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Market Wrap

Rallies Go Sloshing Around the Globe

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New highs broke out all over the globe the last twenty-four hours. As the venerable Art Cashin put it on CNBC this morning, "Rallies go sloshing around the globe." His use of the word "sloshing" indicated his lack of confidence. As the day progressed, he would be proven right to express some skepticism.

Overnight, stocks and indices in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai and Sydney set new records. Within a few minutes of our cash market opening, the Dow had joined them, printing a new all-time high of 14171.44. The SPX had zoomed to 1572.01. Both were to eclipse those early morning highs by midmorning. By afternoon, it would be a different story.

Despite disappointing economic news, the Nikkei 225 soared, in a theme that's become familiar here in the U.S., too. A central bank decision to keep rates steady and a Moody's Investors Service upgrade of Japan's domestic currency debt rating, coupled with the global buoyancy, sent the Nikkei to two-month highs despite disturbing economic news. The Bank of Korea also voted to keep its rate unchanged.

Some market watchers feel that Asian markets benefit from the assumption that their exposure to the credit difficulties was less than in some other areas of the globe. The funds invested in their countries push their indices to new highs, thereby encouraging stock-market investment across the globe. This time, the term "Asian contagion" perhaps has a more benign meaning in the minds of some. The Bank of Japan's Governor Fukui sounds a more cautious note, however, saying that he doesn't believe the world's markets are healthy even with the current signs of stability.

While Asian markets might have climbed for different reasons, CNBC dubbed this morning's spike in futures the "Wal-Mart rally." Wal-Mart (WMT) raised guidance to $0.66-0.69 from the previous $0.62-0.65, and market watchers decided that all their worries about retailers were put to rest. It seemed a premature or wrong-headed decision to others.

The warehouse-type retailers such as Sam's and Costco have been doing better than expected, with a retail analyst on CNBC noting that they were benefiting from operational moves but also from their low-price strategies. Target was not one of those stores benefiting. September comps shows sales up 1.2 percent versus an expected 2.2 percent, so those were a disappointment, but they were ignored in the early morning euphoria. The company still says it will meet earnings expectations but had earlier noted that it might be able to improve on them.


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WMT stock was sent sharply higher in the pre-market trading, with traders willing to ignore the fact that September comps were up 1.4 percent versus an expected 1.8 percent and that October comps were projected at flat to up 2.0 percent. In fact, traders sending futures higher were willing to ignore a lot when they decided that retailers were doing okay. Macy's (M), Abercrombie (ANF), Gap (GPS), Chico's (CHS), and Limited (LTD) disappointed. GPS's domestic same-store sales dropped 10 percent. American Eagle lowered guidance. Those retailers blamed weak sales on warmer weather, and this reasoning was apparently accepted, but individual stocks were punished in the pre-market session without investor distaste negatively impacting the futures of the larger indices. Euphoria reigned for a time. Ann Taylor (ANN) was one of the few clothing-related retailers that beat expectations in same-store sales.

As anyone knows who has listened to CNBC or looked at the indices today, euphoria didn't last throughout the day. Waves of broad-based selling hit in the afternoon. Indices that had been attempting to break upward through price channels, such as the SPX, were pushed back below the channels' resistance lines.

The afternoon reversal was blamed on warnings by an ECB member who said that inflation risks might force the ECB to raise rates to levels he termed restrictive. That might have spooked U.S. investors, worried about similar action by our Fed. But did action on the currency markets support the idea that this is what spooked the markets? Currencies certainly reacted, but a little differently than I might have expected.

The euro had been falling against the dollar since about 10:45 this morning. It accelerated its drop against the dollar as equities began falling. The euro also fell sharply against the yen. The specter of rising rates in the Eurozone should have strengthened the euro against other currencies, shouldn't it? Perhaps the specter of rising rates hit harder in Japan, especially with an upgrade today of its debt, bumping up the yen in comparison to other currencies. If the yen carry trade still exists as a global force behind equity gains, that action might indeed have been enough to spook markets. However, that's just speculation, and speculation from someone without the background in economics to evaluate its validity.

