We’ve seen a notable breakout, but still no signs of profit taking. It’s been one heck of a month for equities. Not only do we have historic highs in the S&P 500, S&P Midcap, and Russell 2000, but every major index is up 5 percent or so.
Major Indices in February:
- NASDAQ: up 5.7 percent
- S&P 500: up 5.3 percent
- Dow Industrials: up 5.1 percent
- Russell 2000: up 5.1 percent
Not surprisingly, market breadth has been improving as well.
Given these moves up, I kept waiting Tuesday for some modest correction to materialize, particularly given the conflicting headlines on Greece. But nothing happened, and we eked out modest gains again.
Volume wasn’t strong, so buying interest wasn’t particularly heavy, either.
But the lack of any profit taking is notable. There doesn’t appear to be any major concern that: 1) markets are overvalued, or 2) the situations in Greece and Ukraine are any imminent threat to stocks.
This certainly would argue that the trend remains to the upside.
Global markets are doing better. Japan’s Nikkei hit its highest level since 2007, and there’s a front-page article in the New York Times Wednesday reporting that India may soon overtake China as the new growth leader.
As for Greece, the government there confirmed it is seeking an extension on its loan agreement with the euro zone. Here’s the problem: Greece’s new leadership has made it clear that it might agree to an extension of the bailout package, but it doesn’t agree with the prior conditions that came with the original aid package. In other words, the Greeks are agreeing to an extension, but want to do it under different terms.
That’s the crux of the problem. And remember, this is only an agreement for the next few months.
As I’ve noted, the outline of a short-term deal is very clear: reduce the terms—a lower coupon on the debt or change to some of the austerity measures—and extend the repayment terms out, to infinity and beyond.
In the six months or so that Greece has bought to negotiate a new deal, its leaders will then try to negotiate a haircut.
“Muddle through” can still work.
Here’s the main questions: If they loosen the terms, will the Greeks promise to pay all the debt back? Is getting the austerity terms relaxed sufficient proof that Syriza has fulfilled its campaign promise?
1) Fossil: you think it’s bad now, wait until the Apple Watch launches. Fossil surprised everyone with disappointing fourth quarter earnings and significantly lower first-quarter and full-year 2015 guidance. Net sales were down 11 percent in North America.
While some of this is foreign exchange related, there’s definitely deceleration in sales in North America.
According to KeyBanc, “the watch category is in the early stages of a slowdown.”
Some of this may be due to very cautious watch-buying ahead of the Apple Watch launch.
But my favorite note was from Sterne Agee, who said Fossil was “Between a Clock and a Hard Place.”
Fossil, which has 50 percent of the fashion watch category, is facing a lot of competition, and not just from the iWatch. Shinola, founded by Fossil founder Tom Kartsotis and run out of Detroit, is gaining momentum with its excellent watches, which retail for $550.