Israel Strikes and Speaker Drama Over Aid

Thursday saw markets start out bullish.  The SPY gapped up 0.30%, DIA gapped up 0.43%, and QQQ opened 0.15% higher.  After 10-15 minutes of gathering themselves, all three major index ETFs rallied to the highs of the day at 11:25 a.m.  However, then momentum reversed, and all three sold off steadily, reaching the lows of the day about 1:25 p.m.  At that point, QQQ ground sideways in a tight range, near the lows, the rest of the day.  Meanwhile, the large-cap index ETFs both rallied slightly the 90 minutes of the day.  This action gave us black-bodied candles in all three major index ETFs.  The SPY and DIA both printed a black Spinning Top that consolidated in the DIA.  DIA also retested and failed its T-line (8ema) while SPY came nowhere near retesting and remains well below its T-line.  At the same time, QQQ had a larger black body and continued its move down, also not retesting its T-line.

On the day, six of the 10 sectors were in the red with Technology (-0.65%) out in front leading the way lower.  Meanwhile, Communications Services (+0.70%) led the four green sectors higher.  At the same time, SPY lost 0.19%, DIA gained 0.11%, and QQQ lost 0.57%.  VXX gained slightly to close at 14.97 and T2122 rose but remains deeply in the oversold territory at 4.03.  10-year bond yields popped up to 4.633% and Oil (WTI) was flat at $82.69 per barrel.  So, overall, Thursday seemed like consolidation day in the large-cap index ETFs (especially the DIA) while QQQ continued South.  NVDA (+0.76%) largely held the tech sector up itself with $35 billion in tis stock traded while TSLA (-3.57%) led most of the sector lower on $12.8 billion (2nd largest dollar amount traded).  This all happened on less than average volume in the SPY and QQQ and a bit more than average volume in the DIA.

The major economic news scheduled for Thursday included Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, which came in a touch lower than expected at 212k (compared to a forecast of 215k but in-line with the prior week’s 212k).  On the ongoing side, Weekly Continuing Jobless Claims, were also just a bit lower than predicted at 1,812k (versus a forecast of 1,818k but also up slightly from the previous week’s 1,810k).  At the same time, the Philly Fed Mfg. Index was stronger than anticipated, but still low, 15.5 (compared to a forecasted 1.5 and the March reading of 3.2).  However, Philly Fed Mfg. Employment Index was down at -10.7 (versus the March -9.6 value).  Later, March Existing Home Sales fell to 4.19 million (compared to 4.20 million forecast but down from the February 4.38 million).  This was a 4.3% decrease month-on-month in March.  At the same time, the US Leading Economic Indicator Index was weaker than expected at -0.3% (versus a -0.1% forecast and the February +0.2%).  Later, after the close, Fed Balance Sheet showed a $32 billion drawdown (from $7.438 trillion last week to $7.406 trillion this week).

In FOMC speak, Atlanta Fed President Bostic (a hawk) indicated that was no hurry to cut rates.   Bostic said inflation would be returning to the Fed’s 2% target more slowly than most expected.  However, he said, “for me, that’s okay … I’m not in a mad dash hurry to get there” (indicating that continued relatively strong economy and a slowly declining inflation was a good thing).  He then hurt the market’s feelings (expectations) by saying, “I’m of the view that things are going to be slow enough this year that we won’t be in a position to reduce our rates towards … the end of the year.” He continued, “If we can keep those things going, and inflation has the signs that it is moving to that target, I’m happy to just stay where we are.”  Elsewhere, New York Fed President Williams (hawkish lean) echoed a similar refrain, saying, “I definitely don’t feel urgency to cut interest rates” (given the strength of the economy).  Williams continued, “I think eventually…interest rates will need to be lower at some point, but the timing of that is driven by the economy.”

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After the close, ISRG, NFLX, and WAL all reported beats on both the revenue and earnings lines.  Meanwhile, PPG missed on revenue while reporting in-line on earnings.  It is worth noting that NFLX forward guidance disappointed and while they reported blow out subscriber growth in Q1 the said they will stop reporting subscriber growth in the future.

