The market staged an improbable rally. After selling off over 500 points yesterday and opening down over 100 points today, the Dow is about even.
Wall St. may see a small ember left from the fire of consumer spending that raced through the economy for half a decade. Even with housing down and credit tight, a few things have flipped in the direction of the average citizen. Most important, the costs of food and fuel have dropped. If the Fed cuts rates, they may even be able to get a loan.
Stocks up today include Kroger (KR). It turned in strong numbers. People still need food and they are willing to pay for it. Consumers have not turned to foraging in the fields.
Starbucks (SBUX) is higher. While that would not seem to make sense, the coffee chain has jumped to coupons and lower-priced products to get back customers. It is moving down the down the "value" road. The market sees some attraction to that.
Ford (F) has been green all day. Traders may believe that Detroit will get loan guarantees from Congress. But, without some recovery from a vicious market, Ford’s fortunes have no chance to improve. The drop in oil also gives the automaker some support.
In the column of benefits from oil prices, investors will also find United (UAUA) up over 7%. The same fundamentals hold as they do for Ford. Falling costs may be helpful, but customer traffic has to improve. The stock price belies some optimism about consumers returning to airports even if they have to pay to fly luggage.
Schwab (SCHW) is up almost 5%. No sensible trader looking at the market would believe that individual investors would be willing to come out of their storm shelters. Wall St. believes that some of the affluent public has the courage to hang in and trade.
The consumer pulled the economy out of the last recession. Perhaps they will have another turn.
Douglas A. McIntyre