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Market Wrap

It's Alive!

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The Dow streak came back from the dead on Friday with a strong triple digit performance and rescued the Dow from a potentially down week. The triple digit bounce pushed the Dow to a 61-point gain for the week and to positive gains in 26 of the last 31 days. The real question for traders is this a real rebound or just a dead cat bounce?

Dow Chart - Daily

Nasdaq Chart - Daily

Friday's economic reports were led by the Producer Price Index (PPI), which came in at +0.7%. This makes three consecutive months of sharp gains in prices on the headline number. Fortunately for those rare individuals who don't use food or energy their core inflation rate was zero. I have never met anyone who lives in the "core" dimension but economists continue to track and report that inflation rate. Personally if it costs me $10 more at the gas pump or the grocery store that is inflation for me. Finished energy goods like gasoline rose +3.4% for the month and finished food products rose +0.4%. Vegetable price spiked +8.9% for the third month of big gains. While headline inflation remains in check the prices for core goods have risen for the last six months. April's increase was the largest in nearly a year. The core rate was discussed as a reason the Fed could be closer to a rate cut than previously thought but strongly disagree. I believe they will focus on the rise in food and energy prices and not be eager to jump back into a new rate cut cycle. The Fed Funds Futures rose slightly from a 42% chance to a 56% chance of a rate cut by year end but in reality this is just noise. There is no cut projected for the next six meetings.

We already know retail sales have been weak and they were blamed for the sharp drop in the markets on Thursday. The overall sales for the month fell -0.2% in April and that is much better than some of the double digit declines seen in several chain stores. Offsetting the strong gains in dollar value at gasoline stations was slowing automobile sales. March was revised up to +1% while year over year growth declined -3.2%. Most analysts claim we should not assign too much weight to the April numbers because of an early Easter and the coldest April in some states in 100 years. It is tough to sell bathing suits when it is snowing outside. Most analysts feel March, April and May should be averaged to offset the abnormal weather cycle and the calendar impact of the early Easter. This averaging concept helped to provide some of the boost to Friday's market rebound. Investors felt that bad news was not really that bad.

The Business Inventory report also showed continuing weakness in the economy. Inventories fell -0.1% compared to expectations for a gain of +0.2%. Inventories at retailers fell -0.7% for the month. The inventory to sales ratio fell to 1.27 and a seven-month low. This report will put another -0.2% drag on the GDP for Q1 and there is a very good chance it will show growth under 1% for the quarter. On the bright side the falling inventory to sales ratio indicates there will be an eventual rebound as manufacturers ramp up production to cover orders when the economy begins to improve. The lower the inventory level at that time the stronger the build cycle.

Business Inventories Monthly % Change

Next week's economic calendar is fairly strong with the two major reports being the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Philly Fed Survey. The CPI measures the rate of price inflation at the consumer level compared to last week's Producer Price Index, which measures inflation at the manufacturer level. The consensus estimates for the CPI are for a gain of +0.5% in the headline number. The March number (+0.6%) came in below expectations and a repeat surprise to the downside would be welcome news.

The Philly Fed Survey is also key because it tends to track very closely with the national Institute of Supply Management (ISM) number. The consensus is for a rise to +4 from last months barely positive 0.2 reading. After three months of hugging the flat line in the 0.2-0.6 range and just barely positive a rise to 4.0 would be very welcomed although it would start to push back the date for any potential rate cut. If the manufacturing sector is rebounding the Fed will want to see how this translates into the general economy and a rising economy could mean another rise in inflation pressures. Over the past two months the Philly Fed Survey has shown a significant drop in inventory levels and a slight rise in new orders. Analysts will be watching to see if this trend accelerates indicating a broader rebound.

Another interesting report on Tuesday will be the risk of recession. This attempts to project the risk of the country falling into a recession within the next six months. The chance has doubled over the last 12 months from 15.3% to nearly 28% in March. I actually view this as a lagging indicator rather than a predicting indicator and it will be interesting to see if April increased our chances or decreased them. Since the equity markets are an integral part of this calculations the constant new highs could have held the probability back artificially. The index peaked at 50% in April 2001 just before the last recession. The chart below does not instill a lot of confidence the economy is headed in the right direction. However, several times since the 2001 recession this index has returned to the 30% level and then faded as conditions improved. If it does return to its all time high at 50% we should be very worried.

Recession Probability Percent

In stock news Nvidia (NVDA) rose sharply after beating estimates on both earnings and revenue. Earnings of 42 cents beat estimates of 39 cents. Nvidia issued guidance that was termed encouraging by analysts. The current quarter is normally the toughest quarter of the year for personal computer products but Nvidia projected a slight gain in sales. I have five computers with Nvidia video cards and I would not replace them with ATI cards if you paid me. Nvidia has created a niche video business of uncomplicated high performance products at a reasonable price. Of course with a $1000 card just announced they are expanding that reasonable price envelope to encompass those gamers with more money than they can spend.

