By Jamie Chisholm
Critical information for the U.S. trading day
Early Friday skirmishing in the stock-index futures market suggests the S&P 500 will struggle to reach a sixth successive record high.
Technology stocks are on course to lead the retreat, as a 10% plunge in Intel shares (INTC), after the chipmaker delivered weak guidance late Thursday, highlights the danger of disappointment in a sector some consider priced for AI perfection.
Noting Thursday's somewhat meager gains, given U.S. data showing a strong economy but benign inflation, Mark Newton, head of technical strategy at Fundstrat, reckons: "The U.S. equity rally appears to be getting a bit tired."
Perhaps any cooling of the bulls' ardor reflects a market starting to pay more attention to shifting prospects for Federal Reserve interest-rate cuts in the near future. The chart below from BTIG's chief market technician, Jonathan Krinsky, shows how stocks in recent months have closely tracked the odds of borrowing costs being trimmed in March.
But in the last few weeks the link has fractured, with stocks trundling higher as the chances of a 25-basis-point cut in the federal-funds rate have fallen from around 90% to less than 50%. "[T]his divergence is likely to resolve with [the S&P 500 SPX] moving lower over the near term," Krinsky warned in a recent note.
This just goes to show that market correlations can matter - until they don't, suddenly. The trick for investors is to understand whether the dislocation is a brief aberration or evidence of a fundamental shift.
Take the the 2-year Treasury, which Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, thinks "is the most important security in the world, at least when it comes to the direction of the S&P 500."
Colas provides the following chart to show how 2-year yields moved since the start of 2022, and how the S&P 500 performed over those periods of rising, stable or declining rates.
The relationship is clear, says Colas: "When 2-year yields are rising, stocks drop (all of 2022, August-October 2023). When they are relatively stable (January-July 2023, even with the sudden drop due to the U.S. bank mini-crisis) or declining (November 2023-present), stocks go up."
Importantly, Colas stresses, this is not mere correlation but causation, and explains what is going on.
Those 2-year yields reflect the market's best guess about the fed-funds rate over the next 24 months, he says, and, in the context of the last few years of monetary policy, show how investors have been trying to predict where short-term rates need to go to bring inflation back down to the Fed's target of 2%.
This impacts stocks because when yields move higher the market frets that terminal policy rates will be far higher still than current levels. "This raises the specter of recession, since the U.S. economy can only withstand a certain level of interest rates before it buckles under the strain. No one knows where that level is, so any marked increase in yields is unwelcome," he says.
Crucially, the 5% level on 2-year yields is what Colas calls a "break point for equity investor psychology." Last year's market pullback between August and October occurred as yields rose above 5% and looked liked going higher still, while the latest fall in yields eased those concerns.
But there's a quirk. This year short-term rates have gone up, but so has the equity market. The 2-year Treasury note's yield began 2024 at 4.25% and hit 4.4% at midweek, while the S&P 500 is up 2.6% to date in 2024.
Colas has three explanations for the correlation's rupture. First, stocks have tended to advance when yields are relatively stable, and frankly the latest move higher in rates is not that great relative to recent bond-market volatility.
Second, "The FOMC's December Summary of Economic Projections called for three rate cuts this year. Markets have assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the committee is being conservative. Either way, projected rate cuts put a ceiling on 2-year yields," says Colas.
Finally, investors are relaxed about the Fed's policy trajectory. A recent survey by DataTrek showed only 6% of respondents saying they expected no rate cuts or higher rates this cycle.
That's not to say 2-year yields will stop exerting influence on equities, says Colas. After all, there is still some uncertainty about about when the Fed will ease monetary policy, and it likely will be better for stocks if bonds indicate the pivot is coming sooner rather than later and that a multiyear easing cycle is on the cards.
The takeaway from all this is that Colas thinks 2-year Treasury yields will likely determine whether the S&P 500 has a good year, with a gain of between 5% and 10% - or an even better one well into double digits. "We think the latter is more likely, but lower 2-year rates would increase our confidence in that prediction."
U.S. stock-index futures (ES00) (YM00) (NQ00) were lower early Friday as benchmark Treasury yields BX:TMUBMUSD10Y dipped fractionally. The dollar DXY was little changed, while oil prices (CL.1) fell and gold (GC00) traded around $2,022 an ounce.
