Bull and bear recap
+ Jobless claims plunge 50K to their lowest level in almost 3 years and clearly demonstrate a strengthening labor market. Increased confidence means increased credit use = strengthening recovery. Banks and homebuilders have been leading the ongoing S&P 500 rally.
+ Manufacturing shows more signs of stabilization, not an imminent recession. The Empire Manufacturing Survey rises more than 5 points, while the 6-month outlook surges 10 points. Last week’s ghastly rail traffic report (intermodal) was nothing more than an aberration. This week’s report shows a sharp rebound, outperforming last year by 7.4%. Industrial Production rebounds 0.4%, lead by manufacturing’s best performance since December 2010 (+0.9% vs. -0.4% in November).
+ Inflation is cooling and will give the Fed leeway to initiate further monetary policy (it’s becoming a worldwide phenomenon: Goldilocks environment coming up?). If economic conditions slow, the bears won’t be able to seize control of the market as the Fed will act as a bullish albatross over their machinations.
+ Risk markets power higher for the week, while copper breaks out of its consolidating triangle to the upside, a sign that the global economy is poised to reaccelerate. Chinese data strengthens the “further stimulus” and “soft-landing” thesis. Furthermore, markets are sensing continued progress in the Eurozone crisis. Confidence is making a comeback, as the German ZEW investor survey hints at a turning point for the Eurozone’s largest economy.
+ The housing market continues its recovery. Mortgage applications for purchase rise 10.3% after an 8.1% increase in the prior week; the result is higher home sales. Furthermore, record low mortgage rates are spurring refinancing applications, surging 26.4% this past week to their best levels since August. More refinancings = more disposable income for the consumer due to lower monthly mortgage payments. Finally, the NAHB housing market index rises 4 points to its best reading in 4.5 years.
- Sentiment is nearing euphoric levels. Retail investors and even financial advisors are expecting stock prices to move higher. The wall of worry that characterizes bull markets has crumbled. Remember rule number 5 by Bob Farrell, “The public buys the most at the top and the least at the bottom.”
- Meanwhile, this earnings season has seen the lowest percentage of companies beating analysts estimates since the 3rd quarter in 2008; I don’t need to tell you what happened thereafter. Furthermore,…
- … the EFSF is hit with a downgrade. Authorities brush it off. More downgrades are coming. The political tide is turning against the Euro . Marine La Pen of the anti-euro National Front party is making serious gains in the polls. François Hollande is closer to winning the French presidency and will demand a renegotiation of the euro fiscal compact. On the Greek front, “Even members of the committee concede the process (Greek private sector involvement negotiations) is unlikely to succeed in time for the crunch date: a 14.5bn bond repayment falling due on March 20.” Finally, if things were all hunky dory, why is the IMF asking for $500 billion? —-The news trend keeps getting worse.
- ISCS and Redbook weekly consumer metrics are showing a serious slowdown, even after last month’s disappointing Retail Sales report. Furthermore, national gas prices have risen roughly 3.6% and the consumer is already feeling it. Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort Index falls to -47.4.
- While China’s GDP numbers beat analyst expectations, they portray significant weakening in the country’s export and real estate sectors. Furthermore, persistently high inflation will limit the amount of stimulus authorities can administer.