Thursday, October 31, 2019

Fed's FOMC Delivers Rate Cut; Markets Respond Positively

Following the Fed's FOMC announcement of another 25 basis point cut to he federal funds rate - the thrid in the last four months - stocks took off for new heights, with the S&P posting another new all-time high, just two days after breaking through to a record close.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session 212 points off its all-time high, the NASDAQ just 36 points shy of a record, and the NYSE Composite closed less than 400 points from its January 2018 record.

With three-quarters of a point shaved off the key target interest rate for Fed watchers, the overnight lending rate stands in a range of 1.5% to 1.75% and the Fed's language suggests that it will not cut rates automatically at its next meeting (December) or any future meeting.

What the somewhat hawkish stance means for markets is that the flow of money is going to be stanched at some point, and that point may have already occurred, though adroit rate watchers expect further pressures on the economy that would force the Fed's hand in the first and second quarter of next year.

There are already signs that the economy is slipping, though the first estimate of third quarter GDP came in above expectations (1.6%) at 1.9% for the recently closed-out time frame, so it's not apparent that the US economy will be facing recession any time soon.

All of this makes for an interest final two months of the year for investors. Will we see a repeat of last year's December dive or are there enough animal spirits to keep the stock market churning higher?

Only time will tell.

At the Close, Wednesday, October 30, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,186.69, +115.29 (+0.43%)
NASDAQ: 8,303.98, +27.13 (+0.33%)
S&P 500: 3,046.77, +9.88 (+0.33%)
NYSE Composite: 13,244.01, +34.41 (+0.26%)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Stocks Slip Amid Mixed Earnings, Awaiting FOMC Interest Rate Decision

Stocks took a breather the day after the S&P 500 set a new all-time closing high, slumping slightly on various earnings results that were a mixed bag.

Google parent, Alphabet (GOOG), started the dour mood after the close on Monday by missing EPS estimates by a wide margin. General Motors (GM) was another big name that fell short, reporting $1.20 per share against analyst estimates for $1.31. There were plenty of smaller firms reporting solid or neutral results for the third quarter, but the large caps dominated the news flow.

Drops on the main indices were contained, not unusual following a healthy upsurge. Waiting upon the Federal Reserve's FOMC policy decision announcement Wednesday afternoon (2.00 pm ET), trading was muted but not depressing.

When the market opens Wednesday, earnings reports will already have been released for some other big names, including Yum! Brands (YUM), General Electric (GE), and Sotheby's (BID).

Apple (AAPL), Starbucks (SBUX), and Facebook (FB) report after the close.

In between earnings releases and calls, the Fed will provide most of the excitement on Wednesday.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 29, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,071.42, -19.30 (-0.07%)
NASDAQ: 8,276.85, -49.13 (-0.59%)
S&P 500: 3,036.89, -2.53 (-0.08%)
NYSE Composite: 13,209.63, +23.20 (+0.18%)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

S&P Sets Record All-Time High; Fake Trump Tweet; FOMC Meeting to Begin

With an FOMC meeting in the dock for Tuesday, investors took the opportunity to ramp stocks higher prior to the expected 25 basis point cut to the federal funds rate. Just prior to the opening bell, an apparently fake news story about a presidential tweet appeared on, saying President Trump tweeted, "today will be a good day in the stock market," and, "the China deal is moving forward ahead of schedule."

We checked the president's twitter feed and could not find any such tweet. We also checked Bloomberg, which featured an article on President Trump's tweets that related to the stock market. No such tweet was shown in the article.

This clearly looks like a somebody spoofed the grammatically-challenged Zero Hedge website. It was most likely one of their "reliable" email contacts trying to look good. It's a shame that "the Hedge" has slumped to such low levels of journalism - if that's what you want to call it - because it is normally a pretty good source for economic news not found elsewhere.

Recently, Zero Hedge has taken to posting political and other non-economic articles, to its detriment. Many of the commentators who frequented Zero Hedge in its heyday (2008-2009), prior to it being purchased by ABC Media (British Columbia, not the US media giant). According to the one-liner in the website's footer - Copyright ©2009-2019 Media, LTD - the company took it out of the original owner's hands in 2009, as the GFC was winding down.

For the S&P 500, Monday was a special occasion, setting a new all-time record high closing. Trump may not have pumped it with a tweet, but his "America First" policies have certainly contributed to the rise of all US indices.

If stocks were overvalued prior to Monday, they are even more overvalued now, and will likely be uber-overvalued after the FOMC announces another rate cut on Wednesday.

In the meantime, earnings season is in full swing. The big story was Google parent, Alphabet, third quarter earnings, reported after the close. Alphabet posted a per-share profit of $10.12 in the quarter, decidedly below the $13.06 a share from the same period last year. Analysts polled by Bloomberg were expecting a per-share profit of $12.35.

The sizable miss was due largely to losses in investments. Among investments that may have contributed to the loss, Alphabet was involved with Uber and Slack, two companies that recently IPO'd and have lost value.

Little of this will affect Tuesday's trade outside of Alphabet (GOOG). There's far too much enthusiasm for equities and anticipation of looser monetary policy from the Fed already backed into the mix.

At the Close, Monday, October 28, 2009:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,090.72, +132.66 (+0.49%)
NASDAQ: 8,325.99, +82.87 (+1.01%)
S&P 500: 3,039.42, +16.87 (+0.56%)
NYSE Composite: 13,186.43, +40.19 (+0.31%)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Green Lights for Stocks; Flight From High Tax States Varies US Landscape

For equity investors, the week was all about Friday.

