Evidence of a slowing world economy continues to mount as earnings season begins to unfold. Yesterday's release of FOMC minutes merely served to confirm what the markets seemed to know already; the US economy continues to slow but is still growing. Asia, especially China, and Europe continue to affect the global outlook and US corporate earnings.

The FOMC minutes show that many committee members fear that the US economic slowdown could worsen but failed to hint at any further easing. Rising inventories of wholesales goods are only one of the latest signs of slowdown, reported yesterday as climbing by .3% while sales fell by 8%. Adding to the problem of weak global growth are impending US tax hikes should congress fail to extend the Bush era tax cuts. The increased tax burden, coupled with the sluggish and unstable labor market, could severely impact consumer spending, the driving force of US gross domestic product.

Asian shares closed lower yesterday following the release of the FOMC minutes and a surprise interest rate cut from South Korea. The cut renewed worries of further economic slowdown that were exacerbated by a sharp drop in Australian employment. The Nikkei and Hang Seng indexes shed 1.5% and 2% respectively, followed by a .5% gain in the Shanghai composite.

Futures extended yesterday's losses in early pre-market trading and were not helped by today's surprising unemployment data. First time claims for unemployment fell by a surprising 26,000 claims to a four year low. Analysts had been expecting a more modest decline in the 1-2000 range. Initial claims were reported at 350,000 for the week ending July 7; Claims in the previous week were revised upward by 2000 resulting in a net drop of 24,000 from last week release. In the report one-time seasonal factors, led by fewer auto-sector lay-offs than normal, were cited as the primary reason claims fell so abruptly. The four week moving average of initial claims fell as well, dropping nearly 10,000 claims to 376,500.

Continuing claims for unemployment were as expected at 3.3 million. This number is a slight decline from last weeks data and correlates with Junes spike in initial claims. Total claims for unemployment climbed by a negligible amount, remaining steady at 5.87 million. The decline in unemployment seems to have halted and lends credence to expectations from the FOMC for unemployment to remain at these levels into 2013.

European shares added to the global sell off. Lack of direction from the FOMC, a poor start to US earnings season and fear of Chinese economic data scheduled to be released tomorrow combined to push the European markets down by roughly 1%. The FTSE led the European decline with a -1% drop, followed by the CAC 40 and Xetra Dax with -0.7 and -0.65% losses.

The price of oil fell today with the renewal of global slowdown fears. In a report, the IEA said that global slowing could cap world demand growth and put a “lid” on oil prices. Oil traded down today, losing close to $2 in early trading. There was a small rally into the close of trading reducing the decline to near $0.80, or -0.92%. The NYSE Arca Oil Index shed just over -0.62 in response to the change in oil. The index has rallied over the last 6 weeks but is still trading beneath the 200 moving average. The index could continue to rally up to the long term average but momentum indicators are inconsistent with a an advance past the 1200 level.

NYSE Arca Oil Index, daily

Gold softened today and hit an intraday low near $1550. The FOMC minutes put an end to any near term hopes of a surge in precious metals prices. The minutes shifted focus, at least for now, into the dollar which strengthened against the Euro and the Pound. The minutes show that some of the panel are open to further easing but it will take more weakness in the US economy for the full committee to support the move. The CBOE gold index continued its slide today and is now approaching lows set in late spring and potential support. Momentum indicators are consistent with a support level forming, showing divergences.

CBOE Gold Index, daily

The tech sector was hurt this morning by a new report from Gartner estimating that PC sales in the second quarter were down 6-11%. The drop was led by Asia weakened demand in Asia. PC sales dropped by-0.1% from last year, a full 2.2% lower than the already “conservative” estimate from IDC for 2.1% growth in the quarter. Applied Materials and Advanced Micro Devices both issued weak forecasts for sales in the second half of the year, following a warning on third quarter earnings from network gear maker Adtran. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index fell by more than 2.5% in early trading. Today's loss extends a strong move down from the 200 day moving average and touched near term support.

Philadelphia Semiconductor Index, weekly

Adtran added to yesterday's sharp losses, falling more than 4% today. The stock has been trading below its 200 day moving average for most of this year and is now suffering from increased short term bearishness as evidenced by the downward bounce from the short term moving average. The stock is approaching a two year low and possible support near $20.

Adtran, weekly

AMD has made a similar move as Adtran but is now approaching the corresponding support level. We'll have to carefully watch how AMD behaves at this level, a break down from here could signal another round of selling with the next support zone near $2.50.

AMD, weekly

Applied Materials is also trading down from its short term moving average but with much lighter volume. The stock is above a long term support level and momentum indicators show increasing bearishness, but again, like with AMD, it will be important to see how share price reacts when it does reach support.

