Wall Street Greek is alone on an island. That would not be such a bad thing though, if it was one of my treasured summer paradises of the Aegean. I am of course speaking in the figurative sense, regarding my expectation for the Federal Open Market Committee meeting decision, which is due on December 11th. Pundit after pundit, economist and sector strategist alike, are all discussing a Fed cut as if it were a foregone conclusion, despite the Fed's own words to the contrary.
Ah, but you will point to Donald Kohn's recent address that seems to draw most, like a Siren's song, to the view that a cut is certain. It was of course his speech that set the market off running and speculating. I am very disappointed in the majority of experts who have set their expectations based on the speeches of Kohn and Bernanke. I warn those reckless sailors, beware the rocky shores she draws you toward!
I have to ask, have you listened to the whole speech, or are you taking some underpaid newspaper writer's word for it? I think that if you watched the speech or read the transcript, then you would have heard Donald qualify his statements, saying that his views were not necessarily those of the Fed on the whole. It was not just that though that convinced me to vote against the majority, it was his body language as he said it.
Also, if you really listened and watched Bernanke's speech, you would have captured in memory his telling facial expressions as he discussed the Fed's need to be flexible. To me it was clear he was still in a position of neutrality that day, and the data released since has not been supportive of Fed action. Last week's jobs data seemed especially defiant.
Of first and foremost concern, the Treasury Secretary and President took some weight off the Fed chief's shoulders with their important announcement last week. If the collateral that supports mortgage backed securities and SIVs receives reinforcement from government policy, then credit markets (and equity) should find support as well.
Oh, and if you (read every overpaid pundit who thinks the Fed will cut rates, some of which are still expecting a 50 point move) missed the Fed's innuendo and body language, then go back and read the policy statement from the last meeting. Within it let me remind you, the Fed told us the risks were balanced on both sides of the equation, and the group clearly positioned itself as neutral. If you don't recall that, I'm sure you could not forget the market's dive since. The market you see, she is efficient, and despite the media and pundit calls for the next Fed cut, she was betting otherwise. I love that girl, because she never lies.
So, here I stand on this deserted island, like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Talking to myself and eating lunch with a volleyball, but what am I saying? That's what matters. The market has gained back some ground of late, and I expect she will give that all back in somewhat drastic fashion when the headless chickens starting running around in shock. "How could she surprise us like this," they will exclaim. But, you and I will know better.
Your Market-Moving Event Schedule:
On Monday, Reverand Jesse Jackson and other civil rights leaders plan to hold rallies across the country, including one on Wall Street. The protestors are calling on corporate America to take action, or more than they have, to stop home foreclosures. While Jackson puts on a good show, corporate America, especially those firms involved (read Hovnanian (NYSE: HOV), Countrywide (NYSE: CFC), Citigroup (NYSE: C)), and those realizing the results of lighter consumer spending like, (Darden (NYSE: DRI) and Sears (Nasdaq: SHLD), already comprehend the importance here.
Some might suggest Jesse take his protest a few blocks over, down to Water Street, to the offices of one rating agency that had a lot to do with the questionable assessment of risk on the now illiquid securities. That same agency and its peers are now seemingly preparing to downgrade securities that should not have been so highly rated in the first place, and this action following prior absence of diligence, could also prove detrimental to the cause of stability. The Greek, or Hugo Chavez, would ask the President to make a phone call and stop the whole mess, but I'm not sure he can. I'm referring to the debacle of last week regarding the assessment of Iran by our nation's intelligence agencies. Maybe that was just payback though for dealing George Tenet such an improper exit for his loyalty. You know, the CIA doesn't fear anybody, not even George Bush. If any of you readers have Jesse Jackson's ear, tell him to head over to Water after he's through on Wall Street.
The prettiest Presidente gets sworn in as Argentina's new leader, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Never has Argentina had such a magical leader, well not since the famed "hand of God" incident in the World Cup. Maybe she has the answer to thwart Chavez's South American plans. Perhaps if Columbia does not work out for us as a good diversion for Chavez, then Cristina could.
While the economic calendar is relatively bare, October Pending Home sales are scheduled to be reported at 10:00 a.m. They actually rose 0.2% in September after having fallen 6.5% in August. Monday's earnings schedule is light and includes H&R Block (NYSE: HRB), FuelCell Energy (Nasdaq: FCEL), Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN), Alfacel (Nasdaq: ACEL), Diamond Foods (Nasdaq: DMND), Enzo Biochem (NYSE: ENZ), Hayse Lemmerz Int'l (Nasdaq: HAYZ), IDT Corp. (NYSE: IDT), Imperial Sugar (Nasdaq: IPSU), Investors Real Estate (Nasdaq: IRETS), Navisite (Nasdaq: NAVI), Nevada Gold & Casinos (AMEX: UWN), Pall Corp. (NYSE: PLL), Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: PPHM), SAIC Inc. (NYSE: SAI), Tutogen Medical (AMEX: TTG), Urstadt Biddle Properties (NYSE: UBA) and Zila (Nasdaq: ZILA).