After flailing about the prior four sessions, US indices got a sizable boost on the final day of the week, sending traders home satisfied with a positive result for the week.

With the Dow, NASDAQ, and Composite mere percentage points short of all-time highs, the S&P 500 is within three points of its record closing high, recorded earlier this year, on July 26 (3,025.86).

So, with all the uncertainty surrounding geo-political events - impeachment, Brexit, trade war - stocks continue to perform magic as solid investments in a ZIRP and NIRP environment.

With the Fed committed to "not QE" through the second quarter of 2020 (at least), stocks have in front of them a glowing green light signaling fresh all-time highs. The FOMC is expected to cut another 25 basis points at its meeting this week, the second to last of the year.

In commodity trading, WTI crude oil was bid, closing out the week at 56.63 a barrel after slumping down to $52.45 over the prior two weeks. Gold and silver, both sluggish over the past month, finally were bid on Thursday and Friday. Gold was as high as $1518 on Friday, settling in at $1504, while silver crested above $18 per ounce and closed right on that number Friday.

Ten-year treasury notes continued to be shunned, finishing out the week with a yield of 1.80%, with some correlation to ongoing cuts in the federal funds rate. Bond traders are expressing a preference for short-term maturities, with 1, 2, and 3-month bills nearly at the same yield as the 10-year. While the yield curve has returned from inverted to a rather dull slope, there's certainly no consensus on direction. With the 10-year yield at its best level since August, it is still well below the average 2.72% which prevailed in the first quarter.

Earnings reports have been unreassuring, with as many misses as those topping estimates. Overall, mega-corps are still making money, just not so much to boost their prices significantly. In this environment, banging out 5-8% year-over-year gains has to be considered pretty solid, being that the current economic cycle is well past the mid-point and may be nearing an end.

Recession talk has subsided for now, though different regions throughout the vast US landscape offer varied results. In general, flight from high-tax states - New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, and California, in particular - to Southern enclaves continues apace. Retirees are taking their money and running for the state line, seeking reduced property, income, and estate taxes in more conservative states.

States that have not raised their minimum wages significantly are experiencing an influx of new residents, and with that, housing, roads, and commercial spaces are being constructed at a hot pace. Meanwhile, the Northeast continues to suffer from an overabundance of taxation, regulation, and handouts to the indigent at the same time its infrastructure is crumbling and best residents are leaving.

New York is a prime example of the dangers of liberal policies causing middle and upper class flight. While undocumented (illegal) migrants (aliens) are offered free food, housing, and education, long-suffering native New Yorkers are feeling put out, footing the bill for government largesse while good jobs are scarce and property taxes are near the highest in the nation. Home values are depressed, despite low interest rates and job creation is limited by the excessive minimum wage and other requirements of employment paid for by companies.

New York leads the nation in lost manufacturing jobs in 2019, estimated to have shed 10,000 positions through the first nine months of the year. The Empire State has also suffered significant losses in the hospitality and construction industries, due to the higher minimum wage and lack of growth in commercial and residential building.

These so-called "high tax states" are going to face a cash crunch, as higher paid workers are replaced with low-skill, low pay employees. The revenue will not be enough to sustain the high costs of state agencies and pensions. A major bust has been building for years in many states who will have to face the reality that the days of big promises are over and government staff reduction and budget cuts are on the table.

The United States is a big country, and, similar to the nations of Europe, some states may be booming while others are failing.

Caveat Emptor.

At the Close, Friday, October 25, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,958.06; +152.53 (+0.57%)
NASDAQ: 8,243.12, +57.32 (+0.70%)
S&P 500: 3,022.55, +12.26 (+0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 13,146.24, +27.33 (+0.21%)

For the Week:
Dow: +187.86 (+0.70%)
NASDAQ: +153.58 (+1.90%)
S&P 500: +36.35 (+1.22%)
NYSE Composite: +139.60 (+1.07%)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Amazon Misses, Gold, Silver Bid

Even more sloshing around as the week progresses. The Dow traded in a range of just 217 points, ramping back and forth across the unchanged line.

All other indices saw gains, although they were slight. The NASDAQ topped the list with nearly a one percent rise.

Within an hour of the opening bell Friday, Amazon (AMZN) reported eps of 4.23 per share versus an expected $4.59, a miss of 7.8%. This follows poor thrid quarter reports from Caterpillar (CAT), 3M (MMM), and Texas Instruments (TXN), on Thursday.

Gold and silver are being well bid, with silver gaining over 2.5% above $18 per ounce for the first time in over a month.

At the Close, Thursday, October 24, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,805.53, -28.42 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,185.80, +66.00 (+0.81%)
S&P 500: 3,010.29,, +5.77 (+0.19%)
NYSE Composite: 13,118.91, +4.52 (+0.03%)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Stocks Sluggish As Bonds Offer Nearly Risk-Free Money Making

Markets churned through another day of earnings hits and misses.

Nothing really to see here as the investing community awaits the penultimate FOMC meeting of 2019, slated for October 29 and 30. Another 25 basis point reduction in the federal funds rate is expected at that time.

While cuts such as is expected in October used to be good for a good pop in stocks, lately, Wall Street has been less-than-enthusiastic when interest rates are slashed. This is clear from the current yield on the 10-year note, which refuses to budge, hovering in the 1.70-1.80 range.

