Showing posts with label unemployment claims. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unemployment claims. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Credit World May Become A Battlefield If FICO and Square Butt Heads; Silver on the Move; ADP Fairy Tales

A couple of stories from the world of personal credit are noteworthy as the world enters the third quarter of 2020 hoping for improvement but fearing a repeat of the second quarter from the same enemy which ran roughshod over the world economy.

It's not the virus that people fear, but government response to it in terms of restricted mobility, business operations, and general closures of everything from schools and churches to bars and hair salons.

While the planet and government managers struggle with the virus and their chances in the upcoming US elections in November, credit issues are popping up like daffodils in Springtime. Huge numbers of Americans are foregoing rent and mortgage payments, citing unemployment as the main cause for a diminished cash flow, and delinquencies are piling up not only on mortgages (which are vitally important), but on car loans and leases, student debt, credit cards, and personal loans.

It's because of these issues, or perhaps in spite of them, that FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) wants to rate your resilience and ability to pay back borrowed money in a recession or economic downturn. The company and its affiliate credit scorekeepers - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax - are looking back at credit histories from the GFC in 2007-09 for hints of riskiness in borrowers.

Their findings, which won't be relevant for at least a few more months, could affect how consumers are judged when applying for any kind of credit, from mortgages to car loans. If economic conditions remain below par, many people with poor resilience scores could find themselves out of luck getting credit.

Countering FICO's foray into past performance of borrowers, Chime continues to innovate in the banking and credit space with the launch of the Chime Credit Builder Visa Credit Card.

Actually a debit card that works like a credit card, users can transfer funds from a secure Chime account to a Visa card, and use that money to charge anything, including everyday items like food, gas, clothing or general expenses. The charges are paid by the card automatically, and the results reported to the credit bureaus. The goal is to improve credit scores for mainly younger folks, who favor debit cards over credit, but who need to establish or improve their credit history.

If it sounds like cheating, it very well may be. This is reporting of purchases made with essentially a debit card being reported as a credit card. The credit bureaus are likely to balk at this methodology. A clash between the old standard bureaus and the upstart Chime might make for some interesting developments in how credit and individual risk are measured down the road.

Tuesday's hands-down big winner was silver, which rocketed up by more than two percent in the futures space, vaulting over the psychologically-challenging $18 mark and holding around $18.20. Gold's little sister has a lot of catching up to do and if this price maintains, should signal that a run up to resistance in the $20-21 range is imminent. Correlated closely to the S&P index (for God only knows what reason), if stocks falter and silver holds or goes even higher, that would qualify as a major development. Keep eyes peeled on that space.

Stocks continued their rally from Monday into Tuesday, which was the final day of the month and of the second quarter, an important milestone, since GDP for the quarter - heavily affected by the coronavirus and state-by-state lockdowns and business closures - is expected to check in with a very negative number on a scale likely never seen before. Estimates for second quarter GDP range between -25% to -52%.

Current stock valuations seem to be suggesting that investors are leaning toward the upper end of that range. A decline of 30-35% might actually be seen as a positive for markets because it will be viewed as a one-off event followed by a rapid recovery, though the jury is still out on whether economic recovery will look like a "V", "W", or an "L".

Any view of the stock market indices over the past five months clearly show a "V" shape, with stocks declining and rising at the same frenetic pace. The recovery pattern for stocks can hardly be taken as definitive by any measure of economic activity. Stocks were skyrocketing off their lows as millions of people were losing their jobs, the government and Federal Reserve exercising emergency measures, and the general economy entering a recession.

A "W" pattern goes along with the "second wave" theory of the virus, already being engineered by increased testing and renewed calls for shutdowns, lockdowns, face masks, social distancing and all the assorted recommendations which were successful only in wrecking the Main Street small business economy.

The "L" pattern is the one most despised by money managers, banking executives, and financial central planners because it offers no realistic hope for the immediate future. The "L" concept implies that the economy falls and stays down for an extended period. Like just about everything else the experts at the biggest banks and financial institutions predict, contrarian view has the slow recovery "L" pattern front of mind and it is actually the most likely pattern - not for stocks or any other asset classes - for the general economy in terms of GDP, personal income, and employment.

Finally, queueing the start of the third quarter in the typical doublespeak manner, ADP's June Employment Report showed a gain of 2,369,000 jobs in the non-farm private sector. This follows a decline of 2,760,000 in May, with June just about covering all those job losses. ADP saw 19.5 million people lose their jobs in April, another 2.8 million lost jobs in May (which has now been revised to +3.065mm!). It's almost as if many of those 20 million people filing continuing unemployment claims don't exist, which is fine, since we're all living in bizarro-world now.

At the Close, Tuesday, June 30, 2020:
Dow: 25,812.88, +217.08 (+0.85%)
NASDAQ: 10,058.77, +184.61 (+1.87%)
S&P 500: 3,100.29, +47.05 (+1.54%)
NYSE: 11,893.78, +116.69 (+0.99%)

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%)

Friday, May 15, 2020

Stocks Post Weak Gains Ahead of April Retail; Gold, Silver Bid, Approaching Breakout Levels

Following a weak open, which looked to see stocks extend their losing streak to a third straight session in the red, stocks pivoted, gradually rising off the lows (the Dow down more than 400 points early on) to eventually finish with fair, though hardly secure gains, the advance prompted right at the Dow Jones Industrials' 50-day moving average.

For the seventh time in the past eight weeks, the major averages put on gains in the face of staggering employment losses, as new unemployment claims came in hotter than anticipated, with 2.98 million fresh filings, bringing the two-month total over 36 million out of work.

Equity moves were likely not correlated well to the unemployment data, as the gains all appeared after the news had been known for hours. The more likely scenario was one which has been playing out since the Federal Reserve stepped up its bond-buying activity, but quantitatively and qualitatively. Flush with cash, primary dealers and cohorts ramped into stocks, erasing some of the losses from the prior two sessions.

The move, which is mostly market noise rather than anything substantial, is likely to have been in vain. With investors eyeing what are certain to be horrific April retail sales figures Friday morning, futures are pointing down two hours prior to the opening bell.

Sensing weakness in equities, precious metals caught a long-overdue bid, with gold bounding as high as $1732.70, and silver breaking out to a high in early Friday morning trading of $16.48 per troy ounce.

Premiums on both gold and silver remain high, with popular one-ounce silver bars and coins selling in a range of $23-30, while gold fetches well above $1840 routinely for one ounce coins, rounds, or bars. Despite whatever nonsense the mainstream financial media is throwing out as justification for stocks over real money, demand for precious metals is, and has been, at extremely high levels since early March with no abatement seen on the horizon. The outsized demand has created a supply shortage and has miners and smelting operations working at breakneck speed to maintain at least some modicum of reliability.

With input costs around $1250 for gold miners, exploration and excavation should continue at a strong pace as prices rise and demand continues strong. Undervalued for the past seven years at least, gold and silver mining companies may be looking at solid, if not spectacular, profits in coming quarters.

Bond traders were also able to capitalize on the recent weakness in stocks. The yield on the 10-year note has fallen from a May high yield of 0.73% on Monday to close at 0.63% on Thursday. The 30-year closed Monday at 1.43%, its highest level since March 25, but finished Thursday yielding 1.30% and under pressure.

Oil continues to be a favorite plaything of the speculative class, making a two-month high at $28.25 on hopes that some pickup in demand has occurred since states began getting back to business from May 1 forward. Despite an enormous glut on the supply side, specs and oil company execs are latching onto any rumor or fantasy to get the price off the recent decades-deep lows.

The world continues in a state of shock and despair over the coronavirus debacle and various government attempts to both stem its advance and keep their economies on life support. Indications are that some of it's working, but not very well, overall.

