Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pick a number

This market is hellish, though some will tell you that it's technically not a Bear... yet. Those people will soon be revising their estimates and advising their clientele differently. With nearly 1000-points lost on the Dow since its peak on July 19 (remember 14,000?), this is about as clear an indication that the 4 1/2 year party that was recently Wall Street is quickly turning into Skid Row.

With another 200+ point decline, not only the US equity markets, but economies worldwide are on high alert. The entire fractional-reserve fiat money banking system is about to blow sky high, so pick a number and see how close you come to calling the market bottom.

I'll venture a guess at 9380 and a date of maybe February, 2010. Crashing through various psychological barriers like 13,000, 12,000, 11,000 on the way down, there are certain to be a number of times in which the markets look to have turned a corner, but they will be, sadly, false fronts. Only after disposing of the 10,000 level will psyches be truly mushy enough for a stable rebound.

Dow 13,028.92 -207.61; NASDAQ 2,499.12 -43.12; S&P 500 1,426.54 -26.38; NYSE Composite 9,254.27 -174.59

A fall to 9680 would be a 33% pullback from the 14,000 high, and that may be somewhat optimistic. Off the October 2002 low of 7286.27, such a decline would be a retracement of 69%. Fibonacci adherents take note.

Today's selling was the result of a complete lack of repo lending by the Fed and - who knew? - more credit-related issues, especially that of Sentinel Management Group, which oversees about $1.6 billion in assets, who told clients that it may block redemptions from the fund to avoid forced liquidation. That and more concerns about over the exposure of brokerages Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to mortgage-backed issues set the sellers afire.

Additionally, 17 Canadian trusts have sought help from banks to repay loans that are due.

Could this be the beginning of a dark chapter in global finance? It certainly appears so. Central bankers have been nervous for weeks and the credit and liquidity woes once thought to be contained are beginning to spread to foreign investments and money market funds. What's worse is that the re-pricing of roughly $1.3 trillion in so-called 2/28 ARMs has yet to occur. The bulk of these loans - $1.7 trillion - were made in 2005 and 2006, so we're are just seeing the proverbial tip of the financial iceberg.

2/28 ARMs are mortgage loans in which only interest is paid during the first two years. Upon repricing, interest and principal is calculated over the remaining 28 years of the loan. Monthly mortgage payments typically skyrocket and homeowners default. California, Ohio and the tri-state region of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey have been the hardest hit to date, with more than 500,000 defaults recorded during the first six months of 2007.

This is a snowball rolling downhill, as defaults escalate, homes will be lost, many billions of dollars worth of notes will become worthless paper and consumer spending, by sheer weight of numbers, will gradually falter.

Already, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, has revised estimates lower for the remainder of 2007. Subsequent revisions are to be expected from other retail concerns.

Once spending is curtailed, job cuts will follow in all manner of industries. Non-essential positions will go first, such as clerical and support staff, but the cuts could cripple many going concerns. On top of all this, many states have initiated mandatory minimum wage requirements above national standards. At just this point in time, many businesses will choose not to hire rather than commit to labor costs they feel are too high.

One positive note is that inflation will become a thing of the past. Businesses will cut prices in an effort to remain afloat. Many will not survive.

This is, of course, the nightmare scenario similar to that of the Great Depression, which was a worldwide phenomenon. Ruined lives, fortunes lost, displacement of people and separation of families were the outcomes. The parallels are there: overpriced stocks, easy credit, lack of regulatory control.

Today's internals were some of the worst to date. Declining issues beat advancers by a 9-2 margin. New lows swamped new highs, 614-54.

Of the 30 Dow stocks, only one, ExxonMobil, traded higher, and that was only by a mere 21 cents.

Oil for September delivery on the NYMerc rose 76 cents to $72.38. Some people are simply out of touch with reality.

Oddly enough, the precious metals have yet to respond to the ongoing calamity. Gold lost $1.20 to close at $679.70; silver lost 11 cents to $12.75. These are absolutely shrieking buys, though there's a belief that the markets are being contained by big money, notably the world's central banks.

Once the lid is lifted off these commodities, prices are sure to soar 15-25% in a very short span.

Tomorrow's another day... another day closer to a date with financial destiny.

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