Financial Review

Thursday, June 05, 2014 – The European Central Bank Has Done Something

The European Central Bank Has Done Something by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 98 = 16,836 SPX + 12 = 1940 NAS + 44 = 4296 10 YR YLD – .02 = 2.58% OIL – .18 = 102.46 GOLD + 9.60 = 1254.20 SILV + .24 = 19.04   The Dow and the S&P finished with record high closes.   We start in Europe. The European Central Bank has done something. No, I’m serious, they did something; not just talked about doing “whatever it takes”, they actually took some action; nothing terribly bold; probably not enough, but something. Specifically, the ECB cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.15% from 0.25%, and the deposit rate to minus 0.10% from zero. The rate cuts will take effect next week, on June 11. They are trying the  negative interest rate, which has never been tried on a large scale, in a bid to push down the value of the euro and encourage banks to invest excess cash rather than hoard it in central bank vaults.   The ECB will also begin offering four-year loans to banks at the benchmark interest rates, under conditions meant to ensure that lenders use the money to issue loans to businesses. The loans are designed so that they can’t just borrow the money from the ECB at 0.15% and toss it into government bonds.   Also, the ECB will start buying packages of loans, or asset-backed securities; another measure designed to push lending to small businesses; right now …

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Financial Review

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 – An Airtight Defense

An Airtight Defense by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 15 = 16,737 SPX + 3 = 1927 (record close) NAS + 17 = 4251 10 YR YLD + .01 = 2.60% OIL – .27 = 102.39 GOLD – 1.30 = 1244.60 SILV – .01 = 18.90   Eight times a year the Federal Reserve gathers economic updates from the 12 districts and publishes the information about two weeks before its FOMC meetings. The data is published in a beige folder, and that is why it is called the Beige Book, although it might actually refer to the writing style. Anyway, economic activity expanded all across the country, with most districts reporting moderate or modest growth. Consumer spending expanded across almost all districts. Tourism was another bright spot and manufacturing activity expanded across the country. Home sales were described as “mixed across the country” even as home prices continue to rise. Labor markets were described as steady. Inflation was tame, with a slight exception for higher food prices in some areas.   In other words, when the Fed meets in a couple of weeks, there won’t be any big changes in monetary policy.   The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 56.3%, its highest level since August, from 55.2% in April. That’s the number and they’re sticking with it.   The US trade deficit grew to $47 billion in April, up from $44 billion in March. Exports slowed in April, down slightly to $193 billion. Imports, meanwhile, …

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Financial Review

Tuesday, June 03, 2014 – Always Look on the Bright Side

Always Look on the Bright Side by Sinclair Noe   DOW – 21 = 16,722 SPX – 0.73 = 1924 NAS – 3 = 4234 10 YR YLD + .06 = 2.59% OIL + .37 = 102.84 GOLD + 1.40 = 1245.90 SILV + .05 = 18.91   Automakers reported strong sales of new cars in May, the strongest annual sales rate since before the 2008 financial crisis. Industry sales rose 11.3%. Chrysler and GM had their best month of May in 7 years. A record number of recalls at GM since the first of the year did not crimp demand for the automaker’s new vehicles. Average transaction price for a new vehicle in May was $32,307, according to research firm Kelley Blue Book, which said average new-car prices were up $653 from a year ago, but down slightly from April.   The city council of Seattle Washington has voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest level of any major US city. Wages would begin to rise next year, ultimately reaching $15 from Washington state’s minimum of $9.32 over three to seven years, depending on the business. Under the plan, firms with more than 500 employees nationally will be given at least three years to phase in the increase, those who provide health insurance subsidies would get four years and smaller businesses would be given seven years. US minimum wage is $7.25, although 38 states have set higher levels. The states of California, Connecticut …

