Showing posts with label Wal-Mart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wal-Mart. Show all posts

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Brave New World Beckons As Algos Gone Wild Erase Vaccine Hopes, Feds Try Keeping Up With Lockdown Liftings

Stocks took a pretty major blow in the final hour of trading Tuesday, when Stat News, which is focused on health-related material, reported that Moderna's phase one trial of a COVID-19 vaccine was thin on critical data according to experts, in contrast to the glow that permeated Wall Street Monday over the same trial.

When that story crossed the wires, it wiped out - in a matter of minutes just before 3:00 pm ET - all of the sparse gains on the day for the NASDAQ and S&P, and sent the Dow Industrials tumbling in a textbook case of how stock-trading algorithms distort and disrupt what used to be markets run by human beings.

Moderna (MRNA) dropped nearly 10.5% on the day, after gaining 20% on Monday, wiping out most of that one-day wonderfulness. Moderna closed Friday at 66.68, rose to close at 80.00 on Monday and finished up Tuesday at 71.67.

Easy come, easy go.

The Dow, which was in the red almost all day, dropped more than 200 points in 10 minutes. Gains on other exchanges were wiped out in one fell swoop. Such is the fickle nature of equity markets in the days of fake news and extreme momentum chasing and yield seeking.

Elsewhere, Home Depot (HD) took a $640 million after-tax hit due to its response to the pandemic, which included expanded paid time off for hourly employees, weekly bonuses, and extended dependent-care benefits. Earnings per share for the first quarter came in at $2.08, down from $2.27 in the prior-year period and $0.18 below analyst expectations. Home Depot was down 7.25, a loss of nearly three percent on the day.

Walmart blew everything away in its quarterly, reporting adjusted earnings per share of $1.18, up from $1.13 in the prior-year period. Total sales for the big box giant jumped 8.6% to $134.6 billion, handily beating analyst estimates by $3.7 billion. Comparable-store sales in the U.S. soared 10%, driven by strong demand for food, consumables, and health and wellness products.

Even those blockbuster numbers couldn't stop investors from unloading Walmart stock, which finished the day down 2.71 (-2.12%). The stock made a 52-week high less than a month ago.

Housing starts were down 30.2% in April. Building Permits down 20.8% for the most recent month.

Other than all that, there wasn't much excitement on Wall Street, which thrives on gains, no matter where they're sourced.

The major issue facing stocks and the overall economy is how well the Federal Reserve can keep up with the rolling knock-on effects from the coronavirus and government response to it. With the national lockdown winding into a roving re-opening phase, some areas are seeing business and communities getting back to some semblance of normalcy, which is now a moving target. Schools remain closed almost nationwide, while rural communities have fared much better in terms of case incidence and economic slowdown than urban areas.

Having just passed the midway point of the second quarter, there's little doubt anywhere that the blow to GDP will be tremendous. The latest estimates for second quarter GDP range from -42% to -20% and those guesses may be overly optimistic. Being that just about everything was shut down for the entire month of April and most cities - where economic activity is paramount - just beginning to open up to vehicle and foot traffic, there's a very real possibility that the current quarter could collapse by more than 50 percent. Much is dependent on the consumer mindset, which is currently a mixed one.

Having already received bailout currency from the federal government and generous additions to unemployment insurance, lawmakers in Washington are slow-footing the follow-up. House Democrats launched a $3 trillion second stimulus measure on Friday, but Republicans in the Senate are calling the bill dead on arrival, preferring to take time to assess the result from round one before committing to more fun money for small business and individuals.

One unmistakable aspect of the government's bailout efforts is the unexpected consequences from giving people who were laid off or furloughed in the early days of the lockdown movement an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation. As it turns out, a very large percentage (up to 70% according to some estimates) of workers are making more now sitting at home collecting benefits than they were when they were gainfully employed and many of them are refusing to go back to their old jobs. Would anybody have suspected that hard-working Americans would rather stay home and cash checks from the government rather than grind out a 9-to-5 existence?

It shows, yet again, that government is always the problem and never the solution. Welcome to socialism 101 and a test run of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Alongside Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), now in live alpha testing by the Federal Reserve, the federal government and its central bank have slingshot the American public into a brave new world of radical economics, the long-term effects known by exactly nobody, though skeptics believe it will eventually result in either a worldwide depression, neo-feudalism (Max Keiser and others easily figured that one out), hyper-inflation, and a growing divide between haves and have-nots, already a chasm-sized gap.

Best bet is to be ready for all of the above by investing in hard assets, growing a garden, learning as much as possible about animal husbandry (at least chickens), and obtaining skills necessary to eek out a meager existence without the benefit of a central authority. Younger people will increasingly find such advice tiresome and boring, but the jobs and careers they were engaged in before the crisis occurred will almost certainly be greatly affected, with an emphasis on the negative.

Along those lines, unless local governments begin the process of trimming their robust budgets, cities and towns face imminent crises, the bigger ones looking at enormous needs that neither the federal government nor the Federal Reserve can fulfill.

Life will gradually return to a dystopian almost-normal in coming months. Thankfully, Summer is on the horizon, along with warmer weather and outdoor activities which should provide relief from the mask-wearing, social distancing, and fear mongering so prevalent in the current environment. On the other hand, things are heating up pretty quickly on all fronts. Expecting more disruption, displeasure, discontent, disparate government actions, fraud, fakery, and general dysfunction would be a solid frame of reference for anyone wishing to come out on the other side of this - circa 2022 - somewhat sane and intact.

At the Close, Tuesday, May 19, 2020:
Dow: 24,206.86, -390.51 (-1.59%)
NASDAQ: 9,185.10, -49.72 (-0.54%)
S&P 500: 2,922.94, -30.97 (-1.05%)
NYSE: 11,248.97, -153.26 (-1.34%)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Stocks Split As Dow, Led By Consumer Stocks, Rallies

Having plunged 224 points just before noon, the Dow Jones Industrials seemed destined for a third consecutive losing session on Monday.

