There was no follow through on Thursday's ECB short squeeze but thanks to the lower jobs number we are just passing time until the Fed decision on Thursday.
The world is addicted to stimulus and last week is a prime example. The ECB announced a "conditional" bond buying program that may not spend a single euro until 2013 but the global markets exploded. They exploded because nobody expected an announcement until after the Sept 12th vote by Germany on the constitutionality of the ESM bailout vehicle. Surprise, surprise. The markets completely ignored the conditionality of the program that may prevent weaker countries from applying for aid in the months ahead.
Details did not seem to matter. Draghi had finally announced a "real" program and shorts ran for cover. How real the program actually is depends on the eventual conditions and whether any countries apply for a bailout. What the ECB accomplished was to kick the can down the road again and achieved an immediate objective of lowering the yields on Spanish and Italian bonds at least temporarily.
On Friday China announced a $157 billion infrastructure spending program in an effort to slow the current economic decline. There are 60 projects to build highways, airport runways, ports, pipelines, dams, etc. This is the most ambitious program announced in China so far this year. The National Development and Reform Commission announced approvals for more than 1 trillion yuan or $157 billion. The Asian markets rallied again and the U.S. markets shook off a very weak payroll report to close slightly positive thanks to China. China's market rallied +3.7% and the most in more than eight months.
Shanghai Composite Chart
However, the devil is in the details. China is set to announce a new round of economic results on Sunday and the timing of Friday's stimulus announcement suggests those economics are not going to be good. Analysts expect the data to be the worst in three years.
Countering the stimulus news from China was the weak payroll report in the USA. The Nonfarm Payroll report for August showed the economy created only 96,000 jobs compared to consensus estimates for a gain of 128,000. Job gains for prior months were also revised lower. The July number was revised lower from 163,000 to 141,000. The June number, which was initially announced at 80,000 and revised down to 64,000 last month, was revised down again to only 45,000. That was a combined decline in previously reported jobs of -41,000.
The majority of the declines in employment came from the manufacturing sector and it was the most jobs lost this year by the sector. Manufacturing added +23,000 jobs in July and lost -16,000 in August. Only 36.4% of manufacturing industries added workers in August. That was the fewest since late 2009.
More than 8,800 of the headline jobs came from Con Ed. A strike last month caused the utilities sector to lose jobs temporarily. The strike ended in August causing the sector to "gain" +8,800 jobs.
Temporary employment fell for only the second time in 2012. Businesses hire temporary workers before they hire permanent. Declining temporaries means business conditions are slowing.
The unemployment rate fell from 8.3% to 8.1% but not because people are finding work. The unemployment rate has exceeded 8% since Feb-2009 and the longest streak since monthly records were started in 1948. The rate comes from the separate Household Survey. The Household survey showed that -114,000 jobs were lost in August. In July there was a decline of -195,000 jobs making a drop of -314,000 jobs over the last two months. That survey showed that another 368,000 workers quit looking for jobs and dropped out of the labor force. This pushed the labor force participation rate down to 63.5% and the lowest rate since 1981. The participation rate for those 24 and under fell to 54.1% and the lowest rate in 57 years. People are giving up looking for work and depending on the welfare safety net to support them.
The number of people applying for some form of disability has rocketed to all time highs. The Social Security administration reported survey results showing the percentage of people applying for disability benefits in the first weeks after they were laid off was less than 1%. By the time their unemployment benefits expired the rate of disability applications spiked to 10%. The percentage rose sharply the closer they got to the end of their unemployment benefits. The SSDI program was created in the 1950s to cover workers who were injured and could no longer work. Because of the spike in applications it will cost taxpayers $130 billion in 2012. The program will be bankrupt in 2017 as a result in the surge of applications. Did working suddenly become more dangerous over the last five years or did the unemployed just find another payment stream? SSDI benefits include a monthly check and Medicare coverage.
The number of people on food stamps now exceeds 22 million households and 46.7 million people as of June. Three years ago there were only 32 million people on stamps. The food stamp program cost more than $6 billion in June, the latest monthly recap. It totaled $75.7 billion in 2011. The jump is due in part to the administration running ads for the food stamp program and basically soliciting new participants.
