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There's only 16 trading days left in the year. Tuesday's action is a good reminder that with major indices essentially at historic highs, there is not much time to make a lot of money, but there is plenty of time to lose it.
It's a tough morning for global equities:
1) China's Shanghai Index closed down over five percent, the biggest one-day drop in about five years, as the government's clearing house has tightened the use of corporate bonds as collateral for short-term stock financing. The People's Bank of China will no longer accept bonds with a rating below AAA as collateral.
2) The yen strengthened, dropping below 120 to the dollar. This is the classic safe haven trade. This always is an issue since the yen carry trade, where investors buy yen cheap and invest the money overseas, is a major factor in global stock liquidity.
3) The continuing drop in oil is putting pressure on stock markets in the Middle East, with Dubai down about 6 percent, Qatar and Abu Dhabi down about 3 percent.
Also keep an eye on tangential commodity plays like Royal Bank of Canada, which has been heavily involved in financing western Canadian oil exploration.
Even the euphoria around low oil and the boost to airlines may be fading. Raymond James downgraded Spirit Airlines, saying lower oil will be only a limited help to profits.
4) Europe is weak on heavy volume, with Greece down more than 10 percent.
Euro zone finance ministers extended Greece's bailout program two months. The Greek prime minister has called for a no-confidence vote on Dec. 17 in order to get the opposition anti-EU party Syriza out of the way and then move ahead with reforms. However if he loses the vote, general elections will come quickly; that is the source of the anxiety. Syriza is leading in the polls.
While the move down in oil is no shock, today's surprise announcement from China PBOC and the Greek no confidence vote is a reminder that tail risks are still very present.
Wow! Nonfarm payrolls were up 321,000 in November, the biggest gain since January 2012. There were also large revisions upward in prior months.
S&P futures jumped 2, then dropped down 5 as the "economy is getting better" crowd fought the "Fed will tighten sooner" crowd.
This is a big beat. Nonfarm payrolls beating consensus by more than 80,000 jobs on the plus side are fairly rare. It's only happened ten times since 2004, according to our partners at Kensho.
The S&P 500 was positive seven of those 10 trading days (70 percent), with an average return of 0.47 percent.
The best performing sector in the S&P on these days—far and away—has been Financials, with an average percent return on those 10 days of 1.4 percent. However, that sector only traded up 60 percent of the time, but had several years where Financials rocketed up on that day.
For example, on May 7, 2009, Financials were up 7.4 percent, another day when Nonfarm Payrolls exceeded expectations by more than 80,000 jobs. That was also the day Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a speech at the Federal Reserve in Chicago on lessons from the financial crisis, which may have also influenced Financials.
The most consistent outperformer on those 10 days were Industrials, which were up 90 percent of the time, for an average gain of 1.0 percent.
That sounds like the most consistent bet.
Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., we get nonfarm payroll reports for November. Consensus is for a gain of 228,000 jobs.
Thanks to our new partners at Kensho, we can take a look at what will happen if the jobs report is better, or worse, than expectations.
Let's say that the jobs report comes in better, by 20,000 jobs or more. What happens to the S&P 500 on that day, and what happens to other stock sub-sectors?
In the past 10 years, the biggest gainers are:
The worst performer are Gold Miners (GDX) which trade positive positive only 37% of the time, down an average of 0.8%.
The opposite is somewhat true when the jobs report underperforms by worse than 20,000 jobs.
There is significant outperformance from the Gold Miners (GDX), which trend up 55 percent of the time for an average gain of 0.4 percent. The S&P 500 trades down 0.1 percent on average.
Bottom line—when the jobs report surprises to the upside, the S&P trades up two-thirds of the time, with growth sectors like Industrials outperforming. When jobs miss, gold does well.
Disclosure: CNBC's parent, NBCUniversal, is a minority investor in Kensho.
The Shanghai Composite is up 4.3 percent to another new high, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.7 percent. There's no specific reason, but mainland China stocks have been surging since the market opened to foreign investors in a big way in early November.
The People's Bank of China has also been hinting at stimulus measures. Exchange volumes have increased dramatically. The Shanghai Index is up 37 percent year to date. Chinese energy names like PetroChina and Sinopec were up big, too.
Meanwhile, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is all over the place.
European stocks weakened and the euro shot higher as the ECB chief said the the bank will reassess its current plan in the first quarter, implying that any initiative to purchase sovereign debt—which the market wants—was not imminent.
Draghi also made references to the ECB balance sheet today, saying that it is his "intention" to raise the balance sheet by 1 trillion to 3 trillion euros, but that is not a "target." If that sounds a little too subtle, it is in a normal sense—if not in central banker speak. It means the ECB may not be as aggressive as initially thought.
Draghi later said that the ECB was discussing buying all assets "except gold." Gold dropped, the euro began to weaken, and stocks began to come back.
A strange series of very heavy trading in roughly a dozen stocks has Wall Street traders scratching their heads; here's what I think is happening.
It started at about noon ET. All the trades occurred in roughly the same time period—roughly noon ET to roughly 12:30 p.m.—and the volume in all the stocks was heavy, in most cases several times daily volume.
