It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and a very merry Christmas indeed.
The stock market had another solid week, and equities are batting two-for-two since the Bush re-election. The economy is also looking stronger, retail demand remains solid, and the price of oil has been weaker.
For the week, the
posted the biggest gain, rising more than 2% to 2085.34 on the back of renewed interest in the tech sector. Buyers came even after
issued lackluster earnings on Tuesday and
failed to break out of the expectations game on Thursday. Shares of Cisco lost 4% for the week and Dell rose 8%.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
both gained about 1.5% for the week. Energy, insurance and drug stocks held back the blue chips even as tech, consumer, retailing and industrials posted healthy gains.
were flat while the
Many of the strongest performers are exporters that will benefit from the continuing slide in the dollar this week. Even with the
raising interest rates amid signs of growth in the U.S. and weakness elsewhere, the dollar still tanked. It's a sign of just how bearish the market has become on the dollar, said Nicole Elliot, an analyst at Mizuho Corporate bank in London. And there's no end in sight.
"One by one, currencies should strengthen to new highs against the U.S. dollar, exacerbated by year-end book-squaring," she wrote in a weekly wrap up on Friday.
It was a week that ended as it began on the economic front. Following last Friday's surprisingly strong payrolls growth report, data this week confirmed the sense that things were getting better. Chain store sales grew 1.3% over the prior week and 3% from the previous year. The University of Michigan said its consumer confidence index rose to 95.5 this month from 91.7 last month. And overall retail sales for October grew 0.2%, with a stronger-than-expected 0.9% rise excluding auto sales.
Dick Rippe at Prudential points out that excluding autos, but including a 4.3% rise in gasoline due to higher prices, may not give a true picture, however. He strips out both, concluding that the remaining 0.5% increase was "a pretty decent start" to the fourth quarter.
Also aiding the markets were falling oil prices. Crude futures settled at $47.42 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, off about 4% from a week ago. Warmer weather expected in the Northeast, new supplies from OPEC and the demand-dampening effect of the year's sharp price run-up all pressured the market this week.
Two major brokerages, Morgan Stanley and Citicorp's global markets division, increased their estimates for fourth-quarter growth after seeing all the week's data. Morgan Stanley said signs of consumer strength prompted a 1% increase in its forecast of consumer spending to 3.3%. The economy ought to grow 3.9% in the fourth quarter. Citicorp modestly raised its fourth quarter estimate to 3.3% from 3.1%.
Though the moves weren't large, they signaled a complete reversal from the past few months when weaker-than-expected data and higher oil prices had economists slashing their growth forecasts.
It seems that Wall Street is coming around to the view of the Federal Reserve, which all along said that the summer slowdown was a temporary soft patch. The Fed raised rates for the fourth time this year on Wednesday and likely will move once more to bring the fed funds rate up to 2.25% by year-end. In minutes of its September meeting released on Friday, members of the central bank's Open Market Committee said they would be looking to incoming data to determine how quickly they would raise rates.
Assessing the state of the economy, they concluded: "The expansion evidently was resilient and self-sustaining and appeared no longer to require the unusual degree of monetary stimulus that had previously been necessary." In simpler terms, the Fed can raise rates because the economy is doing fine on its own and no longer needs the fuel of such historically low rates.
It seems only at the long end of the bond market that the message of growth has failed to take hold. The yield on the Treasury's 10-year note, which moves in the opposite direction to its price, finished the week about where it started at 4.20%.
contributor Tony Crescenzi said some investors believe that the bank of Japan will be intervening to stop the rise in value of the yen by buying dollars. The bank would invest the proceeds in Treasury bonds, so the theory goes.
As mentioned two weeks ago, the market for initial public offerings has revived after three years of boredom. The pace continues in November as seven more companies have raised over $2 billion, led by the $1.1 billion
deal on Wednesday. The Chinese phone operator sold shares in Hong Kong that will begin trading on the
New York Stock Exchange
as American depositary receipts next week.
Rick Bensignor, Morgan Stanley's guru of technical analysis, has tried to explain where the most famous member of the IPO class of 2004,
, might be headed next despite its short trading history. The shares, which went public at $85, gyrated around this week before catching a bid on Thursday when investors were underwhelmed by
competing search site. Google finished the week at $182, up 7%.
Bensignor doesn't particularly care what Google's competitors do. Instead, he sees patterns forming around a nearing resistance level at $205 to $215 with first resistance at $192. Investors already long should keep holding the stock until it hits that high band where they should take some money off the table. Those looking to get in should wait for the cross below $175 -- where it just crossed above on Thursday -- around the second week of December.
With a huge number of Google shares to be freed for sale in coming weeks, "more and more people will come to play the newest highflyer on the Nasdaq
Research In Motion
," Bensignor wrote on Friday.
In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, Pressman doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send