Friday, December 7, 2007

The Party... and the Rally May be Over

Equity investors took an early exit on Friday after the government's non-farm payroll data failed to inspire any new-found confidence in the economy, nor in the prospect of a 50 basis point rate cut next week by the Fed.

The November labor data showed a gain of 94,000 new jobs, less than the break-even of roughly 150,000, but better than the estimate of 80,000. So, these numbers suggest that the economy is in OK shape, but that the job market may be shrinking a bit relative to natural population growth.

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The figures were good enough, however, to blunt any talk of a 50 basis point cut when the Fed meets on Tuesday next week. 25 basis points may be all they can muster, if that. Presumably, rate cuts mean the economy is weak, but to Wall Street it means more nearly-free money to toss around. When the Fed announces either no rate cut or just 25 BPs at exactly 2:15 on December 11, this current rally will be officially over and investors will resume worrying about the credit squeeze and subprime mortgage fallout.

It could happen sooner, on Monday, as savvy investors are wont to get out of the way when there's a rush for the exits. After a more than 800-point rally on the Dow and 100 on the S&P since November 26, the rally was a combination of hype and hope, and now the hope (rate cut) is gone. With more sorry numbers expected from the retail sector, the hype will also disappear soon. Happy Holidays.

Dow 13,625.58 +5.69; NASDAQ 2,706.16 -2.87; S&P 500 1,504.66 -2.68; NYSE Composite 10,023.58 -6.57

Trading was especially light for a Friday, as decliners took a razor-thin edge over advancers, 3187-3160, but new highs finally exceeded new lows, barely, 214-212. This marked the first win for new highs since October 31, a span of 25 trading sessions. After such a spectacular run-up, this distribution indicates there's either a load of undervalued stocks or we're still in the throes of a long-term bear market.

It's likely to be the latter. With the Dow just about 500 points from its all-time high, one would expect more new highs than what's being recorded. The new lows are likely to expand slightly for the remainder of the month, then really add to their ranks once earnings reports being to flow in January.

As if taking its queue from the stock market, oil went for a dive on Friday, dropping $1.95 to $88.28. Gold and silver followed suit, with gold down $6.90 to $800.20 and silver losing 12 cents to end the week at $14.51.

Some of the nations largest brokerages kick off earnings season a little early - next week - and the outlook is not very rosy. So, get those fingers warmed up to hit the sell button. Monday could be somewhat of an unwelcome surprise to a week that is fraught with potential pitfalls.

NYSE Volume 3,145,841,500
NASDAQ Volume 1,898,631,750

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