Wall Street

Stock Market Today: Gauging the Fiscal Cliff Effect

U.S. markets were mixed and relatively quiet Monday as investors digested the weekend news that fiscal cliff talks had failed to lead to a deal - possibly even derailing earlier progress.

Just before 2 p.m. on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26 points, and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and Nasdaq were both treading slightly lower.

On the economic calendar to kick-off the busy week were reports on October construction spending, November manufacturing and auto sales.

What's Moving the Stock Market Today

  • Manufacturing Data
Data released Monday from the Institute for Supply Management revealed the U.S. manufacturing sector dipped back into contraction in November. Businesses reined in spending and curbed expansion projects while they anxiously await the looming blows from the fiscal cliff.

The ISM's manufacturing purchasers' index fell unexpectedly last month to 49.5 from 51.7 in October, marking the lowest reading since July 2009. Forecasts were for a reading of 51.5. A reading above 50 suggests expanding activity. Monday's reports gave no such hints.

According to economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswire, demand has slowed in the second half of 2012. The culprit is the imminent fiscal cliff.

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Stock Market Today: Fiscal Cliff Fears Can’t Stop This 160% Gainer

The stock market today opened flat before turning negative as negotiations on the fiscal cliff have not progressed, outweighing Greece's new deal concerning its debt.

  • Greece Close to Massive Bailout- Late Monday the International Monetary Fund, Eurozone finance ministers, and Greece came to an agreement that drastically eases the terms regarding Greece's repayment of debt and sets the stage for a third bailout. The deal lowers interest rates for bailout loans, suspends interest payments for a decade, pushes the deadline back for final repayments until the 2040s, and initiates a bond buyback program. Greece is also now on the brink of receiving a $44.7 billion loan beginning Dec. 13. "The big challenge now is to implement the decisions," Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said. "Greece has huge potential." The agreed upon measures aim to bring Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio down to 124% by 2020 from the projected level of 190% in 2014. The deal was accomplished by installing unprecedented measures such as carefully monitoring how Greece spends the debt, keeping an account strictly for debt servicing, and insisting that Greece completes the bond buyback before receiving more aid. "Euro-zone countries have put their money where their mouth is," Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING Group NV in Brussels told Bloomberg News. "However, it is clearly not a carte blanche for Greece but rather a very tight leash."
  • Fiscal Cliff Talks Resume- Congress returned from its Thanksgiving recess and the fiscal cliff will be at the forefront of discussions this week. After last week's short burst of optimism there has not been any further progress on a deficit reduction deal. But for now consumers seem unfazed by the whole debacle, as today the consumer confidence index reached levels not seen since February 2008. The onset of higher taxes coupled with deep spending cuts was thought to lower consumer confidence, but instead consumers spent a record amount of money through Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The consumer confidence gauge interestingly showed expectations for six months from now, when we could be off the fiscal cliff, unexpectedly rose. The percentage of respondents expecting more jobs to be available in six months rose to its highest level since February 2011, and the percentage expecting to buy a home in the next six months hit a new all-time high. "The consumer is in a better place than several years ago," Michael Gapen, a New York-based senior U.S. economist at Barclays PLC (NYSE ADR: BCS), told Bloomberg. "A lot of the numbers are improving, whether it is household balance sheets or the state of the housing market or employment."
While the market is trying to turn positive, here is one stock surging on a medical breakthrough, another soaring on a settlement with Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), and a third that is up after announcing a special dividend.

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Stock Market Today: As Fiscal Cliff Talks Begin, Stocks Reel in Fear

The stock market today opened lower on the first day of official fiscal cliff negotiations. The markets have been pressured down all week by worries that no deal will be reached, with both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 losing over 2.5%.

Not even a new report claiming that White House officials are in advanced talks to replace the sequester cuts could lift the market today.

