Drug Stocks and Homebuilders bring stock indices down
Off the cuff comments made by the President-elect yesterday regarding US drug companies and a realization that higher trending interest rates (despite the recent recovery) is hurting the housing market, soured the equity market rally. As is usually the case, the market wasn't reacting to changes in fundamentals but rather expectations of changes in fundamentals. Accordingly, as we go on traders will either retract their initial reactions to these events or add to them. At the moment we are merely seeing back and fill trade as expectations are tempered. Today's trade wasn't a victory for the bears or a defeat of the bulls, it was simple consolidation.
The economic docket for tomorrow is busy, but we doubt the market will be paying attention to the second-tier reports (PPI, Retail Sales, and Michigan Sentiment). The fireworks will likely be next week with the Presidential inauguration (who knows what types of market-moving comments could be made on both sides of the isle).
The euro will need to roll over for the ES to attract sellers.
The euro currency has been on an impressive run (much to our dismay) but few have acknowledged the impact the currency markets are having on stocks and commodities. In the last 180 trading sessions, the euro and the e-mini S&P have settled in the same direction roughly 70% of the time. Thus, strength in the euro has helped hold the stock market afloat.
Similarly, commodities such as crude oil and copper have benefited from the change in currency valuation but might not fare so well if the euro finally succumbs to gravity. In short, if the dollar can find a way to reverse course (AKA the euro weaken) we should see bellwether commodities turn south and they could easily bring the S&P 500 with them. Keep an eye on the currency market, it could be ready to turn the corner!
Consumer Confidence at 125...are you kidding me?
The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence index for the month of March was reported on Tuesday to be 125.6! If I recall, this index bottomed out near 20 as the stock market was making what we now know as a generational low in 2009. I started to type that the March reading was the highest I've ever seen, before noticing that it printed a 128.6 at the end of 2000. In all fairness, I was a clueless college student in 2000 so even if it happened, I probably didn't actually see it.
The premise behind this index is that consumers are feeling emboldened by a positive view of business, labor market conditions, and the overall economy. On a side note, the survey responsible for this index was taken before the failure of the health care reform bill. Nevertheless, it is clear that consumers are feeling good and as a result, they are putting money to work in the stock market.
If you look at a long-term chart of the Consumer Confidence index, it almost identically coincides with the direction of the stock market. With this in mind, there could be some red flags waving. In the past, we've seen major tops and bottoms in the stock market at times in which the Consumer Confidence index is at extreme highs and lows, respectively. Particularly readings in excess of 100.
For instance, the last time the Consumer Confidence was this high in 2000, the S&P peaked dropping 50% over the next two years. Likewise, the Consumer Confidence was near 110 in 2007 just before the S&P fell 60% in the subsequent two years. Since the election, we've seen the Consumer Confidence index breach and hold above 100 for the first time since 2007 (and prior to that the early 2000s). Will this time be different?
*It is only fair to note that the Consumer Confidence hovered above 100 in the mid-2000s for quite some time before the stock market rolled over and during that time stocks rallied nicely (until they didn't).
Event risk is looming in the financial markets.
On a scale of 1 to 10 this week's calendar event risk is a 12. We will be hearing about home data, employment data, manufacturing data, and sentiment data all while attempting to digest a mid-week Fed meeting (did I mention the State of the Union Address?). Economic data has been consistently strong; it doesn't make sense to expect otherwise. Yet, the financial markets have reacted to both good and bad data in the same manner (buy stocks, sell bonds, sell the dollar, etc.). If there is anything that could change that pattern, it would be a good old-fashioned price squeeze. Big events such as Fed meetings and payroll reports are often the catalyst for such last hurrah trend extensions followed by eventual reversals. This week feels like it is setting up to be one of those times.
A healthy jobs report, a potential Dodd-Frank peel back, and renewed talks of tax cuts propelled markets higher.
Financial futures traders loved Friday's events and they expressed that sentiment by buying into US assets. For the first time in a LONG time, the jobs report was judged by its merit as opposed to the anticipated reaction by the Federal Reserve. In other words, the markets no longer seem to be held hostage by the Fed's every move. Instead, investors are looking to speculative economic growth as the driving factor with the Fed's monetary policy as a secondary concern.
Non-farm payrolls grew by 227,000 in January but the good news was slightly dampened by sluggish wage growth. On a positive note, the unemployment rate ticked higher to 4.8%. No, that isn't a typo...a higher unemployment rate is a positive. The increase in the unemployment rate is a sign that the labor force has increased. In short, some of those who were discouraged from looking for work have found a reason to get back on the job-hunt (remember, the headline unemployment report fails to recognize those who stopped looking for a job out of frustration but are still unemployed).
The futures markets have voted: Did Donald Trump awaken the bull market in stocks?
It is no surprise the markets are fickle. Wall Street appeared to favor the stability of a Clinton regime but in the end they voted for growth policy following a Donald Trump victory. Whether or not the stock market's optimism will be mimicked in the economy is yet to be known, but for now we believe the euphoria could take us into year's end.