Amgen (AMGN) continued its plunge from Thursday with another drop to close at $56. Traders finally found a price they could buy when the stock hit $53.50 at the open. JP Morgan, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Lazzard all downgraded Amgen after an FDA panel recommended additional warnings on its anemia drugs. The FDA wants the strictest possible warnings on the drugs concerning the severe side effects, which include death. They also said further marketing of the blockbuster drugs should be contingent on additional clinical studies. Sales of these drugs equal about $1.7 billion per quarter and a serious hit for Amgen if they can no longer market them.

Apple Inc, (AAPL) rose again adding +1.40 after saying they are very close to a deal to put the entire catalog of Beatles songs on iTunes. While this has been rumored for some time it still provided yet another reason for the momentum players to buy Apple. According to analysts it is a non-event for Apple profits since most feel they make very little on selling songs at 99 cents. They don't disclose their profits on music sales but Steve Jobs has said in the past that there is little in the way of profits in sales of music. It does bolster their iPod sales by having a broader assortment of tunes available.

Google finished putting out its press releases left over from the shareholder meeting on Thursday. One of those comments came from CEO Eric Schmidt who said they have no plans to split their stock. The question is put to Google frequently because of the lofty price of a share, currently at $467. Schmidt said Google had hired nearly 10,000 workers since the end of 2004 and would hire thousands more before the end of 2007. Schmidt also said Google will not bid for Dow Jones or Reuters as some had speculated could be possible. Schmidt said all the hurdles would be overcome on the DoubleClick acquisition by year-end. Google also said their new theme was "search, ads and apps." The apps refers to the various applications programs that Google is developing to steal some of Microsoft's Office business. Despite ever increasing price targets for Google stock the momentum has died and Friday's close was near the bottom of a month long slide.

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The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) sweetened its bid for the Chicago Board of Trade (BOT) to a $9.95 billion all stock offer. This remains below the $10.58 billion from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). The CME also pledged a $3.5 billion stock (12%) buyback if the deal goes through. BOT Chairman Charlie Carey said a deal with CME made more sense because they both share platforms to clear contracts traded on their exchanges. He claimed significantly less integration risk with the CME than a potential merger with ICE. The problem lies in the new CME offer of $174.28 per share because the BOT shares are currently trading at $201. ICE had originally offered $191.49 but expectations of a competing offer helped push BOT higher. There are many forces trying to get BOT to reject both and try to hold out for a better offer next year. Analysts feel they are on the right path and could garner more money in a future sale. The downside would be the impact of a market crash that could knock shares of all three companies back significantly. Cash in hand today may be better than expectations for the future.

Chinese stocks rocketed higher on Friday on two separate events. First China's trade surplus rose to $16.9 billion in April from $6.9 billion in March bringing the total surplus from January to more than $63.3 billion and nearly double the $33.8 billion from the same period in 2006. Yes, business in China is very good. Secondly the China Bank Regulatory Commission issued a policy statement Thursday allowing Chinese banks to use up to 50% of their existing Qualified Domestic Institutional Investor (QDII) funds to invest in overseas equity markets. The majority of that capital will probably end up in the Hong Kong markets and in particular the "H" shares which until now were trading at a significant discount to their "A" share counterparts on Chinese exchanges. I know this sounds complicated but it is the equivalent of saying Chinese banks can suddenly throw $500 billion into the NYSE ADR shares for foreign companies. It will bring all the various Asian share offerings closer to parity. The various Chinese stocks rocketed higher with Sinopec (SNP) jumping +8% or $7.50, Petrochina (PTR) +6.33 and the FTSE iShare (FXI) +6.00 to name a few. Amazing what the prospect of a few hundred billion Yuan can do.

Earnings are nearly over with 89% of the S&P reported. Believe it or not we returned to double-digit growth at exactly 10% if the remaining players report as expected. Six weeks ago the estimate was for only +3.4% earnings growth and analysts have been extremely surprised. Of those already reported 67% beat estimates, 12% reported inline and 21% missed estimates. Those ratios are only slightly better than normal despite the nearly 200% miss by analysts on expectations. The problem now is what will investors focus on for future market momentum? Don't worry there are still hundreds of companies to report but as you can see from the list below the number reporting drops off significantly as the week progresses. Most of the companies reporting on Mon/Tue are ADRs and companies I doubt anyone would recognize. The highlights for the week are Agilent (A) on Monday, AMAT and WMT on Tuesday and it goes downhill from there.

