March Jobs Data on Tap

Thursday saw a massive midday reversal. To start the day, SPY gapped 0.79% higher, DIA gapped up 0.69%, and QQQ gapped up a whopping 1.04%. At that point, SPY and QQQ traded sideways (give or take some mid-morning wobble) until early afternoon. At the same time, DIA sold down into the gap for just under a half hour and then also traded sideways in a tight rang until early afternoon.  Midday, Fed talk took the floor out from under us as SPY and DIA started a steep selloff at 1 p.m.  QQQ tried to hold up at its open level for 30 minutes, but then followed the large-cap index ETFs lower in its own steep selloff.  Those selloffs lasted right into the close as all three ended up near their lows of the day.  This action gave us huge black Bearish Engulfing candles in SPY and QQQ as well as a huge, black Doji Engulf in the DIA.  All three started the day above and sold back down through their T-line (8ema).  All three also crossed down their 17ema and the 8ema even crossed down the 17ema in the DIA.

On the day, all 10 sectors were red as Technology (-1.57%) was out in front leading the market lower. Meanwhile, Utilities (-029%) and Energy (-0.29%) held up better than the other sectors.  At the same time, SPY lost 1.21%, DIA lost 1.32%, and QQQ lost 1.53%.  VXX spiked up 4.79% to close at a still-low 14.00 and T2122 dropped but remains in its mid-range at 30.67.  10-year bond yields fell a bit to 4.311% and Oil (WTI) rose another 1.40% to $86.64 per barrel (as Ukrainian attacks take more and more Russian oil infrastructure under drone attack).  So, Thursday saw a major reversal and the first big down day since the end of January.  This move was clearly brought on by nothing more than Fed talk.  This all happened on slightly above-average volume in the SPY and QQQ with DIA having the largest volume (relative to average) but still only the highest volume in a week. 

The major economic news scheduled for Thursday included Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, which came in higher than expected at 221k (compared to a forecast of 213k and the prior week’s 212k).  In the ongoing category, Weekly Continuing Jobless Claims fell to 1,791k (versus the prior week’s 1,810k).  At the same time, Feb. Exports were up at $263.00 billion (compared to a January reading of $257.20 billion).  Still, Feb. Imports were up even more at $331.90 billion (versus a January value of $324.80 billion).  This led to an increased Feb Trade Balance of $68.90 billion (compared to a forecast of $66.90 billion and January’s $67.60 billion).

However, the real news of the day was Fed speak, which included Richmond Fed President Barkin who continued the Fed theme of there is no hurry.  Barkin said that inflation data “has been a little less encouraging,” (in early 2024).   He went on to say “No one wants inflation to reemerge. And given a strong labor market, we have time for the clouds to clear before beginning the process of toggling rates down.”  Later, the big news maker was Minneapolis Fed President Kashkari (who had forecast 2 rates cuts this year at the March FOMC meeting) when he said “If we continue to see inflation moving sideways, then that would make me question whether we need to do those rate cuts at all.”  Kashkari went on to say cuts were “not off the table, but they are also not a likely scenario given what we know right now. There’s a lot of momentum in the economy right now.” Elsewhere, Chicago Fed President Goolsbee said “The biggest danger to the inflation picture in my view… (is) the continued high inflation in housing services.”  He continued, “I have been expecting it to come down more quickly than it has. If it does not come down, we will have a very difficult time getting overall inflation back to the 2% target.” Goolsbee then went on to say, “(Still,) If we stay restrictive for too long, we will likely see the employment side of the mandate begin to deteriorate.”  Finally, Cleveland Fed President Mester seemed to somewhat contradict Kashkari.  Mester said, “we need to see more evidence that confirms that…and once I see that, then I think we’re in a position to move interest rates down.”

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In stock news, on Thursday, Reuters reported that TSLA had begun making cars in Germany for export to India.  These will be the first sales into India by TSLA and came after meetings with the Modi government and opening TSLA part factories in that country.  At the same time, IP announced it will seek a secondary listing in London as part of its deal to buy British rival DS Smith.  Later, Reuters reported that GOOGL is talking to investment banks about obtaining financing to buy HUBS.  (HUBS currently has a $32 billion market value.)  At the same time, PEP announced it had reached an agreement with major European retailer Carrefour after a three-month pricing dispute.  This will allow PEP products to return to shelves in France and is expected to expand to include Belgium, Italy, Poland, and Spain.  Later, Reuters reported that EADSY (Airbus) and BA are negotiating how to split up SPR in a buyout of the supplier to both.  At the same time, ALK announced that BA paid the airline $160 million compensation for the grounding of the airline’s 737 MAX 9 jets for inspection earlier this year.  The statement said this was “initial compensation” implying there will be more paid.

Elsewhere, Reuters reported CG is “exploring strategic options” (including sale) of its StandardAero unit.  (StandardAero generated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2023.)  Later, DIS announced it will follow the lead of NFLX and will start cracking down on password sharing for its DIS+ service beginning in June.  DIS CEO Iger said it expects to boost the number of subscribers and make DIS+ profitable.  At the same time, F announced it is delaying the launches of two electric vehicles and instead will focus on boosting hybrid vehicle projects.  After the close, JNJ announced it recommends shareholders reject an unsolicited “mini-tender” by TRC Capital, which is seeking to acquire 1 million shares of JNJ for $151.23 per share.  Also after the close, Bloomberg reported that GS is getting ahead of Fed rate cuts by lowering the rate paid to consumers (by its Marcus consumer bank). GS lowered the rate by a tenth of a percent from 4.5% to 4.4%, which was the first reduction in three years.