That's not supposed to happen. Bond traders, however, are not being herded into low-yielding offerings at the behest of the Fed. There are certainly other ways to spread risk, into corporates or even shorter-maturity treasuries, and the bond vigilantes are taking them. There's a certain logic to taking 1.74% on a one-month bill rather than locking up money for 10 years for a yield that is only marginally higher. Having cash on hand to seize upon opportunity is smart investing.

With the yield curve so flat, there's little reason to probe the longer end, though, for safety's sake, the 30-year bond is now yielding a healthy 2.25%, nearly the best since rates were clobbered in August.

Earnings may be taking center stage for now, but the heart of the market is clearly in fixed income. Too much speculation, over-valuation, and memories of 2008 in stocks has sent money scurrying to safer places.

At the Close, Wednesday, October 23, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,833.95, +45.85 (+0.17%)
NASDAQ: 8,119.79, +15.50 (+0.19%)
S&P 500: 3,004.52, +8.53 (+0.28%)
NYSE Composite: 13,114.39, +42.53 (+0.33%)

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Earnings Not Carrying Stocks Higher

US companies are making money, just not enough to satisfy the investing appetites at this stage of the expansion.

Traders have been poring over third quarter reports for the better parts of two weeks now, and what they're seeing is unimpressive. Gone are the heady days of the early internet boom, when companies reported growth at torrid paces. Today's market is mundane, predictable, and eventually more conditioned to move on Fed-speak, rate moves, or geopolitics, rather than fundamentals, those boring profit statements from multi-nationals.

The good news is that stocks aren't experiencing another October like the last, when the indices tumbled day after day, wiping out most of the annual gains from 2018. That underlying fear of having a rug pulled out from under may be why nobody is either irrational or exuberant at this juncture.

This and next week are the busiest reporting weeks of the month. Unless there are some big negative surprises, one can reasonably expect markets to simply glide along until the Fed meeting at the end of October, when another 25 basis point cut in the federal funds rate is expected.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 22, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,788.10, -39.54 (-0.15%)
NASDAQ: 8,104.30, -58.69 (-0.72%)
S&P 500: 2,995.99, -10.73 (-0.36%)
NYSE Composite: 13,071.86, -16.76 (-0.13%)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

October Surprise? S&P 500 Closing In On All-Time High; McDonald's (MCD) Misses

For a Monday, trading wasn't very impressive. The back-and-forth of the equity markets we've been seeing for many months have elicited a cautionary mood. There's modest dip-buying and rallies are being sold, though not excessively. It makes a great market for traders on commission or those who are in and out of stocks faster than political media pundits can say, "Russia."

It being the heart of third quarter earnings season, there are likely to be bumps and grinds, but the news of the day was the S&P picking up 20 points to close above 3,000, the first time it's been there since September 19. Prior to that, the S&P remained at elevated levels for the last two weeks in July, topping out at 3,025.86 on the 26th before taking a five percent dive in August.

The question now, with impeachment talk fading, troops coming out of Syria and a tentative cease fire between the Kurds and Turks imposed, a China deal looking better every day, and still-solid employment figures, is whether the index can make a new all-time high and hold there. The Fed is certainly doing its part, adding as much liquidity as it can, as quickly as possible, but yields on the 10-year note are not making it any easier, reaching 1.80% on Monday. The good news from the bond pits is that the curve is no longer inverted and hasn't been for some time, easing recession fears.

Thus, there are shifting winds, buffeting the sails of sellers and buyers alike, but the S&P 500 appears to be marching toward uncharted territory. Another session like Monday's would put it over the top.

As far as alternatives, the aforementioned bond arena is looking better and better, though far-out alternatives like gas generators, extra canned goods, firewood, and gardening supplies have taken the front seat on the road to self-sufficiency.

It's no joke that preppers are still prepping for the inevitable crash and burn, or civil war, or zombie apocalypse. It's coming, but no one knows when. For the most part, all those canned goods have to be rotated at last every few years, but, hey, everybody has to eat.

Gold bugs and silver surfers have been backstabbed repeatedly by the futures traders whose sole mission in life, it seems, is to keep a lid on the price of precious metals. They've done a stellar job, smashing down gold every time it crests above $1500, and silver, whenever it gets to $18 per ounce, is sold as if it's some form of monetary kryptonite.

That leaves stocks, or maybe it's time to think about buying a few cows and a brace of chickens. McDonald's (MCD) may be thinking along those lines. They missed on both top and bottom line estimates with EPS coming in at $2.11 vs. $2.21 expected. Overall, it wasn't bad, however. Despite a miss on domestic same store sales - +4.8% vs. +5.2% expected - which is causing a decline of about four percent in pre-market trading, most companies would be happy with growth above four percent, especially established brands like Mickey D's.

Investors always overreact, and this is no different, though with a multiple closing in on 30, maybe the fast food giant is a bit overpriced above $200 per share.

You want fries with that sell order?

At the Close, Monday, October 21, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,827.64, +57.44 (+0.21%)
NASDAQ: 8,162.99, +73.44 (+0.91%)
S&P 500 3,006.72, +20.52 (+0.69%)
NYSE Composite: 13,088.61, +81.97 (+0.63%)

Sunday, October 20, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: QE Is Back and Here To Stay

As can be easily shown by the numbers below, Friday's little blood-letting brought markets close to break-even for the week, that being the most likely outcome for stocks in the near-term and over the past 21 months.

