week.

Only the NYSE Composite managed to eek out a gain for the shortened, four-day week, but even that was marginal, up less than a tenth of a percent. The NASDAQ was the most serious casualty, losing nearly one percent for the week. The Dow suffered its worst one-day loss since November 15.

Much of the selling came in the final hour of the session, suggesting that it was largely programmatic, a rebalancing of select funds for end-of-quarter or end-of-year purposes.

For the S&P and the Dow, the day's decline was the fifth in the past eight, though the S&P still managed to close out the week - and the year - just 21 points away from its all-time high.

Whether or not this late-month selloff continues into January 2018 is questionable, given that markets are still buoyant and money, by and large, is still on the cheap side. Thus, it would not be out of the question to see stocks gallop out of the gate on January 2nd.

Perhaps more compelling than watching stocks do an imitation of drying paint the past two weeks was the activity in precious metals, as gold and silver each took off as the year drew to a close. After being beaten down the first part of December, both metals rallied sharply down the stretch.

Silver hit a triple-bottom, six-month low of 15.67 per ounce on December 13, only to rebound to end the year at a respectable 17.01 on Friday. Gold, which was beaten down to 1240.90 (also December 13), hitting a five-month bottom, advanced smartly through the final two weeks, ending the year at 1302.50. Silver's eight percent rally and the five percent move in gold were the best two-week showings for the metals since July.

Some of the rally in metals was undoubtably due to the demise of the dollar, which closed out the year at 92.30, close to its September 8 low-point of the year, 91.35. It traded as low as 91.10 on the day but strengthened into the close.

If there's any meaning to be drawn from the past two weeks of trading, it could be that a sudden whiff of caution may have taken markets by surprise after the Republicans in congress and President Trump managed to push through a tax reform bill right after the Fed raised rates for the third time this year. After all, with Fed on a path of rising interest rates and the federal deficit poised to explode higher in the latter half of 2018, there may finally be a good, factual reason to bail out of stocks.

Despite the best efforts of a deeply-divided congress, fiscal policy is anything but disciplined. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is committed to massive bond dumping onto a market which can scarce absorb it.

2018 may indeed be one best described as a collision course of correcting bad monetary policy with tightening and loose fiscal policy. One cannot have the best of all things.

At the Close, Friday, December 29, 2017:
Dow: 24,719.22, -118.29 (-0.48%)
NASDAQ: 6,903.39, -46.77 (-0.67%)
S&P 500: 2,673.61, -13.93 (-0.52%)
NYSE Composite: 12,831.78, -21.31 (-0.17%)

For the Week:
Dow: -34.84 (-0.14%)
NASDAQ: -56.57 (-0.81%)
S&P 500: -9.73 (-0.36%)
NYSE Composite: +11.38 (+0.09%)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dull Market...

As much of the Western Northern Hemisphere falls into a deep freeze (if you think it's cold in the US, try Canada... brrr), stocks seem to be following the trend, frozen into a stuttering somnambulism over the past six trading days.

To get an idea of just how sluggish the market has become, consider the overall range on the Dow since Monday, December 18 - six trading days - has been a mere 155 points. It's been even more severe on the S&P, where, over the same span, the average change has been roughly 3 1/2 points.

The lack of volatility has been a constant throughout the year, though it has been expressed even moreso in the past week, owing to the time of year and exhaustion of traders, many of whom are likely far away from their desks, taking time off to what out the final market days of the year.

Happy Holidays.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 27, 2017:
Dow: 24,774.30, +28.09 (+0.11%)
NASDAQ: 6,939.34, +3.09 (+0.04%)
S&P 500: 2,682.62, +2.12 (+0.08%)
NYSE Composite: 12,821.98, +13.08 (+0.10%)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Stocks Still on Pause as Year Winds Down

The Dow Industrials, NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 each closed lower for the fourth time in the past five sessions.