This is going to be fodder for the candidates for the next couple months so plan on hearing these numbers over and over until you can repeat them in your sleep. There are 261,000 fewer people working today at 133.3 million than were working in January 2009. The uncertainty about the fiscal cliff is going to keep hiring weak until it is resolved.
Remember it takes 150,000 new jobs per month just to stay even with new workers coming into the workforce from graduations and immigrations. Over the last year the population increased by 3,695,000 but the labor force rose by only 971,000. This is a serious problem. Those not in the labor force rose by 348,000 in August to a record high of 88,340,000.
Nonfarm Payroll Chart
On the positive side the Monster Employment Index rose from 147 to 156 in August and a six-month high. That 9 point gain pushed the index of job postings up +6% over August 2011. Eighteen of the 20 industries represented in the index saw more ads on a year over year basis. Help wanted ads rose in all 28 metro markets. The strongest gains were in Dallas and Houston with a 15% increase. This report was negated by the weaker than expected Nonfarm Payrolls.
The economic calendar for next week is lengthy but the major events are on Wednesday and Thursday. The Apple product announcement and the German vote on the constitutionality of the ESM bailout fund will be the most watched on Wednesday.
The FOMC announcement on Thursday and the Bernanke press conference will be the most important event of the week.
Lastly the EU leaders and Finance Ministers meet again next weekend and you never know what headlines will appear.
Will they or won't they? Obviously I am talking about the Fed announcing a new QE program next Thursday. The headlines are flying and nearly every major analyst has weighed in on their expectations for new Fed stimulus.
I see it this way. Bernanke knew about all the hype and expectations leading up to his Jackson Hole speech. He could have let the market down gently with just a few scattered sentences suggesting the Fed was in wait and see mode. He did NOT do anything to lessen expectations. On the contrary he provided justification for the past QE programs and said the Fed would provide further stimulus if needed to create jobs. That was one paragraph after he warned that the current high unemployment was a "grave concern" that could lead to years of lackluster growth if allowed to continue. He did everything but say "I am going to launch QE3 next week."
Since five of the FOMC board have already said they believe additional stimulus is justified it would seem like a slam dunk decision. Yes, there will be dissentions but that is a fact of life for Bernanke.
Goldman Sachs was hedging its bets on Friday saying there was a 50:50 chance of QE3. Bill Gross of Pimco said almost certainly the Fed will act. "Buy gold and hard assets." In his Jackson Hole speech Ben claimed the Fed had created two million new jobs over the last three years with its QE programs. He also said it was up to Congress to solve the jobs problem permanently by enacting legislation but then he acknowledged it was not likely to happen in a timely manner. There is a zero chance that Congress can cobble something together before the election and only a very slim chance they can agree on anything after the election regardless of who wins. The lame duck session will be a disaster and we would be better off if they all just stayed home.
That puts the burden back on Bernanke next week. He will probably try to compensate for Congressional inaction through Federal Reserve action. However misguided that attempt will be remains to be seen since any action is better than none at this point.
Ben Bernanke as a child
If you want proof that the market is fully committed to QE on Thursday you only have to look at the gold chart. The yellow metal gained another $32 on Friday to close at $1737. Analysts are already predicting a retest of resistance at $1800 and the gold bugs are swarming with targets from $2000 to $2400.
Silver rallied +6.1% for the week to close at $33.72. This far outshined gold with a 2.7% gain. Silver is the poor man's gold but it is also an ingredient in manufacturing for cell phones, tablets, computers, solar panels, etc. If China is going to start launching stimulus programs to revive its struggling economy and the ECB has thrown a security blanket over Europe then silver demand could ramp up quickly.
Throwing some cold water on the silver demand story would be the Intel (INTC) earnings warning on Friday. Intel warned the outlook for revenue and earnings would be below their previous forecast due to global macroeconomic problems and a challenging environment. The decline in sales was primarily in PCs with the server division "meeting expectations."
Intel said Q3 revenue would be in the range of $13.2 billion and a -7% decline from the year ago quarter when revenue was $14.2 billion. This was well below the prior forecast range they gave in July of $13.8 to $14.8 billion. That is a significant decline in outlook in only 45 days.
Citigroup analyst, Glen Yeung, said the second half slowdown for PC sales will be the worst half year in the industry's history. "We anticipate the worst 2H for PC sales since inception." That is pretty grim. He believes the growing demand for smartphones and tablets is driving the demand story. Analysts believe that for every five tablets sold there are two PCs that will not be sold.
