The Battle Weary Investor – by Justin Vaughn

(Justin Vaughn, Editor, Options Trading Report)

A combination of a possible lower interest rate increase and anticipation of a lowering of inflation on Wednesday’s CPI announcement, drove the market higher. It was a hallmark day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it soared 528 points or 1.6%, while the S&P 500 added 56 points. The tech heavy Nasdaq jumped 139 points, with a positive market on Monday. “We think we’ve seen peak inflation,” said Jason Ware, partner and chief investment officer for Albion Financial Group. “We still have tightening to come, but most of it is behind us. We are much closer to the end than the beginning.” Oil settled Monday at $73.17, unable to sustain a firm rally and at the lowest level of the year.

The release of the CPI Tuesday showed continued downward trending, with the ‘number’ coming in for November’s Inflationary rate at 7.1%, down from October’s rate of 7.7%. All that’s left is…the Fed rate hike announcement, generally thought to be 50 basis points. The market’s ‘rather timed’ reaction speaks to the general mood, one that has been dealing with combating inflation. Early on in the day the Dow did soar over 700 points, with the good gains in the S&P and Nasdaq also. As the day wore on the indices gave back nearly all of the gains as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 103 points, losing almost 600 points in the course of the day. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite eked out small advances. The Bond Market reacted to the CPI announcement, hitting a low of 3.421.

Wednesday opened with optimism with a stronger market…that faded quickly. As the rate increase of a half a percentage point by the Fed was announced, stocks began to fall, giving up gains from early on Wednesday. Investors and traders alike were in disarray, after Powell’s release of the rate hike and the strong indication that the tightening will continue for “quite some time”, until the Federal Reserve was “satisfied.” News that economic growth was slowing, as the economy was adjusting with projected higher unemployment, gave investors more bad news along with the continuance of rate hikes. The retreat was felt by all sectors, with the indexes finishing negative. The sell off continued and picked up ‘steam’ on Thursday as investors and traders saw only ‘negative news.” By noon all indexes were trending downward, with the Dow Jones Industrial average snowballing down 750 points, or 2.5%, the worst day in three months. Most notably, the Nasdaq lost 380 points or 3.40%. The ‘benchmark’ 10-year note dropped below 3.2%. U.S. spending fell as Christmas shopping was weak in November and continued to be weaker in December, never catching up after a soft “Black Friday” failed to stimulate the shopping crowd.

Coal is burning …hot, for now as demand and prices have doubled. Dubbed ‘the dirtiest’ energy source by environmentalists and loathed by many, coal is a hot commodity in these times of energy shortages. Trading at $395.00 on December 8, it is up a whopping 133% since December of 2021. Strong demand from European countries and India, China, and the wet climate in Australia has pushed the commodity to ultra levels. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ceasing of accepting Russian natural gas, countries have scoured the world in search of alternatives…and coal was an easy choice. Coal powers about 36.5% of global power, with natural gas supplying 22%, according to STATISTA. Coal is the ‘help source’ for many European countries as the cold winter months converge. Unhappy environmentalists might want to ‘look the other way.’

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Eric Sterner, chief investment officer at Apollo Wealth Management, WSJ “Even though the market sometimes seems to ignore Powell, thinking he’s bluffing, he keeps reiterating that he will put this economy into a recession if he has to,” said Mr. Sterner. “We’re stuck in this rut right now waiting for inflation to normalize and it may take all of next year for that to happen,” he added.

Diane Swonk, chief economist with KPMG, Barron’s “You’re starting to tip further into how hard (the Fed) has to hit the brakes. Even after they’re done slaying the inflation dragon, they’re going to have to keep rates at a level that keeps unemployment from falling as low as it was. That part of the story hasn’t been accepted yet,” she adds.

Jim Paulsen, Leuthold Group Chief Investment Strategist, calling for the S&P 500 to go to 5000 in 2023, Barron’s “The lows are in, and I think we are starting a new bull market.”

Brandon Pizzurro, director of public investments at Guide-Stone Capital Management, WSJ “Those of us that are defensively positioned are either going to really benefit from next Tuesday and Wednesday, or feel some short-term pain if this Santa Claus rally is kick-started.”