In stock news, on Thursday, GOOGL announced it had terminated 28 employees related to Wednesday’s employee sit-in protest of the company’s contract with the Israeli military.  (Nine of the 28 had been arrested for refusing to leave GOOGL premises.)  At the same time, the CEO of ME revealed (in a public filing) that they will take the company private.  The CEO currently owns 20% of the total shares.  Later, INTC announced it was the first chipmaker to complete the building of ASML’s new “High NA EUV” lithography machines.  This gives INTC an edge in developing the next generation of denser chips over its competitors.  (AMD was first to implement ASML’s previous generation of EUV machine and has enjoyed a technical edge since that time.)   At the same time, UNH announced that its subsidiary unit (which was hacked in February) had suffered another issue processing batches of medical claims.  However, UNH said the issue had been communicated to the customers involved and that the issue was resolved and the processing backlog was being eliminated.  Later, a leading shareholder proxy advisory service recommended that shareholders vote against the reelection of five BRKB directors, citing concerns over both company climate change performance as well as general governance.  (It is highly unlikely Warren Buffett loses a shareholder vote, since he himself owns 31.2% of the voting shares, nonetheless it is worth mentioning.)

Elsewhere, GOOGL announced it has consolidated its Research and DeepMind units to create one “Responsible AI” team.  The division is tasked with all AI development and will be relocated to where the GOOGL AI models are being built and trained.  In related news, META has released an early version of its new “Llama 3” AI model.  At the same time, SNY said it would restructure its US commercial operations and cut an unknown number of jobs as part of “strategic streamlining.” After the close, NFLX said it experienced blowout subscriber growth in Q1, adding 9.33 million new subscribers.  However, the company forecasted weaker growth in Q2.

In stock legal and governmental news, on Thursday, the Dutch military intelligence agency published a report claiming that ASML (and some other tech companies in the Netherlands) have been and are under increasing attack by Chinese human-based and cyber espionage.  The report said, unsurprisingly, these Chinese attacks have increased since the 2023 ban on selling ASML technologies to China.  Later, the Dept. of Commerce announced MU will receive $6.1 billion in grants to help pay for new US chip plants.  These include new plants in NY and ID.  At the same time, the state of MI began receiving public comment on a proposal (filed in March) to increase the output of a MPC refinery in Detroit. The public hearing to review comments is set for May 28.  Later, the Attorneys General of KY and WV filed suit to block the EPA rules requiring a reduction in tailpipe emissions between 2026 and 2032.  (The GOP officials say it is “legally flawed and unrealistic” to reduce emissions by almost 50% over eight years.) At the same time, JPM filed suit against Russian, state-owned VTB Bank to recover $439.5 million from an account blocked after Russia invaded Ukraine more than two years ago.  Later, the House moved ahead on a bill to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US owner or ban it from the US.  (If the bill becomes law, CG, SQCF, and other major shareholders of ByteDance could be negatively impacted by a sale at “forced sale” prices.)

Elsewhere, JNJ won a FL trial brought by the family of a woman who died of ovarian cancer in 2019.  The family had claimed JNJ talc had caused the cancer, but the jury was unconvinced.  At the same time, a bipartisan US House committee released the findings of an investigation of US financial firms.  The report found US finance firms (in particular BLK and MSCI) facilitated $6.5 billion of investments in blacklisted Chinese firms.  The report called for legislation to ban such investments in sanctioned firms.  Later, a US judge ruled BNPQY must face a lawsuit alleging the French bank aided the Sudan government commit genocide between 1997 and 2011 by providing banking services that were then prohibited by US law.  The judge said there were too many fact linking the bank funding to the government abuses over the period.  (The bank paid a $8.9 billion penalty to the US in 2014 to settle charges of criminal liability over the same actions.  This civil case is being brought by Sudanese victims.)

