Even a weak Fed Beige Book couldn’t damper the positive sentiment coming from Fed Chair Janet Yellen Wednesday. Dr. Yellen’s testimony to Congress put markets in a euphoric mood. The Dow (^DJI, DIA) closed up 123.07 points to finish at 21,532.14 (a record) and hit an intraday all-time high of 21,580.79. The S&P 500 (^GSPC, SPY) closed up 0.73% at 2,443.25, and the Nasdaq (^IXIC, QQQ) finished the day up 67.87 on volume of 424,624,717.
The Dow Transports (^DJT) are often overlooked because of the emphasis put on the major three indexes. But, the transports are closely watched by traders, especially yesterday, as trucking and airline issues pushed the index to a session high of 9,728 (up 1.2%), eclipsing the previous high. The transports are a good harbinger of what’s going on at the ground level. Shares of trucking, airlines and shipping companies that are rising give traders a hint that economic activity is picking up.
The main statements from the Fed Chair yesterday that set the rally in motion were about rate hikes, which will be gradual, and that the Fed will began unwinding its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio in the near future (we still don’t know what near future really means). In the past, this has always been a tricky process—one that usually ends with the markets selling off. Chair Yellen returns for a second day of testimony before Congress today. Although you never know, most traders don’t expect any major market moving news today from the Hill.
Traders are now looking past this week’s testimony on the Hill, and are starting to focus on corporate earnings. My colleague Harris Shapiro points out that “the astute investor always keeps a finger on the pulse of corporate earnings.” He adds that the health of corporate America starts tomorrow in earnest.
Friday, we get some major bank earning from JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), PNC Financial (PNC) and Citigroup (C). All the banks passed the latest rounds of stress tests, and some have increased their dividends and added to their buybacks. Should we get a patch of positive earnings from this group, we may see the bulls run all summer.
So when all the dust settles after Dr. Yellen’s testimony today, what did she really say? It would appear, at least in the short-run, this market has room to run. Throw in a good jobs report, a good earnings season, and the summer should be good to investors.
However, stop for a moment and listen to what she said to close out yesterday’s session, recalling that rates were zero in December, 2015 and that we have had four interest rate hikes since then. In her testimony, Chair Yellen said, “The federal funds rate would not have to rise all that much further to get to a neutral policy stance.” Are you serious?! She is telling us 1.75% to 2.00% is where we should be?! If unwinding $4.5 trillion hits a bump in the road, all this love could evaporate pretty quickly.