Showing posts with label federal funds rate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label federal funds rate. Show all posts

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Markets Skid, Ending Three-Week Win Streak As Rally Falters; Gold, Silver Continue Abusing Futures Pricing; Treasuries Rally

Stocks broke off a streak of three straight winning weeks courtesy of a trend-reversing, cascading selloff Thursday that erased all or most of June's gains.

The downdraft followed two straight days of minor losses and may have put a punctuation mark on the market's 11-week rally. The NASDAQ, which made a fresh all-time closing high on Monday (9,924.75) and crested over 10,000 on Wednesday, took a 517-point collapse on Wednesday. Like the Dow, which lost over 1800 points, the loss was the fourth-highest one-day point decline in market history. For both indices, the three higher point losses all occurred this past March.

Friday was snapback day, though the gains were paltry compared to the prior day's losses. Stocks gained back less than a third of what was surrendered on Thursday.

The late-week action prompted market observers to question the solidity of the recent rally, which, in V-shaped manner, took the markets straight off their March lows and out of bear market territory. Stocks had gained even as entire states were in lockdowns and the COVID-19 virus raged across America. Stocks continued to rise in the face of nationwide protests against police violence in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Many of the protests turned violent, as disruptive elements rioted and looted stores.

Fueled by emergency lending by the Fed, stocks seemed to be out of touch with mainstream economics, a condition not unusual for Wall Street types. Thursday's turnabout was broadly-based and unsparing of any sector though banking and tech stocks were leaders to the downside.

Coincidentally, protesting fell off as well, probably due to uprising fatigue. After two weeks of marching around in hot weather, the movement became somewhat pointless and many lost interest in reform toward better policing, though success was claimed in some areas, such as Minneapolis, where the city council decided to defund and disband the police, and New York, where measures were take by legislators to ratchet down the heavy-handed tactics of its force.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the city council voted to ban no-knock warrants. The resolution was passed in reaction to the death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a March no-knock raid at the wrong address.

One city in which protests have not tailed off is Atlanta, the scene of widespread rioting and looting early on, where chief of police, Erika Shields, has resigned on Sunday after officers fired upon and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks Friday night.

And, in Seattle, the madness reached a climax on Monday as officials decided not to defend a police precinct, resulting in protesters, led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) taking over a six-block urban area and renaming it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ).

All of this is a backdrop to pent-up emotions and outrage that were magnified during the coronavirus lockdowns. Some people, took issue with Wall Street's rapid rally, citing it as an affront to societal mores and economic inequality. By the looks of where markets were heading on Thursday, the impact of the lockdowns and protests finally have reached lower Manhattan.

Treasuries staged a solid rally at the long end of the curve through Thursday, with the 10-year note yield falling from 0.91% to 0.66% and from 1.69% to 1.41% on the 30-year. On Friday, bond prices fell, with the 10-year closing out at 0.71%; the 30-year bond finished at 1.45%.

Precious metals rose early in the week, but were tamped down as the week drew to a close. Gold reached $1742.15 before ending the week still elevated at $1733.50. Spot silver was as high as $17.87 an ounce, closing at $17.62 on Friday. Spot and futures prices continue to trend toward irrelevance as premium prices for physical metal and shortages continue into a third month. Many dealers show popular items out of stock or with significant delivery delays, a condition that has persisted for retailers since the onset of the coronavirus.

eBay continues to light the way for purveyors and buyers alike, with calculable prices (at premiums over spot) and rapid, reliable deliveries. Here are the most recent prices on select items from ebay sellers (prices include shipping):

Item: Low / High / Average / Median
1 oz silver coin: 25.50 / 36.20 / 31.00 / 29.90
1 oz silver bar: 19.95 / 35.20 / 29.32 / 29.88
1 oz gold coin: 1,837.00 / 1,900.52 / 1,857.86 / 1,855.40
1 oz gold bar: 1,806.00 / 1,880.00 / 1,840.52 / 1,832.63

As far as stocks are concerned, after the FOMC meeting concluded Wednesday and the Fed committed to keep the federal funds rate at or near the zero-bound at least until the end of 2022, investors got a little jittery over their engineered V-shaped rally, the overall stability of the global economy, and valuations heading into the end of the second quarter and some supposedly horrifying earnings figures coming the second week of July.

The coming week may be epochal or apocalyptic as Friday offers a quad witching day as stock index futures, stock index options, stock options, and single stock futures expire simultaneously. There should be some volatility showing up at the convergence of day-trading, options players and real-time economics all roll together.

While Thursday's massive decline in stocks sent shock waves through the markets, Friday's returns were uninspired and had the look of a an exhausted rally on its final legs. Trading was sluggish at best and flatlined around 2:00 pm ET only to be saved by late-day short covering and the usual hijinks by backroom operators (NY Fed).

If stocks fail to close higher next week - as this week marked the end of a three-week uptrend - damage could become more or less permanent. While many placed hope in the Fed's power to purchase as many types and varieties of bonds that confidence was shattered on Thursday and should lead the way back to some fundamental rethinking of market dynamics.

Nothing goes up or down in a straight line, but this week should provide some clues as to the ultimate short-and-long term market direction.

At the Close, Friday, June 12, 2020:
Dow: 25,605.54, +477.37 (+1.90%)
NASDAQ: 9,588.81, +96.08 (+1.01%)
S&P 500: 3,041.31, +39.21 (+1.31%)
NYSE: 11,867.17, +208.00 (+1.78%)

For the Week:
Dow: -1505.44 (-5.55%)
NASDAQ: -225.27 (-2.30%)
S&P 500: -152.62 (-4.78%)
NYSE: -774.27 (-6.12%)

Friday, March 6, 2020

Stocks Struck, Bonds Bought, Gold Soaring As COVID-19 Coronavirus Continues to Prompt Worldwide Response; Fed Powerless

While no records were broken on Thursday, US stocks gave back most of the gains made on Wednesday, as volatility remained elevated. The most-widely quoted measure of volatility, the VIX, spiked to 46.25, a level not seen since the onset of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) in October 2008. A normal range for the VIX is between 12 and 18. The measure is currently indicating extreme stress in equity markets.

