Markets bailed out by China and Syria. Meanwhile, in Cupertino...
The market is being bailed out by China and Syria.
Better Chinese data plus lower odds of a military strike against Damascus is lifting stocks globally. A second day of strong Chinese economic numbers has boosted Asia and Europe: industrial production checked in at 10.4 percent, better than expected, Retail sales surged 13.4 percent, helping to send the Shanghai Composite up 1.1 percent. Just this week alone, the index is up 4.5 percent (!). India and Indonesia both up over 3 percent.
Sell in May and...what? Another indication that many of these old saws don't work has been market activity over the last week or so.
September is traditionally a weak month, yet so far we're up 2.4 percent. The 6-month period from May to October traditionally under-performs the 6-month period from November to April, but so far the S&P 500 is up 4.5 percent since May 1.
1) Apple finally unveils its new lineup today. And it's about time. By my count, the last time we had a product upgrade was the iPad mini on October 12th of 2012 -- that's 11 months without a product upgrade of any kind.
So everyone believes Apple is in desperate need of something...but what exactly?
I was out last night with a group of hedge fund traders, and I was struck by how enthusiastic a few of the traders were about the rumored fingerprint technology. The feeling was this could be a game-changer for everyone sick of putting in passwords every time they log into their phones.
It could be huge if they can make sure it works as advertised. And yes, I am worried about the privacy implications. I would hope that Apple would store fingerprint information locally on the iPhone, rather than creating some gigantic repository of fingerprints on a remote server. Hopefully, we will get clarification on this today.
Still, bio-metric security has far-reaching applications, including authenticating who you are for the purposes of making purchases, both on-line and in person.
Here's what Apple needs more than anything:
a) A new cheaper version of the iPhone they can sell on the global markets. Here is where the hardware does matter. The rumored 5C--the plastic iPhone, as it were--should retail for about $300. If it does, it will be a huge global hit. If it doesn't, and it sells for $400 or above, then sales could disappoint.
b) The addition of China Mobile to the list of Apple carriers is promising. They are the largest carrier that does not have an agreement with Apple. In fact, they are the largest cell phone business in the world. How big is China Mobile? They have north of 745 million subscribers.
It's about 11 percent of the world's wireless subscribers, according to Evercore. That's right: 11 percent of all the wireless subscribers in the world.
Apple is planning a separate event in Beijing today, so this is likely to happen.
We can already see the effect this is having: Apple is up 30 percent from its recent low in June, and supplier Qualcomm is at an historic high.
Finally, here's what I would like to see: steady improvements in Siri, Apple's voice-activated information service. I want Siri to move toward a true digital personal assistant that talks back to you, and becomes your best friend.
I'm not kidding. Think it won't happen? Here's my bet: by 2020, some 20 percent of the U.S. will name a personal digital assistant as their best friend.
Sound ridiculous? Hey, some 8 percent of the U.S. population names a pet as their best friend already! If it barks like a friend, talks like a friend....
There are many other sell-side conferences going on today, where management is providing updates. Goldman Sachs is holding a Global Retailing Conference (Gap, Tiffany, Lumber Liquidators, Tumi and others speaking). Deutsche Bank is holding an Aviation Conference in New York (UAL is speaking). Raymond James is holding a North American Equities Conference (Anadarko Petroleum and Apache are speaking). Morgan Stanley is holding a Global Healthcare Conference.
3) Dow changes: effective September 23rd, Nike is replacing Alcoa, Goldman is replacing Bank of America, Visa is replacing Hewlett-Packard. What do Alcoa, Bank of America and Hewlett have in common? They are the three cheapest stocks in the Dow, which is price weighted.
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani