Improved expectations out of Europe helped power the markets with a major short squeeze but afternoon comments blew out support and the indexes closed well off their highs.

Market Statistics

The EU has been saying for weeks the 21% haircut on Greek debt would not change. They had debt holders vote on the haircut and the debt swap for longer dated debt and they barely got the required number of votes to proceed with the program. However, the debt is trading at 50% of face value today.

A Financial Times article appeared about 2:30 saying 7 of the 17 EU Finance Ministers are opposed to the terms of the second bailout of 109 billion euros and arguing that private creditors should take a larger haircut on their bond holdings. If the debt is only selling for 50% in the market why should they agree to only a 21% haircut?

The news sparking the short squeeze to start with was rumors the EU would leverage up the €400 billion EFSF to €3.2 trillion (8:1) by creating a Special Investment Vehicle (SIV) similar to TARP. While there is no confirmation of those rumors and Germany claims there will be no change the rumors do have credibility in the market.

What we do know is the EU ministers have had discussions about those changes. The fact they are actually talking about it suggests there will be some escalation in the EFSF and that was bullish for the markets. Now that the genie is out of the bottle it will be very hard for the EU ministers to not act on it. They can't stuff it back into the bottle without a severe market reaction.

The markets were very oversold after last week and Monday afternoon's rumor started the short squeeze and strong gains in Europe and Asia overnight just added fuel to the fire.

The Financial Times article suggesting there was a split in the coalition created fears it would be hard to get agreement on leveraging up the EFSF as well. The 21% haircut had already been factored in and they have assured everyone for weeks the percentage would not change. Obviously it is not over until it is over and the rules are still subject to change. Some ministers believe the EFSF or ECB should just buy the debt at 50% in the market place and that would prevent a default and then sell it back to Greece at the 50% they paid for it. That would cut Greece's outstanding debt significantly and have the effect of a restructuring without the dramatic impact of a default. Obviously some holders would opt to continue holding on the hopes of eventually getting paid but the overall impact of an open market operation would be positive.

In the U.S. the economic news was not as bad as it could have been. The "less bad" scenario is still working. The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Survey for September came in at -6.0 compared to -10.0 for August. It is still in contraction but it did improve over the prior month.

Unfortunately new orders declined to -17 from -11 and backorders only improved slightly to -23 from -25. The biggest improvement came in the employment component, which rose from 1.0 to 7.0. Capital expenditure plans fell to a new low at 5.0 from 10.0 and is now at the lowest level since the recession.

This report may have been less bad but there is no light at the end of the Richmond tunnel. The outlook is negative and the drop in new orders suggests we will see a lower headline number next month.

Richmond Fed Chart

Consumer Confidence for September held near its recent lows with a headline reading at 45.4. That was only a +0.2 increase from the 45.2 reading in August. This survey was conducted before the market crash last week.

The present conditions component declined to 32.5 from 34.3 and the expectations component rose to 54.0 from 52.4. Those will plans to buy autos declined nearly two points to 11.4. Home buyers increased slightly to 4.9% from 4.0% most likely on the falling interest rates. Appliance buyers really took a hit falling from 49.4% to 39.2%. That metric more than anything else suggests consumers are moving into hoard mode.

Those finding jobs hard to get rose to 50% and nearly a 30 year high.

Consumer Confidence Chart

The Case Shiller Home Price Index for July improved slightly with home prices in the 20-city composite down -4.1% from the -4.5% in June. This is a lagging report and home price declines are old news so it had no impact on the market.

Weekly Chain Store Sales declined -0.2% compared to -1.2% the prior week. This report has so much noise from week to week that it is ignored by the market.

The next few days are going to be critical for market health with quite a few high profile economic events. If the news is just 'less bad" I am not sure the market is going to be able to maintain any positive momentum.

Economic Calendar

After the bell Accenture (ACN) posted earnings of 91-cents that beat the street by 2-cents. Revenue was also slightly higher at $6.7 billion. The company raised its dividend by 50% to 67.5 cents. Accenture purchased 13.1 million of its own shares during the quarter.

They also booked $8.4 billion in new orders and the highest quarterly bookings ever. The company raised guidance for 2012 saying clients are taking steps to adjust to the current economic volatility and that is driving demand for services. Accenture guided to full year earnings of $3.80-$3.88 and above analyst estimates of $3.76. Full year revenue guidance was $$27.3-$28.5 billion compared to estimates for $27.43 billion. For the current quarter ACN guided to $6.8-$7.0 billion and higher than the $6.7 billion estimates. An Edward Jones analyst pointed out that Oracle had also given a strong forecast that along with ACN appears to suggest IT enterprise spending remains strong.