Bullish and bearish arguments can generally be tossed to the trash heap at this juncture. Many funds will be soon closing their books on 2019, with a pretty fair profit baked in and the ugly returns from 2018 fading fast into the distance.

On the funding issues at the Fed and primary dealers, some are already calling it a crisis. In a nutshell, on October 1, the entire overnight lending facility nearly froze up and the Fed has been lending to the primary dealers, buying back their collateral for cash, at a frantic pace.

What many are calling, tongue-in-cheek "not QE" is exactly QE, on steroids. The Fed has to buy up more securities than the Treasury department can issue, thus, they'll be buying up foreign debt (read: at negative interest rates), in what can only be seen by any cogent observer as backdoor currency destruction.

What the Fed doesn't want to reveal is that they will have to continue doing Temporary Open Market Operations (TOMO) and Permanent OPO (POMO) well past the second quarter of next year, which they have already admitted to being their current forecast timetable. By June of next year, at the end of the second quarter, the Fed will probably be sopping up $100 billion per month, and that's a conservative estimate.

The overarching objective is to keep the current expansion (Ponzi scheme) going, so that the stock market continues toward and beyond new all-time highs and bonds continue to lower in yield. The problem, ultimately, is that it cannot go on forever, but negative interest rates will likely take care of that, reducing the monetary base to a point at which the Fed and central bankers around the world will have run out of options.

Then, it will be the average citizen who pays the price for experimental Keynesian economics, or, as a former president used to term it, "voodoo economics."

Stock up on canned goods. Great for the holidays and essential during catastrophes.

At the Close, Friday, October 17, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,770.20, -255.68 (-0.95%)
NASDAQ: 8,089.54, -67.31 (-0.83%)
S&P 500: 2,986.20, -11.75 (-0.39%)
NYSE Composite: 13,006.64, -32.59 (-0.25%)

For the Week:
Dow: -46.39 (-0.17%)
NASDAQ: +32.50 (+0.40%)
S&P 500: +15.93 (+0.54%)
NYSE Composite: +73.73 (+0.62%)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Peaceful Markets Lulling Bulls and Bears Alike into Complacency

Stocks had no direction whatsoever on Thursday, same as many of the sessions from the past few months.

There doesn't seem to be any momentum in either direction, but, as the old adage says, "never short a dull market." This being the middle of third quarter earnings season, there will likely be action on the names which are reporting, though moves during such a period are often discounted as mere knee-jerk reactions.

Everything else, bonds, precious metals, oil, also seems to be in a state of suspended animation. Volatility has been wrung out of markets, which is probably a positive, since there are fears of a repeat of last October, when stocks were battered. This being a non-prime election year, perhaps a significant period of calm might be beneficial.

If you think it's easy to write about nothing, the above sentences should prove that it's not.

At the Close, Thursday, October 17, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,025.88, +23.90 (+0.09%)
NASDAQ: 8,156.85, +32.67 (+0.40%)
S&P 500: 2,997.95, +8.26 (+0.28%)
NYSE Composite: 13,039.23, +44.34 (+0.34%)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

IMF Warns Pension Funds, Insurers, Shadow Banking On Overvalued Stocks

At last, some honesty.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, holding its week-long annual meeting in (where else?) Washington, DC from October 15-20, has issued a report about stock valuations and the dangers faced by pension funds, insurers, and institutional investors.

Because low interest rates in many parts of the world are cause investors to reach for yield, the IMF sees inherent risk of overvaluation and imprudent borrowing as potential pitfalls should an economic downturn occur.

Their solution would be for more stringent regulation and closer monitoring of large institutional investors and so-called "shadow banking" outlets like insurers and non-bank financial companies. Obviously, the chiefs at the IMF have not read their history well enough, as there's ample proof that during ties of loose monetary policy, central bankers have a tendency to look the other way, fall suddenly into deep sleep, or simply miss obvious signs of trouble developing.

Famously, leading up to the Great Financial Crisis, then-chairman, Ben Bernanke, dubiously opined on May 17, 2007, "The subprime mess is grave but largely contained." A year later, the global economy was in tatters, fending off complete collapse.

While there are certainly signs that stocks are overvalued, and those signs have been apparent for a long time, years, in fact, the conceptual framework currently in use by investors is that the Fed and other central banks, fully in control of markets, will not allow any serious decline in equities, particularly in developed nations, and especially int eh United States.

That's the kind of certitude and unabashed frothiness that leads not-so-directly to insolvency, like trying to catch a falling knife.

It's laudable for the IMF to issue such a report and offer potential solutions to problems which may arise, but who's listening?

At the Close, Wednesday, October 15, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,001.98, -22.82 (-0.08%)
NASDAQ: 8,124.18, -24.52 (-0.30%)
S&P 500: 2,989.69, -5.99 (-0.20%)
NYSE Composite: 12,994.89, -11.15 (-0.09%)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stocks Remain in Yo-Yo Mode; Bonds Not Being Bid; BofA Takes Charge

Apathetic marketeers managed to bid stocks higher as third quarter earnings season progresses apace. That's a good start, but the yo-yo is in effect, and, no, that's not Sylvester Stallone stuttering. Stocks are generally fluctuating, and have been for the better part of two years, with no discernible direction.

For today's exercise in "what is fake news?" plenty will be said about Bank of America's (BAC) third quarter results, in which earnings per share beat analyst estimates. The bank returned 56 cents per share in the quarter, on expectations of 56 cents.

