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Broadgate: Market News 24/9

24 September 2012

Stocks could struggle to stay close to nearly five-year highs this week as worries mount about third-quarter earnings and the market appears primed for a pullback from recent stimulus-driven gains.

A bevy of economic reports, including durable goods orders, will grab attention, particularly after the Federal Reserve unveiled its plan on September 13 for a third round of aggressive stimulus to help revive the flagging U.S. economy.

While the action ignited a rally in stocks, analysts have worried that it may suggest the U.S. economy is in worse shape than many had feared.

To be sure, stocks are at lofty levels and are likely to attract investors hoping the market will ride out the year on a positive note. The Dow Jones industrial average and the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index remain close to highs not seen since December 2007. The S&P 500 is up 16.1 percent since the end of 2011.

“I think the market certainly is ripe for a pullback. But whatever the pullback, it’s going to be rather shallow,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital, in New York.

“Any disappointment in key economic data that would reverse the market’s feeling the economy has stabilized, I think could trigger a 2 to 4 percent pullback,” he added.

Some of that move was seen last week in stocks. The S&P 500 slipped 0.4 percent for the week. The Dow industrials and the Nasdaq each finished the week down 0.1 percent.

Besides August durable goods orders, data on personal income and spending is due this week, as well as new home sales and the final read on U.S. Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter.

Housing data has been surprisingly strong in recent months and homebuilder shares have experienced massive gains. The PHLX housing sector index .HGX is up 62.3 percent since December 31. But that strength has been offset by worrisome data on U.S. manufacturing, which had been among the economy’s strongest sectors. The stubbornly high U.S. unemployment rate also has kept a damper on Wall Street’s mood.

THIRD-QUARTER GLOOM AND DOOM

Profit warnings from such high-profile U.S. companies as FedEx helped cement the view last week that third-quarter results could be a drag on the market.

“We’ve had some pretty negative pre-announcements, and those announcements for this time frame have been a little more than we’ve had in the past,” Cardillo said.

Estimates for S&P 500 companies’ third-quarter profits have fallen sharply in recent months, and earnings now are expected to drop 2.2 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. It would be the first such decline in three years.

Outlooks for the third quarter are at the most negative since the third quarter of 2001, the data also showed. The negative-to-positive ratio for the upcoming earnings period stands at 4.3 to 1.

Third-quarter earnings are not expected to start in earnest until after the second week of October, when Alcoa is expected to kick off the reporting period.

“What I’m worried about is what I don’t know,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management, in New York.

That includes negative surprises on earnings, he said, as well as the chance that China’s economy may be slowing faster than economists previously thought.

“The aggressiveness of the (Fed’s) quantitative easing has caused me alarm,” Cote said.

FLOOR FOR THE MARKET

The Fed’s recent action followed a decision by the European Central Bank to support debt-ridden euro-zone nations by purchasing their debt.

Speculation on Friday that Spain was moving toward a bailout request gave investors some relief. The debt-laden country, which is likely to stay in focus next week, said it was considering freezing pensions and speeding up a planned rise in the retirement age as it raced to cut spending and meet conditions of an expected international sovereign aid package.

Both central bank moves are expected to provide a floor for the market, possibly through year end, analysts said.

“Financial markets will benefit more than the economy,” said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co, in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

With the Fed’s decision out of the way, investors are also likely to turn their attention to other issues, including November’s U.S. presidential election, he said, and looming decisions about U.S. fiscal policy.

Commodities

Brent crude futures fell below $111 in early Asian trade on Monday, dragged down by a firm dollar and worries about weak economic growth in key consumer nations.

Front-month Brent futures had fallen 82 cents to $110.60 by 1.22 a.m EDT, while U.S. crude futures were 77 cents lower at $92.12 per barrel. Both contracts shed more than $1 in early trade.

Brent dropped 4.5 percent last week, while U.S. crude lost 6.2 percent on demand worries as well as a pledge by Saudi Arabia to keep prices down.

Gold pulled back from a near seven-month high on Monday, but a recent spate of stimulus measures from central banks that has buoyed bullion is expected to continue supporting prices.

Spot gold fell as much as 0.9 percent to $1,757.14 an ounce, after hitting $1,787.20 hit in the previous session, its highest since Feb. 29. Gold rose 0.6 percent last week, its fifth straight week of gains. It stood at $1,759.59 by 0651 GMT.

U.S. gold lost 0.9 percent to $1,762.40.

Spot platinum dropped as much as 2 percent to $1,603.5 an ounce and spot silver fell 1.9 percent to an intra-day low of $33.78.

Currencies

The euro tested last week’s low against the dollar on Monday, while the growth-linked Aussie slid as its rally sparked by recent central bank stimulus moves ran out of steam.

The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.2950. Earlier Monday, it was as low as $1.2928, within striking distance of Thursday’s trough of $1.29195. The single currency has weakened 1.7 percent from a four-month peak of $1.3173 reached on Sept. 17.

Against the yen, the euro slipped to as low as 100.87 yen , its lowest level in 10 days and 0.6 percent below last week’s closing levels.

The dollar also dipped 0.2 percent to 78.03 yen, with traders citing Japanese repatriation as supporting the yen.

The Australian dollar fell 0.4 percent to $1.0413, nearer to the bottom of last week’s low of $1.0367 than the six-month high of $1.0625 set on Sept 14.

The information set out herein has been obtained from various public sources and is by way of information only. Broadgate Financial can accept no liability of any sort in relation thereto and readers should obtain their own verification of any statement before making any decision which may have any financial or other impact.

Neither the information nor the opinions herein constitute, or are they to be construed as, an offer or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell investments.

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