Stocks often find a significant low in October, this year it seems that low might have been a few weeks late. Nevertheless, seasonal strength and one of the most convincing key reversals we've ever seen has us looking higher. That said, volatile markets can change quickly. The bulls will need to break above 2165, until this occurs the bears are still alive.
Now that the election is over, the market "should" start focusing on the Fed.
It is early, but October has been the least volatile month...EVER.
If today was the end of the month, this would be the quietest October on record and it would also be the quietest month ever. Of course, it is too early to suggest that is what is in store for the markets come October 31st, but it should at least offer some perspective.
Further, it has been almost a year without a 3% drawdown in the S&P 500. This is the second longest run of its kind in history. If the market survives the next 10 days, it will beat the previous record. Keep in mind, 3% is literally a drop in the bucket. At today's price, that would be a mere 75 ES points.
We don't when the dam will break, but we do know it always does, eventually. Traders should be on their toes. Afterall, investor complacency is at an all-time high and historically such environments haven't ended well.
As mentioned in a previous newsletter, the University of Michigan stock market sentiment index measuring the percentage of investors that believe the stock market will be higher a year from now is at an all-time high. Similarly, credit spreads are near historical lows (this is the difference between the yield on high-risk securities and risk-free Treasury securities). Tight credit spreads suggest investors are reaching for yield and lack concern for economic turmoil (in short, they are complacent). The last time we saw such tight credit spreads was mid-2007, just prior to the financial collapse. We aren't predicting a repeat of 2007, we are simply saying the bulls should consider exercising caution. Is anybody familiar with "Old Man Partridge" from "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator"? The trend is only your friend until it ends.
The E-mini S&P traded lower two days in a row for the first time since late September.
Although losses were minimal, the ES managed to settle in the red on two consecutive trading sessions to close out last week. In a normal market this wouldn't be worth a mention, but in this market, it is a rare occurrence. The last consecutive negative closes took place on September 25th and 26th. Before that, you have to scroll the chart back to early August!
I doubt the _bulls_ are concerned in light of the fact that the ES is within 15 points of its all-time-highs. On the flip side, the _bears_ must be growing concerned over the fact that the seasonal tendencies from Thanksgiving through the end of the year generally call for higher stock prices.
That said E-mini S&P futures traders are holding one of the longest positions we've seen this year. Thus, one has to wonder if the bulls will soon run out of capital. After all, most of the bears have already been squeezed out of positions. This is true even in the stock market, the percentage of outstanding short positions on individual equity products is near record lows.
The First 1% down day in the S&P 500 since October 11th.
Finally, we are seeing the equity market correct. Traders have been waiting months for this, but I doubt it was everything they had hoped for. Although it is a relatively decent one-day sell-off, today's action was meaningless in comparison to the post-election night rally. Further, selling was orderly and without panic. The good news is, the market is looking healthier. Corrective trade is "normal" and should be expected. As crazy as it sounds, the market needs to be bearish before traders can get comfortably bullish and buying picks up.
Today's shake-up is being blamed on yesterday's Congressional hearings and today's uncertainty regarding Thursday's health care vote in the House. The Republicans claim they have the 216 votes necessary to pass the bill, but some last minute amendments are raising concerns.
As we've been stating in this newsletter, the markets had priced in political perfection but governments are designed for flawed operations (checks and balances). The financial markets could get rocky as the new administration attempts to administer change.
China is playing Trump's game...start the discussion with a bazooka before eventually pulling out the bb gun to negotiate.
US equity and commodity markets were reeling last night on news of new Chinese tariffs. Not surprisingly, the markets overreacted. China's tariff threats don't go into effect immediately, and there is plenty of time for negotiations to take place. Further, it is important to remember that China imports much more to the US than the US does to China. Thus, an immediate fifty handle collapse in the ES on the news probably wasn't justified. As the day wore on, traders began to realize this and put their money where their mouths were by buying into the dip.
We saw similar action in the commodity markets, namely soybeans and the meats. We had previously recommended bullish trades in corn, soybean meal, cattle and hogs that caused some stress during today's session but appear to be on the right track. In any case, there is no logical reason to see a market such as live cattle go from being nearly limit down to limit up within the span of hours.
There is no room for complacency, nor panic, in these markets. The goal should be to stay hedged and grounded.
The market is pricing in a good payroll number as it reverses pessimism over North Korea
Late Monday afternoon I was watching a business news station. The panel was discussing the implications of a North Korea missile being fired (they were still trying to confirm the rumor that it had occurred). There was talk of a limit down opening to the E-mini S&P (the news broke during the daily afternoon pause of trading). They were right about sharp selling on the open but the bearish tone was quickly forgotten by tax reform talk. Even a 500-year flood couldn't deter the fiscal policy bulls. By Thursday's close all of this week's bearish headlines had been forgotten.