However (here's the fake news part), earnings were down from the same quarter a year ago, when the bank earned 66 cents per share. The culprit, according to the Wall Street Journal was a one time, $2.1 billion charge related to the coming dissolution of the bank’s payment-processing partnership with First Data Corp.

Well, isn't that special. Note the divergent headlines:

Yahoo! Finance: Bank of America beats profit estimates on stock trading, lending gains

Wall Street Journal: Bank of America Third-Quarter Profit Fell on Charge

Which one should you trust? (Hint: the one without the exclamation point in its name.)

Meanwhile, while everybody was busy reading their 401k statements, the 10-year note has rocketed from a yield of 1.52% on October 4, to 1.77% yesterday. That's quite the move (25 basis points, 1/4 percent), and, further, it un-inverted the yield curve, suggesting that what, exactly? There's not going to be a recession, or, if there's a recession, it will be short-lived and shallow, or, everybody is just front-running the Fed, buying the shorter maturities, or, the market is very confused.

Likely, it's a little bit of everything, but worth commenting upon and watching closely for the next move.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 15, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,024.80, +237.44 (+0.89%)
NASDAQ: 8,148.71, +100.06 (+1.24%)
S&P 500: 2,995.68, +29.53 (+1.00%)
NYSE Composite: 13,006.04, +109.82 (+0.85)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Stocks Flatlining In Advance of Bank Earnings

In the most recent Weekend Wrap, the flatlining of stocks over the last 21 months was discovered and discussed, but Monday's trading amplified the condition, with stocks stuck in a narrow range throughout the session.

The Dow Industrials traded in a range of 125 points for the full day, but, after the first half hour, the range was no more than 100 points in either direction. The same range-bound condition was true for all the major indices. Trailing into the close, the three majors (Dow, NAZ, S&P) were all down by less than 0.15 percent.

This was likely due to the observance of Columbus Day, which saw the bond market closed, though the lingeing effects of so much central bank tinkering must be playing on the minds of more than a few seasoned traders.

While markets are unlikely to completely seize up, there is the potential for individual stocks to go bid-less for extended periods. Market volume and breadth has been on the skinny side of thin, to say the least. Volatility has been wrung out, except for the occasional algo bounce directly tied to the up and down, on and off trade disputes between the United States and China. This false narrative moves markets, but not in any consistent pattern except for that of a knee-jerk.

The week ahead will feature third quarter results from the banking sector, sure to add some dynamism to an otherwise flaccid affair.

At the Close, Monday, October 14, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,787.36, -29.23 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,048.65, -8.39 (-0.10%)
S&P 500: 2,966.15, -4.12 (-0.14%)
NYSE Composite: 12,896.22, -30.70 (-0.24%)

Monday, October 14, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Stocks gain on Friday Bulge; 21 Months of Sideways Trading

Stocks gained nicely for the week, thanks entirely to Friday's massive, across-the-board gains. Otherwise, the week would have been flat to slightly lower.

Anybody who went into the weekend with giddiness over his or her market smarties shouldn't get too cocky because for the past 21 months, stocks have gone sideways.

Since February, 2018, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up a whopping 200 points. That's a return of less than one percent over the course of nearly two years. Investors are free to believe that 2019 is a strong year for stocks, but that's only because of the massive fourth quarter selloff in 2018. All stocks have done this annum is rebound, with the end result being sideways for the whole.

Over the same time span, the NASDAQ is higher by about 500 points, a gain of less than seven percent; the S&P tacked on 100 points for a rise of roughly three percent, and the NYSE Composite has actually lost about 700 points, or minus five percent.

If that's not sideways, France isn't in Europe.

A repeat of last year's fourth quarter, when stocks slid in October and then again in December, would put most portfolios under water for the past two years and that's not something your financial advisor is going to be happy having to tell you.

Well, since this is Columbus Day, we can all bask in the knowledge that while the brave explorer of 1492 did not exactly prove the earth was round, he was headed in the right direction. Little could Columbus imagine that 500+ years hence, all of the round-earth progress would result in flat-lined equities.

Not up. Not down. Sideways.

At the Close, Friday, October 11, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,816.59, +319.89 (+1.21%)
NASDAQ: 8,057.04, +106.26 (+1.34%)
S&P 500: 2,970.27, +32.14 (+1.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,926.92, +160.92 (+1.26%)

For the Week:
Dow: +319.92 (+1.21%)
NASDAQ: +74.56 (+0.93%)
S&P 500: +18.26 (+0.62%)
NYSE Composite: +95.37 (+0.74%)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Stocks Rise

Still on the road... drive-by post, not even tweeting it.

Not a bad week for stocks, thus far.

At the Close, Thursday, October 10, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,496.67, +150.67 (+0.57%)
NASDAQ: 7,950.78, +47.04 (+0.60%)
S&P 500: 2,938.13, +18.73 (+0.64%)
NYSE Composite: 12,766.00, +74.80 (+0.59%)

Stocks Bounce Higher, Shrugging Off Global Funding and Recession Issues

Apologies for the brevity, on the road once again.

Suffice to say that equity investors shrugged off all concerns on the day and bid stocks higher against a backdrop of daily and weekly losses. The NASDAQ was hardest hit, as traders shunned the high tech sector.

Crude oil has been an interesting story. Since the mid-September attack on the Saudi production facility, oil prices had surged, but now have retreated to prior levels, with WTI crude hovering in the $52/barrel.

Apparently, a two-week shutdown of five percent of global production does not warrant a 15% increase in price, as the perpetrators of the obvious false flag attack had hoped.