Instead, investors sensed opportunity, buying up shares of mostly consumer stocks. Walgreens (WBA, 74.15, +1.64, +2.26%, Walmart (WMT, 94.69 +1.38, +1.48%), and Coca-Cola (KO, 46.48, 0.60, +1.31%) emerged the big gainers on the day as the Dow marched ahead more than 240 points to close marginally in the green.

Following along were the NASDAQ and S&P 500, though neither of those indices were able to punch above the unchanged line. Particularly hard hit was the tech-laden NASDAQ, which, inducing Monday's losses, had shed nearly five percent of its value top to bottom over the past three trading sessions.

With stocks floating close to all-time highs, the buying stint today seems to be of questionable quality. Globally, markets were stunned to open the week, with European bourses losing more than one percent, the German and Belgian markets dipping further below correction levels. To say the least, afternoon trading in US markets was built on shaky ground.

Dow Jones Industrial Average October Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
10/1/18 26,651.21 +192.90 +192.90
10/2/18 26,773.94 +122.73 +315.63
10/3/18 26,828.39 +54.45 +370.08
10/4/18 26,627.48 -200.91 +169.17
10/5/18 26,447.05 -180.43 -11.26
10/8/18 26,486.78 +39.73 +28.47

At the Close, Monday, September 8, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,486.78, +39.73 (+0.15%)
NASDAQ: 7,735.95, -52.50 (-0.67%)
S&P 500: 2,884.43, -1.14 (-0.04%)
NYSE Composite: 13,000.13, +8.19 (+0.06%)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Stocks Stalled As Bull-Bear Debate Intensifies

Equities traded in tight ranges on the main exchanges Thursday, with the bears winning the day, albeit marginally.

The small boost from retail stocks earlier in the week failed to extend to the general market. Cisco Sytems (CSCO) and Wal-Mart (WMT) each weighed heavily on the market despite both companies meeting analyst exceptions for first quarter earnings.

Current market mood is jaded, as companies that have reported acceptable earnings for the first quarter have been routinely punished by the market, with immediate selloffs the norm on receipt of news, whether good or bad. That kind of action is a pretty good indicator of distribution, an otherwise gentler term for profit-taking.

Heading into the tail end of the week, the Dow is looking considerably weaker than at the start, with Monday, May 14, the culmination of an eight-day winning streak, possibly marking the high-point of the month.

Friday is an options expiration day, so, some volatility is to be expected, though it's equally likely that many punters have already closed out their positions, which could leave the market with little upside. As odds go, the day looks very much like a toss-up, though a move of more than 150 points either way on the Dow is unlikely unless the herd gets a signal to scramble.

Dow Jones Industrial Average May Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
5/1/18 24,099.05 -64.10 -64.10
5/2/18 23,924.98 -174.07 -238.17
5/3/18 23,930.15 +5.17 -233.00
5/4/18 24,262.51 +332.36 +99.36
5/7/18 24,357.32 +94.81 +194.17
5/8/18 24,360.21 +2.89 +197.06
5/9/18 24,542.54 +182.33 +379.39
5/10/18 24,739.53 +196.99 +576.38
5/11/18 24,831.17 +91.64 +668.02
5/14/18 24,899.41 +68.24 +736.26
5/15/18 24,706.41 -193.00 +543.26
5/16/18 24,768.93 +62.52 +605.78
5/17/18 24,713.98 -54.95 +550.73

At the Close, Thursday, May 17, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,713.98, -54.95 (-0.22%)
NASDAQ: 7,382.47, -15.82 (-0.21%)
S&P 500: 2,720.13, -2.33 (-0.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,747.83, +4.03 (+0.03%)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

How To Deal With A Bully: Retailers Gang Up On Amazon

Wednesday, it was Macy's (M) reporting solid sales growth in the first quarter, fueling some interest in retail stocks overall.

Thursday morning, Wal-Mart is reporting 33% growth in online sales for the first quarter, proving that Americans will go where service and price are balanced, as the nation's largest retailer continues to roll out its innovative "ship-to-store" option and discounted shipping (free two-day delivery).

Amazon, the king of online retailing, may have succeeded in killing off and/or absorbing some smaller chain store retailers and accelerating the demise of dinosaurs like Sears, but they're certainly not going to mash down the biggest companies, such as Macy's, JC Penney, and Wal-Mart. While Seattle-based Amazon can build as many warehouses and fulfillment centers to facilitate faster, more efficient delivery, it is still hampered by its lack of bona fide retail locations, though its recent acquisition of Whole Foods will change that to varying degrees in different sectors and geographical locations.

Wal-Mart, which has a significant footprint in the retail food space, probably isn't worried about the emergence of Whole Foods poaching its customers, because Whole Foods is largely a near-luxury brand, selling organics and other higher-priced goods, while Wal-Mart customers are accustomed to low-priced, competitive products.

The recent resurgence of retail in the face of the Amazon effect should buoy some stocks and create an environment that will only become increasingly competitive, both online and in the real, brick-and-mortar world. As retailing evolves into 21st-century standards, don't expect first-mover Amazon to extend its gains, though its presence will certainly be dominant. Innovation by those playin catch-up with the newer technology should prove to level the playing field somewhat in coming years.

Macy's earnings beat managed to squeeze some upside out of stocks on Wednesday. Thursday's rise or fall will have much to do with Was-Mart's success story, though it may not provide enough of a catalyst to pull the entire market higher.

Dow Jones Industrial Average May Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
5/1/18 24,099.05 -64.10 -64.10
5/2/18 23,924.98 -174.07 -238.17
5/3/18 23,930.15 +5.17 -233.00
5/4/18 24,262.51 +332.36 +99.36
5/7/18 24,357.32 +94.81 +194.17
5/8/18 24,360.21 +2.89 +197.06
5/9/18 24,542.54 +182.33 +379.39
5/10/18 24,739.53 +196.99 +576.38
5/11/18 24,831.17 +91.64 +668.02
5/14/18 24,899.41 +68.24 +736.26
5/15/18 24,706.41 -193.00 +543.26
5/16/18 24,768.93 +62.52 +605.78

At the Close, Wednesday, May 16, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,768.93, +62.52 (+0.25%)
NASDAQ: 7,398.30, +46.67 (+0.63%)
S&P 500: 2,722.46, +11.01 (+0.41%)
NYSE Composite: 12,743.80, +39.17 (+0.31%)

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dow Gains For 8th Straight Day; Tuesday Data Reads Important

Stocks started the week on a strong note, only to see the rally fade as the session wore on, leaving the indices with marginal gains, led by the Dow Industrials with a 0.27% rise, the eighth straight trading day in which the Dow has recorded a positive close.

