Are the Sellers Done?

So far this year, the S&P 500 has dropped 3% or more in one session 3 different times. The two previous times, it clawed back some of the losses over the following week. We’ll have to wait and see of there is any upside after yesterday’s big drop.   

 

The S&P 500 is now testing the lows from the “flash crash” on May 6. This is interesting because it was assumed that trading that day was something of a fluke as computer trading programs went haywire. But now that stocks are back to those levels, we must consider that the drop may not have been a fluke.  

 

The question now is: can stocks find some strength? Or perhaps a better way to ask the question is: are the sellers done?   

Financial Darwinism

As Germany voted to approve bailout money for Greece, German Left Party lawmaker Gesine Loetzsch was quoted as saying "Speculators are Taliban in pinstripes, and people in our country must be protected from these Taliban…”  

 

It’s scary to me that any political leader could voice such an inflammatory and downright naïve opinion.   

 

If a hitter in baseball can’t hit the high fastball, then that’s exactly what he will see until he makes an adjustment. When Yahoo! failed to take advantage of its early-mover status on the Internet to implement a viable paid advertising model, it opened the door to Google.   

Memo to EU

“It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread over Europe.”   

 

I wish I could take credit for that gem.   

 

Flights are grounded once again in Europe as more ash from Iceland’s unpronounceable volcano drifts over the continent.  

 

Europe is providing a major downer for the stock market these days. It’s not the grounded flights, however. It’s debt problems with Greece (again), and potentially Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland

Big News from Apple

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Boeing NYSE:BA), United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) – all beat earnings expectations in the latest round of quarterly reports.   

 

Yes, earnings estimates appear to have been too low. But at the same time, the economy is surprisingly strong. I’m not sure there’s much reason to think analysts should have seen these numbers coming.   

 

Apple was the star of the bunch. It reported $3.33 a share in earnings, when analysts were looking for a measly $2.45. That’s a humongous beat by Apple. And the stock is moving 6% higher this morning. 

Never Short Goldman Sachs

Yesterday, investors have spoke loud and clear. And they said “If it comes down to Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) vs, SEC, I’m betting on Goldman.”   

 

And why not? Goldman is all-powerful. It’s #2 on my “never short” list, after Apple and before Google.   

 

Goldman has proved its ability to stay ahead of the curve. It survived numerous lawsuits and a $110 million settlement with the New York Attorney General for IPO fraud during the Internet bubble.  

 

Most recently, the accusations that inflated price projections and a huge oil trading desk at Goldman were behind crude oil’s run to all-time highs didn’t have any effect on the company. 

Why should this little matter with the SEC over taking advantage of the housing bubble be any different? 

Simon vs. General Growth

Today, I start by offering my condolences. It’s tax day, never a pleasant time of the year.  

 

Yesterday, I noted that the recent rally lacked enthusiasm. Low volume and small daily gains were the hallmarks. Did all that change yesterday after Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) posted blowout numbers?  

 

Maybe. Volume posted its best totals since February. And the S&P 500 made its biggest gain since March 5. 

No Doubt About Intel

Yesterday I gave a somewhat tongue in cheek treatment to the question of whether Alcoa (NYSE:AA) had beaten analysts’ earnings expectations or not.   

 

Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) left no room for doubt. The chip-maker crushed estimates by $0.05 a share, beat on revenues and profit margins and guided higher for the second quarter.   

 

What’s next for Intel? Fixing the housing problem? 

Biotech Buyouts

I can imagine that a few people were waiting for President Obama to follow up his declaration that he was opening up the East Coast shelf for oil drilling with a hearty “April Fools!” but he didn’t.  

 

It’s for real.   

 

The decision to open up the East Coast shelf is sure to anger some people. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was adamantly opposed to drilling off of Florida’s coast, even when his brother George pondered the idea. He felt that oil drilling might spoil Florida’s beaches and impact tourism.   

 

I don’t know how current governor Charlie Crist feels about offshore drilling, but there will be plenty of vocal opposition. Imagine the irony as both environmentalists and conservative politicians lambaste Obama for this decision to open up oil drilling! 

Google and China

The financial media is jumping to the conclusion that recent weakness for stock prices is related to the ongoing Greek bailout saga. But considering that Greece would prefer to have the IMF involved in its bailout plans because emergency loans would be cheaper, I’d suggest we need to look elsewhere for the real cause of the recent mini-sell-off.  

 

The Indian rate hike is certainly a more likely candidate. Not because India’s economy is driving the global economy, but because this move is another sign that central banks around the world are ending their stimulus policies.   

 

India’s move comes a full month ahead of the next scheduled central bank meeting. The timing suggests that perhaps inflation is becoming problematic. And it also raises the possibility that India will hike rates again when it meets next month.   

 

Don’t underestimate the significance of Google’s (Nasdaq:GOOG) possible exit from the Chinese market. 

Sovereign Wealth Fund and Commercial Real Estate

The AP is reporting that China has trimmed its holdings of U.S. Treasury’s by $5.8 billion in January. I’m sure members of the doom and gloom economic faction will point to this as solid evidence that the U.S. is losing its ability to fund spending and is inching ever closer to default.   

 

In my opinion, this line of thinking is completely unrealistic.   

 

China still holds $889 billion in T-bills. It’s clearly not “dumping” American debt. And as I discussed last week, there is evidence that China is moving to more direct investments in the U.S.  

 

China’s state-run investment company, the China Investment Corporation (CIC), is already involved in a buyout offer for shopping mall owner General Growth Properties (NYSE:GGP) through Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM)