Courtesy of Walter Gault, Communications Editor, SabrientBe Patient
Editor’s note: Walt Gault is the guest author this week. David Brown will be back next week.
Today, stocks traded lower for their third straight session. The markets were down on news that China had cut its 2012 growth forecast to an eight-year low of 7.5%. Factory orders came in better-than-expected, albeit -1%, versus the expected -1.6%.
Last week, most of the market moving indicators beat consensus estimates. Total vehicle sales, as well as domestic vehicle sales, were higher by nearly 1 million. Jobless claims continue to remain low, falling to 351K from 353K. Personal income and consumer spending increased. Real U.S. GDP was revised upward to +3.0% from +2.8%. Consumer confidence rose dramatically from 61.5 to 70.8; which is far above October 2011’s reading of 40.9 but still shy of February 2011’s reading of 72.
However, last week brought disappointments as well. The ISM Manufacturing Index fell short of the consensus estimate and a widely expected sharp acceleration. Construction spending fell -0.1%, well short of the expected 1% increase. Durable goods fell -4%.
Technically, the markets achieved some important milestones last week. The Dow traded above 13,000 for the first time in four years, and, perhaps more importantly, posted its fourth consecutive month of positive gains. The S&P 500 logged a gain for the third consecutive month.
Large-cap Growth led the market caps last week with +0.3% gain. All Small-caps and Mid-caps were negative. Cyclical Consumer and Technology led the sectors while Industrials, Basic Materials, and Energy were all down around a -1%. Looking forward, our SectorCast model favors Financials, Basic Materials, Healthcare, and Consumer Cyclicals, though none have great scores.
What more can be said about our current climate? We continue to get mixed batches of economic data. Last week, we got lots of news, some good, some bad. Iran got a record voter turnout (above 60%) for its elections that some say is a sign of stability, and the rumored blast near a Saudi pipeline turned out to be nothing more than Iranian propaganda. European leaders remain divided over the right balance between austerity and measures that will allow for economic growth. Greece is expected to hold national elections in April, an event that could bring high volatility back to the markets again.