China up one percent overnight, despite poor manufacturing stats. Europe continues to bite Asia. China reported slower manufacturing activity in July, though "official" Chinese PMI is still showing expansion, at 50.1, down from 50.2 in June. The trend has been down for months.
So why did the Chinese stock market rally almost one percent, its best showing since July 6? Some are pointing to an article in London's Daily Telegraph that claims China is preparing a "vast" stimulus plan, including increased infrastructure projects from regional governments and railroads.
South Korea and India also saw declines in manufacturing activity.
1) The Fed and the ECB. Most traders I have spoken with believe the Federal Reserve will at the very least push its guidance for its earliest rate hike to 2015 from 2014; most also believe it will either begin — or signal it will soon begin — another mortgage bond purchase program.
What's the growth outlook? With two quarters of gross domestic product behind us — first quarter at 2.0 percent and second quarter at 1.5 percent, the Fed's projection of 1.9 percent to 2.4 percent growth this year looks optimistic. Look for some acknowledgment of that.
As for European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, the consensus is that after his "I will do anything to save the euro" remark, anything short of a firm commitment to buy Spanish and Italian debt — and a lot of it — will be disappointing to the markets. Direct buying of debt from the European Financial Stability Facility, followed by secondary market purchases from the (dormant) Securities Markets Program.
2) Building material companies continue to disappoint. Roofing and insulation giant Owens Corning missed on top and bottom line, continuing the generally negative string of reports from building suppliers, including Masco and Armstrong World Industries. Martin Marietta Materials, which makes aggregates for construction (think concrete), also reported earnings below expectations.
3) Mastercard beat on earnings, was a little bit light on revenues. This is a simple story: The whole world is continuing to move to plastic. Purchase volume was up 13.5 percent in constant dollars, with U.S. a little lower, international a little stronger. Processed transactions were up 29 percent, even if the revenue per transaction was down 8 percent. CEO Ajay Banga: "Though economic uncertainties continued to persist, we experienced solid volume and processed transaction growth in all regions as we are focused on driving our global business to expand the reach of electronic payments."
4) Earnings: Two-thirds of the S&P 500 (334) have reported, 67 percent are beating on earnings (above historic norm of 62 percent), and only 40 percent are beating on revenues (well below the historic norm of 61 percent).
But the numbers continue to look weak, with fourth-quarter estimates about to break below 10 percent:
Q2: up 0.1%
Q3: down 1.0%
Q4: up 10.7%
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