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@theMarket: Markets March to New Highs (Again)

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires columnist
At this point, a day without a new high seems almost abnormal. AI stocks rage higher, joined by weight loss companies like Lilly. The good news keeps rolling in with even Chairman Jerome Powell of the Federal Reserve Bank seemingly more dovish. 
 
The Fed chairman testified before both the House and Senate this week. He indicated that we could expect a couple of interest rate cuts this year if the inflation data continues to weaken. He also said that if it does, the Fed won't wait until inflation hits its 2 percent target before loosening monetary policy.
 
The economy continues to grow, and while there is some evidence that labor growth is moderating in certain sectors, the latest non-farm payroll numbers for February — a gain of 275,000 jobs — were higher than expected. However, the headline unemployment rate hit 3.9 percent from 3.7 percent in January.
 
Bottom line: there are still plentiful jobs available for anyone who wants one. Wage growth, however, is slowing (0.1 percent versus 0.2 percent month over month). That is helping to rein in inflation. The macroeconomic data is helping to boost the good cheer within the financial markets.
 
Even the problems that have beset a large regional bank, New York Community Bank (NYCB), did nothing to dent the armor of the bulls. This regional bank merged with a troubled Michigan mortgage lender, Flagstar Bank, in a $2.6 billion deal last year during the regional bank crisis. The merger pushed the combined bank near a $100 billion regulator threshold, which imposes stiff capital rules on banks over that level.
 
The consensus on Wall Street is that NYCB's increased exposure to the commercial real estate market, plus the new requirements, forced the bank to slash its dividend in January. That sent NYCBs' stock diving, which in turn sparked credit downgrades.
 
This week, as the bank's stock price was in free fall, several investment firms, including Steven Mnuchin's Liberty Strategic Capital, Hudson Bay Capital, and Reverence Capital Partners injected more than $1 billion into the bank in exchange for equity. 
 
A year ago, a related issue (remember Silicon Valley Bank) drove down equity markets. At the time, investors feared that financial contagion might overwhelm the overall banking sector. It didn't. This time around, markets barely blinked.
 
The widening of the breath of the stock markets has also increased investors’ confidence in the rally. Bond yields have fallen, and the U.S. dollar along with it. That has sparked a bull run in gold and in Bitcoin since both are considered currency equivalents.
 
But there is a little more to this story than that. Some economists and stock strategists argue that when the Fed begins to cut interest rates, the dollar is going to tumble, and the demand for alternative currencies like gold and crypto will spike higher. Throw in the fear that the country's out-of-control debt level is going to cause a crisis, and you have the makings for much higher prices. As a result, both Bitcoin and gold hit all-time highs this week.
 
As I wrote last week, we have met my first target on the S&P 500 Index of 5,140. My second higher target was 5,220-5,240. We are already halfway there as of Friday. The precious metals are over-extended and need a pullback as is the rest of the market. My advice: hold on, but not chase.
 
We continue to have at least one day a week where markets suddenly dive by more than 1-2 percent on no news.  Each time, (so far) markets rally back by the next day. Don't be lulled into believing that the dip and bounce strategy will continue to work. Somewhere up ahead there awaits a 7-10 percent correction. It could take until April before that occurs.
 

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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