26 May, 2009

Consumer Confidence outweighs Housing Prices as Markets Rally

US Markets found themselves on the buy side up between 2 and 3% at the last hour of trading as stronger consumer confidence data triggered a surge of bids in morning trade. The Consumer Board's confidence index rose to 54.9 in May from a 40.8 reading in April and this jump was enough to get investors to shrug off another rather negative housing data point.

An S&P Index of Housing prices reported a decline of 19%, details at CNBC (Link), which was the steepest drop in the reading's history. Foreclosures, economic woes, and increasing supply dampen prices all are contributing factors to the decline, however, as these prices bottom, investors clearly see a bottom forming with the terms "housing affordability" and the like being tossed around.

The increase in consumer confidence was a heavily watched metric that started the market's rally in the early hour. The forecast for confidence was pegged at around 42 and May's reported 54.9 mark handily trumped that, leading to a flurry of buying activity.

As for other market news, Technology was a main driver, primarily led by an upgrade of Apple (AAPL) shares. One of Apple's skeptical analysts, Katy Huberty has finally changed tunes, with an upgrade and a substantial price target raise from $105 to $180. The Morgan Stanley analyst has had an appalling record of late predicting Apple's quarterly results, at one point being rated the "worst" in terms of estimate accuracy in research amongst 8 top Apple analysts, which is why her bearish tone had attracted far more skepticism than that of RBC Capital Market's analyst Mike Abramsky (He too however recently changed his tone as fears of Steve Jobs' sabbatical lasting indefinitely have subsided for the time being).

The reason for the change of heart, that ever popular iPhone, which by all rumour accounts is due for an upgrade during the WWDC event the company will host in early June. While speculation runs rampent about just what features will be included in new iPhones the sheer numbers just dont lie. Over 30Million iPhone/iPod Touch buyers downloading 1Billion applications creating a massive, and massively sticky, software distribution and upgrade cycle.

Apple shares have double the Nasdaq advance rising over 6% in late trading.

Disclosure: Author is long AAPL

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