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@theMarket: Market Volatility Rules the Day

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires Staff
January is turning out to be a roller coaster of ups and downs for investors. Last year's fourth-quarter gains have reversed somewhat, and the future is becoming murkier as the day progresses. Hold on to your seatbelts.
The economic data is certainly not cooperating with the bull's scenario of slowing job growth, a fast decline in inflation, and a continued decline in bond yields. The reverse has happened. The benchmark Ten-Year Treasury bond has risen back above 4 percent. The dollar has strengthened, the week's jobless number declined, and the Consumer Price Index for December came in slightly hotter than economists were expecting. On the other hand, the December Producer Price Index was a tad cooler.
As such, the wildly bullish expectations that the Fed will begin to cut interest rates as early as March, and continue cutting all year, is going the way of the dodo bird. That disappointment has soured the mood and investor sentiment is beginning to turn less positive. That is probably a good sign if you are a contrarian.
The geopolitical scene has also failed to inspire confidence. The Houthi rebels have been stepping up their game in the Red Sea. The U.S. and its allies are responding with naval and air strikes in Yemen. This could further embroil the U.S. in the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict between Israel and Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis.
The Ukraine/Russian conflict does not help. It seems to be stuck in a stalemate. Oil and gas prices are rising because of all this turmoil. As is precious metals. Supply chain issues are also causing pressure on prices and that hurts expectations for further declines in inflation.
Washington has still not figured out a way to keep the government from shutting down. The Republican-controlled House continues to shoot itself in the foot time after time. The 118th Congress is one of the most unproductive in modern history. Their members have been paired down to a razor-thin majority. Legislation has ground to a halt. At best, it appears that the most we can hope for is another continuing resolution that solves nothing and continues to leave the country hostage to a tiny, group of politicians.
This week, the long-awaited Securities Exchange Commission approval of 11 issuers that applied for bitcoin exchange-traded-funds (ETF) finally occurred. It looked like a classic sell-on-the-news event. After an initial pop, bitcoin lost almost 4 percent on Thursday before rebounding by the end of the day.
Interest seems high but the jury is still out on whether investors will embrace these ETFs with open arms. I think it will take a few weeks before things shake out. The good news for investors is there is a race to the bottom as far as fees charged for these ETFs are concerned.
It is the beginning of earnings season with the multicenter banks kicking off results on Friday. Investors will be focusing attention on overall results to see if the present stock market valuations are justified or not. Prepare for company misses to be penalized heavily, while beats may not be rewarded all that much given the run-up in many stocks over the last few months. Corporate guidance for future sales and earnings will be key.
Beginning next Wednesday, global money flows into financial markets, which have supported markets for weeks, will begin to taper off. This will have a negative impact on prices overall, regardless of asset class. Short term, I expect the markets will remain volatile with maybe one more bounce before some serious downside begins over the next few weeks.

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at bill@schmicksretiredinvestor.com.

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.



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