Trading Desk: Did You Miss The Most Important Day Of The Quarter?

A week ago I told you the biggest turning point left in Wall Street’s year was coming. It was a binary event, a coin flip with extreme all-or-nothing impact on the market’s mood. Nobody knew which outcome we would get, but I hope I prepared you to be ready for extreme outcomes either way.

Go back to Monday night, the last few moments investors would get to position themselves ahead of Tuesday morning’s pivotal inflation report. Remember that? I said it would decide the fate of the market for the next few weeks and the year as a whole.

On Monday, the VIX was still on the very highest edge of “normal,” practically in elevated territory. Traders were nervous and depressed. Bond yields were creeping up again and Fed Chair Jay Powell seemed unusually aggressive, vowing to push rates even higher to show inflation he’s the boss.

Stocks barely budged. Mighty Apple (AAPL) and others actually went down. People didn’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the news either way.

Remember, Powell essentially demanded that inflation drop hard from the 3.7% annualized rate we’d seen since the Fed paused its tightening program. If the pause wasn’t enough, he was ready and willing to tighten again.

The market was already hypersensitive to the rate environment. One more hike and the fragile bull mood would have evaporated like so much smoke. And then early Tuesday, the miracle happened.

Inflation didn’t exactly vanish in October but a dip in gas prices kept overall consumer costs flat on a month-over-month basis while the core CPI slowed to 4% a year. These were the best numbers in years and they give Powell and everyone else evidence that rates don’t need to keep climbing in order to keep price pressure under control.

Suddenly the VIX went over a cliff as traders read the writing on the wall. While the Fed isn’t necessarily free to declare victory at this stage (we’d need 2% inflation for an extended period for that), the world is clearly moving in the right direction again after a month of little progress.

And as the “fear index” dropped, stocks shifted to the upside. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ jumped 2% in minutes and spent the rest of the week establishing that position as the new floor . . . a new status quo.

Put that level in context: the S&P 500 has now rallied 10% from its October low and is only 1.5% from its summer peak. Think back to mid-July, when it felt like the bull was back once and for all.

At the time, traders started getting unnerved because nobody was comfortable with bond yields testing 4% since the 2008 crash. After over a decade of extremely depressed long-term rates, we just didn’t know if the economy could handle the strain.

Here we are and it looks like four months of 4-5% yields didn’t trigger an instantaneous crash. I’ve been saying it all along: there was never anything intrinsically toxic about this rate environment, but until a new generation on Wall Street felt it for themselves, caution would dominate the landscape.

After all, nobody wants to live through a crash. Now people know that these rates are sustainable and survivable . . . at least for an extended multi-month stretch of time. We can handle this. We can do it.

And here’s the great thing. Yields were 10% lower in July than they are now. They’ve gone up a half percentage point since then. Stocks have gone down barely 1.5%.

That’s how to quantify the yield threat. It’s not an all-or-nothing do-or-die thing. Stocks still cycle between fear and greed. It’s just that the higher yields go, the lower the ceiling on greed gets. High yields don’t kill. They depress.

I think yields have peaked for the time being. They might even come down. Meanwhile, four months later, corporate earnings have also turned the corner. They’re growing again for the first time in a year.

Rising earnings plus flat to lower yields raise the ceiling on how high stocks can go. As inflation recedes, profit margins rebound. The S&P 500 is barely 6% below its pre-bear-market peak as it is.

I’m thinking the bull is back. Maybe you’re tired of the market grind. I get it. But if you want to stay in the game, you need to get off the sidelines and get in there with us.

The market is already up 2% since Tuesday morning’s burst of relief. It only takes another 2-3 of these moves to push back into record territory . . . maybe even by the end of the year.

And my GameChangers stocks have soared 5% in the same period of time. Growth is back! That’s a big enough gain to cover an entire YEAR in the bond market. The difference? We did it in four days and now we have the next 361 days to parlay that gain into something even more exciting.