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Money Daily has been providing business and financial market news, views, and coverage on a nearly continuous basis since 2006. Complete archives are available at moneydaily.blogspot.com.

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March 1, 2020

Boring Week for Stocks Draws to a Close

Friday, March 1, 2024, 8:43 am ET

How dull was this week?

It was so dull, most people didn't notice that the NASDAQ made a new all-time closing high on Thursday.

It had to happen, eventually, since the other majors had already topped numbers from early 2022. The NASDAQ's previous high was 16,057.44, dating back to November 19,2021, so it was overdue. Huzzah!

Other than that milestone, traders spent the first three days of the week wondering about the PCE figures, which were released Thursday, prior to the opening bell. They were nothing of a surprise, so markets responded only midlly.

For the week, through Thursday's close, here's where the various indices stand:
Dow: -135.14
NASDAQ: +95.10
S&P 500: +7.47
NYSE Composite: -8.59

The numbers aren't very exciting, and stock futures reflect that, nearly flat-lining.

Even NVidia (NVDA), which sent markets into a buying frenzy last week, is up fewer than three points.

It's so boring, we're taking the rest of the week off. More to come on the WEEKEND WRAP, Sunday.

Later, dudes!

At the Close, Thursday, February 29, 2024:
Dow: 38,996.39, +47.37 (+0.12%)
NASDAQ: 16,091.92, +144.18 (+0.90%)
S&P 500: 5,096.27, +26.51 (+0.52%)
NYSE Composite: 17,607.43, +33.74 (+0.19%)


The Wait is Over: PCE Shows Inflation Slowly Declining, as Expected

Thursday, February 29, 2024, 9:18 am ET

No, you're not imagining it.

After last Thursday's Nvidia blowout, stocks have been essentially trading sideways to lower in anticipation of one number, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Index that excludes volatile food and energy prices, expected to read at 2.8% for January on a year-over-year basis.

The month-over-month increase is anticipated to be +0.4%, higher than the 0.2% reported in December.

According to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $43.9 billion (0.2 percent).

The PCE price index increased 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.4 percent, hitting analysts' targets right on the nose.

On an annual basis PCE was up 2.4% and PCE, excluding food and energy, was up 2.8%, also bang on expectations.

So, inflation continues to moderate according to these figures, though not at a fast enough pace for the Fed to call for any kind of rate increases. That's troubling to only one group: the Wall Street sharpies who have been itching for "pivots" or rate cuts or changes to the general direction of rates ever since the Fed started raising rates two years ago.

The logic of the "rate cut" crowd simply doesn't make sense. GDP has been steady, averaging just below 3.0% for the past four quarters, employment is strong, unemployment low and stocks have been in rally mode since October, 2023. If there was an urgent need to lower rates to goose the market, that ship has already sailed. So, it was a little surprising that stock futures, which had been in the doldrums prior to the release, shot straight up on the announcement of what has to be considered "good news" on the inflation front, and thus, bad news to the rate cuts gang.

Wall street gets it both ways. Good news is now good news and bad news - if there ever is any - is also good news.

Being clown world, gold, silver, and oil also shot higher, while yield on the 10-year bond fell and the VIX collapsed to 13.55 (-2.02%). The dollar is weaker against the euro, pound and yen.

Somewhere, somehow, all of this makes sense to somebody.

Waiting a week for this number made almost no sense at all.

At the Close, Wednesday, February 28, 2024:
Dow: 38,949.02, -23.39 (-0.06%)
NASDAQ: 15,947.74, -87.56 (-0.55%)
S&P 500: 5,069.76, -8.42 (-0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 17,573.69, -24.62 (-0.14%)


As Bitcoin Goes Parabolic, House and Senate Leaders Struggle on Spending

Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 9:20 am ET

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to all-time highs. Nobody believed them and everybody sold them.

Spurred on by the outstanding profitability of one company, Nvidia (NVDA), darling of the tech world and AI, last Thursday's spurt to record levels of stock euphoria has been followed by three consecutive sessions marked by dull trading, underperformance, and low volatility. The four major indices - Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, and NYSE Composite - have all declined and closed Tuesday below levels achieved on February 22.

