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Market Rally Is 'Boring' But Real

JPMorgan Chase moves S&P futures up 3 points, then got an additional modest boost as March Retail Sales came in better than expected.

Just a few days into earnings season, it's 3-1 in favor of the bulls: that's three positive reports from Intel, CSX and JPMorgan , and a disappointment from Alcoa.

The stock market rally: I know it's boring because of low volume and volatility, but it's real. How real? Take a look at the SPDR S&P Retail ETF ...it's about 3 percent from it's historic high, reached back in 2007. I said historic high, not 52-week high.

Mr. Bernanke is speaking, starting at 10am ET...consensus among stock traders is that it is unlikely he will leave out the statement that he will keep rates low for an extended period. It seems like an inappropriate forum to do so.

He will certainly be pressured to imply that he will...uh, eventually raise rates.

He will be pressured with the recent strong data: the retail sales, the ISM data, the strong earnings reports. Isn't it time to start signaling you will be raising rates, Mr. Chairman? He will hem and haw that job growth is still weak, that capacity is still slack, that inflation is still not a threat. There will be an unusually large amount of silly tea-leaf reading.

Elsewhere:

1) JPMorgan up 3 percent pre-open as CEO Jamie Dimon hit all the right buttons:

a) economic outlook is improving;

b) small and mid-sized businesses are looking to borrow to expand;

c) raising the dividend is "down the road a little more;"

d) some leveling out for delinquencies in credit cards;

e) a $1 billion reduction in reserves for credit card losses;

f) plans to add nearly 9,000 new employees in the U.S. alone.

As suspected, fixed income trading profit was strong, double the prior quarter ($5.5 billion vs. $2.7 billion).

2) Asian economies are also showing signs of a strong recovery:

a) Singapore's benchmark Straits Times index jumped 1.6 percent overnight to its highest level in nearly 2 years as the country's Q1 GDP rose 13.1 percent from a year ago (vs. consensus of up 11.0 percent). Furthermore, the government raised its growth forecast to 7 percent-9 percent from its previous expectation of 4.5 percent-6.5 percent growth.

b) Media reports say that China's Q1 GDP expanded 11.9 percent from the year-ago quarter - which would be ahead of expectations. The government will officially unveil its growth numbers tomorrow, and economist expectations are for growth of 11.5 percent.

c) Korea reported its biggest drop in unemployment (to 3.8 percent) in a decade; the Kospi Index is near a 2-year high.

3) Advanced Micro Devices gets a 3 percent boost this morning following Intel's strong Q1 report after the bell yesterday. AMD hovers right near a 2.5-year high, while Intel is set for its best levels in 1.5 years.

4) The Mortgage Bankers Association reported mortgage rates backed down last week from their spike two weeks ago. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 5.17 percent from its 8-month high of 5.31 percent in the prior week.

However, that still didn't spur much mortgage activity, as mortgage applications fell 9.6 percent - falling to its lowest levels this year, and approaching levels not seen since June.

5) Fertilizer producers Potash and Mosaic are down 2 percent after Goldman Sachs downgraded each firm on expectations that nitrogen and phosphate prices have fallen, stalling efforts for another price hike of fertilizer. Goldman removes Potash from its "conviction buy list" and lowers Mosaic to "neutral."

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