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Santa Claus Rally in No Hurry; Markets Close Lower

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Market indices entered today’s initial trading session of the week cold, and mostly dwindled even colder into the afternoon hours, closing off session lows but still well lower than opening bell levels. The Dow dropped -482 points, -1.40%, the S&P 500 was -1.79%, the Nasdaq -1.93% and the small-cap Russell 2000 felt the brunt of the selling, -2.88% on the day.

All 11 S&P 500 sectors finished the regular trading session lower — even Energy, which looked to have gotten a bid with firming OPEC+ prices. Even with Chinese stocks buoying toward better valuations on hopes that the reopening may be gaining traction, they were not able to move the needle enough to overturn the bearish vibe in the markets today. China itself still has a lot more questions than answers for investors; they’ll be forgiven for not rushing into the space today.

We’re relatively rudderless on the economic impact front for now — especially relative to last week’s eventful calendar that had jobs reports and consumer confidence and pricing levels articulated. So we take this opportunity to look around at the overall global economic picture and don’t see a lot of catalysts to the upside. The markets have generally already priced in a 50 basis-point (bps) interest rate hike next week. Now what?

S&P PMI Services for November this morning met expectations at 46.2, up 10 bps from October’s print, but still beneath the 50 level that determines expansion and contraction. Last week’s PMI Manufacturing also remained below 50, at 47.7. The ISM Services print for November today did expand to 56.5% from 54.4% last time around. ISM Manufacturing was also below 50% last week. So in three of four of these reads for the current month, we’re recessive.

Factory Orders for October improved nicely month over month, reaching +1.0%, beating expectations by 30 bps and more than 3x the headline we saw for September. Core capital equipment orders were revised strongly this morning: +0.6% versus -0.7% we saw last time. So we’ll take our victories where we can find them, even if they are of slimmer impact than we saw in last week’s reports.

In any case, the Santa Claus Rally does not look like it’s in any hurry to get here. Once we get that 50 bps rate hike in the books next week, it will be something of a load off. But already market participants are assessing whether a string of 50 bps hikes will continue through most or all Q1 of 2023. The Fed funds range is currently 3.75-4.00%; next week we’ll be at 4.25-4.50%. Many analysts still think we’re another 100 bps from where the Fed will eventually hold steady.

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