Another gauge of how severe this latest foray into and out of correction territory is the treasury yield curve and individual duration yields. The benchmark of the treasury complex is the 10-year note, which continues to be bought, sending the yield spiraling downward to unprecedented levels.

On Thursday, yields across the treasury complex were hammered lower. The 10-year-note fell from 1.02% on Wednesday to as low as 0.87% on Thursday, finally settling at another new record low of 0.92%. As long as equities remain under pressure - a timeline which could extend not just days or weeks, but months - bonds will be the safe haven and yields will fall.

The 30-year bond, which began the year at 2.33% and was at 2.09% as recently as February 12, crashed another nine basis points on the day, to a record low 1.56%. Shorter duration bills and notes were also being bought, sending yields skidding. The 2-year note was yielding 1.44% a month ago, closed out Thursday at 0.59%. The 1-year continues to offer the lowest yield, 0.48%, while the shortest duration, the 1-month bill yields 0.92. The short end is inverted, signaling economic chokepoints dead ahead.

All of this market turmoil has been the cause of the widely-spread coronavirus, or COVID-19, its official name. With worldwide cases now over 100,000, deaths over 3,400, and the increase in daily infections outside of mainland China now surpassing those from inside China, there's little doubt that the pandemic has reached crisis proportions.

The current hotspots continue to be South Korea (6,593 cases), Iran (4,747) and Italy (3,858), though countries in Europe are beginning to spike higher, especially in Germany, France, Spain, and Switzerland.

The United States is currently reporting 233 cases, though the lack of preparedness and test kits assures that the number is higher by orders of magnitude. With an asymptomatic (not showing obvious symptoms of infection) period of up to 27 days in which the carrier can spread the virus, the number of cases in the United States - as wel as everywhere else - is likely to spike higher within the next week or two. While this is speculation, it is based upon recognizable patterns of the virus, from evidence gathered in South Korea, Italy and on the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which was ported in Japan for a month and served as a kind of petri dish for study of the disease.

With quarantine the most effective measure to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, the fear in markets is that entire communities will become isolated, workplaces shuttered, large events cancelled. Those scenarios and more have already been evidenced in China, South Korea, Italy and elsewhere. There's no escaping the realities of this global outbreak.

Along the lines of seeking out safe havens, gold has been a superstar, at a seven year high, $1,686.30 per ounce. Silver has lagged, but continues to appreciate, the current price $17.46 per ounce.

Crude oil continues to languish as global demand has collapsed. Even after OPEC announced a cut of half a million barrels a day, the price of WTI crude oil slipped further, currently at $44.06 per barrel.

In what has to be the most inconsequential data release in recent memory, the Labor Department released the February non-farm payroll report, which showed employers added 273,000 jobs nationwide, dropping the unemployment rate to 3.5%, though all of this data is viewed through a lens that was looking prior to the extreme global outbreak of COVID-19.

Markets will remain unsettled as long as the virus remains in its virulent form. With no good remedies or a vaccine readily available, fear will dominate financial markets and it is more likely to get worse before it gets any better. The United States has not yet seen the effects of widespread outbreak, which is all but certain to occur.

Even with Thursday's large losses, stocks are still ahead for the week from two to three percent, depending on the index in question. Bank stocks have suffered tremendous losses, as have airlines, but the damage to stocks has been pretty much an all-in matter. 90% of stocks on the S&P 500 are trading below their 10-day moving averages.

As of Friday morning, the Dow is still ahead by 2.80% on the week, but the market is poised for another down day and the near-term bottom of 24,681.01 (intraday) is certain to be tested in short order.

The Federal Reserve, which cut the federal funds rate by 50 basis points in an emergency cut on Tuesday, meets on March 17-18, with the market calling for a 50 to 75 basis point cut, which would bring the rate down below one percent. Even though the Fed will likely cut the rate at the meeting - and again at its April meeting - it is unlikely to offer much in the way of relief. The Fed cannot print a vaccine, nor halt the spread of an invisible, virulent virus which is rampaging around the world.

At the Close, Thursday, March 5, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,121.28, -969.58 (-3.58%)
NASDAQ: 8,738.59, -279.49 (-3.10%)
S&P 500: 3,023.94, -106.18 (-3.39%)
NYSE: 12,593.03, -416.93 (-3.20%)

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Fed Rate Cut Falls Flat, But Wait, Markets Set to Rebound; Super Tuesday Results Put COVID-19 On Back Burner

Super Tuesday lived up to its name, with a surprise rate cut from the Federal Reserve and a big night for Joe Biden, though Bernie Sanders scored enough delegates to keep the race close.

Mid-morning, the Fed cut the overnight federal funds rate by 50 basis points, from 1.50-1.75%, to 1.00-1.25%, actually settling for 1.10% as the official overnight rate, according to the Fed's implementation note.

What most people missed is that the rate cut does not take effect until March 4, or Wednesday, which may be why the market crumbled Tuesday, with a dull thud finish. Futures are pointing to a huge bump at the opening bell. Dow futures are up nearly 700 points as of this writing. The emergency rate cut was only the ninth time the Fed has acted outside the FOMC meeting framework, and the cut was probably unnecessary, though it is certain to give the market a bump, albeit a small one. The Fed's playbook has been seriously damaged since the 2008 crash. This move gives credence to those who argue that the Fed is a patsy to the stock market.

Stocks had been gyrating up and down until the Fed made its move. After a brief uptick, stocks sank, perhaps with the idea that if the Fed was cutting rates, then the brewing crisis over coronavirus may be worse than recognized. It also could be that banks and institutions are so tight, there just wasn't enough liquidity in the system to fend off waves of selling. The Fed's behind-the-scenes liquidity injections have done more to prop up the market than any rate cut possibly could, with their daily and weekly open market operations oversubscribed in recent days.