Higher by 163 points in the 11:00 am hour, Dow stocks gave back nearly 100 points, or roughly two-fifths of their value by the end of the day.

With most major companies having already reported first quarter earnings, this may turn into a rather dull week, though Tuesday's trifecta of economic data releases - NY Fed Manufacturing, Retail Sales, and Durable Goods - may provide suitable trading fodder.

On Wednesday, Macy's (M) reports prior to the market open, while Cisco Systems (CSCO) reports after the close.

Thursday may be the most impactful session, as retailers Wal-Mart (WMT), Nordstrom (JWN), and JC Penney (JCP) each report before the opening bell.

Thus far, nearly at the halfway point of the month, "sell in May" has not been the preferred trading regimen. Rather, a family strong counter-rally has been tearing along, leaving the Dow at its best level in nearly two months.

Dow Jones Industrial Average May Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
5/1/18 24,099.05 -64.10 -64.10
5/2/18 23,924.98 -174.07 -238.17
5/3/18 23,930.15 +5.17 -233.00
5/4/18 24,262.51 +332.36 +99.36
5/7/18 24,357.32 +94.81 +194.17
5/8/18 24,360.21 +2.89 +197.06
5/9/18 24,542.54 +182.33 +379.39
5/10/18 24,739.53 +196.99 +576.38
5/11/18 24,831.17 +91.64 +668.02
5/14/18 24,899.41 +68.24 +736.26

At the Close, Monday, May 14, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,899.41, +68.24 (+0.27%)
NASDAQ: 7,411.32, +8.43 (+0.11%)
S&P 500: 2,730.13, +2.41 (+0.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,772.04, +10.22 (+0.08%)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Market is a Yo-Yo; Don't Get Strung Out

There are only two directions in which the prices of assets can move: up or down. In it's current state, US stock indices are doing both, a condition which cannot persist for long before the establishment of a definite direction becomes apparent and dominant.

Thus far in the month of February - which has a mere six trading days remaining - there have been eight days of gains and five sessions ending with losses, each swing in either direction being rather magnanimous compared to the prior regime of low volatility and complacency.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average arrived at the midpoint between the highs and lows for the month. On the 8th, the low reading was a cumulative loss of 2288 points. On Tuesday, the 20th, it closed with a loss of 1184 for the month, roughly a 50% retracing off the lows, ending a string of six straight winning session.

Tumultuous times cry out for straightforward thinking and diligent observation. Direction will soon be determined, and such direction can be employed as a springboard for trading over the upcoming six to 18 months.

At the present, nothing has been determined, but it is clear that stocks are finding a rough road back to all-time highs acquired late in January. Not that all gains are without drawbacks and whipsaws, but the measure will likely be in the breadth of gains and losses in individual stocks.

Tuesday's losses on the Dow were led by Wal-Mart (WMT) which fell by more than 10%, but it was by no means alone. Of the 30 blue chip components, only five gained on the day, and only one - Intel (INTC) - gained more than one percent.

One by one, as fourth quarter 2018 and full year earnings are announced, the Dow stocks are being sold off. Whether this emerges as a buying opportunity or a precursor to more asset shredding is a function of both market sentiment and the continuing narration of the Trump economy.

If the general economy is on the mend, then this episode of doom and gloom will be brushed off as a mere anomaly. On the flip side, should the darlings of Wall Street continue to underperform, more losses lay dead ahead.

Dow Jones Industrial Average February Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
2/1/18 26,186.71 +37.32 +37.32
2/2/18 25,520.96 -665.75 -628.43
2/5/18 24,345.75 -1,175.21 -1,803.64
2/6/18 24,912.77 +567.02 -1,236.62
2/7/18 24,893.35 -19.42 -1,256.04
2/8/18 23,860.46 -1,032.89 -2288.93
2/9/18 24,190.90 +330.44 -1958.49
2/12/18 24,601.27 +410.37 -1548.12
2/13/18 24,640.45 +39.18 -1508.94
2/14/18 24,893.49 +253.04 -1255.90
2/15/18 25,200.37 +306.88 -949.02
2/16/18 25,219.38 +19.01 -930.01
2/20/18 24,964.75 -254.63 -1184.64

At the Close, Tuesday, February 20, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,964.75, -254.63 (-1.01%)
NASDAQ: 7,234.31, -5.16 (-0.07%)
S&P 500: 2,716.26, -15.96 (-0.58%)
NYSE Composite: 12,763.34, -111.02 (-0.86%)

Note: Just heard that Reverend Billy Graham has passed away at the age of 99. A good man has gone to meet his maker.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Jobs Number Baffles Market, But, The Market Is Saying SELL, SELL, SELL

With a January jobs number that was well short of expectations, at 151,000, the reaction from Wall Street was truly a puzzler. One could have easily gone with the "bad news is good news" meme, because if the economy is deteriorating (hint: it is) and layoffs are rampant (they are), then the Fed may not be able to justify any more increases in the federal funds rate this year.

That would be undeniably good for stocks.

It wasn't.

All the major indices took a nosedive right out of the gate, correctly predicted by the futures trading, which collapsed as soon as the number came out, an hour prior to the open.

So, what were the market mavens reading into the garbled mess that was the January Non-farm payrolls report?

Perhaps they looked at the wage growth, which was impressive, up a solid 1/2 percent, an unusually large jump, but probably the result of new legislation in a number of states which mandated higher minimum wages, which were where all the new jobs are - at the low end.

