By Greg Peel
The Dow fell 26 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P fell 0.4% to 1455, with the Nasdaq down 0.8% (Apple down 2.2%).
Apple is continuing with another one of its consolidations post a new all time high. Shares have broken technical support as more issues emerge for the iPhone5 and as the Galaxy S3 continues to out-sell. Following on from the maps debacle, iPhone5 owners are now complaining the aluminium case is getting scratched (really?) and a purple haze is appearing in photos. Excuse me while I kiss the sky. The only reason this is important is because of Apple's impact on the S&P 500 (5% cap).
Otherwise, last night's session was typically insignificant for the Columbus Day holiday and indices did not manage to fall off the edge of the earth, rather meandering aimlessly towards the close on minimal volume. Tonight, Alcoa reports and then it's on for young and old.
Across the pond, eurozone finance ministers are meeting to officially launch the E500bn European Stability Mechanism and to discuss ? get this ? the region's debt problems. On the agenda will be the Spanish bail-out, or lack thereof, and Greece's next tranche, depending on Athens' commitment to further budget cuts. While it seems most of Europe would just like Rajoy to pick up the red phone and trigger ECB support, the German finance minister is arguing that if Spain can hold on by itself that's a good thing. But Schauble is an elected politician and he has to tell the German electorate more tax payer euros will be used to bail-out another profligate Mediterranean basket case.
So we await any inspiration from Europe, but in the meantime the World Bank has downgraded its 2012 GDP growth forecast for China to 7.7% from 8.2%. Good of you to join us, World Bank. Where've you been? A World Bank downgrade is as good as any indicator of an impending rebound.
As the European story drags on, the euro, as usual, continues to be weaker, sending the US dollar index up 0.3% last night to 79.58. It's easy to forget the Fed is the central bank that is printing money, while the ECB is still waiting for the chance.
The stronger greenback had a predictable impact on also quiet commodity markets, with base metals all down around 1% and the oils little moved. Gold fell US$6.30 to US$1775.00/oz and the Aussie is still hanging above support at around the US$1.02 mark.
Once upon a time the Alcoa result used to provide an early indicator of the strength, or otherwise, of the US earnings season. With the aluminium industry in the doldrums, this hasn't been the case for some time. Really, the season will begin when the big US banks start reporting towards the end of the week. Meanwhile, if you're a Dow Theory subscriber, the good news is that the Dow Transports average has risen for the past five sessions, despite logistics companies like FedEx, UPS and the odd US railroad having all posted guidance downgrades last month.
Dow Theory requires a strong Dow Transports average to confirm any strength in the Dow Industrial average ("the Dow") and until now this hasn't been the case despite four-year highs in the Industrials. It's a technical theory, but it fundamentally makes sense that an economy cannot be strong unless the companies that move goods around are strong.
The other good news is that after a week of soggy iron ore prices leading into last week's Chinese holiday break, China's spot iron ore price has risen US$6.20, or 5.6% to US$110.40/t now that everyone's back to work. This will be good news for the relevant miners today, one presumes.
The SPI Overnight was up 6 points.
Today's local economic highlight will be the release of NAB's monthly business confidence survey.