The path of least resistance is up. Stocks were climbing even as investors remained somewhat cautious waiting for the Federal Reserve's Beige book report due out this afternoon. Investors were also looking for any news out of the OPEC meeting and the AAPL event today. The U.S. dollar continues to sink and that's giving most commodities a minor boost today.
Asian markets were mixed. The Chinese Shanghai index gained 0.5% marking its 7th gain in a row. The Hong Kong Hang Seng lost 1% and fell back under the 21,000 level. The Japanese market is struggling a bit as the yen strengthens against the dollar. The NIKKEI index lost 0.78%.
It was a different story in Europe where stocks posted their fourth gain in a row. England saw some good news with the Nationwide Consumer Confidence index hitting new one-year highs. The August reading came in at 63 compared to an upwardly revised 61 in July. Positive comments from Carlos Ghosn also fueled investor sentiment. Ghosn is the CEO of both European carmaker Renault and Japanese carmaker Nissan, which gives him a very unique perspective on the global markets. Ghosn shared his belief that the financial crisis is "behind us" and believes that the U.S. should really begin to improve in the first quarter of 2010 with Europe following later in the year or possibly early 2011. While Ghosn is positive on the future he added that any recovery would probably be slow and take years to reach true health (source: Reuters). The French CAC-40 index rose 1.2%. The German DAX index gained 1.69%. The English FTSE rallied 1.1%, which was enough to push the FTSE above the 5,000 level for the first time since October 2008.
The U.S. markets were also benefiting from positive analyst comments. Goldman Sachs issued an upgrade for the multi-industry companies (a.k.a. industrials) suggesting that this sector will out perform once the ISM index turns positive. Meanwhile influential investor Michael Price, who runs the New York-based MFP Investors LLC hedge fund, was quote in a Bloomberg interview that he believes the stock market looks like the 1975-1982 market where the S&P 500 doubled. Price said he's finding "value" in smaller banks right now.
The Apple Inc. (AAPL) media event has begun. There is a lot of speculation about what the company might unveil this year. Is it a new iPod model? Is it a tablet PC? Is it some sort of deal with the Beatles to put their music on the iTunes store? Could there be news about Steve Jobs? Currently AAPL is up 0.7% hitting new multi-month highs above $174.00.
The big economic data out today is the Federal Reserve's Beige book report, which provides another look at the economic health for the different sections of the U.S. This news is due to be released at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. As long as there isn't any seriously negative news this probably won't be much of a market mover.
Another new 2009 low for the U.S. dollar is boosting commodities. Gold and silver are up fractionally after yesterday's big gains. Meanwhile crude oil is up over $1.00 and trading above $72.00 a barrel. OPEC is holding a meeting in Vienna today. No one expects any changes to their output levels. Most believe the meeting will focus on member nations sticking to their quotas.
The U.S. market is seeing a widespread advance. The only sectors not participating are utilities, homebuilders, and the mining stocks. Technology stocks appear to be the leadership group today followed by transports. The S&P 500 index is up 0.9% near 1035. The 1040 level has been resistance in late August. A breakout would be very bullish. The NASDAQ is breaking out to new highs with a 1.2% gain. The Dow Industrials are up 0.6% and nearing the 9600 level. The small cap Russell 2000 index is up 1.8% and nearing its August highs.
Let's take a quick look at charts for the major averages:
Chart of the S&P 500:
Chart of the NASDAQ:
Chart of the Dow Industrials:
Chart of the Russell 2000 index:
A quick look at the OptionInvestor.com play list and AAPL tops the list. The stock is hitting new highs near $174.50, which means AAPL has hit our first target to take profits at $174.00. CF continues to run with another 1.8% gain and a move over $88. FDS is also on the run with a 2.6% gain. Goldman Sachs is up 1.5% and testing resistance at $170. NEU is really performing well with a 3.1% gain near the $88.00 level. I would start taking profits now in NEU.