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In afternoon trading Tuesday all three major index were sharply higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared some 90 points by 2:30 p.m., the Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 11, and the Nasdaq jumped 33. That followed Monday's gains of 100.38 points, 16.78 points and 39.27 points, respectively.
With few economic releases scheduled for Tuesday, investors' focus was pinned on Washington. House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, and U.S. President Barack Obama continued to haggle over a fiscal cliff deal, with the president making a counter offer late Monday.
Just after the opening bell on Wall Street, all three major indexes were flat.
As Barron's noted, the average daily volume on the NYSE last week fell to 3.3 billion shares, compared with 5.5 billion that changed hands during the same period in 2009, when we were slowly emerging from the Great Recession.
The "fiscal cliff," which could drain $607 billion from the U.S. economy through tax increases and spending cuts, dominated U.S. news and moved markets.
But the fiscal cliff, along with the $16.4 trillion national debt and the growing federal deficit, took a back seat Monday as the focus shifted to Europe.
Anxious market participants kept a wary eye on Italy after Prime Minister Mario Monti announced he is resigning, citing a loss of support in Parliament. Italian bonds plummeted with the yield on the 10-year rising the most since August.
French, Belgian and Austrian 10-years dropped to euro-era lows, and Spain's debt also declined.
Bucking the trend was Greece, where bonds gained after the ailing country pushed further out the deadline for buying back some of its mountainous debt.
Elwin de Groot, a senior economist at Rabobank Nederland in Utrecht, Netherlands, told Bloomberg News: "We are seeing a selloff but I wouldn't call it a panic yet. The auction this week could be an interesting litmus test for investors. This has also created uncertainty for
Italy's deep-rooted economic troubles and political drift have been taken too lightly, a bevy of analysts warned.
As Nomura Securities' Silvio Peruzzo wrote in a note to clients, "Markets have grown too complacent about Italy, in our view."
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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
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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- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
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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As of this writing, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy has forced the shutdown of the power plant that serves Lower Manhattan. News reports of two explosions at the power plant may mean that the restoration of power may be further delayed.
This week's two-day NYSE closure for Hurricane Sandy is unprecedented, delivering something we haven't seen since 1888.
Between March 11 and March 14 that year, The Great Blizzard of 1888 raged along the U.S. east coast from Maine to Maryland. Twenty-two inches of snow fell on New York City propelled by 40 mile-per-hour winds.
There were no subways at that time. Roads and rail transportation, even within Manhattan, were paralyzed for days. Pole-mounted telegraph wires were felled by the heavy snow. 200 people froze to death in New York City for lack of coal, which could not be moved through the snowbound streets.
Traders could not get to the floor of the Exchange and downed telegraph wires meant that stock tickers were useless. Prices could not be disseminated beyond the floor of the Exchange except by runners making their way through the clogged streets. Under these conditions, the NYSE closed on Monday and Tuesday March 12-13, 1888.
Snow is the most common cause of weather-related closures on the NYSE but the Exchange has been closed for hurricanes before.
On Monday, August 9, 1976, the NYSE floor closed one hour early due to an approaching hurricane. On Friday, Sept. 27, 1985, the NYSE closed because of Hurricane Gloria.
But there have been other instances in which the NYSE closed.
1914: War Panic Means NYSE ClosedThe board of the New York Stock Exchange watched nervously as Europe hurtled toward war in the summer of 1914 following the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28.
On July 30, Germany mobilized its army in preparation for the invasion of Belgium and France. Even though France did not immediately respond, the NYSE board decided to close the market indefinitely beginning on Friday, July 31, 1914.
It was only on Nov. 28, 1914 that trading in bonds resumed on the NYSE and, even then, there were price restrictions in place. Trading in a limited number of shares was allowed beginning on Dec. 12 and trading in all shares was reopened on Dec. 15 but with price restrictions. Price restrictions on equity trading were finally lifted on April 1, 1915-a full eight months after the NYSE closed its doors in panic the previous summer.
It was quickly recognized that closing the markets during one of the most cataclysmic events in modern history was a huge mistake that should not be repeated. It was resolved that the NYSE should never again close for two consecutive trading days.
This principle has been violated only a handful of times over the past 97 years and it is the main reason why the NYSE is always open for a half day of trading on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
While two-day closures are extremely rare, there has been only one NYSE closure longer than two days since the debacle of 1914.
That was the four-day closure from Tuesday, Sept. 11 through Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The NYSE-a five-minute walk from the World Trade Center-was choked with debris from the collapse of the twin towers. In addition, communications were disrupted by damage to a major telephone switching center in the neighborhood and had to be rerouted.
Given the devastation in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the terrorist attacks, it is nothing short of amazing that trading was able to resume as quickly as it did, on the Monday following the attack.
