Monday, July 30, 2007

Dead Cat Bounce

Investors shook off last week's monumental declines and searched for bargains amid the wreckage on Monday. All the major indices showed decent gains on relatively strong buying. There was certainly some resolve to Monday's rally, but whether or not it will last is another question altogether.

Dow 13,358.31 +92.84; NASDAQ 2,583.28 +21.04; S&P 500 1,473.91 +14.96; NYSE Composite 9,623.18 +114.95

Make no doubt about it, there's a big, big problem inside the sub-prime mortgage mess and it's leaking over into corporate borrowing and mainstream mortgage lending. The simplistic reassurances of people like Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are masking a problem that goes to the heart of the world banking systems.

Money and credit has expanded worldwide at an astonishing rate and there's payback on the way. For a clue, watch merger and acquisition (M&A) activity over the next few weeks and months. It's already slowed down after a rash of big deals earlier in the year. Private capital has gone soft and conservative, and these people know what they're doing - it's their money, after all. CNN Money has a particularly propitious story on stalled funding for some big buyouts.

Over the next month and a half, expect more fallout, because drops like we witnessed last week do not occur in a vacuum. There's more to the story and it's a good bet that the invisible hand of the Plunge protection Team (PPT) was again at work today. Shortly after the markets opened, they took an unhealthy dip, but quickly bounced back to the positive. All of the indices hugged the flatline until just after noon, when all of them took off into positive territory for the remainder of the session, trademark market manipulation by the usual suspects.

As is the fashion of the market manipulators of the secretive Working Group on Financial Markets, they prefer small losses over long periods of time rather than big, spectacular, headline-grabbing declines.

Their unseen actions in the markets cause a sheep-like follow-along response, as evidenced today. Advancing issues gained the upper hand over decliners by a 3-2 ratio, though the new lows were still holding sway in a rather ponderous manner, with 746 bottom-outers to just 93 new highs. That's still out of balance and augurs ill for stocks going forward.

One-day rallies are not a cure-all, and the same conditions that contributed to last week's sell-off still exist. Without the PPT, the markets may very well have finished lower again today. The stated goals of the so-called PPT are:
Recognizing the goals of enhancing the integrity, efficiency, orderliness, and competitiveness of our Nation's financial markets and maintaining investor confidence

Keep an open mind and an open eye on how the markets - and, to a lesser degree, individual stocks - move in relation to events and non-events.

Since most companies have now already reported 2nd quarter earnings, the next six weeks will be a function more of emotion than fact and since the overall mood is still rather dubious about the future, sharp sell-offs may occur out of thin air. More likely are days of small double-digit-Dow losses, followed by some recovery, then the pattern repeating again. As it is, the Dow has traded lower 5 of the last 9 sessions and that measure bears close scrutiny. Should we actually be in a new bear market - which some analysts have suggested - the ratio of up days to down, in addition to the volume and point movements, will be a key divining tool.

Oil priced lower on the NY Mercantile Exchange, losing 19 cents to $76.83. Gold and silver both edged higher and continue to herald a breakout, though that's happened so many times in the past 18 months, nobody's giving it much credence.

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