The Chinese New Year officially began Feb. 10, bringing us the year of the snake - which some investors consider a very bad omen.
Not only does the year of the snake have the worst stock market returns of all zodiac signs, but some of the darkest moments in U.S. history have come during that zodiac year.
Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS AG (NYSE: UBS), appeared on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" Monday and even listed the year of the snake as one reason investors should be cautious about stocks.
And there's plenty of history to back up Cashin's statement.
As Insiders Head For the Exits, Do They Know Something "We" Don't Know?
Whenever the markets begin to look toppy like they do now, I turn to short-term indicators to help me figure out "what's next" for the markets. It complements the fundamental analysis I rely on for the big picture.
Some people - lots of people, in fact - will tell you that this is a wasted exercise. Predicting the markets, they say, can't be done. I disagree if for no other reason that if that were true, guys like Jim Rogers, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Carlos Slim wouldn't be the legends they are today.
As I see it, learning to "read" the markets and anticipate its twists and turns is absolutely possible.
But let me qualify my statement. My goal is not necessarily to be "right."
Any savvy trader will tell you the objective is to get enough of a read - right or wrong -so that you can use the appropriate tactics needed to be profitable.
For example, the markets have one heckuva run and flirted with new highs in recent trading. To the casual investor, it appears that things are good because the economy is gradually recovering.
Stock Market Today: Will the Dow Keep Going Above 14,000?
The stock market today (Friday) hit a high not seen in more than five years when the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 14,000 for the first time since October 2007.
Less than an hour into trading the Dow spiked 140 points, or 1%, to hit 14,000.97. In mid-afternoon trading, the Dow rallied further, tacking on 150 points. The move leaves the Dow around 200 points, or 2%, from its all-time high of 14,198.10.
Friday's strong showing came on the heels of the Dow's strongest January (up 5.8%) since 1994.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which logged its best January since 1997, added 15 points, or just shy of 1%. The Nasdaq advanced 40.
The robust rally followed a lackluster report on the job market which gave "strength to the argument that the Fed will continue its bond buying program and keep rates low, which is also a positive for the stock market," Tom Schrader, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus told CNN Money.
That sentiment also gave bonds and precious metals a boost. Gold prices moved up $7 to $1,670. Silver added 37 cents to $31.94
A bevy of reports helped buoy markets Friday.
A Census Bureau report showed construction rose 0.9% in December, well above forecasts. The Institute for Supply Management's monthly manufacturing index rose to 53.1 in January, ahead of the expected 50.5 read, and the University of Michigan's sentiment index climbed to 73.8 last month, better than the expected 71.4.
Is the Obama Stock Market Rally the Real Deal?
At first glance, there can be no doubt that U.S. President Barack Obama has been good for the stock market.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index has rallied by nearly 700 points - just shy of 86% - since the president's first Inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009.
This is the best stock market performance for a presidential first term since World War II, even beating the 79.2% rally during President Bill Clinton's first term in the White House, from January 1993 to January 1997.
In fact, the only time stocks rallied more during a presidential first term was during Franklin Roosevelt's first term from March 4, 1933, to Jan. 20, 1937, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 245% off of Depression-era lows.
In a very broad sense, the condition of the stock market at the start of President Obama's first term in 2009 can be compared to the stock market in 1933. In both cases, stock prices had collapsed and were trading at generational lows when both presidents took office. In both cases, share prices rallied substantially off of the bottom as economic conditions improved.
But all this really proves is that the first leg of any rally is usually the strongest and most profitable.
As the S&P 500 is at a five-year high and is zeroing in on the 1,500 level for the third time in its history, one has to wonder if the Obama Rally is sustainable or are we just reverting to the mean?
Stock Market Today Battles the Apple Effect
The stock market today was proof that one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bunch.
The Dow was up 55 points by 3:15, the S&P 500 up 1 - but the Nasdaq did slump 20 points, dragged down by Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL).
Thursday's advance came on the heels of the Dow's 67-point rise Wednesday which was stoked by a vote in the House of Representatives to suspend the U.S. debt ceiling through May 19.
Also propelling gains Wednesday were strong results from tech heavyweights Google INc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), which beat estimates and spiked $38.63 points higher, and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), which rallied 4.4% after posting better-than-expected numbers.
