Good Morning. The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally a quiet session where anyone actually at their desks winds up questioning their decision and doing a lot of online shopping. However, this time around stocks exploded higher with the DJIA gaining 173 points. The move capped off a week in which the indices gained ground each day and put up the best weekly performance in over two months. To anyone long the market, Friday's action produced a smile by the time the closing bell rang. But the joyride to the upside also left a lot of folks scratching their heads.
Despite the holiday-like session, I received a handful of calls from colleagues on Friday - all asking the same question: What the heck is going on here? Make no mistake about it; these were investment professionals looking for answers. And no, I'm not talking about financial planners or "wealth advisors," these calls were from fellow money managers trying to make sense of the sudden blast.
One caller, who had admittedly been "out at the mall" in the early morning wanted to know the news that triggered the spike up. He assumed that there had either been a breakthrough on the latest Greece deal (which is expected to come early this week), some dovish comments regarding the fiscal cliff negotiations, or perhaps a more permanent arrangement in Gaza. And then before I could answer, he also threw out the idea that perhaps some early "Black Friday" sales numbers had been released.
When it was my turn to speak, I suggested that all of his ideas were certainly logical and that he was definitely on to something with the assumption that the move was tied to a headline. And then, just for fun, I informed my friend that he might have forgotten about the potential impact of the recent economic data as the German IFO Business Climate Index rose for the first time in 7 months and that China's Flash PMI had moved back up into the expansion mode for the first time in 13 months. After a pause, he responded with "Nah, those data points aren't enough to trigger this kind of a response."
I then immediately admitted that he was right, as the German IFO and Chinese Flash PMI numbers, while strong and definitely BTE, wouldn't trigger a gain of 1.3% on a day in which nobody was home. Having had my fun, I quickly admitted that it was indeed a headline out of Europe that seemed to be triggering the buying. "But," I said, "it wasn't the headline you might have expected and the market reaction isn't completely intuitive."
I went on to inform my colleague that it was the breakdown in the EU budget talks that was getting all the attention. "Hmmm ... " he replied. "What was the exact headline?"
I said that there were actually two headlines from Europe Friday. The first was, "EU Budget Talks Break down." And the second was, "EU Leaders Summit to Discuss Long-Term Budget Called Off." To which my friend replied, "Ooh, that doesn't sound good."
"That was my exact reaction too when I heard the news," I said. But I then explained that after a couple of minutes with the key charts, it all made sense to me. "Do tell," he replied.
I told my friend to pull up a chart of the euro. And after a brief pause I heard "WOW!" on the other end of the phone. "Why on earth is the euro soaring?" he demanded. I said that the answer required a bit of financial gymnastics but proceeded to explain that the talks involving the long-term budget for the EU involved something like a trillion euros of austerity measures. "As such," I explained, "Calling off the talks and pushing them into next year means that government spending in the eurozone won't decline, which is good for the economy, and in turn, good for the euro."
"Ah, that makes perfect sense," my friend replied. He went on to say, "But the move in the euro seems a bit bigger than I might have expected. And holy moly, look at the dollar!"
My response was short and to the point, "Exactly - now you've got it." I went on to opine that the outsized move in the euro likely triggered a fair amount of algo-induced short-covering as well as the related computer-driven selling in the dollar. "Which, in turn ..." I began. But before I could get to the big finish, my friend beat me to the punch with, "Which, in turn... Leads to a 'risk on' trade in stocks, emerging markets, gold, materials, etc!"
My colleague went on to say, "Of course, that makes perfect sense - thanks for walking me through that." I said that I was glad to help and proceeded to open up a discussion about the likelihood of the new-found "risk on" trade hanging around for a while. After a quick back-and-forth on the subject, we concluded that a flip of my lucky peso (which is reserved for only the really big decisions) was probably in order.
With the mystery of why stocks exploded higher on Friday solved, we turned our attention to this week. I reminded my friend that Congress was returning to Washington and that the parties involved with the fiscal cliff would likely do some negotiating in the press. "Therefore, we probably should expect the market's ride to get bumpy in the near term," I offered. To which he replied, "You got that right, that's how this game is likely going to be played."
Turning to this morning ... Although Aisan markets were mostly higher overnight, concerns over the fiscal cliff (there has been no progress made in the last 10 days) as well as renewed worries in Europe are pushing European markets and U.S. futures lower this morning.
Major Foreign Markets:
- Shanghai: -0.51%
- Hong Kong: +0.55%
- Japan: +1.81%
- France: -0.87%
- Germany: -0.38%
- Italy: -0.56%
- Spain: -0.73%
- London: -0.62%
- Crude Oil Futures: -$0.37 to $87.91
- Gold: -$0.40 to $1751.00
- Dollar: higher against the yen, euro and pound
- 10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 1.667%
Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
- S&P 500: -7.65
- Dow Jones Industrial Average: -73
- NASDAQ Composite: -10.79