Traders have been covering shorts for the last two days on expectations Greece will vote to pass the required austerity measures needed to obtain the next $17 billion in funds to hold off a default in July.
The Greek situation is very fluid with reporters claiming 151 votes for the required austerity and that is exactly the number needed with no room to spare. Four votes in the prime ministers party have already defected to the other side making it 151 for and 149 against austerity. I don't know what happens in the case of a tie but obviously this is going to be VERY close.
Last week the markets were pricing in a credit event or a default of some kind but that appears for the moment to be off the table. The final vote is not expected until Wednesday and there is another vote on the implementation of the austerity plan on Thursday. If both votes pass the pressure would ease on Greece at least for the time being. Their potential default on July 11th would go away. However, this is just one more chapter in the saga. Once past this hurdle the EU/ECB/IMF will begin discussing the next $140 billion bailout needed for 60 days from now. That one is "supposed" to be the final package that will get Greece through the next five years until their austerity plan reduces expenses and comes closer to balancing the budget. I am not holding my breath.
However, French banks offered to roll over their Greek debt and extend it for 30-years. If other foreign banks sign onto the same program the pressure will begin to ease. That is called kicking the can well down the road. It would be a long time before the potential sovereign debt default would come back to haunt us. This also allows those banks to write down that potentially uncollectible debt at a pace that will not be severely cripple their capital accounts.
The Greek economy is only $300 billion while the entire Eurozone is $16 trillion. This is a very minor piece of the Eurozone puzzle but it is viewed as the first of several problems that could eventually include Spain with a GDP of $1.46 trillion. Greece was the first domino to fall with Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain still in the early stages of the same problem.
Traders covered their shorts either voluntarily or involuntarily as a result of the market spike. It was not because the U.S. economics suddenly improved because they didn't improve. The Consumer Confidence for June dropped another three points to 58.5 and the lowest level since November. This was a decline from the May reading of 61.7. The cycle high was 72.0 in February. The biggest decline came in the expectations component, which declined from 76.7 to 72.4. The present conditions component only fell -2 points to 37.6.
Buying plans declined significantly with those planning on buying autos falling from 13.7% to 10.7% and homes from 5.5% to 3.7%. The decline in confidence was mostly from the older and higher-income consumers. Worry over the economy as they head into retirement is a major problem.
Analysts said confidence was actually a lot lower earlier in the month but improved significantly as the month progressed and gasoline prices declined. Falling home prices, higher gasoline, falling job numbers and all the problems overseas with the debt crisis and Arab spring are still weighing on confidence.
There was a bit of positive news in the Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey, which rose to +3.0 in June from a -6.0 in May. That is a significant +9 point gain and a return to expansion territory. This is well below the 25.0 cycle high back in February. New orders returned to positive territory at +1.0 from a sharp decline to -15.0 in May. Backorders improved slightly at -16.0 from -19.0 but just barely. However, both employment components declined. The average workweek fell into negative territory at -5.0 from a high of +20 back in January. The decline has been a steady 3-5 points a month. Even though the actual employment component declined from 14.0 to 12.0 it remained in double-digit expansion territory for the eighth consecutive month and that is the longest streak since the report's inception. In theory this suggests manufacturers are continuing to hire at a decent pace.
Richmond Fed Manufacturing Chart
The Richmond Survey was a definite improvement over the sharp decline in the Texas Manufacturing Survey to -17.5 in June from -7.4 in May. Those numbers were released on Monday.
The weekly Chain Store Sales came in much higher than expected with a +2.9% gain after a -0.7% decline in the prior week. There is a lot of noise in these numbers but every little bit of positive news helps.
The Case Shiller Home Price Index for April declined -4.0% compared to the prior reading of -3.6%. This is not a market mover. Everyone knows home prices are lower compared to last year so this is just confirmation of the continued decline.
The calendar for the rest of the week will be dominated by the Greek vote, which has been delayed until Wednesday. That could be a market mover if it does not go as planned. Back at home we have the three regional ISM and manufacturing reports on Thursday and then the national ISM on Friday as the second biggest event for this week.
In stock news Nike (NKE) soared +8.28 after reporting better than expected numbers on Monday night. Nike said sales in the U.S. rose by +15% in a weak economy. This was very unexpected given the price Nike gets for its shoes. The company raised revenue estimates for 2015 to $28-$30 billion compared to prior estimates of $27 billion. They reaffirmed their goal of $12 billion in cumulative free cash flow from 2011 through 2015. Earnings released on Monday night were $1.24 per share compared to estimates of $1.16.
Microsoft (MSFT) spiked into the clouds after announcing their 22-year old Office product was going to be offered as a cloud product. Microsoft was one of the major reasons the Dow and Nasdaq had two really good days. Microsoft's Outlook, Excel, Sharepoint, etc will now be available as a cloud application with prices based on usage. Basic Outlook email will cost $2 a month and a standard business package for $6. Advanced offerings could cost up to $27 per month. Google charges a flat $50 per user per year for its Web-based Google Apps product with email, calendars, word processing and other applications. Microsoft will host the applications and the user data on monster server farms in multiple data centers.
The move puts Microsoft into direct competition with Google but in this case Microsoft has a head start even though they are late to the cloud party. Google has 40 million users of the Google Apps suite. Comscore estimates Microsoft has 750 million Office users worldwide so a very fertile environment for moving existing customers to the cloud and creating a new monthly revenue source.
