(Wednesday Market Open) Crude is back in the news, with tumbling oil prices hurting the energy sector this week and possibly posing a threat to the broader market. Meanwhile, earnings roll on, and stock futures signaled a flat open after the Nasdaq posted an all-time high close and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) made an all-time intraday high on Tuesday.
Oil kept trickling lower early Wednesday and fell below $52 a barrel, hurt by signs of rising U.S. production and falling Chinese demand. The latest bearish news came in the form of the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) weekly U.S. stockpiles report Tuesday, which showed a hefty build of more than 14 million barrels, according to media reports. Official government data on crude inventories are due at 10:30 a.m. EST today, and we’ll see how that compares with the API number. The question is whether pressure on the energy sector might start to leak into other sectors, as we saw a year ago.
On the earnings front, Walt Disney (DIS) beat earnings per share expectations late Tuesday, but came up short in revenue overall and across various segments of the business. On the whole, the company’s earnings seemed a bit disappointing, and shares fell in pre-market trading. We’ll see if DIS weakness proves a drag on the DJIA today.
Additionally, Time Warner (TWX) posted adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter of $1.25 a share, topping analysts' forecasts of $1.19, and Allergan (AGN) shares also rose on an earnings beat. Biotech firm Gilead Sciences (GILD) saw shares fall more than 6% after the company said that product sales would decline this year. And Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) saw same-store sales decrease and its shares fall in pre-market trade.
Be on the lookout early Thursday for Twitter (TWTR) earnings, where investors are likely to focus on user numbers and engagement.
Though the latest round of earnings looks a bit mixed, by and large, CEOs are talking about growth rather than about being able to meet targets, and that’s what many investors like to hear.
Something to ponder: The gold market—traditionally a safety play in tough times—has posted consecutive three-month high closes. A gold rally can often signal increasing concerns about the underlying economy. Gold continued to climb early Wednesday, and so did the U.S. dollar. At the same time, U.S. Treasury bond yields fell. European and Asian stocks were flat to higher Wednesday.
There were a couple signs of possible economic sluggishness Tuesday, with the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report showing openings falling to 5.501 million when economists had expected a rise. And consumer credit grew by just $14.5 billion in December, well below the $19.4 billion analysts had expected.
In the meantime, the market could see some lackluster trade as the weekend draws nearer, barring any news from the White House, where a lot of the market-moving news has come from lately.
Bond Yields Down Even as Dollar Rises: Here’s something you don’t see every day: The dollar rose Tuesday, but bond yields fell. Often, these two metrics move in tandem, because typically a stronger dollar points to a growing U.S. economy and the potential for associated rising interest rates. But on Tuesday, 10-year Treasury yields dipped back below 2.4%, down from near 2.5% last week; even as the U.S. dollar index ($DXY), which had slumped over the last month, rose above 100. It’s unclear if this will continue, but Tuesday’s divergence could represent a couple of conflicting stories in the markets at the moment. On the one hand, some market participants interpreted the Fed’s statement last week as a slight step back from the hawkishness seen earlier in the year, and that seems to be having a bearish impact on Treasury yields. At the same time, economic optimism centered on de-regulatory and economic stimulus policies by the Trump administration seems to be helping the dollar.
A Familiar Sound: In November, wholesale inventories rose 1%, and Thursday’s December wholesale inventories report is expected to show a rise of exactly the same amount, according to Briefing.com. The number to watch in this report is the inventory-to-sales ratio, which has been hovering near the 1.3 mark. A drop in that level could indicate future economic strength, as it could potentially point to businesses perhaps needing to stock up to meet growing demand.
Four Quarterbacks and 26 Water Boys? We often point out that most investors prefer to focus on the S&P 500 Index (SPX) rather than the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) to get a broad sense of the market’s progress. One reason for this is illustrated nicely by an analysis that ran on CNBC yesterday. The news outlet pointed out that the DJIA is up so far this year mainly due to four of its 30 components, those being Apple (AAPL), Visa (V), Boeing (BA) and IBM (IBM). Shares of those companies accounted for 98% of the DJIA’s gain during the year-to-date, with AAPL alone racking up one-third of the gains. Nothing wrong with those four stocks; in fact, each could be called a benchmark of its industry, and all are worth a close watch. But when just four stocks have that big an influence, it’s easy to see why the SPX, with 500 stocks represented, is often the preferred area of focus when investors want the big picture.
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