Stocks will need a three percent gain on Friday to avoid a negative print for the week. Only the rosiest prognosis would believe that even remotely possible, though the Fed's heft has overcome dire predictions more than once during the current crisis.

Stay liquid. Next posting will be Sunday's WEEKEND WRAP. Life on Wall Street may be not so sweet if all the currency thrown into markets doesn't produce anything more than a 50% spike off the lows, but that head-and-shoulders pattern on the Dow - now with a sloping right shoulder - is beginning to appear ominous.

At the Close, Thursday, May 14, 2020:
Dow: 23,625.34, +377.37 (+1.62%)
NASDAQ: 8,943.72, +80.56 (+0.91%)
S&P 500: 2,852.50, +32.50 (+1.15%)
NYSE: 10,927.41, +97.97 (+0.90%)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Are Markets Awakening to Reality? Gold, Silver, Bonds Higher; Stocks, Oil Lose Momentum As Argentina Approaches Default, US April Job Losses 20.5 Million

Stocks, bonds, oil and precious metals all had their ups and downs on Thursday, as the focus early was on stocks, which put on impressive gains, only to give half of them back in afternoon trading.

Oil was higher in early trading, spiking to $26.27 a barrel for WTI crude before collapsing all the way down to $23.13.

With a turn right after noon, money began to flow away from riskier assets and into safe havens, with bonds, gold, and silver all being bid as the day wore onward.

Silver started the day at $14.81, languished early, and finished sharply higher, at $15.36. Gold was also cold in the morning, but found its legs later, moving from Wednesday's NY close of $1684.10 to finish at $1718.00.

Treasuries were bought with unusual gusto on the long end. The yield on the 5-year note moved from 0.37% to 0.29% on the day, the 10-year yield went from 0.72% to 0.63%, and the 30-year dropped 10 basis points, from 1.41% to 1.31%. The curve flatted out by 10 basis points, 121 bips covering the entire complex.

All of this activity was against a backdrop of 3.2 million initial unemployment claims, bringing the recent total to 33 million over the past seven weeks.

April non-farm payrolls were also on the mind, with the number - expected to be a record for one month - due out Friday morning.

Argentina (silvery) is about to default on $65 billion of its foreign debt today, Friday, May 8, as bondholders and the government are at loggerheads over a restructuring, though the government appeared to be willing to make some concessions late Thursday. A harder deadline comes May 22, when the country could enter certain default, as a grace period for $500 million of interest payments comes to an end. The clock is ticking for the nation that has defaulted on debt eight times previously.

Argentina could be the doomsday clock the financial world is watching. Other nations are sure to be on the brink of debt default and currency crises after weeks and months of lockdowns, supply chain breakdowns, social unrest, and deaths caused by COVID-19.

Is this the beginning of the end of the stock market rally and a rush to the safety of hard assets? The Dow popped above 24,000 intraday, but it's been unable to surpass the seven-week high of 24,633.66, which is roughly a half retrace of the March pullback. Another failure at this level would signal a short-term selling condition.

Just moments ago, the BLS reported April non-farm payrolls, registering a loss of 20.5 million jobs, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

With COVID-19 continuing to cause dislocations in everything from meat distribution to pro sports to education, the debate over whether this economic maelstrom will eventually result in a sharp rebound or a long, drawn out recession or even a depression.

Siding with the sharp rebound are those who gave up the ghost back in March with lockdowns, the government, media, and most of the financial community following the lead of the Federal Reserve.

Naysayers, viewing the global economy at a severe breaking point with no good solutions, include James Rickards, Mike Maloney of, Peak Prosperity's Chris Martenson, Peter Schiff (a fiat money perma-bear and gold perma-bull) and others.

Greg Mannarino, the Robin Hood of Wall Street adds some perspective:

At the Close, Thursday, May 7, 2020:
Dow: 23,875.89, +211.25 (+0.89%)
NASDAQ: 8,979.66, +125.27 (+1.41%)
S&P 500: 2,881.19, +32.77 (+1.15%)
NYSE: 11,121.67, +121.68 (+1.11%)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Senate Approves $2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill, Sends to House; Unemployment Claims Skyrocket to 3,283,000

Editor's Note: This edition of Money Daily was purposed delayed until after the weekly unemployment claims figures came out at 8:30 am ET Thursday. The regular report follows this headline news.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 21 rose to a record 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level. An enormous jump in claims was widely expected.

Money Daily will have complete reporting on how this affected the markets in Friday morning's report.

Simply put, Wednesday was just a replay or extension of Tuesday's rally, without as much drama or conviction on the part of investors, witnessed by the rapid descent in the final hour of trading. The Dow lost more than half of the day's gains. The NASDAQ ended up in the red after being up more than 250 points in early afternoon trading.

In other words, this rally ran out of steam via the old, "buy the rumor, sell the news" meme. The "rumor" was the Senate's $2.2 trillion national bailout and rescue plan for COVID-19 (very convenient). The "news" is that it was not passed by the full Senate during market business hours. Instead, the aged Senators stayed up well past their bedtimes again, passing the bill around 11:00 pm ET.

The fact that the Senate's 96-0 passage of the bill will coincide perfectly with the next "buy the rumor, sell the news" item - the weekly unemployment claims number at 8:30 am ET Thursday morning, will no doubt leave open to speculation that the timing was anything but coincidence.

Leaving the barn door just slightly ajar, the House of Representatives still has to vote on the measure passed by the Senate before it goes to President Trump for his signature. If he does get a crack at putting pen to paper on this one, it will allow for a huge influx of capital to individuals, families, and businesses, both big and small. It will also destroy any chance of the federal budget coming in with anything less than a $2 trillion deficit this year (fiscal year ends September 30), and next.

Most Americans will receive either a check or direct deposit in the amount of $1,200. Married couples will get $2,400, plus another $500 for each dependent child. The media says that 90% of the people in this country will get such a check, which is a telling figure. It speaks loudly to the wealth distribution in America when only 10% are making enough to not receive a check of any amount. People making more than $75,000 in 2018 or 2019 will get less than the full amount. There's a cap at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for married couples. Those will get nothing. In general terms, there's proof that only 10% of Americans are making more than $99,000 a year. No wonder Bernie Sanders and other democrats receive such strong support for "wealth redistribution."

All that aside, Thursday is looking like a bloodbath for the Bulls, as the unemployment figures will almost certainly be record-setting. Estimates range from 860,000 new claims (UBS) to four million (4,000,000) (Citi). The prior high was 695,000 claims filed the week ended October 2, 1982. If this were a betting game, Money Daily would be at or above the high figure provided by analysts at Citi. There's a chance it could be six million. New York alone could be over a million, ditto California.

As for other markets, bonds, precious metals, and oil were relatively stable on the day. The 10-year note seems to have found a sweet spot with a yield around 0.85%.

Gold looks to be consolidating above $1600 per ounce, though there are widespread reports that nobody can find even a one ounce bar at that price. Dealers have been scrambling for the last two weeks to fill orders and many are completely sold out. The same is true for silver, though to a lesser extent. The miners can produce silver faster than gold, so supplies are being replenished, but they will be bought up as soon as they're available.

Order fulfillment times for physical gold and silver bullion, coins, and bars are running three weeks and longer. Silver, on the spot or futures market is stabilizing around $14.50, but prices on eBay (which means almost immediate shipment) and through dealers are much higher.

Single one-ounce silver bars on ebay have been flying high, with prices ranging anywhere from $22 to as high as $41.

WTI crude is settling into a range between $22 and $24 per barrel and that price should persist and possibly go lower as the COVID-19 plague spreads and slows movement commerce worldwide. Gas prices in the US are a multi-year lows.

Stocks are not going back to record levels despite the Dow gaining ground for the second straight day. Tuesday and Wednesday were the first time the Dow saw back-to-back gains since February 3-6, when it strung together four straight wins. Finishing on the upside two days straight hadn't happened over the past 31 sessions.

