Daily Market Update – December 8, 2014 (Close)

There’s not too much too distinguish this week from the past two. 

Again, most of the focus will be on holiday retail sales and the price of oil. The general theme is likely to be that holiday sales in traditional brick and mortar outlets are falling while on-line sales are increasing.

No big surprise, but the overall sentiment is likely to be painted as one of lagging retail sales, because that’s pretty much what the script says every year until the final numbers are tallied and then everyone is pleasantly surprised.

The real surprise is probably still going to be contained in the oil story, especially if prices continue to move lower. It’s hard to imagine that they still can, but that was exactly the belief last week and the week before and the week before that.

And guess what?

They still can and did move even lower today and probably was the reason that the entire market was dragged lower today in a serious way.

Other than that it is an extremely slow news week and there is only one Federal Reserve Governor scheduled to give a speech, as opposed to last week when you would have thought they were all running for re-election. Last week, though, it seemed that nothing could really budge the markets in either direction. Not even outgoing voting member Richard Fisher could say anything to excite or scare people.

This week does have the JOLT Survey on Tuesday. That previously obscure report was a big mover of the market last month after Janet Yellen had earlier suggested that we should pay more attention to some of the information contained in the report. The piece that she believes is important, and if she believes so, we should, too, was the number of people leaving their jobs voluntarily in the belief that they would get better paying jobs quickly.

As that number goes higher it reflects optimism in the work place, which can only be a good thing for everyone. Put more jobs, better paying jobs and much lower energy prices together and you have a formula for increased retail sales, with the real prize coming at the reporting of the fourth quarter GDP in early 2015.

What wasn’t good, at least not for the markets as they get ready to start the week were the overnight economic numbers from China and Japan, reflecting weaker than expected growth.

At some point the realization will hit us that China couldn’t possibly keep growing at the pace it had been doing and we will also come to realize that no matter what Japan does it will continue to be mired in an aging population in a  nation with no natural resources other than tuna.

But at some point also comes the realization that decreasing economic activity, especially from China, also decreases demand for oil and introduces that factor along with production related over-supply.

With Europe continuing in its doldrums where else are you going to look other than to the US for economic leadership right now?

Unfortunately, the market isn’t looking as if it’s going to reflect that leadership this morning and by the time the day ended there was really no place to go or to hide.

After a number of assignments last week and some cash replenishment, I’m again not adverse to adding new positions, but once again don’t anticipate adding much more than 3 or 4 such positions. With the really nice flow of dividends of the past two weeks now dried up, there will be more need to generate the weeks’s income from a combination of new positions, rollovers and sales on existing positions.

Last week, despite no real action in the broader market, turned out to be a good one for achieving a nice combination of activity and I would love to see the same this week.

Despite adding two new positions this week at what seemed like good prices and actually getting calls sold on eBay shortly after the market opened, there wasn’t much chance to see anything else move higher as the day developed.

In the event that the JOLT Survey does bring us some good and actionable news tomorrow, with about an equal number of positions set to expire this week and next, which is the end of the December 2014 option cycle, I will probably look at expirations for any new trades to also reflect that distribution, as there is very little incentive to go out further as long as volatility remains so incredibly low.