In normal times, this kind of market action would be characterized as "distribution," a code-word for institutional selling, and maybe that's exactly what it is. As the Fed and other central banks have flooded markets with liquidity, the past nine years have been anything but normal, however, so these past few days could be better explained as "turning off the computers" as stocks have reached an exhaustion level.

It's also the week between Christmas and New Year, a time for friends, family, and a generally-accepted laid-back attitude toward work. Anybody who has worked for a living knows the value of down time, and that's probably what this little pause is all about. There's no need to delve further into the ether, trying to discern a pattern or conjure up an explanation. That would be just the kind of imaginative speculation that leads to bad investment decisions.

While the market has yet to make any meaningful moves to the downside, this little spat of sluggishness is probably nothing more than the result of non-chalance than anything else.

When stocks take a deep dive of more than two percent over a number of sessions, or technical levels are violated, only then may more analysis be deemed advisable. For now, it's better to have a hot toddy or two, relax with friends and family and let the markets sort themselves out over the final three days of trading, reeling from what was previously a torrid pace.

At the Close, Tuesday, December 26, 2017:
Dow: 24,746.21, -7.85 (-0.03%)
NASDAQ: 6,936.25, -23.71 (-0.34%)
S&P 500: 2,680.50, -2.84 (-0.11%)
NYSE Composite: 12,808.90, +11.46 (+0.09%)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Stocks Slide Into Christmas Break, But Finish Higher for the Week

Heading into the final week of 2017, stocks have been terrific performers for there year-to-date, with the major averages all having made multiple new highs throughout the annum.

With the exception of the Composite index, all the majors held the same pattern over the week leading up to Christmas, up sharply on Monday, followed by declines three of the next four days, Thursday being the odd up day. For the NYSE Composite, Wednesday was a gainer, while the other three fell.

Because of the outsize gains on Monday, all finished the week in the green, with the Composite leading the way, percentage-wise.

Though stocks have been superstars not only for the current year, but for the past nine years running, since the wicked days of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) back in 2008-09, the past four days have been something of a disappointment, especially since the congress managed to push through a milestone tax reform bill and keep the government functioning for another month with a last-minute continuing resolution on Friday.

What may not be obvious to casual observers is just how stretched valuation have become. Year to date, the NASDAQ is up a whopping 28%, the Dow 23%, S&P 500 19%, and the NYSE Composite the laggard, up a mere 15%, a number which would be stellar most of the time.

Will stocks continue to climb in 2018. It's difficult to take a stand against stocks, but a small January pullback would not be out of the ordinary.

Anybody who sold this market short is likely eating cat food and living in a cardboard box, so it's doubtful any analyst will take a negative view heading into 2018. Someday, all of the smart guys on Wall Street are going to be wrong, but guessing what day that will be is a task for gamblers, not investors.

At the Close, Friday, December 22, 2017:
Dow: 24,754.06, -28.23 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: 6,959.96, -5.40 (-0.08%)
S&P 500: 2,683.34, -1.23 (-0.05%)
NYSE Composite: 12,797.44, -2.77 (-0.02%)

For the Week:
Dow: +102.32 (+0.42%)
NASDAQ: +23.38 (+0.34%)
S&P 500: +7.53 (+0.28%)
NYSE Composite: +97.76 (+0.77%)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Stocks Churn; Bitcoin Crashing

Following Monday's start-the-week-off-right rally, stocks have gyrated about the flatline the rest of the week, signaling that a good number of major players have already left the exchanges for holidays and that the recently-completed tax reform bill has been almost completely priced into stocks.

Thus, we're left with little other than churn as the days before Christmas dwindle to none. There are likely to be few surprises on Wall Street as the week closes out, though overnight, the cryptocurrency world had plenty upon which to contemplate going forward.

Bitcoin, the gold standard of cryptos, crashed below $13,000, marking a 17% drop in less than the past 24 hours.