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Financial Review

Monday, June 02, 2014 – Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan by Sinclair Noe DOW + 26 = 16,743 SPX + 1 = 1924 NAS – 5 = 4237 10 YR YLD + .07 = 2.53% OIL – .31 = 102.40 GOLD – 7.80 = 1244.50 SILV – .05 = 18.86   The ISM got it wrong this morning. The Institute for Supply Management reported its May manufacturing index came in at a weaker than expected 53.2, but there was a software problem that didn’t properly reflect season adjustments; the ISM issued a revision; the May index was 56.0; but for some reason, that wasn’t correct, so they issued another revision. The May manufacturing index was 55.4; that’s the number and they’re sticking with it. Embarrassing? Yes.   Meanwhile, stocks and bonds were all over the board. Stocks fell into negative territory early on, but bounced back as revisions were issued. Bonds are hyper sensitive to economic growth, and the yield on the 10 year note moved higher and stayed higher, despite the initial numbers and the revisions. And if you look past the revisions, and you should, because it appears to be nothing more than an honest mistake, caught quick and corrected; the bottom line is a pretty strong number for manufacturing, more or less in line with the idea of a second quarter bounce in the economy.   The bigger story this week will be the jobs report on Friday. It is widely expected the economy added about 200,000 to 215,000 jobs in May, which would …

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Financial Review

Friday, May 30, 2014 – Record Highs, Bonds, Coal Mines

Record Highs, Bonds, Coal Mines by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 18 = 16,717 SPX + 3 = 1923 (another record) NAS – 5 = 4242 (not a record) 10 YR YLD + .01 = 2.45% OIL – .71 =  102.87 GOLD – 4.60 = 1252.30 SILV – .23 = 18.91   For the week, the Dow rose 0.7%, the S&P 500 gained 1.2% and the Nasdaq added 1.4%. For the month of May, the Dow gained 0.8%, the S&P 500 rose 2.1% and the Nasdaq climbed 3.1%. Meanwhile, if you are looking for action, the bond market is the place; the yield on the 10 year note has dropped from 2.65% to 2.45% this month.   Nearly everyone is looking for an explanation as to why longer-term interest rates continue to fall in the face of reduced Fed support and what is being hyped as better economic data. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Federal Reserve has been propping up Treasury bond prices, and suppressing yields, for the past several years by buying large quantities of bonds each month in an effort to increase investment and consumption, and force investors into riskier assets. To some extent, the Fed’s QE purchases have worked; ultra-low interest rates have supported housing price increases and have led to skyrocketing stock prices.  Household net worth has increased by $25 trillion from the financial-crisis lows in the first quarter of 2009.  However, these gains in net worth have overwhelmingly accrued to the well-to-do while low- …

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Financial Review

Thursday, May 29, 2014 – First Quarter GDP and Extreme Weather

First Quarter GDP and Extreme Weather by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 65 = 16,698 SPX + 10 = 1920 NAS + 22 = 4247 10 YR YLD + .01 = 2.44% OIL + .79 = 103.51 GOLD – 2.70 = 1256.90 SILV + .02 = 19.14 The economy was worse than expected in the first quarter. The first estimate of first quarter gross domestic product showed 0.1% growth. Today, we got the second estimate and it showed 1.0% contraction. We figured the second estimate would show contraction but most estimates were calling for just 0.1% to 0.6% contraction. The newly revised estimate incorporates additional economic data released in recent weeks. Higher-than-expected imports and slower-than-expected inventory growth dragged the economy into negative territory.   US based corporations posted slightly lower, after tax, seasonally adjusted, first quarter profits of $1.88 trillion for the quarter, down from $1.905 trillion in the fourth quarter; but those numbers were not adjusted for inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments; we know corporations are still holding bloated inventories. A big buildup in private inventories boosted economic growth in the third quarter of 2013, but left a hangover that weighed on growth in the first quarter of 2014. Inventories subtracted 1.62 percentage points from GDP growth, compared with an initial estimate of 0.57 percentage point subtracted from growth.   Business investment declined at a 1.6% pace, revised from an initially estimated decline at a 2.1% pace. Spending on structures fell at a 7.5% pace and spending on …

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Financial Review

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 – Reflecting the Economy

Reflecting the Economy by Sinclair Noe   DOW – 42 = 16,633 SPX – 2 = 1909 NAS – 11 = 4225 10 YR YLD – .08 = 2.43% OIL – 1.03 = 103.08 GOLD = 4.70 = 1259.60 SILV – .01 = 19.13   The major stock market indices were lower, but it wasn’t a big move, and we’ve been 4 up days, so today’s pullback was nothing but a pause. What was interesting today was the move in the bond market. The yield on the 10 year treasury dropped all the way to 2.43%; that’s the lowest rate in almost a year. The 10 year treasury has dropped 22 basis points this month, meaning treasuries are on track for the best month since January. Now, remember that the Federal Reserve is supposed to be tapering, cutting back on large scale purchases of treasury bonds.   What’s fueling the move? It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. Europe is facing some sort of monetary stimulus package from the ECB next week; meanwhile, a report showed German unemployment rose and that pushed yields on the 10 year bund to 1.28%; that trade then spilled over to the US markets, toss in end of month window dressing and there was likely a short squeeze. There are some big short positions on treasuries right now; more shorts than longs.   At the end of the day, the bond market is supposed to reflect the economy; not an exact image but rather a mirror …