Key asset performance Last 5d 1m YTD 1y S&P 500 4,894.16 2.37% 2.32% 2.61% 20.53% Nasdaq Composite 15,510.50 3.02% 2.75% 3.33% 34.73% 10 year Treasury 4.111 -1.98 23.05 23.05 59.96 Gold 2,023.30 -0.42% -2.34% -2.34% 4.96% Oil 76.61 4.33% 7.40% 7.40% -3.49% Data: MarketWatch. Treasury yields change expressed in basis points
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The personal-consumption expenditure price index, the Fed's favored inflation gauge, rose 2.9% in the year to December, lower than forecasts of 3% and down from November's 3.2%.
Other U.S. economic data due on Friday include the December pending-home-sales report at 10 a.m.
American Express shares (AXP) are up 2% after forecasts for 2024 beat expectations.
Layoffs are picking up. Levi Strauss (LEVI) says it will cut 15% of its corporate workforce, while Salesforce (CRM) is planning to shed 700 employees, according to a report.
LVMH shares (FR:MC) are up 11%, pulling peers such as Kering (FR:KER), Hermes (FR:RMS) and L'Oreal (FR:OR) up in their wake, after the luxury-goods group reported higher-than-expected sales for 2023.
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Equity markets trading at new highs may suggest investors are relaxed, goes the thinking. That's why, even though it might make sense to pay up for option protection when one's portfolio surges, fewer do, and the CBOE VIX index VIX tends to move lower when stocks rally.
Indeed, extrapolating this reasoning, Société Générale asks: "Don't equity markets always make new highs when volatility is low?" It points to the chart below of the VIX when the S&P 500 hits a new record and answers: "Well, clearly not."
Here were the most active stock-market tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m. Eastern.
Ticker Security name TSLA Tesla NVDA Nvidia INTC Intel HDB HDFC Bank ADR AMD Advanced Micro Devices AAPL Apple NIO NIO ADR JAGX Jaguar Health GME GameStop MSFT Microsoft
Cat in a bag steals the show.
Skibidi toilet. ... This is humanity now.
Speaking of loos, fresh developments in the flushing debate.
I might try changing my last name to Dimond, and see if this happens.
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As someone deeply entrenched in financial analysis and market trends, I can confidently dissect the article you provided. It's packed with insights and indicators crucial for understanding the current state of the U.S. trading landscape.
Let's delve into the concepts mentioned:
S&P 500 Performance: The article discusses the S&P 500's struggle to maintain record highs, with particular attention to technology stocks and Intel's recent decline due to weak guidance. This demonstrates an acute awareness of market sentiment and individual stock movements.
Federal Reserve Interest Rates: There's a focus on the Federal Reserve's interest-rate policy and its impact on market behavior. This includes discussions on market reactions to shifting expectations of rate cuts and the correlation between stock movements and the likelihood of rate adjustments.
2-Year Treasury Yields: Nicholas Colas' analysis of 2-year Treasury yields and their relationship with S&P 500 performance underscores the importance of bond market dynamics in shaping investor sentiment and market direction. Colas' insights highlight the causal relationship between bond yields and stock movements, emphasizing the predictive power of yield fluctuations.
Market Correlations and Causation: The article emphasizes the nuanced relationship between different market indicators, cautioning against overreliance on correlations that may suddenly break down. It stresses the importance of understanding whether observed dislocations are temporary anomalies or signs of a fundamental shift in market dynamics.
Economic Data and Corporate Performance: Mention of economic indicators like the personal-consumption expenditure price index and pending-home-sales report, along with updates on corporate earnings forecasts and layoffs, provides a comprehensive view of the macroeconomic environment and its impact on individual companies.
Asset Performance: Data on asset performance, including stock-index futures, Treasury yields, the dollar, oil, and gold prices, offers insights into broader market trends and investor sentiment across different asset classes.
Volatility and Market Sentiment: Société Générale's analysis of equity market highs and volatility, as well as the reference to the CBOE VIX index, sheds light on investor psychology and risk appetite during periods of market exuberance.
This comprehensive analysis demonstrates a deep understanding of financial markets, economic indicators, and the interconnectedness of various factors influencing market behavior.