Summer doesn’t officially start for a few more days. Tell that to the parents who are now getting their kids off to camp or getting ready for vacation. For the standard two-income household, living easy in summertime is just a memory.
Including today, we have just 12 more trading days until the end of June and the end of the second quarter. I suspect we will have seen the highs for stock prices by then. That is, if we haven’t seen them already.
Oil backed off recent highs on Friday. And that’s likely to continue. Oil was too cheap at $33 a barrel. But $73 is too high, at least for now while much of the developed world is still mired in an economic downturn. We know demand is still weak. And we know there are looming supply issues when demand picks back up. However, the issue right now is the economy.
*****Oil has been rallying as the news cycle has been relentlessly optimistic about an imminent economic recovery. In fact, many leading economists expect U.S. GDP to actually grow in the third quarter.
Investors have bought the rumor of economic recovery. We’ll see how they respond to the news. I’ll be watching oil as the leading indicator for economic expectations.
Right now, it seems like stock prices have priced in a modest recovery. And if investors perceive that there’s not much upside left for stock prices, it would makes sense to trim exposure, take profits, or however you want to put it.
*****We’ve seen anecdotal evidence that investors are moving funds out of the stocks that have led the market higher. Technology has been having trouble making headway. And we’ve seen strength in healthcare and consumer staple stocks. Plus, the Volatility Index (VIX), which measures the cost of put options (which rise in value as stocks or indices fall, thereby giving investors downside protection) has been on the rise.
This suggests that investors are preparing for a downside move for stock prices, or, at the very least, protecting gains they have made.
*****On Mondays, I’m going to start offering a look at the economic data coming out during the week ahead. This week is a bit unusual as all the economic data is out on Tuesday. Tomorrow we get Housing Starts, Building Permits and the Producer Price Index (PPI).
Of course, consumers will focus on the housing numbers. But I’d expect any numbers will be interpreted with optimism. Investors seem to understand that the bottoming process for the housing market will be volatile and that wild swings in the data should be expected.
In my opinion, the PPI is the one to watch. The U.S. dollar rallied a bit last week, but there’s no doubt that massive Treasury bond sales have investors worried about a weaker dollar the potential for inflation to pick up. Add to that improving retail sales numbers, helped by higher gasoline prices, and you have the potential for a higher-than-expected PPI reading. Needless to say, that would not be good for stocks.
I’ll talk to you tomorrow.