By Rudi Filapek-Vandyck
The Dow Jones industrial average DJIA closed up 9.99 points, or 0.07%, to 13,333.35. The S&P500 ended up 3.00 points, or 0.21%, to 1,436.56. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9.79 points, or 0.32%, to 3,114.31. Earlier gains following a positive court ruling in Germany evaporated as the session matured, with investors getting a bit more nervous now that The Moment is approaching: what exactly are Helicopter Ben and his mates going to announce tomorrow?
September's FOMC meeting is a bit like Christmas for Adults. Or, if you grew up in Western Europe like I did, Santa Claus (Sint Niklaas). Knowing the day is approaching there will be presents under the tree, or in a big bag or sock beneath the chimney, it's virtually impossible to fall asleep the night before. There are so many exciting questions that remain unanswered. Will all my wishes come true? What if it they do? What if they don't? And exactly what were all those wishes again?
The global financial community is in that same state right now, knowing all shall be revealed tomorrow. But all that excitement and build up in advance -US equities have now appreciated by some 9% in anticipation- has taken the focus away from many scary thoughts and there are quite a few around in the market who believe that once we all know what's under the tree and all the excitement subsides, there will only be one way to go and that is down.
Certainly, Richard "Coppo" Coppleson at the institutional desk of Goldman Sachs thinks markets have set themselves up for a good old fashioned "buy the rumour, sell the fact" next week. If correct, this would fall in line with the traditional seasonal pattern whereby equity markets sail through heavy weather between the third week of September and mid-October. You can look up charts from (most) previous years if you want extra proof of that statement.
Coppo is far from being the only one who shares this view. Post the Fed-excitement (and assuming it won't end with a negative Bang of Gross Disappointment) there's enough to remain nervous about. Both FedEx and Intel have issued profit warnings recently. Earnings growth for corporate America in general seems to be heading south and surely this won't be the first time you've heard someone mentioning the"Fiscal Cliff"? There's quite a sizeable group of experts out there who believe the US Congress will eventually fix it, but not immediately and that means fear and concern will remain on the agenda for 2013.
You didn't really think all the world's problems would be solved by one press conference after this month's FOMC meeting, did you?
If the Fed sticks to the usual schedule, the outcome of this week's two-day FOMC meeting will be known at 02:30am Sydney time on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, over in China, the government continues announcing "infrastructure stimulus programs" that are not new, but they are reported as such (makes you wonder how global media actually works, doesn't it?). Economists around the globe have already resorted to the conclusion there won't be a Big Bang announcement from China a la 2008 this time, but at least one interest rate cut and some other, softly, softly policy adjustments should be on the agenda. China is adjusting to growth of a different composition, and at slower pace, but only few investors around the globe have genuinely grasped what this means for commodities and earnings for miners.
In Europe, as anticipated by Mr Market, the German Constitutional Court decided the size of Germany's contribution to the Euro-bailout mechanism can only be increased from the present EUR190bn following the approval of the German lower house (Bundestag). This is widely seen as positive enough to keep the wheels turning towards a final solution for sovereign debt problems in the South.
European equity markets responded in a mixed fashion. The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose by 0.1%, with the UK FTSE lower by 0.2% and the German Dax up by 0.5%.
Post the German ruling, Spanish 10-year bond yields fell around 9bps and closed the day 6bps lower at 5.63%, while Italian 10-year yields closed 5bps lower at 5.03%. US bond yields are higher, 10-yr yields are up 6bps to 1.76% and 2-yrs unchanged at 0.24%.
In commodity markets, spot iron ore is ostensibly trading more in line with other spot markets these days. Yesterday saw a minor fall; down 2.1% to US$98.10/t. Crude oil and base metals all closed either flat or with minor losses. Gold is down 0.1% to US$1731/oz.
The US dollar ended little changed against major currencies. The euro held between US$1.2815 and US$1.2935 and closed US trade near US$1.2895. The Aussie dollar held between US104.40 and US105.05c and ended US trade near US104.60c. And the Japanese yen held broadly between 77.75 yen per US dollar and JPY77.96 and ended US trade near JPY77.85.
Further evidence that every dog has its day in the sun: Facebook shares jumped 7.7% last night to US$20.93 after "Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg hinted at new growth areas from mobile to search in his first major public appearance since the No. 1 social network's rocky IPO in May".
In news that didn't matter last night, European industrial production rose by 0.6% in July, the second increase in five months and better than expected. In the UK, the claimant count rate number of unemployed fell significantly for a second month running, dropping by 15,000 in August. US wholesale inventories rose by 0.7% in July, while sales fell 0.1%. And import prices rose by 0.7% in August, with export prices up 0.9%.
In news that may not matter today, but possibly tomorrow: Economists at Citi now expect negative growth for the Japanese economy in both Q3 and Q4 this year; the technical definition of a recession. Also, according to the latest official update by the US government, the US poverty rate has declined slightly; the first improvement after three years of deterioration.
SPI futures in Australia are indicating a rather uninspired opening after yesterday's unexpected gains.
Greg Peel is in China this week. I will be on Sky Business today, Lunch Money, between noon-1pm.