Saturday, May 3, 2014

Weekly Day Trading Recap; Goodbye to April, May starts with a bang!

We had an exciting and profitable week of day trading in the live-trade-room thanks to some exceptional news released throughout the week.

Here’s what happened the last week of April...
  • Equity Markets volatile this week as 2/3 of US Companies reported Earnings Reports
  • US Jobs Report shows BIG Improvement, but is it too good to be true?
  • FOMC Meeting finishes with a BANG!
  • Shenanigans in Ukraine continue...what's next? 

- After a rough start for stocks in April, the DJIA and S&P500 erased 3% declines to end the month higher by about 0.5% a piece, at or near record highs.

The moves for the Nasdaq were even more extreme, as investors backed out of a wide spectrum of high-flying technology and biotech stocks. This week volatility in US and European markets dried up and equities saw steady if modest gains.

Excellent UK GDP data, good German jobs numbers, incremental gains in Eurozone inflation and the monster US April jobs report supported the positive tone, while the weak US GDP reading was overlooked.

The FOMC policy meeting was the least impactful in some time, with no notable changes except Kocherlakota withdrawing his dissent (as expected).
Nearly two-thirds of S&P500 companies have now reported quarterly earnings, and with a few exceptions most of corporate America is meeting or beating profit expectations, even if revenue growth has been clearly anemic.

In Ukraine, Kiev's offensive to re-establish control over its eastern provinces has more or less fallen flat and belligerent Russian rhetoric has only increased. On Monday, the US placed additional sanctions on a handful of Russian officials, none of whom were the chief actors in the Ukraine drama. For the week, the DJIA and the S&P500 each rose 0.9%, and the Nasdaq gained 1.2%.

- Most analysts are shrugging off the +0.1% advance Q1 GDP reading, citing the well-worn excuse of unusually severe winter weather. The focus has been on the consumption component of the first reading of Q1 GDP, which was +3.0%, roundly beating expectations, bolstered by a 4.4% jump in spending on services. The latter was due to the expansion of healthcare spending under Obamacare. Note that domestic investment (both residential and nonresidential), trade and government spending subtracted much more from growth than anticipated.

- The April jobs report greatly exceeded expectations with the 288K non-farm payrolls gain the strongest since January 2012. Gains were broad-based across sectors, including construction. Most importantly, nothing in the data suggests the increase in the payroll series was a statistical fluke. The same cannot be said for the unexpectedly steep decline in the unemployment rate to 6.3%. The three-tenths drop in joblessness did not reflect an increase in employment - as measured by the household survey employment actually fell by 73K - but rather the 806K workers reporting themselves as being out of the labor market, pushing the labor force participation rate down 0.4 points to 62.8%. Analysts highlight that this is a very noisy measure and will certainly be revised.

- Data out this week suggested that, like much else in the US economy, the housing industry will also bounce back from its winter weather slump. The pending home sales data saw its first positive m/m reading in nine months in March, widely beating expectations. Data out last week showed that existing home sales fell to their lowest levels in nearly two years in March, but the pending homes report suggests the downward trend may have run its course. While there is hope for further improvement in the housing market, it looks like there is little chance for housing reform in Washington, DC this year. The Senate Banking Committee scheduled an April 29th markup session for the GSE reform bill, but with committee work starting so late in the session there is little chance for much to get done before Congress shifts into full-on election mode.

- Federal prosecutors are planning criminal charges against BNP Paribas and Credit Suisse Group for separate alleged offenses, raising fears that one or both could possibly be forced out of the US market. The DoJ is seeking criminal charges against BNP for allegedly skirting economic sanctions against Iran, and charges against Credit Suisse for helping clients avoid taxes. Reportedly BNP faces charges of up to $2 billion, and while there are said to be discussions of ways to avoid revocation of the bank's New York charter in case of a guilty verdict, the Fed still might move to take away its licenses. Elsewhere in the annals of financial misbehavior, Bank of America disclosed an embarrassing error in calculating its capital ratios, forcing it to suspend capital returns to shareholders and redo its CCAR submissions to the Fed.

