Major European stock indices were up two to three percent today after Asian indices rose around one percent last night. The U.S. markets then had a strong opening after the three-day holiday weekend. Mainstream media is citing bargain hunting as the source of the rally, whereas money-pumping operations to support the euro is likely the major contributor to the market's bullish behavior.
Stocks were devastated in the last two weeks and some rally at this point is reasonable in order to resolve an oversold condition. Strong buying in the U.S., though, would be inconsistent with the bear market signal being giving by the S&P 500 on Friday and the small cap Russell 2000 having experienced a bear market loss of over 20% the same day. This is not the type of market environment that traders can't wait to plunge into on the long side. Liquidity pumping by the major central banks would be most effective (and likely) at a key market juncture like this, however.
Central bank efforts to support a faltering global financial system began in earnest on Sunday May 9th after the Flash Crash three days earlier. The EU announced its $915 billion euro rescue plan and at the same time the U.S. Fed opened unlimited liquidity swap facilities with the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank. A swap facility up to $30 billion was opened with the Bank of Canada. The Fed stated: "These facilities are designed to help improve liquidity conditions" and that the Bank of Japan was considering similar measures. The swap arrangements were authorized until January 2011.
Stock markets around the world then skyrocketed on Monday, May 10th since increased liquidity shows up immediately in stock prices. Investors should expect intermittent market impact both from euro rescue money and swap generated liquidity for the next few months. For the full text of the Fed's announcement, click here.
It is fortunate for the markets that liquidity is on tap when needed. Not only is the technical picture of the market deteriorating, but the economic news isn't supporting stocks either. Little noticed last Friday was the announcement of a decline of 1.4% in U.S. industrial production. The ISM Manufacturing index for June, which came in at 56.2, indicated a slowing expansion (over 50 indicates growth). Almost every component, except for those related to inventories, was down. New orders, an indication of future activity, dropped 7.2 from the previous month. The ISM Service index fell to 53.8, which was below forecast. The employment component was 49.7 dropping below 50 and indicating job losses. The service sector is four times bigger than the manufacturing sector in the U.S.
Investors should enjoy the rally while is lasts. The rally after the flash crash in May lasted four days. Within ten days, stocks were lower than they had been during the crash. Liquidity induced rallies can be powerful, but they don't last very long.