Only the Russell 2000 Index, composed of mainly small cap stocks, has continued to rally, up about 2 1/2% since the big event. Clearly, this is where money is flowing, the index having retreated from all-time highs back on November 5, 2021 (2,437.08) to as low as 1,636.94 (October 27, 2023), it closed yesterday at 2,056.11, though progress has been choppy.

Nvidia itself has slouched from its Friday open high of 807.85, closing yesterday at 787.01, a small drop, but nonetheless lower.

Have Magnificent Seven tech stocks, Dow darlings and S&P mega-caps seen near-term tops or are they just taking a break as traders await the latest PCE reading upon which the Fed relies heavily in gauging inflation?

As far as flows are concerned, money has been headed in two directions the past few days: into small caps and crypto, especially the latter. Bitcoin has just broken through $60,000, and is heading higher. Just this week, over just more than two days, bitcoin has rallied from $51,000, gaining nearly 20%, putting to shame all other investments.

What to make of the bitcoin phenomena falls into two, maybe three camps. True believers are counting on bitcoin to keep them whole when fiat currencies collapse. They are happy today. Skeptic "no-coiners" hold that bitcoin and crypto in general is a total scam, based on invisible units on computer screens with no intrinsic value. They are torn between disbelief and dismay.

A third group consisting of speculators and nothing else, could care less whether bitcoin and crypto are real or scams. They're making money and are overjoyed. Where the recent bitcoin rally goes from here is somewhat predictable, having seen this kind of explosive growth in past episodes, most notably from late 2020 to March, 2021, and from July 2021 to November 2021, when bitcoin made its double bubble tops of 61,000 and 64,000.

Assuming that bitcoin follows most regular patterns, with another halving due in April, it would likely hit 70,000 or thereabout and then descend to levels unforeseen by recent buyers, lured in by recently-approved Bitcoin Spot ETFs. It's a little crazy out there, but money has to go somewhere and there's certainly no shortage of currency and greater fools.

Meanwhile, as bitcoin has the investing community under rapture, stock futures are pointing to another rough open, with Dow futures down 101, NASDAQ off 85, and S&P futures down 15, a half hour prior to the opening bell. Gold, silver and oil are all lower, but heading higher.

Markets seem to be on a collision course with world events and tomorrow's PCE inflation figures. Congress met with the Biden people yesterday to work out differences over funding to avert a partial government shutdown, the charade politics now re-appearing roughly every two to three months, this being the fourth such "threat" since the government failed to pass fiscal year appropriations back in September of last year. Now, with fiscal 2024 heading into its sixth month, the federal government still can't get its act together. At Midnight Friday, March 1, unless four appropriations bills (or one fat, short-term continuing resolution) are approved by the House and passed onto the Senate, departments of Agriculture, Energy, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and the Food and Drug Administration would be limited to core functions.

In the event that congress face-plants over funding, everybody would still get their food stamps and social security checks, so don't be suckered by fear-mongering from desperate Democrats of rueful Republicans.

Strangely enough, talk about military and financial aid to Israel and Ukraine was absent from talks between the Biden people and congressional leaders, so maybe there's a happy ending coming.

Friday can't come soon enough.

At the Close, Tuesday, February 27, 2024:
Dow: 38,972.41, -96.82 (-0.25%)
NASDAQ: 16,035.30, +59.05 (+0.37%)
S&P 500: 5,078.18, +8.65 (+0.17%)
NYSE Composite: 17,598.32, +31.71 (+0.18%)


Retailers Macy's and Lowe's Throw Cold Water on Recent Market Gains; Gold, Silver Higher

Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 9:18 am ET

Following the huge upside swing from last week, Monday's hangover session - actually extended to some degree from Friday - was probably to be expected. The question, now that Nvidia and AI have sent stocks to extreme valuations in some cases, becomes twofold: "How high can stocks go?" and "How do we get there?".

