The Fed made a few minor changes to its policy statement today, and it was enough to spook the market a bit. Part of the problem is that Chairwoman Janet Yellen isn't as vague and uncertain as her predecessors, so it scares the market when she quantifies terms like a "considerable time" to mean six months. I doubt Ben Bernanke would have stated things so simply.
The dip-buyers did show up and took us well off the lows by the close, but it was a very messy day of action with significant pressure on select momentum names that have been doing well lately. Overall, the move in the indices was quite mild but breadth was 2-to-1 negative, and there were plenty of moans and groans from traders who were caught by surprise in various names.
The big question now is whether we see downside follow-through tomorrow and actually have a failed bounce. As long as the indices hold above last week's lows, we will look OK technically, but my main worry about the lack of good leadership is still an issue.
The bears have been waiting for the Fed to produce a negative catalyst, but it is too early to draw any conclusions from the news today. It is obvious that the Fed is on the path toward further tapering, and that hasn't been an issue so far. What we have to look for are further indications that the Fed is no longer a fountain of endless support.
Have a good evening. I'll see you tomorrow.
March 19, 2014 | 2:19 PM EDT
No Surprises from Fed
- I expect to see the dip-buyers step up fast.
The FOMC policy decision was pretty much as anticipated. They did cut the threshold unemployment level, which would cause them to act, but that has been hinted at for a while. The first interest rate hike isn't seen until sometime in 2015.
It isn't surprising at all and, so far, we are seeing a strong "sell the news" reaction, which is more a function of the technical conditions than the news announcement. I expect to see the dip-buyers step up fast. Fed Chair Janet Yellen's press conference is coming up in a few minutes, and the dip-buyers will be looking for her to provide a good excuse to do their thing.
Market action has been chaotic today and I'm waiting until the final hour of trading before doing much new. So far, the one sizable buy I made was in Real Goods Solar (RGSE), which is seeing positive sympathy with First Solar (FSLR).
March 19, 2014 | 10:15 AM EDT
Dull Action Ahead of Fed
- Meanwhile, I'm dinking around with random trades.
We typically have dull action in front of the interest-rate decision on Fed day, and today is no different so far. Breadth is running negative with about 2,100 gainers to 2,800 decliners. Homebuilders and solar energy have a little pep, while precious metals and biotechnology lag.
Trading is just slow and random while we await the news event. The funny thing is that the news is very unlikely to contain any major surprises, but market players are going to react to it anyway as they try to stay one step ahead of each other.
I'm dinking around with random trades. I've been building a position in E-Commerce China Dangdang (DANG), the "Amazon (AMZN) of China." This stock has finally come to life after years of struggle and has a recent increase in its target price to $23 from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. DANG is currently my largest position. I also continue to like Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide (QTWW) as an alternative energy play. It needs to move through resistance at $10.
Another theme in play is China pollution. China Recycling Energy Corp. (CREG) and Synthesis Energy Systems (SYMX) are small plays on that idea. A couple of stocks selling off today on offering news that I'd like to buy are Kandi Technologies (KNDI) and Relypsa (RLYP).
Dull action and even weakness aren't a bad thing, but I won't be at all surprised if the buyers jump in on the Fed decision later today.
March 19, 2014 | 8:02 AM EDT
Don't Expect the Fed to Shake Things Up
- I expect it to be as irrelevant to the market as Putin has been.
The musical question, "War, what is it good for?" now has an answer: the stock market.
Not only has the market been unconcerned by Russia's move to annex Crimea and the possible start of a new Cold War, but it has actually managed to produce some pretty good action. The main catalyst for Tuesday's strength was a comment from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was satisfied with acquiring Crimea, and that he didn't plan on invading any other countries right now. Of course, the reaction to that news was for market players to rush in and buy.
So now the big question is whether the Federal Reserve will have more of an impact on the market than Vladimir Putin is doing.
It is widely anticipated that the Fed will continue its tapering program -- that the economy is strong enough for the Fed to reduce its bond-buying by another $10 billion per month. So if that doesn't occur, things may get shaken up. However, the Fed hasn't sent any recent signals that it is unduly concerned about some of the soft recent economic data, which have been blamed on bad weather.
The irony is that the market would probably be disappointed if the Fed weren't tapering. For a while last year, there was great concern that the advent of tapering and the eventual dismantling of quantitative easing would be the catalyst for a market top. The old saying, "don't fight the Fed," has worked extremely well, positing that when the Fed begins to tighten it will have a market impact.
Of course, tapering of bond-buying isn't tightening. It is simply a reduction in the level of stimulus -- and plenty of cheap money is still being poured into this market. In fact, we are still seeing the impact of the action on a regular basis. The reason we ignore things like a Russian invasion is that there is so much cash out there looking for a place to go. Investors are so desperate to put idle cash to work that they shrug off any negatives.
What is driving us is the fear of being left behind in a market that never really corrects, and that will probably make the Fed as irrelevant to the indices as is Vladimir Putin. We might see a momentary jiggle or two, but the underlying bid is out there and it won't to be easily shaken.
Even the bulls are a bit tired of the one-way action that never offers good entry points. They have come to learn that jumping in at the very early stages of problems is the way to go.
The most challenging aspect of the market right now is that, while there is very good underlying support, the upside momentum and high-quality leadership have been limited.
The bears are desperate for some "sell-the-news" action to result from the Fed announcement Wednesday, but that has seldom been a good bet. Such a move would take something very surprising from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, such as an expression of some real concerns about the level of economic growth -- and usually such things are well-telegraphed. I expect some market volatility on the Fed today, but nothing that will disrupt the indices for long.
We're looking at some mild action to start the day and not much news flow. It is likely to be very slow-going until the Federal Open Market Committee interest-rate decision at 2 p.m. EDT.
Editor's Note: The last installment of this column was originally published at 4:17 p.m. EDT on Real Money on March 19. Sign up for a free trial of Real Money.