At the Close, Wednesday, March 25, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 21,200.55, +495.64 (+2.39%)
NASDAQ: 7,384.29, -33.56 (-0.45%)
S&P 500: 2,475.56, +28.23 (+1.15%)
NYSE: 9,961.38, +303.06 (+3.14%)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Stocks, Bonds In Game Of Chicken With Fed, Economy

Who will blink first?

That's the essential question, especially whenever stocks advance in the face of disappointing news or data.

Just today, basking in the afterglow of Independence Day, the data was far from convincing of the official narrative that the economy is clicking, unemployment is low and happy days for all are just over the horizon.

Unemployment claims were higher than expected. For the last week of June, 231,000 were receiving government benefits. The low number of unemployment claims is partially due to a number of factors the government number crunchers don't readily report. First, there are no more extended claims. In most states, it's 26 weeks. That's it. Find a job in six months or be relegated to the "out of workforce" brigade, which are not counted in the official figures.

Additionally, with so many baby boomers retiring (supposedly at a rate of 10,000 a day, though it's likely much lower), there should be jobs aplenty. However, many of those older folks are not being replaced. Corporations are saving through attrition, or, at best, hiring replacements at much lower wages with fewer benefits.

Then there's job growth. The numbers delivered by ADP this morning were uninspiring. Private employers added 177,000 to their payrolls, well below the expected 190,000. Prior to the opening bell on Friday, the BLS releases the non-farm payroll data for June, which is expected to come in at around 195,000 new jobs, but whether the numbers match expectations or not, almost anybody with a functioning brain knows that the data is largely fudged and massaged and generally not reflective of local conditions.

Thus, the wizards on Wall Street are playing chicken in the market, and well they should. The Wall Street elite have the ability to hedge, shed positions before the general public, and make moves faster than anybody else, especially the home-gaming day-traders. They are selling when everyone else is buying and vice versa. They're pros. That's why they're making mega-bucks on Wall Street and you're not.

The Federal Reserve released the minutes from June's FOMC meeting at 2:00 today, which initially sent stocks down, but they recovered to close near their highs. The minutes sent mixed signals, but little to suggest that the Fed would not raise the federal funds rate by another 25 basis points in September, despite a flattening treasury yield curve, which is a harbinger of an economic downturn.

Again, the market pros played chicken and bid up stocks in the face of the Fed minutes which revealed little beyond what was already known.

Bond yields edged slightly higher, except for the 30-year, which shed one basis point to 2.95%. Spreads on the 2s-10s dipped to 29 basis points, and the 2s-30s dropped to 40 bips. Bond traders are staring directly at a flatline instead of a curve, with potential for inversion a real concern. They're selling the short end, buying the long, challenging the Fed to tighten twice more this year, a move that almost certainly would send wild signals through the trading community.

If all of that isn't enough to churn the stomach, Trump's China tariffs go into effect at midnight EDT.

Chicken. It's not what's for dinner. It's what Wall Street plays these days.

Dow Jones Industrial Average July Scorecard:

Date Close Gain/Loss Cum. G/L
7/2/18 24,307.18 +35.77 +35.77
7/3/18 24,174.82 -132.36 -96.59
7/5/18 24,345.44 +181.92 +85.33

At the Close, Thursday, July 5, 2018:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 24,345.44, +181.92 (+0.71%)
NASDAQ: 7,579.59, +83.75 (+1.03%)
S&P 500: 2,735.07, +21.85 (+0.81%)
NYSE Composite: 12,564.92, +90.53 (+0.56%)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dow, S&P Post Fifth Straight Losing Session; Fed Tapering Fears to Blame

Stcks took another turn lower on Thursday after the government reported its second estimate of GDP for the third quarter grew at a rate of 3.6%, far ahed of even the most bullish estimates and a dramatic revision from the first estimate of 2.8% growth.

Inside the numbers, more than half of the GDP push was due to inventory builds, the consumer spending portion of the calculation lower than previous quarters. Additionally, the govenment changed the way it calculates GD per the second quarter, so the adjusted figures include intangible assets (normally treated as liabilities on any corporate balance sheet, but as growth assets according to the infamous trick economists the government employs). All estimates of GDP from the second quarter of 2013 onward, and especially during the initial quarters through the second quarter of 2014, should be viewed as more mark-to-fantasy accounting by the government, designed to make the economy look better than it actually is.

The new calculus of GDP is a double-edged sword going forward, as higher GDP emotes thoughts of Fed tapering of bond purchases, currently the lifeblood of the stock markets. While it looks good on the surface, the net effect in stocks is negative, for now.

In some glorious, imagined future world, higher GDP, based on various faulty assumptions, will produce a happiness effect or contentment, which, along with the Fed's highly-dubious but nonetheless heavily-touted "wealth effect" will be hailed as the outcome of successful Fed policies or some other rubbish, and, which the lazy, out-of-touch politicians in congress and the White House can somehow claim credit.

Sadly, or perhaps happily, in this good-news-is-bad-news regime, the headline-munching algos controlling the stock market can't read between the lines and are programmed to sell on economic improvement, whether the data is flawed or pristine. The Wall Street herd (and it is nothing other than herd mentality dictating direction) is equally deficient by buying into flawed data, but those are the cards issued by the underhanded Fed bottom-card-dealing Fed. The choice to raise, hold or fold is entirely up to the traders, though at this juncture, they're collecting their profits and running from the gaming tables in advance of november non-farm payrolls, due out Friday at 8:30 am ET.

The other number issued today was courtesy of the BLS in weekly initial jobless claims, coming in at 298,000, a six-year low, the good news just adding more melancholy to traders who have brought the Dow and S&P indices lower for the fifth straight session.

Those paying attention to internals will note that the advance-decline line continues to erode, and that new lows finally overtook new highs today, for the first time since early October. Those two indicators will be supplying signals beyond the November non-farm payroll data tomorrow and should be viewed as the least-abused and most reliable signs for market direction.

Precius metals were hammered lower once again, though nary a gold or silver bug can be heard complaining, considering the lowered prices to be akin to a pre-Christmas sale on the metals.

DOW 15,821.51, -68.26 (-0.43%)
NASDAQ 4,033.16, -4.84 (-0.12%)
S&P 1,785.03, -7.78 (-0.43%)
10-Yr Note 99.08 0.00 (0.00%)
NASDAQ Volume 1.79 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.30 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2217-3433
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 127-164
WTI crude oil: 97.38, -0.18
Gold: 1,231.90, -15.30
Silver: 19.57, -0.26
Corn: 433.50, -3.00

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wall Street Pouts Despite Twitter IPO; Jobs Data on Deck

Busy day today for the gods of greed, buyers of bluster, falcons of fraud, purveyors of prevarication.

Wall Street was all a-twitter over the IPO of Twitter (TWTR), the latest Web 2.0 mega-fad company gone public, which opened today on the NYSE with a bang. The stock was issued at 26, but opened at 44, quickly ramped up above 50 per share and closed at 44.90, good for a 78% gain. The company - based on "tweets" of 140 characters - is valued at about 29 times sales, pretty rich, especially for a enterprise that's still losing money. Well, at least the founders are now billionaires... on paper.

Prior to the opening bell, there was a flurry of activity from across the Atlantic pond, as Europe's Mario Draghi, ECB president extraordinaire, announced key rate cuts of 25 basis points, leaving the base rate at .25 and the key lending rate at .50. Observers in America wondered what took the Euros so long, though one must consider that they have been in the business of wrecking their own economies and fleecing the public a lot longer than their American counterparts, so they can kick the old can-can a lot longer and down an even shorter road without causing much of a stir.