A number of suspect factors are to blame for its recent demise, those consisting largely of rumors and some fact, such as large "whale" investors getting out while the mania is still hot, the emergence of Hashgraph, which was of mention here yesterday, and the abrupt realization by more than a few people that Bitcoin - due primarily to the severe slowness of clearing transactions and the unwieldy large amount of computing power necessary to mine coins - is unreliable and unworkable as a currency.

Within a short time, it's highly likely that bitcoin could be trading in the hundreds of dollars rather than in the thousands. Recall that its current price was largely achieved in just the past 12 months, growing from sub-1000 at the start of the year.

Other cryptos are being mercilessly battered, led by IOTA, down nearly 40% overnight, denoting the downside of 24/7 markets.

What goes up, must come down, and that is the lesson for the day. Stocks will also suffer at some point, though betting on that happening has been a fool's game since the worrisome days of 2008-09.

For now, it looks like a quiet day of trading stocks ahead, with downside risk prominent.

At the Close, Thursday, December 21, 2017:
Dow: 24,782.29, +55.64 (+0.23%)
NASDAQ: 6,965.36, +4.40 (+0.06%)
S&P 500: 2,684.57, +5.32 (+0.20%)
NYSE Composite: 12,800.21, +52.66 (+0.41%)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wall Street Yawns at Tax Reform; Hashgraph May Supercede Bitcoin

Wall Streeters aren't completely happy with the tax reform package that passed both houses of congress on Wednesday, despite howls of victory from assembled Republicans at the White House. If they had, the "sell the news" trading of the past two days would have been overwhelmed by a furious buying frenzy as US corporations see their federal tax burden reduced from 35% to 21%, below the world average.

While the politicians are happy back-slapping each other and highly paid traders on Wall Street see their tax burden increase due to the loss of some deductions for local taxes (SALT), there are bigger, less-well-defined events occurring far from DC or New York.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all the rage, now that the CBOE has gotten into the game with bitcoin futures trading, assuring that the financial genii that DID NOT invent blockchain technology will be able to participate.

That's all the more reason that crypto is soaring, both in value and interest. The promise of the blockchain was initially to exclude current government and financial entities (banks, brokers, exchanges) from transactions, freeing up the new "money."

That has changed, but, outside that, a newer, potentially even more disruptive idea has emerged: Hashgraph, which speeds up transaction processing by light years over Bitcoin and provides even better security and privacy in a distributed ledger environment.

It's the latest development in a fast-changing game and deserves full attention to anyone who is thinking about freedom. Mike Maloney has put together an interesting look behind the scenes of the crypto world in his latest installment of the Hidden Secrets of Money (Episode 8) in Bitcoin to Hashgraph: The Crypto Revolution.

The video is over an hour long, but it should be tops on every Christmas list for thinking individuals, silver and gold bugs, heads of companies and anybody looking for better solutions than tax brackets, thousands of pages of federal tax code (estimated at over 70,000), a puzzling phalanx of rules, regulations and confusing calculations all of which are the bread and butter of the stock market and fractional reserve skimmers.

A day will come when stock prices, interest rates, and tax considerations aren't the most important financial parameters. That day is coming sooner than many people with knowledge want to accept.

Happy (Hashgraph) Holidays.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 20, 2017:
Dow: 24,726.65, -28.10 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: 6,960.96, -2.89 (-0.04%)
S&P 500: 2,679.25, -2.22 (-0.08%)
NYSE Composite: 12,747.55, +0.01 (0.00%)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stocks Slip As Congress Readies Tax Bill For President Trump's Signature

In what can only be described as a premature "buy the rumor, sell the news" moment, stocks gave up early gains and ended uniformly on the downside as the House and Senate passed the tax reform bill that's been the focus of news and speculation the past three weeks.

With only a minor tweaking needing to be handled by the House on Wednesday morning, the bill will travel to the president's desk for his signature, confirming a promise to have a tax bill before Christmas and essentially ending the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by reducing the penalty for not having health insurance to zero ($0.00).

