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Market Wrap

A Prediction That Didn't Come True

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"It's going to be a wild day," a television commentator forecast Friday morning. He based his prediction on the number of economic releases and Fed speakers scheduled for the day and on an expected sell bias at the close due to Google's (GOOG) addition to the S&P 500. As Jim Brown noted in an email, GOOG's addition meant that funds had to buy 18 million GOOG shares and sell $7 billion dollars of their existing positions in S&P 500 companies.

Added to the mix was the expected bullish bias of window dressing, somewhat volatile crude prices and an announcement that auto-parts-supplier Delphi was asking a judge to throw out its labor contract. Company-related news had not been entirely positive in the pre-market session, with Cognos (COGN) disappointing and Dow Chemical (DOW) receiving a downgrade from Prudential.

Overnight action on foreign bourses and our own futures did little to predict wild action. The Nikkei coiled around the flat-line level all night. Until the open of U.S. markets, the DAX churned in a 40-point range just below the flat-line level. Our futures had dipped with the European open, but not far. Although the SPX futures lagged the others, Nasdaq and Dow futures were near fair value again thirty minutes before the open, not reacting much to February's Personal Income and Spending numbers released at 8:30 EST. Futures were right and the commentator was wrong: that early prediction for a wild day didn't turn out to be true.

An early bounce was met with selling, but the selling was fairly orderly, if relentless, all day in the SPX, OEX, and Dow. The RUT and TRAN perhaps proved more volatile, although perhaps it would be a stretch to term their churning actions wild, either, unless viewed through the narrow lens of a five-minute chart. At the end of the day, most indices showed modest losses, with some, such as the RUT, showing modest gains, but with headlines able to crow about a quarter that ended in the black. Despite the down day, the S&P 500's first quarter was the strongest in seven years, a Marketwatch.com article noted, and the Dow's, its best since 2002.

Bond traders didn't think much had happened, either. The yield on the ten-year note closed at 4.85 percent, showing only a two-thousandth difference with Thursday's close. Despite the reassurance offered by economic numbers that showed tame wage-inflation, the steadiness in the ten-year's yield validated the thought that Friday's action had not accomplished much and markets were in a wait-and-see mode ahead of next week's data.

Along with the pressure due to GOOG's addition, the failure of this yield to retreat much probably also pressured the markets. In addition, after first dipping, crude prices bounced ahead of the weekend and on continued geopolitical concerns and closed at $67.93 after Thursday's $68.33 close.

The SPX retreated this week, but the retreat was modest and the index managed another weekly close above the 10-week moving average.

Annotated Weekly Chart of the SPX:

Wednesday's Wrap noted some resistance levels that might prompt a rollover but suggested that as long as the TRAN was either climbing or trading sideways, the SPX, OEX and Dow weren't likely to fall far. The TRAN tends to lead those indices.

Daily Keltner channels suggest the possibility that the SPX may dip toward 1285-1287, while the 30-minute nested-Keltner chart suggests closer support, perhaps at 1292-1293. If the SPX should dip to 1287, watch the TRAN's action to gauge whether buying the dip would be wise or inadvisable. If the TRAN drops strongly, too, caution might be advisable. If the TRAN drops heavily, it might be time to switch to a sell-the-rallies mode. So far, no such TRAN drop has taken place.

If the TRAN does remain strong, those buying the SPX dips should be aware that resistance may be strengthening near 1300, and resistance has been proven at the top of the rising wedge. With important economic releases expected next week, be quick to take offered profits in either direction.

The Dow fell back through the former rising wedge resistance and closed below its daily 30-sma's support on Friday.

Annotated Daily Chart of the Dow:

The Dow's daily Keltner chart suggests that 11,064-11,074 could be tested, but there's bullish divergence on that chart and on the 30-minute nested Keltner channel. The possibility exists that the selling was overdone Friday and that the Dow could bounce back above that daily 30-sma, with that target just overrun. If the Dow can't maintain values above that average, especially if the TRAN is weak, watch for a possible dip to the 50-sma. If the Dow bounces harder, watch the 10-sma for rollover potential unless the TRAN is breaking higher again.

Annotated Daily Chart of the Nasdaq:

The Nasdaq's daily Keltner chart suggests that it's likely to face rather strong resistance in the 2352-2362 zone. Guard bullish profits if the Nasdaq should bounce into that zone and appear to stall there. Daily RSI does not yet suggest that the movement is overdone to the upside, but upside gains may still be limited, especially without the participation of the SOX. The 30-minute chart shows an equal likelihood that the Nasdaq will bounce up into that resistance zone or drop toward the 2234 first thing Monday morning, with the Nasdaq having created a neutral triangle during Thursday's and Friday's trading. No prediction of next short-term direction is possible with that setup. Watch for the direction of the break, but be wary of that mentioned upside resistance if bullish and of the 10-sma's possible support if bearish.

