STZ Beat, KMX and FAST Miss, As PPI is On Tap

On Wednesday, stocks gapped down after a tick upward in the CPI number.  The SPY gapped down 1.11%, DIA gapped down 1.02%, and QQQ gapped down 1.22% at the open.  However, from there, all three major index ETFs chopped sideways, wobbling along the opening level the rest of the day. This action gave us gap-down, indecisive candles in all three.  The SPY printed a white-body Doji, the DIA printed a black-body Doji, and the QQQ printed a white-body Spinning Top.  SPY and QQQ also gapped down through and remained below its T-line (8ema). This happened on above-average volume in the DIA and QQQ while SPY printed slightly below-average volume.

On the day, nine of the 10 sectors were in the red as Utilities (-2.15%) was out in front leading the market lower.  Meanwhile, Energy (+0.15%) was the only green sector and held up much better than the other sectors.  At the same time, SPY lost 1.00%, DIA lost 1.11%, and QQQ lost 0.87%.  VXX gained 1.91% to close at a still very low 13.86 and T2122 plummeted down into the oversold territory at 10.53.  10-year bond yields spiked again to 4.548% and Oil (WTI) popped another 1.15% to $86.22 per barrel.  So, on Wednesday, saw significant gap lower but then almost nothing except modest chop sideways the rest of the session. 

The major economic news scheduled for Wednesday included March Core CPI (month-on-month), that came in flat which made it a tick hotter than expected at +0.4% (compared to +0.3% forecast and a +0.4% February reading).  On an annual basis, March Core CPI also came in flat at +3.8% (versus to a forecast of +3.7% and the Feb. +3.8% value).  This led to a March CPI (month-on-month) of +0.4%, again flat but hotter than expected compared to a forecast of +0.3% and a February +0.4%.  On an annual basis, March CPI was +3.5% (compared to a +3.4% forecast and a up from the February +3.2% number).  Later, EIA Weekly Crude Oil Inventories rose more than was predicted at +5.841 million barrels (versus a forecasted 0.900-million-barrel build, and even more than the prior week’s 3.210-million-barrel inventory build).  Later yet, the March Federal Budget Balance showed a larger than anticipated deficit of -$236.0 billion (compared to a -$209.4 billion forecast but well down from the February -$296.0 billion level).  However, to be fair the federal deficit was down 38% from $378 billion in March 2023 on both reduced spending and increased tax receipts.

In FOMC speak, the March FOMC Meeting minutes showed that Fed members were already disappointed prior to the recent (since the meeting) strong economic/inflation data.  However, the “typical policymaker” still felt three cuts in 2024 was going to be appropriate, despite their disappointment.  With that said, the minutes shows that the momentum toward fewer cuts in 2024 was already gathering some speed.  That was the “gist” of the rate discussion.  In terms of the Fed Balance Sheet, the minutes made it clear the FOMC will soon stop the reduction.  Policymakers were mostly thinking that in light of the lessons learned during the 2017-2019 tightening, it would be prudent to start easing the current reductions soon.  (The Fed has averaged $76 billion per month in drawdown over the last 12 months.) The minutes said, “Participants generally favor reducing the monthly pace of runoff by roughly half from the recent overall pace.”  The discussion showed that, in part, this would be because it would give more flexibility to the Fed in how it reduces “non-treasury bond holdings.”  (A primary goal of most Fed members is to get as near to an “all treasuries” balance sheet as possible.

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In stock news, on Wednesday, the Wall Street journal reported that RBLX partnered with PUBM to increase video ad sales on its gaming platform.  (RBLX has 71 million daily users.)  Later, META unveiled it new in-house developed AI accelerator chip to be built on a 5nm process and produced by TSM.  (META still has planned to acquire about 350,000 NVDA AI accelerator chips this year.)  At the same time, UBER announced new security measures aimed at boosting (mostly female) passenger safety in the face of many lawsuits alleging UBER was deficient in preventing attacks (including by drivers) on passengers.  Later, Bloomberg reported that AMZN will stop paying developers to create applications for its Alexa devices/services in June.  At the same time, UMGNF (Universal Music Group) announced a partnership with Chinese Entertainment Company TF Entertainment which will add Chinese “C-Pop” performers to the service’s global offerings.  Later, DAL said it expects record Q2 revenue on the expectation of a summer travel boom. 

