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Fed Chair Invokes "I-Word," Markets Sell-Off Further

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Fed Chair Jay Powell spoke today and managed to invoke the “i” word: “inflation.” Even though he assured market participants that no interest rate hikes will be forthcoming anytime soon — least of all in the next FOMC meeting later this month — market indexes saw more sell-offs across the board: the Dow went 1.11% lower on the day, -346 points; the S&P 500 was -1.34%; the Nasdaq fell 274 points, or -2.11% and the Russell 2000 was off 2.79%.

For the tech-heavy Nasdaq, its now the worst three-day stretch in the last six months, and is down nearly 10% from its record high. It’s also the index’s third straight week of losses (with one more trading day left tomorrow), led downward by super-high valuation stocks like Tesla (TSLA - Free Report) , -4.9% today and -9% from a week ago. The general rotation from big tech names that had previously enjoyed huge run-ups in the second half of 2020 is playing out as a rather painful correction.

In Powell’s comments today, it wasn’t so much the obvious touch points he mentioned — the coming economic surge with first the stimulus bill and then the embers of the pandemic will provide a big boost to growth, and thereby inflation — as it was his matter-of-fact demeanor in delivering them. Investors seem to suddenly be faced with the inevitability of liquidity drying up, and valuations are now being recalibrated in earnest. The 10-year yield rose to nearly 1.55% before settling back down a tad.

Factory Orders for January posted their ninth-straight up-month, posting 2.6% which was 50 basis points higher than expected, and well off the 1.6% initially posted for December. This is the highest monthly tally since June’s 6.5%. Factory orders had earlier established gains from the combined -24.5% from last March and April, led by extraordinary growth in commercial and defense aircraft — up 390% and 63%, respectively.

Fiscal Q1 results for chip-making giant Broadcom AVGO were better than expected: $6.61 per share topped the $6.55 in the Zacks consensus and 25% higher year over year, while sales in the quarter grew to $6.66 billion from the $6.61 billion our analysts had been expecting, +14% year over year. Revenues for fiscal Q2 have been increased to $6.5 billion in what is typically a slower quarter. Broadcom also posted a 23% increase in Operating Profit for the quarter.

Shares are selling the news in the late-trading session, though the stock is still up nearly 180% from its March 2020 lows. The company has not posted an earnings miss in seven years — as far back as our chart goes with the company in its current configuration. Chip shortages industry-wide may limit upside in the coming quarter or two, which may be part of the reason Broadcom is 3% lower after its positive earnings release.

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