Tuesday morning's earnings reports aren't going to aid the cause. Home improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW), reported - as did fellow traveler, Home Depot (HD) - slowing sales in their most recent quarter and issued guidance indicating rough waters ahead. Total sales for the quarter were $18.6 billion, compared to $22.4 billion in the prior year quarter. Diluted EPS of $1.77 compared unfavorably with year-ago EPS of $2.28, which excluded pre-tax transaction costs of $441 million associated with the sale of the company's Canadian retail business. The stock is trading lower by about two percent in the pre-market.

Macy's (M) continued its long descent into obscurity with another poor quarter and an announcement that the company will close 150 stores, 50 of them this year. The company did not disclose locations, only that the stores were "underperforming".

In the fourth quarter, Macy's revenue declined 1.7% year-over-year to $8.12 billion, slightly above estimates of $8.11 billion. Its digital sales decreased by 4%, while same-store sales were down 5.4%. For the full fiscal year 2023, revenue declined to $23.1 billion, 5.5% lower compared with 2022. Same-store sales were down 6.9%, as digital and in-store sales dropped 7% and 5%, respectively.

Shares are down about three percent in pre-market trading. New CEO, Tony Spring, plans to focus on luxury goods in what he calls "A Bold New Chapter." Investors are only mildly amused.

Elsewhere, Bitcoin is making headlines, pricing above $57,000 overnight, its highest since November 2021.

Durable goods orders plunged six percent in January, the weakest month-over-month reading since April 2020, during COVID lockdowns. It could have been worse. Doors blowing off Boeing's planes sent non-defense aircraft orders down 58.5% MoM, but defense spending being up 24.2%. Without defense contractors, this number would have crashed. As it is, it provides more fuel to the "bad news is good news, bring on the rate cuts" gang.

Gold and silver are higher, which, generally is not positive for stocks.

There's plenty of Fed anticipation as the January reading of PCE will be announced Thursday prior to the opening bell.

Futures are flat-lining, with Dow futures down about 35 points. NASDAQ and S&P futures are modestly higher.

At the Close, Monday, February 26, 2024:
Dow: 39,069.23, -62.27 (-0.16%)
NASDAQ: 15,976.25, -20.55 (-0.13%)
S&P 500: 5,069.53, -19.27 (-0.38%)
NYSE Composite: 17,566.61, -49.39 (-0.28%)


WEEKEND WRAP: Nvidia Moved Markets; Dow, S&P, NIKKEI Close at Record Highs; the Future is Clouded

Sunday, February 25, 2024, 12:16 pm ET

Elections have consequences.

Even as most of the consequential nations in the world face forward to elections this year, none looms larger than the presidential and congressional elections in the United States, where Donald J. Trump continues to forge ahead of all rivals, including his chief adversary, Joe Biden.

Americans and the world see two radically different outcomes. Should Trump prevail, conditions could improve on a variety of fronts, from immigration to defense to the general well-being and economic prosperity of the country, whereas a Biden re-election - whether legitimate or not - would likely result in the continued destruction of American values, economy, and borders, continuation of funding for military adventurism and unbridled corruption.

Beneath the shroud of the so-called "fair" election process sits the purposely clandestine deep state of internal government actors whose goals consist largely of holding onto power and continuing their control and surveillance activities. Regardless of who wins the White House and which party controls congress in November, the end results may end up being more of the same to differing degrees. Not much will change overnight except perception on November 5th.

With US elections now less than nine months ahead, anythng can happen. In spite of, or maybe because of, the dynamics of politics, economic realities persist. Stocks continue to ascend without interruption. The Fed stays the course, albeit with some wavering, keeping the economy afloat and the dollar strong. The remaining 10 months of 2024 may be alarmingly consequential, or, is it possible that little changes before and after November?

The parties are deeply entrenched, the public engaged. Slavish subservience to the nation-state clashes with the rise of individualism. The two cannot co-exist peacefully. Therein lies the future of the planet.


