Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back to Selling Stocks

It could be year end tax selling. It could be fears of further deterioration in the banking sector. Maybe people are just taking profits after an unhealthy run-up through the Christmas holiday. Whatever it was, investors were selling stocks in bunches on Thursday, with only two days remaining in the trading year of 2007.

Dow 13,359.61 -192.08; NASDAQ 2,676.79 -47.62; S&P 500 1,476.27 -21.39; NYSE Composite 9,779.30 -114.85

Stocks gave back most of the gains achieved over the last three trading days - Dec. 21, 24 (half-session) and 26 - but there's a large gap between today's closing prices and 13,250 on the Dow. Markets hate uncertainty and gaps, which always get filled, and this 100-point gap n the Dow is certain to be filled soon.

The major drivers on the day were Goldman Sachs (GS) assessment of the banking industry, in which they generally hammered a few of their brethren (eating each other, a sure sign of bear markets) including CitiGroup (C), JP Morgan (JPM) and Merrill Lynch (MER).

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The Goldman Sachs note was especially savage concerning the prediction that CitiGroup (C) might lower its dividend by 40% and write down as much as $18.7 billion in the fourth quarter. CitiGroup closed down nearly 3% at 29.56.

From the tone and tenor of Goldman's analysis, the subprime and other credit concerns are far from resolved and will continue to drag on financial stocks and the general market at least through the first quarter of 2008, and likely longer.

Once again, all ten sectors finished in the red, after November Durable Goods Orders posted a 0.1% gain when analysts were expecting a 2% rise. Also weighing on the market was the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Declining issues held an enormous 3-1 advantage over advancers, with 4902 on the downside and just 1493 posting gains. New lows continued their dominance over new highs, 376-145, as has been the case for the past two months with the exception of just two days in December. The persistence of new lows exceeding new highs has been an absolute sell signal throughout this period. Investors could not have expected a longer or better warning to get out of equities.
Oil continued to march ahead, gaining 65 cents to close at $96.62. Gold finished up $2.30 at $831.80, while silver dropped 2 cents to close at $14.82.

With the pallor cast over the street by Pakistani politics and the Goldman Sachs report, the holiday spirit has all but vanished. Friday could go either way, though a continuation of the bearish conditions would seem appropriate.

With US financial institutions having to sell off portions of themselves to foreign entities, somebody needs to sound the alarm. I've repeatedly warned that we may be on the cusp of a major financial disruption and I will reiterate that sentiment as often as necessary. If you are not already at least 30-50 in cash, money markets or precious metals, you are needlessly putting your money at risk.

While the major indices are all but certain to show gains for the year, they are going to be small, likely in the range of 5-8%.

NYSE Volume 2,322,153,250
NASDAQ Volume 1,405,128,625

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