  • Fiscal cliff deal could be close- As the president meets with Congressional leaders today, there is a new report out hinting that a deal involving partially going off the fiscal cliff is in the works. The Wall Street Journal reported today (Friday) that White House officials have discussed a plan where smaller spending cuts and fewer tax increases would be made. The idea is to postpone the majority of the cliff and have "targeted" cuts and tax increases. Basically this would delay making tough decisions on the deficit, including actually making major spending cuts, overhauling the tax code, and restructuring Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Instead of kicking the can down the road again, going off the fiscal cliff is something that Money Morning Global Investing Strategist Martin Hutchinson thinks is a good idea. On going off the cliff he says, "Contrary to all of the media caterwauling, that's not a dreadful fate. In fact, it is exactly what we ought to be doing, since it solves 77% of the deficit problem in one fell swoop." To see his full column, click here.
  • Strike pushes Hostess Brands into bankruptcy- In what may be the saddest economic news of the day, Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Ho Ho's and Wonder Bread, announced it's going bankrupt. The Irving, TX-based company said that the closing was a result of a nationwide strike and that nearly all of the 18,500 workers will lose their jobs as the company shuts down 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, and 570 outlet stores nationwide. "Many people have worked incredibly long and hard to keep this from happening, but now Hostess Brands has no other alternative than to begin the process of winding down and preparing for the sale of our iconic brands," CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a letter to employees posted on the company website." The company said it will try to sell its snack cake and bread business with the hope of reviving such brands as Twinkie, Wonder Bread, and a few others.


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With the Fed Out of "Bullets," A Stock Market Crash Will Really Hurt

Hang onto your hats. It's getting windy out there. Stuff is blowing all over the place.

Oh, that's not wind! That's a giant fan.

Well then, that must be why this "stuff" stinks so bad.

What stuff?

How about the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling more than 1,000 points from multi-year highs reached only a few weeks ago?

Or that the Dow has nosedived 5%, ever since the fateful morning last week when we found out that polls don't mean anything, that Republicans don't have memories like elephants, and that Obamarama is still the game we're playing?

Or that the Nasdaq - you know, that tech bellwether index that a lot of analysts believe is our economic canary in the coalmine - is down 10.6% (technically in "correction" territory) since reaching its highs back in late September? Or that it's down 5.5% since the elation, I mean election?

That's not only stinky stuff; it is scary stuff.

Supposedly the reason the market is going down is that we're nearing the fiscal cliff and may be heading over it. But that outcome doesn't worry me.



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Don't Ignore These Stock Market Crash Risks

Wall Street likes to downplay the idea of a stock market crash and the risks associated with a significant fall in share prices, but the truth is that bear markets and sharp price declines can and do happen with some frequency. As investors, we cannot afford to blithely ignore the possibility and potential for a […]

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Stock Market Today: Why We'll Continue to "Drift Sideways"

The stock market today opened higher before falling once again as fiscal cliff concerns continue to weigh on investors' minds.

  • Stocks continue to slide- After Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) reported its fiscal first-quarter earnings the markets started the day positive, but quickly turned red. One week after the election, fiscal cliff concerns continue to mount as the president and Congress meet later this week to hopefully negotiate a deal. So far no progress has been made on the debt reduction talks and until that happens don't expect the markets to change course. "We will continue to drift sideways until we see some progress on the fiscal cliff negotiations," Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer for Oakbrook Investments told Bloomberg News in a phone interview.
A major reason for the post-election sell-off is the prospect of higher taxes next year, and yesterday U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear his agenda on that issue has not changed.

  • President calls for $1.6 trillion more in revenue- When President Obama meets with congressional leaders on Friday he will ask for double the amount of revenue that was discussed at budget talks in 2011. On Tuesday, the president met with union leaders and other liberal groups and stated he will now seek $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade. That will be accomplished partially through higher tax rates, something Republicans have not yet said they would agree to. But Republicans have offered to accept extra revenue if Democrats can agree to making structural changes to entitlement programs. "New revenue must be tied to genuine entitlement changes," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said Tuesday. "Republicans are offering bipartisan solutions and now it's the president's turn. He needs to bring his party to the table." An agreement, which included $800 billion of extra revenue, between House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, and President Obama failed when the President asked for $1.2 trillion in additional revenue. That deal would have lowered the deficit by $4 trillion over ten years, and now President Obama is seeking $1.6 trillion, a number much higher than Republicans will likely agree to.

