Nearly as rapidly as oil prices spiked Monday, they violently retreated Tuesday amid talk that Saudi Arabia will be able to restore production from weekend drone strikes faster than was previously expected.
Oil stood in the way of market upside yesterday and the commodity’s Tuesday tumble did not provide much in the way of relief, indicating that many market participants are taking a wait-and-see approach to what comes out of the Federal Reserve meeting Wednesday.
Even before the rate cut news, the Fed was making headlines today, stepping into the repo market by buying $53.2 billion in securities to ease a sudden spike in short-term interest rates.
“The turmoil in the repo market caused a key benchmark for policy makers — known as the effective fed funds rate — to jump to 2.25%, an increase that, if left unchecked, could have started impacting broader borrowing costs in the economy,” according to Bloomberg.
Regarding the Fed’s plans for interest rates, it appears likely that a rate cut of 25 basis points will be unveiled tomorrow, but after that, the central bank could be on pause for the rest of this year.
With that in mind, traders pushed the Nasdaq Composite higher by 0.40% while the S&P 500 rose by 0.26%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.13%. In late trading, just 12 of the Dow’s components were pointed higher and just four of those names were up 1% or more.
What was surprising about the logy performances notched by stocks today was that President Donald Trump made some encouraging comments about the potential for a trade deal with China. Perhaps it was the broad time frame that the president gave that kept stocks from rallying. Aboard Air Force One heading to California, Trump told members of the media that a trade deal could happen soon or around the time of the 2020 election.
That broad timeline wasn’t enough to really jolt tariff-sensitive Dow stocks higher. For example, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Nike (NYSE:NKE) were sporting negligible gains in late trading, and most of the rest of the day’s Dow winners were either defensive stocks or companies that are not heavily dependent on China as a source of revenue.
Speaking of China, there was some good news on that front for at least one Dow component today. Boeing (NYSE:BA) was the blue chip index’s leader, gaining about 1%, after the aerospace giant boosted its China demand forecast.
The company said it expects China to purchase 8,090 passenger jets through 2038, up from a prior forecast of 7,690 planes through 2037. Those new orders will also be a boon to Boeing’s services business, which is becoming an important driver of top- and bottom-line growth for the firm.
Unfortunately, Tuesday’s Dow offenders is larger than we’d like to see. Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) can be excused due to the aforementioned drop in oil prices.
Home Depot (NYSE:HD) lost about half a percent after Guggenheim analyst Steven Forbes cut his rating on the home improvement retailer to “neutral” from “buy.” Forbes said the company’s current investment initiatives could pay off over the long run, but over short-term, those spending plans could crimp margins.
“Bottom line, we find it difficult to see a path to earnings before interest and taxes margin expansion in 2020 as both a) investment spending and b) the associated D&A drag are poised to ramp,” said the analyst.
In what is likely a case of profit taking after major run high, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) traded lower today after entering the day with a gain of more than 15% over the past month. The machinery maker has been highlighted as one of the names that could benefit from higher oil prices, so that factor was at play to the downside.
Bottom Line on Dow Jones Today
Today’s market action wasn’t all that surprising when considering the backdrop riskier assets are contending with. The pullback in oil prices could be a positive because there’s always a sweet spot for oil companies and consumers. High gas prices could pinch consumer spending, something that would be a detriment to the broad economy, so today’s oil retreat is, in a broader context, a positive.
The Fed probably obliges with a rate cut tomorrow, but the devil will be in the details regarding how many more times this year the central bank will ease. If the tone isn’t to investors’ liking, riskier assets could be roiled.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.