The tablet PC is rapidly changing the technology environment. The tablet is replacing the notebook or laptop and eliminating the dependence on the PC while driving server sales to support the ranks of employees with those tablets and shared applications.
Intel said businesses were putting off decisions to buy PCs because of the weak economy and growing uncertainty about the future. According to Intel, PC makers have been adjusting to the uncertainty by ramping down their production and reducing orders for chips.
Intel and the PC makers were hoping Windows 8 would trigger an upgrade wave when it is released on October 26th but now that outlook has dimmed. BMO Capital Markets said Intel's business trends won't likely recover in the short term given the weak PC market.
Drake Johnstone of Davenport & Co. said "We expect PC demand to remain weak over the next few quarters as consumers and businesses are less inclined to purchase new computers in a weak global economic environment."
Christopher Caso of Susquehanna Financial said "this is more than just a stall in demand. There are structural changes coupled with demand destruction."
Analysts from Raymond James, Wedbush, Longbow Research, FBR Capital and Mizuho Securities all echoed the same sentiments. Basically PC sales are slowing and tablets are winning the technological battle and that is negative for Intel and PC makers like Hewlett Packard and Dell.
The warning by Intel coming in the same week as the warning by FedEx should have damaged market sentiment but the QE trade kept the markets from losing ground.
Kraft (KFT) fell -5% after setting financial targets for the two post split companies it will become next month. Kraft is splitting itself into Mondelex International, the international snack food business and Kraft Foods Group, the North American grocery business. Kraft warned that 2013 earnings for Mondelez will be lower than current Wall Street forecasts as a result of the global economic decline and unfavorable currency exchange rates. Mondelez will be a $36 billion company selling items like Oreo cookies. That company is now expected to earn $1.50 to $1.55 in 2013 and that was below some analyst forecasts.
Kraft Foods is now expected to see long term EPS growth in the high single digits. The company said it will change its focus into generating more cash from operations. They will start the new company off with a $2 annual dividend. The company split will occur on Oct 1st.
Amazon spiked $13 over the last two days after it announced a new offering of Kindle Fire devices. The new devices are cheaper, faster and more capable than the first generation and investors appear to be thrilled. Analysts have stopped short of calling them an iPad killer but they do have a lot of features for a low price. This is sure to cause Apple grief on prices when they introduce the next iPad version.
However, those customers placing orders for the Kindle Fire HD 4G tablet are getting disclaimer emails saying "this device has not been approved by the FCC. You will receive an order confirmation email when that approval has been received." The devices are not supposed to ship until November 20th so Amazon has a long time left to get the FCC approval. They are accepting pre-orders but the law says you can't actually sell or ship a product that does not have FCC approval.
The holdup appears to be the new 4G wireless modem that Amazon designed from scratch to be small enough to fit into the smaller tablet. Bezos highlighted the new modem in his presentation and claimed it was only 2.2 millimeters thick. In the tablet world size does matter when you are cramming so much technology in such a small space. The Wi-Fi only tablets have no restrictions to sales and will ship when available.
The new Kindle will sell for $69, the updated Kindle Fire for $159 and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD for $199. All will be available at Best Buy stores on September 14th. The new Kindle Paperwhite e-reader will sell for $119 for Wi-Fi and $179 for 3G. I love my old Kindles but I am thinking about getting a new Kindle Paperwhite 3G or Kindle Fire HD 8.9 inch 4G. Decisions, decisions.
Pandora (P), an Internet music/radio streamer, crashed back to support after news broke that Apple was in talks with major record labels about launching a similar service. Pandora already has competition from Sirius XM, Clear Channel and Spotify. However, Apple has the clout to put them all to shame if it really wanted to jump into the streaming music market.
However, as one analyst put it, Apple has only 20% of the smartphone market and leverage through iTunes would be very strong for that 20% of consumers. That means the remaining 80% of the smartphone market will still be potential customers for Pandora. Pandora listeners grew +48% to 55 million last quarter and its share of the Internet radio business increased to 72% from 60%. Pandora has been severely criticized for not making a profit even with 55 million customers. Some think the business model is flawed because the advertising revenues have not kept pace with the listener growth. However, in earnings reported the prior week revenue increased +51% and the company raised both revenue and earnings guidance for 2013.