The inclusion of the mandate-crushing language in the bill was a masterstroke for Republicans, who failed to repeal (and replace) the morally-flawed Obamacare legislation earlier in the year, but manages to effectively make non-compliance a victimless violation.

While Democrats are furious over this development, which will undeniably send premiums even further into the stratosphere, those millions of people who neither can afford nor need healthcare coverage (think healthy people in their 20s through 50s) will be freed from the tyranny of a law that never should have been.

Otherwise, the tax reform legislation is great for corporations and marginally good for individuals, depending upon income level and family size. Overall, the fresh 500 pages of tax code will likely make the United States more competitive in global markets and put more money in people's pockets.

Wall Street, which has been pricing in the tax plan nearly every day in December, is poised to take its gains, take a few days off, and continue next week with a bona fide "Santa Claus rally" which will extend the gains for the year.

If stocks take the indicated course, January should commence with some serious tax-selling profit taking. After that, it's anybody's guess how much longer the bull market can continue.

At the Close, Tuesday, December 19, 2017:
Dow: 24,754.75, -37.45 (-0.15%)
NASDAQ: 6,963.85, -30.91 (-0.44%)
S&P 500: 2,681.47, -8.69 (-0.32%)
NYSE Composite: 12,747.54, -38.28 (-0.30%)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

With Rubio and Corker Backing Tax Plan, Stocks Take Off

Maybe the scuttlebutt about Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Corker (R-TN) being persuaded to vote for the long-awaited tax reform plan circulating in the congress caused stocks to career higher on Friday, but the more likely catalyst was probably much more mundane: the expirations of options on a quad-witching day.

There were certainly a boatload of long bets on individual stock and index options, and, since the market is so overtly controlled by a handful of "whales" it was simple business to boost stocks throughout the day no matter what the news of the day portended.

Anybody who doesn't believe the market is rigged to go higher - incessantly - in support of central bank plans to intercede in global markets by buying assets and printing fiat, is simply fooling themselves.

Thus, bears have been declawed, pension funds and IRA are becoming whole (or, at least less underfunded) and top stock holders have been handed capital gains on a silver platter with little to no effort or brainpower on their parts.

Since congress appears poised to pass the pending tax legislation in the coming week, investors are sure to get a gift-wrapped Christmas present in advance of the give-away holiday.

2017 will go down in history as one of the best ever for stock market investors. The major averages are well into the green and some individual stocks are boasting gains of 30, 40, 50 percent or more.

Happy Holidays. Keep Dreaming.

At the Close, Friday, December 15, 2017:
Dow: 24,651.74, +143.08 (+0.58%)
NASDAQ: 6,936.58, +80.06 (+1.17%)
S&P 500: 2,675.81, +23.80 (+0.90%)
NYSE Composite: 12,699.68, +70.61 (+0.56%)

For the Week:
Dow: +322.58 (+1.33%)
NASDAQ: +96.50 (+1.41%)
S&P 500: +24.31 (+0.92%)
NYSE Composite: +56.62 (+0.45%)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Stocks Stumble As Marco Rubio Voices Concern Over Republican Tax Plan

Appropriately, with the latest installment of the "Star Wars" franchise opening in cinema theaters around the country, Wall Street sensed a disturbance in the "force," the force being Janet Yellen and her merry band of storm trooping central bankers, the disturbance being upstart senator "little" Marco Rubio, who inadvisably pondered that he may not cast his vote in favor of the magnificent GOP tax plan that's been bandied about the halls of congress for months.

The former presidential candidate and current senator from Florida, Rubio voiced concerns over a minuscule detail in the overall grand scheme, the child tax credit, and on Friday morning made it clear that unless the amount of the credit that is deductible ($1,100 of $2,000) is increased, he's voting against the plan.

Notwithstanding Rubio's need to be seen, heard and appear important on occasion, his grandstanding is purely designed as entertainment value over the weekend for the cable news outlets. A final rollout of the bill and votes will come next week, just prior to congress' two-week holiday vacation.

