Stocks are up today for little good reason. It would be a reach to say that stocks gained on Mario Draghi's reminder of his new bond buying tool, which he has not used yet. The Middle East has not calmed on net, with Turkey's Parliament determining to take military action in Syria. Data here at home was moderately poor at best this morning, so where's the catalyst for the decent early gains in the SDPR S&P 500 (SPY), SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA) and the PowerShares QQQ (NASDAQ: QQQ). Well, there is that little presidential debate which took place last evening. A majority of pundits seem to be declaring Republican Mitt Romney the winner. One might argue that the ex-market insider has the favor of market participants, who may be celebrating a bit today.
In my view, there wasn't an overwhelming win by either candidate, but the GOP hopeful did seem to have it together better than the incumbent, President Obama. Surprisingly, stocks rose in Asia today, despite Romney's calling for a test on spending to be determined by whether it's worthwhile to owe China for it or not. European shares were mixed at best on Mario Draghi's reminder of his big new gun, which was perhaps an attempt to refocus bond markets back on the good ECB effort and away from the bad economies of the EU and the ugly protests on the streets. Still, the iShares S&P Europe 350 (IEV), trading on our time in the states, is up a much more important 0.8%.
S&P/ASX 200: +0.3%
EURO STOXX 50: -0.2%
Hang Seng: +0.1%
FTSE 100: +0.2%
Nikkei 225: +0.9%
German DAX: -0.1%
Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300: +1.8%
French CAC 40: -0.1%
U.S. economic data offered nothing to celebrate. The day's data flow produced a relatively unchanged Weekly Initial Jobless Claims data point, a soft-spoken report on announced corporate layoffs from Challenger Gray & Christmas, an improved consumer sentiment measure from Bloomberg, mostly subdued same-store sales growth from retailers for September and sharply lower factory orders. That's hardly news worthy of sending stocks higher, in my view.
To get a better read on whether it is a Romney effect, we might want to look at the sectors that are expected to most benefit from a Romney victory. Defense, first and foremost, and a focus of the candidate's discussion last evening, should be rising today on the news. However, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Aerospace & Defense (ITA) and the PowerShares Aerospace & Defense (PPA) are only up about in line with stocks generally. Though, the shares of Northrop Grumman (NOC) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) are showing outsized gains of a point or more this morning. We might also inspect energy for a read on Romney's impact, as he is seen as more supportive of the petroleum complex. The shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) are up just slightly better than the market this morning.
In conclusion, it does seem to me as though a post-debate Mitt Romney rise is driving stocks higher Thursday. However, it's also a less than confidence drive, perhaps reflecting how tight the election really is, or how confused Americans are about which candidate is best for most Americans. I'll leave the politics to you, and continue to discern what's driving stocks daily. Today, though, it seems the two were tied.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.