The bond market certainly wasn't buying into saving the stock market via rate cuts. The 10-year note dipped below the one percent threshold briefly on Tuesday, finally settling in at the close at another record low yield of 1.02%, a decline of eight basis points from Monday's reading. The short end of the curve was obliterated, with the shortest duration, 1-month bills, losing 30 basis points, down to a yield of 1.11% at the close.

Losing 13 basis points, the 2-year carries the lowest yield across the curve, which remains slightly inverted (1-and-2-month bills yielding higher than the 10-year). The 2-year note slipped from 0.84 to 0.71. The entire curve remains relatively flat at 93 basis points top to bottom, with the 30-year sliding just two basis points on Tuesday, to 1.64%.

Precious metals regained some of their shine after the rate cut announcement. Gold rocketed higher by nearly $50, closing the session in New York at $1644.40 per ounce. Silver advanced as well, though it is still quite depressed at a mere $17.19 per ounce.

The true "tell" throughout the day was crude oil. Both before and after the rate cut, WTI crude could scarcely muster a bid, finishing at $47.18 per barrel. Weakness in oil, the actual fuel of the world economy, speaks volumes and can be employed as a bleeding edge proxy for the general health or sickness of the word's financial condition.

Numbers to watch on Wednesday are pretty straightforward. Following a retreat of some 4725.74 points, the Dow ascended on Tuesday to the first Fibonacci retrace level (38%) at 26,476.79. The index actually floated beyond that point, gaining over 27,000 just after the open, but it settled in and remained below the initial Fibonacci level most of the day. If the Dow gains beyond that first retrace, the next stop would be the 62% level, at 27,610.97. Keep in mind that the intraday low was Friday's 24,681.01. If that level is breached to the downside, there's literally no support until around 22,445, the bottom of the December 2018 breakdown.

As for the Democrat race for the presidential nomination, Joe Biden was hailed on network TV as a rebounding hero, winning races in North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Massachusetts and elsewhere, thanks to two moderates - Pete Buttigeig and Amy Klobuchar - bowing out and endorsing slow Joe on the eve of Super Tuesday. While Biden picked up most of the votes that would have gone to Mayor Pete and Senator Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders was held down by the insistence of Elizabeth Warren to stay in the race when she actually has no hope of winning anything but more negative nicknames. Mike Bloomberg picked off some delegates, giving his campaign enough life to carry forward, but the DNC is hellbent on eliminating Sanders, over fears that he might actually win the nomination.

The possibility of a consistent socialist carrying the Democrat banner into the fall is not the look the party perceives for itself, despite it being the closest to reality in what it represents. From here on out, all the media will be signing the praises of Joe Biden - a deeply flawed individual - and downplaying the power of Sanders' campaign, which has widespread support in the most liberal camps and generates the most excitement of any candidate, bar Trump.

What's interesting about a Sanders versus Trump race is that Sanders, a lifetime liberal and Senator for nearly three decades, will be portrayed as the outsider and Trump as the establishment. Perception is everything in elections, and it's likely that Trump would turn that notion on its head.

Finally, Tuesday was a day in which the coronavirus, or COVID-19 was pushed to the back of the headlines. The death toll in the US reached nine, but those three additional deaths were all from the nursing home in Washington state that had accounted for the six prior fatalities. Look, a tornado that ripped through Nashville, Tennessee early Tuesday morning (around 1:30 am) killed at least 25 people in minutes and left a path of devastation unlike many people have ever witnessed. That's a tragedy. Nine deaths of people all over the age of 63 from a virus that spreads quickly and has a high mortality rate for seniors is a fact of life.

At the Close Tuesday, March 3, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,917.41, -785.91 (-2.94%)
NASDAQ: 8,684.09, -268.08 (-2.99%)
S&P 500: 3,003.37, -86.86 (-2.81%)
NYSE: 12,542.74, -285.25 (-2.22%)

Monday, December 30, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP HOLIDAY EDITION: Recapping: Stocks Up, Bonds Fluctuate; PMs Stable

Thank goodness, 2019 is nearly over and done. It's been a crazy 12 months, hasn't it?

With Washington in turmoil (think impeachment), Wall Street stepped up to the plate and hit stocks out of the park. It was a banner year for equity investors, one of the top three of the new century, and, with two trading days left, it has a chance to be the best year since 1997 on the S&P 500.

The NASDAQ has shown weekly gains in 11 of the last 13 weeks and the S&P has finished on the upside in 11 of the last 12 weeks.

Fresh all-time highs were attained by the major indices as early as April (NASDAQ), May (S&P), July (Dow), and as late as December for the NYSE Composite.

Bonds were up-and-down as the Fed began lowering the federal funds rate after raising it. Yield on the 10-year note was as high as 2.79% (January) and as low as 1.47 (August, September), but have steadied into a fairly tight range of 1.75% to 1.93%, the latter, higher figure reached just days ago.

Precious metals, have, for the ninth consecutive year, failed to break out of their doldrums. Holders of gold or silver have had a rough go of it this second decade of the 21st century. Silver continues to be stuck in a range between $17 and $18 per ounce, while gold presses up against resistance at $1500. Neither has been able to make any substantial progress other than sporadic, spasmodic moves in either direction.

Housing in the US continues to become more and more unaffordable for most people as wages can't keep pace with rising costs. Wealth inequality and the pauperization of the middle class is becoming a major issue that could balloon into campaign sloganism in 2020. Other than that, no predictions for next year, except to remark that the stock rally shows few signs of slowing any time soon.

If you're looking for predictions, go see a palm reader. What will happen in 2020 is fluctuation in all markets, some balkanization, especially in real estate and globally, in commodities.

Only two trading days remaining in 2019. Happy New Year!

At the close, Friday, December 27, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,645.26, +23.86 (+0.08%)
NASDAQ: 9,006.62, -15.77 (-0.17%)
S&P 500: 3,240.02, +0.11 (+0.00%)
NYSE Composite: 13,944.14, +3.74 (+0.03%)

For the Week:
Dow: +190.17 (+0.67%)
NASDAQ: +81.66 (+0.91%)
S&P 500: +18.80 (+0.58%)
NYSE Composite: +54.89 (+0.40%)

Monday, December 16, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Trump Charged, Johnson Elected, Fed Throws Money to the Wind

What a week!