A Stifel Nicolaus analyst believes the Apple interest in the streaming market underscores the value in the Pandora platform. Other analysts believe it would be cheaper for Apple to buy Pandora and capitalize on the decade of content acquisition and distribution Pandora has already built. They started in 2000. What would it be worth for Apple to gain another 55 million customers? With a $2 billion market cap they would only be pocket change for Apple.
Ulta Beauty (ULTA) rallied +8% on earnings that rose +42% to 54 cents. That was higher than estimates at 51 cents. Revenue rose +22% and also beat estimates. Same store sales rose +9.3%. The CEO said new products and new brands were building customer loyalty. They now have more than 10 million active customers in their loyalty program and more than half of their franchise stores were participating. The company raised full year earnings guidance to $2.58 to $2.60 and that included an 8 cent charge. Analysts were expecting $2.55 with no charges meaning ULTA is now well over analyst estimates. The company is accelerating store openings while the brand is hot.
Chipolte Mexican Grill (CMG) rallied nearly $40 over the last two days on no news. The stock was heavily shorted after being crushed in July on slowing same store sales. Apparently the shorts were trapped when the market squeeze lifted all boats. Volume was four times normal on Friday. Some unlucky shorts are having a very bad weekend.
Lululemon (LULU) reported earnings that surprised the street and shares are suddenly close to the old highs. Shares rallied +12% on Friday. Short interest was more than 25% of the float and the pain finally became too much to bear. That short interest equates to about eight days of average volume. Average volume is about two million shares and 17 million traded on Friday.
Digital Domain Media Group (DDMG) creator of the special effects in the Transformer films and the movie Titanic saw its shares decline to a record low of 58 cents after announcing a restructuring that may include a bankruptcy filing. The company was part owned by James Cameron and football star Dan Marino. The company has done special effects for more than 80 major movies. They need to create some digital dollars and rescue themselves from their $141.7 million in debt. Resurrecting this stock may be tougher than raising the Titanic.
Digital Domain Chart
Gun manufacturers saw their shares soar last week after the Democratic party platform distributed at the Democratic convention took aim at gun owners. The fear that President Obama would try to pass new laws sent shares higher. Gun owners are afraid of the president. He has told gun control advocates that if elected he will have more freedom to act on gun control in his second term. Seems like he is using that phrase a lot lately in trying to make deals with everyone. Remember his open mike comment to the Russian official saying basically the same thing over nuclear weapons and the missile defense program in Europe.
Sales of Smith & Wesson (SWHC) firearms said sales have risen +134% YTD and they raised guidance for Q3 and the full year. Ruger (RGR) sales are up +41%. Freedom Group, owner of Remington Firearms, saw sales rise +34%. Keybanc Capital Markets downgraded SWHC and RGR on Friday saying the gains were unsustainable and gun policy was not as big a deal this year as in the past. I think they are out of touch with reality. Just compare the platform statements from the two parties.
Democrat platform statement
Republican platform statement
Shares of RGR and SWHC may be overbought but that has nothing to do with the current firearm sales boom. I would not buy these stocks here but I would buy them on a pullback. Sales will increase if the president is reelected and decline if Romney is elected. The Real Clear Politics poll recap has the election a dead heat at present so gun owners are going to be stocking up thanks to the uncertainty.
The CEO of the largest retail firearms dealer in the U.S. said the retirement of the boomer generation was also having a big impact on gun sales. He said when it comes to protecting themselves seniors can't run and can't fight but they can shoot. The advertising slogan from Colt Firearms in the 1800s is coming back to the forefront again. "God made all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal."
Coal stocks got a boost from the Chinese stimulus announcement. The $157 billion in infrastructure projects will require huge amounts of steel and that means hundreds of millions of dollars in met coal to make that steel. Peabody Energy (BTU) rallied +11% on the news. Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF) rallied +14%. Alpha Natural (ANR) gained +17%. Despite those gains the stocks are still down significantly for the year thanks to low natural gas prices and the weak global economy slowing coal demand.