ACN Chart

Jabil Circuits (JBL) posted earnings of 62-cents compared to estimates of 56-cents. The company also guided higher for the current quarter to 62-70 cents compares to estimates at 61-cents. Revenue guidance was inline. Shares of JBL rose +8% after the report.

Jabil is a contract supplier to Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Nokia and RIMM. If they think business is improving then technology sales by those companies must also be improving. The company said "demand for our expertise in managing global supply chain networks remains robust, especially now as customers increasingly focus on growth in developing economies."

Jabil Chart

Paychex (PAYX) also reported earnings that beat the street. They earned 41-cents compared to estimates of 38-cents. Revenue was $563.1 million compared to estimates of $554.6 million. Shares rose about 50-cents after the close.

Transocean Offshore (RIG) was put on notice by the Coast Guard that a series of "sheen sightings" have been reported in the area where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank. Video inspection of the capped well found no leak and the Coast Guard suspects the sheen could be coming from the sunken rig, which had thousands of gallons of diesel as well as oil and other fluids in containment vessels. One of those could have sprung a leak. Transocean will be responsible for any cleanup expenses if the sunken rig is leaking. RIG shares closed negative and $3 off their highs on the news.

Sears Holdings (SHLD) rose +6.5% after Seeking Alpha reported Sears may be ready to start marketing leases for its underutilized real estate assets. Sears has 3,768 locations available for lease. The options include store-in-store leasing where a company can create a retail presence inside an existing Sears store. They are offering new construction sites on their existing locations. They can also establish an independent presence next to a Sears inside the malls. The news came after Sears announced a new push to "externalize" their brands by selling them inside other retailers like Costco. I was in my local Ace Hardware over the weekend and I was shocked to see an entire isle of Craftsman tools. Maybe after years of relative dormancy Sears is about to make a comeback as a growth stock.

Sears Chart

Research in Motion (RIMM) rallied +4% after rumors surfaced that Carl Icahn may be readying a run at RIMM. The stock has a forward PE of about 4 and is severely depressed but has a strong user base and large portfolio of patents. It would make a perfect acquisition candidate for somebody like Icahn. Analysts theorize he would have to acquire 5% or more of the $12 billion company in order to get any respect and lobby for a seat on the board. The two co-CEOs both own more than 5% individually. There have been several recommendations for RIMM to split off the network operations side of the business in order to unlock value. The stock has declined about 68% since February.

RIMM Chart

Goldman Sachs (GS) had a bad day with more than one analyst slashing estimates significantly. Meredith Whitney cut estimates for the current quarter to 31-cents from $3.39. That is a monumental cut and would normally have crashed the stock but Goldman is already rumored to show a loss for this quarter. That would be only the second quarter ever that Goldman has lost money. Whitney also cut the full year 2011 estimates from $11.50 to $6.17 and 2012 estimates to $7.85 from $15.30. The consensus estimates for 2012 are $15.09 so that is also a major decline.

Whitney also cut Morgan Stanley estimates from 53-cents to 28-cents. The analyst consensus is for 37-cents.

Goldman may be preparing plans to cut employees and costs even more dramatically than previously announced at $1.2 billion. The new cuts are rumored to be in the hundreds of millions and could add another 20% in job cuts to those already announced. Employee pay is expected to be cut along with expense reimbursements and cutbacks on travel. The low interest rate environment, slow M&A, extremely volatile trading environment and a flood of regulatory changes are depressing the entire banking sector. Goldman was once thought to be immune to the mundane pressures that impacted other banks. Unfortunately the bigger they are the harder they fall. Strangely Goldman shares ended the day with a gain.

Goldman Chart

Gold and silver rebounded sharply today after the dollar imploded overnight. The prospect for an ECB rate cut plus an extended QE program in Europe as a way to print their way out of the debt crisis also helped to push gold higher. The analysts talking up $2000 gold in 2012 came back to the microphones after the dip to $1535 on Sunday night. Gold rebounded to $1655 intraday and settled at $1652. The dip on Friday/Monday was related to the increase in margins by the CME and simple profit taking.

Gold Chart

Silver rebounded to $33.58 intraday but declined with the market to close at just under $32. This was still significantly better than the overnight dip to $26.15 on Sunday night. Anyone buying the SLV ETF on Monday had a good day today.