Not only was President Trump brought up on impeachment charges of abuse of power and obstruction of congress (whatever that is) by Jerry Nadler's gutless judiciary committee, it came on the heels of a crushing conservative victory for Boris Johnson in England. And that came just after the Federal Reserve's FOMC decided to keep the federal funds interest rate right where it was, at 1.50-1.75%.

All of this happened on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. There was little time, in between, for the United States and China to announce, denounce, defer, define, defend, and eventually demystify the outlines of some vague phase one trade deal, which still hasn't happened, but is supposed to, any time, any day now.

So there it was, except for a few details that may have slipped over the transom or under the proverbial rug, like the Federal Reserve supplying $500 billion in liquidity to REPO markets to handle "the turn" from December 31, 2019 to January 1, 2020.

That little nugget came and went. Everybody was too much involved over impeachment and Boris and the trade deal to notice. Such an amount of money just to get from 2019 to 2020? It sounded absurd, spending half a trillion dollars to change the calendar. Remember, there was $700 billion in TARP, back in 2009, and that supposedly rescued the entire global financial system. This amount is more than two thirds of that.

In a related story, Lee Adler of The Wall Street Examiner purports that the Federal Reserve has bought up 90% of the government's issuance of treasury bills, notes, and bonds since September 16, effectively monetizing the debt.

So, this $500 billion of liquidity from the benevolent Fed, is it a precursor of more debt monetization, or simply a safeguard against some hedge fund or larger institution crashing as one year turns to the next? Its hard to say. Like recessions, the world will likely have to wait until after the fact to find out.

On a weekly basis, the Dow has gained in seven of the last 10 weeks. The S&P was up nine of the last 10, the NASDAQ moved higher nine of the last 11, and the Composite Index finished higher nine out of the last 10 and this week closed at an all-time high, proving, once again, that it's folly to fight the Fed.

As a footnote to the coming week, the full house is expected to vote on articles of impeachment on Wednesday.

At the Close, Friday, December 13, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,135.38, +3.28 (+0.01%)
NASDAQ: 8,734.88, +17.56 (+0.20%)
S&P 500: 3,168.80, +0.23 (+0.01%)
NYSE Composite: 13,697.34, -0.06 (-0.00%)

For the Week:
Dow: +120.32 (+0.43%)
NASDAQ: +78.35 (+0.91%)
S&P 500: +22.89 (+0.73%)
NYSE Composite: +109.05 (+0.80%)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Fed Holds Rates Steady; Repo Madness Debunked

There was little reaction to the final FOMC policy decision of 2019, as the Fed chose to stand pat on the federal funds rate, adding that they expected to be no rate movement at all in 2020.

Keeping rates fixed for the next 12 months may be wishful thinking, but it also may be a level-headed approach, since, after all, 2020 will be an election year, the country has been through all manner of pain and suffering for the past three years, and a bit of stability would surely be welcome to many.

Coming from the Fed and the sobering mellow intonations of Chairman Jay Powell, the calming effect on not just markets, but society as a whole may provide a soothing tonic. With steady interest rates, businesses can plan with more confidence, individuals can maintain their standards of living and maybe balance their budgets for a change. It's a welcome relief.

At the press conference, Chairman Powell fielded one question on the intriguing REPO malaise, but didn't express any kind of apprehension or surprise. Perhaps the whole thing has been a little overblown by various pundits and press people. One article in which the Repo scare is debunked by Jeff Snider at Alhambra Partners suggests that there never was a reason to be worried about a market crash or any other unforeseen, nasty event in the first place.

So, as the holiday season continues apace, the Fed has apparently managed to calm the markets, albeit temporarily, but with an eye toward the future. If there are no interest rate changes in the coming year, that would be a feat worthy of high praise toward an institution - the Federal Reserve - that is normally the butt of jokes and the object of roundhouse criticism.

If, come late December 2020, the federal funds rate remains at 1.50-1.75%, we can call it a "Christmas miracle." For now, we can temper our optimism, relying on the scattered and unpredictable nature of world events and markets to prove the Fed wrong.

At the Close, Wednesday, December 11, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,911.30, +29.58 (+0.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,654.05, +37.87 (+0.44%)
S&P 500: 3,141.63, +9.11 (+0.29%)
NYSE Composite: 13,579.92, +34.62 (+0.26%)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Fed Delivers, S&P, NASDAQ Make All-Time Highs

With the FOMC decision Wednesday to reduced the federal funds overnight lending rate another 25 basis points, to a range of 1.50-1.75%, stocks took a the rest of decision day and Thursday to digest the news, then ramped stocks on Friday, sending the NASDAQ and S&P 500 to record closings and the Dow Jones Industrials and NYSE Composite near all-time highs.

While the third consecutive rate cut was able to reawaken some of Wall Street's animal spirits, it may be the last one for a while. Changing the wording in some parts of their statement, the Fed took on a more hawkish stance concerning rates going forward. Fed policy will remain data dependent, but not necessarily active. That didn't bother stock traders, who saw the opportunity to ignite what may extend into a holiday rally, and ran with it.

Wall Street's enthusiasm came a day after the US House of Representatives voted along strict party lines to make their impeachment inquiry against President Trump just a little more public than it has been up to this point, wherein Democrats, led by Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Adam Schiff, held secret, closed door depositions and heard hearsay testimony from various witnesses in connection with a phone call the president made to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky back in July.

The charges the Democrats have alleged against Mr. Trump may be scurrilous at worst and inconsequential at best, but that hasn't prevented the Democrats to continue to spread stories to their friends in the corrupt mainstream media to smear the president in the run-up to the 2020 election. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the resolution which formally enshrined the inquiry and expanded it to other committees.

Washington being thus rendered impotent as it wastes the taxpayer dime on ridiculous accusations and pointless investigations - along the same lines as the 2+ years of the infamous Mueller probe - it does give Wall Street some relief, understanding that the government will be introducing no new laws or regulations that might impede the current, long-standing bull run.