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Stock Market Today: Why the Sell-off Will Continue into 2013

The stock market today is trying to end the week positive, but fears concerning the fiscal cliff and what a second term for U.S. President Barack Obama means for the markets continue to grow.

Friday, the third day of trading since President Obama was re-elected, looks to be a volatile ending to a scary post-election market. Since the election, the Dow Jones is down more than 3.5%, the S&P 500 is down 3.7% and much of Wall Street thinks this sell-off will continue.

Analysts and CEOs predict the next year to be a very rough one for stocks and the economy, and there might be nothing the president can do to stop the slide.

"Economic prospects might not have been much different if Mitt Romney had won, especially as Congress remains divided. But the subsequent weakness in equities makes sense too," Julian Jessop, chief global economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients. "As we had anticipated, the focus has quickly moved on to the uncertainty over the 'fiscal cliff,' and perhaps back to the unsolved crisis in the euro-zone as well."

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Why the Dow Fell Yesterday

Concerns over how politicians will handle the fiscal cliff was the biggest driver behind why the Dow fell yesterday, tumbling more than 300 points in its biggest loss this year.

Political worries were exacerbated by worse than expected monthly sales from McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and fears that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) had entered a bear market.

The fiscal cliff continued to dominate investor sentiment today as both Republicans and Democrats expressed their intentions of working together to find a solution to the impending crisis but failed to offer any concrete evidence of their willingness to budge from long-held positions.

Afraid that Republicans and Democrats will not compromise, even when the stakes are high, investors are bailing out. It is too close to the end of the year-too close to bonus time-to be a hero now.

In his victory speech following his re-election on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that he is "looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together."

Senate minority leader Republican Mitch McConnell said, "To the extent [the President] wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we'll be there to meet him halfway."

Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate majority leader Democrat Harry Reid, hoped that President Obama would become more personally involved in the negotiations on the resolution of the fiscal cliff.

"He's simply going to have to take a more active and forceful role," Manley told Bloomberg News. "He never got involved in the nitty-gritty of the legislative process. In light of the hyper-partisanship that still surrounds Capitol Hill, he's going to have to change, and he's going to have to take more of a lead in breaking the logjam."

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Stock Market Today: Why Marc Faber Predicts a 20% Slide

The stock market today (Thursday) is recovering slightly from yesterday's massive sell-off. Less than eight hours after President Obama gave his victory speech the Dow Jones was down 300 points yesterday in its biggest drop in over a year.

Even though the markets started today positive, many financial experts, including Marc Faber and Peter Schiff, are extremely bearish now that the president has been re-elected.

Here's what they have to say on the economy and the fiscal cliff, as well as some stocks that investors should avoid.

  • Marc Faber warns of 20% market plunge- The Swiss investment analyst and entrepreneur spoke with Fox Business Network on what to expect from the markets during a second Obama term and about the impending fiscal cliff. "I think from the peak the market will drop at least 20%. I think we will revisit the lows of June at 1,266 on the S&P." On the markets' reaction to the election he added, "I'm not surprised the market is selling off because technically the market was weak already for a couple of months and we are in a downtrend and Mr. Obama's economic policies are obviously not very good for an economic expansion."

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Fiscal Cliff: Are We About to See Compromise in Washington?

Now that Election 2012 is over, Washington is readying for its next battle: the fiscal cliff.

U.S. President Barack Obama's victory in Tuesday's election has upset the Republicans' political calculus. The purpose of four years of obstruction was to deny the president any legislative achievements and thereby prevent his re-election.

It didn't work.

With the election behind us, the politics of obstruction has lost its meaning. There is nothing to be gained from obstruction for obstruction's sake.

Boehner made that abundantly clear when he read a statement Wednesday afternoon in which he opened up the possibility of compromise in order to avoid the looming fiscal cliff at the end of the year.

