Bullard Leads Bear Charge Late Day

Markets made a big gap lower at the open Thursday (down 1.27% in the SPY, down 0.91% in the DIA, and down 1.58% in the QQQ).  However, within half of an hour, this began turning into a bear trap as a long, slow, steady rally started at 10 am.  This rally had faded most of the gap by 12:50 pm and, from there, the indices ground sideways in a tight range until 2:45 pm.  At that point, Fed member Bullard spoke and put a half percent hike in March back on the table.  The bears immediately stepped in to start a strong selloff that has lasted right into the close, taking us out on the lows.  This action gave us gap-down, black, Inverted Hammers with all three major indices crossing back below their T-line (8ema) after a retest.

On the day, all 10 sectors were in the red as Technology (-1.97%) led the way lower and Communications Services (-0.20%) held up better than the other sectors.  At the same time, the SPY was down 1.38%, the DIA was down 1.25%, and QQQ was down 1.88%.  The VXX has gained 5.06% to 11.63 and T2122 fell a bit more in the midrange to 57.63.  10-year bond yields spiked again, this time to 3.869% and Oil (WTI) is down 0.57% to $78.14 per barrel.  So, on the day, we’ve seen a gap lower met with volatile indecision.  This resolved into a bearish push to end the day.  Again, this all happened on slightly less-than-average volume.

In economic news, the big story on Thursday was a much hotter than expected Jan. PPI number, which came in at +0.7% (compared to a forecast of +0.4% and far worse than the December reading of -0.2%).  At the same time, January Building Permits came in slightly lower than expected at 1.339 million (versus the forecast of 1.350 million but better than the December number of 1.337 million).  January Housing Starts also came in below what was predicted at 1.309 million (compared to the forecast of 1.360 million and the December value of 1.371 million).  On the Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, they were better than expected at 194k (versus the forecast of 200k and also slightly better than last week’s 195k).  Meanwhile, the Philly Fed Mfg. Index came in much worse than expected at -24.3 (compared to a forecast of -7.4 and also much worse than the January value of -8.9).  In addition to those reports, we also heard from two Fed non-voting officials.  Cleveland Fed President Mester said (at the February 1 meeting, before the two recent hot inflation numbers) “I saw a compelling economic case for a 50-basis-point increase, which would have brought the top of the target range to 5%.”  (In other words, she did not think the voters were being aggressive enough.)  Later on, St. Louis Fed President Bullard “Further Federal Reserve rate increases are needed to lock in disinflation.”  He kept the idea of a 50-basis-point hike on the table.  However, uncharacteristically for the uber-hawk Bullard, he also said “in broad macro terms it probably does not make too much difference (how fast the Fed moves from here).”

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In stock news, an MS survey of the 80 main parts suppliers to the aerospace industry came out Thursday.  The report showed that those suppliers likely cannot support the production hikes recently announced by both BA and EADSY (Airbus).  Elsewhere, NSC took heavy public and media heat on Thursday for failing to show up at a town hall held related to the NSC train derailment and chemical spill in Eastern Ohio.  (The NSC representatives said they did not attend because they feared for their safety in the face of nearly 5,000 local residents.)  Meanwhile, in good economic news, GM CEO Barra told a conference Thursday that her company is seeing no sign of any slowing demand for cars.  She also said, “we still have very good confidence in the market.”  Then, after the close, BP announced it is acquiring TA for $1.3 billion at a price of $86/share. 

In stock legal and regulatory news, the NHTSA announced TSLA is recalling 363,000 cars due to its “Full Self Driving” system.  In response, TSLA CEO Musk took to Twitter to complain the term “recall” to describe the situation was “anachronistic and just flat wrong.”  Meanwhile, a judge from the NLRB found that XOM had been advised by its negotiators that it would need to lock out refinery workers in Texas in order to achieve its goal of taking away seniority-based job protections.  The judge had previously ruled the company needed to pay millions in back pay to the 650 workers it locked out for 10 months in 2021.  Elsewhere, in a Delaware court, FOX argued Thursday that Dominion Voting Systems cannot prove its $1.6 billion in defamation damages.  This filing came in response to Dominion’s request for a summary judgment in their favor based on communications and depositions by FOX executives and on-air talent.  Later, after the close, it was announced that ALK lost a $160 trademark dispute with Virgin Airlines.  ALK intends to appeal the judge’s ruling.

