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Fed stays the course: Why it's a sign of strength

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

The Federal Reserve statement continued its tapering program as expected, but other than that the statement was essentially unchanged, with no change in the forward guidance.

There was no nod to emerging markets, not even an indirect nod toward "recent market volatility" or any other vague stand-in term.

This, to my mind, is a sign of strength. The Fed seems to be increasingly confident that the economy is growing modestly, and judging by the reaction of the bond market (the 10-year yield fell below 2.7 percent, first time in two months), they are convincing many players that tapering is indeed not tightening.

But modest growth does not mean robust growth, another reason bond yields may be moderating. I mentioned this morning that many of the attendees I spoke with yesterday at the ETF.com Inside ETFs Conference in Florida believe the taper means growth will slow, so they are more cautious on equities in anticipation of Q4 being the high GDP print for the cycle.

(Read more: Turkey's lira becomes canary in coal mine of a market crisis)

As for emerging markets, they have generally reacted negatively to the Fed announcement, with the main Emerging Market ETF (EEM) briefly fluttering, then moving to the lows of the day.

Bottom line: The Fed went as far as it could to continue the taper and keep everything else unchanged. Given there was no press conference, it was probably a smart move, even if it means a modest down move for stocks.

One thing is for sure: The market weakness is not because earnings are terrible. We are one-third the way through earnings season...169 companies of the S&P 500 has reported so far. We have earnings growth of seven percent, the best showing since the 7.7 percent rise in Q4 2012. About 70 percent of those reporting are beating on earnings (above the average of 65 percent). Revenue growth of 3.5 percent is also strong.

Despite some high-profile guidance disappointment, such as Boeing (BA) today, 40 companies have provided earnings guidance, with 25 negative, 15 positive, for a negative/positive ratio of 1.7. Historically, that ratio has been 2.4 over the past 15 years.

At first glance, it seems to me that the price decline for those who disappoint on guidance is steeper than it is in the past. BA is down 5.7 percent; EMC (EMC) down 3.2 percent, Tupperware (TUP) down more than six percent. But this is the problem in a down market: Stocks decline on their own news as well as to a general decline in the market, which makes the decline worse; in a rising market, the sell-off is not as steep even in those stocks that disappoint.


—By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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