It’s a case of choose your breed for the latest dead cat bounce on Wall Street?

After the March to May rally, which fooled everyone, including the Fed and investors around the world, into thinking that the credit crunch was easing and the bad times were over, last night’s 2% to 3% jump on Wall Street shouldn’t catch people for a second time. But such was the enthusiasm for stocks, especially banks and other financials, that it’s lining up to be the cat’s meow of a rally which could end anytime, or go for a while.

After all, markets around the world are off up to 15%-20% from their peaks in mid-May, and that was after the big rally from mid-March when Bear Stearns was saved.

And, the rally came despite the sharpest rise in consumer inflation for years: the US annual rate has now overtaken ours to hit the 5% mark. That this came a day after the producer prices rise in the year to June hit 9.2% didn’t faze investors who were cheered by a $US4 a barrel drop in oil and a higher dividend from Wells Fargo Bank, a big California-based home lender and consumer bank.

Suddenly the gloom of yesterday isn’t there and Wall Street has its biggest day in three months: the Dow and S&P 500 went up more than 3% and Nasdaq up over 3%. Oil was down to just over $US136 a barrel and other commodity prices weaker, which is the underlying bad news for our market.

But with Fed chairman Ben Bernanke still gloomy but reassuring on those problem kids, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, American investors turned a blind eye to the surprise jump in the CPI, which would usually have had them all shouting “rate rise looms”. No such cry on Wall Street — they were all too busy buying anything that was a financial stock.

Like Australia’s Reserve Bank, which has made it clear there won’t be a rate rise after our June quarter CPI comes in with a 4% plus reading next week, the US Federal Reserve Chairman has indicated the Fed won’t react to high readings for inflation in the US for the immediate future. The Fed, like the RBA, will wait and let the sluggish economy and falling demand bring prices down. It’s called letting the slowdown do the work for you. That’s why there was a muted reaction to what seems to have been a big CPI number in every meaning of the word.

While the drop in oil was handy, it was a 22% drop in quarterly earnings, that sparked much of the rally on Wall Street. The drop wasn’t forecast, but analysts warned that the Wells Fargo result was a one-off for various reasons, such as superior management. That’s why Warren Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway group have been buying Wells Fargo shares over the past couple of years, even as the markets turned.

They recognise good management: that’s a commodity in short supply at other banks, as we will find tonight, our time and Friday night when other banks report. It’s on such slender things market rallies are built these days.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.