Does New Data Support Dow 20K?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ahead of an opening market on the Dow over 20,000 for the first time ever, we see new Initial Jobless Claims, December Trade Balance, Wholesale Inventory and new Q4 earnings reports hitting the tape. Are any of these things potential catalysts for taking the Dow back down below 20,000 today?

In a word: nope. Although new jobless claims rose 22K to 259K in the past week, this follows levels in this key metric that we haven't seen since The Mary Tyler Moore Show was dominating the airwaves. Getting and staying below the psychologically pleasing 250K mark may be tough sledding in the near term, although President Trump's aggressive measures to rebuild the blue collar labor force may pay off a bit down the road.

In any case, 259K is still historically very low for new claims, and this is the first read where all holiday-related hiring can be discounted from the figure. Thus, we usually expect a seasonal bounce in claims around this time anyway; that the total remains consistent with recent weeks and months of a strong U.S. labor market is a good thing for equities.

The December trade balance brought forth a deficit of $65 billion, consistent with analyst estimates as well as the unrevised tally from November. Still in negative territory, of course, but again within a well-manageable range relative to overall domestic economic management. Also, wholesale inventories rose 1%, higher than expectations from analysts but consistent month over month.

Q4 Earnings Results

Both Ford F and Caterpillar CAT reported Q4 earnings before the bell today, and both took hefty one-time charges that pushed bottom-line results below estimates. Excluding charges, Ford still missed the Zacks consensus of 34 cents per share by 4 cents. Caterpillar, meanwhile, trounced the 65 cents expected by posting 83 cents per share before write-downs.

Those write-downs include, in Ford's case, a $3 billion non-cash adjustment to address the company's pension obligations. There was also a $200 million cost related to halting the automaker's plant in Mexico, based at least partly on new pressures from President Trump to have U.S. companies repatriate manufacturing.

Without these charges, Ford posted its second-best-ever year in sales, with $10.4 billion in revenues coming in for the quarter. In Caterpillar's case, its charges were related to costs for asset impairments, among other things. Revenues for Caterpillar's Q4 reached $9.57 billion, light of the Zacks consensus for $9.75 billion.

Mark Vickery

Senior Editor

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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