The SOX has been holding back the Nasdaq, and it continued to do so into the end of the week.

Annotated Daily Chart of the SOX:

Friday's economic releases included February's Personal Income and Spending. One source forecast Personal Income up 0.4-0.5 percent after a prior 0.7 percent gain, but the actual number was a little softer, up 0.3 percent. Real disposable income rose 0.2 percent, the slowest growth in seven months. These numbers did not suggest any upside inflation pressure from wages.

Personal Spending was forecast to climb 0.0-0.1 percent, down from the prior 0.8 percent, and the number came in line with expectations at 0.1 percent. Core inflation figures climbed 0.1 percent and the savings rate was down 0.5 percent, continuing an eleven-month streak of negative savings rates. On a yearly basis, core prices rose 1.8 percent, termed a little hotter than expected by one commentator. While market reaction was muted, futures did rise after this number was reported.

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The University of Michigan's March Consumer Sentiment and Factory Orders for U.S.-made manufactured goods were next on the economic calendar. The Consumer Sentiment index rose more than the expected 86.9 number, to 88.9. February's Consumer Sentiment had been 86.7. Some were perplexed by the timing of the rise in sentiment, given the concurrent rise in gasoline prices, but the expectations and current conditions components both increased.

Factory orders disappointed, rising only 0.2 percent when they had been expected to rise 1.4 percent after January's revised 3.9-percent drop. Shipments, orders for core capital goods equipment and inventories fell, and unfilled orders rose. The drop in crude prices in February was at least partly responsible for the drop in the value of shipments since no adjustments are made for price changes. Transportation orders jumped 13.6 percent, driving orders for durable goods higher, too, but new orders dropped 2 percent when transportation orders were excluded. Some economists opined that this number would do little to impact rate-hike decisions, particularly with the ISM number that's due next week being considered of more importance.

The Chicago PMI also gave a glimpse of what the ISM might report next week and perhaps one in which many invested more trust. March Chicago PMI increased to 60.4 percent, up from February's 54.9 percent. The 50 percent level is a boom-or-bust level for this figure, with the majority of businesses reporting improving conditions when the number is over 50 percent. Components that rose included new orders, to 62.2 from the previous 54.9 percent, and employment growth, to 55.6 from the previous 54.9 percent. Prices paid eased to 71.1 from the previous 71.6 percent. Predictions for Monday's ISM had been from 57.7-58.0 percent prior to the release, but afterwards some were predicting numbers as high as 59.0 percent.

Company-related news dominated news reports Friday, with Delphi's decision domineering. Delphi reportedly took the drastic step of asking that union contracts and some GM contracts be set aside after the United Auto Workers rejected the company's latest demand for wage and benefit cuts. (Note: This report discusses developments without taking the side of either the union or the company. Nothing here is said in the spirit of a statement favoring one or the other.) Delphi also seeks to rid itself of some GM contracts it deems unfavorable.

One analyst likened Delphi's request to the pulling of the trigger in the company's negotiations with the unions. The UAW perceived it that way, too, immediately commenting that there was no basis upon which to continue talks with the company and charging that the company was misusing the bankruptcy procedure. One immediate effect of Delphi's request, some believe, is to ensure that weeks or months may be required to sort out union and company demands although some would reason that the company's step would hasten a resolution.

GM's CEO Rick Wagoner was not happy with the development but said that it was an anticipated possible step, and an analyst on CNBC concurred that GM could suffer from the Delphi development. Delphi's cost-trimming steps could subject GM to taking on more costs and charges. GM did drop to a day's low of $20.34, but rebounded to close $0.21 higher.

Delphi also announced that it could cut about 8,500 jobs across the globe, freeze the current hourly pension plan on October 1 and current salaried pension plan on January 1 of next year. Delphi will eliminate some product lines and trim the number of executives.

Other company news included GOOG's addition to the S&P 500, of course. GOOG traded 36.5 million shares today with the 30-day average volume at 13 million shares. All that volume produced a doji, however, with price changing only 0.40 percent for the day.

