Big Banks Beat, Michigan Surveys Ahead

Markets opened higher Thursday as SPY gapped up 0.30%, DIA gapped up 0.24%, and QQQ gapped up 0.42% at the open.  At that point, all three major index ETFs sold off, recrossing the gap and reaching the lows of the day about 10:30 a.m.  From there, all three rallied steadily until 2:45 p.m. before limping sideways with a modest bearish trend the rest of the session.  This action gave us a gap-up, white-bodied Spinning Top type candle in the SPY that crossed just back up above its T-line (8ema).  Meanwhile, QQQ gave us a gap-up, large, white-bodied candle that crossed strongly above its T-line.  At the same time, DIA gave us a modest ga-up, black-bodied, Spinning Top and outside day candle.  This happened on just above-average volume in the DIA and below-average volume in the SPY and QQQ.

On the day, only four of the 10 sectors were in the green with Technology (+1.53%) way out in front (by more than a percent) leading the market higher.  Meanwhile, it was Financial Services (-0.52%) was the biggest laggard.  At the same time, SPY gained 0.75%, DIA was flat, gaining 0.01%, and QQQ gained 1.60%.  VXX fell 2.02% to close at very low 13.58 and T2122 climbed out of the oversold territory to remain at the low end of its mid-range at 23.53.  10-year bond yields climbed again to 4.582% and Oil (WTI) fell 0.71% to $85.60 per barrel.  So, Thursday, saw a more modest reaction to the upside on good PPI data after Wednesday’s strong reaction to the downside on bad CPI data.  However, we also saw some whipsaw with a rejection of the gap and then a slow, steady reaffirmation of the gap sentiment. 

The major economic news scheduled for Thursday included the Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, which came in a bit lower than expected at 211k (compared to a 216k forecast but down from the prior week’s 222k).  For ongoing claims, Weekly Continuing Jobless Claims were higher at 1,817k (versus a forecast of 1,800k and up from the prior week’s 1,789k).  At the same time, the March Core PPI (month-on-month) were as predicted at +0.2% (compared to a +0.2% forecast and down from February’s +0.3%).  On an annual basis, March Core PPI actually increased to +2.4% (versus a +2.3% forecast and the February +2.1% reading).  On the headline side, March PPI (month-on-month) was lower than anticipated at +0.2% (compared to a +0.3% forecast and well down from February’s +0.6%).  On an annual basis, March PPI was lower than predicted at +2.1% (versus a forecast of +2.2% but well of up the +1.6% in March 2023).  After the close, the Fed Balance Sheet was reported as down $2 billion on the week at $7.438 trillion (compared to the prior week’s $7.440 trillion).

In FOMC speak, Thursday, NY Fed President Williams told a banking group that they (banks) should be ready to tap the Fed liquidity using the Fed Discount Window if or when they face liquidity crunches.  Williams also said he still expects progress on inflation, although he believes there will be “bumps along the way.”  Later, Boston Fed President Collins stuck to the FOMC script, saying she sees no urgency to cut rates.  Collins said, “I do expect it will be appropriate to begin lowering the federal funds rate later this year,” … (However) “recent data suggest it may take more time than I had previously thought to gain greater confidence in inflation’s downward trajectory, before beginning to ease policy.” Collins went on to say she had “Less concern about labor market fragilities, combined with the possibility that policy is only modestly restrictive, also reduces the urgency to ease.”  Elsewhere, Richmond Fed President Barkin said that “the latest numbers (it is unclear if this included PPI but did include CPI) did not increase my confidence” that price pressures are easing on a broad basis (which would be the prerequisite for his voting to cut rates).