Elsewhere, outside the United States, the world is burning, either through popular strife in countries and places as diverse as Chile, Hong Kong, and Spain (Catalonia), or by economic policy, especially the brunt instrumentality of negative interest rates, in many European countries.

China's economic slowdown became an issue this week as well, demonstrating that the Chinese hard-line stance on trade negotiations with the United States is a charade. The Chinese government knows full well that it needs cooperation with its main trading partner, but insists on slow-walking any formal agreement. President Trump is well aware of China's condition and has maintained his equally-tough positions through whatever negotiations have been made or planned. China is eventually going to lose its grip and be forced to come to terms with the United States or risk popular uprisings of its own people.

Ignoring the background noise of geopolitics, companies continued to roll out third quarter earnings reports which were modest, but nowhere near disastrous. Additionally, US GDP came in at a stronger-than-expected 1.9% in the first estimate, and October job growth was muted, but well beyond expectations, delivering a non-farm payroll report that saw job gains of 128,000, following an upwardly revised 180,000 increase in September, easily beating market expectations of 89,000. Even though the BLS report is a damaged documentary on true economic growth, the trading community saw this as a positive one and responded accordingly.

Bonds rallied. The yield curve, having un-inverted in early August, continued to steepen, with the 10-year note at 1.69% on Thursday before closing out the week at 1.73%. The longer-duration, 30-year bond, which had fallen under two percent in July, and was being sold off until this week, rallied sharply, with yields falling from 2.34% on Monday to 2.17% on Thursday, settling on Friday at 2.21%.

Gold and silver were also bid, gold regaining the $1500 per ounce level and silver shooting beyond $18 per ounce.

The week ahead features more madness from Washington, a slew of earnings reports, including some popular names like Shake Shack, Uber, UnderArmor, Sprint, Hertz, Groupon, Mariott (Monday), Chesapeake Energy and Newmont Mining (Tuesday), Roku, CVS Health, Square, Humana, Qualcom (Wednesday), Teva, Planet Fitness, AMC Entertainment, Cardinal Health, (Thursday), and Duke Energy and US Concrete (Friday). The Walt Disney Company (DIS), a Dow component, reports Thursday.

Barring any unforeseen negative developments like bank runs (China), riots and street killings (Hong Kong), or desultory commentary on negative interest rates (Denmark), all appears to be smooth sailing through Black Friday, which approaches rapidly, just 19 trading days hence.

Happy Holidays? Too soon?

At the Close, Friday, November 1, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,347.36, +301.13 (+1.11%)
NASDAQ: 8,386.40, +94.04 (+1.13%)
S&P 500: 3,066.91, +29.35 (+0.97%)
NYSE Composite: 13,300.27, +128.46 (+0.98%)

For the Week:
Dow: +389.30 (+1.44%)
NASDAQ: +143.28 (+1.74%)
S&P 500: +29.35 (+0.97%)
NYSE Composite: +154.03 (+1.17%)

The following is dedicated to California Rep. Adam Schiff:

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%)

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%)

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%)

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%)

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%)

Monday, September 30, 2019

WEEKEND WRAP: Despite Impeachment Overhang, Wall Street Is Oddly Calm

By midweek, political events had overtaken actual financial news and numbers as House Democrats turned up the heat on yet another attempt to impeach President Trump.

People with intact frontal lobes understand that the Democrats have once again fabricated the "crime" committed by President Trump. Still, the mainstream mass media complex cannot help itself from flailing about furiously at the behest of their liberal handlers. Would the media actually be impartial, this farcical drama - and the Mueller investigation that yielded nothing - would never even see the light of day.

It's further proof that most Democrats in the House have nothing constructive to add to the national debate other than outsized hatred for President Trump and all of his millions of supporters. If there is justice in this insane world, the Democrats will be outed, joe Biden's son, Hunter, will be tried, convicted and imprisoned, and the Democrat party will implode entirely in the aftermath of a massive Trump landslide.

That's for the future to tell. For the present, Wall Street would rather focus on facts, reality, data, and numbers. Third quarter results for traded corporations will begin rolling out next week. Prior to that, September non-farm payroll data will be released on Friday of this week. Whether traders and speculators can divorce themselves from the kabuki theater that is Washington DC long enough to focus on true economic data is the big question. Fast-moving headlines pushing the impeachment narrative will be difficult to ignore in coming days.

For whatever it's worth, the US economy may not be exactly a juggernaut of capitalist endeavor, it is, however, firing on all cylinders, albeit at a slow pace. By the end of October the world will have the first estimate of third quarter GDP, a number that should make headlines, whether it is good (above 2.5%) or bad (below 2.0%). Anything in the range of 2.2-3.0% will be considered a win for the economy (and President Trump), while across the pond, Europe teeters on the brink of recession.

Also on the horizon is quietude from the Federal Reserve, as the next FOMC meeting is scheduled for October 29-30. Thus, the next possible federal funds rate cut will only be under consideration and newsworthy the last two weeks of the coming month. Should economic data and corporate third quarter earnings reports come in positively there would be a rationale for the Fed to just keep rates where they are. The economy isn't struggling, jobs seem to be still plentiful and inflation fears have been kept in check. The few scenarios under which a rate cut could be considered are, at this juncture, unlikely, including a banking blowup, or taking the impeachment folly as serious.

With all that could go wrong, the world continued to turn following the attack on Saudi oil installments a few weeks back. President Trump tactfully pulled the United States back from the brink of escalation against Iran, instead opting for increased sanctions and a peaceful resolution to never-ending mid-East fanaticism and the associated war-mongering by elements in the US and Israel.

Oil, the lifeblood of the global economy, retreated as the situation de-escalated, and may actually fall below $50 per barrel as winter season looms.

