By John Nyaradi. The U.S. stock market suffered its worst losses in five months as earnings reports look mediocre and economic reports disappoint.
For the week, major stock market indexes posted sharp declines as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) lost 2.1%, the S&P 500 declined (SPY fell 2.1% and the Nasdaq 100 (NASDAQ:QQQ) slid 2.7%. The Russell 2000 (NYSEARCA:IWM) fell 3.2%.
Major U.S. stock indexes are fading from recent record highs and now have broken significant support levels with the Russell 2000 and Nasdaq Composite falling below their respective 50 day moving averages.
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The S&P 500 which is a proxy for the U.S. stock market has fallen 2.4% from its recent record high and now rests at significant support levels.
chart courtesy of StockCharts.com
In the chart of the S&P 500 above we can see how the major stock market index has fallen to its 50 day moving average and now rests on that level. Significant support rests at the 1540 level and momentum is negative as represented by the MACD display in the bottom of the chart. A sustained decline below the 50 day moving average would be bearish for the U.S. stock market and a break of the 1540 level would trigger a "sell" signal in point and figure methodology. Shorter-term traders who watch the 20 day moving average have already seen that support level broken.
Further bearish action could probe the 1520, 1500 or 1480 level, according to Fibonacci retracement theory, which would represent a potential decline of between 1.3%-4.8% over the near term. Violation of those levels would set up the growing possibility for a decline to as low as 1400 for the S&P 500, representing a potential decline of 10% from current levels for the S&P 500 and other broad stock market indexes.
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For the week just ended, economic reports were mixed for the stock market as housing starts jumped sharply for March and the Fed Beige Book described moderate economic growth. However, weakness was displayed in the April Empire State Index which fell sharply and missed expectations and the NAHB Home Builders Index which declined to 42 in April, down from 44 in March and widely missing expectations.
March Industrial Production declined to 0.4% from February's 1.1% and weekly jobless claims spiked to 352,000, up from the previous week's 348,000 and coming in above expectations. The April Philadelphia Federal Reserve Report came in at 1.3, a sharp decline from last month's 2.0 and way off consensus expectations of 4-5.0 and leading indicators rounded out the week on Friday with a -0.1% reading for March, down from +0.5% in February.
Earnings season is well underway with more than 2/3 of S&P 500 companies so far beating expectations. However, some broad disappointments showed up in mainline tech companies like IBM (NYSE:IBM) which fell 8.3% on Friday as Wall Street expressed its dissatisfaction with the company's earnings report.
While earnings appear to be holding up, revenues for major corporations seem to be under pressure with slow year over year growth and a high number of missed estimates.
Overseas, China reported growth slowing to 7.7%, also below estimates, and Britain lost its Triple A rating according to Fitch Ratings agency. The International Monetary fund issued a global growth forecast calling for an uneven recovery but an improving second half of 2013. Managing Director Christine Lagarde described a "three speed" world in which emerging markets were high speed, the United States second speed and Europe being the third speed group.
This week brings important economic reports including:
Monday: March Existing Home Sales
Tuesday: Markit Flash PMI and New Home Sales
Wednesday: March Durable Goods Orders
Thursday: New Weekly Unemployment Claims
Friday: April Consumer Sentiment, Q1 GDP Revision
Earnings reports will also take center stage with closely watched announcements from stock market heavyweights including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Boeing (NYSE:BA), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Procter and Gamble (NYSE:PG), Exxon (NYSE:XOM), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM), along with a gaggle of regional banks and major airlines. These will offer a broad overview of major S&P 500 sectors including industrials, tech, energy, transportation and consumer discretionary.
Also sure to be sliced and diced next week will be the reasons behind Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke skipping this year's prestigious Federal Reserve annual meeting scheduled for late August in Jackson Hole. "Personal scheduling conflict" is the official reason, however, this will be Dr. Bernanke's first miss since becoming Fed chairman and the first time a U.S. Fed Chairman has missed the meeting in a quarter century.
Finally, the sequestration comes to center stage this week as the Federal Aviation Administration cuts 10% from its budget and forecasts delays at major airports in the United States as a result of furloughs, reduced staffing, ground delay programs and potential runway closures. Delays could run from minutes to as high as three hours, depending on the day and airport, with major hubs like Chicago forecasting average delays of 50 minutes and max delays of over two hours. Los Angeles predicted delays run from 10-67 minutes while Atlanta could experience delays from 11 minutes to 3 hours and 30 minutes. Expect intense media coverage of this event and growing pressure on Congress and the White House to resolve the sequestration issues.
Sequestration cuts are also hitting the military as the Air Force says that 30% of its combat planes could be grounded and the Navy Blue Angels cancelled their summer schedule. Other impacts will be felt in the social sector as various states explore cutting long-term unemployment benefits and housing subsidies.
Bottom line: Earnings season will drive the news and stock market volatility this week, along with media pressure regarding air traffic delays and the possible economic consequences of widening sequestration cuts. Technical indicators remain weak for the short term while major stock market indexes must hold current support levels to avoid further declines.
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