Peabody Energy Chart
Next week is going to be a critical week for the markets. The ECB bond scheme "will have strict and effective" conditions for countries that sign up. If those countries fail to live up to the conditions the bond buying will stop. Basically if a country applies to the ESM/EFSF for a bailout of their debt the ESM/EFSF/ECB and IMF will come up with an austerity program that must be followed in order to receive aid. The "conditions" have not yet been defined but nobody seems to care.
Italy's PM Mario Monti said his country would not be asking for aid because the prospective conditions would likely be too onerous. Spain's PM Mariano Rajoy said he would discuss possible conditions with the EU Finance Ministers at the meeting next weekend but he was in no hurry to ask for aid. He reiterated that Spain could get through the crisis on its own. Famous last words.
Bond yields on both Spain and Italy declined sharply after the ECB announcement. Analysts believe Spain will delay asking for help as long as possible and the falling bond yields will give them some additional breathing room. Spain has a monster refinancing challenge at the end of October when 27.5 billion euros of maturing debt comes due. Moody's is expected to downgrade them again in late September.
Instead of being the plan to save Europe the ECB bond buying plan, officially called Open Market Transactions or OMTs, could be just a smoke screen that disguises the problems in Europe for months to come. It could be aggressively intrusive in a way that would prevent any country from actually accepting the bailout. Country leaders can see the austerity pain being forced on Greece. Would they want that for their country? This was a major can kicking announcement without any real risk of immediate application. German headlines slammed the program saying it would force the payments of debtor countries to be shifted to those countries with stable balance sheets.
In the U.S. it will be all Bernanke, all the time next week. He will get more headlines than Lady Gaga, Miley Cirus and Katie Holmes all put together. The markets have baked in an overload of stimulus expectations and despite analyst beliefs to the contrary the Fed could disappoint. Even if they did not disappoint there could still be a sell the news event. If all the buying has already been done then profits have to be taken.
Volume on Thursday was the highest of the week at 6.9 billion shares and Friday was only slightly less at 6.4 billion. The other three days averaged an anemic 5.3 billion. Average volume leading up to last week was at five year lows.
Volume next week could be minimal until Thursday unless there is a major headline to break us out of our holding pattern.
The wild card here is the breakout on the major indexes. New highs tend to produce additional new highs. The S&P rallied over all material resistance levels at 1420, 1426 and 1433. That alone could trigger additional buying. However, after two days of gains we are already into overbought territory.
The next material resistance on the S&P is well over 1500 but round number resistance could appear at 1450.
S&P Chart - 180 Min
S&P Chart - Daily
The Dow is not as bullish as the S&P. The Dow rallied to the resistance highs but then failed to extend its gains. It was in negative territory for much of the day but a +20 point short covering bounce at the close ended the day with a gain. Traders who shorted the opening bounce thinking a failure was imminent were forced to abandon those positions at the close rather than face weekend headline risk from Europe.
Caterpillar was the biggest gainer on the Dow with +3.31 and it was the only Dow stock gaining over $1. CAT gained on the Chinese infrastructure stimulus that will require large amounts of new equipment. Kraft Foods was the biggest loser with a -$2.33 loss. Advancers and decliners were evenly split.
Support is still 13,000 even though we saw a +300 point bounce from that level.
Dow Chart - Daily
The Nasdaq Composite also rallied right to the resistance high at 3134 and stalled with only a minor gain. The Nasdaq also traded in negative territory most of the day. The Nasdaq 100 gave back -4 points thanks to the Intel warning. The composite is clearly overbought and needs to rest but that does not mean it will. Market gains typically come when the most traders are betting against it. Support should now be 3085.
Nasdaq Chart - Daily
Nasdaq 100 Chart - Daily
The Russell made good on its breakout over 820 and continued higher without any profit taking. The next test is the 846 high from March and then the 855 level that was tested three times in 2011. Support should now be 820.
Russell Chart - Daily
For months everyone has been talking about the fiscal cliff and its impact on the market and on consumer sentiment. Even though I can't see the makings of a compromise to resolve the problem by year end we know that lawmakers will do whatever it takes to get reelected. I don't know how the issue is going to be resolved but the market seems to think it will go away. This is becoming just one more brick in the wall of worry.
