For about an hour on Monday morning, it felt like the #growthslowing theme was back.
Germany was tanking. Shanghai had been creamed. And at 9:45 am the bears launched an attack on the S&P 500 SPY. Bam, the low for the day was gone. And five minutes later, Friday's intraday low had been taken out. In short, the bears were "feeling it" and the bulls appeared to be on the run.
At issue was the fact that China's export numbers had stunk up the joint. Instead of a 7.5 percent increase over year-ago levels, the totals for February wound up falling 18.1 percent. China's Shanghai Composite dove 2.86 percent in response, and the CSI 300 Index ASHR dropped to its lowest level in five years. Ouch.
European bourses were also not happy places to be early on Monday, because the continent's economic fate is closely tied to China's growth. And with Europe's economy just starting to find its long-lost mojo, #growthslowing in China would NOT be good news for investors in the eurozone.
Blame It On The...
But as has been the case lately, traders quickly got over the data -- as they simply blamed it on the weather.
Oops, that's the wrong excuse - my bad. Here we go...
Regarding the China data, it was talk of distortions from China's Lunar New Year holiday -- and what was referred to as "heavy over-invoicing" in the year-ago period -- that was blamed for the overly weak data. Whether or not the headline-reading algos were trained to buy when seeing the words "heavy" and "over-invoicing" in the same sentence remains to be seen. But just about the time things started looking ugly at the corner of Broad and Wall, the buy algos started running.
The bears also appeared to have the geopolitical tensions in Ukraine/Crimea/Russia on their side. There had been no improvement over the weekend, after Moscow signaled it was prepared to annex Ukraine. The latest press reports were focused on further Russian incursions, as Russian forces were said to control 11 border guard posts across Crimea.
This whole "annexation" thing hasn't been sitting well with the West. President Obama took to the microphones on Friday and Secretary of State Kerry was busy setting up meetings in the Kremlin. Then on Sunday, Germany's Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Moscow-backed referendum in Crimea was illegal and violated Ukraine's constitution.
So, anyone paying attention to the goings-on in Russia, Ukraine and Crimea couldn't be blamed for being a bit fidgety on Monday. It appears Mr. Putin is intent on doing whatever he pleases, regardless of the verbiage coming from points west.
However, traders refused to bite on this mess again on Monday. Perhaps crisis-fatigue can be blamed, as just about everyone in the game has probably had their fill of crises by now. But it was interesting to note the algos weren't able to ignite anything to the downside on Tuesday.
A Boeing 777 Goes Missing
Then there was talk of terrorism -- in response to reports that a Malaysian jetliner with 239 people on board had gone missing without a trace. The facts that (a) there was no distress signal from the pilots and (b) the weather was clear left many scratching their heads and wondering about foul play.
But again, the bears weren't able to capitalize. Sure, the Dow DIA finished down 34 points. And yes, there were some moves in things like the industrial metals that weren't pretty. For example, iron ore and copper names were hit hard, as Cliffs Natural Resources CLF fell 3.8 percent, Southern Copper Corp SCCO was off 3.5 percent and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold FCX gave up 2.5 percent. Global mining plays also lagged, as the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners GDXJ dropped 2.6 percent.
Bottom Line: Bears Go Home Empty-Handed
While the market's focus can and often does shift in the blink of an eye, it appears the bears missed yet another opportunity earlier in the week. They had arguments for #growthslowing, geopolitical tensions and the word "terrorism" flashing on television screens. And yet our furry friends went home largely empty-handed.
As the saying kinda goes, a market that can't go down on bad news isn't in trouble. So while stocks are overbought, the bull is getting old, the sentiment indicators are trying hard to get people's attention and a pullback to test the latest breakout would certainly be logical in here somewhere, it appears that this bull isn't quite dead yet.
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