Or, the market might have reacted to the 4.9% unemployment rate, an unbelievable number, and again, a sign of a strengthening economy, which gives the Fed some latitude in raising rates. In any case, the odds of a rate increase later this year jumped on the news, sending stocks down the drain.

What traders see in the numbers may be far removed from what the numbers actually revealed, and the numbers themselves may not be very believable. After all, who actually believes that of those 151,000 jobs created, 58,000 of them were in retail? Remember, this was January, when retailers are normally laying people off after the holiday season. And this was no normal January either. Big chains, from Wal-Mart to Macy's to Sears were closing stores and letting people go. So, just who was hiring all these retail employees?

Then there were the 47,000 jobs created in the food service industry. Really? McDonald's, Applebee's, et. al., were hiring in January? The report also included a manufacturing sector increase of 29,000 jobs, which runs contrary to the recent ISM and PMI manufacturing jobs outlooks.

Money Daily warned yesterday that the BLS is famous for convoluted schemes to concoct bad figures and massive revisions, making the initial releases almost comical, and this one certainly fit the bill.

November and December were revised in opposite directions. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised from +252,000 to +280,000, and the change for December was revised from +292,000 to
+262,000, for a net loss of 2,000.

We also noted that the number would not be influential to markets unless it was a big overshoot or a big miss. It was a big miss, with the consensus estimate at 190,000. Besides being down more than 100,000 from December - even after the revision - it's a massive miss, and one that the market apparently could not readily overlook.

Overall, the damage to equity markets was pretty severe. The NASDAQ closed at its lowest level since October, 2014, some 17 months hence.

For the week:
S&P 500: -60.19 (-3.10%)
Dow: -261.33 (-1.59%)
NASDAQ: -250.81 (-5.44%)

The day's rout:
S&P 500: 1,880.05, -35.40 (1.85%)
Dow: 16,204.97, -211.61 (1.29%)
NASDAQ: 4,363.14, -146.42 (3.25%)

Crude Oil 31.02 -2.21% Gold 1,173.70 +1.40% EUR/USD 1.1162 -0.34% 10-Yr Bond 1.85 -0.86% Corn 366.50 -0.54% Copper 2.09 -1.88% Silver 15.02 +1.14% Natural Gas 2.07 +4.72% Russell 2000 985.62 -2.87% VIX 23.38 +7.05% BATS 1000 20,306.40 -1.64% GBP/USD 1.4503 -0.50% USD/JPY 116.8300 -0.05%

Friday, January 15, 2016

Stocks Slammed Globally, S&P Under 1900; Dow Drops Below 16,000

Wall Street is, at last, getting the just desserts from seven years of Fed policies that have funneled trillions of dollars into the hands of the wealthiest people in the country.

The kicker is that the American public, the 65-70% that still works for a living, are going to get the worst of it.

Today's carnage in US equity markets was not an isolated event by any means. It began years ago, but, in its most current manifestation, the collapse began in China last night, when the SSE fell nearly 5% in its last session of the week.

The contagious selling fever spilled over into European markets, with the DAX, CAC-40, and FTSE-100 ending the day down by 2.54%, 2.38% and 1.93%, respectively.

Prior to markets opening in the US, however, there was a spate of poor economic data released.

Retail sales for December came in at -0.1. PPI went negative (deflation) in December, at -0.2%. Empire Manufacturing (a gauge for economic activity in the NY Fed district, collapsed from a reading of -6.2 in December, to a ghastly -19.4 in January.

Industrial Production fell 0.4%. Capacity Utilization slumped to 76.5%.

Then came the news from Wal-Mart that they would be closing 269 stores this year, with 154 of them in the United States. The full list of Wal-Mart store closings can be seen here.

By the time markets actually opened at 9:30 am ET, futures were showing the Dow down by more than 350 points and the indices all fell off a cliff at the sound of the opening bell.

By midday, the Dow was down more than 500 points, the NASDAQ had shed close to 150, and the S&P was sporting losses of more than 50 points.

While today's crashing stock indices were certainly bloody, they weren't even close to the 10 worst one-day Dow declines of all time, so all is not lost.

As the session wore on, the signs of a failing economy - both here in the US and globally - were everywhere. The 10-year note fell briefly below 2.00%. With 1/2 hour left to go, declining issues were leading advancers roughly 6:1. Intel (INTC) was down nine percent. Citigroup (C) was posting a 6% loss; Microsoft (MSFT) was clinging to a four percent downside. Bank of America (BAC), which was pushing 17 two weeks ago, sliced through 15 and was trading in the range of 14.40, down 4.0% on the day.

With more companies reporting Q4 and annual earnings next week, the action this week and today might just be an appetizer for what's about to come, and that might be a recession, collapsing corporate earnings, liquidations, bankruptcies and the wholesale destruction of pension funds - heavily invested in equities - nationwide.

For its part, the Fed trotted out William Dudley, president of the NY Fed and vice chairman of the FOMc, who noted that negative rates could be considered in light of the recent market volatility. His tongue-lapping of the markets didn't seem to carry much weight. Investors were only interested in getting out and limiting the damage prior to the long weekend.

The day's closing prices:
S&P 500: 1,880.28, -41.56 (2.16%)
Dow: 15,988.08, -390.97 (2.39%)
NASDAQ: 4,488.42, -126.59 (2.74%)

Crude Oil 29.67 -4.90% Gold 1,088.90 +1.43% EUR/USD 1.0920 +0.53% 10-Yr Bond 2.03 -3.10% Corn 362.50 +1.26% Copper 1.95 -1.57% Silver 13.90 +1.14% Natural Gas 2.10 -1.73% Russell 2000 1,005.44 -1.97% VIX 27.70 +15.66% BATS 1000 20,066.91 -1.99% GBP/USD 1.4255 -1.13% USD/JPY 117.0050 -0.97%

For the week:
S&P: -41.76 (-2.17)
Dow: -358.71 (-2.19)
NASDAQ: -155.21 (-3.34)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

China Steel Exports To USA Subject To 256% Tariff

Remember, folks, the US Department of Commerce has your backs.

