The Dow closed at a new high for the year on Friday. This was also the two-year anniversary, cotton in anniversary parlance, of the all time high of 14,164 on Oct-9th 2007. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.
What a week! The major indexes rallied an average of 4% for the week with the Russell, brokers, oil and commodities gaining 5% or more. (Pardon me for a minute while I back into the kicking machine again.) There are so many surprised analysts that there is an unusual silence emanating from the normally talkative analyst sector. Last week proved the adage that at any given time the market attempts to make fools of the largest number of people possible.
There was minimal economics on Friday and for the week in general. Friday had the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for August. Jobs fell and layoffs declined. The report was completely ignored as old news.
The International Trade Deficit narrowed to $30.7 billion in August from $32B in July. This report was also ignored.
The economic calendar for next week has a few more reports that are noteworthy. Wednesday we will get the FOMC minutes, which are probably the most important economic event of the week. This is the minutes of the September FOMC meeting and will give analysts some insight into what the Fed is thinking about raising rates. On Friday Ben Bernanke said the Fed will raise rates sooner rather than later and the Fed Funds Futures immediately began pricing in a 25 point rate hike in the March/April time frame.
On Thursday we get the Philly Fed Survey, NY Manufacturing and the Consumer Price Index. Consumer prices are not expected to have risen materially and according to some Fed heads they are still worried about a deflationary threat. The two manufacturing surveys should show how regional economies are improving.
On Friday there is Industrial Production and Consumer Sentiment. Industrial production is expected to be positive but less than the +0.8% from August. Sentiment is expected to rebound to 76.5 from last months dip to 73.5.
Most of the economic reports will be overshadowed by the arrival of some major earnings events. Intel will be the headliner on Tuesday and everyone expects the Intel earnings to be strong. There have been some cautiously bullish comments from Intel over the last month but they had the tone of under promise and over deliver rather than warnings not to be too bullish. Most chip companies have guided higher throughout the month and expectations are high. Intel is expected to post 27-cents in earnings.
Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday is also expected to beat estimates due mostly to aggressive cost cutting. Estimates for earnings of $1.13 per share compared to $1.17 in Q3-08. JNJ is supposed to be recession proof and Tuesday we will see if that idea needs a Band-Aid.
JP Morgan is the first of the big banks to report and they are expected to post strong earnings. They have money and not afraid to use it. They are reportedly producing some strong trading profits in this market. Jamie Dimon offered to loan money to the FDIC two weeks ago in an interview where FDIC head Sheila Bair was on the same panel. This should be a great earnings report.
On Thursday there are several important reports. Goldman Sachs (GS) will report an estimated $4.24 per share in earnings. This is 2.5 times their earnings for Q3-08. The financial sector are expected to post strong improvements in earnings with an average of 57% improvement over 2008. Goldman is simply the leader of the pack.
IBM will report on Thursday and investors will be hoping to see if IBM can beat their estimate of $2.38 on the strength of their services division and overseas contracts. IBM hardware revenue fell -39% in Q2 so hopefully services will hold them up. IBM's $3.64 gain on Friday was responsible for nearly 50% of the Dow's 78-point rise.
Google will report on Thursday and has been garnering upgrades for the last several weeks on expectations for a good report. Credit Suisse upped their price target on Friday to $600 from $475 with a close at $515. Unfortunately Google has a bad habit of taking a serious plunge the day after their earnings report. Google declined for two weeks after their earnings in July.
Harley Davidson (HOG) also reports on Thursday and they rallied strong after their July earnings on news that sales were not as bad as investors expected. For the ultimate high dollar toy with financing scarce they were expected to crash and burn. When disaster did not strike they gained nearly 60% over the next month. Can they do that again? I doubt it but it will be interesting to hear their forecast.
Nokia (NOK) reports on Thursday and few U.S. investors will be interested. With Apple and RIMM the rage in the USA we tend to forget that Nokia is still the largest cell phone maker. However, Nokia profits are expected to be less than half what they made in Q3-08.
Bank America reports on Friday and they are the bank to own long term according to analysts. However, they are still expected to post a small loss for Q3. BAC has not yet paid back their $45 billion in TARP funds.
General Electric, the most unloved corporate giant in the U.S., will report on Friday. They never miss earnings and their forecasts are normally lackluster although bullish on America. GE stock is well off its $6 low back in March but is currently struggling to hold $16. GE earnings rarely move the stock price with 11 billion shares outstanding.