In energy news, the EIA Natural Gas Report showed that inventories are 17% higher than they were a year ago.  This came after a smaller-than-expected draw for the week of 100 billion cubic feet (less than half of the prior week’s consumption).  The March front-month Natty contract settled down 3.3% to $2.3890/mmBtu.  In other Natural Gas news, after the close, Reuters reported at least three new US LNG export plants are expected to be approved by banks (financiers) this year.  The most likely candidates are projects from SRE, ET, and NEXT.  SRE said in January it has already sold all of the capacity of the new plant.  NEXT has signed deals for 64% of its new project’s capacity (with pending deals that would take that number to 87%).  ET hasn’t disclosed how much of its new plant capacity has been sold.  However, it is worth noting that even if approved today, it can take up to 4 years to build and get regulatory approval to bring a new LNG production and export terminal online.

After the close, AMAT, ED, AMN, DASH, ATR, RDFN, AL, DBX, DKNG, BFAM, and FBIN all reported beats to both the revenue and earnings lines.  Meanwhile, TDS, USM, AEM, and COLD all missed on revenue while beating on earnings.  On the other side, DLR, AEL, TXRH, MERC, and GLOB all beat on revenue while missing on the earnings line.  Unfortunately, BIO and IAG reported misses on both the top and bottom lines.  It is worth noting that AMN, COLD, RDFN, DBX, and HUBS all raised their forward guidance.  However, DLR, BFAM, and FBIN lowered their forward guidance.

Overnight, Asian markets were nearly red across the board.  Only Singapore (+0.52%) managed to stay green as Shenzhen (-1.61%), Hong Kong (-1.28%), and South Korea (-0.98%) led the region lower.  Meanwhile, in Europe, we see a more mixed picture but the bourses are still leaning to the downside at midday.  The FTSE (-0.26%), DAX (-0.94%), and CAC (-0.65%) are leading the region lower in early afternoon trade with only Russia (+0.56%) and Greece (+0.64%) appreciably in the green.  As of 7:30 am, US Futures are pointing toward a gap lower to start the day.  The DIA implies a -0.49% open, the SPY is implying a -0.70% open, and the QQQ implies a -0.90% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bond yields are up to 3.875% and Oil (WTI) is plunging, now down 3.5% to $75.71/barrel in early trading. 

The major economic news events scheduled for Friday are limited to January Import Price Index and January Export Price Index (both at 8:30 am).  The major earnings reports scheduled for the day include ASIX, AMCX, AXL, AN, CNP, CRBG, DE, MD, and PPL before the opening bell.  There are no reports scheduled for after the close.  

So far this morning, DE, AN, NWG, MD, and CRBG have all reported beats on both the revenue and earnings lines.  Meanwhile, CNP and ACDVF missed on revenue while beating on earnings.  However, ASIX reported misses on both the top and bottom lines.  (PPL and AXL report later in the morning.)  It is worth noting that DE raised its forward guidance.

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In late-breaking news, American and Chinese officials (perhaps including Sec. of State Blinken) will be meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference that starts today. Analysts believe this will smooth over the relations and let the two sides set ground rules for surveillance overflights which have always occurred but then recently became a hyped story due to the Chinese Balloon a couple of weeks back. On the opposite side of the China topic, the country’s most influential financier (leading funder of tech companies) Bao Fan has disappeared and this is unnerving Chinese business leaders. It raises concerns on whether President Xi Jingping’s crackdown of private business has finished (as had been thought once he was elected to a third term). The end result is a bit of pessimism related to post-COVID recovery in China amidst fear of making headlines with new projects or of becoming too successful.

With that background, it looks like the bears are following through on what I’ll call the “Bullard Bear Turn” from yesterday afternoon. It is unlikely that Import/Export Prices change that direction. However, we did have some generally good earnings, including a “beat and raise” by DE this morning. So, there is a chance for a premarket reversal. All three major indices are now below their T-line (8ema), retesting their 17ema, and DIA is back down retesting its 50sma in the premarket action. Continue to be cautious about intraday reversals as we have seen the last few days. It would not take much for the bulls to realize Mester and Bullard are not voters this year and all the voters that have spoken continue to imply a quarter-point hike is the correct policy for the FOMC. Finally, remember its Friday…payday…ahead of a three-day weekend. So, take some profits and prepare for the long weekend news cycle.

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 absolutely 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 money is 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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