Traders breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday after Harry Reid confirmed that he and his Republican counterpart had come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government. While there is still a fair amount of work to be done and there could be hiccups along the way, the current thinking is that the politicians have once again, to paraphrase the famous words of Winston Churchill, found a way to do the right thing after they exhausted all alternatives.
While some will argue that Wednesday's 206 point gain on the DJIA (NYSEARCA:DIA) was driven by short-covering, the rally did increase the total on the six-day anticipatory run to nearly 600 points. And things looked even better over on the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY), NASDAQ (NASDAQ:QQQ), Russell 2000 (NYSEARCA:IWM) and S&P Midcap 400 (NYSEARCA:MDY) where the broader indices either finished at new highs, at new cycle highs, or came pretty darn close to a previous high-water mark.
Glad That's Over!
So ... now that the big, bad debt event is in the rear-view mirror, things will get back to normal again in the stock market, right? Instead of focusing on every headline, comment, and/or rumor out of D.C., won't traders now turn their attention to issue of the day - corporate earnings? And after that, won't such mundane issues as economics and valuations become important again?
In a word, no.
It is important to recognize that while the deal announced by Senate leaders on Wednesday will reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, it does so only until January 15 and February 7 respectively. As such, it won't be long until the boys and girls will be back to calling each other names, pulling each other's hair, and pushing one another on the playground again. In fact, the country will be lucky to get through the upcoming holiday shopping season before the bickering and threats start anew.
Preparing For The Next Go 'Round
Since the next opportunity for the professional politicians to shut down the government is just ninety days away, some investors may want to begin preparing their strategy now. One idea would be to take the gains for the year and go home. And frankly, the idea of putting 2013's stock market gains, which are likely in the range of 20% - 30% at this point, in the bank may be very appealing to a wide swath of investors.
Under the assumption that the Government Crisis Play Book will work again, the "fast money" crowd may be looking at the calendar and making plans to start a short-selling campaign once the insults start to fly before New Year's Eve.
However, the bulls may decide to ignore the entire ordeal this time around. After all, the S&P's pullback during the latest edition of fun and games in Washington was just a hair over 4 percent. And given that each successive budget/debt crisis since 2011 has produced shorter and shallower declines, there is probably a fair number of investors that will pass on hitting the panic button next time.
Checking The Calendar, It's Almost Time For ...
There are a couple other reasons why investors may not want to jump off the bull bandwagon any time soon - and both have to do with the calendar.
First, the time of year when stocks display a strong tendency to move higher (aka the Year-End Rally) is almost here. The bottom line is that one of the most favorable parts of the year is during the November through April period. And unless my Outlook calendar is messed up again, November 1 doesn't appear to be too far away.
And then there is the issue of "performance anxiety." Don't look now fans, but the S&P 500 is up nearly 21 percent in 2013. The problem is that a great many fund managers are underperforming by a rather large margin this year (the HFRX Hedge Fund Index is up less than 5 percent year-to-date). This has traditionally meant that managers who may have been overly bearish throughout the year tend to throw in the towel and get long, in the hopes of playing some catch-up during the last couple months of the year.
So, Back To Normal Then?
So, while the focus may come off of Washington D.C. for a while, it is unlikely that the stock market is going to get back to "normal" (whatever that is) any time soon. But one can always hope, right?
Turning to This Morning ...
Now that the debt-ceiling deal has been inked by the President, it appears that traders have gone into "sell the news" mode. Recall that stocks have rallied on the expectation that a deal would get done for the past 5-6 days. As such, it appears that the "buy the rumor, sell the news" trade may now be underway as the deal didn't really solve anything. In short, most analysts feel that the deal simply kicked the can down the road for another three months. In addition, punk earnings from the likes of IBM and Goldman Sachs are helping to push U.S. stock futures lower in the early going.
Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell ...
Major Foreign Markets:
- Japan: +0.83%
- Hong Kong: -0.57%
- Shanghai: -0.19%
- London: -0.07%
- Germany: -0.43%
- France: -0.28%
- Italy: -0.67%
- Spain: -0.19%
Crude Oil Futures: -$0.59 to $101.70
Gold: +$37.90 to $1317.20
Dollar: higher against the yen, lower vs. euro and pound.
10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.627%
Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
- S&P 500: -4.24
- Dow Jones Industrial Average: -116
- NASDAQ Composite: -9.17
Thought For The Day ... Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many people you brought with you. - Wil Rose
Positions in stocks mentioned: none