The department is recommending that the United States impose a tariff on steel imports from China of 256%, because they feel China has been dumping steel on the market and causing a severe disruption in the price, negatively affecting US steel producers.

Gee, really? What's next, tariffs on electronics, cars, just about anything you buy at Wal-Mart or nearly anywhere in America?

Where's the great Ben Bernanke when you need him? You know, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve who is an EXPERT on the Great Depression.

Why do we need the Big Bernank now? Because, his expertise would prevail on our glorious government goofballs that protectionism is exactly what made the Great Depression so (not) great.

You take depressed markets overfull of inventory, tack on tariffs and you get exactly what the Fed wants in order to hide its horrible policies: velocity of money at zero, falling wages, layoffs and now, the kicker, goods too expensive for anybody to buy. Pure genius, these guys looking out for all of us little people.

This is just the beginning. Expect to see more trade protectionism going forward and more countries falling into recession. Add it all up and you have Great Depression 2.0.

It's not going to happen all of a sudden, because the Fed is still fighting deflation. But, when the going gets rough, really rough, like when Wall Street (hell) freezes over and commits suicide in a crash of stocks of companies that have been repurchasing their own shares for the past six years and they lay off millions of workers, that's when the government will move in full force with trade restrictions and tariffs so that Americans can't purchase anything from the evil Chinamen.

Maybe somebody should have thought about this before we sent all of our manufacturing base over to the Red Dragons. Then again, maybe they did.

Meanwhile, the Santa Claus rally continues on Wall Street. The S&P gained enough today to show a small profit for the year and the Dow Jones Industrials are closing in on being black for 2015.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Quarterback: The Day After the Great January Stock Slide

OK, it's Saturday, and the world hasn't ended, but what's important is to keep abreast of developments over the weekend in places like Argentina and Turkey, both of which are experiencing significant currency issues.

The other part of today's exercise is to see if there is anything that might give a clue to the future, and as to whether the massive selloff on Friday (and all week on the Dow) was a one-off, or if it is going to lead to more dislocations in stocks, a further decline, a 10% correction, or a bear market, which is where the fun really starts for those bent on restoring some semblance of sanity to stock valuations.

Yes, Cry for Argentina

Argentina, a country already shut off from foreign credit markets (could be a blessing in disguise) after the financial collapse of 2001-2002, has been in crisis mode for most of the past three years, with citizens unable to purchase US Dollars with their local currency, the peso, except on black markets, where the going rate is roughly 11-1 or 12-1.

Other restrictions on the movement of money have been imposed by the autocratic government of Christina Kirchner during the recent past, but on Friday, the government was said to be lifting the ban on the purchase of dollars, with an official rate of 8-to-1, and a 20% surcharge, pushing the "official" exchange rate closer to black market prices, though not equal to them. The new policy is said to take effect on Monday, though local chatter is that the government won't have enough dollars available by then to meet expected demand.

The black market is thriving in Argentina's cities, the Euro and US Dollar being the main currencies accepted for millions in hidden transactions. With inflation running at about 30% over the past year, this crisis seems to have legs, eventually resulting in full-blown currency rejection, prompting various economic, social and political problems, likely precisely what the overlords at the World Bank and IMF have in mind.

Argentina is Greece writ large, without bailouts. The take-away is that this is nothing short of economic warfare, with the citizenry being the victims via inflation, social unrest, political uncertainty, with the goal being having the government succumb to the demands of international bankers, who will grind the country down with crushing debt packages disguised as "aid."

Turkey Stew?

In a nutshell, Turkey, a country that is a geographic crossroad between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, is at more crossroads - economic, social and political - than its current leaders can handle. While the country is mostly Sunni Muslim, most of its neighbors to the South (Syria, Iran and Iraq) are Shiite. On the other side to the West is Europe, and the struggle to admit Turkey to the EU has been ongoing for nearly a decade.

The rapid devaluation of the lira, the country's official currency, was a design of European technocrats, who seek to weaken the country's finances to a point at which acceptance of the Euro as the "new" currency would be greeted with cheers of economic progress and stability, though opponents of entering into full-blown Euro acceptance consider that a move characteristic of failure, and point to the loss of sovereignty that would result.

To the North, lies Georgia, Russia and, across the Black Sea, the Ukraine, which has descended into a condition close to civil war, mostly over the issue of whether to join the European Union or throw in with Russia, which holds sway over the country's gas supply. This is somewhat of the same situation facing the Turks and makes the situation all the more confusing. With so much turmoil in the region already, it wouldn't take much of a spark to turn Turkey into a pretty large battlefield, some of it, mostly the southern region, already torn up by the Syrian conflict.

It doesn't take much imagination to see the Turkish situation spiraling wildly out of control. Al Queda already runs arms and terrorists through the country, and Russia also smuggles weaponry to Syria through it. If Turkey were to erupt into violence, one could easily see a wide swath of nations - from Egypt all the way to the Ukraine - as a war zone, much of it already engulfed by violence.

The Wider View

If the situation in Turkey, Syria and the Ukraine wasn't enough to destabilize markets, Argentina and the brewing banking crisis in China certainly have to be rankling the money-handlers.

Here is a brief clip and transcript (about eight minutes) that describes the shadow banking problems in China. Essentially, shadow banking enterprises are financing loans made to companies who borrowed from official channels and have run out of credit or the ability to borrow more on good terms from China's official banking system has been exhausted. The issue is one of rolling over credit in order to avoid default, but, as the article explains, China is going to slow and some industries will be negatively affected, and whole businesses shuttered.

With the difficulty of getting straight information out of China still a huge problem, it's unclear how bad China's debt-to-GDP ratio has become, though it is certainly more than the officially reported 125%.

Of course, with debt-to-GDP at that level or higher in the bulk of developed and emerging nations, China's problems just add to the mix, though it's like dropping a whole stick of butter into a small bowl of flour and milk. It's so big, it threatens to clog up the entire operation and that's what is most worrisome.

