Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cash: "It's good to be king."

Money talks, so the old expression goes. And in this market, cash has let word out that it still matters. A lot of investors of all stripes have taken heed, fleeing equities for the relative safe have and warm feeling of cold greenbacks.

Those forced to be invested, such as mutual, hedge and pension funds, don't have it so easy. They are forced to hang in and suffer with the rest of the suckers. Some even buy more, throwing caution to the wind along with the rest of their money.

The Fed is in a tough spot. Many are calling on Ben Bernanke to lower interest rates in an effort to free up capital markets and give the US indices a little bit of a boost. They won't do it and shouldn't. The malaise of this market was occasioned by easy credit; cutting rates would be like giving an addict more crack.

Today's package of misery was brought to investors by more credit-related issues, as potential losses at Countrywide Financial Corp. and trouble financing deals at KKR Financial Holdings sent more shock waves through the financial community. For those already in cash, the scene is almost hilarious, watching brokers, bankers and financiers squirm and fidget over their lost dough. Many of them are deserving of the afflictions, having bought into a housing bubble that sent everything, including stocks, over the rainbow.

Dow 12,861.47 -167.45; NASDAQ 2,458.83 -40.29; S&P 500 1,406.70 -19.84; NYSE Composite 9,089.04 -165.23

The Dow traded below 13,000 for the first time since April 25 and is likely to stay there for a long time, barring some kind of dead cat bounce or jolt from the various central banks that have been funneling money into stocks for the better part of the last two weeks. The Fed snuck in another $7 billion today. It did no good and one gets the feeling that the banks are on the verge of throwing in the towel... which would be wise.

Our own scorecard for the Dow shows 8 sessions in positive territory and 12 on the minus side since the all-time peak at 14,000.41 on July 19. That's over 1100 points lost in less than a month - about 8%.

Declining issues took it to advancers by better than a 3-1 margin. New lows totaled 707. There were only 46 new highs. Every single indicator points to more losses ahead.

I've asked colleagues to find bright spots. None of them have been able to, though I've come up with two: shorts and option puts players are making a fortune, and this will end, eventually. Stocks go up and down. They went up for more than four years running. A couple of years of downward trajectory is only fitting.

Maybe there's a third positive: charts (and fundamentals) still matter. The indices broke through 200-day moving averages and the Dow, in particular, is about to cross over its 50-day MA.

Oil was up another 95 cents to $73.33. Oddly enough, gold was unchanged, while silver actually lost 19 cents to $12.56. When the lid comes off the metals, look out. They will serve notice that calamity is finally upon the fiat money, fractional-reserve banking system.

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