In addition to economic releases and company news, many paid attention to what FOMC members might have to say. One of the Fed speakers Friday was Kansas City Fed President Hoenig. As has been mentioned lately by others and covered previously on these pages, he expects the robust rebound of the first quarter to moderate, with his expectation for 3.5 percent growth for the full year. He mentioned an expectation that job growth would slow, too, but feels that the economy is vigorous and that core inflation should remain steady for this year, toward the upper end of the Fed's comfort level. All in all, his take on the economy and inflation trends might have encouraged those who hope for a pause soon, although he made no promises.

Earnings reports slow next week. So do the economic releases, but some of those reports could impact financial markets. That is particularly true when the FOMC has reiterated lately that committee members will be watching data as they make decisions about rates.

Economic reports next week start off with February's Construction Spending and March ISM at 10:00 Monday morning. February's Pending Home Sales will also be released. March Auto and Truck Sales follow, with those numbers expected to take a hit due to fewer fleet sales, according to one headline. Wednesday's reports include March ISM Services at 10:00 and the usual Crude Inventories at 10:30. Thursday's contingent includes the normal Initial Claims at 8:30 and then Natural Gas Inventories. Friday's schedule is busy and potentially market moving, with March's Non-Farm Payrolls, Average Workweek, Hourly Earning and Unemployment Rate at 8:30, February's Wholesale Inventories at 10:00 and February's Consumer Credit at 3:00.

Global developments should not be ignored. Big events in the Eurozone next week include PMI and Service PMI on Monday and Wednesday, respectively. Both are expected to rise, with the accidental release of Germany's PMI on Friday confirming that expectation. February's Retail Sales come on Wednesday, and are expected to slip after January's sharp rise. Here, too, Germany's release preceded that of the Eurozone and showed a softening, confirming Eurozone expectations for next week. Thursday, the ECB meets. No rate change is expected, but as happens here in the U.S., many may be particularly attentive to what is said and how that might impact expectations for their May meeting. An ECB member spoke today, praising the central bank's steps toward stability, keeping inflation risks contained, employment and growth strong, and rates low.

The Bank of Japan's much-watched Tankan survey will be released April 3 (Tokyo). The diffusion indices are expected to rise for large manufacturers, large non-manufacturers and small manufacturers, while that for small non-manufacturers is expected to remain unchanged. Higher costs are not expected to hit profits.

The SPX ended the week between strongest support in the 1283-1287 zone and strongest resistance in the 1307-1311 zone, so not in a good place to establish new positions on either the bearish or bullish side. The best tactic might be waiting until one of those is hit and assessing market conditions, including the TRAN's actions, before initiating new positions. Until the SPX breaks out of the choppy rise that's predominated for two months, selling at the top of the rising wedge and buying on bounces from the 10-week moving average might be best idea around, but with only small positions.

The TRAN's importance as a leading index has been mentioned several times in this article. Last week, the TRAN produced a doji at the top of a climb, but it failed to confirm the potential reversal signal this week. The week's candle was a small-bodied candle indicative of indecision, but it was not a tall red candle confirming an evening-star pattern. For the seventh week in a row, the TRAN has closed a week above a weekly envelope that had always before provided resistance on weekly closes, with that envelop now at 4472.51. The TRAN's performance remains bullish, despite a long-in-the-tooth rally, and bears should continue to exercise caution with bearish SPX, OEX and Dow positions while it is performing bullishly.

In contrast, the SOX continues to show some weakness, and Nasdaq bulls should continue to exercise caution until the SOX shows more strength. The Nasdaq ended the week consolidating above just broken resistance. In contrast to the SOX, the RUT ended the week at yet-another record weekly closing high, also rejecting a confirmation of a possible reversal signal that had been forming. While the sustainability of a Nasdaq rally is in question as long as the SOX remains weak, the RUT's strength argues against too strong a dip in the Nasdaq until the small caps weaken. Mixed evidence such as this can predict choppy behavior.

The three indices that often lead--the RUT, SOX and TRAN--lead different directions, and the indices are pulled different directions, too. The ten-year yields produced a doji, with bonds failing to predict next direction, either. However, some interest-sensitive sectors such as the DJUSHB, BIX and BKX had a rough week. Perhaps they're taking on the leadership role, and we should be watching them instead of the old standards. Keep them on your radar screen, too.

Trade with care next week until all these different market strands line up in closer juxtaposition and expect chop until they do. No indices ended up at strongest support or strongest resistance, so wait until you've got better levels against which to test your play before entering new plays in either direction. If there's a bounce to strong resistance or a dip to strong support ahead of Monday's 10:00 release of the ISM, study the TRAN, SOX and RUT before taking a position.
 

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