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03Mar2017 Market Close: Wall Street Ended Today's Session In The Green, But Flat As Investors Hold Back, WTI Crude Prices Edge Up Into The Low 53's And The US Dollar Slips Further Down

Written by Gary

US stocks ended flat today (SPY +0.06%) after Fed Ms. Yellen signaled the central bank is set to raise interest rates this month if employment and other economic data hold up.

Todays S&P 500 Chart

The Market in Perspective

Here are the headlines moving the markets.

Yellen points to March rate hike and confidence of more this year

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates this month and is on track to lift them further later this year, Fed Chair Janet Yellen signaled on Friday, evidence the fears that forced the Fed to keep borrowing costs near zero for so many years are firmly on the wane.

NBCUniversal invests $500 million in Snap's IPO

(Reuters) - Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal has invested $500 million in Snapchat owner Snap Inc , according to a memo on Friday, its latest move aimed at driving digital growth as more viewers go online for their favorite content.

Exclusive: Neiman Marcus hires debt restructuring adviser - sources

(Reuters) - U.S. high-end department store chain Neiman Marcus has hired investment bank Lazard Ltd to explore ways to bolster its balance sheet as it seeks relief from $4.9 billion in debt, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Winton CEO defends firm from Buffett criticism of fees, returns

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - David Harding, founder of one of the world's biggest hedge funds, on Friday defended his firm against Warren Buffett's criticism of hedge fund fees last week.

Keystone XL can be made from non-U.S. steel: White House

(Reuters) - The Keystone XL oil pipeline does not need to be made from U.S. steel, despite an executive order by President Donald Trump days after he took office requiring domestic steel in new pipelines, the White House said on Friday.

Exclusive: PSA agrees to buy Opel from GM, wins board approval - sources

PARIS/LONDON (Reuters) - France's PSA Group struck a deal with General Motors to buy the U.S. carmaker's loss-making Opel division, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Wall Street ends flat as Yellen flags rate hike

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended flat on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled the central bank is set to raise interest rates this month if employment and other economic data hold up.

Caterpillar shares rise as import practices scrutinized

(Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc's shares gained on Friday, the day after U.S. law enforcement officials raided three of the company's Illinois facilities, as the Trump administration promised stricter scrutiny of multinationals' import and export practices.

UK government likely to refer Fox's Sky deal to regulator

LONDON (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of European pay-TV group Sky is likely to be investigated to see whether it is in the public interest, the British government warned on Friday.

Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation Running Out Of Cash, Millions Affected

Via Mike Shedlock of MishTalk.com,

The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), an entity created to "guarantee" pensions of private corporations, is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Teamsters and other unions are poised to take huge pension hits. Previously, airline employees have taken a hit.


pboc-insolvent

Please consider PBGC Running Out of Cash to Cover Union Pension Funds.

The clock is ticking for 71 penniless union pension funds that rely on a federal insurance company to support their retirees — because the agency itself is also running out of cash, its director said Wednesday.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's limited liquidity is part of the spiraling U.S. pension crisis that threatens to wipe out the retirement savings of more than a million Americans.

The PBGC talked about its reduced circumstances Wednesday as it announced that it is now officially making pension payouts for Teamsters Local 707.

The New York union's pension fund — covering 4,000 retired truckers across the city and Long Island — hit rock bottom in February.

The PBGC stepped in, as it has with 70 other bankrupt un ...

Man Arrested Over Bomb Threats To Jewish Groups Is Former Intercept Reporter And Anti-Trump, Bernie Voter

U.S. prosecutors in New York arrested a St. Louis man on Friday in connection with at least eight bomb threats made against Jewish organizations across the country. Juan Thompson, 31, was taken into custody on Friday morning in St. Louis and was expected to make an initial court appearance there later in the day, according to Reuters. It was not immediately clear whether investigators believe Thompson is responsible for all of the more than 100 threats that have been made by phone to Jewish community centers in dozens of states since January.

Police said last weekend that about 100 headstones were toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, about a week after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized.