Google (GOOG) rallied +$11 after announcing a new feature called Google+ that is a direct attack on Facebook. Basically Google+ allows you to put your friends and contacts into different groups on their Facebook like product. By grouping contacts you can allow each group access to different parts of your profile. For instance the pictures of your children may only be visible to people in the family group. Business contacts would not see your family posts, etc. Facebook actually has these features but they are troublesome to implement. Google is trying to chip away at the 750 million Facebook users.
Apple has finally strung a week of gains together to close at $335 after hitting a low of $310 last week. The downtrend is still not broken but Apple has been getting some good press and Google has been getting bad press. If you have money to throw at a big tech into quarter end that meant Apple was the preferred vehicle. Analysts are starting to upgrade iPad estimates again and we are getting closer to iPhone 5 so it appears the buyers have finally found a level they were comfortable with.
The anticipation of a positive vote in Greece and avoidance of a sovereign debt default pushed the euro higher and the dollar lower and that was positive for oil prices and precious metals. Gold eased back over $1500 but not by much. The lack of a debt default would be negative for short-term gold prices.
Crude oil prices would be helped by a resolution to the crisis and a return to business as usual in Europe. Maybe not in Greece but the rest of Europe might calm down and return to slow growth if the crisis is resolved.
U.S. WTI crude rallied more than $2 after testing support at $90 for three consecutive days. In overnight trading it is up to $93.11 and rising. Brent rallied to $108.85 from its low at $102 on Monday. In after hours trading it has broken $109. There is no surprise here. The IEA news produced a knee jerk reaction and that news has passed. The fact the IEA felt they had to release oil for only the third time in history is confirmation enough that there are serious supply problems on the horizon. Ignore these facts at your own risk.
U.S. WTI Crude Chart
Brent Crude Chart
The S&P rallied +16 points today and stretched its two gain to +33 points with a close at 1296. That is just a point over critical resistance at 1295 so in reality it stopped at resistance. With the Greek vote scheduled at 5:AM ET on Wednesday this would be the perfect plate for a sell the news event. The vote has already been priced in after the big gains for the last two days. Until the S&P moves convincingly over 1300 we should remain cautious.
I was expecting an end of quarter window dressing event this week and the short squeeze from Friday's oversold conditions help to accelerate the buying so far this week. Ideally we would have a minor sell the news event on Wednesday after a positive vote and then have traders buy that dip for a final end of quarter move higher. Historically that June close carries over into the first week of July and then the selling returns.
I wrote last weekend there were some worries brewing about how strong Q2 earnings would be given the consumer dip in May. The Nike earnings and revenue increase in Q2 suggests there may not have been as much of a spending strike as previously expected. I read to articles this week suggesting earnings would still be strong and possibly in the +18% range. If that is the case any dip in early July could be brief. If we were to see any further improvement in the economics we might skip a July dip. There are lots of variables still in play so it is too hard to predict that today. However, analysts almost unanimously expect a year-end rally as economics begin to accelerate later in the year. That acceleration obviously remains to be seen.
The key for Wednesday is the Greek vote in the morning and the S&P resistance at 1295 and 1300. A move over 1300 could generate some additional short covering.
S&P 500 Chart
The Dow stopped just short of resistance at 12,200 but had a decent two-day rebound on short covering and the gains in Microsoft, IBM, Exxon, Chevron and Caterpillar. Dow 12,200 is a key resistance level and the dead stop ahead of the vote makes this a perfect spot for a sell the news event. It also sets up a perfect spot to really squeeze the shorts if some better than expected news should appear. If the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) is paying attention they could break the market out of its recent range with a very small application of funds.
The Dow and S&P both had a double test of their support and they could be primed to move higher. The oversold conditions have not been completely eliminated and I am sure there were plenty of shorts setting up at the resistance close for that sell the news event.
The Nasdaq broke out of its resistance at 2700 that correlated to the S&P at 1300 and Dow at 12,200. The Nasdaq 2700 level was broken solidly with a +41 point gain to 2729. That close cleared congestive resistance and was a clear breakout of the consolidation pattern from last week. The next higher resistance will be the 100-day average at 2760, which is also the resistance high from January. I like the gains in the big techs and the positive trends over the last several days. This is more than likely part of the end of quarter window dressing along with a bit of short covering. Time will tell.
The Russell is looking really strong with a solid move above last week's consolidation pattern. However, some of the gains this week are undoubtedly from funds catching up with the Russell reconstitution on Friday. As funds bring their portfolios back into alignment with the Russell indexes it requires buying of the new stocks added to the index on Friday and that pushes the index higher.
The Russell broke out of its downtrend channel and now has resistance at 820. If this move continues it would be very bullish regardless of the reason. The Russell should also benefit from end of quarter window dressing.
Wednesday is going to be critical for the rest of the week. The Greek vote is scheduled at noon Greek time, 5:AM ET. Greek citizens are planning on surrounding Parliament on Wednesday morning to prevent members from getting to the Parliament meeting to vote. Police have been fighting demonstrators all day and the crowds on Wednesday are expected to be very large. The potential for violence is huge. How that will impact the vote, if at all, is unknown. With only one vote separating the two sides anything is possible. However, Greek leaders know they have no choice. If they do not approve it there will be no money and Greek will default on payments within two weeks. They can't borrow from the market and the ECB/IMF said they would not provide any loans in the future if Greece does not pass the austerity measures and ends up in default. They have given Greece an ultimatum and the citizens in the streets don't really understand the consequences.
I do expect a sell the news event but hopefully it will be light. The vote priced in but end of quarter window dressing ahead of the holiday weekend should still be active. I would buy a dip for a trade but barring unforeseen events I still expect further weakness by the end of next week.
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