Well, at least we can all rest assured that massive fraud and manipulation of markets isn't the sole province of central banks and politicians.

Enjoy the day. Smile through the angst. Go Cardinals!

At the Close, Wednesday, October 9, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,346.01, +181.97 (+0.70%)
NASDAQ: 7,903.74, +79.96 (+1.02%)
S&P 500: 2,919.40, +26.34 (+0.91%)
NYSE Composite: 12,691.16, +100.25 (+0.80%)

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Fun With the Fed and Negative Interest Rates Spooking (and breaking) Markets

Stocks took a beating on Tuesday as trade and impeachment worries were reinforced and the Fed quietly reintroduced QE on the heels of the recent repo panic.

Most of this Fed stuff is beyond almost everybody's pay grade, but the simple finding is that the Fed and other central banks, having expanded their balance sheets to outrageous levels after the GFC in '08-'09, can't find a suitable mechanism to reintroduce all that money back into the system without blowing something up. Ergo, the REPO-related funding issues and now, POMO, because the Fed has backed themselves into a corner painted green with excessive amounts of securities (Treasuries and MBS) and they have to continue being the buyer of last resort, though even moreso now.

So, is cash tight? Kind of, depending on who you talk to, but the Fed's going to ease us all onto easy street again and will lower the federal funds rate again at the end of this month, by at least 25 basis points. At the rate they're going, the Fed is going to find itself at the zero-bound and staring negative interest rates squarely in the face right around the November elections next year.

The fed funds rate is currently 1.75-2.00%. After October's expected 25 basis point (maybe 50?) cut, it will only take six more similar cuts to put the rate at 0.00-0.25%, right back where it was from 2009-2015. However, given the odds for a slowdown in Europe and Japan and elsewhere, interest rates on a global basis are expected to continue their decline.

In order for the US to remain competitive, it may, at some point be forced to tease out negative rates, a slippery slope for certain. A little at first, like -0.10, and soon the market sends it snowballing, like in Europe and Japan where the entire yield curves are under zero.

Happy days! Some day a bank might come to Mr. or Miss Creditworthy and offer to pay them to buy a house or a car or maybe an electric blender if they open an account. But by then, bank charges will exceed the value of anything anybody can whip up in a blender, smoothie or otherwise.

We all want to live in interesting times, but thanks to the banking institutions and fiat currencies floated out of thin air, it's already bizarro-world and getting stranger each passing day.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,164.04, -313.96 (-1.19%)
NASDAQ: 7,823.78, -132.51 (-1.67%)
S&P 500: 2,893.06, -45.73 (-1.56%)
NYSE Composite: 12,590.91, -186.79 (-1.46%)

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Washington's Impeachment Addiction, Trade Fiasco, Brexit, Global Condition Damaging Wall Street

The headline says it all. Things are coming apart at a rapid rate. Anybody who is even the least bit jittery is moving out of stocks as fast as possible. Rerun of last year's fourth quarter massacre is commencing apace. This iteration may be comparable to the New England Patriots playing a football game against a high school girl's rugby team.

More than caution is needed. A little panic would do the world's markets some good and maybe get the back-slapping bureaucrats and politicians to actually do some thing constructive (fat chance).

China will not negotiate fairly and especially so until the impeachment chorus is silenced for good. Even if President Trump is elected to a second term, Democrats will not stop their harassment, but likely accelerate efforts to remove him from office by any means. One saving grace could come from Republicans recapturing the House of Representatives, but that's a real Hail Mary.

In England, the anti-democratic forces are pushing ahead toward four years since the original referendum to leave the European Union was approved by the general population (June 23, 2016). Since, there has been a non-stop war waged against the wishes of the people. With no apparently-workable deal in sight, it may be the case that Britain won't leave the EU at all until the people rise up against their government. All is needed is a spark, in Britain, in the US, in China, everywhere, for the global condition to turn to global contagion and conflagration.

The global condition - which has generally been worsening since September 11, 2001 - is deteriorating at a quickened pace. There will be pain, but, in the end, if one is consistent, conservative, and constructive, a better future lies just ahead.

At the Close, Monday, October 7, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,478.02, -95.70 (-0.36%)
NASDAQ: 7,956.29, -26.18 (-0.33%)
S&P 500: 2,938.79, -13.22 (-0.45%)
NYSE Composite: 12,777.74, -53.81 (-0.42%)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Stocks Bounce Badly, Bonds Rally In Charged Political, Economic Environment

Stocks ripped higher on Friday after September non-farm payrolls missed estimates, stoking expectations of another 25 basis point rate cut by the FOMC in their upcoming, October 29-30, meeting.

All US indices posted gains over one percent, offsetting about half of the losses made during Tuesday and Wednesday sessions. Despite the huge Friday gains, three of the four major indices finished in the red for a third straight weekly decline as fears of an upcoming recession, continued parlor games in Washington fueling fears of an impeachment of President Trump, and ongoing fits and starts in trade negotiations with China outweighed monetary politics and policy direction.

The NASDAQ was the lone survivor, with a gain of just over 1/2 percent.

Jittery as it has been, US equity markets continue to show signs of weakness but not of breaking down in a capitulating move. With third quarter earnings about a week away, there's optimism that corporate America still has not lost its profitable manner, meanwhile, the flight to US treasuries and corporate bonds continued apace throughout the week, with the yield on the 10-year note dropping 17 basis points - from 1.69 to 1.52% - for the week, and losing 38 basis points since the recent bond selloff sent to 10-year yield to a high of 1.90 on September 13.