I would say that things could get a little more interesting on Tuesday, when the FOMC makes its announcement at 2:15 p.m. A 25 basis point move would basically seal the deal in my view and allow the market to tread higher, but I just do not see it as the most likely scenario. You know my call, no action on the Fed funds rate, but I expect a small cut on the discount rate. I expect the market to react poorly, but this will set up an opportunity for a decent Santa Claus rally or January effect in due time. Tax loss selling will soon lose its steam, if it hasn't already.
At 7:45 a.m., the ICSC-UBS will report weekly same-store sales, and we will get an idea of how strong the follow-through was in the week following Black Friday. Last week's reading showed 3.1% growth year-over-year. At 10:00 a.m., October Wholesale Trade will be reported. Barron's lists consensus expectations for wholesale inventories to rise 0.5%. Inventories grew 0.1% and 0.8% in August and September, respectively.
AT&T (NYSE: T) and Merck (NYSE: MRK) are holding analyst day events, while Boeing (NYSE: BA) is set to report on deliveries of its 787 aircraft. Tuesday's earnings slate includes ABM Industries (NYSE: ABM), PLATO Learning (Nasdaq: TUTR), Sharper Image (Nasdaq: SHRP), Kroger (NYSE: KR), Avanir (Nasdaq: AVNR), Biodel (Nasdaq: BIOD), CHC Helicopter (NYSE: FLI), Mechel OAO (NYSE: MTL), Multimedia Games (Nasdaq: MGAM), NCI Building Systems (NYSE: NCS), Resource America (Nasdaq: REXI), Taseko Mines (AMEX: TGB), The Cooper Cos. (NYSE: COO) and VistaCare (Nasdaq: VSTA).
Wednesday will kick off with the regular weekly Purchase Applications Report from the Mortgage Bankers Association. At 8:30, October International Trade is expected to show the deficit widened to $57.3 billion from $56.5 billion in September. November Import Prices are also scheduled for release, and Barron's notes the economists' consensus for a 2.0% increase, versus a 1.8% increase in October. Rising oil prices should have played a role.
At 10:00, the Census Bureau will report its Quarterly Services Survey. This quarter's survey will be focused on information and technology-related service industries accounting for roughly 15% of GDP. At 10:30, the EIA will publish its weekly Petroleum Status Report, but I believe the most important factor impacting oil this week should be the repercussions of the NIE Report. Thus, I am looking for oil to continue on its downtrend again this week. However, since the report and the President's press conference that followed, Israel's leader has stated that Iran has indeed restarted its program. We read last week that Israel was set to share intelligence with the U.S. on the subject.
Wednesday's earnings reports include ADC (Nasdaq: ADCT), American Pacific (Nasdaq: APFC), Amtech Systems (Nasdaq: ASYS), CKE Restaurants (NYSE: CKR), Convera (Nasdaq: CNVR), CPI International (Nasdaq: CPII), Integrated Electrical (Nasdaq: IESC), Magellan Health Services (Nasdaq: MGLN), Martek Biosciences (Nasdaq: MATK), Vital Signs (Nasdaq: VITL) and Harry Winston Diamond (Toronto: HW.TO).
Thursday looks to offer a busy morning. The Producer Price Index for November is expected to show a 1.5% increase, compared to 0.1% in October. Reuters places price expectations less food and energy at a 0.2% increase. Retail sales for November will also be announced, and last week individual retailers offered up mixed but mostly weak chain store sales results. Reuters shows expectations for a 0.5% increase, versus 0.2% in October. Weekly Initial Jobless Claims will round out the early reports, and will match against last week's claims of 338,000.
At 10:00, Business Inventories for October are seen increasing 0.3%, compared to a 0.4% rise in September. The EIA Natural Gas Report will follow that up, and considering the cold spell in the Northeast, the result might look bullish. However, strategists will look toward the 10-day and long-term forecasts, which seem to both point toward warmer weather.
Thursday's earnings news will emanate from BRT Realty Trust (NYSE: BRT), Comarco (Nasdaq: CMRO), Costco (Nasdaq: COST), eOn Communications (Nasdaq: EONC), Jos A. Bank (Nasdaq: JOSB), Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH), MDS (NYSE: MDZ), Pennantpark Investment (Nasdaq: PNNT), Quiksilver (NYSE: ZQK), SoftBrands (NYSE: SBN) and Tier Technologies (Nasdaq: TIER).
Quadruple Witching could spur volatility on Friday, while the Consumer Price Index headlines all news. November's CPI is seen increasing 0.6%, versus 0.2% in October, and 0.2% (0.2%) excluding food and energy. Industrial production for November is expected to rise 0.1%, aftering falling 0.5% in October. Capacity Utilization is expected to match October with a November reading of 81.7%.
Friday's earnings reporters include Arrowhead Research (Nasdaq: ARWR), Electronic Clearing House (Nasdaq: ECHO), Rentech Inc. (AMEX: RTK), Value Line (Nasdaq: VALU) and Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods (NYSE: WBD).