The response from traders across the continent and in the UK was resoundingly mixed, with the German DAX higher, Britain's FTSE lower and the French CAC-40 barely changed. Don't these people understand the concept of cheap money? Pikers, the lot of them, except, of course, for the stodgy, stingy, and oh-so-proper Germans.

At 8:30 am ET, the US blasted off a couple of economic indicators, releasing the first reading on third quarter GDP at a robust 2.8%, a ribald lie if ever there was one, but enough to scare the few remaining hairs off the head of Lloyd Blankfien and others of his balding ilk. Good news is once again bad news, it appears, and any growth approaching three percent in the US sends shivers up the spineless bankers' backs, because they believe their buddies, Mr. Bernanke and the incoming Mr. Yellen, may cease the easy money programs that has catapulted every dishonest banker into ever-higher tax brackets.

The most recent initial unemployment claims - which were down 9,000 from the previous week, at 336,000, remained stubbornly high, though apparently not quite high enough for the barons of buyouts. These dopes saw this as another sign of a strengthening US economy, so, shortly after the opening bell, stocks did an abrupt about-face and trended lower throughout the session, with little respite.

In other news, Goldman Sachs is under investigation for rigging foreign exchange (FOREX) trading and just about everything else they do, and, yesterday, the Blackstone Group began pitching its rent-backed securities.

Really. They did. And some people actually bought them.

The advance-decline line cratered, with losers leading gainers by a 7:2 ratio, and new lows continue to close the gap on daily new highs, a trend metric that may just flip over if today's losses are indeed presaging something un-funny about tomorrow's delayed October non-farm jobs data, due out an hour before the opening bell. The way to read this is that the government is likely to report that something in the range of 120-150,000 new jobs were created during the month, which would be more proof of economic improvement, exactly what the market doesn't want. Either that, or it's going to be a real stink-bomb, because the forecast is only for 100,000.

Business as usual, my friends. Monkey business, that is.

Dow 15,593.98, -152.90 (0.97%)
Nasdaq 3,857.33, -74.61 (1.90%)
S&P 500 1,747.15, -23.34 (1.32%)
10-Yr Bond 2.61%, -0.03
NYSE Volume 4,092,416,000
Nasdaq Volume 2,196,542,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1276-4371
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 197-101
WTI crude oil: 94.20, -0.60
Gold: 1,308.50, -9.30
Silver: 21.66, -0.111
Corn: 420.50, -0.75

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fed's Bullard Fails to Halt Market Decline; Fed Credibility Nil; Correction, Potential Crash in Motion

At last!

After weeks of churning, uneventful trading, Wall Street delivered a most interesting session on Wednesday.

Instead of the usual down in the morning, up in the afternoon routine that's been de rigueur of late, this was a dip that virtually nobody was buying.

Stocks began the session quietly, but soon fell to their lows of the day, shortly before the close of European markets. Money that had heretofore been jumping from European equities into US stocks did not manage to materialize, as they have over the past few weeks.

Instead, stocks languished in negative territory, with the Dow down between 60 and 90 points most of the midday. Another bump lower between 1:00 and 2:00 pm EDT left the Dow at its lows of the day, the S&P and NASDAQ following it down, though on a lower percentage basis.

At 3:15 pm, St. Louis Fed president James Bullard, one of the more effeminate and dovish Fed members, laid out his pre-arranged meme to calm markets in an unofficial speech to a Rotary club in Paducah, Kentucky, saying that he Fed needed more data in the second half before embarking on any kind of bond purchase tapering and that the Fed should hold press conferences after every FOMC meeting, in order to facilitate a more open, quick response to markets.

Initially, stocks moved upward on his comments, but quickly fell back, signaling that traders and markets have become weary of the differentiating tone of the Fed, one day favoring tapering, the next day softening their stance. The market response to Bullard's comments was clearly a sign that fundamental market analysis was overtaking the Fed's manipulation by word of mouth and that the Fed was clearly stuck in a box from which there was no salvageable escape.

Truth is, the economy is not improving to any noticeable degree, and even a partial winding down or "tapering" of QE would cause a selloff in stocks and likely another round of interest rate hikes devoid of any influence from the Federal Reserve. Nearly disarmed and out of ammunition, the Fed is now stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can declare the economy improving and crash the market (because it isn't) or hold tight to their insane strategy of pumping $85 billion a month in bond purchases for a longer time period, a strategy that has caused distortions and dislocations of magnificent proportions.

Traders, usually quick-thinking and thick-skinned, have found no solace in Fed utterings of late, and are taking action on their own, mostly on the side of selling, to the utter dismay of the proponents of central planning and controlled economic reality.

Stocks suffered fairly severely, though still are floating on a sea of liquidity supplied by the ever-present Fed, a condition which - whether it changes or not - seems to have run its course. Valuations are such that further gains need a serious catalyst in the form or fundamentally strong data, which has yet to materialize. Thus, booking profits off the outsize gains from the first half seems to be the prudent strategy prior to the next FOMC meeting in September, and there's little the Fed can do to stem the waves of selling pressure now appearing in all sectors.

A slew of fiscal and geopolitical risks also conspire against the Federal Reserve and the stock market, making the condition ripe for a serious, sustained correction. The cyclical bull, inspired off the first round of QE and ZIRP in March 2009, is now 54 months old, and getting a bit weary.

Only fools would rush in to this market, but as is well known, Wall Street and investment types are replete with foolish folks, so a quick pop prior to a reversal would not be a surprise, though the odds for a solid correction of 5-10% are rising quickly.

Though losses were not large, the Hinderburg Omen strategy remains the most powerful. The advance-decline line was humbled on today's session, the losing streak has all indices down for the month and new lows overwhelmed new highs (as shown below) for the first time in two months. Gold and silver made substantial gains both during NYMEX and electronic trading, with silver the shining out-performer of the day.

All of this sets up for a bearish tone tomorrow and into next week, with key data releases on Thursday, including the closely-watched weekly unemployment claims.

Cisco (CSCO) reported after the bell, beating earnings per share by a penny with revenues roughly in line with estimates. Before the opening bell tomorrow, McDonald's reports with expectations of 1.25 pr share and revenue of 118.25 for the second quarter. Same store comps will be closely monitored as those fell in the previous quarter from a year ago.

Dow 15,337.66, -113.35 (0.73%)
NASDAQ 3,669.27, -15.17 (0.41%)
S&P 500 1,685.39, -8.77 (0.52%)
NYSE Composite 9,593.34, -37.23 (0.39%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,546,362,000
NYSE Volume 3,126,848,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2451-4038
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 217-272
WTI crude oil: 106.85, +0.02
Gold: 1,333.40, +12.90
Silver: 21.79, +0.444

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stocks Have a Late-Day Reality Check (and reality wins)

After yesterday's golden sombrero (a baseball slang term denoting a player striking out four times in four at-bats) of economic data, today's market was welcomed with another 0-for-4 reading on economic data, that on top of Wal-Mart's (WMT) poor first quarter which was a miss on the revenue side, blamed, laughingly, on weather (we have it every day, dolts) and late income tax refunds (pure baloney).

Prior to the opening bell, initial unemployment claims came in at 360K, when the market was looking for a benign 335K, oops. At the same time, April CPI registered -0.4%, the worst showing (for inflationists) since 2007, and housing starts slumped rom 1021K in March to 853K in April, a massive fall-off and well below rosy expectations for 970K. So much for the "rebound" in housing which was supposed to be leading the recovery.

Topping off the list, at 10:00 am EDT, was the Philadelphia Fed's Manufacturing Index, expected to show modest growth to a humorous 2.5, but bolted out at -5.2, another sign that business activity is actually slowing down and doing so in a rather hasty retreat, not only in the US, but globally. France, apart from the farce that is Europe, is also heading deeper into recession, and China's growth is slowing considerably faster than anyone might have expected (except those who don't believe China's economic numbers in the first place).

