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Opening Bell: Uncertainty Rules Directionless Markets

by Eli Wright

In the face of ongoing global political and economic uncertainty, as well as falling prices after yesterday’s release showed a bigger than expected build in inventories, traders appear to be playing it safe. Neither bulls nor bears can be said to definitively hold the reins right now. Of course, this could also be the .

The is up a scant 0.15% this morning, back over the 100 mark, albeit barely, at 100.40; equity markets are mixed; and has dipped lower.

Overnight in Asia, the rose 0.45% to 18,996; the gained 0.46% to 3,167.45; and the moved 0.82% higher, to 23,524.

In Europe, the is 0.25% lower, at 7,168.75; the is up 0.05%, at 11,555; and the , is 0.06% higher, at 3,236.50.

Wall Street indices pared gains yesterday after the Department of Commerce reported that the US recorded a $502B trade deficit in 2016, the largest in four years. Though the reached an intraday record high of 20,155.35, it closed lower at 20,090.29, for a daily gain of 0.19%. The also notched a midday record of 5,196.27; but it ended the day at 5,185.88, up 0.35%. The eked out a 0.02% gain, closing at 2,293.08; it’s still hovering near its record high, the benchmark 2,300.

Technical charts echo the current market malaise: the recent spate of indecisive candles—culminating in yesterday’s doji stars—indicate a lack of clear direction for traders.

Indeed, since the US election on November 8, there have been only two days where the S&P moved more than one percent. In both cases, it pushed higher. As Bespoke Investment Group points out, it’s been more than 80 days since the S&P last saw a decline of more than one percent.

S&P 500 Last Six Months

Source: Bespoke Investment Group

Given these conditions, traders might very well react strongly to decisive market changes in either direction: if markets go markedly higher, profit-taking would certainly occur; conversely, a greater than 1% drop could see traders using the opportunity to enter new positions. For now though, despite the uncertainty, there are those who advise .

In pre-market trading, the major US indices are mixed: the is 0.15% higher, the is flat; and the is down 0.12%.

Looking at US Treasurys: and yields are flat at 1.169% and 3.019% respectively, while the yield has increased to 2.397%.


The is down 0.15% against the dollar this morning, trading at 1.0663. The single currency continues to be pressured by anxiety surrounding upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, and other EU nations, as well as by a deadlock among IMF members regarding the current terms of the Greek bailout; EU lenders want more austerity measures, while the IMF disagrees.

The USD is also higher against the , up 0.06%, at 112.47. Further upside exists for the pair at 113.72. However, we might not see any big moves until Friday, when President Trump meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The is flat at 0.73, ahead of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s .

is down 0.5%, to $1,047 as China’s central bank called in several of the country’s exchanges for closed door meetings. On the upside, the crypto-currency is currently only seven percent off its recent high of $1,135 reached on January 4 and it could challenge that mark again before traders decide whether to take profits or look to further gains.

Bitcoin Daily Chart

The digital currency could also receive a boost if, next month, the SEC decides in favor of a rule adjustment that would pave the way for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust ETF to trade on the Bats Global Markets exchange.


Many analysts expected , but crude has been moving lower since yesterday; it’s down 0.81%, to $51.75, ahead of today’s EIA data. The forecast calls for an increase of 2.529M.

is also trading lower, down 0.54%, to 54.76.

rose 2.3% yesterday, to $3.13, but it’s down 0.26% today, to $3.122. Gas prices often fluctuate based on short-term weather forecasts. Approximately 50% of US homes rely on gas for heating and with predictions calling for mostly for the rest of the winter in significant parts of the US, prices could continue to fall. NatGas’s next level of support can be found at $2.843.

Gold is down 0.25%, at $1,233.55, but the precious metal is still close to three-month highs and could move higher to $1,260.


More than 150 companies report earnings today, including:

  • Media and entertainment giant Time Warner (NYSE:) which is expected to report Q4 2016 earnings per share of $1.19 on $7.71 billion in revenue.
  • Fast food restaurant operator Yum! Brands (NYSE:), which owns and licenses Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell among others, is slated to report Q4 2016 earnings, with expected EPS of $0.74 on revenue of $4.11 billion.
  • Natural and organic foods supermarket chain Whole Foods (NASDAQ:) is expected to announce Q1 2017 earnings per share of $0.39 on revenue of $4.98 billion.
  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber (NASDAQ:) is expected to report Q4 2016 EPS of $0.87 on $3.93 billion in revenue/
  • Two telecom and internet service providers also report: Level 3 Communications (NYSE:) expects Q4 2016 EPS of $0.44 on revenue of $2.07B while CenturyLink (NYSE:) expects Q4 2016 EPS of $0.57 on revenue of $4.32B
  • Four pharma giants report on Q4 2016: Sanofi (NYSE:) expects EPS of $0.66 on revenue of $10.3B; GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:) expects EPS of $0.64 on revenue of $9.23B, Allergan (NYSE:) expects EPS of $3.76 on revenue of $3.81B, and Mylan (NASDAQ:) expects EPS of $1.42 on revenue of $3.22B

President Trump continues to wield a heavy hand in the markets: yesterday Big Pharma was jolted after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer clarified Trump’s position on drug pricing during a press briefing by saying the president was “absolutely” in favor of programs like Medicare negotiating lower drug prices.

The S&P’s pharmaceutical sector fell 0.31% in the aftermath.

Source: Fidelity.com

Among the losers: Endo (NASDAQ:) fell 4.15%; Merck (NYSE:) dropped 1.14%; Mallinckrodt (NYSE:) declined 0.89%; Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:) finished down 0.66%; and Pfizer (NYSE:) closed 0.47% lower.

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