Higher Highs, Higher Lows
The indices gapped higher this morning and spent the day trading sideways on lighter-than-average volume. The markets seemed set to cheer the successful Iraq elections and number of positive economic data and corporate developments.
The bloom began to fade just past midday, but the action was muted overall, with an upward surge in the last half hour restoring the indices to the middle of their intraday range.
Daily Dow Chart
The Dow added 62.74 points to close at 10489.94, hitting a higher high at 10510 and bouncing from a higher low of 10429. Last week's high was challenged but not broken, while the higher low advanced the daily cycle oscillators as they continued to build what appears to be a rolling bottom. Above 10510-10525, key resistance is at 10570-10580. A close above that level will confirm the new daily cycle upphase and set up the Dow for a retest of 10630-40 resistance.
Daily S&P 500 Chart
Daily Nasdaq Chart
The Nasdaq gapped up and stayed above Friday's high, adding 26.61 points or 1.31% to close at 2062.4, the leader of the equity indices. This was a clean break above descending bull wedge resistance and would be a perfect bullish signal except for the lighter than average exchange volume. A bull wedge breakout is confirmed by an expansion, not contraction in volume, and today's 1.73B shares was lower than the average 1.91B. Nevertheless, price action and the cycle setup is bullish in the daily timeframe, and should so remain above the 2020-2030 level. 2070-80 is a confluence resistance zone, with immediate support at the session low of 2053.
Weekly TNX Chart
Ten year treasury yields broke below 4.14% support today, printing an inside day ahead of the Fed's FOMC meeting scheduled to commence tomorrow at 2:30PM. The FOMC announcement will be made at 2:15PM on Wednesday, but the Fed Funds futures have already priced in an anticipated target rate of 2.5%, which would represent a 25 bp increase from the Fed. The ten year treasury remained soft in the wake of last Thursday and Friday's strong gains, with the ten year yield (TNX) bouncing from the lower rising pennant support line. With this 2 month pennant approaching an apex no wider than 10 basis points and the daily oscillators drifting, we can hope for a directional move to give the chart some direction soon. The pennant is generally a continuation pattern, in which case we'd look for an upside break, but it's safest to simply let the market decide- a move above 4.26% or below 4.12% should be directional. For the day, TNX lost .6 bps to close at 4.132%.
Weekly chart of Crude oil
Over the weekend, millions of Iraqi voters cast their ballots. Interim Prime Minister Allawi vowed to work to unite the country's competing ethnic and religious factions. The strong turnout cost insurgents heavily, as Zarqawi had "declared war" on the elections and stated that voters were "infidels". Nevertheless, voter turnout was weaker in areas populated by Sunni Arabs, where the insurgency is strongest. Shiite voter turnout was stronger, and the true test of the election will be whether the anticipated Shiite win is leveraged to the benefit of all factions, or whether it serves only to further divide the country. Allawi's comments were encouraging and in the right direction.
The market voted too, with crude oil continuing lower for most of the session on the good news from Iraq. It reversed higher in the last hour of the session, however, with the financial press attributing the surge to stronger than anticipated economic growth in the anticipated US GDP revision following the Statistics Canada announcement (see below). The daily downtrend remains unchallenged, with March crude oil futures trading both sides of the 50 day EMA, but today's print engulfed Friday's negative candle in for a key outside reversal day, with the 48.20 settlement above Friday's high. Next resistance is between 49-50, which bulls will need to see broken in order to overcome the daily cycle downphase that kicked off last week. For the day, crude oil rose 2.16% to close the daytime session at 48.20.
It was a busy news day today, with a number of economic reports and developments as well as corporate news and results.
The markets received the December Personal income and Personal spending data at 8:30 this morning. The Commerce Department announced that US Personal incomes rose a record 3.7% in December, exceeding estimates of 3.4%. 3.1 of that 3.7% resulted from the one time 32B dividend from MSFT- ex-dividend, the increase was .6% for the month. Consumer spending rose .8%, meeting expectations. Consumer spending on durable goods rose 4.3%, while nondurables spending rose .6% and on services, .4%. The Personal Consumption Expenditure price index (PCE) fell .1%, while the core PCE (ex-food and energy) was unchanged.
At 10AM, the Commerce Department reported an increase in New Home Sales of .1% in December, bringing the seasonally adjusted annual rate to 1.098M from the downwardly revised 1.097M rate in November and missing expectations of 1.18M. The inventory of unsold homes rose for sale 2.6% to 432K or a 4.8 month supply, the highest level in 31 years.
Also at 10AM, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index rose to 62.4%, exceeding estimates of 59.6% following December's 61.9% reading.
Later in the session, a surprise announcement from Statistics Canada revealed that it had mistakenly undercounted the value of US exports to Canada by approximately 1B for the month of November. This data is apparently used in the computation of the US GDP for Q4, and, according to RBS Greenwich Capital, would have resulted in the understating of the US GDP by roughly .2% to 3.3%.