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- Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) reports a loss to start earnings season- Alcoa reported a net loss of $143 million, or 13 cents a share for the third quarter, a reversal of last year's third-quarter profits of $172 million, or 15 cents a share. Sales fell as well, dropping 9.2% to $5.83 billion from $6.42 billion. Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, was hurt by declining demand and aluminum prices that are 20% lower than a year ago. The company now expects aluminum demand will rise 6% this year, lower than the 7% forecast made in July. The silver lining for Alcoa is that the numbers weren't as bad as expected. Excluding environmental and legal charges the company posted a profit of 3 cents per share, ahead of Wall Street's estimate to break even. Even though sales fell they too beat projections. "The global economy is clearly slowing," Lloyd O'Carroll, a Richmond, Virginia-based analyst for Davenport & Co., told Bloomberg News yesterday. "That's what the IMF said today and so I think what Alcoa is doing is consistent with that." AA stock was down almost 4% as of noon.
- Chevron Corp (NYSE: CVX) announces 3Q results will stumble- Chevron said on Tuesday that it expects third-quarter earnings to be "substantially lower" than its second-quarter results. The San Ramon, CA-based company cited lower production and a lower price of oil for the decline in profits. For the months of July and August the average price of a barrel of oil in the U.S. was $95.44 compared to $103.91 in the April-June quarter. Last quarter the company earned $7.2 billion, or $3.66 per share and analysts expect net income of $6.2 billion, or $3.08 per share for the third quarter. Chevron, the second-largest U.S. energy company by market value, will release full third-quarter results on Nov. 2. CVX stock is down 3.5% as of noon.
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The jobs report seems to have jumpstarted markets today, but one stock has been hot all week and doesn't need manipulated reports to boost it higher.
Here's a breakdown of today's news and a stock you need to know about.
- Unemployment falls for right reasons this month- The Labor Department reported today that 114,000 jobs were added in September, in line with expectations. The surprising news is that unemployment declined three percentage points to 7.8%, marking the first time since January 2009, President Obama's first month in office, that unemployment is below 8%. Unlike last month where the rate ticked down due to more workers dropping out of the labor force, this month's decline was a result of more jobs added in prior months and a surge in part-time workers. The August and July reports were collectively revised upward a total of 86,000 jobs and around 582,000 workers accepted a part-time role. After the revisions 146,000 jobs were added on average over the last three months, significantly better than the second quarter average of 67,000. Both candidates will try to spin September's report and analyze the numbers to their advantage as October's jobs report comes out just days before the election. "The September jobs report will frame the economic debate and could prove critical to the election outcome," Carl Riccadonna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank AG (NSYE: DB), told The Wall Street Journal ahead of Friday's release.
- Earnings season about to kick off- Believe it or not next week starts the third quarter earnings season as Alcoa Inc. (NSYE: AA) announces its earnings after markets close on Tuesday. Investors have been waiting to see if a poor earnings season could reverse the rally we've had over the past few months. Analysts expect the majority of earnings to be weak after many companies have already lowered their outlooks.
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The market was also lifted by encouraging comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on the fiscal health of Spain. Speaking at his regular monthly news conference Draghi stated the ECB is ready to buy bonds when necessary and that the ECB will not lower its record low 0.75% refinancing rate.
Here are today's other major stories:
- Don't expect a great September jobs report- There are a few mixed labor reports to digest a day before last month's unemployment and nonfarm payroll numbers are released. Automatic Data Processing (ADP) yesterday reported the economy added 162,000 private-sector jobs in September. This was better than projections for 140,000 new jobs but much slower than last month's downwardly-revised figure of 189,000 jobs. Investors monitor ADP's numbers for clues on what the government might report, but ADP does not include public sector jobs and is not a great indicator of Friday's Labor Department's report. The Labor Department reported today that 367,000 initial jobless claims were filed last week, slightly higher than expected. The less volatile four-week moving average remained unchanged at 375,000. "The trend is still looking fairly stable. The labor market is improving but it is not really gathering direction for better or worse, it is still just plodding along," 4CAST economist Sean Incremona told Reuters. One more piece of data to look at is layoffs from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It said U.S.-based employers announced plans to cut 33,816 jobs in September, down 71% from a year earlier. On average economists expect tomorrow's report to show 113,000 jobs were added in September and that unemployment ticked back up to 8.2%.
- Factory orders decline by most in 3 years- The Commerce Department reported that factory orders fell 5.2% in August after rising 2.8% in July. The decline was fueled by a 102% plunge in demand for commercial aircraft which led to a previously reported 13.2% drop in durable goods. Overall the 5.2% decline from a month earlier was expected by economists but continues the trend of a slowdown in manufacturing activity. One positive is that orders for business equipment and software, often considered a gauge of business confidence and investment plans, rose 1.1%. "These data indicate that the recent softness in manufacturing activity and capital spending is likely to continue, at least for several more months," Steven Wood, president of Insight Economics LLC in Danville, California, said in a note to clients.