Stocks

Nvidia. It even made the nightly news. That, and AI, was everything this week. There was the proposed merger between Discover (DFS) and Capital One (COF) and a record high close on Japan's NIKKEI, but those paled before the magnificence of Nvidia and new record highs on the Dow and S&P, with the NASDAQ falling just short.

Moving on from the AI melt-up which saw the Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ rebound sharply from their first losing week in the last six and second in the last 16, first quarter earnings outside of tech behemoths will provide fodder in the week ahead.

Retailers will be in focus.

On Monday, Domino's (DPZ) and Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) are likely market movers. Tuesday sees Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH), Macy's (M), AutoZone (AZO), Lowe's (LOW), Devon Energy (DVN), Beyond Meat ((BYND), and Ebay (EBAY) report.

Wednesday's reports come from TJX (TJX), Advance Auto Parts (AAP), Baidu (BIDU), Salesforce (CRM), AMC (AMC), Paramount (PARA), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

Thursday, it's Best Buy (BBY), Birkenstock (BIRK), AB Inbev (BUD), Dell (DELL), and Autodesk (ADSK). Friday morning has Fubo (FUBO), and PropertyGuru (PGRU) among the somewhat obscure reporting companies.

The economic calendar for the week ahead is very light, with new home sales, durable orders, and construction prices the main data drops.

Stocks will make gains or lose ground without much backup as the case may be.


Treasury Yield Curve Rates

Date 1 Mo 2 Mo 3 Mo 4 Mo 6 Mo 1 Yr
01/19/2024 5.54 5.47 5.45 5.39 5.21 4.84
01/26/2024 5.54 5.45 5.44 5.39 5.19 4.78
02/02/2024 5.49 5.51 5.43 5.42 5.22 4.81
02/09/2024 5.49 5.51 5.44 5.43 5.26 4.86
02/16/2024 5.48 5.51 5.44 5.45 5.31 4.98
02/23/2024 5.49 5.51 5.46 5.46 5.32 5.00

Date 2 Yr 3 Yr 5 Yr 7 Yr 10 Yr 20 Yr 30 Yr
01/19/2024 4.39 4.18 4.08 4.12 4.15 4.47 4.36
01/26/2024 4.34 4.15 4.04 4.10 4.15 4.49 4.38
02/02/2024 4.36 4.14 3.99 4.02 4.03 4.33 4.22
02/09/2024 4.48 4.25 4.14 4.17 4.17 4.48 4.37
02/16/2024 4.64 4.43 4.29 4.31 4.30 4.58 4.45
02/23/2024 4.67 4.45 4.28 4.28 4.26 4.51 4.37

Relief, in the form of shrinking yields on the longest-dated maturities (10s, 20s, 30s), helped inflows to equities this week at the margin. Spreads inverted further, with yields on 2s-10s expanding to -41, their most inverted since 12/22/23. Likewise, full spectrum (30-days-30-year) slid form -103 to -112, remaining accommodative to just about all parties.

Another metric watched by experts is the 2s-30s spread, which was -30 to end the week, standing in stark contrast to the tighter -03 seen on January 19. With two-year note yields rising and 30-year bonds at stasis, yield curve policy remains rather loose, a highly desirable condition for the Fed's intentions, balancing dollar stability with economic growth and sustainability.

Recent Fed findings - mostly in the January FOMC minutes released this week - appear to indicate reluctance to lower federal funds rates any time soon. Their stance on policy flies in the face of the fake Wall Street narrative seeking three to four rate cuts this year. Looking past March and April meetings, June seems to be the earliest any cut could occur, and even that isn't probable given the mammoth stock gains and economic reports since last November.

The rate cut narrative is as phony as the yen, euro, or dollar. If March 19-20 and April/May 30-1 are out of play, that leaves only June, July and September meetings prior to the November elections (the FOMC meets on November 6-7, arguably during the extended vote counting). Seeking three successive rate cuts when none are actually necessary is a fool's errand.

