Awash in Benign Action

 | Oct 15, 2013 | 2:28 PM EDT
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Does anyone really think business in the U.S. is any good right now? I think we all accept that there is budding weakness in autos and housing to go with softness in apparel, because there's too much negative chatter out there right now. Other than oil and companies like Noble (NBL), Pioneer (PXD) and Continental Resources (CLR), I really don't know of any name that's having a much-better-than-expected quarter that depends on the U.S. for its sales.

But it hasn't mattered.

And it is starting to drive people crazy. I am dealing with managers who are saying that housing is falling apart -- to which I say: What else is new? I am talking to people who can't believe retail stocks aren't trading lower, given weak apparel sales. To which I say: How do you think Macy's (M) got down to these levels to begin with? Why else do you think Gap (GPS) is at $36? Urban Outfitters (URBN) shares don't drop almost 25% if things are doing well.

Yet, the market itself isn't breaking. That's because of stocks like FedEx (FDX), a company that announced a huge buyback of about 10% of its shares. It's because Wells Fargo (WFC) reported a disappointing quarter, and yet the stock didn't go down. It's because Coca-Cola (KO) was already down big, so when it reported a so-so number that even Coke management wasn't happy with, the stock didn't get hit. It is about Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and the company's much-better-than-expected earnings. It's the relentless climb in iron ore maker Vale (VALE), even though the vast majority of analysts are negative on the stock. It's about Microsoft (MSFT) going higher on a flip note about how the company's more transparent. It's about Tesla (TSLA) rallying on a survey and Netflix (NFLX) on original content.

People are struggling to relate all of these to a weak consumer and a D.C. monkey wrench.

They are trying to figure out why the futures aren't wiping out these gains.

I think it's because the market is complacent about what the GOP insurgents can do. Or, at least, perhaps it's that the insurgents can declare victory when we go over the Wednesday debt-ceiling deadline.

Either way, the market's defying conventional wisdom because individual stocks aren't getting hit -- or, if they do, as with Dominos (DPZ), there's no real follow-through to others.

Maybe people aren't scared enough. Or maybe people are too scared of missing a move. But one thing is certain: Stocks are still going up on good news, and if a stock is down and gets OK news, we don't see it selloff. That's benign, and I see no real sign of the benign moment ending -- just yet.

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