The dollar did drop against the yen during the same period, cascading lower after a test of the 117.80-ish strong resistance. A decline in either the USDJPY or EURJPY has not been good for equities lately.

You know what I think from reading other Wraps. I think the SPX has been long overdue for a 10-sma test and maybe even for a test of the midline or bottom of the channel in which it has risen off the summer lows. In other words, it was vulnerable. Today, as it attempted a push over upper-channel resistance after days of pushing at that resistance, it was particularly vulnerable. So, let's look at charts and see if this expected retest really did any damage.


Annotated Daily Chart of the SPX:

You'll likely hear some speculation about a key reversal day, a day in which indices break to new highs but then reverse sharply to a loss for the day. It's a particularly bearish sign. It has some specific parameters that must be met, though, including that the first push higher be so strong that a day or two's worth of gains are accomplished in the first few moments. Okay, maybe we could say that, although markets have been a bit more volatile lately, so that it's hard to say what constitutes a day's worth of movement.

Volume considerations are important, too. The move higher must be accomplished on much heavier than normal volume. I'm not sure that was met. The last week or two, volume has frequently been anemic, but, before that, it had escalated. Today's volume was strong, but strong enough to qualify as over-the-top, key-reversal-day type volume? Maybe. Maybe not. It's supposed to be explosive volume. This was strong, but explosive?

So, let's be moderate in our outlook, recognizing possibilities but not getting too jittery just yet. I've heard any number of claims of key reversal days that didn't result in much happening. So, you've been warned: possible key reversal day. Make your just-in-case plans. Then you'll have them, whether you ever need them or not.

The verdict? That depends on one's time frame. Despite possible key-reversal day characteristics, no long-term damage was done here, at least not yet. The SPX still climbs within a rising price channel and is in fact in the upper half of that channel. If you've been in a long-term SPX trade with lots of profits under your belt, you likely are following the SPX higher with a stop a certain number of points under a key benchmark that you follow: the 10-sma, the 20-sma or one of the rising trendlines the SPX has established. Adhere to your plan and book your profits when your exit is hit. That's your just-in-case plan, and you don't want to ignore if prices start cascading lower.

Short-term, the verdict may be a little different, because today's sudden and sharp move lower, seemingly out of nowhere, might have damaged bullish sentiment in all but those with deep pockets and strong stomachs. In addition, a candle that pierces resistance and then falls away sharply shows that there was strong selling into that test, whether or not this was a key reversal day.

I've been advising for more than a week that traders begin thinking about what they would do about a 10-sma test if it occurred, buy it or not. If the SPX had just meandered in its normal way down to the 10-sma, the answer would have been easy. Yes, of course, give it a try, using account-reasonable stops in case prices rolled down again because of that needed mid-channel test. That's not what happened, though.

If the SPX dropped all the way through the 10-sma without attempting to steady at or near it, the answer would have been easy, too. No, of course, don't buy it. I said the biggest quandary would be if the SPX dropped sharply to or partly through it and then attempted to steady and bounce from it. That's what happened. The spring up from that test would normally be bullish, but that's countered by the upper candle shadow's bearishness.

My thought? Anyone buying the 10-sma test has got to recognize the greater vulnerability to a rollover back beneath that potential support because of this morning's attempted piercing of the channel and the sharp selling that resulted, whatever the cause. Repeated tests of the SPX's upper channel line have failed to produce a breakout, and the SPX may need a deeper pullback to recharge. We'll find out a little bit about that tomorrow, won't we? Later, I'll point out some things to watch, but I'd personally be a bit cautious about jumping into new bullish plays right now until we see if a shakeout occurs and how it's greeted.