Applied Materials, daily

Supervalu dropped sharply overnight after the food retailer suspended its dividend. The company reported that revenue and profits had fallen sharply and that it needed to reinvest the capital in better ways, namely reducing debt load. The supermarket giants earnings dropped -46% on a reduction in revenue of only 5%. The dividend, which was near 7% yesterday, proved to be a reason to hold the stock as investors got out today as fast as they could. The company has paid a dividend for 60 years and the move was not taken well by investors. Today the stock lost close to half of its value on a sharp spike in volume and dropped below support.

Supervalu, daily

Earnings season rolled on today as well though without many big names in the mix. Enterprise software maker SAP pre-released a portion of its second quarter statement today. The pre-release was a prudent move on the part of the company in light of recent warnings from other tech names. The company reported a 7% increase in second quarter operating profit and offered some insight into the health of the company. License sales in the second quarter rose by 26%, a key figure when contemplating future earnings and stability. The stock responded favorably and jumped over 3.5%, moving above the short term moving average for the third time in the last 4 weeks. The stock appears to have bottomed from its spring decline but still faces headwinds moving forward. A sustained move above the short term moving average with a corresponding strong move above the long term average is necessary for a bullish outlook on the stock.

SAP, daily

Bank of the Ozarks reported today as well. The regional bank has been a strong performer over the last three years, benefiting from the same strengths seen in the rest of the regional banking sector; Low or no exposure to Europe, increasing organic business and strengthening balance sheets. The company released its earnings after the bell but today's trading candlestick indicated hope for more good results. The bank is expected to report a 30% increase in earnings over last year at this time.

Bank of the Ozarks, daily

Fastenal reported a gain in earnings of 18% for the second quarter on a revenue increase of only 6.5%. Analysts had been expecting slightly weaker earnings on higher revenue. The report sent the stock shooting up through the short term moving average and gaining close to 8%. In the report sales growth, which was strong in the early part of the year and fell off during the spring, has been picking up again. Today's move was halted just shy of crossing the 200 day moving average and a recent support/resistance zone. This level will bear close watching as earnings season progresses and the third quarter outlook solidifies.

Fastenal, daily

JP Morgan is scheduled to release its earnings statement tomorrow. The big question on many minds is “how big is the Whale and how much impact did it really have on the business?” The trading loss and ensuing media frenzy put CEO Dimon's reputation at risk and severely impacted the stocks price. Investors will be looking for information that will help them see behind the losses and reveal the companies true strength. As it stands the company is expected to have curbed much of the losses already and to have exited the bulk of the bad trade. Any signs of fallout and further impacts from the Whale could be huge negatives for traders. JP Morgan is also the first bank giant to report earnings and will set the tone for the rest of the sector. The results, discounting the Whale loss, will be a driving force in market direction tomorrow and going into the first of next week. The stock dropped sharply in late day and after market hours in anticipation of the report.

JP Morgan, daily

The Dow and other major indexes reversed during the day and continued their climb into the afternoon hours. The Dow crossed into positive territory, if briefly, around 1:45 before sinking back below the break even line. The indexes continued to flirt with the break even line throughout the afternoon before settling down into negative territory just before the close. Worry over this quarters earnings are keeping traders in check until a clearer picture is available on the state of earnings.

The major indexes could rebound from here and continue the short term trend upward but will face stiff resistance at 13,000(Dow) and 1400(S&P). Further, MACD and stochastics do not support a strong rally at this point. The bullish momentum in June has declined going into July even though the indexes have made new highs. The stochastic indicator on the Dow is also divergent from the most recent high and is flattening out if not beginning to roll over. The SPX chart shows a similarly divergent stochastic, but one that is still pointing strongly up. Regardless of indicators a strong move above resistance is a requirement at this point for me. These levels coincide with the 78% retracement of the 2008-2009 declines and the same level the markets failed to maintain earlier in the year. If the Dow and S&P fail to cross above, and then maintain those levels more weakness could follow.

Dow, one day with previous close

Dow, daily with MACD

S&P 500, daily MACD

Dow, daily with Stochastic

S&P 500, daily with Stochastic

The Nasdaq daily chart shows the stochastic indicator to be flattish and divergent from the last peak. The Nasdaq also approached its 200 day moving average before heading higher.

Nasdaq, daily

The VIX continued its basically sideways move in the “calm” range between 15 and 20. The index's momentum remains bearish although it is weakening at this point.

Volatility Index (VIX), daily

Economic data will continue to be important though corporate earnings will dominate the news for the next few weeks. Tomorrow's release from JP Morgan will no doubt set the tone for Citigroup's release on Monday and Goldman Sachs on Tuesday. The rest of the week is packed full of reports that could add to market volatility. Further impacting tomorrow's trading is China's GDP figures which are scheduled to be released overnight. Analysts are predicting that the world's largest country could have slipped to a growth rate slower than 8% and could trend lower. Further slumping in China is feared because it will deflate the already lowered expectations for corporate earnings and growth.

Thomas Hughes