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Financial Review

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 – Currently Trending Here

Currently Trending Here by Sinclair Noe DOW + 69 = 16,675 SPX + 11 = 1911 NAS + 51 = 4237 10 YR YLD – .02 = 2.52% OIL – .24 – 104.11 GOLD – 29.20 = 1264.30 SILV – .40 = 19.14   The S&P 500 Index closed at another record high. The Dow Industrial Average is just a little below the May 13 record of 16,715. The Russell 2000 index of small and mid-caps confirmed the uptrend. The Russell had been lagging and there was a concern that small caps might drag the blue chips lower. While the Russell is still down about 2% year to date, on Friday it moved above its 200 day moving average.   Any time the market is trending, it makes sense to look for divergences, or any indicator that might signal a change in trend, but the most important thing to watch is still the trend itself; in other words the market scorecard is measured in price. And right now the trend is up.   Let’s start with some economic news. The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices continued to show gains in prices for existing home sales; the 10-city composite was up 0.8% and the 20-city composite was up 0.9% month over month; and respective year over year gains of 12.6% and 12.4%. Nineteen of the 20 cities showed positive returns in March; New York was the only city to decline. As of March 2014, average home prices across the United States are …

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Financial Review

Friday, May 23, 2014 – Always Check Your Spreadsheets

Always Double Check Your Spreadsheets by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 63 = 16,606 SPX + 8 = 1900 NAS + 31 = 4185 10 YR YLD – .02 = 2.54% OIL + .67 = 104.41 GOLD – .80 = 1293.90 SILV – .01 = 19.58   The S&P 500 Index closed at a record high of 1900.53. It was a record high close but not a record high considering intraday pricing. The S&P hit an intraday high of 1902 on May 13, however it closed on that day at 1897. Today, the intraday high was 1901, but I’ve always considered the close to be a more significant number than the intraday high. Since the start of the year we’ve been on a roller coaster ride in the markets, but as of today the Dow is up 0.2% year to date, the Nasdaq is up 0.2% for the year, and the S&P is up 2.8% since the start of the year.   If you are a regular, you might wonder why we aren’t celebrating a record high. The first answer is that 1900 is just a number with no special significance; the second answer is that we only celebrate when the Dow Industrial Average hits a record high, and the last record high close on the Dow was May 13 at 16,715. We don’t celebrate S&P records, and like so many things, the reasoning is entrenched in archaic traditional dogma.   An example would be Memorial Day, which started after …

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Financial Review

Thursday, May 22, 2014 – A Heckuva Business Model

A Heckuva Business Model by Sinclair Noe   DOW + 10 = 16,543 SPX + 4 = 1892 NAS + 22 = 4154 10 YR YLD + .02 = 2.55% OIL – .31 = 103.76 GOLD + 1.80 = 1294.70 SILV + .10 = 19.59   Yesterday we told you Russia and China had signed a 30 year, $400 billion dollar deal for Russia to deliver natural gas to China. Today, both countries vetoed a United Nations Security Council Resolution seeking to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes. In the short-term, the Russia-China gas deal won’t have a big impact. The deal will not be in place until 2018 and even then will only see Russia selling a fraction of its gas exports to China every year, exports to the EU could still well be two to four times the size.   The economic links between Russia and Europe will continue to be significant and they will continue to be reliant on each other when it comes to energy; the former to sell the latter to buy, but this link gives an advantage to Russia, especially when the weather turns cold. At least symbolically the deal highlights Russia’s desire to move away from links with Europe. Combine this with Europe’s desire to increase energy security and the relations between the two sides could become increasingly cold and distant. Although, some countries due to geographical proximity, such as Bulgaria or Hungary; or due to long standing …

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