By all accounts the earnings for Q3 are expected to be strong followed by an even stronger Q4 despite the lackluster rebound in economic activity. If you look under all the hype you will see that Q3 earnings are still expected to be 25% BELOW the same period in 2008 yet investors are ready to cheer these results. Revenue in Q2 came in 17% below Q2-2008 levels. Revenue in Q3 is expected to improve to ONLY a 15% decline from 2008 levels. Quite a few analysts continue to warn that these earnings will come from aggressive cost cutting not increased sales. This may be a good earnings quarter relatively speaking but it is far from a quarter of good earnings. If you back out AIG's $68 per share loss from last year the overall S&P would be posting a significantly worse comparative performance than 25% below 2008. Adding that $68 per share loss drags down the overall S&P earnings for Q3-08 significantly and that is the comparison the S&P for Q3-09 will be measured against.
Banks continue to show improving earnings despite continued loan delinquencies. Commercial real estate loans equate to 26% of all outstanding loans at banks. Despite the rising delinquencies the banks keep rolling forward as many loans as possible. This is due to the old adage that "rolling loans gather no loss." As long as you keep pushing the date of accountability farther out into the future you avoid having to take the charge off. All the banks reporting earnings this cycle will be heavily scrutinized for increases in loan loss reserves as a leading indicator of future charge offs.
Citigroup unloaded a hot potato to Occidental Petroleum and got $250 million for selling the problem asset. Actually it was not a problem asset since it made money every year since 1997 but the government overseers wanted it to disappear. The asset was the Phibro commodities trading unit. It had averaged a $200 million annual profit for the last five years and $371 million last year. Personally I would love to buy a business that netted $371 million a year for $250 million! What a sweet deal. The problem was the massive commissions due to traders at the unit. For instance star trader Andrew J Hall made an estimated $100 million in commissions in 2008. Phibro made a fortune in 2008 from bets Hall made on the spike in oil prices.
That is a sum that Citigroup has yet to pay him and the government has protested the size of his compensation. As part of the deal Occidental has assumed the liability of Hall's unpaid commissions and reportedly he will be given an ownership position in lieu of some portion of the $100 million. Reportedly Phibro will keep their own funds separate on future deals and commissions. Citi CEO Pandit had been repeatedly asked if Hall's compensation was fair and in recent months has finally agreed that it was too high. Obviously he was under pressure from the compensation Czar and approached OXY with a sales offer to get rid of the problem. OXY had tried to buy the unit before and was rebuffed. OXY said Phibro would continue to make speculative deals in energy commodities as well as find buyers for the oil and gas OXY produces. Hall is a British born, naturalized American who has an extensive collection of contemporary art he keeps in his 1,000-year-old castle in Germany. I guess if I made $100 million a year I could get away with a few eccentric items like castles.
GM finally got a signed deal to sell the Hummer brand to the Chinese. Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy industrial Machinery Corp, try to say that fast three times, will own 80% and Hong Kong investor Suolang Duoji will own 20%. Although terms were not disclosed the reported sale price was $150 million and includes the dealer network. GM claimed in its bankruptcy they expected to get up to $500 million for the division. The CEO of Hummer said the key will be to produce new models that get over 20 mpg. Good luck with that! Only 8,193 Hummers have been sold to date in 2009.
Those hummers are going to be selling a lot slower once oil demand returns. The IEA upped their forecast for 2010 demand by +1.4 mbpd over 2009 to 86.1 mbpd. They based their upgrade on an IMF forecast that global output would grow by +3.1% in 2010. I am attending the annual Peak Oil conference next week and the consensus opinion seems to be that peak oil has already occurred. Peak oil does not mean we ran out of oil but only that we have reached the maximum of global production due to the accelerating decline in existing fields. The 86.1 mbpd estimate for 2010 is of great interest since it will probably be raised higher as the economic rebound picks up speed. However, most petroleum engineers believe we will never pump 87 mbpd. That was the expected high two years ago and it has not changed. If it were not for the recession we would be in serious trouble already. The recession has simply disguised the problem by temporarily reducing demand to a manageable level. Once demand recovers, say late in 2010, there is going to be a major awakening. I will report back from the conference next week.