There are, naturally, many more reasons why stocks plunged on Friday, from Italy's unemployment at an all-time high of 12.7%, to Spain's unemployment dwarfing that, at 26.8%.

Other indicators include the Baltic Dry Index (BDI), which collapsed in the two weeks after the holidays by an unprecedented amount, and, China's most recent PMI, which the financial media give a wide berth for the cause of the selloff in US stocks. The PMI fell to 49.6, indicating contraction in the manufacturing sector, the lifeblood of the Chinese - and to a great degree, the global - economy.

Here at home, retailers are feeling the pinch from a horrid holiday shopping season, the worst since 2008. JC Penny and Sears have already announced store closings and layoffs. Target and Wal-Mart announced layoffs on Friday, though they were small in number.

Technicals Matter

Technically, US indices are in pretty good shape, overall. The Dow and S&P had been making new all-time highs at the end of 2013, but the performance in the first three full weeks of 2014 are not encouraging. With Friday's decline, the Dow ripped right through its 50-day moving average. On just Thursday and Friday, the Dow more than tripled its losses for the year. The two-day decline was more than 500 points, a number that represents a roughly 3% loss, but, since the index has risen so high, the point total of over 300 points on Friday has a psychological impact.

Imagine the Dow Jones Industrials as a 1600-pound animal, maybe a small hippo. A one-percent loss in weight - 16 pounds - wouldn't seem to matter much, but a 3% loss is close to 50 pounds, possibly worth notice. If the animal were to lose 10% (a correction, in market terms), or 160 pounds, veterinarians would be consulted, and, if a 20% loss in weight were to occur (indicative of a bear market), some might the 320-pound loss in weight was indicative of the animal having a severe disease.

The S&P likewise fell through its 50-day moving average, though the NASDAQ remained in suspended animation above its 50-day moving average, buoyed by Netflix and Google in recent days, though that position may be in jeopardy if the declines from the past few weeks persist and morph into something larger.

Key support areas on the Dow are at 15,450 and 1700 on the S&P, both the 200-day moving averages.

Also, the number of new lows exceeded new highs on Friday, the first time that has happened this year.

Forward Thinking

With earnings season in full gallop, next week should provide more fireworks. Apple and Google will be reporting, and those will be the big ones to watch. Since they are techs, they'll likely give the markets some pause and reason to ignore the declines of the past week, but the big enchilada is the two-day FOMC meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 28 and 29, Ben Bernanke's last.

While the Fed didn't expressly say so when it announced the tapering of their bond purchase program by $10 billion last month, the fear on the Street is that they will announce another $10 billion reduction, bringing their monthly purchases down to $65 billion in February, from $85 billion in December.

Nowhere in its press release from last month
did the Fed even mention further cuts, so a reasonable expectation is that they will continue asset purchases at a rate of $75 billion per month, which, seriously, is more than enough, though market crybabies would like to see even more artificial stimulus.

Interest rates are also normalizing again, with the 10-year dropping to its lowest yield since prior to the "taper" announcement, closing Friday at a yield of 2.72%

Essentially, the turnback on Friday wasn't such a big deal, though any downturn is viewed with skepticism since the Fed is still supplying so much liquidity. If stocks can't maintain their current valuations, it means one of a couple of things. One, the Fed's policies are a complete failure, or, two, the economy is much weaker than anyone thought, or, three, stocks ran up to a highly overbought level and investors are just taking profits, albeit, at a rapid pace.

What's important to watch is how stocks act next week, the final week in January. The Fed announcement will be key, though they shouldn't influence markets considerably unless they taper even more, an unlikely event. If the major indices make it through the week without losing much or actually making gains, keep a close eye on the recent all-time highs on the S&P and the Dow. If these levels are not surpassed, that's a plain signal of a primary bear market. That should surprise nobody except perma-bulls, because this bull market will be a full five years old - 60 months - on March 9th. If the market makes a V bottom and rebounds past the highs (a correction and rebound), short at your own risk, because that would be a sign of a continuing liquidity-driven push higher.

One other indicator to consider is the January Barometer, which, at this juncture, looks certain to be negative. The direction of stocks in January has about a 90% correlation to direction for the rest of the year, so, unless there's a miracle rally this coming week, 2014 appears to be heading South.

For now, it's too early to call direction, but this brief summary of some of the key issues should provide background for all investors.

Friday, August 16, 2013

End-Game Begins as Stocks Are Sold, Bond Yields Rise, Precious Metals Take Off

What happened over the latter part of this week should be the stuff of history books for future economic historians, given there will even be an economic history after the worst crisis in history begins its second leg down.

Forget about Friday. That was mostly churn, finger-pointing, squaring of positions in options and a great deal of nail-biting by the financial elite and central bankers. The real action was on Wednesday and Thursday, and, more specifically, the close of the trading day Wednesday and the pre-market Thursday, when St. Louis fed president, James Bullard, made comments, first to a Rotary club in Paducah, Kentucky, at 3:15 pm EDT Wednesday, and then reiterated and expanded upon those comments Thursday prior to the opening bell.

Both attempts to jawbone the market back into a state of control were, as they say in current parlance, epics fails, because market fundamentals - those things like economic data and earnings reports - finally came to the forefront and overtook what little control the Federal Reserve had over markets - both stocks and bonds.

Wednesday was shaping up to be a painful session when Bullard attempted to soothe the pain by saying that the Fed needed more data in the second half of the year before committing to a slowdown in their bond-purchase program (aka QE) in September or sometime near that time frame. The market's knee-jerk reaction was a swift erasure of 30 losing Dow points, but almost as quickly, sellers swamped back in, with the Dow closing near the lows of the day.

After the close, Cisco (CSCO) released second quarter earnings, with a penny miss on EPS and a small shortfall in revenue. Making matters worse was the conference call afterwards, in which the company issued some negative guidance, as has been the mantra this earnings season, sending the stock down roughly 10% in after hours trading.

On Thursday morning, Wal-Mart (WMT) released their second quarter earnings report, eeril similar to Cisco's complete with negative guidance for the remainder of the year. Around 7:30 am EDT, when pre-market trading opened, Dow futures, already down substantially, took a nosedive.