Earnings Calendar

The International Energy Agency (IEA) raised concerns about the supply of oil for the summer driving season saying on Friday that gasoline could be in short supply in June. The IEA said the global inventories of gasoline were very low and there could be shortages that would drive up prices. They also felt OPEC was not willing to bump production by the needed 1.6 mbpd in June to offset the expected spike in demand. Seems OPEC countries are perfectly happy getting $60+ for their oil with $70 in their dreams. The IEA said March production by OPEC was a two-year low and the global draw down in Q1 took inventories to levels not seen since 1999. Also impacting the price of oil is continued outages in Nigeria with 100,000 bpd lost this week from pipeline sabotage and another 65,000 bpd from shutdowns at Chevron facilities. Chevron is removing all non-essential personnel and shuttering some facilities on fears of further violence. Despite the strong build in crude inventories in the U.S. last week the amount of gasoline in storage rose only 400,000 bbls and almost all of that was at one refinery. Demand continues to grow despite a national price average over $3.04 and well over on both coasts. The June crude contract closed at $62.37, +56 cents. This contract terminates trading on May 22nd so most investors have already shifted to future months. The July contract has fallen to somewhat meet the June contract price but remains firm at $64. The first named storm of the season, Andrea, appeared off the coast of Florida about three-weeks before the official start of the season. Andrea is not a threat with low winds and northeasterly track but it is a reminder that the season is just ahead. Abnormal weather such as the coldest April in 100 years and the hottest/driest weather in California in decades is just a precursor to what could be a strong hurricane season. I think OPEC is hoping we will get a Cat-5 storm right through the gulf to push prices to new records due to the currently low inventory levels. When the top five OPEC members are sitting on 58% of the world's known reserves they can afford to be patient.

June Crude Futures Chart - Daily

July Crude Futures Chart - Daily

As we head into expiration week the markets appear on the surface to be poised to move to new highs. Those new highs may prove as elusive as weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but it appears the bulls are betting on that coming to pass. The Dow refuses to die and returned to post its second highest close ever after a one-day drop of -150 points. If there was any bearishness in the market you could not tell it from a chart of the Dow. Intraday resistance at 13315 was broken at the close by a strong bout of buying. Short covering? Maybe, but the bulls were very evident across all markets at the open. Every single one-day dip in the Dow has been aggressively bought and the positive closes on 26 of the last 31 days indicate there are plenty of investors waiting for that next dip. Resistance, and I use that term loosely, would be the week's high at 13370 and initial support at 13200..

The Nasdaq is a little more complicated. The Nasdaq lost -6 points for the week and the first weekly loss since March 30th. While that sounds bullish the chart over the last month is far less exciting. We have been trading in the 2520-2580 range for three weeks and while every dip has been bought the new highs have been sold equally as routinely. The recent resistance highs at 2577 appear strong and there is little in the way of a tech event in our near future to break that ceiling. We had a nice rebound on Friday of +28 points but much of that could be short covering ahead of the weekend. The Nasdaq has a far weaker trend than the Dow and we will need some stronger internals than we have seen recently to push it higher.

SS&P-500 Chart - 30 min

The S&P-500 struggled for four days to break that roadblock at 1510 only to have those bulls that powered the breakout on Wednesday turned into barbeque fixings on Thursday. That 1510 resistance still exists and is followed closely by the all time resistance high at 1527. I would like to think we will push over 1510 again next week but I need to be convinced. Initial support is 1490.

You knew I would get to it eventually. The Russell is continuing to signal no confidence by fund managers in the current rally. The 835 level has been strong resistance for three weeks and it shows no signs of crumbling. Without a breakout by the Russell I believe the big cap rally will eventually fail. The Russell has been moving sideways since April 16th when a spike took it to 831. It has remained at that level ever since. The Russell is my fund manager sentiment indicator and it is showing a definite lack of confidence. I will continue to short every touch of 835 until proven wrong.

Russell-2000 Chart - 120 min

NYSE Composite Chart - 60 min

The NYSE Composite is showing only a slightly more positive picture than Russell. The NYSE Composite consists of a broad range of equities of more than 2000 stocks from the largest companies like GE, IBM and MMM to the smallest and includes ADRs, REITs and ETFs. As such it provides the best overall broad market sentiment indications. Up until a week ago it was strongly bullish but sellers have begun to appear at every bounce.

Friday's gain of 117 points (1.21%) was not specifically representative of the US markets. The sharp spike in all the Chinese ADRs produced a sharp opening spike in the index. If you look at an intraday chart of the NYSE and a Chinese ADR and they are identical. The large number of Asian ADRs on the NYSE and the severity of the spike produced the strong NYSE gain. I suspect the sharp spike in the NYSE Composite may have had a sentiment impact on the other indexes at Friday's open and indirectly caused a lot of the positive market momentum. If you look at the table below these are only a few of the Asian ADRs and their opening gains. It would not take but a few of these to spark serious momentum when short interest in the general market was heavy from Thursday's drop.

Top 12 Asian Stock Gains on NYSE

I don't know how long the Chinese policy decision will continue to benefit Asian stocks and their associated ADRs but I would be very surprised if we saw the same impact on Monday. As we have seen hundreds of times before when a news event produces a spike in a particular stock the day after that event produces a bout of profit taking from those wanting to capture those profits. This could provide a negative influence on the NYSE and by association the other indexes as well. That would be a good chance for the bulls to appear and prove their conviction. Until they appear again I remain cautious with a short bias below Russell 835.
 

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