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In stock news, on Reuters reported Thursday that Norway’s largest pension fund (KLP) is planning to ask TSLA to begin collective bargaining at the upcoming shareholder meeting.  The crux of the issue is the Swedish TSLA mechanics strike, but the fund said the issue of collective bargaining was a broader issue.  Later, VLVLY (Volvo and Mack Truck) said it will build a new heavy-duty truck plant in Mexico to supplement its US production.  The plant is scheduled to be operational in 2026.  At the same time, Bloomberg reported that private equity firm Clearlake is in talks for another attempt to take BLKB private.  (Clearlake already owns 18.9% of BLKB.)  Elsewhere, Bloomberg also reported that AAPL is “nearing” an overhaul of its Mac computer line which would gain AI processing capability due to a new ARM-based CPU labeled “M4.”  Bloomberg says AAPL is expecting to unveil this new line at its June developer’s conference.  (Mac sales fell 27% in the fiscal year ended in September.  It unveiled new M3 Macs in October.)

Later, F announced it will begin shipping 144k redesigned F-150 and Ranger pickups to dealers.  The trucks were built, but held back until now to deal with quality problems.  (F spent $4.8 billion in 2023 to deal with warranty repairs.) At the same time, F reduced prices on various F-150 Lightning electric trucks by as much as $5,500.  Later, ADM expanded its recall of animal feed due to harmful levels of magnesium, calcium, sodium, and/or phosphorous.  At the same time, LUV told Reuters its expected deliveries of BA jets keep shrinking.  In March, LUV said they expected 46 new 737 MAX planes in 2024.  Now it expects only 20 of the planes this year, which will significantly impact operations.  This impacts not only capacity, but also costs since older jets cannot be retired and are more expensive to maintain.

In stock legal and governmental news, on Thursday, the FAA issued a public notice of an airworthiness directive for BA 747-400F jets.  The directive would force all such jets to have cap seals to fastener collars inside the plan’s fuel tanks.  This came after FAA 737 investigations identified that BA had not been applying cap seals during production in order to cut costs.  At the same time, HPQ was hit with a trademark infringement suit from WEX, alleging HPQ is infringing on its trademark by naming a software product “HPQ Wex.”  Later, China sanctioned GD and a privately-held firm (General Atomics Aeronautical Systems) for selling arms to Taiwan.  (China seized and froze property of the two companies over the arms sales.)  At the same time, Reuters reported that UBS will need to retain between $10 billion and $15 billion in additional capital to meet new capitalization requirements from the Swiss government. This could put a “serious dent” in UBS share buyback plans for 2024.  Later, BHC won the appeal of the verdict which barred rival Alvogen from marketing a proposed generic version of Bausch’s diarrhea treatment until 2029.

Meanwhile, the EU announced it will decide on approval of Nippon Steel’s acquisition of X by May 17.  However, the approval is just a formality since neither company is headquartered in Europe and there are no competition concerns with either company at this time.  At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that MS is under investigation by multiple regulators, including the SEC, Office of the Comptroller of Currency, and various Treasury Dept. sub-agencies.  The investigations stem from the bank’s “lax” vetting of potential wealth management clients (true identities and how the client’s raised their wealth) focusing on foreign clients.  Elsewhere, Wednesday’s EPA announcement of new limits on toxic forever chemicals (PFAS) in water is expected to lead to a huge surge in lawsuits against MMM, DD, CC, CTVA, DOW, and other chemical makers who have dumped the chemicals into US waterways and ground water for decades.  (MMM settled a $10.3 billion suit with some US water systems in 2023, while CC, DD, and CTVA settled their own suit for $1.19 billion.  The EPA has given water utilities three years to meet strict “less than 10 parts per trillion” PFAS guidelines.  So, many new suits are expected as local water systems are unable to pay for the mitigation needed to remove PFAS from their water.  (PFAS are linked to many health conditions including liver problems, cholesterol level change, immune system deficiencies, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and many others.  The impacts are dosage and individual dependent.)

Overnight, Asian markets were nearly red across the board, with only Japan (+0.21%) in the green.  Meanwhile, Hong Kong (-2.18%), India (-1.03%) and South Korea (-0.93%) led the region lower.  However, in Europe, we see a green sweep across the board at midday.  The CAC (+0.73%), DAX (+0.79%), and FTSE (+1.10%) lead the region higher in early afternoon trade.  In the US, as of 7:30 a.m., Futures are pointing to a down start to the day.  The DIA implies a -0.32% open, the SPY is implying a -0.44% open, and the QQQ implies a -0.59% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bond yields are “down” to 4.526% and Oil (WTI) is up 1.14% to $85.98 per barrel in early trading.