Any word of rate cuts should be considered false advertising at best, extreme gaslighting at worst. There is simply no reason for the Fed to cut rates under current conditions. Of course, that could change, but only a false flag or other bumped-up hyperbolic condition would be causal.

Spreads:

2s-10s
9/15/2023: -69
9/22/2023: -66
9/29/2023: -44
10/06/2023: -30
10/13/2023: -41
10/20/2023: -14
10/27/2023: -15
11/03/2023: -26
11/10/2023: -43
11/17/2023: -44
11/24/2023: -45
12/01/2023: -34
12/08/2023: -48
12/15/2023: -53
12/22/2023: -41
12/29/2023: -35
1/5/2024: -35
1/12/2024: -18
1/19/2024: -24
1/26/2024: -19
2/2/2024: -33
2/9: -31
2/16: -34
2/23: -41

Full Spectrum (30-days - 30-years)
9/15/2023: -109
9/22/2023: -99
9/29/2023: -82
10/06/2023: -64
10/13/2023: -82
10/20/2023: -47
10/27/2023: -54
11/03/2023: -76
11/10/2023: -80
11/17/2023: -93
11/24/2023: -95
12/01/2023: -105
12/08/2023: -123
12/15/2023: -154
12/22/2023: -149
12/29/2023: -157
1/5/2024: -133
1/12/2024: -135
1/19/2024: -118
1/26/2024: -116
2/2/2024: -127
2/9: -117
2/16: -103
2/23: -112


Oil/Gas

After peaking just below $79/barrel on Thursday, WTI crude took a nosedive late in the day and throughout Friday after oil analysts managed to tie January's FOMC minutes to rising crude supply as reported by the EIA, with gasoline and distillates drawn down. The end result was a lower price, $76.57, down from $78.24, for WTI crude oil to close out the week. Brent crude also declined.

Oil supply appears, as usual, sufficient to meet demand. Refineries are running full tilt heading into summer. The unusually-warm El Nino winter has kept fuel oil and natural gas prices down.

Gasbuddy.com reports the national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gas at the pump fell three cents during the week, to $3.26.

The Northeast and the West coast retain the highest prices. The lowest prices in the nation remain in Oklahoma ($2.77), although Texas ($2.80) and Mississippi ($2.82) are close behind. The regional shift from low prices predominant in the Southeast to the Midwest has subsided. A kind of equilibrium is growing from North Carolina ($3.10) all the way west to Idaho ($3.08), Everywhere in between, prices are lower, with the exception of Montana, which has spiked to $3.16.

In the Northeast and near Midwest, in a triangle bounded by Maine, Virginia and Illinois/Michigan, prices remain elevated above $3.00, with all but New Hampshire ($3.11) checking in higher than $3.15, the tops found in Pennsylvania ($3.52) and Illinois ($3.48).

California is stable at $4.64, and remains the only state on the mainland with prices above $4.00, though Washington gapped higher by 10 cents this week, to $3.99, followed by Nevada ($3.86) and Oregon ($3.69). Idaho ($3.08) and Utah ($3.02) bounced back above $3.00 this week.

Bitcoin

This week: $51,498.70
Last week: $51,639.00
2 weeks ago: $48,129.90
6 months ago: $26,009.60
One year ago: $23,535.50

Bitcoin spot ETF inflows are keeping the price elevated. Profit-taking by insiders from blind-eyed speculators is likely to feed back into stocks, or graft, corruption, and the pockets of various government officials. Bitcoin ETFs are almost as good at money laundering as funding for Ukraine. Lots of suitcases were packed with hundos after the Munich summit via Kiev. The congressman from Israel New York, Schumer, took his fill.

Precious Metals

Gold:Silver Ratio: 88.22; last week: 86.26

Per COMEX continuous contracts:

Gold price 1/26: $2,037.10
Gold price 2/2: $2,057.10
Gold price 2/9: $2,038.70
Gold price 2/16: $2,025.50
Gold price 2/23: $2,045.80

Silver price 1/26: $22.90
Silver price 2/2: $22.79
Silver price 2/9: $22.67
Silver price 2/16: $23.48
Silver price 2/23: $23.19

The last time gold closed out a week (Friday) below $2,000/ounce was November 17, a span of 14 weeks. The price on the COMEX dipped just slightly below that level only a few brief times, but always recovered to register $2,000+ for the weekend, when COMEX and other derivative markets are sleeping.