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Here's a closer look.
- Europe is nowhere near fixed- Stocks opened higher Tuesday on hopes that Spain would request a bailout for the entire country and not just the banks. This drove the markets higher but stocks have since pared gains after digesting the release of the European Central Bank's balance sheet which showed $21 trillion in assets and $22 trillion in liabilities. Never mind that there are more liabilities than assets and no equity to speak of, the questions economists are asking is where is all this money, who is accountable for it and can we even trust these numbers to be accurate.
The thing is, it has happened many times before.
For instance, in the mid-1600s Holland literally drove itself to ruin over flowers - tulips, to be precise.
Referred to today as Tulip Mania, Tulipomania, or Tulpewoerde, it was the first recorded speculative mania in modern history.
Indeed, the financial frenzy that unfolded between 1634 and 1637 crashed so hard that it actually helped smash the Dutch economy, transforming one of the world's first superpowers into an economic backwater.
Writing nearly 200 years later in his classic work, "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds," historian Charles MacKay said:
"In 1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess [tulip bulbs] was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even to its lowest dregs, engaged in the tulip trade. As the mania increased, prices augmented, until in the year 1635, many persons were known to invest a fortune of 100,000 florins for the purchase of 40 roots."
For some context, the annual income of a middle-class urban family in Holland was 200 to 1,000 florins. (University of Kansas Prof. Mark Hirschey estimated that peak prices for tulip bulbs ranged between $17,000 and $76,000 apiece in today's money.)
Tulip Madness Takes HoldLike most manias, Tulip Madness took hold during a period of prosperity, when credit was easy to obtain. The Netherlands had the world's most powerful navy, accounted for half the world's shipping trade, was a center of science and, with artists like Vermeer, was also the cultural center of Europe.
The country was newly affluent and tulips, which had come to Europe in the late 1500s, were difficult to obtain and became a way to flaunt that wealth.
Naturally, the DeVries wanted to keep up with the Van Dijks, and tulip prices began their upward march.
But a noticeable trend is emerging.
In the past seven Septembers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen five times. And while the last trading day of September 2012 ended down, it was an up month for the Dow.
In fact, the Dow has now risen in 11 of the past 12 months (May saw a 6% decline). The last time markets enjoyed that kind of stellar streak was in 1959.
For the third quarter, the Dow tacked on 4.3%, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 5.8% and the Nasdaq climbed 6.2%
Year-to-date, all three major indexes have enjoyed robust gains. They headed into the fourth quarter up 10%, 14.6% and 19.6% year-to-date, respectively.
Commodities also ran higher in the third quarter. Gold glowed, gaining 8%, oil gushed higher by 8%, and the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index surged 15%. Gold, up 11% in 2012, and silver, up a sterling 24% so far this year, are both expected to benefit further as the Fed's free monetary stance weighs on the value of the dollar and inflation worries are amplified.
Most of September's gains came during the first two weeks as markets anticipated a third round of quantitative easing. The Fed delivered at the Sept. 13 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, and stocks muddled through the rest of the month suffering from a case of buy on the rumor and sell on the news.
"The third quarter story was really simple. The performance was propelled by the generosity of global central bankers," Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust told USA Today.
Now let's take a look at if this momentum will surge into the fourth quarter.
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- Third quarter ends with a dud- Stocks opened lower Friday as investors confront news that economic activity is shrinking for the first time in three years. Investors also remain worried over Spain's economic turmoil and are awaiting results from stress tests of Spanish banks. The market rallied yesterday after Spain's austerity budget was announced but uncertainty still outweighs any optimism concerning Europe. "The focus is back on Europe at this point," Walter Todd, who oversees about $940 million as chief investment officer of Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina, told Bloomberg News. "It's this ebb and flow of crisis- response-complacency. You get everything fine for a while and then increase in stress."
- Business activity contracts for first time in 3 years- The Chicago Purchasing Managers' index fell to 49.7 in September, its lowest level in three years. The reading measures manufacturing and non-manufacturing activity in the Chicago region and is considered a mirror of national activity. Any reading under 50 signals contraction and this was the first time activity shrank since September 2009. The sharp decline from last month's 53 was very unexpected and shows the economy has not improved over the past four years. Breaking down the report, the employment index came in at a two-and-a-half year low and new orders, backlogs and deliveries had their-three month moving averages at the lowest since the third quarter of 2009. "The chain that links all this stuff together is just a loss of confidence as we head toward the end of the year in fiscal policy," Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies & Co. Inc. in New York told Bloomberg. "Businesses have been cutting back on their investment spending."