The Dow gained +126 points to close at 14,250 and a new historic high. Bears threw in the towel.
For weeks now there has been an undertone to the market suggesting the rally could fail. Internals worsened, volume slowed, economics declined and market sentiment crashed but the buyers kept coming. The pent up demand finally burst out this morning and the major indexes closed at new highs. The talking heads on CNBC were all worked up over this "historic occasion." With the milestone behind them what are they going to do for future content?
After China's move last week to crack down on real estate prices sent commodities plunging the outlook for the global economy worsened. Today China's outgoing leader pledged to continue record stimulus spending and power China's GDP to at least 7.5% growth this year. The sudden turnaround in the outlook for China helped boost the overseas markets and the U.S. futures began moving higher well before the open. Crude oil and copper rebounded on the news as well.
A speech late Monday by Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen enforced the view the Fed will continue aggressive QE purchases for a long time. Overnight Australia's Reserve Bank said it would keep interest rates at record lows. The Bank of Japan, Bank of England and the European Central Bank are also expected to keep rates low and possibly add additional stimulus when they meet this week. The combination of all these events finally overpowered the sellers and the markets shot higher.
Positive U.S. economics added fuel to the overseas bounce. The ISM Nonmanufacturing Index rose to 56.0 from 55.2 compared to estimates for a small decline. This is the highest reading since March 2012. The internal components were strong and suggest the services economy is accelerating.
New orders rose from 54.4 to 58.2. Backlogs rebounded out of contraction territory at 49.0 to hit 54.5. Export orders rose +5 points to 60.5 and the highest level since 2007. Employment was less impressive with a minor -0.3 point decline to 57.2 but still well into the expansion range. Eleven industries reported an increase in employment and only five reported declines.
The economic calendar for Wednesday is headlined by the ADP Employment report. Expectations are going to be for a gain of +175,000 jobs. A smaller than expected number would only enforce the current QE purchases while a much stronger number would immediately cause fears the Fed will quit soon.
The Fed Beige Book at 2:PM should show all 12 Fed districts growing at a moderate pace. Any weakness here would only enforce QE as well.
On Wednesday there is a flurry of central bank rate decisions. None are expected to raise rates and it is possible additional stimulus could be added.
The biggest report is the Nonfarm Payrolls on Friday. Expectations are for the addition of +160,000 jobs. Like the other reports above, a slightly worse than expected number would cement the QE process, while a stronger than expected number would put QE in danger again.
Late today the Vice President of Venezuela reported that Hugo Chavez had died from complications from his battle with cancer. Just before the announcement the VP, Nicolas Maduro, announced the expulsion of two U.S. diplomats for an alleged plot to destabilize the government. He also accused "enemies of the fatherland" of giving Chavez an incurable cancer. The U.S. has been blamed several times over the last year of trying to assassinate Chavez by giving him the cancer but never before at the VP level.
Chavez himself continually claimed he battled conspiracies to depose him or assassinate him at every turn. Alleged conspiracies solidify public opinion against the enemies of the state and dictators frequently concoct stories to keep themselves in power. The VP claims today suggest there will not be a change of heart towards the U.S. now that Chavez is gone. The U.S. imports 950,000 bpd of oil from Venezuela. Halting those imports would cause significant pain for Venezuela because it is heavy sour crude that is not desirable to anyone else. Future sales of that crude would be for significantly lower prices and incur steep shipping charges. Rather than assassinate Chavez we could have halted those imports and he would have been bankrupt within a year.
In stock news Qualcomm (QCOM) boosted its dividend by 40% to 35 cents and setup a $5 billion share buyback plan. The stock repurchase plan replaces one with $2.5 billion left to be spent. Since 2003 QCOM has rewarded investors with $19.9 billion in buybacks and dividends. QCOM sells CDMA mobile phone chips to companies like Samsung and Apple. Qualcomm had $13.3 billion in cash and equivalents at the end of the quarter.
Google (GOOG) gained +$17 thanks to the market spike and because of a new price target from Jefferies. The broker reiterated a buy on Google with a $1,000 price target, up from $875. The analyst said better ad sales on YouTube and a larger stream of devices from Motorola were powering stronger earnings. Analyst Brian Pitz raised revenue estimates to $48.9 billion with $48.25 per share in profits. His 2014 estimates are $57.26 billion and $56.63 per share. The analyst said Google was rapidly advancing the "product listing ads" or PLAs. Those ads increased +32% in February.
Vornado (VNO) confirmed it sold 10 million shares of JCP at $16.03 each on Monday. That is a 6% stake in JCP and leaves them with 13.4 million shares based on their last statements. Vornado said it lost $224.9 million in Q4 as a result of its investment in JCP. Vornado joined Bill Ackman in acquiring a large stake in JC Penny in 2010. Apparently the confidence in the recovery is fading. Whoever bought the 10 million shares for $16.03, rumored to be Deutsche Bank, already lost money with the close today at $14.96. Vornado agreed not to sell any additional shares before March 11th.
