By Greg Peel
The Dow closed down 8 points, while the S&P fell 0.2% and the Nasdaq plunged 1.0%.
Google, like Apple, is one of the America's largest stocks by market cap and should thus be in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but isn't given a per share face value that exceeds Dow criteria. Google is included in the broad market S&P, 500 but is listed on the Nasdaq and not the NYSE. The index movement figures above reflect a big drop in Google's share price last night, which was not taken by investors to reflect the wider economy.
The bottom line is that Google posted a substantial earnings miss, and to exacerbate the issue the report was accidentally released mid-session when it was planned for an after-the-bell posting. Only the raw numbers hit the screens, sans the usual management commentary (call it "excuses" in this case), and the shares fell 9% before Google was able to scramble a trading halt. After re-opening, Google closed down 8% at the bell.
Google's "miss" mostly related to the primary issue facing all net-based businesses this decade ? how to monetise their services in a mobile (phone, tablet) world. It all comes down to advertising that "works" on PCs and Macs, and in some cases "goes viral", but is not really working, or drawing attention, on the smaller screens. To that end, Google's miss resonated with Apple shares (down 2%), Facebook shares (down 5%) and others of their ilk, and hence the big fall in the Nasdaq.
Does any of this have ramifications for the earthbound economy? Not really. Hence the Dow, which was only up 20 points before the accidental release, was little affected and the S&P tech weighting was sufficiently offset by other sectors. Dow components Travelers and Verizon (carrier for the iPhone) posted earnings beats as did Morgan Stanley.
Having said that, Microsoft has posted a miss after the bell, sending its shares down 3% in the aftermarket. Microsoft is in the Dow, and the miss aligns with similar misses from Intel and IBM as the PC slowly becomes the electric typewriter of the twenty-first century.
Before this latest Wall Street debacle, yesterday in the Asian session, China released its GDP and monthly data. At 7.4% year on year growth, Down from 7.6% in the June quarter, the September quarter GDP result was smack on expectation. What had analysts excited, however, was how the quarter ended. Data for the month of September all showed improvement from August and better than expected results. Retail sales were up 14.2% year on year (August 13.2%), industrial production was up 9.2% yoy (8.9%) and fixed asset investment was up 20.5% year to date (20.2%).
These numbers, for what they're worth, suggest the China slowdown may have finally found its nadir. Every man and his dog has been expecting this to occur, although only with the help of stimulus from Beijing. Outside of liquidity injections, that stimulus has not yet been forthcoming. There is always talk on the fiscal side of infrastructure projects, but these are inevitably a rehash of already released plans. So it is encouraging, one assumes, that the Chinese economy might appear to be turning the corner without significant rate cuts or RRR reductions.
Over in Europe last night, nothing happened. EU leaders met in Brussels as they have done so many times before since 2010, but now that the world has resigned itself to not expecting a Spanish bail-out before next month, there was nothing much to expect. Euro traders took the opportunity to take some profits after a solid run this week, sending the US dollar index up 0.4% to 79.35. The Aussie flirted with 104 post the Chinese data release, but after last night is down a tad over 24 hours to US$1.0369. Gold lost US$7.80 to US$1741.00/oz.
In US economic data news overnight, the Philly Fed manufacturing index has swung back into expansion this month with a jump to plus 5.7 from minus 1.9 last month, adding more strength to the greenback. The Conference Board leading index for September rose by its greatest amount in seven months with a 0.6% gain, helped along mostly by the improvement in US housing.
I'll just say now that I do not like standard leading economic indices as an indicator. The reason is they all include stock market index prices as a component, arguing that a rising stock market is a leading indicator. And they're right. But to include a leading index of economic performance in a leading index of economic performance is to me double counting, particularly if the stock market rises further on the news. That would mean the stock market is up because the stock market is up.
Base metals were again worth ignoring last night, but traders will be back from LME Week next week and normal programming will be resumed. West Texas crude was little changed at US$92.05/bbl last night, but Brent dropped US80c to US$112.42/bbl. Iron ore was as good as unchanged.
The SPI Overnight fell 7 points.
The big US earnings reports out tonight will come from Dow components General Electric and McDonalds. Hopefully without controversy.