To date, some 75% of the 134 companies in the S&P 500 Index that have reported results have handily beat expectations.
"People are just trying to digest all the earnings reports from the various companies. As long as the economy seems to get better the stock market will do well," Giri Cherukuri, portfolio manager who helps manage $3 billion at Oakbrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois, told Bloomberg.
Stock Market Today: How Earnings Are Shaping the Week
Did the Fed Just Admit QE3 Has Been a Major Failure?
After four years of quantitative easing programs, including QE3 just last fall, U.S. Federal Reserve officials have started voicing doubts about its effectiveness and concerns that it is distorting the markets.
And it's not just the Fed's hawks, such as Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, speaking out against the bond-buying extravaganza.
Doves like Atlanta's Dennis Lockhart and moderates like Kansas City's Esther George have expressed concerns about QE3 as well.
"I do think the growth of the Fed's balance sheet could have longer-term consequences that are worrisome. While I've supported these policy decisions to date, I acknowledge legitimate concerns," Lockhart said in a speech in Atlanta on Monday.
According to the minutes of the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, several members "thought that it would probably be appropriate to slow or to stop purchases well before the end of 2013, citing concerns about financial stability or the size of the balance sheet."
If in fact sentiment within the FOMC is turning against QE3, then the easy money spigot that has helped fuel the stock market and other investments could be switched off sooner than most expected, which could have a sharp impact on the markets.
Stock Market Today: Builders, Banks, Boeing in Focus
The stock market today rose right out of the gate Thursday on improved economic data, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 70 points just before noon, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index up 7.
Giving equities a lift was a pair of reports that showed the U.S. economy continues on the path to recovery.
The Department of Commerce reported Thursday morning that construction for new U.S. homes leapt in December to the highest rate in more than four years. Gains were logged all across the nation, as well as in buildings and single family homes.
The 12.1% jump in housing starts in December was the best reading since June 2008.
"Overall, this report reinforces the current narrative of a positive growth momentum in the housing sector," Millan Mulraine, a macro strategist at TD Securities told Market Watch.
A measure of homebuilders on the S&P 500 jumped 2.1%, poised for the highest closing level since 2007.
The second report that juiced markets was data from the Labor Department. A report revealed the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected in the latest week to the lowest level in five years.
In the week ending Jan. 12, applications for jobless benefits fell by 37,000 to 335,000, marking the lowest level since Jan. 19, 2008, and well below estimates of 369,000.
"The labor market is certainly getting better," Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe General in New York, told Bloomberg News.
Even with typical seasonal adjustment, Jones added, "this is still a good report. Chances are claims remain at a fairly low level."
Stock Market Today: Can S&P Nudge Closer to its All-Time High?
The stock market today (Friday) will try to continue its impressive rally after the Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed at a five-year high Thursday.
The S&P 500 closed at 1,472.12, about 93 points away from its all-time high of 1,565 hit in October 2007 and its highest close since December of that year.
By 1 p.m., the S&P 500 was down just over 2 points, and the Dow was up 4 points, or 0.04%.
While the stock market today fights for a continued climb, here are companies investors should be eyeing.
Is Harry Dent's Stock Market Crash Prediction as Crazy as it Seems?
Economic forecaster Harry Dent just made another dire prediction, and investors should hope he's wrong.
Dent, bestselling author and financial newsletter writer, told CNBC Tuesday that he sees a stock market crash in the United States starting in the third quarter of 2013 and continuing for a year and a half.
Dent said real estate prices and stocks would plummet more than 60% by the end of 2014, or sooner, meaning the Dow Jones Industrial Average would fall below 6,000. He also said the United States would be close to bankruptcy by then.
Dent cited U.S. demographic shifts and the nation's debt crisis as the main drivers of a crash. He said had it not been for the U.S. Federal Reserve's recent moves to stimulate the economy, the stock market would already have collapsed.
"We call this the economy in a coma," he said. "Basically, without these trillions of dollars of stimulus, we would be in a downturn, in a depression, because we also have $42 trillion in private debt, the greatest debt bubble in history, and that needs to unwind."
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