In stock legal and governmental news, on Thursday, a US district court judge ruled BAC must face the class action lawsuit alleging the bank reneged on a promise to refund overdraft fees to customers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19.  Later, C, JPM, and RY signed agreements with New York City.  Under the agreement, the banks will disclose a new climate metric based on their financing of low-carbon energy projects versus financing for fossil fuel projects.  At the same time, a five-judge NY state appeals court ruled that PARA investors may sue GS, MS, and other banks that underwrote the PARA stock offerings.  The suit alleges the banks disclosed they “may conduct transactions” that had already been planned, which materially impacted the stock price.  Later, CBOE filed a request with the SEC, seeking regulatory approval to allow ETFs to be added to the mutual fund class.  Analysts say that if approved, the move would likely greatly increase the number and assets within ETFs.  (Previously, Vanguard had a patent on that asset class but the patent expired in May 2023.)  After the close, the FDA disclosed it has sent warning letters to major retailers (and filed civil penalty suits against some) related to the sale of ZYN nicotine pouches (from PM) to underage (younger than 21) customers.

In other news, the National Federation of Independent Businesses announced that its March survey of US small businesses found that hiring plans were the weakest since May 2020.  The survey found that just 11% of surveyed firms plan to create new jobs in the next three months.  (This is down from 12% in February.)  The report concludes that “Job creation plans are now below what would be typical in a strong growth economy.”  However, the report also said “For now, employment activity remains solid, although waning from peak levels.”  Elsewhere, BAC researchers announced findings of their fund analysis saying that “actively managed” funds posted their best quarterly outperformance of indexes since 2007 during Q1.  (64% of active funds outperformed the Russell 1000 large-cap index.  For reference, only 38% of funds outperformed the index in Q1 2023.)

Overnight, Asian markets leaned heavily toward the red side with only two of 12 exchanges in the green.  Japan (-1.96%), South Korea (-1.01%), and Taiwan (-0.63%) led the region lower.  Meanwhile, in Europe, we see a similar picture taking shape at midday with only one exchange holding onto green (barely).  The CAC (-1.40%), DAX (-1.42%), and FTSE (-0.95%) lead the region lower in early afternoon trade.  In the US, as of 7:30 a.m., Futures are pointing toward a bounce back green start to the day.  The DIA implies a +0.20% open, the SPY is implying a ++0.30% open, and the QQQ implies a +0.34% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bond yields are back up to 4.33% and oil (WTI) is flat at $86.61 per barrel in early trading.

The major economic news scheduled for Friday include March Avg. Hourly Earnings, March Nonfarm Payrolls, March Private Nonfarm Payrolls, March Participation Rate, and March Unemployment Rate (all at 8:30 a.m.), and Feb. Consumer Credit (3 p.m.).  The major earnings reports scheduled for before the open are limited to GBX.  There are no major earnings reports scheduled after the close.

In miscellaneous news, on Thursday, the global securities exchange watchdog group IOSCO proposed detailed guidance on how regulators in the US, Europe, and Asia and supervise stock exchanges.  The group argued that exchanges have increasingly become listed companies and have massively expanded geographically.  However, the exchanges remain essentially self-regulating despite potential conflicts of interest.  At the same time, the US Dept. of Justice told a US district court that settlement talks had ended in an impasse.  As a result, the court scheduled a trial in January 2026 in the US criminal charges against Chinese tech company Huawei, alleging the company and its CEO misled US banks about the company’s business with Iran (violating sanctions).  This may impact US-China relations further, possibly leading to a retaliatory case filing in China. 

In late-breaking news, Treasury Sec. Yellen is in China for the first of four days of talks with various Chinese officials.  In prepared remarks, she called on China to pursue more market-oriented reforms be open to discussion of over-capacity problems.  She also called on China to collaborate on climate change and share “national security economic actions.”  (Yellen is not scheduled to meet with President Xi, but is meeting today with Vice Premier Lifeng in southern China before traveling to Beijing Saturday for talks with Premier Qieng, Finance Minister Fo’an, and even Beijing city officials.  Finally, business analyst firm Creditsafe reported that certain retailers have recently been noticed to be paying bills late.  While not always an indicator of anything, since many healthy firms always pay their invoices late, it is a possible sign of financial stress.  Among the retailers cited were PTON, EXPR, and BBWI.

With that background, it looks as if the Bulls are looking to push back against Thursday’s “Kashkari-induced” selloff. All three major index ETFs gapped modestly higher to start the premarnet and are following through with small white-body candles in the early session. Of course, this comes before the March Jobs data. Still, all three remain below their T-line (8ema) to start the early session. So the short-term trend is bearish. Meanwhile, the mid-term remains sideways in a consolidating range. Long-term, it has been and remains all Bulls all the time. In terms of extension, none of the major index ETFs are too far away from their T-line (although DIA is pushing it) and the T2122 indicator remains in its mid-range. So, both sides still have plenty of room to run if they can find momentum. In terms of those 10 big dog tickers, nine of the 10 are in the green this morning with only GOOGL lagging in the red. (Note that this is exactly the same as Thursday morning.) With all that said, it will be March Jobs data that calls the tune at least early today. Finally, remember its Friday…payday. So, pay yourself and prepare your account for the 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 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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