Bonds seem to have found a sweet spot, despite the continued inversion of the 3-month:10-year pair, with the 10-year settling into a range between 1.55 and 1.75%. Should that range prevail over the coming weeks and months, clear sailing for the US economy may be a prudent call. While stocks, still somewhat overvalued, continue to flirt with all-time levels, the NASDAQ notably took the brunt of the selling from last week. That's probably a positive, since the NASDAQ contains some of the more pricey shares of tech companies that may need to be tamped down.

Conclusively, the week was far short of either a disaster or a rousing rally. Could it be, for a change, that the most sane place on the planet was lower Manhattan?

These are indeed strange days.

At the Close, Friday, September 27, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,820.25, -70.85 (-0.26%)
NASDAQ: 7,939.63, -91.03 (-1.13%)
S&P 500: 2,961.79, -15.83 (-0.53%)
NYSE Composite: 12,971.98, -56.72 (-0.44%)

For the Week:
Dow: -114.82 (-0.43%)
NASDAQ: -178.05 (-2.19%)
S&P 500: -30.28 (-1.01%)
NYSE Composite: -121.82 (-0.93%)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Fed Cuts Rate, Markets Slightly Bearish Initially

Initial reactions to the Fed's cut of 25 basis points on the federal funds rate announced Wednesday afternoon were unusually bearish.

Not only did stocks sell off - only to be rescued by mysterious bids in the final hou of trading - but so too crude oil, gold, silver. Bonds languished, with the 10-year note down a single basis point to 1.81% yield, though shorter maturities sold off, the two-year note gaining five basis points, from 1.72 to 1.77%, threatening to invert with the 10-year again.

One-month bills reacted naturally, with yields dropping from 2.10% on Tuesday to 1.96% on Wednesday's close.

Rumors of the Fed announcing a restart of QE were dismissed. The federal funds rate was lowered to 1.75-2.00%.

The vote was seven for the cut and three against. Voting against the action were James Bullard, who preferred at this meeting to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 1.50 to 1.75 percent, a 50 basis point drop; and Esther L. George and Eric S. Rosengren, who preferred to maintain the target range at 2.00% percent to 2.25 percent.

The FOMC's penultimate meeting for 2019 is scheduled for October 29-30.

Considering the volatility in bonds and the unusual repo auctions held the past two days, market reaction was rather muted and refined overall. No panic was seen, though some degree of caution was notable.

At the Close, Wednesday, September 18, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,147.08, +36.28 (+0.13%)
NASDAQ: 8,177.39, -8.63, (-0.11%)
S&P 500: 3,006.73, +1.03 (+0.03%)
NYSE Composite: 13,119.31, -12.09 (-0.09%)

Friday, September 13, 2019

Wall Street Awaiting Fed's Next Move

On the road again... drive by post.

As one can see from the figures below, there was muted reaction in the US to the ECB rate dump early in the day.

Wall Street is no doubt waiting for the Fed's response in kind, next week, when they're expected to drop the federal funds rate another 25 basis points. They're now behind the curve in the currency race into the abyss (a new term because "race to the bottom" would assume there is some stopping point... thanks to negative interest rates, there isn't), and will be playing catch-up the next year or more, at least into the election season.

What a horrible hotel. Hilton Airport in Knoxville, TN. The room smells like a doctor's office. The air is antiseptic and stifling, the coffee machine doesn't work properly and the sheets on the bed are treated with some kind of agent which induces congestion and itching. Not recommended. In the spirit of negative interest rates, I'm giving it -4 stars.

At the Close, Thursday, September 12, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 27,182.45, +45.41 (+0.17%)
NASDAQ: 8,194.47, +24.79 (+0.30%)
S&P 500: 3,009.57, +8.64 (+0.29%)
NYSE Composite: 13,116.05, +33.64 (+0.26%)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weekend Wrap: Stocks Gain, All Clear Signal Given Investors; Gold, Silver Dashed

Sorry. On the road again, drive-by post:

Two straight weeks of positive returns have pushed the major Us indices back above their 50-day moving averages, an okey-dokey signal to investors that the 0.25% federal funds interest rate cut from the FOMC is in the bag later this month (September 17-18), and the trade/tariff food fight between the US and China will continue unabated, alternating between "talks are ongoing," to "talks are off again," to "all options are on the table," or other such nonsense.

Trade and tariff talk seems to have a mysterious effect on traders, sending them into emotional buying and selling fits on headlines. Actually, the headline readers are algorithms, keyed to respond to major developments, or, in the case of the trade war, rumors of minor developments.

On the week, stocks vacillated, but moved higher in tandem, precious metals were dashed, as anyone who has an interest in the prices of such knew they would be. Both gold and silver are still trading near multi-year highs, so it's obvious that more flogging will be necessary until the morale of holders and buyers is sufficiently dashed.

As the global charade of overinflated sovereign budgets and overstretched consumers continues, the debt cycle looks to be extended at any cost by the overlords of banking, the central banks. Their position is as precarious as it has ever been. Rumors of an ouster of the Fed by congress in the United States are vastly overstated and wishful thinking by freedom-loving folks, yet they persist.

At this point in the day-to-day noise chamber that is Wall Street, caution is best served cold and reliance on a financial planner could be a major mistake going forward. It's all hands on deck, every man and woman for him/herself, babies being thrown overboard.

Happy sailing!

At the Close, Friday, September 6, 2019:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 26,797.46, +69.26 (+0.26%)
NASDAQ: 8,103.07, -13.76 (-0.17%)
S&P 500: 2,978.71, +2.71 (+0.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,933.38, +15.58 (+0.12%)

For the Week:
Dow: +394.18 (+1.49%)
NASDAQ: +140.19 (+1.76%)
S&P 500: +52.25 (+1.79%)
NYSE Composite: +196.50 (+1.54%)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

WEEKEND WRAP: Stocks Wrecked, Bull Market Finished; Bears' Claws Are Out

If the week prior to last was characterized as one in which "the wheels fell off" (Money Daily, 12/16/18), the most recent week was nothing short of a full-blown train wreck.

Everything was on sale, but especially stocks, as the Fed raised rates, the US federal government ground to a halt over a $5 billion border wall, and investors were spooked by collapsing long-term interest rates and the specter of a recession in coming months.