What if you're a bear who bought puts as the SPX began rolling over? You have a bit of a cushion, but tomorrow's economic numbers could change everything. I personally would view today's candle as more short-term bearish than bullish, but the 10-sma test was bought, so you're vulnerable to a test of the top-of-the-channel resistance again, too, and need to spend some time tonight examining and setting your get-out points.

Annotated Daily Chart of the Dow:

The Dow almost made it back above its 10-sma and did of course spring back above 14,000 by the close. It seems a little heavy to me, but I thought last Thursday that we'd see an "up day in the context of consolidation," and we got a much stronger gain than that. I can be and have been wrong in my assessment of what is most likely to happen next.

Annotated Daily Chart of the Nasdaq:

If the Nasdaq had closed beneath the 10-sma, I would have deemed a bottom-of-the-channel test (at about 2725-2726) to be likely rather than saying that the Nasdaq was vulnerable to that test. The attempted bounce from the 10-sma makes it just possible that there could be some follow through, just possible enough that I can't say a bottom-of-the-channel test is likely.

Annotated Daily Chart of the SOX:

The RUT, Jim Brown's barometer of fund managers' sentiment, plummeted from its high today, erasing most of a week's gains. It landed squarely on several layers of support, however: historical, gap (slight gap) and trendline. An engulfing candle of this sort should be bearish, but take a look at that of 8/23, and you'll see that bearish doesn't always mean next-day bearish. The RUT gained strongly on 8/24 before rolling down gain into a higher low.

Annotated Daily Chart of the RUT:

Tonight's currency action and tomorrow's economic results may be the determinant for the RUT. We'll look at an intraday chart later in the article.

The TRAN barely averted a breakdown below a rising trendline off the summer's low.

Annotated Daily Chart of the TRAN:

Why is the TRAN important? This index is both crude- and economy-sensitive. It can and has risen strongly even in the face of rising crude costs when it was believed that the economy was strong enough to deal with those costs. Now it isn't. Is this index telling us that crude costs may have finally reached some benchmark that might be doing damage? Is it telling us that the economic outlook is uncertain, something that central bank members across the globe have been warning us to little avail? As Jim said Tuesday night, if our FOMC members--and I would add the ECB's Trichet and BOJ's Fukui--profess there's more uncertainty than is typical, why do investors think they know where the indices are going? I don't. I've been freely confessing that I'm frankly confused by the markets these days.

The TRAN often leads other indices such as the SPX, OEX and Dow. It led the Dow in April 2003, for example. Both attempted a breakout on April 15 of that year, but only the TRAN maintained its breakout that day. It added to those gains, bouncing from the daily 45-ema on daily closes for a whopping 21 days. On that April 15, 2003, when it closed at 2299.69, it set an upside target of about 2550, a target that seemed hardly credible at the time. On June 4, 2003, it hit the target level, reaching a high that day of 2557.47. It seemed to carry other indices higher with it. Now the TRAN isn't leading, isn't even doing a good job of following.

I'm not talking about Dow Theory, although Dow Theory would certainly lead us to question what's going on, too. Dow Theory has specific parameters, and I don't profess to know them all. I'm just saying that the TRAN often leads and, if it's not at least going along for the ride, something I don't understand is happening. Should we toss out Dow Theory or the notion that weak transport stocks show that the economy might not be as strong as some would like?

I don't know, but I, for one, am a bit cautious about tossing out years of observations about the relationship of these indices. The only thing I do know is that if the TRAN is signaling trouble, the signal certainly hasn't been a good market-timing tool.

Today's Developments

Today, RealtyTrac, a real-estate information company, reported that September's foreclosure filings in the U.S. were nearly twice the number for September, 2006. Foreclosure filings numbered 223,538. Measured against August's extraordinarily high 243,947 filings, September's number declined, but the previous September had seen only 112,210 filings. RealtyTrac pegs the decrease in filings month over month as a decline from an unsustainably high August number rather than as a sign that the cycle of foreclosures was easing.