Queue James Bullard, reiterating Wednesday's comments and adding some new verbiage, in a desperate attempt to satiate the trading community. Once again, Bullard's comments failed to incite any kind of rally in futures. The day was setting up to be a bad one for the bulls.

At 8:30 am, the final nail in the coffin was hammered home by the weekly unemployment claims report, which came in at 320,000, a six-year low and a complete misread by anyone thinking a better jobs picture would be a salve for jittery traders. It was the exact opposite, the thinking being that if the jobs picture was indeed improving, the Fed would be more than willing to begin curbing QE in September. Futures were pounded even lower and the market opened in a sea of red ink, the Dow quickly down 150, then 200 points, the other major indices following along in a coordinated dive. Interest rates spiked higher, prompting even the most steadfast into a selling frenzy.

The upshot is that unemployment claims, despite being at multi-year lows, is a complete canard. The jobs created over the past past year, and primarily the last six months, have been mostly low-paying, service-type, part-time varieties, due to the coming slaughter of the jobs market via Obamacare, which mandates employer-provided insurance for companies with more than 50 full-time employees. While there are no real new jobs being created, nobody's leaving to look elsewhere for work and the slack caused by full-time jobs being split into part-time increments means more jobs overall, just not good ones and, especially, not full-time ones.

Thus, unemployment claims henceforth must be viewed with a skewed eye, despite the glad-handing by the media, financial pundits and politicians. Evidence that the overall economy is not even close to the so-called "recovery" we've all been anxiously awaiting since 2009, was amply provided by Cisco and Wal-Mart, two huge employers and both Dow components.

With the close on Thursday, the market was pointed for the worst week of the year heading into Friday, and, despite a lame attempt at tape-painting late in the session, it was delivered, with all of the indices closing marginally lower.

Treasuries hit their highest yields in two years, anathema to stocks and the housing market, further clouding the picture for the Fed and their plans for a graceful exit by Mr. Bernanke later this year. The Fed has lost control of all markets; they likely cannot slow their bond purchases in September, lest they risk a complete meltdown in stocks and melt-up in yields.

Gold and silver - especially the latter - had their best week in two-and-a-half years, with both hitting three-month highs and breaking out of the recent, depressed range.

Looking out a month to three months, the Fed is completely boxed in. On one hand, they can say that the economy is improving enough - even though the data doesn't remotely support such a claim - and begin tapering in September, even October. Or, they could face reality, admit their policies have been utter failures and continue the current pace of QE. Neither scenario is particularly bullish for stocks, the reality case the worst, as the decline off the August 2nd closing high has begun to accelerate with a strong downward trajectory, sending the Dow straight through its 50-day moving average, and the S&P closing out the week resting right upon its 50-day.

Nothing good will come from the politicians' return from their month-long hiatus, when they will once again entertain the markets with their rituals of piercing the debt ceiling and coming up with a budget or suitable continuing resolution. No matter what the Fed decides in September can be perceived as good, though from a trading standpoint, keeping QE at its current $85 billion per month will appear as a victory of sorts for the Wall Street crowd, when in reality it is admission that all has failed and the Fed can do nothing, other than continue debasing the currency until is ceases to exist.

The mathematical certainty that the experiment with fiat currency, back with nothing but promises and lies, will fail, is entering the second leg, or the third, after the crash in '08-09 and the nearly five years of false, liquidity-driven recovery. Any astute observer will immediately comprehend that lost faith in the currency foreshadows another crisis, this one likely more severe than that of 2008.

While many of the status quo will cringe at the prospect of the greenback's death throes and a complete collapse of the global economy, those fed up to their eyeballs with the current regime of lies, uncertainty, complete fraud by the major banks and totalitarian fear-mongering will welcome the change with open arms.

One can only hope that it won't drag on and out for years, as in europe and the Middle East, but the best advice at this point is to stay in precious metals, away from large population centers and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Other than those dire words, it looks to be a fine summer weekend in most of the US. Get out and enjoy some sun and taste the bounty of our land. Food, the fuel we humans - at the most basic level - need to survive, is still readily produced and relatively inexpensive. And that, my friends, is one shining silver lining.

Dow 15,081.47, -30.72 (0.20%)
NASDAQ 3,602.78, -3.34 (0.09%)
S&P 500 1,655.83, -5.49 (0.33%)
NYSE Composite 9,465.19, -24.10 (0.25%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,458,862,12
NYSE Volume 3,532,477,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2554-3882
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 77-369
WTI crude oil: 107.46, +0.13
Gold: 1,371.00, +10.10
Silver: 23.32, +0.387

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dow Comes Close to All-Time High, Turns Back

Stocks keep grinding higher, but the all-time high on the Dow Industrials - 14,164.53, set October 7, 2007 - continues to be an elusive target, maybe attainable, but hardly one which anybody believes will hold for long.

The general consensus over the past four weeks or so has been that the market was in need of a pullback, to re-test support, before moving to higher levels.

Today's midday action seemed promising, especially when the Dow shot up more than thirty points in a matter of minutes, breaking out of a dull, smallish range and eventually getting to within just 16 points of the record.

Headwinds were blowing from Washington and elsewhere, however, and the Dow, S&P, NYSE Composite and NASDAQ all lost steam in the final ninety minutes, leaving all in the red on the day, the fade from record territory a disheartening sign to traders.

In the nation's capitol, the Senate failed to approve a measure that would have staved off the sequestration cuts scheduled to kick in at midnight tonight which might have been just enough negativity to keep the markets honest - for a change. Prior to the open, there was disappointment in the second estimate of 4th quarter 2012 GDP, which improved from -0.1 to +0.1, though the restatement was hardly enough to inspire any kind of confidence. Stocks limped through the morning session without much in the way of direction.

