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“I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.” — James Marshall

Morning stock market summary

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Today’s quote of the day comes from James Marshall, a carpenter and sawmill operator who found gold in water at Sutter’s Mill near Coloma, California on this day in 1848.  Marshall’s find sparked the California Gold Rush, one of the most memorable and famous events in US history.  The “forty-niners” that rushed to California with hopes of striking it rich increased San Francisco’s population from 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 by December 1849.  This Sunday the San Francisco 49ers will play in their 18th NFC Championship game when they travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

The gold rush left economists and investors with two important lessons.  The first is that you generally need to spot trends early to make big money (most of the gold was found by the earliest to arrive), and the second relates to the famous Mark Twain quote that “during the gold rush, it’s a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.”  While most of the arriving miners looking to get rich quick didn’t end up turning a profit, the merchants supplying the miners with everything from tools to food made the big bucks.  When it comes to investing in new trends, find the merchants, not the miners.

Earnings so far this morning have been positive with ten companies beating EPS estimates and just one EPS miss (3M).  Even still, US equity futures are down slightly ahead of the open as investors digest back to back gains of 1%+ for the S&P 500.

Although we noted it in last night’s Closer, it’s worth pointing out again that both the S&P and the Nasdaq 100 managed to trade above the top of their one-year downtrend channels yesterday.  It’s a small break at this point that could easily turn out to be a pump fake, but it’s at least a start.  Technicians will now be looking for the two indices to break above their late November/early December highs — which would represent a higher high after we just saw a higher low for the indices earlier this month.  A higher-high would trigger a new short-term uptrend formation, which is something we haven’t seen since last summer.

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