By Greg Peel
The Dow closed up one point, while the S&P gained 0.2% to 1695 and the Nasdaq added 0.3%.
The Aussie has been ping-ponging between the mid 91s and the mid 92s these past few sessions as Fed tapering confusion abates and focus turns more specifically towards China. This relative stability in the currency appears to have halted the great foreign sell-off for now and Friday's move by the PBoC to remove the regulatory floor in non-mortgage lending by Chinese banks, which represents a minor form of stimulus, was enough to lift both the currency and the Australian stock market yesterday. The Aussie is up 0.7% to US$0.9254 since Friday's close.
The ASX 200 managed to conquer its nemesis ? the 5000 mark ? yesterday but at a close of 5001 it is not yet convincing. A lot will depend on the upcoming corporate earnings season.
The US earnings season continues nevertheless and so far has been deemed "okay" against weak expectations. Of companies reporting to date an above average 72% have beaten earnings expectations, but a below average 50% have beaten on revenue. Net improvement in revenues is a goal that has eluded corporate America ever since the GFC. Last night McDonalds posted a weak result and offered subdued guidance, and a 2.7% fall in MCD shares dragged down the Dow.
After the bell the great success story of 2013 ? Netflix, which has seen its shares rally 180% year to date ? posted a result that also disappointed a no doubt optimistic market. Its shares are down 5.7% in the aftermarket.
There was also disappointment on the economic data front, with US existing home sales falling 1.2% in June when a rise of 1.9% was expected. The average house price is nevertheless up 13.5% year on year and inventories are down 7.6%, suggesting one weak month will not upset the general trend of an improving US housing market.
The Chicago Fed national activity index showed improvement, rising to minus 0.13 in June from minus 0.29 in May. A negative number still indicates contraction, putting the national result at odds with last week's strong numbers from the New York and Philly Feds. Tomorrow night brings a flash estimate of the national July manufacturing PMI.
If the abatement of Fed taper-talk has settled the Aussie the other side of that equation is the US dollar, which for now has stopped rising and last night responded to the weak home sales data. The dollar index is down 0.5% to 82.22. I suggested yesterday that gold looked like it was keen to breach 1300 and it did so last night in fine fashion, rising US$39.50 to US$1335.80/oz.
Turnover on the LME remained subdued ahead of tomorrow's round of manufacturing PMIs, which includes China. In thin trade the weaker greenback helped copper and aluminium to 1% gains, while the other metals were mixed. The Brent-WTI spread briefly kissed parity for the first time in four years last night and then immediately widened once more, with both now trading September delivery front months. Brent closed up US8c to US$108.15/bbl and West Texas closed down US1.17 to US$106.70/bbl.
Spot iron ore ticked down another US20c to US$131.50/t.
The SPI Overnight rose 14 points, or 0.3%. Can we sustain an ASX 200 level over 5000 today?
A quarterly production report due from Fortescue Metals ((FMG)) today might help decide. Reports are also due from Mirabela Nickel ((MBN)) and Oil Search ((OSH)).
It's a big night for earnings reports in the US tonight, featuring Dow components AT&T, DuPont, Travelers and United Technologies along with economic bellwether United Parcel Service and everyone's favourite, Apple.