Thus, stocks hugged the flat-line before caving in - around 3:00 pm EDT - to the pressure of eight straight missed on key economic data, a poor earnings season typified by revenue misses and the continuing crisis at the top of the federal government of not one, not two, but three separate scandals.

Market declines on the day were not exactly pronounced, but, checking the calendar and noting that this is the day before monthly options expiry, it all begins to make more sense. Nobody's yet brave enough to call this a top, but it sure looks like one, smells like one and has all the antecedent timing factors to actually be one.

We'll see if there's any carry-over to tomorrow's week-ending session. Today's late tape was bolstered by tape-painting and/or short covering, which lifted the indices off their lows.

Dow 15,233.22, -42.47 (0.28%)
NASDAQ 3,465.24, -6.37 (0.18%)
S&P 500 1,650.47, -8.31 (0.50%)
NYSE Composite 9,489.18, -62.24 (0.65%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,924,503,750.00
NYSE Volume 3,771,709,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2633-3851
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 607-62
WTI crude oil: 95.16, +0.86
Gold: 1,386.90, -9.30
Silver: 22.66, +0.001

Friday, April 5, 2013

March Payrolls Huge Miss; Economy a Pack of Lies, Rolling Over

Let's just get one thing straight: there are lies, statistics and more lies in their interpretation, and even worse prevarication when it comes to market response.

When today's March Non-Farm Payroll data was rolled out at 8:30 am EDT - an hour prior to the opening bell - the response in the futures was automatic and immediate.

On expectations that the recovering US economy was to have produced 197,000 new jobs during the month, the actual number - 88,000 - was a miss of such enormous magnitude that it begs for perspective.

The miss was the worst since December 2009, when the economy was still taking baby steps toward said recovery and it was the lowest number of new jobs since June of last year. Incredibly, the unemployment rate fell to 7.6%, though this was due to 663,000 individuals dropping out of the labor force, sending the labor participation rate to 63.3%, the lowest level since 1979, with a record 90 million Americans (aged 16 and up) out of the labor force.

Surely with numbers like these, the United States is on a sustainable path... to complete disintegration, anarchy and poverty. There simply is no way to get around how poorly the economy is performing, a full five years and three months after it entered recession in December 2007, and four years after it supposedly exited that recession (June 2009).

Whether or not one believes we ever exited the Great Recession (or, as some call it, the Greater Depression) is merely a matter of semantics, the truth is that the economy has been and is going nowhere fast. Growth is a chimera, more statistical noise boosted by inflation; jobs have been hard to come by and those that are available are mostly of the entry-level, burger-flipping variety. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues to pump $85 billion into the banking system each and every month, and still, nothing.

The talking heads on CNBC and Bloomberg tried to blame it on everything from the weather to the sequester to the tax increase imposed in January to, probably, the phase of the moon, but the reality is that we have structural issues that are generational, worldwide and widely the cause of the gross inequalities between rich and poor, with the crony capitalists - in cahoots with cheap, shiftless politicians - pushing more and more debt onto a system already overburdened with it.

Anyone who purports to tell you that the economy is improving, ask them how and why, and wait for the usual non-answers that housing is improving (it's not), that there are more jobs (marginally, there are, but not enough to keep up with population growth) or, the usual, "this is America, and we are great," complete failure response.

The stock market took a huge dive at the open, the Dow losing as many as 172 points, the S&P off by 21 and the NASDAQ down a whopping 58 points before the riggers came in and bid up the whole complex - especially ramping it in the final half hour - to close down with losses erased by roughly two-thirds.

We are in a sad, sorry state of affairs, when what used to be the most efficient, dynamic markets in the world are now nothing more than a crooked casino, run by oligarchs, bankers and unseen hands that are both out of control and above the law.

Significantly, gold and silver were both up sharply on the day, as the flight to safety finally made an appearance.

This economy is rolling over, like a sick patient who hasn't received the correct treatment. We're about to go into a tailspin that will make 2008 look like a casual stroll along the beach. The bankers, politicians and the media continues to spin the happy "recovery" meme, when all data shows the economy going in reverse. Data-wise, the US was a woeful 0-for-6 the past eight days, with the Chicago PMI missing the mark, along with the ISM index, the ISM services index, the ADP employment report, initial unemployment claims and finally, today's non-farm payrolls.

How many misses and bad data points will it take for the politicians to admit their policies are failures, the media to admit they are blind and the bankers admit they've been robbing common people blind since time immemorial?

Nobody should be holding their breath waiting, that's for sure.

Dow 14,565.25, -40.86 (0.28%)
NASDAQ 3,203.86, -21.12 (0.65%)
S&P 500 1,553.28, -6.70 (0.43%)
NYSE Composite 9,000.24, -27.59 (0.31%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,608,289,875
NYSE Volume 3,788,675,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2866-3582
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 118-81
WTI crude oil: 92.70, -0.56
Gold: 1,575.90, +23.50
Silver: 27.22, +0.453

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cyprus Banks Re-Open; S&P Makes New All-Time High

Not certain which of these two historic events will eventually bear more weight, but the banks in Cyprus opened at noon (Cyprus time) on Thursday after being shuttered for more than two weeks and the S&P made an all-time closing high.

For investors, the S&P event is a watershed moment, capping a long bull run of just over four years that began at 666 on the index and now closes nearly 100 points better.

For the citizens of Cyprus, the events of the past two weeks and the reopening of the banks today will have great weight, but in the opposite direction. Now that the banking situation in the Mediterranean island nation are more or less "normalized" - with uninsured depositors (over 100,000 euros) likely to lose 40% or more of their deposits - and the country headed directly into a depression, the contagion, for now, limited, though anybody with large deposits in any European bank has to be walking on eggshells presently.

The limits for Cypriots are stiff: withdrawals from banks are limited to 300 euros per day; checks cannot be cashed, only deposited; leaving the island with more than 3000 euros is outlawed. Welcome to the Cyprus debt prison and hotel. Payrolls are exempt from limits as the banking officials want to see money circulating to some degree, though people will be surely more frugal in their spending habits.

The Dow closed at another record high and ends the quarter (Markets are closed Friday) up 11%, marking the best quarterly returns since 1998. The S&P was right behind, clocking a 10% return for the quarter.

As the market has shown throughout the four-year bull run, news doesn't matter; it's all good on Wall Street. The Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 52.4 in March, down sharply from the 56.8 reported in February.

Initial jobless claims also cam in worse than expected, rising to 357K, up from 341K in the prior week.

Monday is the start of a new month and a new quarter, as well as being April Fool's Day, which begs the question: who will be the fools, those who exited on the record high today or those looking to squeeze more gains out of the long-running bull market?

The highs on the S&P are nominal ones, slightly above levels hit in 2000 and 2007, more commonly known as a triple top.

It's never a good idea to buy high, because you're likely to end up selling lower, but it's really tough to bet against Ben Bernanke and the Fed printing presses churning out $85 billion a month in free money. The sprinters are far ahead at the moment, but investing is more of a marathon. And, don't forget, this rally has been built not only on quickly depreciating greenbacks but on horrifyingly low volume. Additionally, the advance-Decline line has been exhibiting much less breadth than one would normally associate with a raging bull.

Pick your poison, but don't keep all your eggs in one basket.

Happy Easter!

Dow 14,578.54, +52.38 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 3,267.52, +11.00 (0.34%)
S&P 500 1,569.19, +6.34 (0.41%)
NYSE Composite 9,106.83, +36.38 (0.40%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,555,418,875.00
NYSE Volume 3,481,085,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3865-2537
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 557-32
WTI crude oil: 97.23, +0.65
Gold: 1,594.80, -11.40
Silver: 28.32, -0.289

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Stocks Trashed Again on Brace of Poor Economic Data

Possibly more than anything else, the horrific -12.5 print by the Philadelphia Fed was responsible for the added declines on Thursday, following Wednesday's setback after the FOMC minutes from january were announced.