Also adding to the folly is John McCain, who was hospitalized this week with complications from his cancer treatment, may not be present for a vote, should his condition worsen. Republicans cannot survive more than two defections, and Senator Bob Corker, the statist senator from Tennessee is staunchly opposed to the measure, purely out of hatred for president Trump.

Failure of the bill's passage would be a blow to Wall Street being that the measure approves a reduction of corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent, something for which major corporations - many of which pay little to no federal tax already - have been lobbying for years.

Thus, with doubt overshadowing the happy passage of bellwether legislation, stocks took a notable turn for the worse on Thursday. The loss ended a string of five straight days higher on the Dow, and an overall run-up from 23,200 to beyond 24,600 over the past month.

As is the usual case, there's probably nothing about which to worry, since the Fed has Wall Street's back, front, and middle, and little tolerance for anything more than a few hundred point drop on the hallowed Dow Jones Industrial Average.

With Christmas a little more than a week away, neither congress, the Fed, nor Wall Street want to appear as Scrooges or Grinches, much less a poor likeness of Darth Vader or the death planet, especially with heavy upside bets on options and futures, which expire today. Trying not to mix metaphors - but failing badly - Friday is a quad witching day.

Happy trading, and happy Friday.

At the Close, Thursday, December 14, 2017:
Dow: 24,508.66, -76.77 (-0.31%)
NASDAQ: 6,856.53, -19.27 (-0.28%)
S&P 500: 2,652.01, -10.84 (-0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 12,629.07, -70.41 (-0.55%)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fed Finishes Rate Hike Regimen for Year; Stocks Close Off Highs

Folks old enough to remember the comedy group Firesign Theatre might recall the famous, "Department of Redundancy Department," which is applicable to the never-ending, record-breaking after record-breaking stock market.

As Janet Yellen dispatches her final 0.25% rate increase to the federal funds rate, the markets did what they usually (always) do.

At the end of the day, the surprise was that the major indices closed well off the highs of the day, making for an interesting setup for Thursday.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 13, 2017:
Dow: 24,585.43, +80.63 (+0.33%)
NASDAQ: 6,875.80, +13.48 (+0.20%)
S&P 500: 2,662.85, -1.26 (-0.05%)
NYSE Composite: 12,699.54, +1.76 (+0.01%)

Alabama Turns Blue; Yellen's Final Rate Hike In Focus

Late Tuesday night, the nation learned that Democrat Doug Jones defeated embattled Republican Roy Moore in Alabama's special election for the seat formerly occupied by Jeff Sessions, who vacated when he was promoted to Attorney General by President Trump.

What may very well go unlearned is how much the blatant attacks on Roy Moore by women claiming he sexually assaulted him or otherwise acted in immoral ways swung the election to Jones, who will be the first Democrat elected to the senate from Alabama since sitting senator Richard Shelby won as a Democrat in 1986, but changed parties in 1994.

The election of Jones narrows the Republican majority in the senate to 51-49, a slim edge that puts any future Republican-sponsored legislation in serious jeopardy. That's news that Wall Street should cheer because a lame congress is usually good for business, though it's far too early to say what the overall effect will be.

Looking further out, Democrats are bolstered by the upset victory in usually-red Alabama, believing - with good reason - that they have an opportunity to wrest control of the Senate in the 2018 mid-term elections, the campaigns for which will begin heating up shortly after the holidays.

What's also on the minds of investors is the FOMC policy meeting concluding Wednesday afternoon. The Fed is widely expected to vote to increase the federal funds rate another 25 basis points, to 1.25-1.50%.

As has been the case for the past nine years and the slow parade of 0.25% rate hikes which began in December of 2016, it's unlikely to cause much of a stir on Wall Street.

The Fed has plans for three to four more hikes in 2018, which would put the overnight lending rate at something around two percent. While still historically low, some analysts believe the economy isn't nearly durable enough to maintain a positive bent in the face of higher rates.

