Sometimes it's just worth asking why we aren't we being hammered. After all, think of all the bad things that have transpired today:
- Sprint (S), by walking away from buying T-Mobile (TMUS), wrecked the big consolidation play that could have led to stable pricing. Plus, the company will have to spend even more money to complete its build-out. The crushing of this big retail stock shocked those who were betting that a deal was basically done, even as T-Mobile had been playing very close to the vest. Moreover, the Justice Department's involvement in blocking this deal shows that antitrust might be making a comeback -- a truly insidious change for stocks, even if it is good for the consumer.
- We thought, and The Washington Post confirmed today, that many more companies are considering inverting to get a lower tax bill. But the Walgreen (WAG) precedent (coupled with the change of heart from the executive branch that they don't need Congress to enact change, they can just get the tax code modified) means inversion could rapidly be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, fortunes are being lost.
- Speaking of lost fortunes, the amount of money that's been shed by 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) decision to walk away from Time Warner (TWX) is mind-blowing. I don't think I read a single article before today speculating that Rupert Murdoch would simply walk away from pursuing Time Warner. It was inconceivable 24 hours ago. The arbitrage funds had to have been hammered. How could this not, as Doug Kass posited earlier, lead to a mini-crash similar to October 1989, when a deal to take private the then-equivalent of United Airlines fell apart. I remember that night well -- and the feeling of dread about the next day. Unlike then, though, the dread didn't follow through into a quick 7% bruising.
- Parker-Hannifin (PH), a terrific industrial company reported a totally unexpected shortfall, taking down that now hideous group, including aerospace once again. We haven't seen any sort of even handhold for the industrials, let alone a level of support. It's been horrendous, and this disappointment compounded the pain.
- Europe's slowing and Italy's been thrown back into recession when we saw last night that the gross domestic product of that important country actually went down. This sinking of Europe has been a huge fear of mine, with the Russian sanctions pushing the negatives right along, and European bourses were immediately clobbered mercilessly. Why not? Their markets have been up huge off the bottom as recession seemed to be off the table. Not anymore.
- Interest rates are going down again. We know that lower interest rates have become synonymous with selling of the financials as their models need higher interest rates in order to get higher earnings. So another day of rates coming down to levels we haven't seen in ages isn't reassuring.
- Oil is down again, and this market wants to see higher oil because higher oil means the economy is strong. The oils have become leaders, but they sure ain't leading.
Logically, we have to ask how in heck this market is not being knocked for a loop.
I think I have an answer: Russian sanctions -- namely that President Vladimir Putin slapped sanctions on companies from countries that are sanctioning his companies. That would normally sound like still another escalation, but I don't think it was, and the market didn't think so either because the sanctions were on agricultural imports. That's not a big deal now.
Plus, if Putin is still putting on sanctions, that means he's willing to do something diplomatic. Why bother tinkering with sanctions if you know you are going to invade Ukraine in the next 72 hours. Why not just do something small and leave open the possibility for some sort of resolution?
Any good news from Russia can cause an oversold bounce at this point, if only because short-sellers don't want to be nailed by some sort of peace talks that would re-ignite ailing Western economies.
But how about all the money lost in the above situations? I think that's because we didn't see many funds borrowing a lot of money to play these situations. Sure, there were some big hedge funds obliterated by Walgreen, but their pain hasn't spread to the general market.
The Sprint/T-Mobile collapse is bad for Sprint and T-Mobile holders, of course, but it is such terrific news for so many Telco-equipment providers that these advances more than made up for the declines. Consider the gains in the antenna players, American Tower (AMT), Crown Castle (CCI) and SBA Communications (SBAC), all among the best in the show, because those two companies will have to continue to buy new equipment now that they are still competing. Cisco (CSCO), Juniper (JNPR) and Ciena (CIEN) all gain, too.
I don't have an answer for the inversion pain yet. I think that's a prop needed to keep upward momentum going. Maybe they aren't over? Maybe Walgreen is a peculiar case because of its visibility and others think they can still get away with it?
Oil is real interesting. Today was the first day that I heard people talk about the idea that the consumer will be helped by lower prices at the pump. In fact, it's the strongest day for retail in ages -- something you can tell easily because Wal-Mart (WMT), where 100 million people shop each week, is actually up. The Morgan Stanley call to buy Macy's (M) didn't hurt either.
Then there is Diamondback Energy (FANG). The other day chartist extraordinaire Bob Lang suggested that it was time to buy Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOGL) because their charts were screaming bounce. Well, bounce they did and these stocks, along with Tesla (TSLA), are market leaders. They tend to affect trading far more than they should. There was news that Amazon's local delivery has been rolled out. Netflix got a hearty endorsement from Bob Iger on the very positive Disney (DIS) conference call. I can't believe that stock was unchanged at one point. Tesla got a Buy recommendation from a firm saying that the earnings power has been underestimated. Smart people might be buying Google off the disappointing Rocket Fuel (FUEL) numbers because if you don't use Rocket Fuel for advertising help on the Web, you might just be using Google, which has a very powerful programmatic service.
Speaking of leadership, how about the soft-goods stories? With interest rates getting wildly non-competitive to stocks because of their amazing lows, the bond-market-equivalent trade was on -- and on big -- with many companies such as Procter & Gamble (PG), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), Clorox (CLX) and Kellogg (K) -- none of which reported very good earnings -- all bouncing back.
Sometimes not having a real 2% to 3% bruising when you logically should expect one is more important than an actual full-blown rally.
Call this market resilient -- at least as long as Vladimir Putin's talking mild sanctions instead of major military action. In the absence of Putin marching into Ukraine, this market can rally even with seven issues that normally would have led to a very serious selloff.
Yep, it's still all about Russia -- especially when something hot goes cold and diplomacy can still be an option.