Last Week in Brief: February 14

February 14, 2014

Stocks jumped higher last week as investors put fears of emerging market contagion behind them, and then looked past a new round of weaker-than-expected economic data. In short, new money entered the market, while many short traders were forced to cover, serving to further buoy equities.
Still, don't let your guard down. The herd is nervous, and capable of a stampede at any time. Along those same lines, you will see later in this review that we, the human collective, are still up for the occasional witch hunt. Still open to rumors of witchcraft and demonic conspiracy (See WMR from two weeks).
That said, I recently came across Beelzebub's 2014 missive to clients. Check it out here...
The Good
The GOP and Democrats came together to avoid a debt ceiling or budget crisis in the coming year. While the GOP is essentially choosing to focus on ObamaCare in the coming election, and don't wish to muddy the water with budget/debt ceiling distractions, this is a market-friendly move.
The market took to new Fed Chair Janet Yellen's initial comments like bees to honey. She reiterated a continuation of the reductions in asset purchases. In fact, in a fairly uneventful commentary, she reiterated much of what her predecessor had been iterating.
In the Far East, China's Shanghai Composite finished up 3.5% following better-than-expected January trade data and an upbeat China call from JPMorgan.
In Europe, equities rallied with the Euro Stoxx 50 Index up more than 2.50%. This supports our thesis that European equities will provide buoyancy to equity portfolios this year, following their massive beat down, fledgling recovery and solid valuations. Not investing there? Consider it.
Domestically, Q4 earnings season is winding down. The blended growth rate for S&P 500 EPS stands at 8.5%, below the 9.6% expected at the beginning of Q4, but better than the 6% expected at the start of the earnings season, as well as the 3.8% four-quarter trailing average. Of the 80% of S&P companies having reported thus far, 72% have beat EPS expectations. In all, another positive earnings season.
The Bad
Worries of an economic slowdown reappeared, though analysts have blamed much of it on the weather. Though, manufacturing production's 0.8% month-over-month January drop - the biggest since 2009 - can hardly be weather related.
Uh oh... Consumers are spending beyond their means, again.
Industrial production declined 0.3%, versus expectations of a 0.3% gain. While retail sales fell 0.4%.
The Ugly
We've received many questions from clients concerning an ominous chart making the rounds that compares the DJIA current trajectory with that of the 1928-29 market. The obvious allusion is that there is a monstrous correction around the corner. Problem with the comparison? If you correct the time scales on a like-to-like basis, the chart becomes much less ominous. Thanks to Ryan Detrick, one can discern how the actual chart on the right looks significantly less ominous than its scary (and fabricated) peer on the left.
The Bottom Line
After dropping roughly 6%, the market has bounced, showing extraordinary resilience. While we know that a correction lurks, the important point for investors is to focus on fundamentals. The economy. Earnings. Recession risk. Currently, all are encouraging.
For those who have avoided Wall Street's trap doors of fear and greed, you've done well by simply taking what the market has given.
Weekly Results
Major markets finished sharply higher last week. The DJIA rose 2.28%, the S&P 500 gained 2.32%, and the Nasdaq advanced 2.86%. Small cap stocks 2.93%. And the 10-year Treasury bond yield rose 6 basis points to 2.93%. Gold climbed $51.37 per ounce, or 4.05%.

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