Overnight, Asian markets were heavily on the red side with only two of 12 exchanges in the green.  Taiwan (-3.81%), Japan (-2.66%), and Thailand (-2.13%) led the region lower.  Meanwhile, in Europe, we see a similar picture taking shape with only three of 15 bourses in the green at midday.  The CAC (-0.41%), DAX (-0.81%), and FTSE (-0.71%) lead the region lower in early afternoon trade.  In the US, as of 7:30 a.m., Futures are pointing toward a down open to start Friday.  The DIA implies a -0.21% open, the SPY is implying a -0.34% open, and the QQQ implies a -0.51% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bond yields are down to 4.596% and Oil (WTI) is actually off 0.97% to $81.93 per barrel.  All of these moves and numbers were largely precipitated by Israel’s retaliatory strike (for Iran’s retaliatory strike) on Iran and worry over another retaliation and escalation.

There is no major economic news scheduled for Friday.  However, the major earnings reports scheduled for before the open include AXP, FITB, HBAN, PG, RF, SLB, and WIT.  There are no major reports scheduled for after the close.

In miscellaneous news, Reuters reported Thursday afternoon that MCO (Moody’s) has noted that creditors have begun to demand extra protection and clamped down on “creative financing” techniques of junk-rated corporate loans.  (Previous corporate loan documentation did not prohibit “double dipping,” which is where a company has one of its financing subsidiary’s obtain money, using the guarantee of the parent company to secure the loan.  The subsidiary then turns around and loans the money raised to the parent corporation.  The parent then uses the raised money as collateral to obtain yet another loan.  Elsewhere, a bi-partisan group of Senators proposed legislation to accelerate the development of nuclear fusion reactors to provide the power to help meet growing demand as well as the needs of climate change-related power needs.  Finally, it was widely reported that the MAGA faction and House Speaker Johnson had a surreal shouting match (in hushed tones but very animated) away from reporters but directly under visitors in the gallery of the House Floor. Reporting suggests Speaker Johnson will call votes on the three aid bills plus the TikTok ban bill Saturday and send them to the Senate…where they will have to be revoted for passage. The “Freedom Caucus” (and MTG in particular) threatened Thursday to make her motion to vacate privileged, which due to recess would call a Speaker vote sometime around the end of the month. (Betting is that the Democrats would save Johnson as compensation for him calling the foreign aid votes over the objections of the fringe elements of his own party.)

So far this morning, AXP, FITB, HBAN, SLB, and WIT all reported beats on both the revenue and earnings lines.  Meanwhile, PG missed on revenue while beating on earnings.  On the other side, RF beat on revenue while missing on earnings.  It is worth noting that PG has raised its forward guidance.

With that background, it looks as if the markets were scared by the Israeli attack (and/or news that the US had “signed off” on Israel’s plans for invading the Gaza city of Rafah in a way that purportedly will remove the civilians block by block rather than a wholesale attack from all directions). At any rate, the three major index ETFs gapped lower to start the premarket. However, all three have put in significant white-body candles and are now at the highs of the early session in what seems to be a notable rebound. In fact, all three are barely in the red at this point. (Perhaps rethinking how bad the geopolitical news is or expecting a flight to safety into US bonds and equities.) However, the SPY, DIA, and QQQ all remain well below their T-line. So the short-term trend is bearish. Meanwhile, the mid-term has also turned bearish and the longer-term market remains Bullish but trend is broken and is clearly under pressure. In terms of extension, the SPY and QQQ are a bit extended below their T-line but DIA is fine. Still, the T2122 indicator remains deep in its oversold range. So, at the very least, the Bears are in need of some more rest. (Just remember markets can remain oversold a lot longer than we can stay solvent predicting a reversal.) In terms of those 10 big dog tickers, eight of the 10 are in the red with NFLX (-5.75%) leading the move lower. However, the biggest of the big dogs, NVDA (+0.06%) is barely hanging onto green. (NVDA trades 2.5-3 times as much dollar volume than any other ticker, so it carries a big stick.) With all of this said, remember that it is Friday (and an options expiration Friday at that). So prepare your account for a weekend of (geopolitical?) news and perhaps political news in the US related to Speaker Johnson’s seat and US aid bills.

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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