Here's what I'm watching going into the closing bell...
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is actually the draggy one among the big-cap indexes on what could be its landmark run to 20,000. This is a day when the growth stocks are having a turn as the favored flavor. In fact, the violent outperformance of value stocks (which encompass most financial, commodity and many industrial groups) over growth (tech, many consumer/health names) was really a November story. So far this month, growth and value have alternated leadership:
Leadership being handed from sector to sector day to day is OK as it mostly shows the lack of urgent sellers playing this game. Everyone can now explain to him/herself why the rally has happened and most are reasonably happy to be riding it, if only because of the promised "year-end seasonal strength." I don't think the general market/economic backdrop closely resembles last December's fragile condition at all, but there is a chance that if we carry on this way the market will again enter January looking overbought and vulnerable to a wave of pent-up selling on whatever catalyst.
No one needs to say that there is no fundamental, technical or economic significance to the Dow reaching this level, right? Still, though, the way it's working out, we could well click to the big, round 20,000 threshold just as the stock rally and perhaps some other asset-price moves get near some sort of culminative moment. Treasury yields have leveled off near 2.50 percent and the 30-year auction found good demand for long-dated paper. Might it also be fitting that the U.S. dollar crests just as the universally expected and eagerly awaited Fed rate hike arrives?
A thorough health check of the equity rally still fails to show many reasons for significant concern (credit market is quite strong today, and equity-market breadth has improved nicely since this morning). The main concerns are still on the sentiment/positioning front. Options-market measures show a heavy bias toward traders bidding for upside exposure and shunning downside protection. CNN Fear/Greed is almost as high as it gets. One measure of the DJIA trend shows it more stretched to the upside as any time in 20 years. The BAML fund manager survey shows investors fully involved, if not yet at "maximum greed," according to the firm's Michael Hartnett. Most of these clues say the atmospheric conditions are there for a quick setback – perhaps a mere, fleeting "scattering of the sparrows" after a loud noise.
Right now the Trump-policy factors seem to have receded to the back of investors' minds. The market as a whole seems OK for now with an administration by business, for business. There are new analyses showing that Congress might want to do tax reform in a way that mutes the deficit impact, which could weaken whatever fiscal punch might've been anticipated at first. Splintering of the GOP bloc in Congress over some appointments also aren't apparent worries. Seems to me this is because specific policy moves (aside from broad deregulatory push) were always just "MacGuffins" for this rally – convenient but ultimately nonessential drivers of the plot. So long as global growth indicators were rising and inflation expectations picked up, stocks were geared to try an upside move.
Could a more-hawkish-than-expected Yellen knock things off course tomorrow? Or might a Trump tweet about Yellen do the same? I suppose. I doubt a Fed that just spent most of this year in retreat from its growth and "normalization" assumptions will turn on a dime to turn aggressively hawkish just yet. But the idea that the Fed might have to chase the yield curve and inflation expectations higher into next year will remain in play.