"For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we're willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions," Boehner said.

"The president has signaled a willingness to do tax reform with lower rates," Boehner continued. "Republicans have signaled a willingness to accept new revenue if it comes from growth and reform. Let's start the discussion there."

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What is the Fiscal Cliff?

What is the fiscal cliff, and how do we avoid it?

The fiscal cliff will be crossed on Jan. 2, 2013 when $530 billion in tax increases and spending cuts at the federal level take place due to a previous budget agreement between Congress and the Obama administration.

Since Congress and the Obama administration could not reach an accord to reduce the federal budget deficit, a series of automatic tax hikes and decreases in spending will take place instead to achieve the necessary savings.

This is much like the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act from 1985. The fiscal cliff will pack a one-two punch to U.S. cities that are already burdened by heavy debt loads, and raise taxes on U.S. households struggling to recover.

What is the Fiscal Cliff Effect on the U.S. Economy?

According to the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan organization, if there is no other agreement and the fiscal cliff is crossed on Jan. 2, the United States could fall back into a recession in 2013.

That will have a tremendous negative impact on the global economy as Europe is in a recession and economic growth is slowing in China and India.

Based on the 320-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average the day after President Obama's re-election, Wall Street is not bullish about the future of the economy.

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Stock Market Today: Why Post-Sandy Trading Could Be Volatile

The stock market today reopened after having its first two-day weather-related shutdown since 1888. While most of New York is still in clean up and recovery mode following Hurricane Sandy, investors are back in action in what is expected to be a busy remainder to the week.

Here are the latest headlines:

  • Traders try to play catch up- The NYSE's two-day closure resulted in delayed earnings and economic reports, and unluckily came at the end of the month. Investors and especially traders will be trying to make up for the lost time, leading to higher volume due to unfulfilled trades from Monday and Tuesday. Besides the volume, volatility could be high as traders close out their books for the month. Also, for some mutual funds today is the end of their fiscal year, meaning more losses could be taken to offset capital gains. "The two-day delay is really the perfect storm in terms of when it occurred. To happen in the heart of earnings season and just a week before an election is rather unfortunate," Ryan Detrick, senior technical analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research told Yahoo! Finance. "Had this happened during the boring summer months it wouldn't have mattered as much, but with so much happening currently, the odds of some huge volatility on big volume is very good. Throw in the fact this is the end of the month and the end of the year for some hedge funds, volume today could be in line with what we normally see on expiration Friday once a month as firms close their books on the year."

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The Next Stock Market Crash Will Be Bigger Than "Black Monday"

Friday was the 25th anniversary of Black Monday. On October 19, 1987 the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 508 points, or a mind-numbing 22.6%.

How bad was it?...

Let's put it this way, if it happened today the Dow would drop 2,965 points on the session to finish at roughly 10,158. You can imagine the depression.

Now you know why they call it "Black Monday," even though it occurred in a sea of red.

In absolute or percentage terms it was the largest one-day drop ever-- beating the 13.6% drop on the worst day of the 1929 crash.

But then again, the 1929 crash was caused only by human beings. The 1987 event, on the other hand, was largely computer-driven. Of such is progress made!

For British observers like me, Black Monday was memorable as being the first business day after the Great Storm, the first hurricane to hit the British Isles since 1703.

The relief at not having lost a third of the British Navy, which happened on the previous occasion, made Black Monday seem a minor hiccup. I actually bought some shares as the U.S. markets opened, and was delighted to see that they closed at a higher price than I paid!

There was also the satisfaction of hearing about a rather smug ex-colleague, who had received a large payout from the bank where we had worked (no such payout came my way, alas) and had invested it and margined 50% in the U.S. market.

Alas, blessed by Fortune though he was, he was awakened at 1:30 am London time by a margin call for $700,000. I always felt it was something of a fitting recompense for greed and creepiness to authority.

How the Market Crashed

Of course, those whose trading lives don't extend back to 1987 doubtless feel that it can't happen again.

Well, I have news for you....



