As I write this at 1:20 p.m. New York time on Wednesday, March 25, the Senate is debating the $2 billion (or is it even more now?) coronavirus rescue bill. The consensus is that the chamber will vote and pass the bill sometime this afternoon and then send it to the House. Things get sticky in there because that chamber isn’t in session and so can’t vote on the bill. The hope is that the House will pass the legislation by unanimous consent but a single No vote will halt that effort. And then the House would have to return to Washington and hold a vote on the floor, staggered in 10 member groups in order to minimize the possibility of infection. Even if the House has to result to this cumbersome process and the ensuing delay, the bill will pass.
And the question is what you think the market will do the passage just about assured.
We had a huge rally yesterday with the Standard & Poor’s 500 ahead 9.38% at the close. Today the rally has continued with the S&P 500 up another 3.98% at 1:20 p.m. New York time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained even more, 5.41%, on a huge rally in Boeing (BA) shares of 31.05%.
Boeing shares are up so massively because the bill coming to a vote in the Senate this afternoon includes a $17 billion federal loan program for businesses deemed “critical to maintaining national security.” The provision does not mention Boeing by name, the Washington Post reports sources in the Senate saying, but was crafted largely for the company’s benefit. The money for Boeing and a few other companies is separate from the $58 billion in the Senate package for loans for cargo and passenger airlines, and from the $425 billion in loans to help firms, states and cities.
The “Boeing situation” pretty much encapsulates the choices facing investors and traders right now. The bailout for Boeing is, I’d judge, largely reflected in the stock’s rally over the last two sessions. It’s unlikely there’s more good news for Boeing floating around out there somewhere in Congress. From here, I’d say, reality starts to reassert itself–low or no orders from airlines struggling with the plunge in their own business, a migration of orders to competitor Airbus because of Boeing’s repeated design, manufacturing, and testing mistakes, and the company’s inability to find a way to assure anyone that it is putting those problems behind it.
This seems a classic case of Buy on the rumor, sell on the news. If I owned Boeing, which I don’t, I’d be selling here.
And that’s true of the market as a whole, in my opinion.
After holding the December 2018 low of 2351 on March 19, the S&P 500 dipped below that support on Friday, March 20. And then plunged below that technical level on Monday, March 23, finally closing at 2237.
And then, the rumor rally on Tuesday and Wednesday has sent the S%P 500 back up to 2544 as of 1:20 p.m in New York.
With the bill facing some procedural hurdles in the House, I think there could be more “rumor” to be confirmed over the next few days, I suppose, but I think the positive rumors are now “news” and are reflected in this latest rally.
And if you want to speculate on rumors, I’d direct your attention to the report on new claims for unemployment that is due tomorrow, Thursday, morning. The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment is project to hit a record-breaking 1.5 million for the week ended March 21, according to economists polled by Bloomberg. Other sources are speculating on even higher figures. For example, weekly initial unemployment claims will spike to 3.4 million for the third week of March, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Initial claims for unemployment climbed to 281,000 for the week ended on March 14.
I think that a huge surge in initial claims for unemployment will serve as a wake-up call to financial markets that the damage inflicted by the coronavirus on the U.S. economy is still increasing. Remember the good ol’ days when Wall Street analysts and company CEOs were talking about the hit to revenue from the virus as being just a one quarter problem. I don’t hear any of that talk today. The optimists are those saying the worst will be over in the second quarter.
Oh, and by the way, earnings season for the first quarter begins, in my reckoning, with JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and other big banks reporting on April 14.
This is one of those bear market rallies that I keep posting about. My advice is to take some gains from this rally and do some selling that you were thinking about earlier (but didn’t execute because the markets moved so fast.) I’ll be making some sell calls this afternoon.
We’ll see this pattern again before this bear market is over