The market was expecting a reading of 1.5 from the Philly Fed in its survey of business conditions, which, in and of itself, is a bit of an embarrassment, but were greeted with an even lower number for February after january came in at a disappointing -5.8. Obviously, there's little to no catalyst for improvement in the region, and the same is pretty much true in other Fed outposts, though the Philadelphia survey gets more attention, it representing a solid hub of business activity.

Beyond the sorry report, other economic data was less-than-encouraging. First-time unemployment claims ticked up 20,000, from a revised 342K last week, to 362K in the latest reporting period, dashing - for the time being - any hope of a rebound in employment.

This is a fickle, almost psychotic market. On the one hand, traders get worried that the Fed will take away the punch bowl of unlimited QE and low interest rates, but, on the other, they are equally concerned that the general economy is again approaching stall speed, as it did last year and in 2011 in the early months.

Whatever the market is feeling these past two days, it is mostly confusion and consternation. The major averages took some serious dips into the red today before a wicked, final-hour, short-covering rally brought them close to unchanged on the day, eventually failing in the final half hour of trading.

One can hardly blame the shorts for pulling a quick trigger on their positions this afternoon. Attempting to short this market and counter the Fed's relentless money creation machine has been a losing trade for the better part of four years and its a testament to the resolve of the non-believers to hold true even on a two-day reversal.

US markets were not the only ones being handed their hats on Thursday. European markets were shattered even worse after a key reading on services and manufacturing fell from 48.6 in January to 47.3 in February, well short of expectations, where the consensus was 49. It may be finally dawning on european investors that various bond schemes by the ECB and austerity measures in various countries aren't producing the desired effects and may even be contributing to continued weakness in the Eurozone.

Taken together, the Eurozone and the US are beginning to look like a pair of gussied-up party girls after a long night on the town. The makeup is fading and cracking and the hangover is setting in with a passion.

Even though two days of trading does not constitute a trend of any sort, the past two have been the worst in succession for US stocks this year and there may not be much of a respite with sequestration issues and a budget battle looming between the opposing parties in the nation's capitol, and those are two fights the American public is hardly keen on, as congress and the president have both shown an unwavering reluctance to handle pressing business like adults, preferring to play the blame game and seek short-term, band-aid types of approaches.

How the markets play out over the next few weeks and months will go a long way toward determining the mood on Wall Street and Main Street, and the mood - despite the best intentions by business - is beginning to show signs that patience is growing exceedingly thin.

Elsewhere, gold got a bit of a dead-cat-bounce after a month of steady declines, giving back those gains during the open session, though silver remains mired at multi-month lows. The metal prices may move even lower, in union with stocks, although one would be hard-pressed to find an actual physical holder of either willing to part with any or all of his or her holdings. Suppression by central banks and other operators has been well-documented, and the more they push down, the more dire conditions for a sharp response become.

Crude oil also has been taken a beating as speculators are having their lunch eaten. Overabundant supplies of WTI crude and slack demand is causing a serious disruption in the trading, which has been nothing but straight up since December. Oil and gas at the pump are about to get a whole lot cheaper.

It's getting a little bit interesting out there after the champagne rally of the first seven weeks of the year. The A-D line has been in reversal for two straight days and today's new highs - new lows reading was nearly at parity, a condition foreign to these markets since last November.

Dow 13,880.62, -46.92 (0.34%)
NASDAQ 3,131.49, -32.92 (1.04%)
S&P 500 1,502.42, -9.53 (0.63%)
NYSE Composite 8,816.74, -66.88 (0.75%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,007,395,000
NYSE Volume 4,414,224,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1942-4569
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 104-78
WTI crude oil: 92.84, -2.38
Gold: 1,578.60, +0.60
Silver: 28.70, +0.077

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meandering Midweek Market

Mostly, investors were mulling over issues that developed over Monday and Tuesday, as nothing new really sufaced on Wednesday. Europe is still in an uncertain state, as is the US, but there was nothing really developing to move markets and the indices dropped popped, dropped and popped back to positive at the end of the session.

Focus will soon turn to the budget and sequester debates in the congress, though that exercise has already been well telegraphed by the players involved. More can-kicking will likely be the order of the day on both fronts, but it is likely to cause a temporary drag on markets.

Tomorrow's initial unemployment claims may cause some excitement, after ripping back up to 368,000 last week, but the biggest factor overall is still the relentless MBS buying and treasury monetizing by the Fed, at a pace of $85 billion per month, underpinning the market.

Until some change in policy occurs, the bets are all on black, the market continuing to climb, obviously a position tough to stand against.

Dow 13,986.52, +7.22(0.05%)
NASDAQ 3,168.48, -3.10 (0.10%)
S&P 500 1,512.12, +0.83(0.05%)
NYSE Composite 8,934.26, +14.12 (0.16%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,961,700,250
NYSE Volume 3,775,844,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3577-2796
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 324-19
WTI crude oil: 96.62, -0.02
Gold: 1,678.80, +5.30
Silver: 31.88, +0.002

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Red Alert: Markets Leak Lower Second Straight Session

The 0.1% decline in fourth quarter 2012 GDP appears to have been taken a bit more seriously than first expected, as stocks fell for the second consecutive session on Thursday. Adding to the dour sentiment on the US economy, initial unemployment claims spiked to 368,000 after last week's multi-year low of 330,000 was seen as initially buoyant but now looks to be more of an aberration than a harbinger of things to come.

Stocks were higher in the morning, but drifted through the day, eventually ending lower despite a furious, failed attempt to paint the tape in the final ten minutes of trading. Of the major indices, only the NASDAQ was close to the break even mark, closing down fractionally.

Chicago PMI for January was a major surprise, coming in at 55.6 on expectations of 50.0%, but even this was not enough to bolster the markets.

The real story came in terms of personal income, which sported a gain of 2.6% in December, a boon for the average consumer, a bane for business, but overall, likely a wash, as the reading was prior to government's decision to roll back the temporary cut in Social Security deductions. Wage earners are seeing less in their paychecks while oil, fuel and food are beginning to show signs of ramping up in price, a formula not apparently anticipated by by the Fed/government/business brian trust which wants to control everything from guns, to stock prices to health insurance premiums.

There's an eventuality about all of this control-orientation that reeks of collapse, anarchy and non-compliance from the general populace. If not for food stamps, rent subsidies and other socialist mechanisms polluting the formerly-free markets, the economy would have been dead and buried long ago.

As for the skimmers on Wall Street, their attempts to manage the markets lower amid weakening expectations are, for now, succeeding, though on this final day of trading in January - one of the best months ever for stocks - there was little in the way of window dressing, the usual ritual of fund managers seeking to impress clients.

With non-farm payroll data due out prior to Friday's opening bell, everything is on hold, though sentiment seems to be turning a bit more negative than usual. Estimates are for a net increase of 200,000 jobs created in December, after ADP reported a gain of 192,000 on Wednesday, counting only the private sector.

Washington's been eerily silent of late, supposedly getting down to work on immigration and possibly other pressing issues, but debate will soon liven over a budget, something congress and the president has failed to address for four years.

A big discrepancy in the Advance-Decline line - 3546-2897 - the opposite of what one would expected on a negative trading day, indicates that investors were busily unloading losers and scrambling for safety. Consumer stocks, in addition to energy, healthcare and transportation were the largest sector losers, with utilities and services the only sectors slightly positive.

Wall Street's tea leaves will tell more tomorrow, and if hiring was less than expected in December, downward pressure will remain in charge and perhaps be amplified.