Silver Chart

Crude prices rebounded to almost $85 intraday and more than a $4 gain but declined with the market to close at $83.68 on worries the EU was going to split and fall back into a spitting contest instead of actually getting something done. Brent moved back over $105 again. The EIA inventory reports the last two weeks have been severely negative with a decline of more than 13 million barrels. This suggests tomorrow's report could show a gain as shipping arrivals got caught up after a couple weeks of storms. There are two current storms, Ophelia and Philippe currently heading our way from northern Africa but neither have developed any material strength as of today.

U.S. WTI Chart

Brent Chart

The afternoon decline was blamed on disagreements between the EU Finance Ministers on how much of a haircut private holders of Greek debt should take. Come on, did anyone really not know there was disagreement between the ministers on nearly everything? Germany wants larger haircuts because Germany is on the hook for 27% of every euro paid out in the bailouts. If the EFSF is approved at 400 billion euros that would mean every German citizen would be liable for 4,000 euros of the debt. That is like saying citizens of Colorado or Alabama would see their taxes go up $4,000 each because Vermont spent itself into oblivion. As the deep pockets member of the EU I can certainly understand Germany's position. However, they should have considered this potential before they joined the euro zone. They have no control over the weaker members but they still have the liability. Sounds like any parent of a teenager.

We will remain hostage to Europe until the story ends and that could be a long time. Hopefully investors will tire of this comment driven trading and begin to ignore Europe. This is completely within the control of the EU members. If they would quit running to a microphone to discuss their disagreements in the press the rest of the world could move on with our lives. That is not going to happen!

If you are a student of the market you knew by noon the short squeeze was not going to last. We gapped open to 1192 on the SP and we could not move over 1195 by mid afternoon. That is the kiss of death. It means there was no follow on buying and it was just a short squeeze. Rarely do opening gaps of that magnitude lead to additional gains at the close. Who in their right mind would want to voluntarily go long with the Dow up more than +300 points?

I looked at several hundred charts this afternoon and everyone looked just like the S&P chart. Investors holding took profits on the bounce after three days of gains and new shorts came in at the close when they realized no further gains were being made. If we don't move higher tomorrow the chart pattern will have grown increasingly bearish with another lower high and a rounding formation.

Resistance is now 1195 followed by 1220 and support at 1140 and 1120. The range has not changed despite the -6% decline last week and two days of strong gains. For confirmation you need only to look at the VIX. Despite two consecutive days of triple digit gains on the Dow the VIX is just under 40. That is not a sign of bullish sentiment. Traders are still buying puts in volume to protect their longs and to profit from an anticipated decline. If bullish sentiment was growing we would have seen the VIX decline to the low 30s.

S&P Chart

The Dow chart looks exactly like the S&P with a lower high unless something happens to continue this rally past 11,500. The Dow actually looks weaker than the S&P. The Dow closed -179 points off its high. Despite the +146 point gain that is not a bullish day. It suggest no conviction on the part of the buyers and further weakness ahead. Support is 10,800 and 10,600.

Dow Chart

On the Nasdaq it was a mixed day for the large caps. Google gained +7 but Amazon lost -$6 and Apple -4. Those are not big losses but it still shows weakness and lack of conviction. Amazon was probably down ahead of its tablet announcement on Wednesday. Sell the news! Apple is under pressure because of the reports of iPad component orders being cut for Q4. If Apple can't sell iPads in Q4 we are in serious trouble.

The Nasdaq chart is still better than the Dow/S&P but only barely. The index is still stuck under resistance at 2600 with support at 2450. It was another range bound day.

Nasdaq Chart

A curious thing happened today. The Russell 2000 gained nearly twice as much in percentage terms as the other indexes. In theory that would suggest a little more fund manager participation. Unfortunately I think it was just because the small caps were more heavily shorted. I know we should watch the R2K for leadership but I don't think today was a leadership day. Continue to look for outperformance but fade any results from heavy short covering. Resistance 695, support 645.

Russell 2000 Chart

I don't have high hopes for Wednesday. If there is not a news event to trigger another short squeeze then traders will be focused on the U.S. economic reports and the continued squabbling out of Europe. Pimco's El-Erian warned in a televised interview on Tuesday that Europe had to act quickly to solve this mess or risk a catastrophic event. He said Europe only have "days" not weeks to solve the problem and isolate the weakness or the entire world would suffer. Pimco is predicting a recession for Europe in 2012 because of delays in action by the richer nations.

These kinds of comments are only going to increase as the time grows short for the next bailout payment to Greece. It is becoming more likely as each day passes that a crisis point is near. They will either isolate the problem or it will fester and contaminate the rest of the PIIGS. This is not a positive market environment and volatility is likely to continue.

Jim Brown

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