Silver is another, more mysterious story. It remains the most undervalued asset on the planet, especially considering its dual role as both investment and industrial metal.

While stacking or fondling bars and coins, investors need to retain perspective. Gold and silver are long-term, generational assets, and therefore the first investments young men and women should make. Once a substantial horde is acquired, then more speculative investments can be considered. How much is held in reserve depends entirely upon one's reasonable calculation of net worth and desirability to survive economic disaster.

In other words, should catastrophe strike and all that was left was gold, silver, and maybe some heirlooms and real estate, how much would you need in a world gone completely mad? Based not on dollars, yen, or other imaginary currencies, but on ounces, once a level of comfort is attained, additional stacking should be either routine or altogether suspended. Precious metals are not for financial gain, but rather should be considered financial insurance.

Here are the most recent prices for common one ounce gold and silver items sold on eBay (numismatics excluded, free shipping included):

Item/Price Low High Average Median
1 oz silver coin: 31.99 49.99 38.22 37.25
1 oz silver bar: 28.88 40.00 35.30 36.23
1 oz gold coin: 2,081.00 2,162.03 2,129.77 2,139.33
1 oz gold bar: 2,106.30 2,162.02 2,128.41 2,122.21

The Single Ounce Silver Market Price Benchmark (SOSMPB) rose rather dramatically this week, up to $36.75, a gain of $2.13 from the February 18 price of $34.62 per troy ounce.

Most noticeable from the eBay survey was the erosion of premium between gold coins and bars, which has narrowed to a nearly imperceptible point. What used to be a $40-60 spread favoring gold coins over gold bars is now less than $20 on the median price and just over one dollar on the average. Fractional gold coins were also priced in extremities. While most of the week saw gold and silver prices suppressed in futures markets, physical markets suggest some degree of manic buying. Though not enough to signal any imminent price explosion, the potential is there.


WEEKEND WRAP

If ignorance is indeed bliss, should most people simply ignore the accelerated levels of gaslighting and stupidity promoted by mainstream media and governments and simply go with the flow, so to speak?

Judging by just the past twenty years or so, wherein threats to humanity have come in many shapes and forms like Russia, nuclear bombs, covid, economic disaster, climate change, et. al., it appears the path of ignorance and stupidity may have been the best advice. While doom preppers were stocking up on guns, gold, ammo, canned goods, bottled water, and other survival necessities, money invested in stocks since 2004, and especially after the GFC of 2008-09, hav served better results.

Even if one's perception of the current state of global events and economic realities is tainted to the downside, it might be wiser to continue buying stocks and getting on with one's life while ignoring the screeching, riotous, divisive rhetoric that's delivered on a daily basis.

Other than places ravaged by war, life, for the other 99% of the global population proceeds without disruption. Sure, some protection and security are probably advisable, but that's what gold, silver, real estate, heirlooms, and long-term, generational assets provide. As the canned goods in your pantry fly past their use-by dates, passive equity investors are prospering as never before.

Empirically, superficial ignorance while playing the long game has been a winning strategy. It pays to not be distracted by noise, even if it often overwhelming.

At the Close, Friday, February 23, 2024:
Dow: 39,131.53, +62.42 (+0.16%)
NASDAQ: 15,996.82, -44.80 (-0.28%)
S&P 500: 5,088.80, +1.77 (+0.03%)
NYSE Composite: 17,616.02, +50.96 (+0.29%)

For the Week:
Dow: +503.54 (+1.30%)
NASDAQ: +221.17 (+1.40%)
S&P 500: +83.23 (+1.66%)
NYSE Composite: +206.73 (+1.19%)
Dow Transports: +291.83 (+1.87%)


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