The markets were in positive territory in the early going, following Tuesday’s low-key activity that nonetheless pushed the S&P 500 (SPX) and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) into the record books again at the close.
The Dow Jones Industrials ($DJI) appeared to take a breather, finishing slightly off yesterday, but was the leading percentage advancer in the early going today. We’ll see if the three major benchmarks are able to hold on to those gains throughout the session.
The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, commonly referred to as JOLTs, is scheduled to come out this morning. Here’s what everyone is hoping to find out: where job vacancies are at; how business employment is going; what is the state of job openings, recruitment, hires and separations. Overall, a clearer picture of the jobs situation in the U.S. Stay tuned.
Yesterday, though the Dow couldn’t muster a closing to the upside, it did hit a fresh intraday high and was mostly straddling the flat line for the rest of the day. By the time the market closed, it slipped into the red, but just by a smidgen. The SPX and COMP both notched yet more fresh peaks, kicking off 2018 in uncharted territory. Even with the Dow’s little pullback yesterday, we apparently are still looking at the market “at its third-longest streak without a 5% drawdown since 1930, trailing only 394 (days in 1994-96) and 386 (1963-65),” according to Goldman Sachs analysts that MarketWatch quoted.
As it turns out, the SPX hasn’t seen a pullback of at least 3% since Nov. 6, 2016, according to MarketWatch. That’s 242 days without a single-session drop of that magnitude. The previous record stretched from Jan. 26, 1995, to Jan. 9, 1996, according to Pension Partners.
Even with these record closings, the movement yesterday might best be described as muted. The Nasdaq had the biggest percentage gain at 0.29%, considered by some analysts to be barely a blip. After last week’s action, why the muffled trading yesterday?
Many investors might be waiting for the onset of earnings season before making any big bets. We’ve got a handful of multinational financial companies opening their books on Friday and they have historically set the tone for quarterly results throughout much of the market. What they say about growth in the U.S. and worldwide on Friday might be a barometer of what’s ahead.
It also might be interesting to hear how companies see the tax reform bill’s impact on their guidance: Are there plans to redeploy cash back into the business, to their shareholders, to their employees? Will there be impacts on earnings per share from more share repurchase programs?
Elsewhere, oil prices of West Texas Intermediate (/CL) contracts were trading to the upside in the early going, higher by 0.68% at $62.06 after tapping fresh three-year highs at $62.56. The U.S. benchmark struggled in late December to get over that $60 benchmark but has traded above that since the start of the year.
FIGURE 1: OIL’S RISE. Prices for WTI (/CL) crude oil, after struggling to break the $60 resistance level last month, have been over it since the year started. Data sources: CME Group, Standard & Poor’s. Chart source: The thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
TD Ameritrade Investors On a Roll
TD Ameritrade’s December 2017 Investor Movement Index (IMX), a barometer of TD Ameritrade investor positions and activity to measure how TD Ameritrade clients are positioned in the markets, posted a record 8.59 reading to reach an all-time peak. That marked the second consecutive record. In November, the index reached 8.53.
The IMX showed that TD Ameritrade clients’ equity exposure from net buying rose, resulting in one of the longest buying streaks—11 straight months—in the history of the IMX. Among popular buys were Microsoft Corporation MSFT 0.18%, Bank of America Corp BAC 0.66%, General Electric Company GE 0.13% and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd BABA 0.71%. Among the stocks clients sold were Wells Fargo & Co. WFC 0.37%, AT&T Inc. T 0.24% and Verizon Communications Inc. VZ 0.38%.
Consumers appear to have confidence in their life situations as they stepped up borrowing in November, according to the Federal Reserve. Consumer borrowing hit the largest seasonally adjusted monthly tab ever, at $3.83 billion, with consumers stepping up spending by $28 billion in November, the Fed said yesterday. That put annual growth at an 8.8% rate. The monthly borrowing surpassed the $18 billion increase some economists were forecasting.
How did they do it? Mostly with credit cards, which is considered revolving credit. The annual rate in November stood at 13.3%, according to the Fed, which was higher than the 9.9% gain in October. Nonrevolving credit, which typically includes education and car loans, rose at an annual rate of 7.2% in November, above the 5.3% rate of the month before and the fastest pace since October 2016, according to the Fed. Economists said holiday spending appeared to power much of the growth.
The Fed Conundrum
So, how many interest-rate hikes might be on the table this year after three in 2017? Three? Maybe. Four? Maybe. Two? Maybe. That’s the puzzle the Federal Reserve looks like it needs to solve, according to Federal Reserve members speaking publicly in recent days.
On Friday, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Meister told Reuters that a strong economy and low levels of employment could support the case for four rate hikes this year. Over the weekend, San Francisco Fed President John Williams told Reuters he thought the strong economy will get a boost from tax cuts and that three increases should be sufficient. But on Monday, Atlanta Fed President Ralph Bostic suggested that two step ups in rates might be enough. “I am comfortable continuing with a slow removal of policy accommodation,” Bostic told the Rotary Club of Atlanta, according to MarketWatch. “However, I would caution that that doesn’t necessarily mean as many as three or four moves per year.” Stay tuned.