Well that was quick!
I’m referring of course to the short uptrend from the stock market correction that had seen a bottom on June 8. As of today, the S&P 500 index undercut the lows of the last correction and has put us back into another market correction. With all the overhang from worldwide events and mounting evidence of a slowing recovery, investor, consumer and institutional sentiment are at their lows.
In last week’s statement from the Federal Reserve, where it continued to hold interest rates at 0-0.25% for an extended period, the “Fed” acknowledged a softening recovery and lackluster employment growth. Hints of another fiscal stimulus or monetary easing emanated from Washington to help avoid a possible double-dip recession. Now you may have heard about the G-20 Summit meeting this past weekend in Toronto where the United States was the lone voice in encouraging a coordinated effort of more fiscal stimulus to heed off a global recession; instead, most European nations were insistent that austerity measures and tax increases were the way to go to bring their fiscal houses in order. While I’m totally in favor of balanced budgets and fiscal conservatism, simultaneously cutting spending and raising taxes are the surest way to plunge your country into recession or worse, depression (history has demonstrated this time and time again.) At a time when the recovery is so fragile, doing one of the two is risky; doing both is simply economic suicide.
The Conference Board reported a sharp drop in Consumer Confidence today which caught Wall Street completely off guard. However, today’s figures are in sharp contrast to last Friday when the University of Michigan reported its Consumer Sentiment gauge at the highest level in two years. Although the 9.8 point drop in the Conference Board numbers was higher than expected, keep in mind that Consumer Confidence fell over 10 points in February just before the last stock market rally. These numbers really don’t mean a whole lot to the markets, so I’d caution against reading too much into today’s report or market reaction.
As I’ve written before, the stock markets hate uncertainty. With the BP Gulf disaster getting worse, the European Union is still arguing who should pay for whom and how much, financial regulation passage still uncertain, new job creation largely absent, and slowing growth in China, we have the makings of a “bad news salad.” Even though yields on money markets and Treasuries are at their lows, it seems that there is no appetite for risk or conviction in the markets by both the bulls and the bears. With poor May retail sales, jobs, and housing numbers, the bulls haven’t had much to hang their hat on lately. But keep in mind that one month does not make a trend.
So we find ourselves once again at a critical level in the markets today. At a closing level of 1,041 in the S&P 500, the bulls must come in and rescue this uptrend or risk dropping another 6% from here to about 980. I must admit that I believe that our only short-term hope of averting this drop is a very favorable June jobs number on Friday (on the order of 100,000 new jobs created.) Tomorrow (Wednesday), ADP will release their preliminary estimate of the jobs number (of mostly private employment; it does not include government jobs) and it is widely expected to show 60,000 new jobs created. The ADP report is widely anticipated as an indicator of the main jobs report, but it has been known to be way off. However, many institutions and traders treat it as a preview of Friday’s number. Let’s hope that the Labor Department has a nice 4th of July weekend send-off for us.
So much bad news, negative sentiment and consecutive down days are built into the market that a bounce is overdue and may come tomorrow (Wednesday) if the ADP jobs report is favorable. For our portfolios, I will be closely watching the 1,041 level on the S&P 500 index for support. If that support line is definitively broken, I will look to reinstate the portfolio hedges that have served us well in the past. Even at these market levels, we are still considered to be in a correction, not another bear market. By technical definition, a bear market is a 20% decline from a market high, which was 1,220 in the S&P 500 index. That gives us running room to 976 to avoid descending into another bear market.
I personally believe that with an undoubtedly positive 2nd quarter earnings season coming up and a good jobs report, we can avert the drop to bear market levels. I am not in the camp that believes that a double-dip recession or depression is in our near-term future. Short-term, a negative jobs report and poor earnings guidance combined with severe austerity measures around Europe will likely mean bad news for stocks. My broken crystal ball predicts however that we will pull out of this malaise and that the recovery, albeit tepid, will carry the markets upward through the rest of the year. However, if the markets insist on going lower into bear market territory, I will look to liquidate a portion of equity portfolios and increase our hedges. Recall that earlier in the spring I mentioned that the summer months would be both volatile and bumpy…and here we are.
I am working on my 2nd half 2010 market and economic outlook and will send it out to everyone later this week. I wish I had better news for you right now. Nonetheless, I hope this update helps you understand a little more of what’s going on with the markets. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who might benefit from reading it. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you or someone in your family or circle of friends is considering hiring a financial planner, please visit our website or consider a complimentary financial roadmap via the link below. Your first consultation with us is complimentary and there is no pressure to make any decisions.