A number of stocks also kept the market in check. Following Wednesday's close, JC Penny (JCP) posted another in a series of horrifying quarterly reports, falling nearly 17% on Thursday. The much-ballyhooed turnaround by Apple wunderkind Ron Johnson has failed to materialize, the CEO admitting that he had made mistakes along the way, surely the understatement of the day, though he should be lauded for his honesty, albeit a bit late.

Wal-Mart (WMT), the nation and the world's largest retailer, continues to show signs of struggling, hovering around 70/share as Bloomberg released a story based on minutes from an officers' meeting that said the giant is having trouble keeping stores' shelves stocked with merchandise.

Somehow, there just seems a certain disconnect between the US economy and the US stock markets. Obviously one does not equate directly to the other, but with unemployment around eight percent, an enormous federal deficit, gridlock in Washington and an all-time high in food stamp recipients there seems to be no good reason for stocks to be at all-time highs except for no other reason than the liquidity-driven rally fomented by the Federal Reserve since 2009.

Stocks may or may not reach new highs in short order, though from the looks of things on the ground, it's certainly not cause for celebration by the masses and surely does not seem a sustainable condition.

Any trader worth his or her chops should probably be shoveling in physical silver and gold by the bucketfuls, as both are hovering near five-month lows.

Dow 14,054.49, -20.88 (0.15%)
NASDAQ 3,160.19, -2.07 (0.07%)
S&P 500 1,514.68, -1.31 (0.09%)
NYSE Composite 8,868.72, -6.61 (0.07%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,909,055,500
NYSE Volume 3,801,066,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3204-3212
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 308-46
WTI crude oil: 92.05, -0.71
Gold: 1,578.10, -17.60
Silver: 28.40, -0.548

Monday, April 23, 2012

Storm of Events Leading Markets and Economies Down Financial Abyss

As far as headwinds were concerned, the Spring storm which raged across the Northeast was nothing compared to the global typhoon of financial and economic news on Monday.

On Sunday, the French people went to the polls and pulled more levers for Socialist candidate Francois Hollande than for current conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of voting. Sarkozy and Hollande will compete for the presidency in the next round of voting, in two weeks time, but the results are being characterized as investor-unfriendly, not only because Hollande's stance will be less favorable toward the Euro than Sarkozy's, but also because far right candidate Marine Le Pen took third place with 17.9 percent of the vote, signaling that French anger over unemployment and austerity are reaching fever pitch.

Overnight, China's "flash" PMI showed a sixth straight month of contraction at 49.1. Even though the reading was better than expected, the news fueled continued fears of a hard landing for China's economy.

As the week began in Europe, two events sent European stocks into a tailspin. The Central Bank of Spain reported that it was officially in recession, as its GDP shrank for the second straight quarter, down 0.4% for the first quarter of 2012, while in the Netherlands, the government collapsed - Prime Minister Mark Rutte and all cabinet members resigning - after failing to reach agreement on an austerity plan within EU strictures.

As if that wasn't enough for the opening of markets in the US, the scandal that Wal-Mart executives bribed Mexican officials for favorable results on building permits was exploding late Sunday into Monday after the New York Times broke the story on Sunday.

While the fact that a large American corporation would bribe officials in a foreign country to receive favorable treatment - the same is done legally in the US, though here it is called "lobbying" - is nothing new, the idea that Wal-Mart executives chose to cover up the scandalous behavior was a bit of an eye-opener.

However, as everyone in big business knows, payola, bribes, payoffs and other forms of cheating are all just part of the global domination game played every day around the world. It's like saying the recent Secret Service dalliances in Columbia were the first time that kind of activity ever occurred.

So, with enough negative news to shake down even the most ardent perma-bull, futures blazed red prior to the open and stocks fell quickly at the opening bell, reaching the lows of the day right around 11:00 am EDT. Even though stocks recovered in the afternoon, technical damage was done, with all four major indices closing below their 50-day moving averages, with the broadest measures - the NYSE Composite and NASDAQ - suffering the worst of it.

With all that news sloshing about, Wall Streeters were in no mood to hear that the nation's largest entitlement programs - Social Security and Medicare - would be running out of money sooner than expected. The trustees of the plans released their annual statements, saying that the Social Security trust fund would be exhausted in 2035, three years sooner than stated just last year. It added that the trust fund for its disability program, which serves 11 million people, would run out in 2016, just four years from now. Medicare was slated to go bankrupt in 2024, the same estimated date as last year's forecast, though the projections were based on very conservative considerations.

The impact of these projections are based on congress making no changes to any of the programs, though both Republicans and Democrats have proposed various plans to keep the Ponzi-scheme entitlements going. The reaction to this announcement should be a loud hue and cry from the American public, with proponents and detractors on both sides of the issue, but the reality is that any man or woman aged 45 or less should expect absolutely nothing in future years and consider the "deductions" from their weekly or bi-weekly paychecks nothing more than outright theft by decree.

Overall, today's news and events only paint the picture of global economic collapse in darker shades, with the rush toward implosion seeming to accelerate with each passing day.

One has to consider that having only papered over the immense losses from the 2008 crash, the next serious event could have ramifications far more severe than what was encountered just four years ago. Global leaders are at a loss for solutions other than adding more liquidity to problems that are solvency-based. Metaphorically, it's similar to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, hoping that long-term environment problems would somehow be magically whisked away by vastness of the body of water diluting the harmful effects of the toxic spill.

Throwing more money at insolvent institutions - most major banks and the governments of developed and developing nations - won't fix the problems. It will only delay the ultimate solution and make conditions worse for even larger numbers of people.

Meanwhile, in Washington, all the politicians currently care about is getting re-elected, whereas on Wall Street the bankers to the world have proven to be numb to even the most stark global conditions.

Dow 12,926.86, -102.40 (0.79%)
NASDAQ 2,970.45, -30.00 (1.00%)
S&P 500 1,366.94, -11.59 (0.84%)
NYSE Composite 7,938.82, -86.72 (1.08%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,736,082,250
NYSE Volume 3,568,057,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1439-4198
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 47-147
WTI crude oil: 103.11, -0.77
Gold: 1,632.60, -10.20
Silver: 30.53, -1.12