TRADING THE WEEK: Tech IPO Adds Cache; Fed Meeting Eyed

Terry Flanagan

The U.S. equity market slowed last week, but not in a worrisome way.

Market indices were little changed Wednesday through Friday, and volume slid. But after a strong three-week rally, a midsummer quieting — as opposed to a giveback — was seen as a positive.

“Gains were held,” said an electronic brokerage executive. “There’s not a lot of fear out there right now, and valuations aren’t unreasonable. You don’t want to be on the sidelines in a market like this.”

In a sign of market strength — and market participants’ appetite for speculation — Japanese messaging app Line went public on Thursday, raising more than $1 billion in the biggest technology IPO of the year.

Line shares popped by about a third out of the gate, in brisk trading. “Haven’t seen the New York Stock Exchange floor this busy for an #IPO since starting this gig,” one journalist tweeted. “Biggest tech listing yet of 2016 will do that.”

Volume traded on U.S. equity exchanges averaged 6.83 billion shares per day for the week ended July 15, according to Bats Global Markets data. That’s down from an average of 7.36 billion shares in the holiday-shortened previous week, though more than the 6.03 billion number for the week ended July 17, 2015.   

Friday volume was 4.91 billion shaes, as the July 15 options expiry seemed to not cause much of a stir. “Historically these days are often turning points,” said a prop trader. “We were up for five days in a row (through July 14), which might have set up for some upside capitulation.”

This trader said given recent gains, any add-on to the rally may be followed by selling pressure. “Earnings will continue to be a driver though,” the trader said, as Bank of America, Netflix and Goldman Sachs are among bellwether companies reporting this week.

As stock markets have churned to new highs, Larry Fink of BlackRock and some other top institutional money managers are raising caution flags that growth in corporate profits may not be enough to support continued bullishness. Diverging opinions can translate into trading volume and volatility, so the current setup portends a potential uptick in increased market activity.

On the monetary-policy front, the Federal Reserve meets next week, though market expectations are strongly in the camp that interest rates will be kept as is. Last week, the Bank of England decided to hold the UK’s main interest rate at 0.5%, surprising those that expected a cut as a way to stimulate growth amid the nation’s pending departure from the EU.

Amid the current sunniness in financial markets, a dark cloud looms in the distance in the form of a financial transaction tax. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, backs a tax on high-speed traders, while the Democratic party supports a broader transaction tax.

It’s far from clear that Clinton will win and push on with a financial transaction tax; if she does, she may not be able to accomplish it; and even if she does, it’ll be 2017 business at the very earliest. But the threat to trading activity — and the ultimate cost to the end-user, mom-and-pop investor — is substantial, so the issue is very much on market participants’ radar.

This Week’s U.S. Economic Indicators of Interest:

Monday Home Builders’ Index
Tuesday Housing Starts
Wednesday EIA Petroleum Index Report
Thursday Weekly Jobless Claims
Philly Fed
Friday PMI Manufacturing Index

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