A day after posting the worst day of the young year, markets posted their best day of the year. So while yesterday was a day to note due to the selling volume, it has been a fool's errand in the past year and few weeks to really make any distinct bets against this freight train. The S&P 500 gained 1.08% and the NASDAQ 1.69%. Positive data on retail sales led to a morning gap up, and momentum held all day.
U.S. indexes hit a lot of "round numbers" this morning - the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 16,000 and the S&P 500 1,800. We noted late last week that these round numbers sometimes mark near term tops but it is not necessarily the case. They could also mark a bit of a resting point and that is what happened today. Activist investor Carl Icahn spoke at a conference today and said he is "very cautious" on the stock market, saying he could see a "big drop" because earnings at many companies are fueled more by low borrowing costs rather than the strength of management. This caused a round of selling in the afternoon but really just took some froth out of the market. The S&P 500 fell 0.37% and the NASDAQ 0.93%. One item to note overseas is China relaxing its "one child" policy - that pushed the Shanghai index up nearly 3%.
Stocks were mixed again Tuesday as the S&P 500 fell for the 4th straight session. What looked like a promising intraday reversal petered out in the last hour as stocks sold off quite sharply erasing decent gains. The S&P 500 fell 0.26% while the NASDAQ gained 0.08%. Financials continue to be an issue as the Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan has offered to pay $3 billion to the Justice Department to settle a number of pending probes, including a case relating to the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007. This weighed on the sector.
Stocks rallied Thursday as a turnaround in futures in Japan's Nikkei seemed to turn the tide stateside. During the normal session Japan's market fell some 5%+ but after the market close a story was released about how Japan's pension fund was looking to change their asset allocations to allow more purchases of stocks, which sent Nikkei futures skyrocketing. This turned U.S. futures from negative to positive and that positive tone generally carried through the day, although the bounce was less than emphatic relative to how oversold the market had become short term. A late day selloff knocked about 7 points off the S&P 500. Still the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and NASDAQ 0.7%. In economic news, weekly jobless claims jumped a bit while a revision in 1st quarter GDP came in at 2.4%, 0.1% below expectation. This continues the 'Goldilocks' economy - not strong enough to make the Fed go away, and not weak enough to make anyone worry.
Monday's selling and first serious losses of 2013 was followed by a substantial rally, stopping any momentum by bears dead in their tracks. This was the third straight session of 1% type moves in the S&P 500, each in a completely different direction. The S&P 500 gained 1.04% and the NASDAQ 1.29%. There was no dramatic news event to drive stocks early in the day, they simply gapped higher on the open and continued upward almost the entire session. There was an ISM Non Manufacturing report that was mostly in line but stocks were already well on their way by the time it was released.