Monday, October 15, 2007

Markets Lower; Has Sanity Returned?

In light of the recent market movements to record highs on the Dow and S&P, today's sharp, broad-based selloff should come as a somewhat welcome reaction to recent and ongoing events.

Despite serious tape-painting in the final half hour (the Dow gained back 80 points of the day's losses), markets were dramatically lower. The one guiding stock was that of giant Citigroup, which reported prior to the open that 3rd quarter net income slipped to $2.38 billion or 47 cents a share, down from $5.51 billion, or $1.10 a share in the same period a year ago.

Based on massive writedowns in securitized instruments (marked to model) - mostly related to sub-prime mortgages - Citigroup set the tone for the entire session, and it wasn't very upbeat.

Dow 13,984.80 -108.28; NASDAQ 2,780.05 -25.63; S&P 500 1,548.71 -13.09; NYSE Composite 10,216.29 -85.20

Citi said revenue generated in its US markets and banking business declined 87% in the quarter. That's the kind of message US equity investors feared to hear. The truth about the sub-prime slump and credit calamity is beginning to find the light of day.

In a related story, Citigroup, JP Morgan, Bank of America (both of which report later this week) and other major financial institutions plan to create a super-fund (off their books, off course) to pool about $80 billion to buy complex structured investment vehicles (SIVs) linked to subprime mortgages and other types of debt.

The bankers basically are buying back their own debt.
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It's not a very nifty trick - repricing the investments at full value away from their own balance sheets - and obviously didn't fool investors today. The banks want to prevent a catastrophic fire sale on the debt, some of which is worth less than 25 cents on the dollar.

Decliners beat advancing issues by a 5-2 margin overall, though new highs maintained their long-standing edge over new lows, 291-203, though their edge has been seriously eroded over the past week.

The price of oil certainly didn't help matters. Crude for November delivery closed at a new record, $86.13, up $2.44 on the day. Gold advanced $8.40 to $762.20, while silver declined 5 cents to $13.86 on industrial consumption concerns.

Also prior to the open, toy maker Mattel (MAT) reported third quarter earnings of 61 cents per share, far below analyst expectations of 70 cents, based largely on multiple product recalls from Chinese factories.

All of this wonderful news weighted stocks down. Prospects for the remainder of the week aren't exactly buoyant.

Tomorrow's earnings reports include CSX Corporation (CSX), Delta Air Lines (DAL), Intel (INTC), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Yahoo (YHOO).

Reality may be returning to the markets after weeks of Fed-induced faux-euphoria. If that is the case, expect the Dow to test 13,400 by week's end.

NYSE Volume 2,660,809,000
NASDAQ Volume 1,990,618,500

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