It all points to one likely explanation: somebody executed some kind of program.
But what kind of program? And was intentional, or did somebody mess up?
Two other points:
1) Most of them recovered to a great extent,so most exhibit at least a partial V-shaped pattern.
2) They do not seem related by sector, or any other obvious metric. True, President Barack Obama was aggressively pushing infrastructure during a news conference at this time, so infrastructure stocks moving (CAT, JOY, TSCO) makes some sense, but that would not account for the moves in other stocks.
There are two possible explanations:
1) A Wall Street firm has updated one of its buy/sell lists for 2015. That does happen at this time of the year: many release lists of high quality stocks, or dividend screens, to private clients.
It's possible some firm did that and has not yet made it public.
2) Someone mis-executed a program trade. I say "mis-executed" because it is hard to believe that anyone who wanted to buy and sell a basket of stocks with significant volume would dump such a large amount on the market in such a short period of time. Any professional trader would execute such a basket over many hours, with careful attention to disrupt the price as little as possible. That's not even difficult to do: it is common practice.
As part of this "mis-executed" theory, it is also possible that a hedge fund accidentally started liquidating their portfolio, and then noticed it and reversed. How do you know? Because your profit and loss statement suddenly goes haywire.
Either that, or someone is trying to execute a series of pair trades and have no idea what they are doing. Seems unlikely.
Personally, I think somebody messed up. Professionals do not execute such sloppy trading deliberately.
Bourbon is in, and apparel is out. That's the story if you look at the earnings picture today.
Abecrombie & Fitch cannot catch a break. Third-quarter earnings were about in line with expectations, but EPS of 42 cents is poor in comparison to last year's 52 cents. Traffic was weak, and with about 30 percent of sales coming from outside the United States, including Europe, is it any wonder?
Here's an understatement: Abercrombie & Fitch expects conditions to remain "difficult." Difficult? I would call lowering full-year guidance to $1.50 to $1.65 from prior guidance of $2.15 to $2.35 more than "difficult." I call it "lousy."
We all know merchandise is not the hot item. Accessories and electronics are what's selling, but this goes beyond that. The merchandise is just not connecting with consumers. You can see that in the earnings and the comparable store sales declines.
It's enough to make you take up drinking. Speaking of drinking...
China stocks jumped the most in 15 months. What's up?
China's Shanghai Index rose 3.1 percent overnight to a 3-year high. To be blunt, it's a bet on central bank easing, but it's a good time to highlight that China's domestic market—long inaccessible and given up for dead—has been revived in the second half of the year.
The Shanghai Index is up 31 percent this year, but you wouldn't know that if you were investing in conventional methods. There is a huge difference in the China ETFs that are available for U.S. investors.
Simply put, the Chinese stock market is divided into two main segments: those shares that trade only in mainland China (known as A-Shares), and those that trade outside mainland China, including Hong Kong and the United States.
Because of restrictions on the ability of foreigners to own A shares, the mainland Chinese market often trades at a substantial discount—or a premium—to the China shares that trade outside the U.S.
What happened to Apple earlier today? About 9:50 a.m. ET it went from roughly $117 to $111, a fairly significant drop of over 5 percent. Huh?
The usual market rumors quickly surfaced: A fat-finger trade was the most common. There were also product rumors, none of which seemed plausible: iWatch, iPad, even hacking rumors.
Occam's Razor says the explanation with the fewest assumptions is usually the correct one. In other words, the most likely explanation is usually the right one.
After talking to several traders, here's the explanation with the fewest assumptions: Someone sold a ton of Apple. Very fast.
Volume was very high during that minute, and on either side of it. More than 6.5 million shares traded in that one minute; Apple normally trades about 50 million shares a day.
That's a lot. There were a few large 50,000 or so share bids came in, but they kept getting taken out and the stock continued to drop.
That suggests a large seller.
But most of the trades were the usual, boring few hundred shares at a time.
December is traditionally a strong month, but as we begin we are getting:
1) more weak data from China, with PMI down to 50.3, the lowest reading since March. Many big material names like BHP Billiton were down big last week—about 10 percent—on concerns China's growth is slowing.
2) more weak data from Europe, with manufacturing contracting in Germany, France and Italy, the three largest countries. New orders fell at the fastest pace in 19 months. These markets have also held up on stimulus relief from the European Central Bank.
3) generally disappointing U.S. retail sales over Thanksgiving weekend. The National Retail Federation said total spending fell 11 percent, with the average shopper spending about 6 percent less than Thanksgiving weekend last year.
Did you ever hear or read a comment about a market trend and wonder how accurate it was over a certain time period? Or when some trader says, "We are entering a seasonally strong period of the year," did you ever wonder exactly how often that was true, and under what circumstances?
Sure you have. All of us who cover the markets engage in this kind of research every day.
Today, CNBC has announced a strategic partnership with Kensho, a company that was set up to answer complex financial questions...in a few seconds.
That's right. A few seconds. Data mining is a key part of the life of any financial reporter, as well as hedge funds and other professional investors.
As central banks move to weaken their currencies, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew tells CNBC a stronger dollar is good for everyone.
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