Friday's closing bond price for the benchmark 10-year is nearing the lows made in late August and early September of 1.47%.

There seems to be little standing in the way of the 10-year note heading below its historic low yield made on July 5, 2016, of 1.37%, as comparable notes in developed nations - Germany, Japan, Switzerland - are all offering negative yields.

How long the treasury complex can withstand the onslaught of buying worldwide is a minor concern since the Fed has already signaled to markets that they were willing and able to offer negative yields, like the rest of the world's developed nations.

The specter of negative yielding bonds looms closer in the US, but is probably at least two years away, if it develops at all. A recession, such as has been predicted for 2020 (and also was predicted for 2019), could push the 10-year below one percent, but it's a long way down to zero for the world's most popular bond and the world's largest economy.

Unless Democrats succeed in unseating President Trump through impeachment or other means, the onus of recession remains, though it could very well be short-lived, since the US has plenty of untapped capital and productivity.

For the present time, it would be prudent to keep a close eye on the impeachment fiasco underway in congress. There's a strong likelihood that push-back by the Trump administration could send the entire bag of nonsense and dubious Democrat claims into the courts, pushing the narrative through the Democrat primaries in Spring 2020 all the way to November's presidential and congressional elections.

That actually could be the plan for Democrats, since they have made some very spurious allegations about the president, but, the mainstream media loves a circus and promotes the impeachment mantra in an unalterable, monotonous, fallacious chorus.

The American public has grown tired of the repeated attempts to besmirch the duly elected chief executive and the result could be an historic landslide victory for Republicans in the fall of 2020. The alternative, should the Democrats and their obedient lackeys in the media succeed is more than likely to cause a rift in the populace - generally between urban liberals and rural conservatives - that could foment tremendous civil unrest and lawlessness. That is the disruption Wall Street - and most of the civilized world - fears most.

Bumpy will be the ride for the economy, politics, and society over then next 12 to 16 months unless the Democrats are exposed and soundly defeated.

At the Close, Friday, October 4, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,573.72, +372.68 (+1.42%)
NASDAQ: 7,982.47, +110.21 (+1.40%)
S&P 500 2,952.01, +41.38 (+1.42%)
NYSE Composite: 12,831.54, +145.78 (+1.15%)

For the Week:
Dow: -246.53 (-0.92%)
NASDAQ: +42.85 (+0.54%)
S&P 500: -9.78 (-0.33%)
NYSE Composite: -140.43 (-1.08%)

Friday, October 4, 2019

September Non-farm Payrolls Fall Short; Stocks Brace for Selloff or Liftoff

Thursday's trading was another typical banker-assisted positive close on US indices. Stocks continued their descent from Tuesday and Wednesday's losses at the open, but quickly rebounded into positive territory. This pattern has been a feature for the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ since the late 1980s, when the PPT or President's Working Group was created, buoying stocks when losses appeared to be overwhelming.

Free markets? Probably not now and not in the near future. The Fed can put its fingers on the scales at any time, frustrating short sellers but acting as an artificial booster rocket for stocks. While the blatant manipulation is nearly-universally disliked, holders of 401k or retirement funds find the benefit of a backstop beneficial to the health of their portfolios.

That's why fundamentals really haven't mattered for some time, and especially since the GFC of 2008. The Fed or their proxies step in and stop the losses in their tracks. It's not exactly fair or transparent, but it is effective.

Prior to Friday's opening bell, September's non-farm payroll data was released by the BLS, showing an increase of 136,000 jobs for the month, below expectations of 145,000. August payrolls were adjusted upward to 168,000. Due to July's low numbers, the three-month average for payroll additions between July, August and September fell to 119,000, representing the lowest since 2012.

The jobs report sends a clear signal that the economy is slowing, but not yet going in reverse. The weak September report paves the way for the Fed to cut another 25 basis points from the federal funds overnight lending rate. Mixed signals are being sent as this produces a "bad news is good news" condition, as weaker economic numbers push the Fed to continue lowering rates.


At the Close, Thursday, October 3, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,201.04, +122.42 (+0.47%)
NASDAQ: 7,872.27, +87.02 (+1.12%)
S&P 500: 2,910.63, +23.02 (+0.80%)
NYSE Composite: 12,685.77, +77.34 (+0.61%)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

How Deep Will Stocks Dive In October?

On the second day of the fourth quarter, US stocks took a fairly big hit, with the most widely-watches indices each dropping nearly two percent on the day. The current downdraft comes on the heels of two consecutive down weeks in the US markets, but the damage has been relatively mild.

Prior to Tuesday and Wednesday's heavy declines, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down just over 300 points, a little more than a one percent drop. Combined, the Dow fell over 800 points on Monday and Tuesday, making the entire dip about 1100 points, or just over four percent.

This is nothing to be concerned with, for now, though a repeat of 2018, when stocks ripped lower in October and December, should not be ruled out. By many measures, a slew of US equites are significantly overvalued, thanks in large part to the long-running bull market fueled by excess money printing by central banks and corporate buybacks. These are the two major components of the heady bull market and it is readily apparent that neither of these policies are going to end anytime soon.

The Fed is planning another 25 basis point cut in the federal funds rate at their next FOMC meeting, October 29-30 and corporate stock buybacks are still close to all-time high levels. With the pair policies funding all manner of excess, it would not be surprising to see any sharp decline - such as a 10% correction - countered with more easy money policy.

