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The Post-Hurricane and Pre-Election Financial Markets


Seeking normalcy, one step at a time.


Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

"Power to the People"
-- John Lennon

I found an Internet signal late last week and shared Crisis Mode, With an Eye on Normalcy. It was all I could do to update my team -- and the world -- as to what was happening in my neck of the woods.

I will try not to dwell on the Superstorm Sandy, as per the title above, we must look "up and out" rather than "down and back." I will, however, share some observations from Port Washington, Long Island, which is where I live (having recently moved from NYC) and where many continue to suffer. This is day seven of no power or heat at our home and we may only be at the halfway point, according to some best-guess estimates.

Despite well-intentioned assurances from readers in the Gulf Coast ("Don't worry, this is a run-of-the-mill Cat-1 Hurricane, not the Cat-4s we're used to doing here"), I knew it was bad when I looked at our backyard last Monday, before the storm officially hit, to find several of our largest trees pulled out of the ground, roots and all (the roots alone were about 10 feet high). In total, we lost seven or eight trees but they miraculously missed the house and by extension, my family, and that is all that matters. A wise man once told me never to cry about something that can be replaced.

While we were in the process of installing a large generator, we had not done so by the time the storm hit. We are lucky to have a small gas generator which is still being used to power a spare fridge and a space heater. We also have a fireplace, which helps on the margin, although nothing prepared my wife and I for what we awoke to see last Wednesday morning: Ruby Jett, our 17-month-old gem of a daughter, was a pale shade of blue, and her hands and feet were freezing cold.

We bundled her up and shipped her to a relative across town who somehow had power turned on that morning; mission accomplished on the little one, at least in terms of health and welfare. That left us with our eight-year-old twins, who were troopers throughout but scared nonetheless. As luck would have it, one of my college fraternity brothers lives three houses away with a full generator; as our kids are friends who go to the same elementary school, they provided much needed warmth and shelter. Brotherhood indeed.

This story would be incomplete if I didn't share a random act of kindness from an old-school Minyan who was staying in Amagansett, Long Island. He reached out through Twitter (when I was in the hot spot) to tell me that he was "well stocked" and getting power back that day. He arranged for a care package to be delivered to our home: 15 gallons of gasoline, a freezer full of food, and baby meds (Ruby had a double ear infection through all of this). It was only yesterday I learned that he and his family never got power back, although they thankfully arrived in a powered-up NYC last night.

Thank you for your incredible generosity Michael, on behalf of my family. I filled our generator this morning with your gasoline, which was the only fuel we currently have access to. To say, "I owe you one," doesn't quite capture my gratitude.

I've seen my fair share of crisis but nothing, save perhaps 9/11, comes close to the destruction I've seen over the last week. The good news -- and yes, there is good news -- is that the human spirit shines bright in the face of hardship and the largest obstacles provide the most profound opportunities. I will ask all of you to join me in sending white light to those who continue to suffer -- the elderly, the hungry, the homeless -- and our sincere gratitude to the first responders and line-workers who have traveled from Canada, Alabama, and other regions to assist in the long road to repair.

As my grandfather would say, "this too shall pass."

Some Random Thoughts:
  • Per my Friday column (and don't shoot the messenger), I believe that this latest crisis, and the reaction to said crisis, bodes well for President Barack Obama securing another four years in office. As a registered Independent, I have no political motivation for sharing this but for those looking to position risk, that's my guttural sense.
  • "Inflation in things we need (energy, education, insurance) and deflation in things we want (plasmas, cell phones, laptops)," a longstanding Minyanville theme, has been on full-fledged display on the East Coast over the last week, as was the "haves" vs. the "have nots," which was literally defined by a demarcation line on 40th street across Manhattan all last week.
  • I wrote two weeks ago that "Frankenstorm -- the combination of Hurricane Sandy from the south, a winter storm from the west and an arctic air blast from the north -- is due to settle over the NYC area early next week. That will shape the financial tape -- volatility is the opposite of liquidity -- and has the potential to impact the election the week after (depending on the fallout, power losses, and of course, the political history the last two elections)." I continue to feel that will happen, but that Obama will prevail.
  • The S&P (INDEXSP:.INX) is churning under resistance (as opposed to basing above support) per the chart below. I will also note that the rally attempt on Friday failed directly at the 50-day moving average, which makes S&P 1380 (200-day) all the more important as the next support zone.
  • Conversely, the CBOEOEX Implied Volatility (INDEXCBOE:VXO) -- our mainstay fear proxy -- is basing above the 200-day, and that should be noted.
  • The Nasdaq 100 (INDEXNASDAQ:NDX) fulfilled our Head & Shoulder price target (that we penned on October 2) and closed last week directly on the 200-day moving average at NDX 2658. That, by my pen, was the sixth such time that the 200-day was tested and levels (both ways) get weaker with each subsequent probe
  • Remember the parallel we offered when we asserted Why Apple Is the Most Important Stock in the World? We would be wise to note that gravity has pulled Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) below the 200-day at AAPL 590, and that remains a level to monitor as a forward tell. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) remain other "performance anxiety" proxies (both ways).
  • Other tells include our financial proxies -- Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Bank America (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) -- as they encapsulate oh-so-much of our finance-based, derivative-laced global economy. Their overseas brethren -- Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB), Barclays (NYSE:BCS) -- can be used to monitor European (Greece) concerns.
  • Thank you Team Minyanville -- staffers, professors, writers, behind-the-scenes workers -- for your incredible effort last week to ensure that Minyanville didn't miss a beat despite the storm. I am extremely proud of everyone here who braved the elements and used their ingenuity to make sure we were operating tick-by-tick with the financial markets.
  • One month until Festivus! If you love live music -- three rock bands -- all-you-can-eat BBQ, top-shelf liquor, helping kids, and vibing with 500 folks that represent the finest human capital in finance and financial media, this has your name written all over it. We'll kick this year's event off by ringing the bell at the NYSE so please join us, and help spread the philanthropic word.
  • Good luck today, and as always, I hope this finds you well, warm, and safe!

Twitter: @todd_harrison

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