Oil prices inched up to $72.35 after the close on Friday and oil appears to be getting ready for another attempt on $75. However, despite comments to the contrary OPEC shipments continue to rise. Last month shipments rose by 170,000 bpd to reduce compliance with the production quotas to 62% from 65%. Despite the increase in production the global inventory levels fell from 61.4 days to 60.7 days of supply in September. The next update will be the OPEC monthly production report and forecast on Oct-13th.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke was credited with lifting the dollar off its lows on Friday after he said the Fed has a plan for exiting the current fiscal stimulus program. Bernanke said "the Fed would raise rates when the economic outlook had improved sufficiently" and "possibly even before there are signs of inflation." This relatively hawkish speech followed on Friday by similar comments from Kansas Fed President Hoenig. President Hoenig is one of the more hawkish anti-inflation members of the Fed and he will be a voting member of the FOMC in 2010. The impact to the Fed Funds Futures was immediate and they are now showing a 25-point increase by April. However, most analysts claim that is still too soon and suggest Q3-2010 is the likely start to draining the punchbowl.
However, historically the Fed will not raise rates until 2-3 months after peak unemployment. That is not expected until mid to late 2010 and something the Fed will have to consider when the time comes.
Dollar Index Chart
The chip stocks benefited from a broad sector upgrade from Deutsche Bank on Friday. This pushed the SOX to a +3.3% gain for the day and a 6.5% gain for the week. Tokyo Electron reported that semi equipment orders had risen 94% in Q3 from the levels seen in Q2. Tokyo Electron is the second largest chip equipment maker behind AMAT. From the rebound in the SOX it is hard to believe that last week the index had broken support and was in full crash mode.
Semiconductor Index Chart
Friday was the 2-year anniversary of the all time market highs set on Oct 9th 2007. The Dow closed at 14164.53 and the S&P at 1565.15. On Friday the Dow closed at 9864.94 and a new high for 2009. The S&P closed at 1071.49 and just a few cents away from a new high for the year at 1071.66. Despite the chip rebound the Nasdaq is still about 30 points below its 2009 high of 2167. The major indexes are still 30% off their highs despite a nearly 50% rebound from the March lows.
The Dow closing at a new high on Friday is a bullish sign. I know that sounds like closing the barn door after the horses are already out. The Dow overcame multiple levels of resistance at 9600, 9725 and 9850 to accomplish this. The +377 point rebound for the week came off the lows at 9430 we saw last Friday. The move was amazing and shorts appeared at nearly every spike. There was strong denial but even stronger buying of those dips. However, volume is declining. Friday's volume was only 6.9 billion shares but the A/D line was still 2:1 in favor of advancers. Remember, the Dow benefited from the nearly $4 gain in IBM which added about 35 Dow points on Friday.
The S&P did not break out to new highs but is very close. Resistance remains 1075 but it appears to be on autopilot towards 1100-1120 with 1116 the 50% retracement level from the March lows. I like the way the S&P rallied off last Friday's lows to resistance at 1060 and then rested for two days before spiking higher. It was just enough of a pause to suck in the shorts one more time and then roast them on the Thursday morning gap well over that 1060 resistance. I believe the same thing could happen at the 1075 level. We could touch it, ease back slightly and then blast through on higher volume if Intel produces good numbers on Tuesday.
The Nasdaq gained +4.45% for the week but it is still lagging the other indexes. The Nasdaq is facing strong resistance at 2140 and again at 2160. Unfortunately it will be hostage to the Intel earnings until Wednesday. It could languish until Tuesday night on fears Intel might not be as bullish as investors hope. On Wednesday it will be reactive to whatever Intel did report. The same story repeats on Thursday when Google and IBM report. There is ample precedent for the Nasdaq to run up to its resistance highs ahead of earnings and then stall out because the numbers reported were already priced into the stocks. However, should the Nasdaq move over 2150 on strong volume it would be a buy. Just watch for it to stall at those highs.
Russell 2000 Chart
All the betting is over and it is time for Intel to show its hole cards and let the chips fall where they may. Intel is in the drivers seat for the earnings week. They have raised their forecast twice and then downplayed the outlook several times in various public forums. All eyes are focused and the market is waiting. After the close on Tuesday the direction will be set for the majority of tech earnings since most tech stocks tend to report in the same trend as Intel.
On Thursday Google and IBM will either be the icing on the Intel cake or the Drano that flushes the Intel stink down the drain. Either way it is going to be a big week. The biggest banks and the biggest tech stocks other than Microsoft will confess their sins and traders will go along for the ride.
It is no secret that I was expecting a potential decline in October. The first couple days seemed to confirm my suspicions and then each day found a new excuse to rally. I do believe that we need to buy a breakout over the highs. If the market does move higher from here it could move a lot higher. If the Dow manages a weekly close over 9918, the September high, then Dow 10320 becomes the next target. That is the 50% retracement of the Oct-07 highs to the March-09 lows.