Stocks rallied for the third straight day as the Dow made a 100-point move for the ninth straight trading session to mark the final full trading day of the week.
Thursday, Christmas Eve, will see the stock market in the US close at 1:00 p.m. ET.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,602, +185, (+1%)
- S&P 500: 2,064, +25, (+1.2%)
- Nasdaq: 5,045, +44, (+0.9%)
And now, the top stories on Wednesday:
- The stock market in 2015 has been all about four stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google. This group, also known as the “FANG” stocks, have more or less held up the S&P 500 on their own, though in the index is still in the red for the year. This has led many, including Josh Brown at The Reformed Broker, to remind investors that narrowing breadth — or a smaller and smaller number of stocks doing “the work” to keep the averages higher — is not really a good thing for sentiment. For one thing a slip-up from any of these stocks could spook the remaining bulls feeling good about their holdings. Additionally, with just a few stocks really performing well the average investor is likely not looking at their portfolio and feeling great. Josh called this his chart of the year:
- The stock market has also been a disappointment because when you look at the most coincidental of indicators — Election Cycle analysis — not only was this the third year of a two-term president’s second term (bullish!) but 2015 also ends in “5” (super bullish!). Alas, it has been a flat-to-down year and were the Dow to actually lose ground this year it would mark the first time since 1939 the index did so the year before a presidential election. The average return during these years since 1933? 10.4%. A long way from here.
- The economic calendar was busy on Wednesday and the big takeaway was a US consumer that is doing well. Personal spending rose 0.3% in November, the most in 3 months as incomes rose more than expected. Consumer confidence from the University of Michigan rose to a reading of 92.6 in December, right around 2015’s average reading of 92.9 which made this the best year for consumer confidence since 2004. The pace of new home sales rose 4.3% in November to a rate of 490,000 units and durable goods orders were flat, both better than expected.
- But it isn’t just that consumers are feeling good that is important for the economy going forward but why and how they are feeling good. According to Richard Curtin, chief economist for the University of Michigan’s survey, December’s consumer confidence report showed that spending on household durable goods looked set to rise, something that you’re not going to see with a seriously muddied outlook. Here’s Curtin: “Importantly, all of the improvement was in how consumers evaluated current economic conditions. The December gain was largely due to lower inflation, which bolstered real incomes and brightened buying plans for household durables. Indeed, there have been only three surveys in more than the past half century in which a higher proportion mentioned the availability of price discounts for durables.”
- And so while an alternative read is that household durables — things like couches, refrigerators, and washing machines — are only on sale because the companies selling them are under duress, recall that consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of GDP growth. Of course, no one part of the economy is immune from positive or negative shocks from another, but a strong US consumer that is enjoying pricing power and an expansion in income is not a bad thing.
- NYSE legend Art Cashin published his annual Christmas poem on Wednesday. You can find the whole thing here, but a verse that stood out to us because, well, it’s just sort of something you can’t not notice: “Letterman, he retired/and he quick grew a beard/And so did Paul Ryan/I’m thinking that’s weird.”
- The price of oil surged on Wednesday with West Texas Intermediate crude futures rallying almost 5% to nearly $38 a barrel. This, of course, follows a report from our colleague David Scutt at Business Insider Australia who noted that we’re basically right at “peak pessimism” for oil. And so right on cue prices spiked. Let’s also not forget that the last time prices were this low into the thin holiday trading period, there was a 36% rally in just a few days back in 2008. As one trader told Reuters, “The best trade right now is no trade.”