US stock futures point to a flat open this morning following a strong two-day snap back in the market. Tuesday’s 3% gap down triggered fears of a deeper correction, but buyers stepped in aggressively to erase all of those losses from the holiday weekend. Yesterday’s continuation even has the S&P close to filling the gap from last Friday’s dismal jobs number. Bearishness had reached climactic levels–the highest since September 2007–which often leads to surprising quick and strong bounces due to the short squeeze.
Markets are also looking forward to speeches Thursday from President Obama and Fed Chairman Bernanke, so we could be in for some more volatility these next two days. The President will present his plan for a $3 billion jobs creation bill, aimed at lowering the unemployment rate from 9.1% where it has stagnated. The real unemployment rate is much higher with many discouraged workers having left the labor force, and last month’s zero jobs created was the biggest miss since the 1940s. In last night’s Republican primary debate, the candidates focused squarely on their records on job creation, which will be the number 1 issues going into the 2012 election season.
The ECB this morning opted to keep interest rates steady at 1.5%, as expected. Futures did, however, sell-off a bit following the announcement. ECB Chairman Jean-Claude Trichet will begin his monthly news conference at 8:30 am ET today. While investors focus on speeches and goings-on at home, Europe continues to drive the action and present the most risk. The sovereign debt crisis seems likely to get worse before it gets better, with larger economies like Italy now facing deep austerity cuts and widespread protests.
The currency war took an interesting twist this week as the Swiss National Bank opted to put a floor on its currency, which had become a safe haven and put a strain on the nation’s export businesses. Currency debasement continues, and it seems increasingly likely we will see some sort of coordinated easing program from central bank leaders of the economic recovery continues to stagnate. Gold is back up this morning after pulling in hard yesterday, spurred by the ECB rate decision and likelihood of more easing on the horizon.
In terms of stocks, traders are trying to limit their focus to a group of leading stocks. High beta tech lead the fight-back on Tueday morning, with stocks like Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) showing the most strength. When the market has pulled in the hardest, traders and investors have consistently been presented with amazing opportunities to scoop up those strong stocks at a discount.
Other strong stocks include CF Industries Holdings Inc. (CF), a fertilizer stock that has long been a favorite here. Crop prices are in a strong bull market amid rising food prices, droughts, and extreme weather around the world that is disrupting supply and reducing yields. CF has continued to make new highs even during this market turmoil, generally ignoring the broader market and trading based on underlying commodities like corn and wheat.
The market is in a bit of a tricky spot right now. We have staged a ferocious two-day bounce, so it is hard to chase up here, but it would seem that a speech from the dovish Ben Bernanke and a spending bill from President Obama would be bullish developments for the market. We could find ourselves in a buy the rumor, sell the news type of situation where the market sells off tomorrow following the President’s speech, but it’s hard to bet on. Short squeezes, particularly when short interest reaches such climactic levels, typically go longer and farther than most expect, like we saw in late June-early July 2011.
By John Darsie
Disclosure: Evan Lazarus has no positions