More than anything else, however, stocks were on sale mostly because they were being perceived as overpriced, and by most accounts they were and still are. According to Robert Shiller's CAPE index, the week ended with the Shiller PE ratio for the S&P 500 at 26.75, down from the peak of 30 two weeks ago, but still well above the mean (16.59) and the median (15.69) levels.

Shiller PE ratio is based on average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years, known as the Cyclically Adjusted PE Ratio (CAPE Ratio), Shiller PE Ratio, or PE 10

This is how bubbles are pricked, and, as Doug Noland candidly attests, "There is never a good time to pierce a Bubble." More from Noland:

"Expiration for the aged “Fed put” was long past due. For too long it has been integral to precarious Bubble Dynamics. It has promoted speculation and speculative leverage. It is indispensable to a derivatives complex that too often distorts, exacerbates and redirects risk. The “Fed put” has been integral to momentous market misperceptions, distortions and structural maladjustment. It has been fundamental to the precarious “moneyness of risk assets,” the momentous misconception key to Trillions flowing freely into ETFs and other passive “investment” products and strategies. It was central to a prolonged financial Bubble that over time imparted major structural impairment upon the U.S. Bubble Economy."

Noland's entire Credit Bubble Bulletin commentary can be seen here.

If Noland's perception is accurate (and there's little reason to doubt it), this week's cascading declines are merely the end of the first act in what is likely a three-act drama to be played out over the next 12-18 months. Surely, the tremors from February and March were early warnings that the persistent bull market was coming to a conclusion.

October's declines were blamed by some analysts - incorrectly - on the lack of stock buybacks during the "quiet period," and were nothing about which to be worried. Obviously, that analysis was short-sigthed and based upon the bubble hypocrisy that has guided markets since the Great Financial Crisis of 2008-09.

December's nosedive was pretty predictable. Stocks hadn't shown any inclination toward the upside for months and there wasn't a good catalyst for investors, nothing even remotely resemblant of a buying opportunity. Of course, some too the "buy the dip" bait a few times this year and have been destroyed. That concept is a dead doornail for the time being. Selling into any strength is likely to be the prevailing rear-guard action.

Once 2018 comes to an end - in just five more trading days - there will be some regrouping, repositioning, but until there's resolution of some basic issues (the Wall, Brexit, China, tariffs), there isn't going to be any kind of rally. Gains will be hard-fought, and sellers will be eager on short-term wins. The second phase of the selloff will last well past January, into the summer and possibly the fall before the endgame commences, with sellers capitulating en masse. By this time next year it may be nearing a bottom some 40-60 percent below the all-time highs. Investor confidence will have been at first shaken, then eroded, and finally, shattered. Wall Street will have a crisis of its own making, and the economy will be embarking into recession.

Markets have come full circle. Central banks have decided that the experiments of QE, ZIRP, and NIRP which propelled stocks to dizzying heights, are over, their purpose achieved, and now comes the hard work of withdrawing some level of liquidity from markets in an attempt to normalize markets.

The problems lie in execution. It's not going to be easy to take corporations off the baby bottle of leveraged stock buybacks which blew up expectations and prices but caused serious long-term harm to capital structures. This current crisis may turn out to be worse than the sub-price fiasco or the dotcom malaise simply because it involves so many companies that have gutted their balance sheets and will have no other recourse than to slash production, wages, jobs, capital expenditures or all of the above.

This week was a full stop.

There aren't going to be any more bailouts, white knights, back-room deals or "Fed Put." The coming regime is going to be one of hard and cold capitalism, where the strong get stronger and the weak are slaughtered. Wall Street brokerages are sure to be among the most celebrated casualties when everybody realizes these heroes of the past ten years aren't all that bright and that there aren't that many good stock pickers in down markets. The financial industry, already under siege, is about to be breached and downsized to more human and humane proportions.

There's only so much one can say about stock routs. The numbers are there for perusal and they are horrifying enough all by themselves. Hashing over the events of the week, as stocks slid, then rallied and slid more, and finally crashed on a Friday afternoon would be little more than overkill.

It was a very, very bad week, the worst since 2008, and some say, since the Great Depression. It may not have been the worst we will witness however, as this is only the beginning of the bear market.

Dow Jones Industrial Average December Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
12/3/18 25,826.43 +287.97 +287.97
12/4/18 25,027.07 -799.36 -511.39
12/6/18 24,947.67 -79.40 -590.79
12/7/18 24,388.95 -558.72 -1149.51
12/10/18 24,423.26 +34.31 -1115.20
12/11/18 24,370.24 -53.02 -1168.22
12/12/18 24,527.27 +157.03 -1011.19
12/13/18 24,597.38 +70.11 -941.08
12/14/18 24,100.51 -496.87 -1437.95
12/17/18 23,592.98 -507.53 -1945.58
12/18/18 23,675.64 +82.66 -1862.92
12/19/18 23,323.66 -351.98 -2214.90
12/20/18 22,859.60 -464.06 -2678.96
12/21/18 22,445.37 -414.23 -3093.19

At the Close, Friday, December 21, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 22,445.37, -414.23 (-1.81%)
NASDAQ: 6,332.99, -195.42 (-2.99%)
S&P 500: 2,416.62, -50.80 (-2.06%)
NYSE Composite: 11,036.84, -185.96 (-1.66%)

For the Week:
Dow: -1655.14 (-6.87%)
NASDAQ: -577.67 (-8.36%)
S&P 500: -183.33 (-7.05%)
NYSE Composite: -718.54 (-6.11%)

Everything was not gloom and doom, however. Here's Darlene Love, in one of her many appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, performing "Chirstmas (Baby Please Come Home)." This is one of her best.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Global Stock Rout Deepens; Dow Loses Another 500 Points; NASDAQ Down 16.7% Since August

The pain is spreading, and it doesn't seem to be about to abate any time soon.

