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@theMarket: Whipsaw Action Leaves Markets Higher
By Bill Schmick, iBerkshires columnist
11:22AM / Saturday, May 04, 2024

It was a week where macroeconomic data, corporate earnings, and the Federal Reserve dictated the direction of the markets on almost a daily basis. By the end of the week, the verdict was a plus for the bulls.
On Friday, the non-farm payrolls indicated that the labor market cooled notably in April. The U.S. economy added 175,000 new jobs which was a lot lower than the expected job gains of 240,000. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent. What is bad news for the economy is good news for the stock market since weaker macroeconomic data means the Fed may cut interest rates sooner rather than later.
At the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Wednesday, the central bank, as expected, maintained their higher for longer stance on interest rates as they await further data on the direction of inflation. He also laughed at the notion of stagflation seeing neither the "stag" nor the "inflation" required to indicate this economic condition.
The good news was that the central bank reduced the number of bonds they planned to sell into the debt markets. For months the Fed has been reducing the size of their balance sheet by selling government bonds. That has put pressure on bond prices. This quantitative tightening or QT has been part of the Fed's efforts to tame inflation.
Slowing down the rate of selling is good news but has much less impact than cutting interest rates. That, says the Fed's Chairman Jerome Powell, will have to wait until he sees more progress in bringing inflation back to its 2 percent target.
What has most concerned many investors is the possibility that if inflation remains sticky, the Fed will be forced to hike interest rates once again. Powell eased investors' concerns on that subject during the Q&A session after the meeting when he said, "It is unlikely the next policy move will be a hike."
On a positive note, first-quarter corporate earnings for the S&P 500 Index have been positive so far. More than 340 companies or 68 percent of the S&P 500, have reported. Overall, 80 percent are beating estimates and those that beat have done so by an average of 7 percent. Magnificent Seven stocks still have the power to move markets. The earnings disappoint of Meta on one day and the surprise beats by Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple sent markets up and down whip sawing traders in the process.
Most American investors are so hyper-focused on U.S. equities that what happens overseas is sometimes ignored. It seems to me, for example, that investors, as well as the financial media, have written off China as a basket case. I am not so sure that is the case. FXI, the largest China exchange-traded fund (ETF), is up 20 percent since the Chinese New Year.
There is also a stealth rally going on behind the scenes in Chinese large-cap technology, as represented by the KWEB ETF, which holds companies like Alibaba, Baidu, and, among others.
The tech sector (up 30 percent year-to-date) has outperformed its counterparts in the U.S. market. Bank of America's manager survey recently noted that the most crowded trades were long U.S. technology, followed by short China technology. It could be that some global investors are selling high-priced tech stocks in the U.S., India, and Japan and using the proceeds to buy these cheap tech stocks in China.
As for the overall market, the index averages have been a chop fest this week. As I expected, earlier in the week we did sell-off, dropping almost 100 points on the S&P 500 Index before recovering. As a result, we have made little headway for the week, tacking on at most 32 points on the S&P 500. I expect we need to climb a little higher (5,181) before I can sound the all-clear for the rest of the month.

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.


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