Don't Get Caught on the Wrong Side of the Fiscal Cliff Trade
Updated with Moody's reaction to fiscal cliff deal in 16th and 17th paragraphs.
Wednesday's stock rally, which stands as one of the sharpest opens to a year on record, may tell some investors that the worst case scenario of a fiscal cliff-driven recession is out of the cards and prove nearly two months of wrangling over a deal in the wake of President Obama's re-election was a non-story for Wall Street traders, as stocks rose modestly.
Still, investors cheering the late night Tuesday deal should be weary of being caught on the wrong side of the fiscal cliff, even after the New Year's Day deal.
Investors cheering the cliff are pushing the likes of consumer tech giant Apple(AAPL) , fast flying mega-cap lender Bank of America (BAC) and luxury goods retailer Saks(SKS) higher. When Wednesday's trading ends, the question will be whether optimism will be borne out in earnings?
As the House of Representatives began voting on the cliff deal, Peter Tchir, founder of TF Market Advisors , was unenthusiastic about a resolution. "
"Most people will get smaller paychecks next year... Why is everyone cheering what is a tax hike?" adds Tchir in the client note, which notes that corporations face a stiff challenge in improving upon first quarter 2012 earnings. "Last year we had some monster data and some great weather in Q1. Hard to say how much of that was seasonal adjustments, but we may see some negative impact if last year's Q1 numbers were overstated," he adds.
Notably, income taxes will rise on the nation's top earners and a majority of workers will see a payroll tax hit in the wake of the deal. Meanwhile, weak holiday season for retailers leading up to the 25th hour deal in Congress indicate the uncertainty surrounding the cliff may have already taken a toll on businesses, which could be reflected in the first few quarters of 2013.
"There will be no self-inflicted US recession this year and investors are quickly moving to discount that fact in response,' wrote Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., in a note to clients.
Still, investors appeared to do a good job discounting that any resolution to the fiscal cliff would be messy, short-sighted and last-minute. From the President Obama's November re-election to Monday's close ahead of New Years, the S&P 500 was virtually unchanged. That muted reaction even reflected no deal by market close of the ball drop in Times Square.