- Rising crude and natural gas prices were the trend in the first quarter, although not all of the global oil majors benefitted equally from the improved pricing environment. ConocoPhillips and Exxon reported much better-than-expected first quarter results, although Exxon's lower upstream production pulled profits down on a y/y basis while Conoco's higher production boosted its profits. Both beat consensus EPS estimates. Meanwhile, Chevron missed both top- and bottom-line expectations as production fell 2% y/y and weaker refining margins hurt bottom-line results. BP's profits slumped and revenue was down significantly as the company continues to shed assets. BP's profit from its Rosneft joint venture shrank by 75% in the quarter thanks to the Ukraine crisis weakening the ruble.

- April auto sales were mixed. General Motor's sales gained 6.9%, more than expected, Chrysler slightly topped expectations and Ford missed. A GM sales executive said retail demand was steady in the month as the economy continues to strengthen. Toyota and Nissan's sales were very strong, up 13.3% y/y and 18.3% y/y, respectively. Ford was the only major auto firm to report a decline in monthly sales, however truck sales remained very strong, with overall April sales +8%, twice the March gain. In addition, Ford announced that CEO Alan Mulally would step down as chief on July 1st. Over his eight-year term, Mulally transformed Ford from a money-loser to a thriving firm. He will be replaced by Mark Fields, the current chief operating officer.

- Pharmaceutical industry deal making continued after last week's big announcements. There were repeated reports that Allergan would make a second attempt to acquire Shire to fend off Valeant's $46-billion unsolicited bid, or even try to sell the company to Johnson & Johnson or Sanofi. AstraZeneca disclosed this week that back in January, Pfizer had offered £46.61/share to acquire the firm was rebuffed, and that Pfizer had renewed its approach. On Friday, Pfizer hiked its offer for AstraZeneca to approximately £50.00/share, valuing the firm at more than $106B. Forest Laboratories said it would buy Furiex Pharmaceuticals for $1.5 billion to get access to its gastrointestinal disease treatments. In other deal news, the contest to acquire Alstom's energy units is now between Siemens and General Electric, with bids said to be running around €11-12 billion.

- The eagerly awaited Eurozone April annualized CPI was slightly lower than expected, at +0.7% versus +0.8%e, while core was in-line at +1.0%. Recall that the March figure that really lit the fire under QE talk was a mere +0.5%, so the slight increase lent some credibility to ECB assertions that the Eurozone will avoid deflation. In a meeting with German legislators, President Draghi said there was still no chance of deflation in the Eurozone and that launching a QE program was only a distant possibility. EUR/USD traded in only a slightly broader range than last week, between 1.3800 and 1.3890.

- UK GDP saw its fifth consecutive quarter of growth in Q1, with the advance annualized figure at +3.1%, up from +2.7% in the final quarter of 2013. This was the highest annualized rate of growth seen in six years, and BoE Governor Carney said the data shows the UK is entering a sustainable recovery. GBP/USD hit a fresh 4-year highs above 1.6900 toward week's end.

- The Bank of Japan held pat in its policy statement out this week and cut its GDP forecast for the FY14/FY15 period to +1.1% from +1.4% prior, and maintained its inflation outlook for the period. This marked one year since the bank launched its ambitious program to double the monetary base and achieve 2% inflation within two years. The March labor cash earnings report - a closely watched gauge of consumer "cost-push" inflation from salaries - moved to a two-year high of +0.7%, giving government officials a reason to celebrate Abenomics. However, the April Markit manufacturing PMI saw its first contraction in over a year, with both output and new export orders components in contraction as well. USD/JPY spent most of the week locked in the 102 handle, only briefly surging above 103 in the immediate aftermath of the US jobs report on Friday.

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