Stocks closed lower by 0.25% on the day, but the action was fairly bullish as markets once again overcame large losses to rally into the close. The session was very choppy and volume was heavy. There was a consistent bid in the market that ultimately drove prices higher. Breadth was fairly even with advancing stocks slightly outpacing declining stocks. All in all, the technicals have held up very well following the panic low last Friday. Concerns over Greece and China appear all but priced into stocks so any news on regulation could allow investors to begin focusing on the real economy and earnings. That of course, assumes that sovereign debt fears are contained and that remains an unknown.
From Daily Futures:
The March U.S. dollar index closed down .31 at 80.41 while Europe struggles to agree on a rescue plan for Greece. The March 2011 eurodollars were up .07 at 98.695, supported by a mild flight to safety.
The U.S. Commerce Department said that retail sales were up .5% in January and up 4.7% from a year ago, stronger than expected.
The University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment slipped from 74.4 to 73.7 in early-February, less than expected.
The Philadelphia Federal Reserve said that their survey of economists expects real GDP to be up 3.0% in 2010.
The U.S. Census Bureau said that business sales were up .9% in December while inventories were down .2%. The inventory to sales ratio was 1.26, the lowest since November of 2007.
Grains and Cotton
The USDA said that, as of last week, 2009-2010 exports of:
Corn remained up 6% from a year ago.
Soybeans fell from up 41% to up 37% from a year ago.
Wheat remained down 26% from a year ago.
Cotton improved from down 31% to down 30% from a year ago.
May cotton closed up 1.10 cents at 74.91, support again by Tuesday’s reduced USDA ending stocks estimate.
The USDA also said that net sales of beef totaled 6,300 tons last week, down from 16,100 tons the previous week. April cattle closed down .77 at 90.77.
After the close, the USDA estimated this week’s beef production at 464.1 million pounds, down 4.5% from a year ago. Pork production was estimated at 439.4 million pounds, down 3.4% from a year ago. April hogs finished up .52 at 68.20.
According to Bloomberg news, the Chinese government has 2.1 million tons of sugar in reserve and may sell roughly 250,000 tons to help ease their shortage. May sugar closed down .57 at 26.33.
China continues to try to restrain its economy. The People’s Bank of China said that, as of February 25th, the reserve requirement for banks will increase from 16.0% to 16.5%. May copper fell 4.95 cents to $3.1020.
On the other hand, industrial production in India was up 16.8% in December from a year ago, much stronger than expected.
April gold ended down $4.70 at $1,090.00, pressured by today’s stronger dollar and ongoing concerns in Europe.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 191 billion cubic feet last week to 2.215 trillion cubic feet, a bigger draw than expected. Supplies are now up 8% from a year ago. April natural gas ended up 6.4 cents at $5.447, the highest close this week.
The DOE said that crude oil supplies were up 2.4 million barrels last week to 331.4 million barrels. Supplies of gasoline were up 2.3 million barrels and heating oil supplies were up 1.5 million barrels. Refinery use increased from 77.7% to 79.1% of capacity last week. April crude oil closed down $1.22 at $74.50, hurt by news of monetary tightening in China and today’s stronger U.S. dollar.
Eurostat said that real GDP in the EU-27 was up .1% in the fourth quarter of 2009 and down 2.3% from a year ago, weaker than expected. For all of 2009, real GDP was down 4.1%. The March euro closed down .0070 at $1.3617, the lowest close in nearly nine months.
Eurostat said that industrial production in the EU-27 was down 1.9% in January and down 4.9% from a year ago, much weaker than expected.
Statistics Canada said that new vehicle sales were up 2.6% in December at 128,663 units.
U.S. futures trading pits are closed on Monday for Presidents’ day.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.