Wednesday is shaping up to be another quiet session on Wall Street as the east coast is buried under a blizzard of snow. Stocks initially sank on Bernanke's comments about removing stimulus from the system. This boosted the U.S. dollar and commodity-related issues sank. Oil has recovered from its lows with a 37-cent gain to $74.12 a barrel. Gold futures have also pared their losses, down $1.00 near $1,076 an ounce.
Asian markets were up across the board. China's central bank governor had some positive comments on the pace of bank lending, which fueled a bounce for the financials. The Hong Kong Hang Seng rose 0.67%. The Chinese Shanghai index rallied 1.1%. Over in Japan the nightmare refuses to end for Toyota. First it was sticky gas pedals for several models. Then there was news over braking problems with several hybrids including the Prius. Now there is a new report out today that Toyota is recalling certain 4-cylinder Camry models for steering problems. Shares of Toyota managed to bounce in spite of the news. The Japanese NIKKEI index gained 0.3% on the session.
It's day three for the oversold bounce in Europe with most of the major markets in positive territory on Wednesday. Hope is growing that some sort of aid package will be put together for Greece although the details are still really vague. EU leaders are holding a special summit on the economy tomorrow. Meanwhile the Bank of England released some details of their latest inflation report and suggested that England will keep interest rates at super low levels for an extremely long period of time. The BoE says they have not ruled out increasing their quantitative easing program. The English FTSE index rose 0.39%. The French CAC-40 rallied 0.6%. The German DAX gained 0.69%.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was due to appear at a hearing before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee but the meeting was postponed due to the weather in Washington. Bernanke's prepared remarks were released to the media anyway and his comments sent stocks lower and the dollar higher early this morning. Ben didn't say anything we didn't already know. The U.S. can't keep rates near zero forever and eventually the Fed will need to raise rates. Here's an excerpt from his comments:
"Although at present the U.S. economy continues to require the support of highly accommodative monetary policies, at some point the Federal Reserve will need to tighten financial conditions"
Bernanke went on to say that, "Before long, we expect to consider a modest increase in the spread between the discount rate and the target federal funds rate"
In other news the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) said that demand for home loans was falling. Their U.S. mortgage applications index fell 1.2% last week. The organization said that 30-year fixed mortgages fell below 5.0% for the first time since mid December.
Currently stocks are off their worst levels of the session after traders bought the dip in the S&P 500 near 1060. The NASDAQ composite is flirting with the unchanged level but still under its 10-dma. The Dow Industrials are down less than five points but also trading under its 10-dma. If you look at most of the major indices, it is possible to interpret the recent bounce of last Friday's low as a small bear-flag pattern.
The best performers today are the financials with the BIX and BKX banking sector indices up 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively. Oil services are in positive territory and insurance and casino stocks round out the best performers. As for the rest of the market the declines seem to be mild.
Chart of the S&P 500:
Chart of the NASDAQ:
Chart of the Dow Industrials:
Chart of the Russell 2000 index:
After scanning the OptionInvestor.com play list I'm not seeing a lot of movement. JPM is up thanks to strength in the banking sector but JPM is still trading under resistance. MHS is bouncing but we were expecting a bounce. Otherwise it's a very quiet session.