In corporate news, SBC announced this morning that it will purchase AT&T for approximately 16B, comprised of 14.7B in SBC stock and a special dividend of 1.04B to be paid by AT&T to its shareholders on closing. AT&T shareholders will receive .78 SBC shares for each AT&T share which, combined with the special dividend, values AT&T without premium to its closing price on Friday. By reuniting the its former parent with the Baby Bell, SBC will move from regional telco to international telecom giant. Analysts speculated that MCI will become the next potential takeover target as the #2 long distance provider. SBC closed higher by .93% at 23.84, while AT&T lost 2.44% to close at 19.23. MCI rose .84% to close at 28.88.
In other merger news, MetLife (MET) announced that it will acquire Travelers Life & Annuity from Citigroup for 11.5B in cash and stock 1B-3B in MET stock will be paid to C, with the remainder in cash to be raised via a debt or convertible security deal, or via asset sales. MET expects its EPS to rise between 4%-6% in 2006 as a result of the deal. UBS applauded the transaction for C, with analyst Glenn Schorr telling clients, " "We think the deal will be well received as selling (Travelers) is additive to Citi's return on equity, pretax margins and overall growth an simplifies the Citi story." MET closed lower by .58% at 39.71, while C added 1.47% to close at 49.09.
Tyson Foods (TSN) missed expectations, reporting a "difficult" quarter . The chicken and beef producer announced Q1 net income of 48M or 14 cents per share, down 16% from its 2003 Q1 57B or 16 cent profit. Revenue declined 500M to 6.45B. Expectations were for 25 cents EPS on revenue of 6.69B. TSN lost 3.27% to close at 17.17.
Exxon Mobil (XOM) announced a record quarter, earning 8.42B or $1.3 per share in Q4 2004 on revenue of 83.4B, up from $1.01 on revenue of 65.95B in Q4 2003. These results blew away estimates of $1.07 per share. The company cited high prices for crude oil and natural gas. Oil and gas driller RIG warned that Q4 results will be lower than Q3's, however, based on idling deepwater rigs and costs to repair damaged rigs. Analysts are expecting earnings of 9 cents per share on revenue of 665M when the company reports on February 15. Back in Q3, the company had expected earnings at 8 cents on revenue of 651.8M. XOM rose .70% to close at 51.63 while RIG gained .92% to close at 43.91.
Drugmaker Wyeth (WYE) reported a loss for Q4 of 1.76B or $1.32 per share, down from a profit of 335M or 25 cents per share in Q4 2003, in which the company had incurred significant restructuring charges. In the current quarter, the company cited costs of 4.5B associated with its recalled fen-phen diet drugs (Pondimin and Redux). Excluding these items, WYE earned 861M or 64 cents per share, missing expectations by 3 cents. WYE got slammed for 7.79% to close at 39.63.
Dow Corning (GLW) announced adjusted Q4 earnings of 74.8M, up 88% from 39.7 in Q4 2003. These results exclude restructuring costs associated with the company's June 2004 emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Sales were higher by 13% at 876.7M for the quarter. GLW gained 1.86% to close at 10.94.
Hilton Hotels (HLT) announced Q4 earnings of 65M or 16 cents on revenue of 1.05B, down from 67M or 17 cents in Q4 2003. Revenue was higher by 7.3%, meeting analyst expectations. Excluding non-recurring items, HLT earned 18 cents, beating expectations of 16 cents per share. HLT lost 1.98% to close at 22.25.
New York A-G Elliot Spitzer announced that insurance broker MMC has agreed to a settlement in the amount of 850M in connection with charges that it accepted payoffs from insurers in return for business referrals. Spitzer specified that the company will also issue a public apology for its "unlawful" and "shameful" behavior, and will publicly promise to adopt administrative reforms. CEO Michael Cherkasky hastened to add that private litigation won't be ended by this settlement, stating that "We hope our corporate clients will see this offer and see a fair and fulsome opportunity and choose to opt into this agreement, but we're not going to suggest that this will end all litigation." MMC rose 4.54% to close at 32.50.
Later in the afternoon, the treasury reported that it intends to borrow a record 147B in the 1st quarter of 2005, exceeding analyst estimates of 136B.
Tomorrow is scheduled to be another heavy news day, with Auto and Truck sales to be released throughout the session and Construction Spending for December to be released with the January ISM Index at 10AM. Despite the high anxiety that dominated today's intraday session, the fact remained that the indices printed higher highs and higher lows over Friday's levels. With the daily cycle as oversold as it's been and beginning to tick up, that's enough to have traders looking for the next 2-3 week upphase to kick off. Barring a close south of Friday's lows, there's reason to expect an admittedly corrective upphase from here. I say corrective because the weekly cycles (not shown) are just at the outset of their own downphases, and so even a strong daily cycle bounce within them should have trouble beneath the January highs. With earnings still coming fast and furious and a full slate of economic data due, including the FOMC announcement and the President's State of Union address, anything can happen- but so long as the indices continue to print higher lows, the daily cycle bias should continue its so-far slow move back to the upside.