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Stock Market Today: These Earnings Expose a Huge Concern for 2013

The stock market today opened lower as yet another American corporation, Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT), disappointed investors with its earnings call.

Here's the market roundup, along with one stock that is soaring today because analysts say there is a "50% chance" it could be acquired.

  • Caterpillar lowers earnings outlook for second time this year- The world's largest construction maker reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations but cut its 2012 sales and earnings forecasts. CAT joins a growing list of American firms including McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD), Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) that have either missed expectations or lowered their outlook this earnings season. Caterpillar reported third-quarter net income of $1.7 billion, or $2.54 per share, compared with $1.14 billion, or $1.71 per share a year ago. Adjusting for one-time items CAT earned a profit of $2.26 per share, ahead of analysts' estimate of $2.22. The troubling facts for CAT include its order backlog fell 18% from the second quarter of this year and the Peoria, IL-based company now expects to generate much lower sales for the remainder of this year and 2013.
The company currently estimates it will generate net income between $9 and $9.25 per share on sales of $66 billion for fiscal 2012. This is down from a July forecast calling for EPS of $9.60 on revenue between $68 and $70 billion. In 2013 the company said its revenue could range between 5% higher or lower than this year's results. "The biggest concern is the declining backlog, which would imply a more challenging year next year, especially for mining, and whether or not North American construction will re- accelerate," Larry De Maria, a New York-based analyst for William Blair & Co. who has a buy rating on the shares, told Bloomberg News today in a telephone interview. "Caterpillar's business is very economically sensitive. Due to the softening of the global economy and increasing uncertainty, order rates have declined." After a bad start in trading today CAT stock has rebounded and is up 1.1% as of noon.

While earnings have taken their toll on corporate giants, this stock is up almost 30% today on hopes of a buyout:

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Stock Market Today: Earnings Crush Giants as This Stock Gains 30%

The stock market today opened well in the red after earnings from industry leaders disappointed investors on the 25th anniversary of Black Friday.
Here's today's roundup and one stock that has gained over 30% this week.

  • General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) fall short of estimates- Two American titans, software leader Microsoft and diversified conglomerate General Electric, reported their latest earnings. GE saw its third-quarter profit rise 8.3% to $3.49 billion, or 33 cents per share, from $3.22 billion, or 22 cents per share a year earlier. Yet the company's revenue fell short of expectations and its outlook for next year did not inspire much confidence. Microsoft saw its fiscal first-quarter earnings drop 22% from a year ago and missed analysts' forecasts for earnings and revenue. GE and Microsoft are struggling with the same obstacles that have scared investors and hurt other businesses: the global economic slowdown and uncertainty regarding the fiscal cliff. "We're not assuming that Europe gets any better," GE's Chief Executive Officer, Jeff Immelt, told investors on a conference call. "We're looking at '13 being kind of like '12, with the big variable being the fiscal cliff." GE stock is down 2.5% in early trading and MSFT stock is down almost 3%.
  • Restaurant stocks hurt by drought- McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) both reported weak third-quarter earnings, an indication they are still feeling the effects of this summer's epic drought. Same-store sales were the driving negative factor for both restaurants. McDonald's posted global same-store sales growth of 1.9%, the first time that number has been below 2% since 2003. Chipotle's comparable sales rose 4.8% in the quarter, its lowest growth in almost three years. "I think that competition has certainly gotten more aggressive the past several quarters," Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy told Reuters. "Between commodity costs coming in and companies being able to price more aggressively, but also consumers still being very fixated on value, it's led to a very cutthroat restaurant environment." Chipotle has seen its stock plunge to under $250 from above $400 earlier this summer after two consecutive dismal earnings reports. "They're coming up against a little bit of a ceiling," Peter Saleh, a New York-based analyst at Telsey Advisory Group, told Bloomberg. "They need to do something more either on advertising or new product news to draw more customers into their stores." MCD stock is down 3.4% today and CMG stock is down over 14% as of noon.
While most companies are suffering this quarter as they report earnings, this company has quietly soared over 30% this week and could be set for even more gains.

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