Dow 13,860.58, -49.84 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 3,142.13, -0.18 (0.01%)
S&P 500 1,498.11, -3.85 (0.26%)
NYSE Composite 8,892.59, -11.73 (0.13%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,134,474,750
NYSE Volume 4,027,212,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3546-2897
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 316-39
WTI crude oil: 97.10, -0.84
Gold: 1,663.80, -16.10
Silver: 31.42, -0.60

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stocks Slide on Fiscal Cliff Stalemate, Fed Confusion

As they've done after the occasion of every recent FOMC meeting, traders sold off on the news, though today's slide was exacerbated at least a little by angst over the ongoing stalemate in Washington over fiscal cliff issues.

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, went before the microphones this morning, followed by Senate leader Harry Reid, and the two of them managed to give Wall Street a dose of temporary depression, sending stocks lower throughout the session.

The major indices slid into the final hour, but rebounded off their lows of the day when news leaked that President Obama and Boehner were to meet at the White House late this afternoon. While it will probably amount to nothing, as have their previous talks, the markets viewed it as slightly positive.

Traders are still mulling over yesterday's FOMC announcement, in which Chairman Bernanke tied raising interest rates to the unemployment rate and inflation. It's something of a crude cobbling of numbers that may or may not make sense, but, in the best counterintuitive spirit, lower unemployment and a recovering economy wiht low inflation (all good) would probably send stocks screeching into the abyss because interest rates would be on the rise.

Whatever the case and however it eventually plays out, it's a scenario unlikely to arrive any time soon, probably not for at least another 12 months, but it still has investors somewhat spooked.

Some good news for the economy came in the form of lower initial unemployment claims dropped to 343K in the most recent reporting period, on expectations of 375K. Retial sales, however, were a little disappointing, up just 0.3% in November, though that was better than the -0.3% from October.

The PPI was downright deflationary, posting a decline of 0.8% in November. Tomorrow's CPI reading will give an indication of price pressure or the lack thereof at the consumer level.

Dow 13,170.72, -74.73 (0.56%)
NASDAQ 2,992.16, -21.65 (0.72%)
S&P 500 1,419.45, -9.03 (0.63%)
NYSE Composite 8,338.62, -42.26 (0.50%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,800,313,250
NYSE Volume 3,299,683,250
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 1847-3671
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 85-58
WTI crude oil: 85.89, -0.88
Gold: 1,696.80, -21.10
Silver: 32.36, -1.427

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Finishes Badly; PMI Weakest in Over Three Years

Considering the crush of bad data that the markets encountered this morning, today's marginal negative close was something of a marvel. In fact, had stocks not taken an abrupt U-turn in the final 20 minutes of trading, one could have said that markets were ignoring the headlines.

As a whole, the month of May was about as dismal as has been seen since the aftermath of the '08 collapse. Both the S&P 500 and the Dow were down roughly 6%, wiping out most of the gains of the year. Energy, financials and materials were the three hardest hit sectors. Crude oil took more than a 17% haircut during the month, putting it technically in a bear market.

The five positive days on the Dow for the month was the worst for May since 1969 and the 17 down days bettered a May mark dating back to 1956.

Among the data releases from the morning that set the overall tone for the US markets were the announced job cuts in May, that jumped 67% from a year ago according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the 133K private sector jobs created in the month - 24,000 lower than the estimate - according to ADT, 383K initial unemployment claims, and a drop in the second estimate of first quarter GDP to 1.9% from the 2.2% previously supplied.

All of those releases were prior to the opening bell, but at 10:00 am EDT the hammer hit the market hard, as the Chicago PMI dropped from 56.2 in April to a current reading of 52.7, the worst showing since September 2009.

With that announcement, stocks did a face-plant, with all of the major indices falling quickly to the lows of the day. There was no sign of capitulation, that likely being saved for Friday's non-farm payroll report, which has all investors walking on eggs this week.

Taking the bad economic news in usual shrugging-off fashion, stocks climbed back to positive territory - except for the NASDAQ which was down all day - nearing the close, but fell apart at the end, finishing May with one of the worst performances on record, the major indices clinging to smallish gains for the year and the major averages resting just above their 200-day moving averages.

With prospects for a robust reading on jobs from the BLS not encouraging, Friday appears to be shaping up as a make or break session, notwithstanding issues ranging from Europe to bank downgrades on the horizon.

The 10-year bond fell to another historic low, closing with a yield of 1.57%, indicative of a flight to safety as investors worry about recession in Europe and how a slowdown there will affect US firms, many of which derive a significant portion of their revenues from the crumbling continent. Also under consideration are how the continued crisis in Europe will affect US banks, some of which have significant exposure to various countries in the Eurozone.

Crude oil continued its relentless slide, hitting its lowest price level in seven months and down 17% in May alone. Oil futures have entered a bear market, more than 20% off their highs, a condition drivers can only celebrate, as the national average price of retail gas at the pump is down to $3.62 per gallon according to AAA's fuel gauge report.

With May out of the way, tomorrow's 8:30 am EDT announcement on payrolls could be a make-or-break event for markets teetering on the brink.

Dow 12,393.45, -26.41 (0.21%)
NASDAQ 2,827.34, -10.02 (0.35%)
S&P 500 1,310.33, -2.99 (0.23%)
NYSE Composite 7,464.45, -6.95 (0.09%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,090,245,500
NYSE Volume 4,434,600,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2760-2984
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 73-213
WTI crude oil: 86.53, -1.29
Gold: 1,562.60, -0.80
Silver: 27.76, -0.23

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dark Day for Wall Street as Financial System Stressed to Limit

Compared to the preceding twelve days of market meltdown, today's finish qualified as the worst on a number of different levels.

The paucity of buyers produced something of a free-fall right from the opening bell, which accelerated in the final hour of trading. There were a couple of attempts at rallies - at 10:00 am and again just after noon - but both failed horribly as there was no support and traders, many of whom have been in the "buy the dip" camp until recently, sold into the brief upticks.

Volume was also noticeably higher, an indication that the selling has more room to run over the next days and weeks. The causes of today's particular collapsing equity valuations were the same that have dominated the markets over the past three weeks and are no nearer resolution than they were at the beginning of the month.

Greece continues to slide into anarchy and chaos, taking the rest of the EU - and the world - along for the careening ride to oblivion, unemployment fears in the US remain high, global growth may be nearing stall-out speed and an inactive congress and Federal Reserve - both eerily quiet - are doing nothing to alleviate any of the political, tax and regulatory issues.

The 156-point loss on the Dow was the second worst since the slide began on May 2nd, beaten only by the 168-pont decline of Friday, May 4th, the day the BLS disappointed everybody with poor April jobs numbers. That such a massive decline would come nearly two weeks later, without a respite rally in between, displays clearly how weak and uncertain markets are at the present juncture.

Through today's close, the Dow has lost a stunning 837 points since the May 1 close; the NADSAQ, with a loss of more than two percent today alone, has been beaten back 246 points since May 2nd, while the S&P 500 has given back just over 100 points since May 1st, finishing just above the technically-insignificant 1300 mark, though emotionally, the number carries great sentiment weight.

Adding to the existing problems were a couple of key economic data points released today. Initial unemployment claims came in flat for the most recent reporting week at 370,000, still stubbornly high. The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index, which was supposed to ring up a slightly higher reading, to 8.8, from 8.5 in April, was a sorry disappointment when it printed at a devastating -5.8. And the index of leading indicators, which was expected to post a gain of 0.2%, actually fell by 0.1%, all of this adding up to excessive worry and a rush to get out of equities for the safety of bonds.

The 10-year benchmark bond closed at an historic low of 1.702, which is probably a solid number considering the level of deflation that is expected over the coming months. A yield approaching 2% against an environment of low to no growth - or even a recession or worse - is likely to be a pretty good hedging instrument.