Previously, President Trump, Israeli officials and Jewish groups have all condemned the surge in intimidation as well as cases of vandalism targeting Jewish cemeteries. On several occasions Trump was accused of being indirectly responsible for the surge in anti-Jewish sentiment due to his "polarizing rhetoric" and slammed for his question whether the attacks were driven by "false flag" reasons; as it turns out, at least in this specific, the narrative was wrong again and Trump may have been correct once again.

In a criminal c ...

"February Should Have Been A Better Month" - Only 35% Of Managers Beat Their Benchmark

With pairwise correlation between stocks plunging since the Trump victory, leading to a jump in stock return dispersion, conventional wisdom quickly agreed that this would be the ideal environment for "stock pickers" and especially downtrodden hedge funds, the majority of which have underperformed both their benchmark and the S&P 500 ever since the SAC and Galleon insider trading scandals blocked the use of "expert networks." Alas it was not meant to be.

According to the latest monthly mutual fund performance update from Bank of America, while stocks continued to set record highs, resulting in another solid month for US equities, it was another month to forget for active managers. The bank found that managers across size segments and styles (with the exception of mid cap Growth) underperformed their benchmarks in February.

Large cap funds lagged the most, with only 35% of the managers beating the benchmark, down from 52% the prior month. This was largely due to the underperformance of Growth managers, despite having the best absolute returns (+3.7%) across all size and style segments in February. Large cap Growth funds struggled to keep pace with the outperforming benchmark (+4.2%), with just 21% outperforming, down from 73% in January. Value and Core managers fared better, but only 45% and 40% outperformed their benchmarks in the month, respectively.

Indeed, February should have been a better month for stock-picking, with pair-wise stock correlations continuing to fall to their lowest levels since 2000.

Bank Of Tokyo's Chris Rupkey Snaps At Janet Yellen's "Water Torture"

After years of listening to Bernanke and then Janet Yellen, it is no surprise that some have finally snapped, as Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ's Chris Rupkey appears to have done in his post-Yellen, post-mortem.

Breaking economy news. If you were looking for a signal that a Fed rate hike was imminent, you would be hard-pressed to find any urgency to respond with a Fed rate hike on March 15 in Fed Chair Yellen's Chicago speech today.

"Likely. indeed, what does that mean? Likely today means nothing about what they do tomorrow. At least she said the future pace of rate hikes would not be as slow as 2015 and 2016.

Whew, that's a relief. We thought the Fed would only hike one time this year like they did in 2015 and then again in 2016.

The speech reads to us as more of the same policy: the painful drip, drip, drip of the Fed's water torturing the markets by failing to move rates up at a consistent and measured pace.

Not on a preset course indeed. Rates will certainly be on a preset course after Yellen finishes her last day in office on February 3, 2018.

And for a just as brief, if perhaps even more concise assessment of Yellen's rambling central planning, here is Axel Merk's takeaway:

My takeaway from Yellen: rates will rise at a faster pace than in 2016; the new neutral rate is lower - for now - all normal in 2018

— Axel Merk (@AxelMerk) March 3, 2017

Another way to interpret Yellen: nothing has played out the way we wanted to, but we are still here. Let's pretend it will all be just fine

Caterpillar Raid Is a Wake Up Call

An escalating legal situation has emerged as a fresh risk for Caterpillar shareholders. That should be an occasion to reconsider some more routine business worries.

Macau Casinos Face Impending Shuffling of Decks

Casino operators in the world's biggest gambling hub will have to renew their concessions in the next few years.

Big Losers From Investment Banking's Shrinking Pie

The banks still reshaping their books and strategies are falling behind.

Trump Today: Trump Today: Pelosi, Schumer targeted as Russian allegations linger

President Donald Trump said he wanted investigations of top Democrats' ties to Russia, touted a book on immigration as a "must read" and promoted school choice at an event in Florida on Friday.

Snap IPO earns millions for Catholic high school thanks to investor dad

A high school in California earned millions from the Snap Inc. public offering, after two students told their dad about the popularity of the app five years ago.

Project Syndicate: Trump, backed into a corner, will be tempted to go to extremes

As the president loses his grip on power, things could turn ugly, says Jeffrey D. Sachs.

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To contact me with questions, comments or constructive criticism is always encouraged and appreciated:

gary@econintersect.com

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