Elsewhere, STLA told (threatened?) Italian government officials Wednesday, that if Chinese automakers were allowed to open plants in Italy, the company would have to make unpopular decisions such as closing Italian plants.  The CEO of STLA said, “If we are under pressure, the only one thing we could do is to accelerate our efforts to increase productivity to be competitive.” (He implied that labor is much cheaper in other parts of the world.)  He continued, “Then we might not need so many plants as we have now.”  Later, VRTX announced it will buy ALPN for $4.9 billion in cash in order to gain access to the company’s kidney autoimmune disease treatment.

In stock legal and governmental news, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that Vietnam had ordered NFLX to stop advertising and distributing its games in the country before April 25.  (Vietnam has not granted NFLX a license for gaming services.)  Later, a trade group representing AAL, DAL, UAL, and LUV wrote a letter to the FAA asking for even more of an extension (to October 2025) of the waver they’ve gotten to “minimum flight requirements” at NY airports.  The airlines say they are still facing pilot shortages and the air traffic control system is also still facing staff shortages.  (Under the rules, airlines lose their gate assignments and runway slots if they do not average at least 80% usage of the assigned resources. The airlines have already been granted waivers and then had them extended through October 2024.  Now the airlines want another year to get back to normal flight capacities.  At the same time, the Dept. of Justice (and 15 states) antitrust lawsuit against AAPL over its US smartphone app store monopoly was reassigned to a new judge in NJ after the original judge recused himself over a conflict of interest. 

Meanwhile, the NTSB said the Sunday LUV in-flight loss of an engine cowling on a BA 737-800 was due to a maintenance quality problem the night before the incident.  LUV is solely to blame for the aborted flight.  At the same time, the SEC notified private software developer Uniswap of potential action.  (Uniswap was the main developer of the COIN crypto-exchange, although what action the SEC could take against them is uncertain.)  Then, after the close, Politico reported that the Dept. of Justice has formally opened an antitrust probe into the Nippon Steel $14.1 billion acquisition of X.  At the same time, AAPL employees at a company store in NJ filed with the NLRB to get a unionization vote.  Later, the Dept. of Justice files suit in federal court accusing REGN of fraudulent price reporting related to macular regeneration drug Eylea.  The allegations are that REGN inflated the “average sales price” reported to Medicare for reimbursement. 

Overnight, Asian markets were mixed but leaned red in modest trading.  Thailand (-0.84%) was by far the biggest mover and led eight of the 12 exchanges lower.  On the upside, India (+0.49%) led the four gaining exchanges.  In Europe, the bourses are nearly red across the board at midday, with only two of 15 exchanges green.  The DAX (-0.60%), CAC (-0.19%), and FTSE (-0.23%) lead the region lower in early afternoon trade.  As of 7:30 a.m., in the US, Futures are pointing to a down open ahead of PPI data.  The DIA implies a -0.28% open, the SPY is implying a -0.29% open, and the QQQ implies a -0.22% open at this hour.  At the same time, 10-year bond yields are up slightly again to 4.554% and Oil (WTI) is off a half of a percent to $85.76 per barrel in early trading.

The major economic news scheduled for Thursday includes the Weekly Initial Jobless Claims, Weekly Continuing Jobless Claims, March Core PPI, and March PPI (all at 8:30 a.m.), and Fed Balance Sheet (4:30 p.m.).  We also hear from Fed members Williams (8:45 a.m.) and Bostic (1:30 p.m.).  The major earnings reports scheduled for before the open are limited to KMX, STZ, and FAST.  Then, after the close, there are no major reports scheduled.