The Wall Street Journal reported after the bell the JCP board was losing patience with CEO Ron Johnson and they will consider replacing him if sales don't improve by year end. Sales fell -25% in the last fiscal year. As a last resort the board is open to selling the 100 year old brand according to the WSJ article.
Stock news was light today with the market the big news. The Dow was created in 1896 and it hit an all time high today. Regardless of what you think about the future of the market it is a definite milestone. The Dow is up +118% since the March 2009 lows at 6,547. The Dow closed at 14,253.77 and that is the new number to be watched.
The S&P rallied to 1539.79 and about 25 points below its historic high close at 1564. That is a new five-year high. The Nasdaq Composite rallied +42 points to 3224.13 and a new 12 year high.
The last time the Dow set a new high was Oct-9th, 2007. The graphic below shows a list of economic facts in 2007 compared to today. There are some really interesting numbers. For instance the Fed balance sheet has tripled. Unemployment has almost doubled. The yield on the ten-year treasury has declined more than 50%. Gold and silver have doubled even at their multi-month lows today. A really telling metric is the volume on the NYSE has declined more than 50%.
Two points everyone should be aware of are these. When the market makes a new high after a long period of decline it typically goes into correction almost immediately. Analyst Jeff Cox said the last 11 times the Dow has made a new high after a period of consolidation it was followed by a pullback. Secondly, after the initial profit taking fades and a new high is made it tends to keep making new highs for weeks to months. No analysis was included about the impact of Fed easing on this process.
That should be encouraging to everyone currently on the sidelines waiting for an entry point. If history is going to be our guide there should be an entry point with a 5% to 10% decline in the near future.
However, this has been one of the most unloved rallies in history. Volume remains low with only 6.4 billion shares today on a breakout to a new high. Conviction is sorely lacking. That means we are lacking the irrational exuberance that typically accompanies new market highs. That could mean the post high selling may be muted.
The bad news bulls are slowly taking the market higher. Yes, there was a big spike today but it was mostly short covering after the intraday dip on March 1st and lackluster gains on Monday. The bears were looking at 14,100 as the top and expecting a failure. "You must short a market stalled at old highs" is one of the top ten commandments for bears. Today they were squeezed once again on low volume.
Ok, the new high is here, now what? With a week filled with important economic events there is always the opportunity for bad news. The Teflon bulls have shown they can ignore bad news. Actually bad news on employment will simply mean QE will last longer. This is the current version of the "good news, bad news" joke. The only thing that could upset the procession higher would be much stronger economic news and that is not likely.
I think you can make yourself crazy trying to guess the market direction at this point. Remember, the trend is your friend until it ends. It has not ended yet.
The breakout on the chart below appears very bullish. However, to have any credibility we have to see additional gains over the next several days. Once the momentum fades we could see traders drop stocks faster than a hot rock.
The S&P chart is actually progressing just fine. There were three tests of resistance at 1525 over the last week with the close at 1525 on Monday. Today's breakout was perfectly formed from that resistance test. The S&P is not as vertical as the Dow and actually has a lot better chance of continuing higher. The next speed bump is the red uptrend resistance line at about 1545. If the S&P progresses higher to test the blue dashed resistance line it would intersect about 1565 by Friday. That would be a new high for the S&P with the old high at 1564. That would correspond with the top of the channel and suggest a break for profit taking before moving higher.
After more than a week of consolidation below resistance at 3180 the Nasdaq spiked higher to gain +42 points and close at 3224 and a 12 year high. Like the S&P the Nasdaq looks far more reserved than the Dow and we could still see some gains on this index. The +17 points Google gained today plus 11 for Apple were a major reason for the Nasdaq spike.
The Nasdaq has been lagging the blue chip indexes and Q2 is not normally a bullish period for tech stocks. That suggests any future Nasdaq gains could be slow and choppy.
There is a note of caution tonight. The Russell 2000 failed to break out to a new high and the relatively weak performance suggests the breadth of the overall rally is narrowing. The small caps led on the way up then went dormant in mid February. They did spike up on short covering today but it was not impressive. I would be cautious of any rally that came without the Russell breaking out to a new high.
Russell 2000 Chart
I have advised caution over the last couple weeks as the indexes consolidated below their February highs. While I still believe we are going higher as a result of the Fed stimulus that does not mean we are going straight up. I would stick with the current trend but I would like to see a decent pullback of more than two days so institutional investors and individuals can rotate positions and load up for the next leg higher. I have a hard time buying breakouts like the chart below. I know that is an accepted strategy but I feel naked buying those spikes. I suspect most individual traders feel the same way.
I am happy about the new highs but I am still hoping for a decent pullback.
Enter passively, exit aggressively!
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