Several numbers were released during the 8:30 time slot. Weekly initial and continuing claims were included in those releases. Initial claims fell 12,000 to 308,000. Most had expected higher initial claims.

While many market watchers were not pegging any special importance on today's September Trade Balance and Export/Import prices, European commentators have been more interested. Some experts forecast that the trade balance would amount to a deficit of $58.5-59.5 billion, with the previous figure at $59.2 billion.

Instead, the trade deficit narrowed to $57.6 billion, and the smallest gap in seven months. Some sources believe that will result in a slight upward revision of the GDP.

Exports rose 0.4 percent to $138.3 billion. The rise in food prices helped, with exported farm products such as wheat, soybeans and corn joining exported industrial products in reaching record levels. Imports declined 0.4 percent to $195.9 billion. Declining imports of foreign cars and furniture erased the damage that might have been done by rising crude costs. Crude costs rose 0.8 percent, and I think we can only imagine what it might do in the next report. But are fewer imports of foreign cars and furniture showing that the American consumer is curbing expenditures? And is that a good sign?

Imports from China fell 5.3 percent. Imports of computers and furniture from China dropped. Imports of toys climbed in preparation for the holiday season, but I don't have comparisons of year-ago levels to see if the imports of toys was higher or lower than is typical for this time of year.

For the first eight months of the year, the trade deficit's annualized rate is down 6.7 percent from last year's record deficit. It sounds like all good news, doesn't it, but some sounded a note of caution in its interpretation.

On CNBC this morning, Rick Santelli questioned the cheer over the narrowed trade gap, and Art Cashin was later to say that he agreed with Santelli. If the trade gap had narrowed with both exports and imports gaining, that would have been Shangri-La, Santelli claimed. Instead, the gap narrowed because exports climbed while imports fell. That might not be such a paradise, Santelli said, because the combination raised the specter of weakening U.S. consumer spending.

The holiday-shortened weak for government employees meant that crude inventories were delayed until today, with both crude and natural-gas storage numbers released. Industry watchers had expected crude supplies to build, but the Department of Energy instead announced a draw of 1.7 million barrels. Gasoline supplies increased 1.7 million barrels. Distillates fell roughly in line with expectations, dropping 600,000 barrels. Refinery utilization inched up by 0.3 percent to 87.8 percent.

Natural gas inventories rose 73 billion cubic feet. Industry watchers had predicted a gain of 70 billion cubic feet. The build was roughly in line with expectations.

September's Treasury Budget was scheduled to be released at 2:00, although it wasn't certain whether that would happen on this holiday-shortened week, and I never could find it. I looked because the markets began diving about the time of that scheduled release. The Treasury Budget was expected to rise to $100.0-113.0 billion, up from the previous $56.2 billion.

WST.com surveyed economists about the potential for a recession. That survey, conducted October 5-9, showed an average forecast of recession at 34 percent, lower than the previous 36 percent. Economists were more optimistic about corporate profits and payrolls growth, too. Fourth-quarter expectations moved lower, though. The economists who responded approved of the Fed's decision on September 18.

News related to the auto industry has figured in many business reports lately. Today was no different. Chrysler announced a tentative labor deal with the United Auto Workers. The company will set up a union-managed health care trust, allocating $11 billion for that purpose. Similar to General Motors' deal announced yesterday, the UAW will agree to the hiring of new "non-core" employees for lower pay.

News related to the troubled housing industry followed on RealyTrac's information earlier in the day. Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC) said that September's mortgage loan fundings dropped 44 percent year over year. Average daily applications fell 39 percent. The company's pipeline has also declined significantly, to $42 billion as of September 30. This was far below the year-ago $65 billion level and even below the August 31 $52 billion level. The CEO said the numbers indicated tighter credit conditions.

Beazer Homes USA (BZH) said that an independent internal investigation will force the company to restate financial results for fiscal 1999-2003, 2004-2006 and some periods of fiscal 2006 and 2007. That probe investigates the company's mortgage origination business among other matters.