The U.S. debt rose to more than $16 trillion last week. It is rising by $3.5 billion per day and is now 104% of the U.S. GDP. This is the first time in history the debt has been over $16 trillion. The current debt ceiling is $16.394 trillion. I noted last week that Goldman Sachs is predicting $24 trillion by 2022. The market does not seem to care. US Debt Clock
The market will be zeroed in on the FOMC announcement at 12:30 on Thursday. There may be profit taking ahead of the announcement or there may be a rally in anticipation of new stimulus. Whatever happens in advance will probably be a low intensity move. After the announcement we could see a sell the news event regardless of the news.
The problem is the lack of future events. Once Bernanke has given his press conference the market will have to start looking for something else as a driver. That something else will be earnings and Q3 earnings are not shaping up well. Current estimates are for a decline of -2% for Q3 but then a rebound of +10.1% growth in Q4. Nobody seems to be able to define why Q4 is expected to show such a strong earnings rebound but the estimates are not falling.
The S&P is up +15.7% for the year and the election is a dead heat. Billionaire Leon Cooperman, founder of Omega Advisors, predicted last week that a Romney victory would add +100 points to the S&P by year end. He predicted a decline in the S&P if president Obama was reelected. Concerns over election risk could weigh on the market in the weeks ahead. Of course there is nothing to prevent it from going higher regardless of which candidate is ahead in the polls. I am just reporting the things that could cause market movement.
There are a lot of smart people in analyst land. While nobody gets it right all the time the majority at least come close. Normally we can use their consensus estimates as a guideline for what to expect. That averages out the crazies on the high end and the low end and give us a roadmap towards the most likely direction.
I posted the graphic below at the end of February when the S&P was 1365. This was the predictions by most of the high profile analysts for the S&P at year end. As of today with the S&P at 1438 the majority got it really wrong. However, we are not yet at year end. These analysts took their outlook for earnings, Europe, inflation, economy, the election and the Fed and produced a consensus estimate of 1360 for year end. That excludes Jeremy Grantham at 875 as being well outside the conventional wisdom.
I know some of these people have revised their outlooks but the second most bearish person on the list, Adam Parker from Morgan Stanley, is standing firm at 1167. In 2011 he predicted the S&P would close at 1238 and it closed at 1257. That was a dynamite call considering the S&P went as high as 1370 and as low as 1074 during 2011. I just hope his 2012 estimate of 1167 is way off base. His base case is 1200-1214 if earnings were to improve but he is still expecting the 1167 as his bearish case.
Adam projects the S&P to earn $99 in 2012 compared to $98 in 2011. The consensus estimate for 2012 has been as high as $116 and is currently under $104 so earnings estimates are closing in on his $99 target. Unfortunately he is also projecting $99 for 2013. Consensus estimates for 2013 have been as high as $121 but have recently begun to decline sharply and are currently just over $115 compared to Adam's $99 estimate. The S&P has never earned over $100 in any year.
The change and percent columns represent the amount of change in the S&P to hit the various targets.
S&P Forecast Table
On the bearish side earnings are being revised lower. Europe is not done. The fiscal cliff is going to cause some headline risk because any attempt to resolve it will be a fierce political battle. The U.S. will hit the debt ceiling before year end and there is some election risk. On the positive side the economy is still growing even if it is just barely. The Fed is likely to take additional action next week although the impact may be muted.
As an indicator of global economic health the Baltic Dry Index ($BDI) charts the prices paid to ship commodities around the world. The BDI has fallen for the last seven days and is nearing a new multi-year low. This is a real life representation of rapidly declining shipments on a global basis. This is very negative for the global economic picture.
Baltic Dry index Chart
Everybody knows when the market sentiment becomes too bullish or too bearish the opposite movement is likely to occur. As of August 31st the sell side consensus indicator was at multi-year lows at 44.4% representing extreme bearishness. In theory the market was primed for a monster rebound as all those shorts were forced to cover. The Thursday spike was strong but volume was still muted for a gain of that size. This suggests there are still a lot of shorts clinging to their positions and that could drive the markets higher. Analysts have been calling this the most hated rally in history because sentiment is so bearish but the markets keep moving higher.
Sell Side Consensus Chart
At some point the market will return to valuation on fundamentals and not some headline from Europe, China or the FOMC. When it does the fundamentals suggest we could see the S&P move into a lower range.
Enter passively, exit aggressively!
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"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."