Stocks Off Lows, but Multi-Industry Flashes a Warning

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Midday: markets unsure which way to go. Good news to see some cyclicals (Materials, Energy, Tech) trading up; not good to see all 20 Dow Transports down earlier in the day.

Multi-industry flashes a warning. I've said many times that if you want a read on the global economy pay attention to what multi-industry companies are saying. Multi-industry companies make lots of things (tools, machines, pumps, construction equipment, heating ventilation and air conditioning, etc) that are sold to companies all over the world; it's the stuff that's behind the walls of all the buildings and a good indicator of global growth.

Last week, Danaher, Textron and Dover gave guidance below expectations; General Electric missed outright, but WW Grainger had a strong report.

Many of those names are again under pressure today.

Others in this group have already responded to those weak reports. On Thursday, Parker Hannifin reports...there is clearly worry that they will lower the 2013 guidance of $6.15-$6.75, and the stock is already reflecting concerns about a softer macroeconomic outlook...down from $97 a month ago to $86 today.

Ingersoll Rand, Illinois Tool Works, United Technologies all report tomorrow.


1) Now housing joins the weak string of March economic numbers. March Existing Home Sales disappoint, prior month revised downward. Well, we got close...for two months we have been trying to break over the psychologically important 5 million sales market...and failed both times.

This is getting to be a trend...remember April homebuilder sentiment fell to the lowest level since last October, and March single family sales surprisingly declined nearly 5 percent from the prior month.

There's still good news: existing home sales are still up 10 percent compared to a year ago; the supply of homes is down about 17 percent compared to last year, one reason median prices are up from a year ago.

But we are starting to stall out: while the uptrend is still reasonably intact, all the numbers in the last few months have been in the 4.9 million range. We were over 7 million back in 2005.

No panic yet, but investors have started to take notice: the S&P 500 is down 2.5 percent from its recent high, but the iShare Home Construction Index, a basket of home building and construction stocks, is down 10.3 percent.

2) Gold coming back, regains 40% of last week's loss. Since hitting the intraday low of $1,321 last Wednesday, gold is up $100 to $1,421 (up 3 days in a row), but a long way from its $1,570 early April high.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • 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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