A number of companies reported earnings, including PepsiCo (PEP). With profit rising 17 percent and internal sales growing in the double digits, the company's earnings were termed better than expected by some reporting services.

Some watched Sallie Mae's third-quarter earnings more closely, however. This educational lender reported a $344 million loss in the third quarter or $0.85 a share, compared to its year-ago gain of $263 million or $0.60 a share. Core reported earnings of $0.59 a share compared with year-ago earnings at $0.73 a share. That's a 19 percent decline, but the $0.59 included some non-recurring items, so I'm not certain whether we're comparing apples to oranges here. The core earnings do not include the instruments the company uses to hedge against interest-rate swings, and it was losses in this type of instrument that the company blamed for it third-quarter losses. Core net interest income was higher, $664 million against $601 million a year ago.

Jim Brown has been following the endangered buyout of Sallie Mae, with the company filing suit against J.C. Flowers and its partners on Monday, seeking to force the deal forward on its original terms or collect a $900 million breakup fee. During the conference call, the company's chairman said that the company intends to abide by the contract even if the other parties have repudiated it. The chairman says that he considers the contract still binding.

Wachovia downgraded Abbot Laboratories (ABT). Another analyst firm upgraded Google (GOOG), and of course by now we all know about Jim Cramer's raising of his price target for the company to $750.00. No comment. GOOG rose to an amazing $641.41 today, but closed far below at 618.30.

Tomorrow's Economic and Earnings Releases

Tomorrow's 8:30 release slot will produce several important numbers for September. Those include September's retail sales, expected to climb 0.2-0.5 percent, depending on the source, and September's PPI. Retail sales will provide another important look at how the U.S. consumer is doing.

Although declining energy costs had contributed to a 1.4 percent decrease in the previous PPI, economists predict that the rising energy costs in the interim will prompt a 0.5-0.6 percent rise in September. They predict that the core PPI will rise 0.2 percent, exactly the increase last seen.

August's Business Inventories follows at 10:00, but opinions differ as to whether this could impact the markets. Although many market watchers consider the PPI numbers--headline and core--the most important of the releases on tomorrow's slate, some are waiting for another release.

On Tuesday, a CNBC guest commentator noted the importance of October's Preliminary Michigan Sentiment number, to be released at 10:00. That commentator termed the release a "real-time" look at how the consumer was being impacted by factors such as the credit crunch and rising energy and food costs.

What about Tomorrow?

Annotated 10-Minute Chart of the SPX:

As of the close, 9-ema resistance was holding on 10-minute closes. As long as it continues to hold, the SPX is vulnerable to a new bottom-of-the-channel test. If the SPX does break above it (plenty of room yet for RSI to climb), it appears that resistance is firming near 1559-1562, with a focus at 1561.37. I wouldn't be surprised to see a bounce attempt fail there unless momentum is especially strong. After that, though, the channels will have rearranged themselves, so join us on the live portion of the site to see what they're showing then.

Annotated 10-Minute Chart of the Nasdaq:

Annotated 10-Minute Chart of the RUT:

When I began writing this Wrap, my attitude was just that this was an expected--and about four or five trading days overdue, in my opinion--retest of 10-sma's, with some continuing vulnerability to mid-channel and bottom-of-the-channel tests. I think they're overdue, too. However, as I've written the Wrap and thought about the volume, I'm a little more concerned than when I began. This current move up has extended that four or five trading days further than I thought it might, but other than that, markets have traded pretty much as you'd expect them to trade if they were reestablishing that bullish tenor. However, I don't like today's increased volume, and I don't like the SOX's and the TRAN's non-participation. I don't like the USDJPY being slapped down after it tested the 117.81-ish resistance area. So, don't get too jittery but do think about your exit plans if you're in a lot of bullish plays, and just be ready in case things get worse than a long expected and overdue test of support.

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