According to Dow Jones Market Data, the S&P 500 closed at its lowest level since October of 2017, the NASDAQ finished at its lowest since November of 2017, while the Dow closed at lowest level since March 23. Only a rally in the final 15 minutes of trading kept the Dow from closing at its lowest level of the year.

The Dow had plunged as low as 23,456.8 with just minutes to the closing bell, but short-covering boosted the industrials more than 100 points in the final minutes of trading. Not that it matters very much, but the closing low for the year was 23,533.20. Prior to that, the Dow closed at a low of 23,271.28 on November 15, 2017.

Both of those levels are likely to be subsumed, as the stock rout about to be hit with another dose of reality. Trumping anticipation, the Fed meeting which ends Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 pm ET, is almost certain to include a 25 basis point raise to the federal funds rate. On Friday, the federal government, unable to reach a suitable compromise on President Trump's border wall, will go into a partial shutdown.

Neither event - especially the federal shutdown - is of the earth-shattering variety, but they come at a very inopportune time for the market, which is struggling to find any good news upon which to hang a rally.

Europe is either in flames (France), in a bear market (Germany), or about to enter a recession thanks to the end of the ECB's brand of QE. Beyond that, there's the uncertainty of an orderly departure from the EU by Great Britain. The official date for Britain to separate itself from the EU is March, but there have been rumblings of an extension and more than just a little unrest from the island nation to the continent concerning what effect a member country departing will have on the solidarity of remaining members.

In China and Japan, an economic slowdown is already well underway, so it appears that the sellers have reason enough to move away from stocks, and rapidly. There are just too many negatives floating around geopolitical and financial circles for all of them to be resolved in the near term. Rather, these worries turn into realities which the market doesn't appreciate, such as the actual imposition of tariffs rather than mere rumors and threats of them. The same goes for the Fed's upcoming rate hike and the government shutdown. It's become a market that's twisted the old saw into "sell the rumor, sell the news." Everything is on sale and buyers have been heading to the sidelines beginning in February. Since October, the pace has picked up noticeably, but December threatens to be the worst month of the year for the Dow, at least.

For perspective, February's loss on the Dow was 1120.19 points.

March saw a decline of 926.09.

In October the Dow lost 1341.55 points.

So far this month, the Dow is lower by 1945.58 points, making the October through December (November's gain was 426.12 points) period worse than the February-March spasm.

The NASDAQ is down 16.7% since August 29. WTI Crude was seen at $49.45 per barrel, the lowest price since September, 2017.

Throughout the years of experimental financial chicanery of QE and ZIRP, and NIRP (negative interest rate policy) by the Federal Reserve and fellow central bankers following the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-09, the question was always, "how is this all going to end?"

Now, we have the answer, firsthand, and, as many predicted, it's not pretty and likely to get worse.

Dow Jones Industrial Average December Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
12/3/18 25,826.43 +287.97 +287.97
12/4/18 25,027.07 -799.36 -511.39
12/6/18 24,947.67 -79.40 -590.79
12/7/18 24,388.95 -558.72 -1149.51
12/10/18 24,423.26 +34.31 -1115.20
12/11/18 24,370.24 -53.02 -1168.22
12/12/18 24,527.27 +157.03 -1011.19
12/13/18 24,597.38 +70.11 -941.08
12/14/18 24,100.51 -496.87 -1437.95
12/17/18 23,592.98 -507.53 -1945.58

At the Close, Monday, December 17, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,592.98, -507.53 (-2.11%)
NASDAQ: 6,753.73, -156.93 (-2.27%)
S&P 500: 2,545.94, -54.01 (-2.08%)
NYSE Composite: 11,532.12, -223.27 (-1.90%)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Stocks Spurt On Tariff Truce; 3-5 Yield Curve Inverts

There was good news on the trade front, but bad news concerning a possible recession.

At the conclusion of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, President Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, announced a 90-day moratorium on tariffs set to take effect on January 1, 2019. Some of the tariffs already in place were set to increase while new tariffs on a variety of goods were to take effect on the new year, but the leaders of the world's two largest economies decided on a cooling-off period and further talks before proceeding.

That good news sent futures soaring in pre-market trading, the euphoria spilling over into the regular session. Barely noticed - and un-noted by the financial press - was a minor inversion in interest rates, with the yield on the 5-year note (2.83%) falling below that of the 3-year treasury note (2.84%).

Though it's not the inversion that most economists are looking for in terms of portending a recession, the minor inversion is a warning shot. The 2-year and 10-year notes are the fear standard, with an inverted curve of those rates consistently preceding every recession since 1955. Currently the 2-year note stands at a yield of 2.83%, while the 10-year holds at 2.98%, notably below 3.00%, after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell softened his stance on rate hikes last week.

Thus, there's a split narrative that threatens to put a lid on gains in the near term. Trade wars have been postponed, for now, but 90 days isn't long enough to establish new guidelines between China and the USA. With the Fed set to raise and check, interest rates are going to give them some maneuverability, though not much, with the federal funds rate settling in somewhere between 2.25 and 2.50%.

Bond vigilantes brought the 10-year note down below the Maginot Line of 3.0% on the first trading day of December. That's more than enough speculation as to where interest rates are headed. In a word, nowhere. The ancillary note is on growth - both domestic and global - which has had a bit of a bump thanks to US strength, but pockets of malaise are popping up everywhere. There seems to be no smooth path heading into 2019, so, after a boost from the Fed and another from the international trading community, this early December rally may not have enough gusto to carry it past the FOMC meeting and through the holidays.

Much emphasis will be put on consumer spending, though with an early Thanksgiving, holiday spending might just peter out a week before Christmas.

It's not all doom and gloom. It's more like murky, with a light at the end of some tunnel.

Dow Jones Industrial Average December Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
12/3/18 25,826.43 +287.97 +287.97

At the Close, Monday, December 3, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 25,826.43, +287.97 (+1.13%)
NASDAQ: 7,441.51, +110.98 (+1.51%)
S&P 500: 2,790.37, +30.20 (+1.09%)
NYSE Composite: 12,577.54, +120.00 (+0.96%)