The major economic news scheduled for Friday includes March Import Price Index and March Export Price Index (both at 8:30 a.m.), Michigan Consumer Sentiment, Michigan Consumer Expectations, Michigan 1-Year Inflation Expectations, and Michigan 5-Year Inflation Expectations (all at 10 a.m.).  Fed member Bostic also speaks at 2:30 p.m.  The major earnings reports scheduled for before the open include BLK, C, JPM, PGR, STT, and WFC.  Then, after the close, there are no major reports scheduled.

So far this morning, BLK, JPM, STT and WFC have all reported strong beats on both the revenue and earnings lines.  (C and PGR report closer to the opening bell.)  It is interesting to note that JPM is down sharply on this very good news.  WFC was even more volatile in the premarket but has settled on the green side after its report.  BLK and STT just gained on their beats, with BLK up 2.5% and STT up 3.75% so far on the news in the early session.

In energy news, on Thursday, Reuters reported that the UAE’s national oil company recently held talks with an aim toward acquiring BP.  Ultimately, the UAE decided BP would not be the right strategic fit.  However, this raises the idea that the incredibly deep-pocketed company could target any oil major if it was considering the $112 billion market cap BP.  In other energy news, the Interior Dept. announced on Thursday that it had surpassed its goal of permitting 25 gigawatts of clean energy projects for public lands by 2025.  As of now, the agency said they have permitted 29 GW of projects on public lands or enough to power 12 million homes.  32 GW of new projects are at various stages of approval.

In miscellaneous news, Rho Motion (market research firm) reported Thursday evening that global electric vehicle sales rose 12% during March (compared to March 2023). However, the increase was uneven with China seeing a 27% increase, the US a 15% increase, but Europe seeing a 9% decrease versus the prior year.  The firm had earlier predicted a 25% to 30% increase in 2024 but now says it anticipates EV sales to come in at the lower end of its projections.  Elsewhere, both the largest US airlines and their unions have asked President Biden to not approve any more flights between the US and China because of what they call “anti-competitive” policies that China is imposing on US air carriers.  (In addition, Chinese airlines are allowed to fly shorter routes between the two countries by flying through Russian airspace, which US airlines cannot do.)

With that background, it looks as if the Bears are in control again this morning. All three major index ETFs have printed modest (but certainly not small) black body candles to begin the premarket. The QQQ remains above its T-line (8ema) while the SPY has crossed below and DIA remains below their respective T-lines. So the short-term trend mostly bearish. Meanwhile, the mid-term remains sideways in a choppy consolidating range in the SPY and QQQ, where it is fair to say the Bulls are under strong pressure from the Bears. However, the DIA has already turned Bearish in the mid-term. Longer-term, markets remain Bullish but clearly under pressure. In terms of extension, none of the major index ETFs are too far away from their T-line. In addition, the T2122 indicator is now out of the oversold range but remains at the low end of its mid-range. So, both sides still have some room to run but clearly the Bulls have more slack to play with. In terms of those 10 big dog tickers, eight of the 10 are in the red again this morning with only NFLX (+0.29%) and AMZN (+0.03%) hanging onto the green area. With that said, remember its Friday…pay day…so prepare your account for the weekend news cycle and don’t forget to cut yourself a check. (Tax day is Monday.)

As always, be deliberate and disciplined…but don’t be stubborn. If you have a loss, admit you were wrong and take that loss before it gets out of hand. And when the price does move in your direction, always move your stops in your favor and take a little profit off the table. You have to keep the “Legend of the Man in the Green Bathrobe” in mind. In a winning situation, it is NOT HOUSE MONEY you’re betting, it’s YOUR MONEY! There is no reason to keep raising your bet (risk) size just because you’ve had a win. Finally, remember that trading is not a hobby, it’s a job. The gains are real and so is the risk. So, treat it that way. Do the work and follow the process. Stick to your trading rules, trade with the trend, and take those profits when you have them. Do the work!

See you in the trading room.


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