In economic news later this week, on Friday March Import Price Index, March Export Price Index, Michigan Consumer Sentiment, Michigan Consumer Expectations, Michigan 1-Year Inflation Expectations, and Michigan 5-Year Inflation Expectations are reported.  Fed member Bostic also speaks.

In terms of earnings reports later this week, on Friday, we hear from BLK, C, JPM, PGR, STT, and WFC.

So far this morning, STZ reported beats on both the revenue and earnings lines.  However, KMX and FAST both reported misses on both the top and bottom lines.

In miscellaneous news, on Wednesday, two of the “Big 4” global accounting firms, KPMG and Deloitte, were hit with $25 million in civil penalties and had senior managers barred, in response to “egregious and widespread cheating on auditor certification tests.  (This was just the latest in a long string of auditor companies and their employees helped colleagues obtain internal certifications to be public auditors by sharing test answers.)  Meanwhile, the US Senate voted 53-47 to overturn Federal Highway Administration rules that had set declining targets on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles on federal highways to near zero by 2050.  (The House has yet to vote on the measure, but if the Democratic Senate voted in favor of the industry position, the House should be an easy pass.)  On the House side of capitol hill, the Freedom Caucus (MAGA) vocal minority killed a GOP bill to reauthorize for five years the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization measure.  (FISA authorizes warrantless surveillance of foreign intelligence suspects and this bill also imposes some reforms.)  The killing of a procedural vote on the bill came after the MAGA leader called on his minions to kill the bill as he wanted to lean into “deep state” conspiracy theories on the campaign trail.  For his part, after a fourth defeat of his short tenure, House Speaker Johnson vowed to forge ahead even after 19 GOP members jumped shipped and voted with Democrats. (This was ironic since at is one of the group’s biggest complaints about Johnson is that he is too willing to work with Dems.)

In market expectations news, after the March CPI data was reported and had a day to be digested, the Fedwatch tool shows us that as of this morning, only 96.0% of Fed Fund Futures bets are on “no change in rates” at the next (May 1) FOMC meeting. This is actually down 4% from the pre-CPI probabilities.  The other 4% are expecting a quarter-point rate cute on May 1.  For the June 12 meeting, probabilities are showing 83.1% of contracts expecting no cut (up from the 40.8% predicting no cut prior to the CPI data).  16.4% still expect a quarter-point cut in June while 0.5% expect a half percent cut at that meeting.  The July 31 meeting now shows 55.6% expecting no rate change by then.  (This is up from just 24.4% of traders anticipating no change in rates at the July meeting prior to CPI data.)  38.4% expect a quarter point cut in July, 5.8% expect a half-point cut by then, and 0.2% expect a three-quarters of a percent cut by July31.  Even further out, 67.3% of fed fund futures bets predict at least a quarter point rate cut by September 18 with 32.7% hanging onto the belief rates will remain where they are now.  Interestingly, even out in December 13.2% of bets have been placed on no rate cut during 2024.  However, there has not been a single Fed futures bet of any additional rate hikes this year either. 

With that background, it looks as if the Bears are in control again this morning. All three major index ETFs have gapped lower and then printed modest (but certainly not small) black body candles to begin the premarket. All three are also below their T-line (8ema). So the short-term trend is bearish. Meanwhile, the mid-term remains sideways in a choppy consolidating range in the SPY and QQQ, but the DIA has also turned Bearish in the mid-term. 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. However, the T2122 indicator is now in the middle of its oversold 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 with only MSFT (+0.31%) and AAPL (+0.13%) hanging onto the green area ahead of PPI data. Speaking of which, remember that while PPI hits today (and may reinforce the bad feeling from CPI yesterday), it is not likely to have as much impact. In either case, earnings season starts again in earnest tomorrow morning. So, we may still see more waiting and drifting after any open fireworks.

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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