Despite another Monday littered with deal-making, retreating oil prices and a less-than-enthusiastic outlook on the U.S. economy from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) weighed on U.S. stocks, sending the S&P 500 to its third consecutive loss. The Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 followed suit, and in fact, were quite worse, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed a meager one-point gain.
In perhaps the most obvious statements we're likely to hear all week, the IMF said that higher oil prices and the slack pace of job growth are factors that will hamper the U.S. recovery. Goldman Sachs was out with a report telling clients that commodities prices may falter and that they should take profits, citing what the bank called ''nascent signs of demand destruction in the United States.'' Yep, $4 gasoline will do that. Personally, I am glad I work from home because you really do not want to know how high gas prices are here in Southern California.
By most technical measures, oil is over-bought and several media outlets have quoted various analysts as saying as much in recent days. If a cease-fire in Libya is reached and if Nigeria's go smoothly, two very big ''If's,''crude will probably be in for a near-term decline. Traders may have started pricing those factors in today as oil equities faltered across the board. I will not run through all the big oil stocks as I have included a chart of the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE), but I will mention that CVX and XOM did the Dow no favors today and APC was down 4.3% while OXY was off 3.2%.
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While there several M&A announcements, it is pretty easy to surmise why none of them did much to spark the market higher. Add up the price tags of three of the more marquee announcements and you get less than $6 billion with almost all of that total belonging to two deals.
Level 3 Communications (LVLT) will pay $3 billion in stock and debt for rival Global Crossing (GLBC) a deal that will combine two unprofitable telecom companies that had $6.26 billion in revenue last year between the two of them. Endo Pharmaceuticals (ENDP) said it will pay $2.9 billion for American Medical Systems (AMMD), a deal Endo is using to bolster its exposure to the fast growing urology products market.
Not mega deals, but the pace of M&A has been brisk to say the least in 2011. Earlier this year, Citigroup forecast that global M&A will total $2.9 trillion this year, representing 25% growth from 2010. Other firms forecast 35% or better in terms of M&A volume. I included chart that shows M&A revenue as a portion of investment banking revenue. It is from February so it does not reflect some of the big recent deals such as the AT&T (T)/T-Mobile deal or Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A, BRK.B) $9 billion deal for Lubrizol (LZ), but it illustrates that we are likely to see plenty more takeovers before the end of the year.
Investment Banking Revenue
Actually, what may be more interesting than the deals that are getting done are the ones that are not. For example, NYSE Euronext (NYX) rebuffed a takeover offer from Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ) and IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), opting to stick with the original takeover bid from Germany's Deutsche Boerse. The Nasdaq/ICE offer, which is higher than Deutsche Boerse's offer, valued NYX at $43.13 a share in cash and stock.
Nasdaq and ICE accurately note that a combination with NYX would create an exchange giant on two fronts: Cash equities and derivatives. Seems like a pretty compelling deal, but NYX apparently feels otherwise, leading Nasdaq and ICE to feel mystified.
''NYSE Euronextâ€™s Board of Directors is depriving its stockholders of the benefits of a superior proposal, disregarding the fundamental corporate governance principles that it has espoused for the rest of corporate America. The feedback we have received from NYSE Euronext stockholders is very positive, and we would expect NYSE Euronext would, at the very least, meet with us and our advisors to discuss the merits of the proposed combination,'' Nasdaq CEO Robert Grefield said in a statement.
NYSE Euronext Chart
It is the first Monday of a new earnings season and you know what that means: Dow component Alcoa (AA) delivered its first-quarter results after the close today. Since I usually have the privilege of reviewing Alcoa's report, I always say that while it is newsworthy, it probably will not do much for the Dow one way or the other because it is one of the lowest-priced stocks in a price-weighted index. Actually, Alcoa is the Dow's third-lowest priced stock. Bank of America gets the dubious distinction of having the Dow's lowest price tag.
As for Alcoa, the company posted a profit of $308 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $201 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier as revenue jumped to $5.96 billion from $4.9 billion. The profit is of course better than a loss, but analysts were expecting a profit of 27 cents a share on revenue of $6.19 billion. Excluding one-time items, Alcoa earned 28 cents a share.
While Alcoa shares were down more than 3% in the after-hours session, there were some positive sentiments from the largest U.S. aluminum producer. CEO Klaus Kleinfeld reiterated that his company is comfortable with a 12% increase in global aluminum demand this year.
''Our outlook for the rest of 2011 and beyond remains very positive,'' Kleinfeld said in a statement. The company also said its average selling price for aluminum jumped 15% in the first quarter to $2,682 per metric ton.
Looking at the charts, the S&P 500's small drop on Monday was enough to take the index back below 1325, so it could be pivotal for buyers to step in and buy this dip. If 1320 does not hold has as support, a retreat back to 1300 could be seen. Nothing has changed in terms of upside resistance looming at 1333 and again at 1340. Going forward, earnings had better be good. If they disappoint, there will be no better excuse for the market to sell off.
S&P 500 Chart
There was not too much excitement with Dow's end-of-day result today and support at 12,320 did not come into play today. I am not convinced that Alcoa alone could drag the Dow down there tomorrow, but JPMorgan Chase (JPM) reports before the bell on Wednesday and Bank of America (BAC) chimes in on Friday, so there will be some more noteworthy catalysts (perhaps) for the Dow later this week.
The Nasdaq is probably the most concerning of the three major indexes at this point, closing just a point above support 2770, indicating the index needs to patch together some closes above 2780 or it could be in for more downside. Even a close above 2780 is not the most bullish of signs because resistance is stout at 2800. Google (GOOG), the largest U.S. Internet search provider, reports Thursday after the close.
For as good as the Russell 2000 was looking a couple of weeks ago, it is looking very ugly right now. A couple of failed attempts to really break through that old resistance from 2007 have sent the index careening back to the 830 area. If that does not hold as a support, the next stop could be the 50-day moving average at 817.
Russell 2000 Chart
For the most part, S&P 500 constituents should treat investors to some good news regarding first-quarter earnings, but that news is probably priced in at this point. As I mentioned earlier, any disappointments on the profit front provide the perfect excuse for a sell-off. Another decent excuse is higher raw materials costs whether those costs are attributable to oil, corn or copper prices, they have the potential to result in some gloomy sentiment for full-year outlooks.
Something else to consider is that while so many companies are flush with cash, it appears one of the preferred methods for spending that cash is M&A. That is great for the bankers, but acquisitions rarely lead to job creation and at some point, the market will probably want to see some upside surprises in the monthly jobs reports.
Today's fun fact is one I came up with on my own and should be considered as entertainment, not investment advice, nor is it a slight against South Africa. Charles Scwartzel, a South African, won the green jacket at Augusta National yesterday. The average yearly return for the S&P 500 in the previous four years a South African has won the Masters is -7.5%. In all fairness, it should be noted that statistic is skewed by a 37% drop for the index in 2008 when South African Trevor Immelman won.