Down Start to Year With ISM PMI on Tap

Tuesday saw markets start the year off with a gap lower following Iran’s sending a ship into the Red Sea and AAPL caught a downgrade.  The SPY gapped down 0.66%, DIA gapped down 0.55%, and QQQ gapped down 0.90%.  At that point we had divergence.  The DIA immediately rallied to recross the gap and slowly drifted higher until 1 p.m.  Meanwhile, SPY ground sideways for an hour and then drifted higher to the highs of the day at 12:45 p.m.  At the same time, QQQ sold off sharply after the open until 1:55 a.m. before recovering a portion of the selloff until 12:10 p.m.  However, all three major index ETFs sold off most of the afternoon, reaching the lows at about 3:15 p.m.  This culminated in a sharp rally in the last 20 minutes of the day.  This resulted in a white-bodied Bullish Engulfing candle in the DIA.  SPY printed a gap-down, white-bodied Doji, and the QQQ gave us a gap-down, black-bodied candle with a lower wick.

On the day, five of the 10 sectors were in the red with Technology (-2.46%) far out in front leading the losers while Healthcare (+1.04%) led the five gaining sectors.  At the same time, the SPY lost 0.56%, DIA gained 0.06%, and QQQ lost 1.69%.  The VXX was dead flat at 15.52 and T2122 rose but remained in its midrange at 74.59.  10-year bond yields rose slightly to 3.866% and Oil (WTI) fell to close at $71.65 per barrel.  So, the Bears started off the year with a gap lower.  However, the follow-through seemed to be based more on rotation out of the big dog tech names than a major change in market sentiment.  It is worth noting that both the DIA (strongest index) and QQQ (by far the weakest index) had well-above-average volume while SPY came in just shy of average volume.

The economic news on Tuesday was limited to S&P Dec. Global Manufacturing PMI, which came in just shy of expectation at 47.9 (compared to a forecast of 48.2 and a Nov. value of 49.4).  And November Construction Spending grew, but less than had been anticipated at +0.4% (versus a forecast of +0.5% and the October reading of +1.2%).

There have been no earnings reports yet this morning. UNF reports at 8 a.m.

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In stock news, CVX announced it would take a “non-cash writedown” of between $3.5 billion and $4 billion on its oil and gas production in Q4.  (This primarily covers wells in CA and the Gulf of Mexico, which were abandoned.)  Later, RIVN announced that its Q4 deliveries were lower than forecasted or analyst expectations with 13,972 vehicles delivered.  (This was down 10% from the prior quarter and below the average analyst estimate of 14,430.)  Elsewhere, in a new year flood, companies rushed to issue new bond debt Tuesday.  The $29 billion in bonds issued included TM, F, UBS, BNPQY, and others.

In stock government, legal, and regulatory news, it was a very, very slow day. However, Reuters reported that the FDA approved 50% more new drugs in 2023 than in 2022.  This puts the agency back on par with historical levels. 

In unusual activity news, Bloomberg reports that a Z trader picked up a pile of calls in late October, betting on the real estate rally to continue the rest of the year. They made a tidy $39 million in profit on that bet and have turned around to buy 51,000 more of the Z calls at the $65 strike expiring in May. 

Overnight, Asian markets were mostly in the red.  South Korea (-2.34%), Taiwan (-1.65%), and Australia (-1.37%) led the region lower with only Malaysia (+0.65%) and Shanghai (+0.17%) staying the int green.  In Europe, we see a similar pattern taking shape at midday.  The CAC (-1.35%), DAX (-0.94%), and FTSE (-0.85%) lead the region lower with only two minor exchanges in the green in early afternoon trade.  In the US, as of 7:30 a.m., Futures point toward another gap lower to start the day.  The DIA implies a -0.25% open, the SPY is implying a -0.35% open, and the QQQ implies a -0.54% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bonds are up to 3.978% and Oil (WTI) is just on the red side of flat at $70.36 per barrel in early trading.

The major economic news scheduled for Wednesday includes December ISM Mfg. Employment, Dec. ISM Mfg. PMI, Dec. ISM Mfg. Price Index, and Nov. JOLTs Job Openings (all at 10 a.m.), FOMC December Meeting Minutes (2 p.m.) and API Weekly Crude Stocks (4:30 p.m.).  The major earnings reports scheduled for the day are limited to UNF before the open and then after the close, CALM reports. 

In economic news later this week, on Thursday, Dec. ADP Nonfarm Employment Change, Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, Weekly Continuing Jobless Claims, Dec. S&P Global Services PMI, Dec. S&P Global Composite PMI, EIA Weekly Crude Oil Inventories, and the Fed Balance Sheet report.  Finally, on Friday we get Dec. Avg. Hourly Earnings, Dec. Nonfarm Payrolls, Dec. Private Nonfarm Payrolls, Dec. Participation Rate, Dec. Unemployment Rate, Nov. Factory Orders, Dec. ISM Non-Mfg. Employment, and Dec. ISM Non-Mfg. PMI.

In terms of earnings reports later this week, on Thursday, we hear from CAG, LW, RDUS, RPM, and WBA.  On Friday, GBX and STZ report.

In miscellaneous oil and gas news, the US was the world’s top LNG exporter in 2023, leapfrogging Qatar and Australia after the Freeport LNG terminal came back online.  (The US had dropped out of the number one spot after Freeport in 2022.)  US exports of LNG rose a whopping 14.7% on record gas production.  Elsewhere, Bloomberg also reports that China has front-loaded its oil import quotas for 2024.  Beijing has already granted permission for imports up to amounts that nearly equal all of 2023.  This could lead to heavier than normal oil demand as traders try to take advantage of current lower oil prices…thereby also driving oil prices higher.  (China has never issued a full year’s worth of import quotas in the past in one go.  So, this may be a signal of certainty for the eyes of the Chinese economy.)

In US fiscal news, the Treasury Dept. reported that the gross national debt hit another record high, surpassing $34 trillion.  (As a sidenote, a January 2020 estimate from the Congressional Budget Office had forecast that the US would reach this level of debt in 2029.  So, we reached that level six and change years faster than expected.  It is also interesting to note that total federal tax receipts as a percentage of GDP are down at about 16%.  Of this, 67% comes from individuals, only 27% from corporations, and the rest from customs duties and excise taxes.) 

With that background, it looks like Mr. Market favors the bears as the premarket session gapped a bit lower and has put in black-bodied candles in all three major index ETFs so far. DIA is just giving us a Bearish Harami and remains above its T-line (8ema) in the early session. However, both the QQQ and SPY are moving lower and threatening to take out the Tuesday low during the premarket. So, while the Bulls hold on to the longer-term daily trend, we are seeing a pullback in the SPY and QQQ as well as a consolidation in the DIA. With that said, the rally was in dire need of that rest or pullback to remain healthy as we sit very near all-time highs. In terms of extension, none of the three major index ETFs are extended at all from their T-lines. At the same time, the T2122 indicator remains in its mid-range. So, both the Bulls and Bears have room to run if they gather the momentum to do it, but the Bears should continue to be hungry given that the Bulls kept them from making any moves at all the last two months of 2023. Lastly, keep an eye on the Tech Big Dogs. If we are seeing a rotation out of those names (which have dragged markets along for a year or more), it will be hard for markets to do anything except retreat.

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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