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September is starting to stink for the stock market

·Anchor, Editor-at-Large
·5 min read
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This article first appeared in the Morning Brief. Get the Morning Brief sent directly to your inbox every Monday to Friday by 6:30 a.m. ET. Subscribe

Monday, September 20, 2021

But there are green pastures

Against a noisy backdrop of mounting corporate earnings warnings and a steady drumbeat of market correction calls by Wall Street pros, I have been on a covert mission to find a few good things for investors to chew on midway through a volatile September.

I inhaled a whiff of hopium on the surprising August retail sales report that showed consumers are spending their stockpile of savings (or higher wages from their new gig) on a fresh pair of jeans or back-to-school supplies for their kids.

For the record, I expected the report to miss economists' estimates due to soft weekly reads on consumer mobility due to the surging Delta variant. So this upbeat report left me with egg on my face. But that's OK, there is nothing wrong (usually) with getting good economic data.

Dare I say the consumer sentiment report on Friday was a bright spot. Even though it fell short of estimates, it did improve slightly from August despite delayed office reopenings and Delta fears.

To top my search for a new pair of rose-colored glasses, Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins told Yahoo Finance Live that his business is pretty solid right now.

"It's healthy [the global economy], but obviously the comparisons are going to become tougher as we move forward. I think you got to just look at the math and make sure you don't read too much into the mathematical change. But from what we see right now, the spending from our customers is very balanced," Robbins said.

I loved hearing that. That said, despite this greener pasture, the markets — just like my bumbling New York Yankees — are starting to pile up the losses this month. The data doesn't lie.

  • On Friday, the S&P 500 slipped below the key 50-day moving average. The index is about 7.5% away from its 200-day moving average. In case you were wondering why you should care: Market sentiment is taking a turn for the worse.

  • Global equities have fallen for two straight weeks.

  • For the first time in 10 months, fewer than 75% of S&P 500 stocks closed above their 200-day moving averages on Friday, according to SunDial Capital Research. That ended the fourth longest positive streak since at least 1928.

So what gives here?

Pick your poison, as to why the market may be correcting at the pace of a melting ice cube, as characterized by Morgan Stanley's chief investment officer Mike Wilson.

First, earnings warnings have caused the upward momentum in analyst estimates to cool down. Remember, this upward momentum in profit estimates has been like oxygen to the market. "Throughout 2021, stocks have trended higher alongside upward revisions in EPS estimates for this year and next. In recent months, though, the pace of these revisions has slowed, and so too has S&P 500 momentum," reminds Julian Emanuel, BTIG chief equity and derivatives strategist.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve meeting this week could serve up a dot plot that brings forward interest rate hikes. What long trader wants to see that headline cross the newswires in the afternoon? (Answer: none).

And then, there is a budding realization by investors that the fall could bring headline risk to stocks. Read Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's warning in a WSJ op-ed about a borderline government catastrophe (that feeds into household catastrophe) if the debt ceiling isn't raised soon. It should be a wake-up call even for the most hardcore of bulls.

"Perhaps contributing to investor caution is the gauntlet of deadlines ahead in Washington — pushback against spending levels and “pay fors” complicates the goal to finalize the budget bill ahead of the targeted 9/27 infrastructure vote, while the debt ceiling suspension expires on 9/30 with extraordinary measures exhausted in October — coinciding with traditional fall volatility," Emanuel adds.

So in other words, there is a lot going on across the board for investors to contemplate.

At this point, bring on October. Hopefully it will include a New York Yankees playoff run and the return of the bull on Wall Street.

Odds and ends

Netflix: On Sept. 25, Netflix (NFLX) will hold its first-ever "fan event" via a livestream where it will show off its upcoming content. The stock has gone up 13% headed into the event, lifting expectations so high that the stock may fade on any positive news. But beyond the day, the event could stoke optimism on Netflix's 2022 subscriber outlook. "At the end of the day, Netflix's stock moves on subscribers. If [the content slate] it causes the subscriber growth to reaccelerate, the stock goes higher from here," EvercoreISI tech analyst Mark Mahaney told Yahoo Finance Live.

Sears: We all have a job to do, so hat tip to a Sears [now known as Transformco] spokesman for trying to portray his company as alive and kicking. After I reported (along with other news outlets) that the last Sears store in its hometown of Illinois was closing in November, the spokesman said in an email:

"There are Sears Hometown stores in Illinois and other states that carry a significant assortment of hardlines, including Kenmore products, and are primarily operated by independent dealers or franchisees of an affiliate of Transformco. In total, there are more than 300 large and small format Sears and Kmart stores nationwide, including 11 in Illinois. In addition, Transformco is very focused on growing sears.com and the Sears Home Services business. The 11 are small format Sears Hometown Stores operated by independent dealers or franchisees of an affiliate of Transformco. But Sears stores, nonetheless. It was incorrect for news outlets to say that “Sears closed its last store in Illinois.”

A nice play on words, but technically the last Sears store OWNED by Sears/Transformco in its hometown closed. I have a job to do, too — it's called reporting the facts.

By Brian Sozzi, editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow him at @BrianSozzi

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