If there is going to be a recession, Europe will undoubtably encounter one before the United States. The EU is being battered by Brexit fears and poor economic data at the same time and its own measures of QE are barely making a dent in the declining economic conditions on the Continent. Thus, investors in the US will likely have advance warning of any GDP suffering.

Bear in mind that an official recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Therefore, a recession doesn't even become apparent until it is well underway. If third quarter GDP returns a positive number, that would indicate that a recession is still at least three months ahead. The world would find out if the US is headed into recession if fourth quarter GDP came in as a negative number, and that would only be reported by late January 2020.

Finally, a recession is not the end of the world for commerce nor stock investing. There will be a general malaise, as the low tide would affect all stocks in some manner, but there will still be winners, most likely in consumer staples, utilities, and dividend plays. If and when dividend-yielding stocks start taking on heavy water, that would be a time for more focused concern.

For now, caution, not panic, is advisable.

At the Close, Wednesday, October 2, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,078.62, -494.42 (-1.86%)
NASDAQ: 7,785.25, -123.44 (-1.56%)
S&P 500: 2,887.61, -52.64 (-1.79%)
NYSE Composite: 12,608.43, -226.92 (-1.77%)

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Is Another October Surprise Developing for US Stocks?

On the opening day of trading for the fourth quarter, stocks were beaten down, with all of the major US averages losing more than one percent on the day.

Following Monday's end-of-quarter window dressing session, the losses on Tuesday were unexpected, but not to any extreme extent.

Could the indices be entering an October surprise, not dissimilar to that which occurred in 2018, when the stock markets retreated en masse from all-time highs and then took further flight in December?

It's a real possibility, since, despite making new all-time highs during the summer months, stocks have been relatively flat for the past year. On October 1, 2018, the Dow stood at 26,447.05, which is just 126 points shy of where it closed on Tuesday. Economic conditions haven't really improved. In fact, many might posit that they have degraded.

The World Trade Organization (WTO), which in April 2018 projected global growth at four percent, recently downgraded all of 2019's growth to a paltry 1.2%. Employment, at least in the US, has peaked, with average monthly non-farm payroll data down from last year and September's figures are likely to come in soft.

ISM Manufacturing in the US fell to its lowest level in a decade, registering a 47.8, down from 49.1 points in August and the lowest level since June 2009. Two straight months below 50 indicates not only contraction, but an acceleration in the level of decline. That, in addition to the inverted yield curve, suggests that a recession is due in the US, as Europe is on the brink of recession as well and the condition has a tendency for global contagion.

Thus, stocks get sold, bonds - in a flight to relative safety - get bought and the result is depressed moods all around.

If general chaos is what one desires, this would seem like the perfect opportunity to impeach a sitting president on little more than hearsay. And that is precisely what House Democrats are attempting.

At the Close, Tuesday, October 1, 2019:

Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,573.04, -343.79 (-1.28%)
NASDAQ: 7,908.68, -90.65 (-1.13%)
S&P 500: 2,940.25, -36.49 (-1.23%)
NYSE Composite: 12,835.35, -169.39 (-1.30%)

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Investors Unconcerned Over Impeachment, Recession

As end-of-quarter trading sessions go, this one was quite on the tame side.

Sure enough, funds bought up some of the most-favored names as "window dressing" for clients, present and future, pleasure. It's an age old tactic to garner new business. "Look what we have," is how funds tout their portfolios to prospective investors, since there are no regulations prohibiting such misleading behavior.

Nonetheless, the practice is commonplace, but less and less significant as consumers become more aware of some Wall Street tactics.

Otherwise, most of the buzz on Monday was over the ongoing impeachment coup against President Trump being conducted in the House of Representatives. The Democrats are using unnamed sources in second-hand, hearsay-colored, whistleblower complaints as their latest weapon against the president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also changed House rules back in December to allow committee members to take depositions from interviewees and people subpoenaed without minority (Republican) representation, which is why the Democrats are working swiftly to take statements while they are actually in recess. Clearing out the opposition is a truly underhanded tactic, not worthy of the US congress, though the Democrat party has apparently now sunk to new levels of sleaziness. More on all of this in an article authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog.

Much of what's occurring in DC is apparent to the sharpest minds on Wall Street, and there's certain to be monitoring of events as the happen. Taking wall Street's apparent unconcerned posture as a clue, there's likely less than a 10 percent chance of the Democrats succeeding in impeaching President Trump. Their narrative is weak, not all members of the party are in agreement with approach and, further, if the House actually voted to impeach, a trial would have to be held in the Senate, where a 2/3rds vote is needed to convict and that is highly unlikely, given that Republicans are in the majority.

The weeks ahead will surely be replete with accusations and arguments about the president's "unfitness." A spirited counter-attack from the administration is also expected, and that should be a spectacle to behold.

Wall Street seems confident that the tremors in Washington, DC will not result in a political earthquake. While a positive outcome from their proceedings is far from assured, it is probably best to keep a level head, understanding that much of what the House Democrats are calling "crimes" are actually the president investigating the root causes of the non-stop witch hunt against him.

At the Close, Monday, September 30, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,916.83, +96.58 (+0.36%)
NASDAQ: 7,999.34, +59.71 (+0.75%)
S&P 500: 2,976.74, +14.95 (+0.50%)
NYSE Composite: 13,004.74, +32.76 (+0.25%)