JP Morgan Chase's (JPM) continuing drama with its $2 billion portfolio loss has expanded by another billion according to the NY Times, while the FBI and SEC have both opened inquiries into the trade and CEO Jaime Dimon has been called to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on the matter.

Mr. Dimon, whose firm also faces a number of shareholder lawsuits stemming from the trade, continues to maintain the position in the trade, attempting to slowly unwind the derivative bet from hell while counter-parties turn the screws tighter. It would not be a surprise to see eventual losses from this blunderbust approach the $5 or $6 billion figure, wiping out the entire quarter's profit for the bank with the supposed "fortress balance sheet."

Dimon will have to do some fancy tap-dancing when he appears before the Senate inquiry, because the trade, widely known as the "London Whale" was the furthest it could have been from an outright hedge, being a pure speculation trade, exacerbated by piling in deeper as the losses worsened.

On brighter notes, gold and silver did an abrupt about-face, despite the dollar index continuing to rise and the Euro settling nearly flat on Forex markets, while oil slid again, along with wholesale gasoline prices, which will eventually result in further price declines at the pump.

The widely-anticipated Facebook IPO, slated to hit the street Friday morning, priced at $38 per share, at the upper end of the expected range. While Mark Zuckerberg and others will become instant billionaires tomorrow, the timing for such a lucrative cash-out day could not have come at a worst time. Facebook will almost certainly reward early investors, but the story of one good stock will do little to alleviate long-term, long-standing economic issues that have plagued the markets for weeks.

Greek banks are seeing devastating outflows of capital, as are those in Spain. Europe's descent into economic hell has accelerated and the EU ministers and ECB economists have found now way out.

Widespread defaults, from sovereign nations, to banks, to businesses will be at the top of the news for at least the next six to 12 months.

It's been 41 years since then-president Richard M. Nixon closed the gold window and nations have been trading on pure fiat - backed only by promises - ever since. The promises now broken, the era of debt-money is quickly drawing to an unseemly and devastating end.

Real estate, precious metals and cash are all that stand between personal devastation for not millions, but billions of people worldwide. All paper assets, including stocks, bonds, letters of credit and contracts will be blown away by winds of economic chaos and change.

Dow 12,442.49, -156.06 (1.24%)
NASDAQ 2,813.69, -60.35 (2.10%)
S&P 500 1,304.86, -19.94 (1.51%)
NYSE Composite 7,480.75, -112.07 (1.48%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,915,098,500
NYSE Volume 4,597,205,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 915-4734
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 31-310 (1-10 on the wrong side; never good)
WTI crude oil: 92.56, -0.25
Gold: 1,574.90, +38.30
Silver: 28.02, +0.82

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Markets Churn Higher on Absence of Data

There was little to move stocks in either direction today, but the algorithm-driven dynamic kept the same tone as it has pretty much since October and churned higher without any heed to downside risk.

Initial unemployment claims continued to be elevated, coming in at 388K after last week's revised 389K reading. The most positive news was pending home sales for March coming in 4.1% higher, a significant beat of expectations of a mere 0.5% gain.

Otherwise, there were a number of misses on corporate first quarter earnings reports, including UPS (UPS) and Dow Chemical (DD), but that didn't hold back stocks in the least as they started the day slowly and continued higher throughout the session, reaching the highs for the day shortly after 3:00 pm EDT.

There was a slight pullback into the close, but the final figures left the Dow Jones Industrials just 60 points from fresh four-year highs and the S&P 500 closing just two cents shy of 1400, a mark the index has not closed above since April 3rd.

Europe finished mixed, though the gains and losses of the particular exchanges were marginal. As has been the case over the past six to seven months, the absence of any kind of news out of Europe - which has been routinely bad - gives US markets a nudge higher, and such was the case on today's trading.

Analysts are hopeful that the week's gains can be sustained after Friday's first estimate of first quarter 2012 GDP, which will be announced prior to the market open. Market expectations are for somewhere between 2.5% and 3.0% growth, which would not be surprising, given a US economy that is being spoon-fed by government largesse, with more than 45 million Americans on food stamps and millions more receiving some form of government assistance while the Fed continues to dole out money hand over fist through its Operation Twist.

While all this stealth stimulus may be giving stocks a relatively easy time of it, at some point the government will have to deal with the monstrous deficits and the growing underfunding of the entitlement programs.

Being an election year, however, neither congress nor the president will go legislatively within earshot of those issues except in well-rehearsed campaign speeches, so, the current conditions will continue uninterrupted - barring some unforeseen event - until November. On the other hand, the Fed's current easing cycle will end in June, and it will be interesting to note how well the markets handle any lack of support.

Until further notice, it appears to be smooth sailing for stock hawkers, traders and investors. Somewhat counterintuitive, the precious metals had their best showing in weeks, though they remain range-bound.

Dow 13,204.62, +113.90 (0.87%)
NASDAQ 3,050.61, +20.98 (0.69%)
S&P 500 1,399.98, +9.29 (0.67%)
NYSE Composite 8,123.07, +52.29 (0.65%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,722,965,375
NYSE Volume 3,864,227,750
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 3682-1910
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 259-46
WTI crude oil: 104.55, +0.43
Gold: 1,660.50, +18.20
Silver: 31.21, +0.85

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Early Earnings Euphoria Turns to Tears as Economic Data Disappoints

In the most classic of all classic bear market chart moves, the major indices took the ball that was handed to them by the like of Bank of America (BAC) and DuPont (DD), both of which reported 1st quarter earnings before the bell, opening to the upside, though without much conviction as the 380,000 initial unemployment claims hung over the markets like the Sword of Damocles.

Sporting gains by the 10:00 hour, the next set of economic data included the index of leading indicators from the shills at the Conference Board posting a gain of 0.3%, the Philadelphia Fed index showing a number of 8.3 when the expectations were for 12.0 and existing home sales - the real killer number - sporting a 2% decline from 4.60M in February to 48.8 in March.

Adding to the housing debacle is the fact that the numbers are woefully behind the times and generally a best-guess situation, indicating that April's figures, which will be released about this time in May, will be off the mark as well.

With those key economic data points in hand, the markets began to turn south and continued to do so until reaching the lows of the day before 3:00, though, of course, no Ponzi-scheme market would be complete without the requisite end-of-session tape painting that chopped off about 40% of the losses.

Still, it was an ugly chapter for a market struggling to find any kind of positive momentum. Those who based their hopes on bank earnings from BofA were sorely disappointed to find that the nation's most hated banking entity (though JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup are running close behind) produced a quarterly earnings report that more resembled a work of fiction rather than a well-reasoned, accurate accounting of their financial position.

Since 2008 - and probably even before then - all bank earning statements from the big five have been wholly fraudulent, based on assumptions like mark to model and other accounting gimmicks designed only to obfuscate the truth. Bank of America does't really make money any more than a dead person inhales oxygen, and the metaphor is appropriate, since BofA is technically a dead bank walking.

So, on a day in which the pundits and cheerleaders were looking for positives in corporate earnings, they got egg on their collective faces from the economy, which, after all, is the real harbinger of good or ill tidings. Continued high unemployment and a crippled housing market added to burgeoning government debt does not paint a very pretty picture, though Wall Street likes to view these things though rose-colored glasses.

Eventually, reality strikes home and the only option is to hit the sell button. Notably, today's volume was much higher than what has been the norm, not a good sign for any bulls still holding corporate shares.

Dow 12,964.10, -68.65 (0.53%)
NASDAQ 3,007.56, -23.89 (0.79%)
S&P 500 1,376.92, -8.22 (0.59%)
NYSE Composite 7,995.94, -34.43 (0.43%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,965,208,125
NYSE Volume 4,138,306,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2162-3363
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 134-91
WTI crude oil: 102.27, -0.40
Gold: 1,641.40, +1.80
Silver: 31.78, +0.29