The Fed makes its policy statement at 2:00 pm ET Wednesday afternoon.

At the Close, Tuesday, December 12, 2017:
Dow: 24,504.80, +118.77 (+0.49%)
NASDAQ: 6,862.32, -12.76 (-0.19%)
S&P 500: 2,664.11, +4.12 (+0.15%)
NYSE Composite: 12,697.78, +29.57 (+0.23%)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More of the Same: Stocks Start Week With Gains; Even Doug Noland Doesn't Know How It Ends

Nothing new about this, except that it's beginning to become obvious to everybody that the relentless ramping of stocks by central banks and their cohorts in the commercial banking sector (think Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Morgan Stanley) cannot continue uninterrupted.

On the other hand, it's been going on for a lot longer than anyone could have possibly expected...

The big questions are:

1. When does it end?
2. How does it end?

At this point, nobody in the financial world even has a clue, including people as bright and provocative as Doug Noland, who has been authoring the Credit Bubble Bulletin since the late 90s.

His recent interview podcast by Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity is incredibly prescient and offers insights into the global credit bubble that cannot be found anywhere else.

It is highly recommended listening.

At the Close, Monday, December 11, 2017:
Dow: 24,386.03, +56.87 (+0.23%)
NASDAQ: 6,875.08, +35.00 (+0.51%)
S&P 500: 2,659.99, +8.49 (+0.32%)
NYSE Composite: 12,668.21, +25.15 (+0.20%)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Stocks End Week Higher; Bitcoin Still Bubbly; Gold, Silver Pounded Lower

Stocks got back to rising without worry on Friday following the 238,000 new jobs reported in November, according to the BLS' non-farm payroll data.

The Dow, S&P, and Composite set new all-time high closing marks, the NASDAQ falling short of a record by 74 points, due primarily to the drubbing of the FAANGs late last week and early this week. Highly speculative tech stocks are considered to be benefited least of all companies by the tax bill currently coursing its way through congress, thus, some investors were shunning the sector for that reason. Others were likely taking profits after what is looking like a banner year for the tech leaders.

Bonds ended the week with a quiet session, the curve steepening ever so slightly, with the short-duration issues yielding the same or .01% more, while the 10-year-note yield was bumped a pip higher, to 2.38%.

The curve is still quite flat, with the spread between 2s and 30s only 98 basis points (0.98%). In other words, investors are flocking to short terms, which spells long-term trouble. In more normal times, a 30-year treasury bond would be yielding five from seven percent, but, even with the economy growing - albeit sluggishly - long-dated commitments are out of fashion. Lending the government money for a long period of time will only produce a return of 2.75%, hardly anything upon which one would hang a retirement fund. The federal government, if one believes in free market economics, is not a worthy bet from more than a few years.

Difficult to believe, but would you put your money at risk for an additional 20 years for an extra 0.37% return (the difference between the ten-year and the 30 year)? Probably not, and expert bond traders apparently agree.

No report would be complete without mentioning Bitcoin, which galloped above $17,000 on Thursday, but dropped back to just under $16,000 Friday, capping a week which it began just below $12,000 per coin.

On the flip side (pun intended), gold and silver were beaten down all week, sending silver to a loss year-to-date. Looks like a buying opportunity in the physical mining and bullion sector which has been the poster children for underperformance the past four years.

At the Close, Friday, December 8, 2017:
Dow: 24,329.16, +117.68 (+0.49%)
NASDAQ: 6,840.08, +27.24 (+0.40%)
S&P 500: 2,651.50, +14.52 (+0.55%)
NYSE Composite: 12,643.06, +74.08 (+0.59%)

Gold: 1,245.90, -3.90 (-0.31%)
Silver: 15.73, +0.01 (+0.06%)

For the week:
Dow: +97.57 (+0.40%)
NASDAQ: -7.51 (-0.11%)
S&P 500: +9.28 (+0.35%)
NYSE Composite: +28.50 (+0.23%)

Stocks Bid as Congress Avoids Government Shutdown; NFP Grows by 228,000

On Thursday, with the House and Senate agreeing to keep the federal government open for business via a two-week continuing resolution, investors took that relief as reason to rally stocks, erasing some of the losses of the previous week.

