The Dow closed up 5 points, while the S&P gained 0.1% to 1554 (still 11 points shy) and the Nasdaq added 0.1%.
Wall Street appears to have slipped into a familiar pattern, only now that pattern is reversed. From 2009 till 2012, Wall Street’s intraday movements were very much beholden to expectations or otherwise of Fed action. A piece of bad news – and in this period there was plenty of it about, sourced from Europe, a slowing China and double-dip fears at home – would send stock prices plummeting, at least until someone pointed out bad news would likely force the Fed into QE, or more QE, and prices would recover once more and push higher. By 2012, QE3 was holding the fort.
Since late last year and into 2013, the story is somewhat flipped over. We know the QE is there, and probably even more of it if it came to it. It’s now pieces of good news that send stock prices dropping from this year’s lofty levels, on fears the Fed might turn off the tap sooner rather than later. But again the buyers enter to push prices higher, this time actually feeling good about the US economy.
Last night US retail sales data were released, showing a 1.1% gain in February. With the January payroll tax hike and higher petrol prices impacting over the month, economists had nervously expected only a 0.7% rise. The US consumer is resilient, it would appear. The economy is looking pretty good.
The Dow fell 39 points from the bell, but in a carbon copy of Tuesday night’s session, it turned around and spent the day grafting back to a slight gain by the close. It’s not spectacular stuff – there are no triple digits involved – but the overriding opinion is that stocks should just keep going higher. A five point gain on the Dow provided for nine consecutive up-days, which has not happened since 1996. A reminder that the record is thirteen, in early 1987.
Helping stocks higher was a press conference from Republican House leader John Boehner in which he suggested talks with the president regarding the budget had been constructive. The impact of this news was then lost in a cloud of white smoke. Either way, Wall Street no longer seems at all concerned about budgets, cliffs, sequesters and debt ceilings. They’ll either be worked out or decisions will be further postponed, and anyway the Fed is watching Wall Street’s back.
Now talk is of smaller, retail level investors being forced to join in the party or miss out. If we see a herd, we could really see a run. At least for a while.
Meanwhile over in Italy, an auction of E3.3bn two-year government bonds drew an interest cost of 2.48%, compared to 2.30% last month.
The other flip-over from 2009-12 to now concerns the US dollar. Post GFC any “risk on” was accompanied by a weaker US dollar given risk was being supported by expectations of Fed easing. Any rise in the dollar in the period implied flight to safety. In 2013, “risk on” is accompanied stronger dollar on the implications of a stronger US economy. Last night the dollar index rose 0.4% to 82.93.
The Aussie has thus eased 0.3% to US$1.0290 and gold has also eased US$4.50 to US$1588.50/oz. Base metals were mixed on small moves, but Brent crude fell US$1.13 to US$108.52 and West Texas fell US16c to US$92.38/bbl.
While spot iron ore in China is dollar-denominated, iron ore moves specifically on Chinese demand-supply and not so much on the currency implications. Yesterday iron ore plunged US$5.10 to US$139.00/t.
The SPI Overnight fell 2 points.
The Australian government will be quivering in its boots today, if it’s not quivering already, with the release of the February unemployment numbers. We also have a little burst of late season large cap earnings reports, from Alacer Gold ((AQG)), Myer ((MYR)) and Sigma Pharmaceuticals (SIP).
Rudi will appear on Sly Business today at noon and again at 7pm for the Switzer Report.