As Friday morning advanced toward the opening bell, the Commerce Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released their most recent data on employment in the November non-farm payroll (NFP) report.

Coming in better-than-expected, the department reported an increase of 228,000 net new jobs in the month of November, adding more evidence that the economy, under the guidance of President Donald J. Trump, continues to expand. The unemployment rate remained at decades-low, 4.1%.

Futures pointed to a strong positive open for Friday's week-ending session.

At the Close, Thursday, December 7, 2017:
Dow: 24,211.48, +70.57 (+0.29%)
NASDAQ: 6,812.84, +36.47 (+0.54%)
S&P 500: 2,636.98, +7.71 (+0.29%)
NYSE Composite: 12,568.98, +36.55 (+0.29%)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Stocks Continue to Stall While Crypto Goes Wild; Silver Down for 2017

Stocks continued to plan through the early days of December, giving up early gains to close mixed to down on the day.

Overnight, Bitcoin careened through $13,000, $14,000, and $15,000 per coin to set all-time highs in an unprecedented move.

While the cryptocurrencies may have Wall Street and central banks on the ropes, it hasn't presented the chief manipulators of precious metals from pounding down gold and silver, the latter of which dropped below $16 per ounce, leaving it down for the year.

Bonds were bid, dropping yields, though the curve remained stubbornly flat. With the FOMC meeting less than a week ahead, declining bond yields may give the Fed reason to pause on their planned federal funds rate increase.

Meanwhile, Washington, DC is working out an emergency continuing resolution, designed to keep the government running for at least a few more weeks.

Amid all the political and monetary madness, stocks remain resilient, though the recent lag may be a sign that gains for the year may be already locked in to many portfolios.

Other than Bitcoin, which has entered either a bubble or mania stage, and precious metals, which are a screaming buy, there doesn't seem to be much to tantalize the usual stock purchasers. Valuations have been stretched, and, with Novemebr non-farm payroll data due out Friday morning, Thursday is setting up to be another day of divestiture and consolidation.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 6, 2017:
Dow: 24,140.91, -39.73 (-0.16%)
NASDAQ: 6,776.38, +14.16 (+0.21%)
S&P 500: 2,629.27, -0.30 (-0.01%)
NYSE Composite: 12,532.43, -34.73 (-0.28%)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Tech Rout Spreads to Other Sectors; Bonds Signaling Slowdown

We have seen this show before.

Jittery markets, just off fresh all-time highs, make dramatic swings to the downside.

For the past nine years running, such activity has typically been followed by aggressive "dip-buying" and soon thereafter, new all-time highs on all the major indices.

Is this time different?

It's tempting to say that it is, especially for analysts who have been consistently wrong about market corrections during the grand recovery, but, it's probably nothing, unless...

... one considers the US treasury bond complex and its fast-collapsing curve, which currently has the spread between between a 2-year bill (1.80%) and the 10-year-note (2.34%) at a mere 54 basis points. The 2/30 spread is a minuscule 92 basis points (1.80%-2.72%), but perhaps most troubling is the tiny, 21 basis points between the 5-year and 10-year note.

The five-year note is yielding 2.13%.

Why does this matter? There are a number of good reasons, primarily, because in banking, one typically buys short-duration and lends long duration, making money on the spread. But, if there is no spread, there's scant money to be made and only a relative few defaults on long loans (such as occurred during the sub-prime crisis) can cause calamity for the lenders.

Also, the danger of inversion is weighty, occurring when a shorter-duration bond yields higher than a longer-duration. Such inversion might occur between the fives and tens, where the spread is - as mentioned above - only 21 basis points (0.21%).

Inversion matters because it signals that investors have no appetite for anything of long duration (loss of confidence) and are attempting to get all the yield on the short end, as quickly as possible. Every time bond yields have inverted in the past 90 years of market history, a significant inversion has been followed by a recession.

So, while Wall Street is enjoying salad days in stocks, the bond market is worrying, as Main Street finds difficulty in borrowing for the future.

The tide in stocks may also be turning, as evidenced yesterday as the Dow took over the lead in the relentless decline experienced in the NASDAQ. At this point, all stocks are at risk, probably due to the threat of yet another government shutdown, looming close at December 8. The November non-farm payroll report Friday could be the catalyst to send stocks even lower and bond spreads tighter. Extreme caution is advised the remainder of the week, noting that holiday season stock routs are extremely rare events. They usually happen in January.

In conclusion, this time is not different. It's the same as it always has been. Periods of stock euphoria are usually followed by recession. Boom-bust. Nothing lasts forever. To think so is pure tom-foolery.

At the Close, Tuesday, December 5, 2017:
Dow: 24,180.64, -109.41 (-0.45%)
NASDAQ: 6,762.21, -13.15 (-0.19%)
S&P 500: 2,629.57, -9.87 (-0.37%)
NYSE Composite: 12,567.16, -67.73 (-0.54%)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

FAANGs, NASDAQ Under Assault as Investors Book Profits

Profit-taking in tech stocks continued on Monday as high-flying, high-p/e companies known affectionately as the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google) were subjected to relentless, high-volume selling.

For the record, here's how these tech darlings fared on Monday:
Facebook (FB) 171.47, -3.63 (-2.07%)
Apple (AAPL) 169.80, -1.25 (-0.73%)
Amazon (AMZN) 1,133.95, -28.40 (-2.44%)
Netflix (NFLX) 184.04, -2.78 (-1.49%)
Alphabet (Google, GOOG) 998.68, -11.49 (-1.14%)

General holders of these stocks are not yet alarmed over the losses which began a week ago, following the last-gasp ramping over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, because the companies have been among the best performers since January.

What is apparent is that investors are taking profits made in these stocks - none of which, other than Apple, offers dividends - and investing largely in Dow companies, all of which provide dividends to shareholders.

There's nothing unusual about what analysts typically call "sector rotation," except that the movement is quite pronounced. The S&P and Dow have outperformed the NASDAQ for six straight sessions.

With the markets less than two hours from the opening bell on Tuesday, futures are diverging wildly, with Dow futures up in the range of 130 points, while NASDAQ futures are falling by 90 points or greater.

At the Close, Monday, December 4, 2017:
Dow: 24,290.05, +58.46 (+0.24%)
NASDAQ: 6,775.37, -72.22 (-1.05%)
S&P 500: 2,639.44, -2.78 (-0.11%)
NYSE Composite: 12,634.89, +20.33 (+0.16%)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dow Posts Best Week Of Year; NASDAQ Falls


In what was the best performance week of the year for the Dow (a nearly three percent gain), the NASDAQ lost more than one half percent.

The math is fairly simple. Outside of Apple (AAPL), which is a component of Dow 30 stock, the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) all got beaten down.

Facebook (FB) lost 1.78%.
Netflix (NFLX) was down 0.41%.
Amazon (AMZN) fell 1.44%, and Google (GOOG) dropped 1.10%. Additionally, another of the high-fliers, Tesla (TSLA) shed 0.75%.

Those stocks make up a mammoth portion of the total volume on the NASDAQ, thus nullifying any gains by all other stocks on the index.

Fear not, however, holders of high P/E paper, because since the Senate tax legislation was cleared Saturday morning by a narrow margin, all is well in the land of the free. Monday morning futures are pointing to a moon shot open.

For the Week Ending December 1, 2017:
Dow: +673.60 (+2.86%)
NASDAQ: -41.57 (-0.60%)
S&P 500: +39.80 (+1.53%)
NYSE Composite: +192.63 (+1.55%)